- Before You Breed Your Gecko....
Before beginning a discussion on breeding, I must ask the following question- Are you prepared to breed your gecko?
That seems fairly obvious otherwise you wouldn't have visited this page. However, there are several points I would like to bring up before going any further
- Do you have the knowledge? Well, hopefully that is why you are here. I have heard so often, or read on the internet so many times, "I have eggs, what should I do now!". Gaining the knowledge before breeding will benefit you, the new babies, and the parents.
- Are the Parents ready? Geckos generally do not breed during the cooler months of winter. Are you sure you have a pair? Are they healthy? Are they the right size? Is this the right season?
- Do you have the necessary equipment- incubator, scale, etc.?
- Are you prepared for the babies? Do you have the extra time and facility to check and care for the eggs and to house up to 20 babies per female you breed?
- Do you have a home for the babies? Who will take them once they reach sell-able size?
- Oh Boy! It's a boy!
The first thing you need to determine is whether you have a male and a female. Do not assume that while you may have purchased two geckos as a pair you actually have a boy and a girl. Do a check before introducing them together. As I've mentioned in the husbandry section, males do not tolerate each other and will fight with resulting injuries.
It is a straightforward process to determine the sex of an adult gecko. For sub adults Use an inexpensive magnifying glass (10X is sufficient). Flip the gecko over on its back. A male will have a distinguished bulge (hemipenes) just past the vent at the base of the tail. A male will also possess large preformal pores in a row right before the vent (where the tail meets the body).
Here is a great link that helps.
- Size Does Matter!
So how old does your gecko need to be to breed. It's not so much a matter of age as it is of size. Geckos can begin breeding quite early. However, female gargoyles should not be bred before they are 40 grams. Males are ready even before this. However, if there is a significant size difference in the pair, especially if the male is much larger than the female, there may be rejection from one or the other. Watch them closely for over aggression. If you do not have a small gram scale, they are available on e-bay for under $30.
- The Happy Couple
Ok, you have a male and a female. Now What. Well, there are a few ways to go about breeding them. You can either leave the male in with the female continuously, you can keep them separate and only introduce them during the breeding season, or you can only introduce them briefly for a few days at a time with the sole intention of mating. This is really your choice as to how you wish to keep your geckos. If you are keeping more than the pair, you may have one male to many females and may prefer introducing the male to the female only a couple of days during the breeding season, perhaps rotating him through the females and then starting over again a couple of times.
It is important here to note that if the male is kept with the females throughout the year, breeding will not stop at all and the female will eventually 'burn out' for laying eggs. Most breeders separate the male from the female for the cooler, winter months to rest the females. Following mating, the female will be able to lay eggs continuously through the entire season without re-mating with the male.
When putting the two geckos together, some aggression may be displayed. The male will show interest in the female and may nip at her body, especially her neck. Be careful to observe this activity as it can get rough and the pair may need to be re-separated.
- The Honeymoon Suite
Following mating, after about 2 to 3 weeks, the female will start to show the eggs. If you hold up the female you should be able to feel the extra bulk on her underside. It is not recommended to 'feel' for the eggs in gargoyle geckos. The will look for a moist, warm place to lay her eggs. This is where the lay box comes in. Many breeders use one box for both the lay box and the humid hide. See this link for a DIY humid/lay box.
If you keep live plants or include a substrate of dirt or coconut fiber, the female very well might choose these to lay her eggs in. Also note that it is extremely important to keep up the feeding schedule, especially after laying her eggs when she becomes hungry again, and to continue using the vitamin and calcium supplements. You can provide these in a dish that she will lick from.
The female will almost always lay 2 eggs. This will continue about every 4-6 weeks for up to 10 lays! After mating, the lay box must be checked daily for eggs. Once the first batch is found, start checking after about 10 days.
- On your Mark, Get Set....
While you are waiting for those first eggs, there are a few things you can do to prepare. First, get your incubator ready if you do not have a spot to incubate the eggs that is at least 72 F. Don't have one? A good, inexpensive on is available from Hova-bator can be found on eBay for about 40 bucks. I'm fortunate to live in the Midwest as I find mine at the local feed store for about $35. Setup your new incubator BEFORE you get eggs. Set it at the temperature you prefer (see below for temperature ranges) and let it sit. This may take a couple of days to work out.
