Breeding leopard geckos is an exciting, fascinating process from start to finish, but it requires a lot of research and preparation to keep your breeding pair safe and happy.
Thankfully, we’re here to guide you through everything you’ll need to know, from when mating season begins to care for your very own leopard gecko hatchlings!
To breed leopard geckos, you’ll need a healthy adult male and female gecko, a separate, fully setup enclosure for each individual, a shallow “dig box” for your female to lay her eggs, and a dedicated incubation area for the eggs after she’s laid her clutch.
To learn more about breeding these fun little lizards, keep reading.
We’ll start with the basics and go through each part of the process step-by-step, so you’ll be fully prepared to safely breed your geckos and raise their adorable offspring.
When Is Leopard Gecko Breeding Season?
Although in captivity, leopard geckos will mate year-round, in the wild, their mating season starts in January and lasts until roughly September or October. Leopard geckos typically mate at night since they are crepuscular animals that tend to be more active in the early morning and nighttime hours.
It’s best to opt to breed your leopard geckos during their designated mating season if you’re a beginner, as this is when they will be most willing to mate.
However, suppose you want to breed your geckos outside of January to October.
In that case, it’s certainly possible, as many captive lizards don’t mind the time of year if they’re paired with a compatible, willing mate.
The more important factor with leopard gecko breeding is the time of day (or, rather, night) you attempt to get your breeding pair to mate rather than the month or season.
While many people mistakenly believe leopard geckos are nocturnal, this is not the case.
They are crepuscular, which means they tend to be active during dawn and dusk.
However, crepuscular animals wake and sleep in very similar patterns to nocturnal animals, so it’s common for leopard geckos to be more active at nighttime in general.
Your geckos will most likely be more willing to mate during the evening or very early morning hours before the sun rises, as this is when they are most active and awake.
Keep this in mind moving forward when it’s time to put your breeding pair together!
Leopard Gecko Breeding Basics: What You’ll Need
The main things you’ll need to breed leopard geckos successfully are a compatible pair of healthy adult male and female geckos, a separate enclosure for each lizard, a shallow box of moist substrate for your female to lay her eggs, and an incubation area for the resulting clutch.
To start, you’ll need to be sure your breeding pair is around the same size (and, preferably, around the same age range).
While it’s normal for males to be slightly larger than female geckos, if your male is significantly larger than your female, he’ll likely injure her in the process of mating.
Never breed leopard geckos who have not yet reached sexual maturity.
To be on the safe side, your geckos should both be at least one year old, though it is common for both males and females to reach sexual maturity at 9 to 10 months of age.
This is especially important for your female gecko, as breeding and producing eggs is very stressful for her and consumes a lot of energy.
Additionally, both geckos should be checked by a qualified reptile veterinarian beforehand for any potential health issues or risks.
Both geckos must be healthy and strong enough to breed!
Next, you’ll need to have a separate enclosure for your male and female leopard gecko.
While some breeders have successfully cohabitated breeding pairs in the past, it’s better to house them separately until you intend to mate them to prevent any risk of potential injuries due to aggression, particularly from the male gecko.
Ideally, each enclosure should be fully furnished with proper lighting, humidity, hides, etc., and be at least around 20 gallons or so in size to keep both geckos comfortable.
Keep the enclosures far enough away from each other so they won’t constantly see each other and stress each other out.
It doesn’t matter which enclosure you place both geckos in when it’s time to mate; just keep them separated until then.
In the female’s enclosure, you’ll also need a shallow “dig box” with the moist, loose substrate, preferably something like vermiculite or sphagnum moss.
The box should be large enough to comfortably house her and allow her to turn around and move freely yet small enough to feel cozy.
Finally, when the mating process is finished, and your female has successfully laid her clutch, you’ll need a dedicated incubation box to keep the eggs in until they hatch around 8 to 10 weeks later.
We’ll cover this in more detail in the egg incubation section, but the incubation box will need to be kept warm—at least 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32°C)—and humid at all times.
There are various reptile egg incubators on the market, but creating your own is simple enough for even total beginners (and it’ll save you some money, too!).
Once you’re sure you are able to provide all of these basics, you’ll be ready to move on to setting up your geckos’ habitats and preparing them for breeding.
Leopard Gecko Breeding Habitat
Keep your male and female geckos in separate enclosures until it’s time to mate. Aside from the female’s dig box, the enclosures will be no different from a standard leopard gecko setup. When it’s time to breed them, you’ll place the female in the male’s enclosure and monitor them closely.
Just be sure you meet all of the usual requirements for a leopard gecko habitat with both your male’s and female’s enclosures.
