Leopard gecko breeding info
I am by no means experienced, and I made this 1.for a friend and 2. for fun.
Leopard Gecko Breeding
-rack system or breeding cages
-paper plates (bowls)
-breeding pair of geckos
-jar lids and bottle caps
Let’s start with the racks. Breeding racks are a rack system with plastic tubs that slide out, allowing you to easily check up on baby or breeding leopard geckos. They are tall, but provide enough space to house three babies per tub, or one adult. However, breeding racks can be expensive, and for a first time breeder, breeding cages are safer. Breeding cages are small, plastic cages that can be stacked. They have a small door to be used for feeding and such. Breeding racks can cost around $400, but 8 breeding cages (which is enough to house 2 adults and 18 babies) come up to less than $200. Breeding racks already come with heating, but for the breeding cages, all you need to do is buy heat cable, a special cable that emits heat, and position it throughout the cages.
Next you’ll need the incubator. I recommend the Hova-Bator; this is a commercial bird incubator, but most reptile breeders have had much success with it. It has a built in thermostat so you can regulate the temperature. It also helps regulate humidity. Finally, Hova-Bators are some of the cheapest incubators on the market, totaling up to $49.90 including shipping. One Hova-Bator is enough to hold an entire season of eggs, so if breeding more than one pair, get more than one.
The paper bowls will be used to make hides for the geckos. Tupperware containers will be used to provide the female with a nesting box.
Deli cups and vermiculate will be used to make the places you will actually place the eggs in to incubate.
Finally, you need a breeding pair of geckos. Both male and female should be more than a year old (for females, 2 years is recommended). The female should weigh around 60-70 grams, while the male should be around 50-60 grams (weigh them with the kitchen scale). Sexing leopard geckos is fairly easy; flip the geckos over and look at their vent. Males will have a series of V-shaped pores above the vent (called pre-anal pores). They will also have bumps right at the base of the tail called hemi-penal bulges. Females will sometimes have a very faint V-shape, but these are considered pits instead of pores. Females will have no bumps.
When you first get your geckos, house them in separate breeding cages. The set-up should be as follows:
For substrate, use paper towels. For a hide, flip one of the paper bowls upside down and cut an entry. Provide a jar lid or something of the sort as a shallow water bowl (or you can use a small bowl, which is better for adult leos). For the female, provide a bottle cap filled with calcium powder. Make sure that the heat cable is producing a temperature range between 85-90 degrees. You can constantly check the temperature with a temp gun, or place a thermometer in the cage (the high temperature should only be on one side of the cage).
When you get your geckos, wait about a month or two before introducing them. During that time, fatten them up with a rich, varied diet of crickets, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, phoenix worms and the occasional pinkie mouse. Make sure crickets and worms are gut loaded. Gut load them by placing them in a cage with carrots, bannana, and bread 24 hours before feeding. Once a week, dust the insects with calcium powder, but the female should be given dusted insects every day once she is developing eggs (place them in a bag of powder and shake them briefly). Also once a week, dust them with multivitamins (both calcium and vitamins can be purchased at a pet store, look for the brand Rep-Cal). Pinkie mice should be frozen. Thaw them out in boiling water, and feed to your gecko. Pinkies should be fed once a week, and they are a great breeder food because they are high in calcium and protein, and low in fat. Feed waxworms only very occasionally, as a treat, for they are addictive and high in fat. Change your geckos’ paper towels weekly.
A few weeks before you introduce them to each other, take them to a vet to get a pre-breeding check up. The vet will check the weight and other vital signs. You may want him to screen them for parasites and other diseases. If he gives you a green light, then carefully introduce your geckos. Stop feeding two days before. Place the male in the female’s cage to reduce stress. The male will approach the female and begin biting her body. This is normal. He will continue biting up to the neck, and he will position his vent right next to hers. You may watch, but do not make noise or disturb them in any way. When he is done, he will get off and walk away to clean his vent. At this point, you can return him to his cage (leaving him in the cage can cause stress to the female). You do not need to re-introduce them for the rest of the season, as females can hold sperm for up to a year. Sometimes the female will reject the male (see Common Problems section below).
