BREEDING CRESTED GECKOS
By Dagan You have a male and female crested gecko and are considering breeding. What condition should they be in before breeding is attempted?
*Obviously, first you need to make sure that you have a male and a female…fortunately, it is quite easy to tell (if they are adults), no probing necessary!
*If they are not old enough for you to discern their gender clearly, then you should not be breeding them. However, it is good to know how to sex juvenile crested geckos, so that you can plan future pairs and holdbacks. This is done by “pore sexing,”
or looking for a line of pores above the base of the tail. Usually pore sexing is not considered reliable until the gecko is about 10 grams in weight, but it is often used when they are as small as 5 grams in weight. Depending on the coloration or patterning of the gecko, it can be quite difficult. The best way to get a good view is to take a picture of your gecko’s underside with a digital camera so you can see the area larger on a computer screen.
*The female gecko should weigh 35-40 grams
or more. If she is under this weight, then she is likely still growing, and forcing her to breed could take calcium away from the growing process and use it up in the egg production process, thereby stunting her growth or endangering her health. For her safety you –must- wait until she is the correct weight. In the long run she will be able to produce healthier eggs, as long as this precaution is followed.
*The male gecko can weigh a bit less since he is not going to be producing eggs, but he should definitely be large enough to have “dropped” his male parts! That is, the bulge is quite visible at the base of the tail. Look for your male gecko to weigh at least 25 grams
or more…and remember, if you put a tiny male with a huge female, she could very possibly beat him up (and vice versa)!
*You are likely to want a larger tank to hold both geckos during the breeding process, so that fighting is less likely. A 20 gallon tall or a 20 gallon that is set vertically should work well. In this size tank you can house one male and one female. A 30 gallon would be better for a male and two females. Most often, crested geckos are bred in the trio of one male to two females.
*A little common sense: do not breed geckos that have deformities
! If your gecko has MBD (metabolic bone disease), characterized by a hunched back, soft or malformed jaw, or kinked tail, it is not a good idea to breed them. Breeding unhealthy geckos may lead to problems such as egg impaction, prolapsed hemipenes, and other problems that will either be a very expensive vet bill or a very dead gecko!THE BREEDING PROCESS
So, your geckos are both of weight and healthy. You decide to introduce them. What happens next can vary. Your male may show no interest—or he may show immediate interest! Don’t be surprised if the male aggressively pursues the female at once.
Crested gecko mating can often appear “violent” to human eyes. The male will usually grab the back of the female’s neck or head with his teeth to hold her still. Sometimes he will even shake her! It is also possible that one or the other of your geckos will lose his or her tail (and in crested geckos, they do not grow back), but do not be alarmed if this happens, because it is all quite natural.How long should you keep them together?
This depends on experience, personal opinion, and witnessed actions of the geckos in question. If you have a particularly rough gecko in the pair, you may only want to keep them together for a week. Female geckos can store sperm from the male
, so even just one mating can produce fertile eggs for a year!
CREATING A LAY BOX
*Lay boxes can be glad containers filled with moist soil (make sure it is organic and has no fertilizers or pesticides). Whether or not the container has a lid with a hole cut in it for entry is up to you. Some geckos like privacy, and others don’t care.
*If the cage in which the female lives has a soil bottom, she may or may not use the lay box. Check for eggs anywhere that a female gecko may be able to bury them. They prefer moist areas. If the soil is not moist and the eggs are not found in time, they will dry out!
*My female geckos enjoy laying their eggs in potted plants. Each time I check for eggs, I also make sure to keep the soil moist without soaking it, so that any eggs I miss will still be healthy when I find them later.
*If you have a moist area of soil and your female lays eggs…and you fail to find them…don’t be surprised if babies appear in the cage months later! They should be removed, as the parents may think they are snacks to eat!WHEN TO EXPECT EGGS
*Female geckos will usually lay a pair of eggs each 30-40 days
. It is not uncommon for virgin females to begin laying infertile eggs. It is also not uncommon for "first timers" to lay only one egg! But usually there will be two.
