How to Breed Leopard Geckos (Complete Guide with Videos)
Interested in breeding Leopard Geckos? Then you are in the right place, I will lay out how you get started with breeding. It will take some experience to perfect this, but with time and the correct knowledge you can master it.
How do you breed Leopard Geckos? House and Pre-feed the Geckos mealworms and gut-loaded crickets, then Introduce the male to your female during breeding season, between January & September. This can sometimes lead to fights, especially if the female is young or not ready to be mated yet. It's best to take this slowly and to stay close so you can prevent injuries to your pets.
Obviously this is quite a high level view of how this should be done. To get the detail, such as the best substrate for their eggs and understand more about this, please read on.
What Are Leopard Geckos?
Leopard geckos, also called Leos, make excellent pets for beginner and expert reptile keepers alike. Easy to handle due to their docile nature and with simple maintenance requirements, leopard geckos are an undemanding and colorful addition to any reptile-loving household.
These sweet-natured and playful lizards are even calm enough to be handled by supervised children. Because of all their positive traits, many Leo owners quickly become interested in breeding them.
It's no secret that successfully breeding reptiles can be a challenge, but this simply isn't true for leopard geckos. Sometimes, if conditions are just right, they may even surprise you with fertile eggs without your help!
Even though it's easy to breed them, it's best to be fully prepared so your hatchlings have the best possible start and the parents remain healthy and vibrant throughout the process. Below, we'll discuss everything you need to know to start your new adventure as a responsible leopard gecko breeder.
Why would you want to breed a Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos are popular pets for all types of people because of their simple needs and unique, human-like characteristics. Unlike most lizards, they can blink their eyelids and they seem to truly enjoy the company of people.
Often called a "starter reptile" they are arguably the easiest lizard to keep. Leos even come in a wide array of beautiful colors and patterns to match almost any taste.
And frankly, who can resist those adorable smiles? Families are especially fond of leopard geckos because of their long lifespans. Nobody wants to tell a child their beloved pet has passed away, so choosing one that can live as long as twenty years is a huge bonus.
Being low-maintenance pets means that their breeding needs are much easier to meet than other reptiles, and your costs will be minimal in comparison.
Most importantly, with looser requirements, you have a higher chance of healthy hatchlings. That means happy clients, more profits, and a great reputation for you.
Of course, who says you have to sell your baby geckos? There are plenty of people who breed and raise them as a hobby or as a science lesson for their kids. If you have enough space, plenty of food for your geckos, and the time to care for them all, it could be fun to have a whole room full of them.
What is the ideal time of year to breed them?
You can attempt to artificially initiate breeding behaviors in your Leos if you have the time and are dedicated to it. However, you may increase your chances of a successful hatch—and reduce your efforts and intervention—if you follow their natural breeding timeline and habits.
Thankfully, leopard geckos have a lengthy breeding season, which gives you plenty of time and many chances to see babies.
In the northern hemisphere, adults are usually ready to breed starting around January and going through September. However, some females may begin ovulating much later.
Ovulation depends on many factors, but the time of year they hatched has a big impact. Early hatchers may ovulate sooner and later hatchers can ovulate later in the season.
The natural start of the leopard gecko breeding season is easy to spot. When it's time, you may notice some new behaviors and changes in eating habits. If your adult male gecko suddenly refuses to eat or exhibits other odd feeding habits, it's likely due to entering the breeding season.
Some even refuse to eat through the entire process, but this is completely normal. Females will often demand more food and seem ravenous at feeding times—this is also normal.
What is the ideal housing for their breeding?
While leopard geckos are simple to breed and may decide to do it without your help, you can increase the odds of success by providing an ideal breeding environment.
Home breeders often set up breeding enclosures that are still visually appealing to humans. Professional breeders, however, may choose a more utilitarian method like the one in this video.
The most important aspect of a successful breeding environment is access to a moist hide box filled with damp bedding. Any clear plastic container works as long as it's at least 12 inches tall and has an access hole cut into the top or side.
Some breeders prefer peat or sphagnum moss inside the hide box, while others swear by vermiculite. Avoid sand, though, as this can cause a life-threatening impaction.
