Breeding leopard geckos is not an endeavor to be taken lightly, and there is more to the process than simply placing a female leopard gecko with a male.
There are several things to consider before you decide to breed your leopard geckos.
The most important factors of leopard gecko breeding include the geckos’ overall health, weight, and age. You will also need to be prepared for the time commitment, expense, and space required for a proper leopard gecko breeding setup.
Being prepared before you begin breeding your leopard geckos will ensure the process goes smoothly.
Keep reading for more information on breeding leopard geckos, including how to make sure your leopard geckos are ready for breeding and what you will need for a complete breeding setup.
What Is The First Step In Breeding Leopard Geckos?
The first step in breeding your leopard geckos is to ensure you have a male and a female.
To determine the sex of your leopard gecko, you will need to carefully examine the area under the tail.
Leopard geckos generally do not like being flipped upside down, so you may need to use a clear container, such as a glass bowl.
Place your leo in the container and hold it above your head to see underneath.
Bulges along each side of the tail indicate a lizard’s hemipenes, meaning a male gecko.
Another indication of sex is the V-shaped pores between a lizard’s legs.
In male leos, these pores will be highly visible and may have a waxy substance coming from them.
In a female leopard gecko, these pores will be more difficult to see.
If you are still unsure about the sex of your leopard geckos, you may want to consult a veterinarian for a definitive answer.
How Do You Know If Your Leopard Gecko Is Ready For Breeding?
Once you have correctly sexed your leopard geckos, you will need to determine if they are ready for breeding.
A leopard gecko’s age, weight, and overall health are important for ensuring a successful breeding process.
If your leos are not sexually mature, are underweight, or otherwise unhealthy, there is a greater risk of health problems for the breeding pair, and you are less likely to have any viable eggs.
Leopard Gecko Breeding Age
Male leopard geckos reach sexual maturity at around 12 months of age. Female leopard geckos take much longer to reach sexual maturity, usually between 18-24 months of age.
A leo must reach full sexual maturity before breeding to avoid any health issues.
Producing and laying eggs takes a considerable toll on a female leo’s body, and if she is not fully sexually mature, breeding may stunt her growth or cause other health problems.
Male leos can breed until they are around eight years old.
For female leos, you should stop breeding them when they are around six years old.
It is not advisable to breed past this age to keep your geckos healthy and ensure a longer lifespan.
Leopard Gecko Breeding Weight
As a general rule, male leopard geckos should weigh at least 45 grams before breeding, and females will need to weigh between 45-50 grams.
The female leo needs to be at a proper weight because the developing eggs will use many of her body’s resources.
Ensuring the Overall Health of Your Leopard Geckos
In addition to sexual maturity and body weight, the overall health of your leo is vital to breeding.
To ensure the health of your breeding leopard geckos, you will need to provide them with a nutritious diet of gut-loaded insects as well as calcium and multivitamin supplements. A veterinary exam is also crucial to rule out any illnesses or parasites you may not be aware of.
Once a female leo has become gravid, meaning she is carrying eggs, you will need to feed her every day.
She will also need calcium supplementation with every meal since her body will need more calcium for egg production.
For optimal nutrition, a multivitamin supplement needs to be added 2-3 times per week.
What Is Cycling With Leopard Geckos?
Cycling is a process used to prime your leopard geckos for breeding by simulating the start of the breeding season.
Wild leopard geckos typically breed from January to September.
To mimic their natural environment, you will need to create a winter season for one to two months, followed by a warmer spring season.
This entire cycling process allows your leopard geckos to sync up with the natural breeding season.
After spending some time in cooler temperatures, the warmer temperatures will signal breeding season for the leos.
To mimic the winter season, gradually reduce the amount of light in your gecko’s enclosure and lower the temperatures to a range of 74-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C).
Do not feed your leos for one week, so they can empty their digestive system before the cooler temperatures.
Once your geckos enter a state of brumation, they will rarely eat, but they will still need fresh water every day.
After one to two months, you will gradually restore the enclosure to normal temperatures and resume regular feeding times.
You will also slowly increase the amount of lighting in the enclosure to 12 hours per day.
A cycling period is not always necessary for breeding your leopard geckos.
However, if you are having trouble getting your lizards to mate, cycling may produce better results.
What Is The Best Leopard Gecko Breeding Setup?
There are several components to a proper leopard gecko breeding setup, including multiple enclosures, an egg-laying box, and an incubator.
You will need separate enclosures for the male and female geckos, as they cannot constantly share an enclosure due to aggressive behavior.
The baby leopard geckos will also need their enclosures once they are 2-3 days old.