It helps to create a checklist with the following items to ensure you’ve covered every possible care requirement both geckos will need to stay healthy and strong up until it’s time for them to mate:
- Proper lighting, i.e., basking bulbs and a 5.0 to 10.0 UVB bulb for each tank
- Dual thermometers and hygrometers to monitor temperature and humidity
- Proper substrate (solid, flat substrates are best unless you’re using it for the female’s dig box, in which case you’ll need a loose, moist substrate)
- Dry and humid hides for each tank
- Sturdy, shallow fresh water and food dishes for each tank
- A dig box with a moist substrate for the female’s enclosure
- A calcium supplement with D3 for both geckos
- Additional decor to make the enclosure more comfortable for the geckos (optional/will vary based on your preferences)
Overall, the enclosures won’t look much different from a usual leopard gecko enclosure setup, nor will their heat and humidity settings vary much, at least until your female leopard gecko lays her eggs later.
The main difference will be your female’s dig box, which should be placed on the warm side of the tank and filled with a moist, warm substrate for her to deposit her eggs in.
In the wild, leopard geckos tend to lay their eggs in warm sand under rocks, but a cozy pile of a substrate like vermiculite or sphagnum moss is just fine in captivity.
Once you’ve properly set up both enclosures, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your geckos’ diets, particularly the females.
Leopard Gecko Breeding Diet
Breeding is a stressful, energy-consuming process for both leopard geckos involved, particularly your female. To keep both geckos strong and healthy, increase the amount of calcium and protein-rich insects in their diet before breeding.
Overall, your geckos’ diets won’t change very drastically before, during, and after mating.
However, it will help feed both geckos more calcium and protein than usual to prepare their bodies for the amount of energy they’ll consume while mating (and afterward, in the case of your female gecko).
This is especially important for your female gecko, as mating and producing eggs is stressful and uses up a significant amount of her time and energy.
To prevent her or her eggs from being malnourished, up her feeding frequency (if she’s willing to eat more than usual) and add more calcium powder to her food in a week or two before breeding her.
After your geckos have been bred successfully, keep offering both geckos slightly more food (and calcium!) than usual to get their energy levels back up.
Again, this is especially important for your female gecko, as her body will be spending lots of time and energy producing her clutch of eggs over the next several weeks.
It’s normal for your female to display a change in appetite after the initial mating process; some geckos eat more than usual, while others will eat less.
Still, offer plenty of protein-rich insects like crickets and dubia roaches to keep her body strong and healthy.
Introducing Your Male And Female Leopard Geckos
Once you’ve set up your geckos’ enclosures and ensured they are both healthy enough to breed, you will be able to introduce them to each other for the eventual courtship and mating process. Some geckos might not immediately breed upon their first introduction, though some will be more eager.
Like we touched on earlier, it’s best to put your female gecko in the male’s enclosure, so the dig box doesn’t get disturbed while the two are courting each other and mating.
If this is their very first introduction, it might take some time for them to assess and warm up to each other.
Some geckos, on the other hand, will get right to mating!
You’ll need to monitor both geckos very closely for any signs of aggression, though keep in mind two key behaviors which look like aggression at first are a normal part of the process: the male’s tail rattling and biting onto the female’s neck to better position himself.
If you notice unusual aggression, separate them and repeat the process in a day or so to allow them both to calm down.
If the geckos aren’t fighting each other, then great!
This means they’re likely preparing to move into the actual process of mating.
The Courtship/Mating Process
After your geckos have been introduced and have begun circling each other, they are about to breed. This entire process is quite short and should only take around 2 to 5 minutes or so at most. The male will rattle his tail at the female, who will slowly approach the male if willing.
It is important to carefully and closely monitor the entire courtship and mating ritual from start to finish.
Do not leave your geckos unattended for any amount of time; if either gecko suddenly shows aggression, they will likely sustain painful injuries if they are not separated quickly enough.
The first sign your male leopard gecko is willing to mate with your female is he’ll lift his tail in the air and rattle or vibrate it very quickly while slowly approaching her.
If you listen closely enough, you’ll hear a soft rattling!
Next, it’s the female gecko’s turn to respond to the male’s advances.
If she is willing to mate with him, she’ll “freeze up” and stare directly at the male, allowing him to approach her.
If she isn’t receptive to his courtship, though, she’ll back away or potentially even lash out aggressively.
Keep a close eye on both geckos at this point in case you need to separate them.
Give them a bit of time to size each other up.
Once the male has realized the female isn’t backing off from his advances, he’ll stop rattling his tail and approach her quickly, climbing onto her back and biting her neck to better position himself.
The biting at this point is normal; however, if you notice any bleeding, separate the geckos and tend to the injuries.
This, thankfully, is unlikely, as male geckos know instinctively how much pressure to apply to keep themselves stable without injuring the females.
Once the two geckos have bred successfully, they will separate, and you’ll be able to safely place the female back in her enclosure.
Your female is now likely gravid and will begin producing her first clutch of baby leopard geckos.
After your geckos have mated, carefully place them back in their enclosures and offer them plenty of calcium and protein-rich insects to restore their energy. Check both geckos for any injuries and monitor their behavior for any irregularities afterward.
Overall, your male gecko won’t require much in the way of aftercare post-mating.
Your female, however, will need a bit of extra attention (and probably some additional food) as her body prepares to produce her clutch of eggs.
Generally, leopard gecko clutches are quite small, only one to two eggs, but they’ll lay their first clutch around two to three weeks after mating.
