Why buy from leopard gecko breeder? Why price differences? Worth it? Difference between pet store gecko and breeder gecko

If you are just getting into leopard geckos, you might be wondering why buy from leopard gecko breeder as opposed to buying from local pet stores.  You might be asking why there are such price differences, and is it worth it?  Here we’ll explore the differences and hopefully help you make your purchase decisions easier.

So what do we know about pet store geckos?   Well, very little.

  • We know pet stores often stuff 5+ geckos into the same display container, a container size suitable for 1-2 juvenile leopard geckos at best.  There’s no temperature gradient, and they’re often all crammed inside one small hide.
  • We know they often use wood barks, sand, or repti-carpet for substrate, none of which are ideal for leopard geckos.  While repti-carpet does not pose direct health risks unlike bark & sand, carpet traps bacteria and is very hard to clean.
  • We know often they have crickets crawling all over the place, sometimes even on the geckos themselves.
  • The geckos often look skinny, malnourished, and frail.  Many have injured tail or bite marks on them.

Now what don’t we know about pet store geckos?

  • We don’t know their sex, and when asked, store employees won’t know what temperature the geckos were incubated in.  So you can’t temperature sex them or even make an educated guess.  If you are looking specifically for a male or female, you just can’t be sure.
  • We don’t know their genetic background, or the morphs of the parents.  So there’s no way to tell what geckos are het for or what kind of mix they are.  This leaves you out from ever breeding them ethically.
  • We don’t know the hatch dates of these geckos, so you won’t ever know their age.
  • We don’t know their weight.  Without knowing their age + weight, it’s hard to gauge their growth rate or know if the geckos are healthy.
  • We don’t know the breeders these geckos are from, so you’ll have no idea if you are buying from ethical breeders or just another gecko farm where they cram multiple hatchlings in small tubs.
  • We don’t know the reputation of the breeders these geckos are from, therefore we won’t know the conditions they were bred & raised in.  This means the geckos could be raised in poor conditions, and likely will carry parasites or diseases which will pose threats to your existing geckos.  Not to mention if the geckos get sick, you’ll face huge vet bills.
  • We don’t know if these geckos are being cared for properly in the pet stores by knowledgeable individuals.  We know their living condition is less than stellar as noted above, but are the feeders getting gutloaded?  Are the feeders being dusted properly with multivitamin powders prior to being fed?  Is the belly temperature inside the display tanks at the proper 88-93 degrees?

But I’m rescuing the geckos from poor conditions.

It’s easy to think you are rescuing the geckos from poor conditions, and partly it is true.  But you are also supporting them.  By buying geckos raised in poor living conditions, you are validating their practices and encouraging them to keep doing the same.  As long as they keep selling out, there’s no reason for them to improve.

So what do leopard gecko breeders do that’s different?

When you buy from leopard gecko breeders, you can choose from a large number of breeders available, ranging from large scale breeders to small scale breeders like us.  This means you can choose to purchase only from reputable breeders.  What can you expect from reputable breeders?

  • You will know the exact hatch dates of the geckos you are purchasing.
  • You will know the genetic background of the geckos, so you’ll know the exact morph and the hets.  This means if you choose to breed in the future, you’ll know what possible morphs you will produce.
  • You’ll know the weight of the geckos, and knowing the age & weight, you can usually tell the growth rate and the health of a gecko.
  • Reputable breeders house the geckos individually, they do not cram multiple geckos in small tubs.
  • Reputable breeders always gutload their feeders and supplement their geckos properly with multivitamin powders.  This means the geckos you buy from them are well fed and healthy.
  • You will have a wide variety of morphs to choose from, ranging from super hypo tangerines to exotic high-end breeds.  Different breeders usually specialize in specific designer morphs, so you can really pick and choose the geckos that interest you.
  • Reputable breeders can provide you with accurate, factual gecko care information.  Breeders care about the well-being of the geckos they sell, and they want you to take good care of them.  Retail stores aim to sell you more gecko kits & supplies.

So is it worth it to pay the extra price to get geckos from a gecko breeder?  Why are they so expensive?  Why buy from leopard gecko breeder?

Breeder geckos are priced based on their morph, quality, and market value.  Some geckos are worth more because of the genetics they carry.  Some breeds are also more rare than others.  The quality of specific morphs play a factor in the value of geckos.  A standard super hypo tangerine may be cheaper than a high quality super hypo tangerine that gives off a fiery orange color, just as an example.  And the very same gecko would be worth even more if it has an almost full carrot-tail.  You simply won’t find these in the pet stores.

Pet store geckos are often mutts.  They are from unknown origin with unknown background information.  Pet stores sell them cheap because the new sales tactic is to sell pets cheap to lure customers in, then they push to sell you kits & supplies where they make their money.  Their goal is volume, the more pets they sell, the more kits & supplies they’ll sell.  You’ll notice these days in pet stores, all pets are cheap.  Fish, geckos, birds, other reptiles, they’re all fairly cheap to buy.  Once you buy the pets they’ll try to sell you kits filled with useless items often not designed for the optimal care of these animals.

Leopard gecko kits for an example, they often come with basking lights, 1 hide, repti carpet or sand, and a stick on thermometer.  But what a leopard gecko really need are under tank heating pad, 3 hides, tiles/paper towels, and thermostat or temperature probe that monitors the floor temperature for belly heating.  See our comprehensive leopard gecko temperature & heating needs here, and our vitamin/supplement guide.

By buying geckos from reputable breeders, you are supporting their good & ethical practices.  For many small scale breeders like us, we really don’t sell with enough volume to live off breeding.  In fact for most small scale breeders, breeding is more of a hobby.  What we make goes right back into the care of our geckos, including equipment improvement/upgrades, and to better our gene pool by adding new stock.

Does this mean I shouldn’t ever buy a gecko from the local pet store?

We would be hypocrites to tell others not to buy pet store geckos, because our first two leopard geckos came from a local pet store.  But it’s important to remember not all pet stores are the same.  We’ve seen pet stores with keepers that really do care about the animals they house.  It’s just that they operate under a strict budget and they can only do so much as management allows them to.  Unfortunately most of them operate under strict corporate policies.  So even if they want to better care for their animals, often they can’t.

If you do find local pet stores that practice good husbandry & care, then they should be supported.  We should always reward good and ethical practices.  There’s nothing wrong with starting off with a pet store gecko if you are new at leopard geckos.  Then from there, move up to designer geckos from leopard gecko breeders.

Part of the reasons why we started a website & blog is because when we purchased our pet store gecko initially, we were given bad care information.  We bought a retail “kit”, and we were sent home with basking lights, sand, and a small 10 gallon tank with 1 hide in it.  Our bad experiences actually inspired us to start a leopard gecko website to spread good, factual, and comprehensive care information about leopard geckos & african fattails.  We want to help fellow gecko hobbyists make informed and educated decisions when purchasing their own pet geckos.  Knowledge is the key, you can never learn too much.

We hope this article has been helpful, thanks for reading.