*Throughout the month, watch your female’s weight. Generally a female close to laying will weigh 4-5 grams more than usual
. She will also appear rounder and fatter, and you may even feel or see the lumps in the stomach area. Don’t forget that gecko weight also varies depending on how recently they have eaten or pooped, both of which can affect gecko weight within 1-2 grams.INCUBATING CRESTED GECKO EGGSThis method also works with eggs of other rhacodactylus species such as chahoua, leachianus, and auriculatus. SuperHatch Incubation Media
*It is well worth it to purchase a bag of SuperHatch if you plan to breed crested geckos. It can be reused, so you only need to purchase it once. It makes the whole process much easier. If interested, click the following link: http://www.pangeareptile.com/store/superhatch.html
*Can be reused if boiled (not necessary to boil it unless it has been contaminated or has a bad smell)
*Once prepared, lasts indefinitely (moisture levels stay fine for months)
*Gladware containers are perfect (go for the square containers at least 4” x 4”
*Big advantage to superhatch is that it is a light color when dry and a dark color when wet. This makes judging the moisture levels very easy while checking on incubating eggs. If the substrate has turned whitish or pale, then it is not moist enough.
*Another advantage is that when soaking superhatch, the media does not float on the surface of the water as much as vermiculite or perlite.Preparation (works for Superhatch as well as vermiculite)
-Put dry media in air-tight
container (gladware or other brand)
-Soak media with water. You can do this directly in the container.
-Pour out excess water. Media should be damp but not dripping
. If too wet, you can let it air dry for 20 minutes and then stir it up. Water can also be “pressed” out by pushing a cloth or hand against the media hard enough to squeeze out excess liquid.A good measure of the moisture is to place your fingers on the surface. If the media sticks to your fingers, it is likely too wet. Let it dry a bit more.
-Leave at least 1” of air space between media and lid of container. Substrate should be at least 2” deep to maintain moisture levels.Maintenance
-Open lid once per week
to refresh the air in the container. No need to leave the lid off for any length of time, just open it and then close it again.
-Wipe excess moisture off of the inside of the lid so that water does not drip on the eggs.
-Remove eggs that smell foul, are yellow, or have started to mold.
-Check container for hatched eggs regularly (daily, if near hatch time)
-Do NOT mist eggs.
If the substrate seems to have dried out for some reason (like you forgot to replace the lid on the container), try spraying water around the walls of the container, but be careful never to spray the eggs directly, as too much moisture will kill the eggs.
- Crested gecko eggs incubate best at a steady temperature of 75 degrees.
This is usually room temperature. If your house becomes cold in the winter or hot in the summer, you may want to find an area that stays warmer/cooler for the better survival and development of your eggs. Warmer temperatures have been linked with earlier hatching, but if your gecko hatches too early, then he or she may not be strong enough to survive!Placing Eggs in Incubation Media
-Try to hold egg in the same position in which it was found
. Brush dirt off of the shell lightly, but do not worry if the shell is stained.
*To double check the egg position, you can “candle” it by holding a pin light or flashlight beneath it. If fertile, there should be a “cheerio” visible inside the egg, and you want this to be on the top side of the egg.
-Make a small indentation in the media and let the egg sit in the indentation. Do not bury the egg,
and do not let it sit too deeply. Ideally it will just rest on the surface. Fertile Crested Gecko Egg
– the “x” marked in pencil on the top side of the egg helps the owner keep it positioned correctly inside the container. Sometimes eggs may turn if bumped or if a hatchling gecko crawls over them. You need the cheerio, or the fetus, to be on the top, because it is possible that the growing fetus could be drowned if positioned on the bottom of the egg. Another good image reference can be found here: http://jbscresties.com/incubatedeggslarge.jpg Infertile Gecko Egg
– (note: the example shown is an infertile leopard gecko egg, however its appearance in this picture is identical to that of an infertile crested gecko egg) there appears to be no cheerio visible within the egg. Candling it shows a very yellow color. However, many people still incubate these seemingly infertile eggs, just in case. If it is truly infertile, it will start to mold within a month. Then you should remove it from the incubation container so that the mold does not contaminate healthy eggs. Molding Crested Gecko Egg
– as you can see, this egg has turned dark in color on the surface of the shell. White growths have appeared. Sometimes mold will appear like tiny “hairs” protruding from the egg. Sometimes upon closer inspection you may even see tiny white worms crawling on the shell. At this point it is safe to throw the egg away. Either it was infertile or the fetus died during development. WHEN TO EXPECT HATCHLINGS
As the egg continues to develop, it may become more difficult to see what is inside. An egg close to hatching will have swollen to a rounder shape, and candling it will reveal a shadow inside. Sometimes you may even see the baby gecko moving slightly within the egg. At this point it is probably a good idea not to handle the eggs too much, as you don’t want to startle the baby into an early hatching!
*Start checking the container for hatchlings each day. Crested gecko eggs have hatched anywhere between 55—120 days.
The ideal egg incubation lasts at least 2 ½ months
. (With warmer temperatures, expect an early hatching. With cooler temperatures, expect a late hatching.)
