Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101

Small scale leopard gecko breeding can be both fun and educational.  We have been breeding geckos on a small scale since 2011.  The anticipation and elation when you produce life is nothing short of breathtaking.  Even after all these years, it still doesn’t get old.  Perhaps you are a gecko hobbyist ready to take the next step.  In this article, we will help you start your own adventure to small scale leopard gecko breeding.

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Budget

We are going to jump right into it, because we know that’s why you are here.  Here are our tips and suggestions for small scale leopard gecko breeding.

breeding leopard geckos on a small scale

Know your budget

It’s very easy to get into debt buying leopard geckos.  Many high-end morphs on the market cost upwards of $1,000 or more.  Some rare or brand new morphs can cost triple that.  It’s important for you to know how much you can spend, and choose your projects around your budget.  Don’t over-spend, then expect to make your money back shortly with breeding.  Breeding takes patience, it can take a very long time before you make your money back especially for small scale breeders.

Don’t overreach

Often times a new breeder looks at how much leopard geckos cost on a large scale breeder website.  They then get the idea they would be able to sell the same geckos at the same price range.  We are here to tell you, through years of experience, you will not be able to sell the same geckos for anywhere near the same price.  As a new breeder, you will be lucky to sell the same morphs at a fraction of the price you bought them for.

People pay high prices because these breeders have already established a reputation.  People know when they buy a gecko from reputable breeders, they will get what they paid for.  They are willing to pay a higher premium to know the exact sex, age, and genetics of these geckos.  They are also willing to pay more to know the geckos they are getting are healthy and ready to breed.

You will find out later that sometimes when you cut corners and buy from a non-reputable breeder, you may get a gecko that isn’t carrying what they say they are.  So you end up paying hundreds more for hets that don’t exist.  Sometimes you even get the wrong morph, such as a gecko sold to you as Mack Snow Radar ends up being a Mack Snow Typhoon.  While visually they are similar, Radar uses Bell Albino genes and Typhoon uses Rainwater Albino genes.  You can imagine the headache this could cause you when breeding the gecko.  I’m using this example because this happened to us one year; we purchased a MS Radar, but got a MS Typhoon instead.   We ended up producing lots of mutts as a result.  It pretty much ruined a whole breeding project for that particular year.

So don’t try to be a large scale breeder when you are breeding geckos on a small scale.  You can not compete with them nor should you try to.  You will need to slowly build your own reputation before people will spend big money and buy from you.  Be yourself, establish your own brand, don’t try to be someone else.

DIY is ok

If you are handy, or know people who are handy, you can build your own racks and incubators and save a lot of money.  Outside of the purchase price of geckos, the racks and incubators will likely cost you the most.  So the more you can Do It Yourself, the more money you can save.  You will have to run your own flexwatt belly heat for your racks, but that shouldn’t be hard to do.

Do not skimp on equipment or the care of your geckos

It’s often easy for new breeders to focus on the price of gecko breeders, rather than the price of equipment.  When it comes to equipment, even if you DIY, make sure you do it right or don’t do it at all.  Skimping on equipment, especially your incubators, could have adverse side effects as we outlined in our incubator article.  Your reputation is built based on how successfully you are able to breed, raise, and care for these beautiful animals.  The more you are able to show that you care about these geckos, the more at ease people will be at purchasing from you.  Do not spend all your money on purchasing geckos while leaving very little for the equipment necessary to house, incubate, and care for them.

small scale leopard gecko breeding 101

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Do’s and Don’ts

Here we will list a summary of the do’s and don’ts of breeding leopard geckos on a small scale.  Many of these will also apply to general breeding purposes.

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding Do’s

Do stay within budget.  Many new startup breeders close shop within a year or two due to running over budget.  As stated prior, it can take a long time for you to recoup the cost as a small scale breeder.

Do purchase a breeding group consist of at least 1 male and 3-5 females.  Small scale breeders often make the mistake of relying on a single pair to produce.  A single pair leaves room for disappointment.  If the pair does not copulate or produce, you are looking at wasting a whole season (a year) before you could try again.  Speaking from experience, it’s always better to go for at least 3 females per project.