Leopard geckos aren't picky, so choose something appealing within your budget. The main consideration for the hide box substrate is that it is damp but not wet enough that water can be squeezed out.
The damp substrate and enclosed space will keep the eggs moist until you can move them to an incubation box.
The final consideration for breeding housing is space. If you have multiple females living in the same enclosure, be sure to have several large hide boxes to prevent overcrowding and aggression.
What is the ideal size to consider breeding?
We know it's exciting to think about breeding your leopard geckos right away, but for their safety, it's imperative to be sure they are the right age and weight before you begin.
This is especially important for the females; breeding a young female can be hazardous to her health.
Females generally reach sexual maturity around nine or ten months of age and a weight of 45 grams. That doesn't mean you should jump into breeding as soon as they meet those markers.
Egg production is taxing on the female's body; leopard gecko eggs are large and can be difficult for very young females to lay. Some experts suggest waiting until your females are at least two years old and in perfect health.
What food should you feed them?
It may be tempting to give your Leos fruits or vegetables to add variety to their diets, but they won't eat them. They are strict insectivores; their diet includes live insects such as mealworms and gut-loaded crickets.
Mature Leos don't need to eat every day. A hearty meal four or five times a week will keep them happy and healthy. They do enjoy the occasional treat of waxworms and superworms, but limit those to once a week.
For maximum health, dust their food with vitamin and mineral powder. You can also leave a small dish of calcium and vitamin D3 powder in the enclosure to let them choose how much to consume.
Water is vital to your geckos' health. Always leave a shallow dish of clean water in their enclosures. To keep live crickets from drowning in the water and creating a bacterial mess, place a large rock in the center of the dish.
Size matters! Be sure you feed the right size of insects to prevent injuries. Insects should be no longer than half the width of your Leo's head.
Just before the breeding season begins, pay close attention to your female leopard gecko's diet. She is going to need some extra help from you to be sure she's getting enough nutrients during this demanding time.
Breeding season is not the time to worry about females gaining too much weight. They'll need extra food, increased calcium, and extra vitamin D3 to stay in top shape throughout the breeding season.
Leaving a small tray of live mealworms dusted with vitamin powder in her enclosure will help ensure she's getting enough food and proper nutrients to lay viable eggs.
How do you introduce the male?
If you've decided to keep your male Leo in a separate enclosure most of the year, you'll need to introduce him to your female during breeding season.
This can sometimes lead to fights, especially if the female is young or not ready to be mated yet. It's best to take this slowly and to stay close so you can prevent injuries to your pets.
Some breeders with larger populations prefer to move a single male between groups of three or four females. Others prefer to put one to four females into the male's enclosure.
It's up to you how you'd like to handle this, so consider the temperaments of each of your Geckos and stay close to observe their behaviors.
It's important to note that leopard gecko mating behavior can appear violent. There will be nipping, biting, and perhaps some tail whipping. Don't worry; these are normal behaviors.
It's still a good idea to watch for overly-aggressive reactions. Females are likely to be more receptive to meeting a new male if they are already ovulating.
In this video you can see a single female being introduced to a male in his enclosure. About halfway through you can hear the male begin to vibrate his tail inside the hide box, which is a great sign for breeding.
What is the "Harem" breeding method?
Harem breeding is a term that means one male Leo is matched to multiple females. As we mentioned above, some breeders will house many female leopard geckos together in one enclosure, then introduce the male. You can also let a male and multiple female Leos live together year-round if they get along well.
While you can certainly pair off one male and one female successfully if they have the right temperaments, Leos are naturally harem breeders. As a pair, the female can quickly become worn out and overbred, while the male can become frustrated and aggressive. In either case, health can suffer and that will trickle down to their offspring.
Even in a more natural harem breeding situation, there can be complications. Females can live together with few issues for most of the year, but during breeding season they may become competitive.
In some harems, you may notice one or two females quickly losing weight or becoming less active due to competition from the other females.
How long does it usually take to see some eggs?
It can be hard to wait for your first clutch of leopard gecko eggs, but patience is a must. After a successful mating, it can take anywhere from sixteen to twenty-two days for a female to lay her eggs.
