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Breeding

For anyone thinking of breeding these lovely reptiles several points ideally need to be considered first ~

* Can you put the time and effort into the care that breeding takes?
* Can you afford to have the correct equipment; incubator, hatchling boxes, extra livefood etc?
* Can you find new homes or outlets for the hatchlings? One female can produce approximately 16 eggs in a season and ~ as I've been reminded on occasion ~ you can't keep them all lol
* Contrary to popular belief very few private breeders actually make any profit.
* Is/are your female(s) at least a minimum of one year old (preferably older) and ~ as a general guide ~ weigh over 50g?

Time, Patience and Planning ~
All of these are needed ~ not only to choose leo’s carefully but also to research what is needed, what can go wrong, what is best to ensure not only healthy hatchlings but also to keep your leo’s in good health and time to get everything needed ready well in advance.

Q – Can I keep my male with my female all the time?
Males mature earlier then females ~ which is why I always recommend separating them before they are 3 to 4 months of age ~ and I recommend keeping them separated unless they’re the right age/weight and breeding is wanted and planned for ~ just because littl’jonboy hasn’t done anything to mildred yet don’t mean that sooner or later he won’t ~ he’ll eventually be ready but chances are she won’t be and nor will you; and on the same note no littl’jonboy won’t be all lonely because he’s not got a girlfriend or two to cuddle.

Q- How old and big does a female have to be?
As a general guide females should be in good health and a bare minimum of 12 months old (preferably older) and over 50g-55g in weight ~ however I feel that there are also other important points to think about too ~ buying a female hatched the year before doesn’t always guarantee that she is old enough nor does being ‘breeding’ weight mean they can be bred yet, also buying adult females at the start of a year/season doesn’t necessarily mean that they can be bred that same year/season ~ far better to wait a season, practise quarantine and patience and get the females up to optimum condition and health first ~ females don’t just need careful looking after during the breeding season i.e.: extra food, extra calcium requirements etc, but they also need time to build up before the breeding season.
How a female is looked after before breeding can influence how well she does ~ breeding underweight, too young, ill, over-stressed, over-breeding, can all potentially lead to sometimes fatal problems not only with the female’s health ie: eggbinding and prolapse; but also with any eggs/hatchlings she may have. Depending on age and health a single female can lay in excess of eight clutches and it can and does take a lot out of her ~ be prepared to remove a male leo into a separate viv after he’s done the deed ~ males continually wanting to mate can stress a gravid female.
If you have more then one female again be prepared to keep them in their own vivs/tubs during the season ~ not all females will tolerate others especially when they’re gravid and competing for laying areas.

Q – When do I need to get the stuff ready for breeding?
If you haven’t bred before then take the time to read and research about it first ~ it can save a lot of hassle and problems later on.
Get everything ready in advance ~ incubators (whether home-made or bought), tubs/rubs for hatchlings along with bigger rubs as they grow, heat mats/strips, stats, thermometers, stacks and all the other bits that breeding entails ~ it all needs to be checked and ready beforehand not left till the last minute. Check round for a good livefood supplier who can supply regular orders ~ don’t just rely on a local shop ~ you don’t want to be in the position of running out of livefood during the season.

Q – How much does it cost?
Be prepared to spend ….. a lot ~ and don’t expect to make a profit or even break even. Most I know only just about cover the costs ~ if they’re lucky.

Even cutting costs with home-made incubators, hides, DIY rubs and tubs the costs mount up ~ extra livefood (not just for the adults but all the hatchlings) plus the food for gutloading, supplements, vet fee’s if anything should go wrong as well as the other costs like electricity. Take into account that most leo’s are at least eight weeks old before they’re sold so space is also going to be at a premium; be prepared to keep the hatchlings longer too as selling them is not guaranteed.

There is also a cost in the time needed to spend on them all ~ it isn’t just an hour a day and that’s that; you can’t take time out and leave them for a weekend or so because you’re tired or want to go out with your friends ~ just because you can cut costs/corners in some ways does not mean that you can or should in others least of all with the health and well-being of the leo’s in mind.