*Hatchlings can range from 1-2.5 grams
or so. Don’t be fooled if they are curled up peacefully in a corner…the moment you touch them, these little guys can be squealing, chirping, gaping, Speedy Gonzales’s!
*The first thing a hatchling will do is shed its skin
. This is completely normal. Expect them to shed several times within the first week. Usually they will eat the shed skin, so there is no need to help them along.HOUSING AND CARING FOR CRESTED GECKO HATCHLINGS
The best container for a crested gecko hatchling is one of about 1-3 gallons
(remember: 4 quarts to the gallon, so this would be 4-12 quarts). Make sure that it has plenty of ventilation.
*Drill or burn holes near the top of the container, all the way around. You can space the holes 2-3 inches apart.
*Use a folded paper towel for substrate
. This will help you check to make sure that the gecko has eaten, defecated, etc. It also keeps geckos from consuming soil or other media that may cause impaction problems. Catching crickets on a paper towel is much easier than catching them on eco earth!
*Feed crested gecko hatchlings (and adults) the CGD diet
. Offer it every night.
Crickets should only be fed once a week, if at all. Offer 3 small crickets dusted with calcium powder that does not have vitamin D3 added. Remember, as long as you feed CGD, insects are not necessary to the gecko’s diet. Offering a few per week may increase its growth rate, but you want to make sure that it eats a base diet of CGD instead of holding out for bugs!
*Do not place any deep water dishes in the container. If you use a water dish, make sure it is so shallow that the gecko cannot drown in it.
*Use a shallow feeding dish for the CGD.
*Place a plant and some sticks so that the gecko can climb.
These are arboreal animals. They should not sit on the ground all the time. A gecko that constantly sits on damp paper towels may get a respiratory infection and die. Also, the plants will help the gecko feel more secure, and he will likely eat more if he feels safe.
*Mist the hatchling cage each morning at night. Mist LIGHTLY.
Aim the mist spray at the walls rather than the paper towels. You do not want the paper towels to be too wet! The container will probably hold moisture well (unless it is a kritter keeper, which I do not advise using as they dry out too quickly), and you want to let it have a dry period during the day
while being humid in morning and at night.
*Do not keep more than 2-3 hatchlings in each cage.
As an extra precaution, it is better to house each hatchling separately in case there are any health issues or aggression.
COOLING THE MALE AND FEMALE GECKOS
Many gecko breeders set aside a period of about 3-4 months
to cool their geckos. This allows the female to rest from the constant production of eggs. However, depending on how long it has been since the female was housed with a male, she may or may not stop producing eggs. It is still a good idea to house her separately from the male for this stretch of time. The cooler months—either from October to December, or November to January
—are good options of a cooling time, as the drop in temperatures will naturally slow the egg laying process. During this time you can allow temps to drop as low as 60*F
. The breeding season starts up again in either January or February, and when you want to start breeding your geckos again, it is best to warm them back up to 75*F
A FEW NOTES AND TIPS
*Before breeding, decide what your goals are. Do you want to produce geckos of a certain color or look? Do you want them to have a nice crest structure? Are you hoping to sell baby geckos, or do you just want to watch the process? Keep in mind that at 2 eggs per month and a half, a female gecko can lay about 18 eggs per year (depending on the cooling period and the female’s health). If you are unable to sell geckos, you will have to provide homes and food for each hatchling as it grows.
*Some geckos may be incompatible. Perhaps your male is just too aggressive and injures your female to the extent that she needs vet care. It is probably best to separate them or only breed them with supervision. Also, though females can be housed together in colonies, they can also be temperamental and fight. Watch for aggression, and provide extra food dishes.
*Never house two males together
, especially when a female is present. They may harm or kill each other! It is better to house them separately.
*To house individual adult geckos, a 10 gallon tank set vertically
works well. If you have more than one gecko together, you will want at least 20-30 gallons of space.
*When geckos reach 6-8 grams in size, upgrade them from the 3 gallon hatchling container to a 6 gallon tub. Over ten grams and the gecko will need 10 gallons of space.
*The genetics of crested geckos are not as clear as those of say, a ball python. If you put a red Dalmatian male and a red Dalmatian female together, you may not end up with red Dalmatian hatchlings! They could all be flames…or they could all be yellows. If you want to work toward a certain look, your best bet is to breed geckos whose genetic history tends toward the look you want—aka red Dalmatian geckos that had red Dalmatian parents and grandparents. This will increase your likelihood of creating red Dalmatian offspring.
Hopefully soon I will be posting a morph guide.
Possible health problems to come soon as well.