You will also need to construct a simple egg-laying box and an incubator, and it is best to do this ahead of time, so you are prepared.
How to Properly Pair Your Leopard Geckos
To properly pair your leopard geckos, you will start by placing the male in the female’s tank to introduce them. Monitor their behavior, and if they are aggressive towards each other right away, remove the male and go again later.
The male and female breeding pair will need to live in separate enclosures to avoid injury due to aggressive behavior.
A 20-gallon tank is sufficient for housing the male leopard gecko, while the female will need a slightly larger enclosure between 20-30 gallons.
For a more complex breeding operation involving multiple females, a 30-40 gallon tank is ideal.
Leopard geckos are often territorial, so if you house multiple females together, they must have enough space to avoid each other.
A single breeding female will need more space than the male to accommodate the egg-laying box.
If your leopard geckos are ready to mate, the male will vibrate his tail and spread his pheromones.
If the female is receptive, she will lift her tail, and mating will begin.
The male will bite the female’s neck and begin copulating, which will last for only a few minutes.
It is best to pair the breeding geckos for brief periods, from several hours to one day.
After this period, separate them so they will be able to rest and recover.
This process is usually repeated throughout the breeding season to ensure the female lays fertile eggs.
Some leopard gecko owners allow their male and female leos to live in the same enclosure all of the time.
Housing them together is not recommended because an aggressive male will easily injure a female.
How to Construct an Egg-Laying Box
To build the egg-laying box, you will need to start with a small plastic container. Cut a hole in the container about 2″ inches in diameter, so the gecko has easy access. You will then add several inches of moist sphagnum moss or vermiculite so the female will be able to bury her eggs.
The substrate needs to be damp and not completely wet to avoid mold growth.
Two to three weeks after mating, the female will be ready to lay her eggs.
A typical clutch contains two eggs, but it is not uncommon for a female to have one egg in her first clutch.
When the female leo is ready to lay her eggs, she will start digging a lot more.
She will lay the eggs in the egg-laying box and then bury them.
After the female gecko has laid her eggs, she will leave the egg-laying box to drink water and rest.
Be sure to monitor your female gecko after laying her eggs to ensure she is in good health.
The female will repeat this process every 2-3 weeks throughout the breeding season and will lay anywhere from 16-22 eggs in total.
How to Create an Incubator for the Leopard Gecko Eggs
Start with a small plastic container with a lid, and punch several holes in the top to allow ventilation. Any type of plastic container will work, but a clear one is best for observing the eggs without having to open the lid. Opening the lid too much will affect the incubator’s humidity.
Once the female leopard gecko has finished laying her eggs, you will need to carefully move them to an incubator.
There are many commercial incubators available on the market, but it is easy and inexpensive to create your own.
As with the egg-laying box, you will add several inches of damp vermiculite to the bottom of the container.
You may need to spray the vermiculite with water if it becomes too dry during the incubation period, but avoid directly spraying the eggs.
Too much moisture will cause the eggs to grow mold quickly.
You will also need a heat lamp above the container to keep the eggs at the right temperature.
You should keep the eggs at temperatures ranging from 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
The temperature of the eggs is very important, as the sex of the hatchlings is temperature-dependent.
If you keep the eggs at the high range of the incubation temperatures, you are more likely to have males.
Keeping the temperatures on the low end of the incubation temperature spectrum will result in more females.
This method doesn’t always guarantee the sex of your hatchlings, but it dramatically increases the odds of producing the desired sex.
If you do not care if the hatchlings are male or female, leave the temperature around 86-87° degrees Fahrenheit (31° C) for a mixture of both sexes.
As an alternative, you may want to learn how to incubate leopard gecko eggs without an incubator.
Transferring the Leopard Gecko Eggs to the Incubator
It is helpful to mark the tops of the eggs with a marker to ensure they stay in the same position. If the eggs are rolled when they are moved, it may be fatal to the developing embryo.
Special care must be taken when transferring the eggs from the egg-laying box to the incubator.
It is essential to leave the eggs undisturbed during incubation, but you will need to regularly monitor them for any changes.
Healthy eggs will be chalky white and have a uniform appearance.
Infertile or otherwise, unhealthy eggs will have a yellow color and may be dented (click to learn more).
To distinguish between fertile and infertile eggs, you will need to candle them.
Candling is done by shining a light on the eggs in a darkened room.
Learn how to tell if leopard gecko eggs are fertile or not.
Fertile eggs will have a red tint inside, while infertile eggs appear yellow.
It is best to incubate the eggs until you are sure they are infertile. Infertile eggs will start to look deflated and grow a fungus on them after around two weeks of incubation.
To avoid spreading the fungus to the healthy egg, you should remove a misshapen and moldy egg from the incubator.
