My Investment: The Cost of Breeding Reptiles
Although, I have had reptiles for years and have successfully bred them, which started as an accident, but either way, I never really considered breeding for anything but my own enjoyment and pets. I either kept what I bred or gave the hatchlings to friends. I was responsible with my initial breedings, but I usually don't recommend it others. Please realize that before my first mating pair, I had researched reptiles, the leopard gecko more extensively, for over 2 years at that point with 1 year of hands on experience.
I had the grand idea of starting a reptile hobby- breeding business back in 2006. Luckily, my father has the internet, web designing gene and together we came up with a domain name and a website. The website has been by far the simplest thing to keep up and manage. Everything else is a pain!
The Bills & Expenses
One may not think there are too many bills in regards to reptiles. They're not like dogs in the sense that they need yearly shots. They don't require expensive premium foods. They're simple, right?
Well, if you're going to be serious about it, even if it's a hobby, you at least have to have nice breeders.
Now, I had already decided that I was going to start off with leopard geckos, African fat tail geckos, and then move towards crested geckos, gargoyle geckos, and others. I already had one African fat tail and a few leopard geckos, but my leopard geckos were more pets, not breeding quality. I had to find a few nice reptiles to start off with.
Searching through the internet and speaking with a few of reptile pals, I found a few good breeds that happened to have geckos that I was interested in.
I started with 5 unsexed crested geckos for $195 (including shipping), 4 African fat tails for $300 (including shipping), and 4 leopard geckos for $700(including shipping from two different breeders).
Then it was time for a reptile rack for $300, which I ordered wrong and had to order Flexwatt heat tape and wiring equipment (another $50). I had to purchase a digital porportional thermostat for over $100 to make sure that the Flexwatt tape doesn't overheat and catch the house on fire.
When drilling air holes, a few of the tubs cracked, so I had to purchase a few spare tubs for $2 each.
More calcium supplements, vitamins, and crested gecko meal replacement.
Food and water bowls; I started off with gatoraid tops, but they needed to be refilled often and just didn't hold enough. I need bigger bowls that would hold more water and keep mealworms from climbing out.
Which, leads me to mealworms and crickets in bulk.
Luckily, in terms of the website, my father hosts it on his server and he pays the goDaddy domain charge.
Leopard Gecko RackClick thumbnail to view full-size
The supplies are second on my list of troubles of a business, whether it be a hobby or full- time. I, actually, think that supplies are probably one of the more troublesome expenses to any business. In terms of purchases for animals, it's a constant renewal of supplies so that you never are completely out; no bottle should ever be empty before a replacement is purchased.
Supplies for breeding reptiles that I must always have on hand include:
- Calcium supplement
- Vitamin/ mineral supplement
- Liquid calcium (for gravid females)
- Crested gecko meal replacement diet
- Egg cartons
- Perlite (for incubation)
- Various sized plastic deli cups with lids (for shipping reptiles and incubation)
- Fragile- perishable shipping boxes with fitted insulation
Ok, well the egg cartons aren't a constant, every day purchase, but I need them on hand for crested gecko and gargoyle gecko enclosures, as well as for feeder crickets and roaches.
Items that I like to have extras of, but are not necessary or can be substituted temporarily include:
- Food and Water bowls
- Fake plants
- Snake aspen
Other supplies that I use:
- All natural baby food
- Digital scale (keeping proper weights)
- Hovabator incubators (but I have plans to upgrade to a Nature's Spirit)
- Spray bottles
- Exo Terra Electrolize Drops
- Exo Terra Calcimize Drops
- Liquid Vitamin Electrolyte Spray
- Paper towels
And, the absolute worse part of of the expenses comes in the form of nasty, creepy crawly BUGS!
- Discoid Roaches
- Phoenix Worms
- Waxworms (on occasion)
I am, by no means, a big time reptile breeder, and I never plan to be such; I just have more reptiles than the regular reptile owner of one or two. I have to pay $50- $75 for 10,000 to 20,000 mealworms every few months. To date, this money is just thrown away.
GeckosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Past the supplies, the investments are the most costly part in any business, whether they be a new invention, stock, bonds, or in this case reptiles.
Being that goReptiles is more of a hobby (an expensive one), I take the mindset of a it as business when in terms of making the right investments and purchasing the right reptiles. I have to be smart and savvy- barter a little, try to get a lower price. I have to decide with a set income (very little at the moment) what I can afford to buy and what I can't. If I find a perfect addition to my collection, but the price is too much, then I have to pass, otherwise, I jump on it. Occasionally, I'm able to find gorgeous reptiles for a cheap price, or multiple reptiles for a great deal- those get purchased and shipped to my door.
But, again with a set income, I can't shop around all the time. It's the occasional purchase that works for my hobby.
I have to make sure to bring in new bloodlines and new reptiles to make the morphs better in terms of possible hatchlings.
I have to make sure that my breeders are affordable to my pocket, but at the same time will lead me to a nicely priced hatchling to help pay for breeders, accessories, and feeder insects.
The investments of my hobby are the most important part of the hobby as without them I would have no hatchlings, which means no business. So, I take my investments seriously, not only because of the money I spend to care for them, but the money I spend to purchase them and the money I hope to gain from them.
The moment I can't handle my chosen hobby, is the exact moment that I bow down and back out because I will not purposely put any animal under harm or neglect.
And, because it is a hobby and nowhere near a true, profitable business, I'm in debt... Serious debt...
The moment I care more about the money than the animals, is the moment I've waited one too late to get out...
Update January 2010: After doing my books from 2008 and 2009 so to get started with my 2010 expenses and sales, I found that I am still in the red, in every single aspect.
- Leopard Geckos- $1,110.80 in the red
- Rhacs- $2,923.45 in the red
- Misc. Animals- $1,005.00 in the red
- Supplies- $1.232.75 in the red (does not include all supplies as not all have been written down from the very beginning)
- Feeders- $2,871.50 in the red (not all expenses have been recorded)
- Shipping costs- $270.53 in the red
I have had 2 full breeding seasons with my initial breeding leopard geckos and 3 with some of my initial crested geckos. The market is fully saturated with both, and it is hard to make a sale unless you drastically reduce your prices. I have found equal to lesser quality geckos sold by breeders with decades of breeding experience be able to sell for 4 times what I sell, but small breeders nearly never make a profit. Without a name and reputation, it's best to start small and work your way up as you do make a profit. Do not go spend thousands off the bat, unless you're able to take the hit and are prepared to lose most of that money for years before making a profit.