Leo's mating ~
picture courtesy of Venus_Rules

Breeding ~ season usually starts around January and can continue as late as September/October. Although some breeders may give their leo's a 'cooling' period to simulate winter ~ or to stimulate the females into breeding any time of the year ~ leo's will mate without this; I prefer to let the females cycle naturally; I also keep my males seperate from the females putting them together for mating only once the females have started ovulating.

The male leo usually starts by tasting the air before heading towards the female; if the females receptive she'll lay relatively still while the male proceeds to bite her round the head and neck area before mating ~ some males can be overly aggressive at this time likewise so can females if unreceptive or not yet ready for mating ~ so if possible it is best to keep an eye on things and seperate them quickly if needed. Usually only one or two matings are needed as a female leo can store the sperm and will use this for her clutches throughout the season and because of this 'storage' I do not recommend trying to mate her with more then one male.

Male leo cleaning himself after mating ~
picture courtesy of Venus_Rules

When it's near the time for the female leo to lay her eggs (between 2-5 weeks after mating) she'll start looking for somewhere dark, moist and warm to lay her eggs ~ it is important to have a laying box ready for her; mine actually prefer using the humid hides I have for them which are part-filled with moss or eco-earth ~ if the female cannot find suitable conditions there is a risk of her holding onto her eggs too long and becoming eggbound. Sometimes ~ especially with first-time layers ~ the female will have several practice 'digs' digging the damp moss/eco-earth before picking a spot to lay her eggs, after laying them she will cover them back up; it is important to let her finish this undisturbed before attempting to remove the eggs. I do not recommend using vermiculite in lay-boxes or humid hides as it has shown to be toxic to leopard geckos if eaten in any quantity.

Heavily gravid female ~ circles mark
where the eggs are.

A healthy female will usually lay two eggs (and continue to do so about every two to three weeks ~ upto about 8 clutches though some may lay up to 10 clutches) though first-time layers may only lay one egg in a clutch and/or fewer clutches. It is important to not only increase the amount of food and calcium during this time but also to do so well before the season starts to enable the females to be in the best of health and to always have a dish of calci-powder available for the female for the extra calcium she'll need, even so many females lose weight during the season.

Average Amount of Eggs Laid Per Year
Female Age
Eggs Laid
Female Age Eggs Laid
0-1 year
0
7+ years
8
1+ year
8
8+ years
6
2+ years
12
9+ years
4
3+ years
16
10+ years
4
4+ years
14
11 years
0
5+ years
10
12 years
0
6+ years
10
   
Egg laying decreases as the female ages with egg production peaking at around 3-4 years of age before eventually stopping

Hova-Bator
Herp Nursery

Incubators ~ are generally used as a safe, reliable way of incubating the eggs and is where you decide which sex you wish the hatchlings to be as leo's sex is determined by temperature. Ideally the incubator should be set up and running before the female starts laying eggs ~ this way any adjustments that the incubator may need can be done and monitored.
The graph below shows the approximate temperatures required depending on which sex you wish to incubate for ~ it must be noted that this is not guaranteed as males can hatch when incubating for females only (so-called 'cool' males) and likewise females can hatch from an incubation set for males ~ these are generally called 'hot' females which can have more male characteristics such as being larger in size, 'hemipenes' bulges and pore dimples also sometimes may be more aggressive but not always. Care should be taken not to let the incubating eggs temperature fall either below 78*F or above 90*F+ especially for extended periods as this can cause the eggs to fail.

Approximate Incubation Temperatures
Temperature (F)
Hatchling Sex
Estimated Incubation
80*F
mainly females
60-65 days
85*F
equal ratio males & females
55 days
88*F
mostly males
40-45 days
Care should be taken not to let the temperature fall below 78*F as this can lead to the eggs failing ~ likewise care should be taken with temps above 90*F which can lead to either eggs failing or so-called 'hot' females