The process itself can take a week or more. If you plan to breed your leopard geckos, you must be willing to set aside time every day to look for the eggs.
There are a few clear signs your females are about to lay eggs, so keep a close eye on them. Signs to look for include:
- Excessive digging
- Back leg tensing
- Increased calcium consumption
This video shows more possible signs to look for.
Since the breeding season is so long, you can expect each female to lay multiple clutches of eggs over the entire season. They may lay a single egg the first season, but will often lay two in each clutch thereafter.
How can you find the eggs?
Assuming you have provided a suitable moist hide box with the right substrate, your females will likely choose that location for their eggs. In a harem situation, all the females will probably choose the same spot to lay their eggs as well. Sometimes females may choose an unlikely place to lay her eggs, especially if this is her first clutch.
Regardless of where your females deposit their eggs, they are usually easy to find. First, look for areas of disturbed or scattered substrate.
The eggs should be half-buried, so one side may be clearly visible. Females may begin digging in one spot, then decide to move to a new one, so the presence of empty holes is a good sign that eggs will be coming soon or might be hiding elsewhere.
How do you safely remove the eggs?
Gecko eggs are not hard like chicken eggs. They will be slightly pliable but firm to the touch. They are almost leathery, so gentle handling is required to avoid damaging the delicate embryo inside.
If they feel wet or squishy, they're probably not fertile. However, don't throw them out yet. Give them a chance to develop; some are just a little slow to start.
Wash your hands before handling the eggs to prevent the spread of bacteria. It's best to mark the top surface of each egg to be sure you don't accidentally change its orientation.
Embryos will adhere to the inner wall of the egg after a few short hours of being buried. Any change in orientation can kill them. Use a marker or soft pencil, being careful not to puncture the shell.
How do you prepare for the eggs hatching?
Leos don't require a lot of care as babies or adults, and their eggs are just as low-maintenance. The eggs need to be kept moist and warm, but many beginners take this too far, assuming they need to be hyper-vigilant.
The two biggest mistakes beginners make are keeping the eggs too wet and allowing the temperature to get too high.
The shells should never be wet. A properly setup hatching box should be like the hide box: a plastic container with damp substrate that water can't be squeezed from.
The perfect temperature is between 77 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Letting the temperature fluctuate is fine.
After all, leopard geckos have been laying and hatching eggs in the wild for thousands of years, and it's never a constant temperature outside.
Incubation can take two months or more. The exact time will depend on several factors, but the temperature is the most important. You may be waiting anywhere from thirty-five days to eighty-nine. Once again, patience is a must.
Aside from keeping the eggs in a properly warmed box and making sure they are not too wet or too dry, you only need to open the box once a week to allow proper oxygen exchange.
Don't move the eggs or allow other Leos to push them around or dig them up. It might be tempting to handle the eggs but try to keep your hands off. The only time you should touch them is if you plan to candle them to check for growth.
Where should you store the hatchlings?
Hatchlings may look tiny and delicate when they first emerge, but they are quite resilient. Obviously, you don't want to handle them roughly, but they're not like human babies where special care is needed.
You can keep your hatchlings in enclosures similar to those of adolescent and adult Leos. You can also house them in plastic shoeboxes or large Rubbermaid tubs.
As long as you maintain proper temperature and provide a moist hide box for skin shedding, any secure box, tank, or cage will do.
Don't feed your hatchlings right away. Like birds, baby leopard geckos absorb their yolk sac before hatching, which gives them all the nutrients they need for a few days.
After about four days, they'll shed their first skin. That's the signal for you to give your hatchlings their first baby crickets. In just a few weeks, your hatchlings will be fat, strong, and active.
Are leopard geckos asexual? Asexuality is the ability for females to produce offspring without having to mate with a male. Some reptiles have evolved the ability to do this out of necessity—low male populations, for example—while others can reproduce asexually by choice.
The whiptail lizard of Mexico and the Southwest United States is one example of an asexual reptile.
It's an interesting scientific phenomenon, but it's spurred a lot of misinformation around the internet. Because some species of lizards have evolved asexual behaviors, some people believe all lizards have. This is simply not true.
