Decorating your leaf-tailed gecko’s terrarium is more than just another means to waste your money and/or make your gecko’s space look prettier. While they can serve an aesthetic function, they also enhance a reptile’s quality of life by mimicking their natural environment and providing mental stimulation. The best zoos do this all the time — it’s called environmental enrichment. A common misconception is that reptiles are stupid creatures that don’t need “toys” or decorations beyond their keeper’s fancy, so modern reptile husbandry experts are working to disprove this. Read more in this article: Environmental Enrichment For Reptiles ; What? Why? and How…?
Between Uroplatus’ tropical native habitat and their flawless camouflage, their terrariums can be a lot of fun to design. As you select and arrange leaf-tailed gecko decorations, keep in mind these elements:
Camouflage — Select objects that match your gecko’s camouflage: bark for bark mimics, moss/branches for moss/lichen mimics, leaves for leaf mimics, etc. These objects also function as “hides” and help the gecko feel secure.
Exercise — Provide a variety of objects for the gecko to climb and hunt on (branches, vines, etc.). Having such objects also maximizes the terrarium’s vertical space, which is important because leaf-tailed geckos are almost never on the ground.
Water accumulation — If you are using a glass enclosure, water droplets will naturally accumulate on its walls. However, screen enclosures will require a little more creativity in providing surfaces for water droplets to stick to (ex: leaves).
In order for your gecko to thrive, each element must be present in the enclosure. But don’t be afraid to get creative! If you’re looking for ideas, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found on ReptiFiles’ Terrarium Goals board on Pinterest.
Live plants help keep humidity, and are strongly recommended for species with higher humidity needs, such as U. phantasticus. All live plants should have their leaves thoroughly washed before being added to the enclosure, as they may have pesticide residues. Geckos will be drinking from these leaves after all! Using organic potted plants will help make enclosure cleaning easier. Some safe plants for use with Uroplatus include:
- Ficus benjamina
- Visit Josh’s Frogs for more
Artificial plants and leaves function similarly to live plants, but without the contribution to humidity. All additions to the enclosure should be thoroughly washed in hot water before use.
Moss makes an attractive, naturalistic addition to the enclosure, and also helps maintain humidity levels. Sphagnum moss, pillow moss, forest moss, and a few other varieties can be used safely.
Magnolia and oak leaves can be scattered on the bottom of a terrarium as a naturalistic accent that helps maintain humidity. Especially naturalistic for Ebenaui group enclosures.
Cork bark tubes are especially popular with Uroplatus species, as they function as both a climbing object and a place that they can climb inside. For bark mimics, cork bark backgrounds seem to be preferred over other types of backgrounds.
Natural branches are another very popular climbing item with Uroplatus. Neutral woods like oak and maple can be used after a good wash, but avoid pine or cedar, as the oils are irritating and can cause neurological problems.
U. lineatus in particular seems to prefer bamboo as part of its enclosure. Bamboo stalks make attractive objects and can also be arranged in a row to create a background.
These are not as attractive as branches or cork rounds, but they are functional and very easy to clean. PVC pipes work best for large-scale breeding operations or in quarantine enclosures.
PRO TIP: However you choose to decorate your leaf-tailed gecko’s terrarium, don’t forget daily spot cleaning! Certain species, like U. sikorae, seem to be particularly sensitive to dirty surroundings.