If you want to add some greenery to your leopard gecko’s enclosure, moss is a great option! Not only does it look aesthetically pleasing, but it also provides your gecko with a place to hide and helps keep the humidity levels in their tank high.
There are many different types of moss for leopard geckos that you can choose from, but the optimal choice is almost always Sphagnum Moss.
Peat moss is also often recommended, but actually a very bad choice – keep reading to learn more!
Why a Leopard Gecko needs moss
Depending on your climate, you will need different methods to control your Leopard Gecko tank’s humidity. For raising the humidity in the enclosure, moss is a great option.
Moss has antibacterial properties, which means it’s safe to keep in your gecko’s tank for a longer period of time, despite its humidity. Other materials, like wood or paper towels, need to be replaced frequently if moist, as they quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Additionally, your Leo needs to be able to self-regulate. If they need more moisture, they need to have a place with higher humidity. A moist, moss-covered spot in the habitat, as well as a humid hide, can provide this.
Finally, if you are breeding Leopard Geckos, it’s a great substrate for egg building. Leos like to dig a nest, and its soft texture can easily be dug into. Additionally, it offers decent protection and regulates the environment of the eggs well.
3 Types of Moss for Leopard Geckos
When choosing moss for your leopard gecko, it’s important to select a type that is soft and not overly abrasive. This will help ensure that your pet’s delicate skin doesn’t get irritated when they are crawling around in its enclosure.
Sphagnum Moss is a type of plant that typically grows in bogs. It is soft, absorbent, and has antibacterial properties. Sphagnum can be used to create a moist environment in your leopard gecko’s tank and can also be used as bedding.
You can easily purchase it in small and large quantities as a dried material. All you need to do is take some out of the bag, rinse and soak it, and you’re done. This is the perfect substrate for creating a humid hide.
Keep in mind that you want the full, natural sphagnum moss, no chopped or ground material.
ZooMed’s New Zealand sphagnum moss is a good deal for high-quality reptile moss:
Peat Moss, often labeled Peat Sphagnum Moss, is very different, even though it seems similar.
The difference is that Sphagnum is harvested as fresh, live plants. Peat, on the other side, is decomposed sphagnum moss, which takes hundreds to thousands of years. That’s why peat moss is not considered a renewable resource. Additionally, some organizations claim that the mining of peat makes the swamps it’s mined from release tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Because of this, we recommend going for sphagnum moss as substrate, not peat. It’s essentially the same but better for your reptile AND better for the planet.
Generic Terrarium Moss
When buying from reputable brands, Terrarium Moss is another simple option. This can also come pre-formed as balls or small mats – just make sure you’re buying real moss (not fake/textile variants), and only products that are specifically meant for reptiles.
How to use moss for geckos
Once you’ve selected the type of moss you want to use, it’s time to prepare it for your leopard gecko’s tank. The first step is to rinse it in clean water to remove any dust or dirt that may be clinging to it.
After it has been rinsed, you’ll need to soak it in a bowl of water for at least 30 minutes. This will help rehydrate the moss and make it easier for your reptile to burrow into it.
Once it has been soaked, you can either place a thin layer of it directly into your Leo tank or you can put it into a hide – small caves for your Leopard Gecko to hide in.
Creating a humid hide for Leopard Geckos
When you’re adding moss to your leopard gecko’s habitat, you may also want to create a humid hide for them. This is a small cave-like hideout that you can fill with moist moss to help your Leo with shedding, which requires high humidity (around 80%).
The best way to create a humid hide for your leopard gecko is by using a small plastic container. Unless you’re very crafty, it’s best to buy a pre-made cave or hide for your pet. For a humid hide to work, it needs to be big enough, but with a small entrance to capture and retain moisture properly.
Some sites may suggest substrates like coconut coir, coconut fiber, or reptile carpet for hides, but for managing the humidity level, these are not great choices. Also, sand should never be used, as it has a high risk of causing impaction. Paper towels are a safer, simple option, but need to be replaced frequently.