It is true that some geckos are asexual, but leopard geckos are not. Your female Leos will need a male to produce fertile eggs.
Do leopard geckos eat their eggs? Yes, they can eat their own eggs. They also eat their own skin after it's been shed. Both of these behaviors may be a bit unsettling to humans, but for reptiles, it's completely natural. Your Leos may display these behaviors for a variety of reasons.
Leopard geckos may eat their eggs if they're infertile. Since there are no babies inside infertile eggs, females are simply making use of important nutrients available in their environment. Some breeders argue whether Leos will eat fertilized eggs or not.
Those who believe they could eat their own fertilized eggs think it's due to feeling threatened or even a lack of calcium or essential nutrients in their diet.
Keeping a clean enclosure and providing plenty of high-quality food are good ways to avoid egg-eating behaviors.
How many babies do leopard geckos have? Since leopard geckos can lay a new clutch of one to two eggs every fifteen to twenty-two days, each female could theoretically have eight to ten babies in a single breeding season.
It's easy to see how things could quickly get out of control in a harem breeding setup, so be prepared for egg incubating and hatchling care for a large number of Leos.
This is not to say that every egg will be viable or that every female will always lay two eggs. Individual animals will have their own cycles and patterns. Keeping a log of ovulation, mating activity, egg laying, and how many healthy hatchlings each female has in a season will help you plan future hatchings.
Can you keep a male and a female leopard gecko together? Leopard geckos are generally solitary reptiles, but it's possible to house male and female leopard geckos together. A lot of your success will depend on the temperament of your geckos, the size of their enclosure, and a few other factors.
Tips to maximize successful cohabitation:
- Only keep one male leopard gecko in an enclosure at a time. Males will fight if they must share a space.
- When a single male is housed with multiple females, you must have a larger enclosure. You should provide enough space for each Leo to get away from the others. You should also make sure there are plenty of moist hide boxes to prevent competition for favored hiding spots.
- Provide adequate food, water, and supplements for each gecko sharing an enclosure to prevent competition and food aggression. This is especially important just before and during the breeding season.
- Be ready to separate leopard geckos that don't seem to get along, and only house similar-sized geckos together.
Can leopard geckos lay eggs without mating? Yes, female leopard geckos may still lay eggs even if they haven't been bred to a male. Not all females will lay eggs, but they will all develop eggs during ovulation.
Many female Leos absorb the unfertilized eggs back into their bodies. Some, however, will go through the motions as if they had been bred. As long as your female was not exposed to a male during ovulation, any eggs she lays will be infertile and will not hatch.
If you're uncertain whether your female was bred to a male, you can often tell if an egg is infertile just by looking at it. Infertile eggs will be softer. They can be almost squishy or floppy, like a deflated balloon. Some can even have a shriveled appearance.
How long does it take for leopard geckos to mate? It would be nice to have a solid answer to this question, but since Leos are living creatures, they have their own ideas about how things should work.
Generally speaking, leopard geckos will mate within a week of being introduced to one another, assuming it's mating season and the female is ovulating. The act itself only lasts a few minutes, so you may not even witness it.
If your leopard geckos haven't mated after a week, try not to worry. If they're getting along, it's okay to leave them together for longer. If, however, they're fighting a lot or you're afraid they may injure each other, separate them and try again in a week or so.
After multiple unsuccessful mating attempts, it's worth checking to be sure you've sexed them properly. Remember that males will fight one another, especially during the breeding season.
Since it can be difficult to properly sex a young leopard gecko, you should check again when they're older.
By now you should have a good idea what to expect if you decide to breed your leopard geckos. It's a fun, exciting, and educational process that can earn a nice income or fill your home with adorable smiling gecko faces.
It's especially fun to try out new combinations of colors and patterns to see how the offspring turn out. Who knows? You may even create a whole new morph!
We'd love to hear from you in the comments. What was your favorite part of this article? Do you have experience breeding leopard geckos? What worked for you and what didn't?
If you enjoyed this article or you know someone who would appreciate it, feel free to share it.