The eggs will need to incubate for 35-100 days, depending on the temperature.
The eggs will hatch at higher temperatures sooner than they will at lower temperatures.
How Do You Care For The Leopard Gecko Babies?
The baby leopard geckos will need an enclosure with a temperature gradient, a small water dish, a simple paper towel substrate, and plenty of hides. Avoid startling the hatchlings with any sudden movements, and do not handle them too frequently.
Once the hatchlings have emerged from their eggs, it is time to move them to a small enclosure.
If there are two hatchlings, they may be kept together for the first week as long as they are close to the same size.
If one hatchling is significantly larger than the other, there may be bullying issues, and you should separate them.
This bullying will likely lead to tail loss, biting injuries, and sometimes death.
The hatchlings will not eat until they have shed, which is usually after 3-4 days.
Until then, they are sustained by the yolk sac.
Once the hatchlings are ready to eat on their own, they will be moved to separate enclosures.
A 10-gallon tank is ideal for a baby leo, and they have the same temperature and humidity requirements as adult leos.
Baby leos will need to eat every day to keep up with their rapid growth.
As a general rule, feed them two small crickets for every inch of body length.
The crickets need to be smaller than the space between the leo’s eyes to avoid the risk of choking.
As with adult leos, feed the babies as many crickets as they eat within 15-20 minutes and remove any uneaten crickets.
If crickets are left in the enclosure, they will bite the leos and cause injury.
What Is A Leopard Gecko Breeding Rack?
A leopard gecko breeding rack consists of a shelf system containing several small plastic bins for individual habitats. Each compartment is heated and contains a simple substrate, food and water dishes, and a humid hide. Several holes are drilled into each bin to provide proper ventilation.
The bins in a breeding rack are usually heated by heat tape, which provides a steady warmth.
There is a lot of debate in the reptile community about the quality of life provided in a rack system.
A breeding rack is generally only used by large-scale breeders, and it is not meant to be permanent housing.
Breeding racks are more practical than individual glass tanks because they take up much less space.
With proper husbandry, a leo will do well in a rack system until sold to a permanent home.
If you plan to breed multiple leopard geckos at once, a breeding rack system is ideal if you do not have a lot of space for several glass tanks.
What Is A Leopard Gecko Breeding Chart?
A leopard gecko breeding chart, also known as a Punnett Square, is used by breeders to predict which traits will be passed from parents to offspring.
In a Punnett Square, dominant genes are represented by uppercase letters, and recessive genes are lowercase.
Every gene consists of two alleles, which determine which traits a leo will have.
A heterozygous gene consists of two different alleles.
A leo with a heterozygous gene will show the dominant trait but will still pass on the recessive trait when bred.
For example, in the chart below, we show the probability of traits for offspring bred from a normal leo (shown as “NN” because it is a dominant trait) and an albino leopard gecko (shown as “aa” because it is a recessive trait).
In this example, the baby leos will appear normal, but they will be heterozygous for albinism.
This means they can pass along the trait for albinism when they are bred.
The following chart shows the probability of the traits of offspring produced by two leos with the “Na” gene.
As you see from this chart, 50% of the offspring will be normal leos with a heterozygous albinism trait, 25% will be normal leos, and 25% will be albino leos.
These breeding charts are very helpful for breeders who wish to produce different leo morphs consistently through selective breeding.
There are a variety of morphs in leos, including:
- Lemon Frost
- High Yellow
These are the most popular color morphs of leopard gecko, but there are over 100 morphs currently available.
Check out our post on popular leopard gecko morphs.
It’s a large list of morphs with pictures of the most popular options out there.
Commonly Asked Questions
Do leopard geckos always lay two eggs at a time?
Leopard geckos usually have two eggs per clutch, but it is not uncommon for younger or older females to produce only one egg in a clutch.
Is it safe to house more than one leopard gecko in the same enclosure?
While more than one female may be housed together in a large tank, it is not advisable to house more than one male together in the same enclosure.
Females will not be as aggressive toward each other as males, provided they have plenty of space to get away from each other.
Males are more territorial, fighting with other males no matter how large the enclosure is.
Males also tend to be very aggressive when breeding and should not be housed with a female for extended periods.
What is dystocia?
Dystocia, also known as egg-binding, is a very serious condition where a female leopard gecko cannot lay her eggs.
Egg-binding is most commonly caused by poor nutrition, mainly a lack of calcium.
Dystocia is prevented by giving the female leopard gecko plenty of calcium supplementation while she is gravid.
Dystocia is a very serious condition, and it requires immediate veterinary care.
If left untreated, egg-binding is fatal for the animal.