“Substrate” is another word for bedding, the material that you use to cover the floor of your gecko’s enclosure. 3 factors should be considered when choosing a leaf-tailed gecko substrate:
- Moisture retention — Humidity is essential to maintaining a leaf-tailed gecko’s health and preventing/managing stress.
- Digestibility — Although Uroplatus are adept hunters, there is a risk of ingesting a mouthful of substrate if they miss their target.
- Softness — Uroplatus dive for their prey. If the ground is hard, they can potentially severely injure themselves on impact. Furthermore, Uroplatus skin is thin and soft, so substrates with sharp edges can also cause injury.
The best leaf-tailed gecko substrates meet these requirements. Keep in mind that juveniles are particularly in danger of impaction, and are best kept on paper towels as a precaution.
I prefer natural substrates because they hold humidity better, are a lot more attractive, and most importantly, best replicate leaf-tailed geckos’ natural habitat.
- DIY mix: 60% organic topsoil, 40% peat moss
- Zoo Med Eco Earth / Exo Terra Plantation Soil (both are coconut fiber)
- Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
- Zoo Med Reptisoil
- The Bio Dude Terra Fauna bioactive kit
Layer the substrate 2-4″ thick to aid in moisture retention and ambient humidity. Natural substrates should be spot cleaned daily and replaced monthly. For best results, use with a drainage layer like Zoo Med Hydroballs or The Bio Dude’s Hydrogrow to prevent the substrate from getting soaked.
Bioactive substrates and enclosures are nice because they use symbiotic relationships between the animal (in this case, leaf-tailed gecko) and certain detritivore species to break down waste. The result? Essentially a self-cleaning terrarium. For help getting started, join Bioactive Reptile & Amphibian Setups USA on Facebook and read my blog posts on the subject.
These work best for young leaf-tailed geckos until they’re big enough for natural substrate. These are not a long-term solution and do not provide enough cushion to protect your gecko when it dives for an insect.
- paper towels
- blue shop towels
- butcher paper
These are cheap, easy to clean/replace, and favored by many keepers. However, they get soggy and soiled quickly, which can be very inconvenient in a high-humidity setup. Replace these substrates daily.
Substrates to Avoid
Some keepers argue that loose substrates should be never be used, due to the risk for impaction in geckos of any size. These claims should be taken with a grain of salt, as larger geckos are more capable of safely passing ingested particles with proper husbandry. However, there are some substrates that pose too great a risk, even with precautions in place.
- bark and wood chips (ex: cypress mulch, coconut hulls, orchid bark)
- pine/cedar substrate (can cause respiratory damage [source])
- reptile carpet (the fibers can catch and damage delicate gecko toes!)
Keep reading about leaf-tailed gecko care:
- Introduction to Leaf-Tailed Geckos
- Leaf-tailed Gecko Shopping List
- Uroplatus Species
- Terrarium Size Requirements
- Substrate Options
- Temperatures & UVB
- Humidity Requirements
- How to Decorate a Leaf-Tailed Gecko Terrarium
- What to Feed Your Leaf-Tailed Gecko
- Handling Tips & Body Language Info
- Common Diseases & Other Health Questions
- Additional Resources