After the mating process happens, it is a good idea to set up your incubator. Here is a good guide to incubation temperatures and their incubation periods:
Mix of females and males
Set the incubator’s temperature according to your desired sex. You should keep it up and running throughout the whole season.
After mating, the female will lay her eggs anywhere between 2-5 weeks; therefore, it is essential that you provide everything required starting the week she mated. Providing a nesting box is essential; they are easily made from Tupperware containers. Remove the lid and, like the hide, cut an opening in the rim. Fill it with moist vermiculate (an easy way to tell if it is moist enough is by taking a handful and squeezing it; if a little bit of water comes out, it is just perfect. Too much water and you must add more medium, if no water comes out you must add more water). Place the lid back on and place it in the cage. You can tell if your female is gravid (reptile term for pregnant) by holding her up to a light. You will see the eggs forming through her semi-transparent skin. When they are about an inch long, she will be ready to lay them. During this time, feed her no waxworms. All worms and crickets should be dusted with either calcium or vitamins, and pinkie mice should be fed every five days instead of every seven. You will tell when she is about to lay her eggs because she will be getting restless and moving around the cage a lot (even digging through the paper towels, or at least attempting). At this point, you should make the incubation medium. Take a deli cup and make some holes in the top for ventilation (if they are not already pre-punched). Fill it up three fourths of the way with moist vermiculate, and using your thumb, make two impressions in the vermiculate. When your female has laid her eggs, take a sharpie and mark the top of the egg with a line (this is to prevent the egg from flipping over, as this will drown the embryo). Carefully remove the egg (making sure that the black line is facing up) and place it in the impressions, and bury it halfway with vermiculate. Females will usually lay two eggs per clutch, with 8 clutches through out the season, laying clutches about every 3-4 weeks. It is normal for a first time breeding female to lay just one egg per clutch; however, if you see her straining and she has laid just one egg, rush her to a vet. She is probably egg bound, a condition in which the female cannot lay one or both of the eggs (see the Common Problems section below).However, if your gecko is healthy and being fed a good diet high in calcium, it should have no problem passing the eggs. Once you have placed the eggs in the vermiculate, place the deli cup in the incubator.
Once they’re in there, it’s just a matter of time for your geckos to hatch. The lower the temperature of the incubator, the longer it takes. However, don’t make the temperature above 90 degrees; these result in hot females (see Common Problems section below). You can see if an egg is fertile by candling it. Make sure the room where the incubator is in is very dark; take a flashlight or pen light of some sort, and place it right next to the egg. Fertile eggs will produce a reddish-pinkish hue, and you will be able to see veins at the top. Infertile eggs produce a more yellowish hue. It is safe to candle eggs after about 2 weeks from being laid. If you see some infertile eggs, DO NOT THROW THEM OUT. Many breeders have been surprised to find hatchlings in their garbage cans. For more, see the Common Problems section below.
During incubation, it is important to make sure the eggs survive. Dents in the egg are caused by low humidity, and can be corrected by lightly misting the vermiculate with water (try to avoid direct contact with egg if possible). Mold forms on the eggs when the humidity is too high. This can be easily rubbed off with a cotton swab or Q-tip.
You can begin to anticipate the hatching process one week before it begins. The egg will appear much bigger than it was when it was laid (sometimes even twice as big). The egg will start to "sweat" and collapse. Very soon, the baby will start pipping its way out with the egg tooth on the edge of its snout. During hatching, you may watch silently, but do not touch or disturb the baby. The baby will continue pushing its way out of the egg. The entire process usually takes a few hours. When it first emerges, the yolk sac will still be attached. Do not remove it; the baby will slowly absorb the remaining yolk for the next few days. After about a week, the baby will have its first shed. When it is finished, you can now place it in its cage.
