Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) Care Sheet -- January 2023 update

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Elizabeth Freer

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Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) Care Sheet
January 2023 update
Liz Freer

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

Description:
Lepidodactylus lugubris are small smooth-skinned geckos with snout-vent length (SVL) = ~45mm. The tail is moderately long & normally just over 100% of SVL. Their backs & tails have a creamy-fawn ground color with dark brown/beige "overlapping" zigzags. Their bellies are always beige & sometimes speckled.

These geckos are parthenogenetic. That means that females reproduce independently of males. Consequently populations are generally all-female.

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

Distribution:
Lepidodactylus lugubris are widespread across the Pacific region: Hawaiian Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Island & Queensland, Australia, Central & South America, & beyond.

Natural History:
Lepidodactylus lugubris thrive in many different habitats. These nocturnal geckos have been found in mangrove trees, on bare rocks near seashores, in leaf axils of palms, behind the bark of trees, & in human habitations.

Housing in Captivity:
Lepidodactylus lugubris do well in small groups. Presently I raise offspring alone in medium Kritter Keepers.

A 20 gallon = a minimum small group enclosure. That allows observing social interactions among individuals. When kept in small groups, you'll occasionally hear soft "clicking" vocalizations. Although a hierarchy develops & fighting happens, this is less severe than when males of some gecko species are housed together. Especially when space is limited & hideouts are scarce, you'll see posturing (arching back). Cage mates 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 & 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 always. I use Eco Earth's coco fiber substrate & live potted plants to increase humidity. Mist them generously at least once daily. Mist more often when temperatures exceed 80*F (26.7*C). Periodically dampen the substrate. The environment should "dry out" by evening.

Varied cage furniture increases your geckos' comfort & activity. Provide choya wood, rocks, driftwood, bamboo, thin branches, silk foliage, tough potted plants (pothos, sansevieria), & empty TP or paper towel tubes. Aquarium vines can be hung with small suction cup hooks.

These geckos are escape artists! A well-fitted VERY fine mesh screen top covering the vivarium is crucial. This mesh should = screen door grid mesh. A layer of Weedblocker Cloth, fine mesh screen cloth, or tulle (ballerina costume skirts) prevents wee hatchlings from escaping the Kritter Keeper's top. Place this mesh BETWEEN the lid & the container itself.

Food & Feeding:
I usually feed them Pangea's Complete Diet with Insects mixed with tap water & placed in a bottle cap. That's their favorite meal. Pangea's Complete Diets include the calcium carbonate & vitamins they need to thrive.

They'll also eat dusted fruit flies & very small crickets. Lightly dust fruit flies or tiny crickets like this:
  • Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 @ 1 feeding per week
  • Zoo Med's Repti Calcium withOUT D3 (plain calcium carbonate) @ 1 feeding per week
  • Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins withOUT D3 -- @ 1 feeding per week or 2 feedings per month
IF you feed your crickets a 24/7/365 dry diet like finely ground Zoo Med's Natural ADULT Bearded Dragon Food, you'll "build a better bug". In this case, weekly multivitamins should be less frequent.

In a pinch these geckos can eat baby foods (banana, peach, tropical fruit, & Gerber's turkey with gravy). Let moms eat the empty eggs after the youngsters have hatched.

Within a larger enclosure, I use Lee's tall hexagonal Betta containers as their insect feeding dishes. These geckos readily climb into these containers for their meals. To remove excess powder from bugs/fruit flies, gently bounce bugs/fruit flies against the bottom of the dusting container.

Here's a word of caution! Sometimes excess powder falls off crickets or fruit flies into the container & "sticks" to the geckos' toes. That makes gecko temporarily unable to climb out! Just pick up gecko & rinse off her toes.


Health:

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

Tails often regenerate if lost; fingers & toes will not regenerate. IF skin remains after shedding, your gecko needs help removing the skin. Otherwise toes may be lost. Soak your gecko in tepid water for 15 minutes OR place the gecko inside a ventilated deli cup with wet paper towels. Snap on the lid & start the timer. Always WATCH them! Your best tools to remove loosened skin are: a soft-bristled toothbrush, a toothpick, & a dry q-tip. Use a rolling motion with the q-tip.

Seizures/calcium crashes result when calcium carbonate intake is inadequate. Correct this deficiency immediately!!! Otherwise this gecko will die. Kinked tails may indicate excess vitamin A acetate (retinol).

Seizure Fix: Seizures usually indicate a calcium-deficient gecko!
Let seizures stop.​
Mix D3 calcium carbonate + tap water to create a "liquid" paste.
Place some D3 paste on your gecko's nose/snout.
Hopefully your gecko will lick off this liquid paste.
Repeat several hours later & the next few days.

Be sure your gecko gets Pangea Complete Diet with Insects a couple times per week OR small crickets/fruit flies lightly dusted as mentioned above.​
Breeding:
At about 8 to 10 months old Lepidodactylus lugubris become sexually mature. They generally lay two eggs per clutch. They are prolific, communal egg-layers! They will "glue" their hard-shelled eggs anywhere. Once laid, the eggs are very difficult to remove without cracking. I recommend choya wood, bamboo, & plastic/silk aquarium foliage as portable egg-laying sites to relocate to another enclosure once eggs are laid. Eggs take 60 days or longer to hatch when kept at 70F minimum. Hatchlings measure 35mm from snout to tail tip at birth. They are easy to raise.



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.

Lee's 24 ounce hexagonal betta container:
 

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Elizabeth Freer

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Here's a photo showing different types of Lepidodactyus lugubris.

17190650_10210378455350267_7357887016966950548_n.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Instead of Rep-Cal's Calcium with D3 (way too much vitamin D3), 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.
 
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