View Full Version : Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) care sheet -- update

Elizabeth Freer
03-19-2011, 08:58 PM
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Lepidodactylus lugubris

Common Name:
Mourning gecko

Scientific Name:
Lepidodactylus lugubris (Dumeril & Bibron, 1836)

Lepidodactylus lugubris are small geckos of around snout-vent length (SVL) 45mm, although the maximum SVL can vary slightly according to the population from which the animal comes. The tail is moderately long and normally just over 100% of SVL. The skin is smooth. Their backs and tails have a ground color of pale creamy-fawn with a variegated dark brown/beige "overlapping" zigzag pattern. Their undersides are always beige and sometimes speckled.

These geckos are parthenogenetic which means that females reproduce independently of a male. Consequently populations are generally all-female.

Lepidodactylus lugubris is one of approximately 25 species of Lepidodactylus and is a member of Lepidodactylus Group III (Brown and Parker 1977).

Lepidodactylus lugubris are extremely widespread being found right across the Pacific region. They can also be found in the Hawaiian Islands as well as Cocos (Keeling) Island and Queensland, Australia, Central and South America, and beyond.

Natural History:
As can be guessed at by its enormous range Lepidodactylus lugubris is a very adaptable gecko that can thrive in a variety of habitats. In different geographic locations they have been found in mangrove trees, on bare rocks near seashores, in the leaf axils of palms, behind the bark of trees and in human habitations. It is a nocturnal species.

Housing In Captivity:
Lepidodactylus lugubris do well in small groups. A 20 gallon is the minimum enclosure size for that group. Then you'll be able to observe social interactions among individuals. When kept in small groups, you'll occasionally hear soft "clicking" vocalizations. Although a hierarchy develops and fighting happens, this is less severe than when males of some gecko species are kept together. Especially when space is limited and hideouts are scarce, you'll see posturing (arching back). Cagemates may attack each other! I once saw a hatchling dangling upside down from the screen top literally hanging from the attacker's mouth! Generally though, given adequate space and cage furnishings, this is a relatively social species.

A warm Lepidodactylus lugubris is an active Lepidodactylus lugubris! Keep mourning geckos from the low to mid 70s*F (21+ *C) during the day. Night temperature drops into the high 60s *F (20*C) will be fine. Fresh water should be available in the vivarium at all times. I use Eco Earth's coco fiber substrate and live potted plants to increase the humidity. Generously mist at least once daily, but more often if temperatures exceed 80*F (26.7*C). Periodically dampen the substrate but note that the environment should "dry out" by the day's end.

Varied cage furniture increases your geckos' comfort and their activity. Provide rocks, driftwood, bamboo, silk foliage, potted plants (e.g. pothos, sansevieria sp.), empty TP and paper towel tubes, and ample hiding places. Aquarium vines can be hung upside down with small suction cup hooks. A well-fitted fine mesh screen for the top of the vivarium is a must. These geckos are escape artists!

Food & Feeding:
Add supplement powder to a tall container. Then add insects. Gently swirl insects to lightly cover them with powder. At 1 feeding per week lightly dust with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3. At a second feeding per week lightly dust with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium without D3. 1-2x per month also lightly dust with Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without D3. Let the moms eat the empty eggs after the young have hatched.

Mourning geckos also eat Pangea's Complete Diet with Insects and other Pangea's Complete Diets. Those are all-in-one powdered diets you mix with water. In a pinch these geckos can eat baby foods (banana, peach, tropical fruit, and Gerber's turkey with gravy).

I use tall hexagonal Betta cages for their feeding dishes. These geckos readily climb into these containers for their meals. Here's a word of caution! Sometimes excess powder falls off the crickets into the container and "sticks" to the geckos' toes. That makes the geckos temporarily unable to climb out!


Contrary to what Henkel and Schmidt (1995) have written, Lepidodactylus lugubris are cannibalistic. Moms pursue and eat unlucky hatchlings. Remove hatchlings from the parent vivarium as soon as they are found! If the egg happens to crack prematurely, moms will eat the yolk or the embryo.

Tails regenerate if lost. Fingers and toes will not regenerate. If skin remains after shedding, your gecko will need some assistance in removing the skin or digits may be lost. Soak your gecko in tepid water. Then carefully remove loosened skin with tweezers or a rolling motion with a dry q-tip. Eco Earth's coco fiber used as a substrate and potted plants increase the humidity when sprayed, thereby lessening incomplete sheds. Seizures/calcium crashes may result if calcium and vitamin supplementation are inadequate. If the deficiency is not immediately corrected, the gecko will die. Kinked tails may indicate excess vitamin A.

These attractive animals do not seem to mind being handled. Longevity seems to be in their genes. One of my original specimens escaped at 17.5 years old! I never found her.

At about 8 to 10 months old Lepidodactylus lugubris become sexually mature. They generally lay two eggs, but occasionally one egg, per clutch and they are prolific, communal egg-layers! They will "glue" their hard-shelled eggs almost anywhere. Once laid, the eggs are very difficult to remove without cracking. I suggest placing choya wood, bamboo, or plastic/silk aquarium foliage in the tank as potential portable egg-laying sites that can be removed, together with eggs, for incubation. Eggs take 60 days or longer to hatch when kept at 70F minimum. Hatchlings measure 35mm from snout to tail tip at birth and are easy to raise.

Global Gecko Association Rating (1-4): 1...easy!!
Great for beginners.

Recommended Reading:
Bauer, A.M. and R.A. Sadlier. 2000. The Herpetofauna of New Caledonia. SSAR. 310pp.

Brown, W.C. and F. Parker. 1977. Lizards of the genus Lepidodactylus (Gekkonidae) from the Indo-Australian Archipelago and the islands of the Pacific, with description of new species. Proc. California Acad. Sci. 41:253-265

De Vosjoli, Philippe. 1994 The Lizard Keeper's Handbook. Advanced Vivarium Systems Inc.; Lakeside, California. 175 pp.

Henkel, F-W. and W. Schmidt. 1995 Geckoes: Biology, Husbandry, and Reproduction. Krieger Publishing Company; Malabar, Florida. 237 pp.

Seufer, Hermann. 1991. Keeping and Breeding Geckos. T. F. H. Publications, Inc.; Neptune, New Jersey. 191pp.

I wrote this care sheet for the Global Gecko Association's publication Chit Chat years ago. It was originally edited by John Rudge.

Elizabeth Freer
Oregon USA

Elizabeth Freer
01-29-2018, 01:05 PM
Here's a photo showing different types of Lepidodactyus lugubris.

(click to enlarge)

Instead of Rep-Cal's Calcium with D3 (way too much vitamin D3), I lightly dust crickets with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 at 1 feeding per week. At a second feeding per week lightly dust with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium without D3. Maybe 2x per month also lightly dust with Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without D3.