Baby geckos are more delicate than adults; they frighten easily and are very jumpy. To add to this, they’ve never seen you before, and see you as a predator when they’re newborns. Do not be startled if they hiss or bite at you; their bites feel like nothing. Their cage set up should be as follows:
For substrate, use moist paper towels (yes, moist). For a hide, use the paper bowls. A jar lid should be used for a water dish. A bottle cap of calcium should be present. Feed hatchlings only small crickets; waxworms are too big and fatty, and mealworms are hard to digest. The breeding cages can house three to four babies each. Make sure the temperature is the same as the adults.
Babies grow a lot and fast; they can reach adult size in their first year. Therefore, it is essential that you provide adequate housing. Babies hatch at around 3 inches. When they reach five inches, begin housing them in pairs instead of trios (this will require the purchase of more cages). When they reach 7 inches, they have reached adult size (though they can grow bigger), and you should now house them separately (which will, once again, require you to purchase more cages). At 5 inches, juveniles can now start eating mealworms, and at adult size, they can be offered the full adult diet.
Breeding leopard geckos is not hard; most breeders achieve success on their first attempt. As long as you have the supplies, time, and patience, you can successfully breed these amazing creatures.
Although relatively easy, breeders will encounter some problems with their geckos. Here are some common problems that occur while breeding leopard geckos.
• Rejection- Sometimes you will see the female not allow the male to mount her, either by hitting him with her tail or by biting him. This means she has rejected him, and they should be separated at once. Sometimes males don’t get the message, and continue to try to mate with her, which places unnecessary stress on the female. There are two reasons the female will reject the male: either the males size or her readiness. During copulation (mating), the male must be able to dominate in a way that he is able to mount her easily, but that she does not feel threatened. If the male is too small, she will be able to push him around much too easily. If he is too big, she will feel scared. That is why it is a good rule of thumb that the male should be only 10-15 grams smaller.
The other reason she might reject him is that she is not ovulating, or that she is simply not ready. A female will not mate until she is already starting to produce eggs. A veterinarian will be able to tell you if the female is ovulating, or you can look online. If she is not ovulating, then you can place them in the cage for one week together; this will get her hormones going, and hopefully after 7 days she will have mated. After a week separate them, and in two weeks signs of eggs should become easily visible. Sometimes this does not work, however, especially if the female is too young or if it is too late in the season (their breeding season lasts from March to September). If this is the case, then see the brumation section below.
• Egg Binding-Sometimes a female will not be able to lay one or both of the eggs she has developed. When this happens, it is called dystocia, or egg binding. Dystocia is the number 1 cause of death in female leopard geckos. There are many causes for this condition. Sometimes the female is too small, and her birth canal is not big enough to pass the eggs. Other times, she has not gotten enough calcium to develop the eggs correctly. Other conditions such as parasites and bacteria could be leeching the health from your gecko, disabling her from having the strength to lay them. Whatever the reason, it is a serious issue. In some cases, the female is able to absorb the egg(s). However, in most cases, they are not so lucky, and are now stuck with eggs inside of them. Symptoms of egg binding are not hard to spot. If she cannot lay one of the eggs, she will start struggling after laying the first one, and you will see her trying to get it out. They will be lethargic, without an appetite, and will look in pain. When you see this, rush her to the vet immediately; the severity of this condition cannot be stressed enough. Your gecko will slowly bleed to death internally. Dystocia can be relieved through a hormone injection, which dissolves the eggs, but this has been shown to cause more problems in the future. The best route is surgery, but unfortunately, many geckos do not survive the procedure. Be aware of this risk before breeding. Also be aware that it can be easily prevented if all her insects are dusted with calcium and if she has a calcium dish available at all times.
• Infertile eggs-Infertile eggs are like the chicken eggs we eat-they do not carry a live embryo. This usually occurs in first time and old females, for they cannot allow the sperm to fertilize the egg. Infertile eggs will have a pale yellow color, will appear sunken and dehydrated, often posses a foul odor, and they will not grow during their incubation period. When candled, infertile eggs give off a yellow color and show none of the red veins that are present in a fertile eggs. If you think an egg is infertile, DO NOT THROW IT OUT! Leopard gecko eggs take 2-2 ½ months to incubate. Many breeders have thrown out infertile eggs, only to find baby geckos climbing around their trash can. Wait 3 months, and then throw it out if it has not hatched yet. The only reason you should throw it out before is if it really gives off a terrible odor and starts to affect the other eggs.