Do focus on the leopard gecko morphs that interest you the most.  If you are not happy and excited about the geckos you are producing, you will not be motivated to continue breeding.  It’s important this activity remains fun for you.

Do consider breeding your own feeder colonies.  In general each hatchling/juvenile will eat up to 10 mealworms a day.  It isn’t uncommon for us to have to bulk order 2,000-5,000 mealworms every few weeks.  Even though we do breed our own mealworms, superworms, and dubia roaches, we still run out during the breeding seasons.

Do supplement your gecko breeders well, and understand their cycles.  Egg production is very taxing on the female’s body.  During the offseason, they will need to be well fed and well supplemented.  See our vitamin supplement guide here.  Picking the right feeders to feed them is also important, see our insect feeder nutrition guide here.  During the breeding season, both male and female geckos will stop eating.  The breeding season usually last from January to July.  Females will often eat in between clutches, as we outlined in this article.  So you need to make sure to feed them well during the short period in between clutches.

Do breed to enhance the morphs and the gene pool.  Try to set project goals for yourself.  Things such as enhancing a reverse stripe, a particular pattern, to enhancing a color’s intensity and contrast.  Or if nothing else you could try to enhance the size and health of your geckos.

Do keep holdbacks and cycle your female breeders.  We generally keep our females for about 4 breeding seasons, then we sell them as provens or give them away as pets.  You will need to prepare to hold certain breeder quality geckos to replace these females.  Don’t make the mistake we did early on by selling every gecko, leaving little to work with once the original females started to slow down on egg production.  We find most fertile females will have 2-3 years of peak production, then they will continue to produce for 2-3 more years but at a slower rate (meaning less eggs or less fertile eggs).

Do your own thing, establish your own brand, don’t try to be someone else.  What works for one breeder may not work for another.  It’s important for you to find your niche and know your clients.

Do support other small scale breeders.  Part of establishing your reputation is to have a good reputation with other small scale breeders.  You should always support reputable & ethical breeders, large or small.

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding Don’ts

Don’t purchase and breed more geckos than you have time for.  Feeding, cleaning, taking pictures, and listing them for sale all take a good amount of time.  It’s one thing to feed and care for a few geckos, it’s quite another when you have to care for 30-50 hatchlings.  Also factor in when you need to assist gecko’s shedding problems, as well as the time required to check for eggs daily.  Getting overwhelmed is a top reason for new breeders to get burned out.

Don’t breed if you can’t afford unexpected vet costs.  These are live animals, live animals get sick sometimes and will require vet care.  Make sure you stash away enough emergency money for vet bills.

Don’t muddy the gene pools, this is breeding 101.  The three albino strains, Tremper, Bell, and Rainwater, should not be combined.  They are not compatible.  Don’t combine TUG snow with Mack snow either, or you won’t know what’s what since you won’t be able to tell them apart.

Don’t breed if you can’t afford to feed, house, and care for the hatchlings.  From a single pairing, you can expect up to 16 eggs.  This means you need to prepare to have lots of rack space ready for the hatchlings, with plenty of live feeder insects ready to feed them with.

Don’t breed geckos that display severe genetic defects and abnormalities, such as over/under-bite, crooked spine, severe eye crinkles, etc..  These genetic defects often get passed down to the offspring.  Kinked tails are not considered a severe defect, it can be bred out quite readily.  Also don’t breed geckos suffering health issues such as MBD (metabolic bone disease), dystocia (egg-binding), or geckos displaying severe enigma syndrome.  The health and well-being of your leopard geckos should always be your top concern.

Don’t breed if you are going off to college soon, or if you travel a lot.  During the breeding season, you often need to check for eggs and feed hatchlings daily.  Please don’t brush these responsibilities off to parents or significant other, they usually don’t work out well.  If you are expecting soon, chances are you are going to be needing that “reptile room” for the kids in the future as well.  Keep these things in mind when going into breeding.

breeding leopard geckos on a small scale

Leopard Gecko Breeding Season 2018 – Planning, seasonal cycles, and tips

For details regarding leopard gecko breeding cycles, we highly recommend you to read our Leopard Gecko Breeding Season 2018 article.  The article explains ovulation cycles, as well as provide you with pre-season planning tips, and guide to selecting quality breeders.