One important note: the humid hide should be on the warm side of the tank, usually above an under-tank heater. The high temperature not only helps with the humidity in the hide but is also important for digestion. Both heat and lighting also play an important part in your pet’s health.
Here’s a good choice for a pre-made humid hide (you only need to add the moss):
Can moss cause impaction in Leopard Geckos?
Moss can cause impaction in leopard geckos if it is ingested in large quantities. This is why it’s important to only give your pet moss that has been properly rinsed and soaked. If you notice that your pet is eating a lot of it, try removing some from its habitat and see if that helps.
One reason for moss ingestion is an intestinal parasite infection. This can be determined with a fecal test at the vet.
However, if your pet is eating moss, it can be a sign of other issues, too:
A lack of water/moisture might also cause your gecko to eat the moss – for its moisture content. Make sure to provide fresh, clean water in a dish, and provide fresh, live feeder insects, which actually provide a lot of fluids as well. Because of their natural habitat, your reptile should get most of their water from food and air, rather than drinking it.
Moss in the feeding area
Accidental ingestion can also happen when your gecko is feeding on worms or other insects that are sitting on top of the substrate. While eating them, pieces of the plant can get ingested. That’s why it’s better to put the feeder insects on a feeding dish, or another non-loose substrate like mats or tiles.
Moss is an important part of a leopard gecko’s habitat – it helps keep the lizard healthy and can provide a hiding spot for the gecko. When shopping for substrates for hides, make sure to choose sphagnum, which is harvested fresh and is better for the planet. You can put the moss directly into your leopard gecko’s tank, and should also put it into at least one cave to create a humid hide.
Help, my Leopard Gecko ate sphagnum moss – what to do?
A leopard gecko can handle eating small amounts of sphagnum moss, but it can cause impaction if it happens more often. If you notice no change in behavior, it is likely fine. However, if your gecko stops eating and/or passing stool, you should check for any signs of impaction and take them to the vet.
To prevent this in the future, don’t keep any moss near where you place feeder insects (to avoid accidental ingestion). If the gecko eats moss voluntarily, it may do so for its moisture – check the overall moisture levels in the tank, and always provide fresh, clean water in a small dish for the gecko to drink from!
Can I use Spanish Moss for my Gecko tank?
No, Spanish Moss should not be used in your gecko tank for two main reasons: It does not provide the moisture-capturing benefits of sphagnum moss, and can rot in your gecko’s enclosure, making it a serious health risk.
Spanish moss is actually an air plant, and if bought fresh, it will want to hang, rather than dwell on the ground. If you can take care of it, a live Spanish moss plant would work, but warning: it grows really fast!
Buying it dried is possible, and there are quite a few brands selling it for terrariums, but we advice against using it. There are simply much better, safer options.
Can I use Reindeer Moss for my Gecko tank?
No, Reindeer moss should not be used for geck tanks, as it will not survive if bought live, and preserved Reindeer moss is usually toxic to geckos.
Reindeer Moss is not actually a moss – it’s a lichen, even though it looks quite like moss. Specifically, it’s a symbiosis between a fungus and algae. It’s native to arctic mountains, which explains why a warm, humid terrarium is not a great environment for this plant.
However, preserved Reindeer moss can work, and is often used as decoration. However, the process of preservation often includes chemicals that are toxic to geckos – which is why you should not use Reindeer moss for your leopard gecko tank!
Can I use Pillow Moss/Cushion Moss for my Gecko tank?
Pillow moss, also called cushion moss, is a very useful and versatile moss, but is usually used live, not dried. This means you will have to actively take care of it and deal with it growing, which makes your terrarium more complex.
Since moss prefers humid environments, it is likely to either dry out in your gecko’s tank, or increase the humidity too far. Thus, we would not recommend Pillow moss for your gecko tank unless you are experienced with both geckos and caring for moss.
Do Leopard Geckos need moss?
Leopard geckos don’t need moss directly, but the need humidity – and moss is a great way to provide long-lasting, stable humidity levels without an electric humidifier.
Leopard geckos also need a humid hide for shedding, and this little cave needs some moisture-capturing element. Moss is usually the best choice for this.