• Hatchling mortality-Despite our love for them, leopard geckos are animals, and eventually die. In captivity, they can live up to 30 years. However, many hatchlings die each year due to improper care. The most common mistake is that they don’t supply their babies with enough calcium. Hatchlings grow fast, attaining full size in a year and a half. That’s a growth from 3 inches to 10 inches, and that includes the bones. A calcium dish should be available at all times, and insets should be dusted with calcium and vitamin powder 5-7 days a week.
• Absence of time and patience-Leopard gecko breeding is not for everyone. Before you breed, you must be aware that combining all the expenses, a single pair can add up to $1,000 in a single year, not including food, electricity, and water bills. Most people think that their babies will sell fast and that they’ll pay that off in no time. But keep in mind that you are giving away the life of an animal. You shouldn’t sell it to anyone just to make money. That person could be inadequate to care for the gecko, and soon the poor animal will face an unhappy death. Make sure to take care on who you make business with. Also, prepare to give away a lot of time. At the moment, I only have one breeding female, with no babies yet, so time isn’t a huge issue. However, if you are serious about this, it will quickly become your job and your life. Be sure you know what you are getting into. The last thing is patience. Females take about a month to lay their eggs, and those eggs take 2 more months to hatch. That’s a lot of time to wait. This is considering everything goes smoothly. If the female rejects the male continuously, then you may have to wait until next year. Babies will not sell in one day; you may have offspring for up to a year. In the first year you will spend more than you will be able to pay with your profits. Expect to get out of debt in another year or two. Basically, get ready for a lot of waiting.
A common cause of female rejection is that she is not ovulating. She does not ovulate until she thinks it is the breeding season. Although in captivity you can make them breed at any given time in the year, it’s much easier to mimic the natural breeding season, which lasts from late February to early September. In the wild, they do not have calendars, and do not know what month it is. They know when it’s time because their season begins after the cold months, during which they go through brumation. Brumation is like hibernating for reptiles; although they can still eat, drink, and stay awake, they prefer not to, as the cold temperatures make it impossible to survive outside, and they would not be active without heat anyway. Their heartbeat slows down, and so does their metabolism (although it is already quite slow). Other than snakes, leopard geckos are the best adapted for brumation because of their tails, which store fat to use as food throughout brumation. After you bromate your animals, the will acknowledge that breeding season has arrived, and it will be much easier to achieve success the first time. WARNING: BRUMATION IS NOT FOR EVERYBODY. If you have not kept these lizards for a few years, then brumation is strongly discouraged. You must be very aware of your geckos’ feeding patterns so you know when to start fattening them up. In the 2-3 months before the cold months, fatten up your geckos as much as you can; feed him everyday if you can, and try to dust their food with as much calcium and vitamins possible. Once they are ready, begin slowly lowering the temperatures by about five degrees each week. At the same time, begin limiting the amount of food. In one month, the geckos’ hotspots should now be in the mid 70’s, and they should be off food. Keep them like this until the weather begins to warm up. This is where the most mistakes happen. People are in such a rush to breed them, that they don’t fatten the geckos up enough. The geckos can die during the period due to starvation. Also, the temperatures must remain low. If they begin to rise, then the geckos will become active, but they will not be hungry, and will slowly die. Once your weather starts warming up, slowly raise the temperatures by five degrees each week, until they reach the usual 90 degrees. At the same time, slowly introduce food. If you’ve done everything right, then you should have healthy geckos that are ready to breed in the spring.
Leopard gecko breeding is not hard. There is just a lot of information you must know beforehand (as this demonstrates). Do not trust me alone; I do not even have babies yet. I wrote this based on experiences I have already had and on research I have collected for the past few years. If you have any questions, please contact me. I wish you good luck, and happy herping!