Eggs ~ should be carefully marked with a soft pen to indicate which way the egg should be before gently moving them from the laying box and placing them in a prepared 'eggbox' and placing in the incubator; sometimes two eggs are stuck to each other; care must be taking if seperating that they are not damaged ~ I generally leave them as they are.
I use small plastic tubs with a few airation holes in the sides part-filled with damp perlite ~ there are several different mediums that can be used including vermiculite and moss, but whatever is chosen it should be water retentive and able to provide and maintain humidity, it must be sterile (or at least very clean) and something that will not go mouldy when kept warm and damp for an extended time. Getting the right amount of moisture is important; too much and the eggs could go mouldy and fail ~ too little and the eggs will crumple and dry out again possibly failing. Ideally the medium should be wetted until it can be squeezed into a ball without excess water dripping out. Using your thumb make a small hollow for the egg to lay in ~ this helps prevent the egg from moving or rolling and the chance of the embryo drowning under it's yolk.

eggs incubating ~ the eggs on the right are stuck together so have been left as they are

Sometimes eggs develop mould or fungi usually if the medium is too wet or box too humid ~ the mould or fungi can be wiped off gently by using an earbud or piece of soft tissue, check the conditions and remedy them to avoid further mould etc. Eggs that crumple or dent are usually down to the conditions being too dry ~ adding some more water to the medium, being careful not to drip water actually on the eggs or making the medium too wet, or laying a damp piece of tissue over the top will usually plump them back up ~ however if the eggs are infertile they won't plump back up.
Checking whether or not the eggs are fertile is usually best done after a few days by 'candling' ~ I use a small torch held against the eggs; fertile eggs will glow pink and the veins of the growing embryo will show while infertile eggs will have a yellowish glow to them.

Candled fertile egg showing the growing blood vessels

Infertile Eggs ~ sometimes it happens that eggs laid are infertile, usually it's said that this is because the female is a first-time layer and hence all first eggs will be infertile..... I personally do not hold with this theory as I have found that if a female is of the correct age, weight and is in good health then there is no reason why she shouldn't lay good, fertile eggs from the start.
If after following the general guidelines you do get infertile eggs I would recommend checking the following ~
* Did the male definately lock/mate with the female? ~ If he didn't then his scent could have triggered the females into ovulating/laying without him actually doing anything.
* Had the females started ovulating when the male was put with them and if so how far along were the females?~ It is possible that the first set of developing eggs were too far along for fertilisation in which case there is a good chance that the next developing eggs will be ok.
* Is the 'male' definately an adult male? ~ A common problem is that the male is either mistakenly identified and is actually a female or even a young juvenile male who hasn't quite got the knack of it all (late developer)
* Is it just the first clutch of eggs that are infertile or all of the resultant clutches? ~ If it's one clutch then as said there's a good chance that other clutches will be fine ~ if however all clutches are infertile and the above questions and answers have been gone through then there is a chance that the male himself is unfertile in which case I would recommend trying a new male in the following years breeding season.

Hatching ~ time depends on what temperature range eggs have been incubated; the first sign that eggs are about to hatch is they can start to sweat and/or dimple before crumpling at one end ~ this is where the hatchling has pierced the eggshell with it's egg-tooth prior to slowly making it's way out of the shell. I tend to leave new hatchlings where they are for several hours ~ this gives them a chance to rest and get to accustomed to breathing ~ before gently moving them into their new home.
Occasionally a hatchling will hatch either still attached to the yolk/egg shell or with the eggyolk still partially un-absorbed ~ do not try to forcibly remove it.
If the hatchling is still physically attached to the egg or has not absorbed the yolk then leave it in the eggbox/incubator for longer ~ it will eventually seperate on it's own or absorb the yolk. If it is not possible to leave the hatchling in the eggbox then carefully place it in a small clean container with slightly damp kitchen paper which can then either be placed in the incubator or hatchling box for it to rest and finish absorbing the yolk.

New leo hatching

Congratulations! You have babies!

Go to Hatchling Care for more information.


*The information written on my website and in my various care sheets has been gathered
through my own personal experiance and research over the years ~
Please do not use or replicate any information or photographs without permission ~ thankyou *

Interesting Facts

Leo's and Fat-tail's are nocturnal insectivores and tend to be more active at dusk and dawn when they hunt and eat a variety of insects.

Female leo's and Fat-tailed gecko's are capable of storing sperm from a single mating.

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