If you are having trouble getting a pair of leopard geckos to breed, have a look at our “Leopard Gecko Won’t Breed” article.

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare for small scale leopard gecko breeding.  For reference, you can see our setup here.

-A rack capable of holding 6 Qt shoe box sized containers, with flexwatt belly heat.  We’ve found the 6 Qt shoe box size to be perfect for hatchlings and juveniles.  The idea is to make sure they won’t get lost and will always have food and warmth nearby.  Our hatchlings are at their healthiest with the best growth rate when they are housed alone in these shoe box bins.  The more capacity you can prepare the better, because each fertile females can lay up to 16 eggs a season.  Either DIY or buy from rack builders such as

-An adult rack capable of holding adult sized (15-17 Qt) bins, with flexwatt belly heat.  Depending on how small scale you are shooting for, you could also build 20-40 gallon tanks to house your adult breeders.  This rack will be needed to either house your leopard gecko breeders, or to keep holdbacks.  You will also need a place for geckos you can’t sell.

-At least one incubator, preferably two.  One is doable if you are ok with incubating at 84-85 degrees and get a mixture of male and females.  But if you want to incubate for sex separately, you’ll need two incubators.  We recommend Natures Spirit, see our incubator setup here.
best reptile incubator Natures Spirit leopard gecko incubation eggs

-A mealworm colony for hatchlings, we find the hatchlings feed well on small mealworms to start.  You should also have a separate superworms and/or dubia roaches colony for adults and sub-adults.  Expect to run out of feeders during the breeding season.  We get our live insect feeders from Rainbowmealworms.  They have great bulk rates and large variety to choose from.  Click here to get your 10% off Rainbowmealworms coupon.

Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber as laybox medium.  They are easy to dig for your gravid females, and they hold moisture well.

Perlite without fertilizers as incubation medium.  We use Perlite along with an egg-tray organizer to incubate our gecko eggs.  Clean, natural, and keeps moisture well.

Repashy Calcium Plus, our favorite all-in-one supplement for breeders.

Insulated shipping boxes with 3/4″ foam.  The most popular size is 7x7x6 for shipping 1-2 geckos.  For larger shipments, or for shipping super giant leopard geckos, 12x9x6 size works great.  8 oz punched container for single geckos, they’ll fit in 7x7x6 shipping box nicely.  For super giant geckos, you’ll need larger containers.

-Have 40-hour shipping heat packs on hand for under 70 degree weather, and cold packs ready for over 80 degree heat.  Do not use any other types of heat packs such as store bought hand warmers.   Hand warmers are designed to spike to a peak temperature of about 180 degrees (this will kill your reptiles), then it quickly dissipates within 12 hours.  40-hour shipping heat packs are made for safe shipping of leopard geckos and other reptiles.

People often think these 40-hour heat packs don’t work, but that’s because they are not using them correctly.  You are supposed to open it, shake it up, then wrap it inside a folded paper towel to allow it to warm up.  Once warmed up, then you package it in with your geckos.  They will not warm up properly if you just let it sit out in the open.

-Buy a photo studio tent, such as LimoStudio Table Top Photo Photography Studio.  Producing beautiful geckos will be pointless if you can’t take good pictures to show them off.

small scale leopard gecko breeding blood super hypo

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Client reach

Breeding geckos is one thing, selling them is quite another.  There are several ways to expand your clientele.  Social media such as Facebook is your best way to get seen as a new small scale leopard gecko breeder.  You should setup a Facebook page, and design your own cover art to tell your own story.  Remember to be yourself and build on your own brand, don’t try to be someone else.

Having a responsive, mobile-friendly website will help.  Although it’s not a requirement as there are successful breeders who have operated within social media without an issue.  To setup your own WordPress site/store, give WPEngine a try.  For us, we had decided to build and expand on our own website and blog.   We do most of our news updates and sales on our site.  This is what we do, it’s our thing.  You should find what works best for you, and choose your own approach.

