Substrate, or “bedding,” is the material that is used to cover the bottom of your mourning gecko enclosure. The right mourning gecko substrate can help maintain humidity, while others won’t — and some can even make your pets sick!
Good mourning gecko substrates:
The Bio Dude Terra Fauna substrate kit: Bioactive substrates and enclosures are nice because they use symbiotic relationships between the animals (in this case, mourning geckos) and certain detritivore species to break down waste. The result? Essentially a self-cleaning terrarium, which is perfect for dealing with mourning geckos. Bioactive is strongly recommended for mourning geckos to reduce the risk of escape during routine maintenance! For help getting started, read my blog posts on the subject and join Bioactive Reptile & Amphibian Setups USA on Facebook.
Josh’s Frogs TROPICAL BioBedding Bioactive Substrate: Great for live plants, and holds humidity very well. This substrate can be used as a standalone or as the base for a bioactive vivarium. Bioactive is strongly recommended for mourning geckos to reduce the risk of escape during routine maintenance!
Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding: My personal favorite substrate for small tropical and semi-tropical reptile species. Holds humidity well, not dusty, and smells nice. It is one of the more expensive substrate options, however.
Zoo Med Reptisoil: Designed specifically for terrariums with live plants. Not the greatest at holding humidity, and tends to get muddy when wet.
Sphagnum moss: Great as a substrate by itself or mixed into your main substrate. Soft and holds humidity very well, but feeder insects tend to hide in it.
Bad mourning gecko substrates:
- Coconut fiber
- Coconut husk
- Cypress mulch
- Wood shavings, especially pine/cedar
- Reptile carpet
Most of these substrates pose a substantial risk of injury. Additionally, reptile carpet fibers can catch and damage delicate gecko toes, as well as encourage bacterial growth. Pine/cedar wood contains volatile organic compounds well known to harm animals (source)
How to Layer Your Substrate
One of the best ways to maintain humidity and prevent mold in your mourning gecko terrarium is to create a drainage layer underneath the substrate. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually really simple.
All you need is a bag of clay balls and some landscaping mesh. Pour enough clay balls into the bottom of the terrarium to make a 2” deep layer, add some distilled water, and then cover with the mesh and a 2-4” layer of your substrate of choice.