Most females will lay an additional 3 to 5 clutches in the following weeks.
Prepare for anywhere from 6 to as many as 12 eggs every time you mate your geckos!
Be sure to maintain her egg-laying box by keeping it warm and moist for the coming weeks until she’s finished laying her clutches.
The substrate should be damp and warm to the touch, with the dig box on the warm side of the enclosure yet not directly under any basking bulbs.
Mist it with clean water as needed.
Keep feeding your female gecko plenty of calcium and protein-rich insects to keep her energy up throughout the process of egg production.
Many reptile owners opt to also feed their female gecko more frequently than usual, or at least once per day to accommodate her growing body.
Once you notice the first eggs in the dig box, it’s time to move them to an incubator box!
From here, the eggs will incubate until the tiny geckos begin to poke their heads out between 35 and 90 days later.
It’s a long process, but it’s worth it.
Leopard Gecko Egg Incubation
Carefully remove the eggs from your female gecko’s dig box and place them in either a homemade or premade reptile egg incubator lined with moist vermiculite. On average, leopard gecko eggs take between 35 and 90 days to hatch.
You’ll need to be extremely careful when handling your gecko’s eggs, as they are very soft-shelled at first.
Over the coming weeks, they’ll develop stronger, thicker shells, but initially, they are very soft and fragile.
This is where you’ll need to decide whether you want to make your incubator or purchase one specifically designed for hatching reptile eggs.
While it’s very easy to make your own, some reptile owners like the convenience of being able to simply purchase one online, such as the Zoo Med Reptibator Egg Incubator.
If you’re making your own, it’s best to use a small, shallow plastic container (around 4” or 5” inches deep) with a lid with plenty of tiny holes poked in the lid for ventilation.
You won’t need much airflow inside, as the conditions will need to be very hot and humid for best results.
Fill the plastic container with your moist substrate, preferably moist sphagnum moss or vermiculite.
The incubation temperature at which you keep the container will vary depending on what gender you want the hatchlings to be!
Interestingly, eggs kept closer to 80° degrees Fahrenheit (28° C) will tend to be female, while eggs kept closer to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) will tend to be male.
If the temperature is kept at around 85° degrees Fahrenheit (30° C), you’ll have a 50-50 chance the eggs essentially will be either male or female.
Humidity needs to be fairly high or high enough to keep the substrate nice and moist at all times.
The temperature needs to be quite high, too, so finding the right balance between heat and humidity will likely take a bit of troubleshooting if you’re using a homemade incubator.
To maintain the temperature, many leopard gecko breeders opt to simply mount a basking bulb above the incubator box, place a thermometer/hygrometer inside near the eggs, and adjust the lighting as needed until it reaches their desired temperature.
To maintain proper humidity levels, use a spray bottle to mist the eggs and substrate enough to keep them nice and damp.
If you’re using a specially designed reptile egg incubator like the Zoo Med one we listed above, you won’t need to check or adjust the temperature and humidity as often, as the device will adjust on its own to the proper settings.
Keep an eye out for any dents in the eggs, as well as mold growth.
If the eggs are dented, you need to add more humidity.
If you see mold growing, simply wipe it off gently with a tissue or cotton swab and allow the substrate to dry out slightly.
Once you start to see the baby geckos poking their heads out of the eggs, congratulations!
You’ve successfully bred your leopard geckos.
Next, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the resources to care for your new clutch (or multiple clutches!).
For more details, check out how to incubate leopard gecko eggs.
Leopard Gecko Hatchling Care
Once your geckos have begun to hatch, give them time to fully escape from their eggs before removing them and placing them into a new enclosure. Leopard gecko babies are fairly self-sufficient and will begin eating insects and moving independently soon after hatching.
As your baby geckos finish hatching, you’ll need to transfer them to their brand-new enclosure.
Don’t house them with your adult geckos.
It is fine to keep babies of the same size housed in the same enclosure for the first two months or so of their lives.
Still, as they grow older into their juvenile and eventually adult size, they’ll eventually need to be housed separately, as older leopard geckos prefer living alone.
Ideally, it’s best to have an enclosure of around 20 to 30 gallons in size if you’re planning on housing more than one baby gecko together.
Make sure the geckos are all of a similar size, as larger geckos will often pick on smaller individuals and compete with each other for food and lighting.
The setup for a baby leopard gecko enclosure is essentially the same as for an adult leopard gecko, just smaller.
Make sure you’ve got all the basics, from lighting to hides, substrate, and food and water dishes.
Feed your baby geckos plenty of protein-rich insects small enough for them to safely consume.
You may want to check out our dedicated article on how to care for baby leopard geckos.
Any feeder insects should be smaller than the width of the space between the gecko’s eyes.
Many feeders are commonly available in several different sizes at pet shops and from online retailers.
As your geckos grow larger, begin separating them into individual tanks when they reach a few months old.
And since you’re interested in breeding check out our post on the enigma leopard gecko and how to handle this syndrome if you come across it.
If you’re looking at getting into breeding as a way to make some extra money take a look at our post on where to sell leopard geckos.