Remember your reputation is everything.  Be transparent and honest.  First impression means a great deal.

Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Perseverance and patience

Don’t get discouraged if you do not get ideal results right away.  Breeding leopard geckos in general takes great amount of patience.  These geckos are live animals, if they don’t want to breed, there’s little you can do other than to wait and try again.  If a female is not fertile, there’s nothing you can do to change the situation.

We generally put geckos together to mate, and if fights occur, we separate them then leave them separated for a few days.  Then we would try it again, rinse and repeat if necessary.  Sometimes it would take many tries (weeks) before the female is receptive and copulation occurs.  If you experience issues getting a pair of leopard geckos to breed, have a look at our “Leopard Gecko Won’t Breed” article.

Once copulation is successful, you still have to wait roughly 2 weeks before the eggs are laid.  Egg clutches are laid in 2 weeks intervals.

After the eggs are laid, you have to wait 30-35 days for male incubation, and 65’ish days for female.  The eggs may or may not turn out good, but you won’t know until much later.

As you can see, there is a lot of waiting when breeding leopard geckos, and a lot of finger crossing.  It will test your patience, especially for small scale breeders.  For large scale breeders, they always have 100+ breeders and many projects going at once.  Plus they breed year-round.  They are going to get a lot of eggs no matter if some pairs don’t work out.  For small scale breeders, we have maybe 1 male and 3 females per project.  So if 1 female refuses to mate, and 1 female ends up laying all infertile eggs, you may end up with little to no results to show for.  This can happen, not always, but it’s a possibility.

It’s not too uncommon for you to purchase a gecko that ends up not producing any fertile eggs at all.  In those cases you would have to sell the gecko off as pet geckos, and purchase replacements.  This is where it can get expensive for small scale breeders.  We had a $750 gecko that wouldn’t breed last season.  We are going to try it again this season, but there’s no telling if it’ll work out.  There is definitely certain amount of luck involved in breeding leopard geckos on a small scale.  If luck is on your side, you could have a very fertile season with great results.  Everything would seem to fall in place.  But you could also have a bad season where some of your high prized breeders end up not producing.

So exercise patience, perseverance can pay off.  This is part of the excitement to breeding on a small scale.  The anticipation, then seeing the ideal results come to fruition can be exhilarating.  Imagine breeding two hets together, and having only 1/8 chance at getting the ideal result you are looking for.  Imagine the excitement when you do hit that 12.5%, it’s like hitting the jackpot.

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Small Scale Leopard Gecko Breeding 101 – Final words, profitability

Breeding leopard geckos on a small scale has brought great joy to our lives.  No words can describe the feelings you get when hatchlings come out of the eggs.  The whole experience has been really educational as well.  There is so much to learn about the genetics and biology of these leopard geckos.  7 years later, we’re still gaining knowledge and discovering new ways to improve the care of our geckos.  For me personally, learning to be a responsible and ethical breeder has made me a better person.

Can you make a profit being a small scale leopard gecko breeder?  Yes, but you should not approach this from the profit angle.  The things breeding take the most from you are time and space.  If you were to view this from a business standpoint, time = money, space = money, therefore breeding on a small scale isn’t a sound business due to the amount of time required.  But if you were to view this as a hobby, then time no longer = money as time spent = enjoyment, it’s something you enjoy doing.  Then you can see that small scale leopard gecko breeding is indeed profitable.

As mentioned earlier in the article, it will take a bit of time before you recoup the cost of purchasing the geckos and equipment necessary to breed and care for them.  You won’t be able to sell the geckos for the same price you paid for the breeders initially.  You will also likely have a difficult time finding buyers in the beginning.  But with patience, you can slowly build your reputation and earn people’s trust.  Once you’ve established your brand, they will come.  This hobby can eventually become profitable.

We hope you have enjoyed this guide to small scale leopard gecko breeding.  Be sure to check out our Leopard Gecko Breeding Season 2018 article for details regarding breeding cycles, pre-season planning, and tips on how to select quality breeders.  We wish you good luck with your own breeding adventures!

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