Tips for Breeding Leopard Geckos
Breeding leopard geckos is relatively easy once you have the male and female geckos. If you decide to breed them, do not house the male and female together; this can cause stress on the female. Letting the male and female mate all the time can cause health concerns with the female, so do not let them mate unless you have the full intent of incubating the eggs. Otherwise, it just causes unnecessary stress on the female.
Just remember that even though it may be easy, breeding leopard geckos is NOT for everyone and not everyone should try it. It can get expensive, and it's not as easy to sell the babies as you may think. You can and will more than likely quickly become overrun with hatchlings. If you do not have proper experience with leopard geckos (i.e. you've only had yours for a few months), then it's suggested that you WAIT to have more experience before breeding.
Sexing Leopard Geckos
Once you've decided to breed your leopard geckos, you must make sure that you have a male and a female, otherwise you will not any babies. Plus, putting two males together in hopes of breeding them, will only cause injury and possible death, so first, you must make sure that you have one male and at least one female. It is hard to determine the gender of leopard geckos until they are about six months old, so when checking a baby gecko for its gender, a male may resemble a female.
If you know at what temperature the gecko was incubated, it will give you a good idea as to what the gender is, but either way you should check the vent (base of the tail where it meets the body). Both genders will have a 'V' of femoral pores at the vent, but in females the femoral pores will appear much fainter than in males. Males also have two hemipenal bulges at the base of the tail, below the vent.
You must be certain of the gender of you gecko before you put two geckos together, so remember that the size of the head or the length of the gecko cannot determine the sex because there are always exceptions to the rules.
Appropriate Breeding Age
Leopard geckos should be fully grown before you think about breeding; make sure that they are at least one year old. If a female is too young, complications may arise, and the overall lifespan of the gecko can be shortened. The age is not the sole determining factor of breeding requirements. The female should also be in good conditions, not underweight or unhealthy. Female should be no less than 50 grams because the female will actually lose weight while being gravid, as the egg production takes calcium from her bones and body.
Mating and Egg Laying
Usually, you will not see the mating process, but you will begin to notice bite marks on the female. The male will grab a hold of the female around her neck, but it is not uncommon to see marks on her body or tail. If you begin to notice sores or bullying, you need to remove the male. Usually, you will only need to keep the male with the female for a few days to a week.
As the eggs develop within the female, you will begin to notice the female gaining weight. The skin will begin to stretch, and the eggs will become visible in her abdomen. Occasionally, the first clutch will only consist of one egg, but usually, they come in pairs. The female will lay her eggs about every four to six weeks. First time breeders will typically have fewer eggs the first year, but you will find that leopard geckos can lay up to 10 eggs a season.
Have a laying box, or humid hide, where the female can lay her eggs. Fill the laying box with about one to two inches of damp vermiculite or perlite, found at garden stores. The laying box allows you some time before the eggs dehydrate, but sometimes the female will not lay the eggs within the laying box, so you must remove them immediately, or else they will dehydrate.
Typically, if the female doesn't lay the eggs within the laybox, they are not going to be fertile, but if you do catch them in time, you should try to incubate them anyway, as that is not always the case.
Incubating Leopard Gecko Eggs
You will need an incubator to ensure that the eggs stay at a constant temperature. Temperature fluctuations during incubation can cause deformities, if not potentially kill the embryo.
Types of Incubators
- You can use old styrofoam coolers with heat tape attached to a thermostat.
- An aquarium with an under water heater set to a particular temperature. Have the eggs in a tupperware of some sort, partially sitting in the water.
- 1602-N Hovabator (Do not use a Hovabator with a turbo fan or with an automatic egg turner. The thermal fan will dry out the eggs even if you have optimum humidity in the deli cups.)
- Nature's Spirit
Temperatures: The sex of leopard geckos is determined by the temperature of the incubator. Usually, if the egg is incubated for at 90º F, it will be a male, or if it is incubated at 80º F, it will be a female. If the eggs are incubated at 85º F, the chances your chances are 50/50 for either a male or a female, but you then run the chance of having "hot females" or "cold males," where they will not breed and are usually more aggressive.
Humidity: You should keep a cup or two of water within the incubator if you are using a bought incubator. This will raise the humidity levels. You can also pour water in the bottom of some bought incubators to accomplish the same thing.
Incubation Medium: When in the incubator the egg needs to be in some sort of container with a moistened bedding. Vermiculite and perlite work great. Hatch-rite is a new incubation medium that has great results as well; with Hatch-rite, you do not need to add water. Super Hatch is another good option that is now available.
Hatching Leopard Geckos
The eggs will incubate for about 40–60 days. The higher the temperature, the faster the embryo will develop, and in turn the sooner it will hatch. About a week before the baby hatches, the egg will swell, becoming noticeably larger. A few hours before the baby hatches, you will notice deformation of the egg. Baby geckos have a hatching tooth that allows it to break out of the egg, but they soon loose the tooth after its purpose is served.
During the hatching process, the baby will take breaks, retreating back inside the egg, so if you are watching the baby hatch, do not worry. The overall process is fairly quick. The yolk sac will still be attached to the baby, so it is a good idea to leave the baby in its container for a little while so that the yolk sac can be rubbed off.
Caring for Leopard Gecko Hatchlings
Leopard gecko hatchlings must be housed with geckos of their size. If they are placed with larger geckos, they may be bullied and become stressed. This is the only time that you can house males together, but as they age, you will have to separate them. Just remember to house the geckos with others similar to them in size, reducing any problems that may occur.
Reptile carpet and paper towels are both great when housing young leopard geckos. Remember to place a small bowl of water in with the hatchlings. Make sure that it is not filled too deep to prevent the baby from falling into the water bowl. Overall, the hatchlings should be given the same treatment as an adult, receiving the same heat and overall care as an adult.
Hatchling leopard geckos will not eat until their first shed, which is usually about three to five days after hatching. You should have small crickets or mealworms ready to provide the hatchlings. Remember to appropriately size the feeder insects to no more than than the width of the space between its eyes.
Handing the hatchlings should be as minimal as possible because to the baby, you are gigantic, and handling the babies will frighten them, possibly stressing them out. You should allow the hatchling time to grow a little. Wait about a month before handling the babies, and when you think the babies are ready to be handled, start slow, just as you would the adults.
More Info About Breeding Reptiles
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.