The leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets. They are hardy, docile and easy to tame. These reptiles also come in a variety of colors, and patterns.
Although they are normally ground yellow with dark brown spots, leopard geckos can be solid bright orange, deep brown, all white and so on. In fact, there are over 100 different color and pattern variants around.
A Leopard Gecko Breeding Guide
As the demand for leopard gecko is sky high, it is important that the wild population is protected. There is no better way to do this but for reptile enthusiasts to captive-breed them. This also ensures demand is met, and the wild population is safe. In this leopard gecko breeding guide, we look at the steps involved in breeding the most popular pet lizard species in the world.
Before You Get Started
It is prudent to journal the breeding process. This allows you to keep track of the breeding timeline and identify the steps and methods that worked best for you. This way you will be able to accumulate knowledge and experience with each passing breeding season.
Next, ensure you have homes for the future baby geckos. Females usually produce two eggs per clutch and can produce about six clutches each year. Therefore, that is an average of about 12 babies each year if you plan to breed leopard geckos long term.
Housing and Feeding the Breeding Leopard Geckos
The enclosure for a couple of leopard geckos (ideally male and female) can be about 10 to 20 gallons in capacity. Additionally, the enclosure, which can be a vivarium or a terrarium, needs to be at least 12 inches high. The screen top should be able to support a heat lamp and/or a low-wattage bulb.
The heat lamp provides the needed warmth while the low-wattage bulb provides a day-night cycle. Of course, you can also get a bulb that provides both the warmth and the light. If you have cats or dogs, ensure that they don’t bother the enclosure.
When it comes to substrates, avoid fine particle products such as soil and sand, as geckos can ingest this. Apart from that and cedar/pine which can be toxic to reptiles all other substrates can be used. This reptile doesn’t need a humid environment. However, you need to provide for the female a moist and damp spot where she can lay the eggs.
It is important to feed the breeding female every other day. Ensure that the insects aren’t long the gecko’s head. Gut load the insects for a day or 2 before feeding them to the geckos. Similarly keep a jar lid filled with supplement (calcium + vitamin D3) powder in the enclosure at all time.
The female needs the calcium to make the eggs. Without the supplement, she can develop metabolic bone disease (MBD) which can kill her. The Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3 is an excellent choice. Lastly, ensure there is always water present. The dish should be shallow so the gecko doesn’t accidentally drown in it.
Determine the Gender and Maturity of the Gecko
Determining the sex of the gecko is quite simple. While both males and females have a v-shaped row of pores near their tail, the males’ V-shape is more prominent and is hollow.
This v-shaped row of scales is pre-anal pores and is found in front of the cloaca, which is an opening where fecal matter is excreted. The females’ row of pores is barely visible. Additionally, only the males’ pores exude the waxy substance, which they use to mark their territory.
Since only males have the hemipenile bulges, checking for the hemipenes is another way by which breeders determine the sex of the gecko. The hemipenile bulges are found below the cloaca on either side of the base of their tail.
Housed inside the bulges are the hemipenes, which are the main reproductive organs. Experienced breeders can confirm the sex of the gecko by pushing the hemipenes out. Popping the hemipenes wrongly can cause hemipenes prolapse and other injuries. It is best to leave this technique to the experts.
If you are still unsure whether your gecko is male or female, you can have a breeder help you out. Leos can usually be sexed when they are 4 months old.
Leopard gecko breeding size is about 7 inches. They also need to be about 18 months old. Leopard gecko breeding weight is about 48 grams. According to some breeders, females that are 10 months old can be successfully bred. However, it is best to ensure that the female is at least 12 months old.
The leopard gecko breeding season in the northern hemisphere is generally from January to September. While you can cool down females prior to breeding, you should not cool down a first year female as they are still growing. Before you breed the female, ensure she is healthy since the breeding process can kill unhealthy females.
Both the male and the female can now be placed in the same enclosure. Also as previously stated, ensure the female always has access to supplement powder. Similarly, feed the female regularly with gut-loaded insects.