Also, what are you putting the eggs in. You could use margarine or whip cream cups. You could also use deli cups. Some breeders buy/cut holes in their cups, some do not.
Next you will need a medium you will use in the cups to hold the eggs. This material will function to hold moisture in the cup while the eggs incubate. The preferred products are vermiculite, perlite, and newest on the scene is Hatch Rite (which is similar to Turface).
Your first eggs! Congratulations. Don't get discouraged if they do not hatch out. Young geckos can initially lay eggs the first few times without producing fertile eggs. Be patient.
Once you find eggs, the next step is to transfer them to the incubator if room temperatures are less than 72 F. If the incubation area is between 72 - 82 F. an incubator is not needed. Since you planned ahead (see previous section) you have everything ready to go. Prepare the cup by filling it up half way with the medium. Add water until the contents are wet but not soaked. This is a very difficult judgment until you get some experience. If you are using perlite the mixture is 1 part to .8 parts water by weight. If you choose to use Hatch Rite (not my favorite meterial), their directions are listed on the packaging. The best and easiest material to start out with is certainly SHM (more details here). Put two indentations in the medium to prepare the eggs to sit half way into the mix. Now you can collect the eggs and add them to the cup. Gently lift the eggs and keep them from shifting at all. Some breeders mark the tops of their eggs with a sharpie to make sure the eggs never tip or move. If the eggs do shift momentarily, they can be put back to their original position. It is important to avoid the eggs from shifting because the embryo attaches to one side of the egg and could potentially "drown" if turned.
Place the top on the container; use something to mark the top. I use a small piece of masking tape so I can reuse the container. Record the hatch date, the number of eggs, the mother and father and the species (if have more than one male and female or you care for more than one type of gecko). Now you can put the cup in the incubator. You should have a gauge to monitor both the temperature and humidity in the incubator (details to follow on temp and hum.). Check this on a daily basis.
- My, It's Getting Hot In Here! Temperature and Humidity in your Incubator
Gargoyle eggs should be incubated between 70 and 82 degrees F. Cooler temperatures will result in longer incubation times. 82 F will require about 60 days and 72 will take up to 100 days of incubation time. Of course if kept too cold or too hot the eggs will not hatch. While it might seem more desirable to hatch gargoyle geckos out as quickly as possible, there may be some sacrifice to the animals health.
There has been some discussion that gargoyle geckos' sex is temperature determined during incubation. I do not believe there is enough data to currently prove this fact. However, it is known that incubating leopard geckos eggs lower than 82 F results in mostly females and temperatures higher than 86 results in mostly males. Temperature will also impact the timing of the eggs hatching. Lower temperatures will require longer hatch time while warmer temperatures will provide for a quicker hatching. Generally, temperatures in the low 80s will take the eggs about 60 days to hatch will if incubated in the upper 80s the eggs may hatch out as quickly as 40-45 days.
Humidity is underrated when considering its importance when related to temperature requirements in hatching gecko eggs. It is important to keep the incubation medium slightly moist but not wet. However, it may be more important that the humidity in the cup is kept high as well. Monitor the eggs being incubated. If one egg goes bad, take it out. Infertile eggs usually start to look bad after a week or so by turning brown and developing a fungus growth. I usually do not remove eggs unless I see the fungus starting to grow then will get it out right away. Also, if the eggs do not hatch when you expect them to, it doesn't hurt to them to continue to incubate. It is far safer to continue incubating the eggs than to try hatching them manually yourself.
- Finally, Your First Gecko Babies
So you look into the incubators window one morning and there it is. Your first gecko baby. Congratulations!
The baby can be kept similarly to the adults- water dish, misted, etc. It is best to use paper towel for a substrate for younger gargoyle geckos. I've found that increased misting improves the health of young gargoyle geckos more than almost any other rearing detail as they go through many sheds as they grow. Young geckos can act a bit skittish when you first transport them to their new enclosure. I prefer to move the cup to the enclosure and slowly tap behind the gecko to motivate it to crawl into their new home. Handling of small geckos under 10 grams should be minimized. These babies will eat similar foods as their adults- powered diets, small crickets, and mealworms to start out (dusted of course). It has been written that the size of their meals should not exceed the width of their head.
With proper care and feedings, your baby gecko should grow quickly. It should be mature in about a year's time.