If the pair is aggressive towards one another, they may be males. A male and female pair may also be aggressive towards each other since they are not used to one another. After confirming that the pair is male and female, leave them alone in the enclosure and monitor them. After they have mated, remove the female and place her back in her enclosure.
Caring For the Eggs
You need to prepare a laying box for the female. This is similar to a hide box, only that it has moist substrate such as vermiculite, or peat moss. The substrate used for the laying box has to be one that retains moisture very well and isn’t harmful to the gecko.
The substrate has to feel like fresh earth. Do not use actual earth though as this might contain harmful microbes and can cause problems when ingested. The female normally lays a pair of eggs 16 to 22 days after mating. From there on, she will lay a clutch every two to three weeks for about 5 months. They usually lay between 8 and 13 eggs during the breeding year. Females can lay up to a 100 eggs over their entire lifetime.
Ensure the female is well-fed throughout the entire egg-laying period. She should always have access to nutritional supplement powder and be fed every other day. You can spray the food with a multivitamin spray such as the Zilla Vitamin Supplement Food Spray. Poor nutrition is the number one cause of infertile eggs.
Once the female lays the eggs, you can incubate them. Be careful when picking up the eggs. Shaking or even rotating the egg can cause the embryo to come loose and die. The eggs measure about 28 x 15 mm. The eggs hatch after 45 to 53 days when incubated at the right temperature.
Since the sex of the gecko depends on the incubation temperature, you should regulate the temperature according to the needs at hand. To get female hatchlings, the incubation temperature needs to be around 80 F. For an equal number of males and females keep the incubation temperature at 87 F. To get 98% male hatchlings, the incubation temperature needs to be around 90 F. Ensure that incubation temperatures do not drop below 74 F.
Alternate Hatchling Care Setup (For Larger Quantities)
- Incubators can allow you to effectively control the temperature of the eggs. However to be on the safe side, you should also get an accurate thermometer.
- You need to place the eggs in an incubation medium or they will lose moisture and die. You can use moss, vermiculite or even coconut fiber as incubation medium. Dampen the medium with a little water. Place the medium in a cup or plastic container such as a Rubbermaid. The medium should be about a couple of inches deep. You can place all the eggs in a large container. Cover the container with a lid to prevent moisture.
- Place the eggs inside a reptile/egg incubator such as the Hova-Bator Still Air Egg Incubator Kit. This incubator comes with little cups with lids for individual eggs, substrate (vermiculite) and a thermometer/hygrometer. As already mentioned, it is always best to get a separate accurate thermometer rather than rely on the one that comes with the incubator.
- Similarly, you can place the eggs inside a temperature-controlled terrarium.
Every few days, check on the eggs. Open the lid to allow air to enter, and ensure the substrate is moist. Remove all molded and dead eggs. The eggs usually hatch after 45 to 53 days. However, the eggs can hatch after just 35 days or it can as long as 89 days to hatch.
Each hatchling needs to be housed separately in their own tiny case. A 10-gallon tank with plastic dividers allows you to house each baby separately. Provide small bowls of water as well as insects within a day or two of hatching.
You do not have to move the juveniles into a terrarium until they are about 7 inches long. Before that, keep them in a shoebox that measure 12 inches long, 6 inches wide and 4 inches tall. The temperature under the hide box should be 90 F, while the cool end of the shoebox should be 73 F. For younglings, use paper towel as bedding. Feed juveniles every other day with about 5 to 10 mealworms.
Leopard Gecko Breeding Timeline
- Leos reach maturity between the ages of 12 months and 18 months.
- The leopard gecko breeding season in the northern hemisphere is generally from January to September.
- The female will lay a pair of eggs 16 to 22 days after mating. From there on, she will lay a clutch every two to three weeks for about 5 months.
- The eggs hatch after 45 to 53 days.
Leopard geckos, also referred to as leos by reptile pet keepers, are easy to breed. They do not require any special needs in order to breed. They also come in many different morphs.
If you wish to breed a particular morph, it is best to know the genealogy of the geckos you wish to breed. In addition, you need to know if the trait is recessive, dominant or/and line bred. If you have any questions or additional information to add, we encourage you to do so in the comment section below.