Crested geckos are one of the easiest reptiles to keep, and also one of the easiest to breed. This makes them a popular pet in the hobby, and prone to mass production without regard to genetic diversity, structure, health & fitness. Before you jump into breeding, ask yourself if you are ready for the responsibility and challenge of working with this species.
Min age: 1.5 years (18 months)
Min weight: 35 grams (40 with tail)
Females per male: 1:1, 2:1, 3:1 per enclosure
Adult enclosures: 2 minimum; 1 per adult gecko to separate pairs
Baby enclosures: 16 per female, per season
Temperature range: 72-82
Lighting schedule: 12-14 hours daylight
Incubation temperatures: 68-74
Incubation length: Temperature dependent
Breeding season: Warm, active months, usually March-September
As outlined above, you need a separate enclosure for every animal just in case they need to be separated. Hatchlings can be housed in 6 quart plastic bins often used for shoeboxes, available at dollar stores or Target for less than $5 each. Obviously, you need to modify them with holes or screen “windows” to allow adequate ventilation. Small Kritter Keepers can be used but depending on your humidity levels, they can dry out quickly.
Additionally you will need:
- Gram Scale (babies hatch out under 2 grams)
- Laybox & diggable substrate (cocofiber, peat moss, etc)
- Incubation box (an extra 6qt tub works well)
- Hatching medium (perlite, Superhatch, etc)
Everything else you will use are items you should already be using or have readily available – paper towels to line the 6-quart bins, food & supplements, spray bottle, fake plants and disposable hides like toilet paper tubes. You’ll want to use mostly disposable or bleachable items for baby enclosures. Clean tubs and replace paper towel and furnishings once a week.
Most breeders sell their babies when they are small, under 10 grams. Generally, a gecko should be eating for a month and be around 2 grams; smaller is ok if they are well-established on food. “Holdbacks” are geckos you’ve hatched out that you want to grow up to a sub-adult, sexable size before deciding on selling them or keeping them for future breeding. At 10 grams, you can keep your holdbacks in 16 quart tubs with a similar disposable setup or you can deck out a 10+ gallon terrarium with natural soil and plants. Check out our housing section for more information on setups for juveniles and adults.
What makes a good breeder? It depends on the traits you are looking for. Regardless of whether you are breeding for pattern, color, or structure, your breeders should be healthy, with no signs of calcium deficiencies or other medical complications. If your gecko has had health issues in the past, consult a reptile veterinarian to see if breeding is appropriate. Females use a lot more internal resources to produce eggs, but males also should be of good genetic stock, free of defects such as misshapen eyes and deformed feet. Crested geckos are an entirely captive bred species; it is unlikely any significant “new blood” will come from the wild from New Caledonia. So breeding sick or inferior animals. Some may choose to breed less intensely colored or patterned animals to maintain a more “wild” look to crested geckos, while others may choose to breed for very exaggerated traits. Each has its own merits. It is unlikely any captive stock will be used to repopulate the islands of New Caledonia, where the species is endangered, so trying to preserve wild-type bloodlines for this purpose is probably not going to come to fruition. However, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an animal’s original form instead of highly striking “morphs”.
While the cost of housing and food is not necessarily expensive, all it takes is one trip to the vet to eat away at your profit margin. I’ve taken geckos to the vet for random issues or questions, tests and medications every year I’ve kept them. I know a little bit more about what to expect, but I definitely now know the signs of when to goto the vet.
I wouldn’t discourage anyone from getting into breeding as long as they realize the time and resources it takes. Like you mentioned, the actual supplies are very cheap, or can be very cheap depending on the type of housing, like plastic bins instead of display tanks. However, there are some unexpected costs, like vet care. We’ve run into 2 cases of egg binding out of around 20 females (some breeding, some not). We’ve had a number of other issues crop up that aren’t breeding related, but the risks go up when you have breeders (egg-binding, prolapsed hemipene, etc) and babies which are a little more susceptible to diseases or husbandry-related conditions. I think we’ve spent around $1200 in vet care over the past 5 years – for all of our animals, not just the breeders. Home treatment is an option if you have lots of experience with reptiles and especially the ones you want to breed, but many issues absolutely need to be treated by a vet. Parasites are always a possibility but thankfully we’ve never had to deal with them in cresties, but they are not uncommon.
Is there a Crested Gecko Breeding Season?
It is best to think of crested geckos as year-round breeders. They tend to mate and lay eggs when they are the most active, usually the warmer months during Spring, Summer and Fall. Normally the breeding season starts in February or March and ends in October, giving them at least 3-4 months off every year. However, in captive conditions within a reptile room with artificially controlled heating & lighting, crested geckos may breed year-round. Whether you breed in the “off-season” (Winter) or not is up to you – it can be a little tricky to fool their internal clocks. Whatever your breeding schedule, it is very important to make sure the females take a break for a few months between seasons to regain calcium and fat reserves. While most females will stop laying on their own, you may need to remove males or co-habitating females to ensure they get all the rest and food they need to recover. Additionally, you may want to give females a year off after several seasons of routine egg laying. Females can breed throughout their 20+ year lifespan so there is no need to make them breed every year.
How do I produce super morphs?
Generally speaking “supers” are extreme versions of existing morphs. Technically, in crested geckos the “supers” are for traits, such as dalmatian spots or pinstriping. There are also super, or extreme forms of patterning, such as “super tiger”, “super brindle” or “extreme harlequin”. Patterns are what generally determines the morph, although crested gecko morphs don’t behave in the same way as other reptiles. Read more on patterns, colors and traits in our Morphs guide.
To make high-pattern, high-contrast and exaggerated traits in crested geckos, you need to start with geckos that display the trait you want. Breed only ones displaying the trait as much as possible while avoiding inbreeding. Visual presence of the trait (phenotype) holds more weight than the lineage (genotype), as you don’t know whether the animal has inherited the genes for what you want to produce. Usually it’s preferable to have the male display the best trait you want because you can breed him to multiple lower-quality females. However, sometimes there’s a star female and you’ll want to find the absolute best mate. Luckily, even great males are easier and cheaper to come by.
For example, if you want to breed full pinstripes, you would want to breed two full pinstripes together to produce predominantly pinstriped offspring. You will still likely end up with some babies that do not have full pinstripes, but the majority will be pinstriped and a few oddballs here and there – patternless, tigers and non-pinstripe flames/harlequins. If you only have one full pinstripe, find a high percentage pinstriped mate. You may have significantly less full pinstripes, a lot of it depends on the genes each gecko is carrying. If the high percentage pinner is from a full pinstripe lineage, your chances may be better.
Some people don’t mind starting from scratch, and may try to create their own line of full pinstripes with both parents being partial pinners. This is definitely possible but can take 5+ years to produce full pin offspring. However, many breeders find this challenge satisfying in the end. Set your goals accordingly!
We highly discourage inbreeding for commonly present traits such as super dalmatian, full pinstripe and extreme harlequin. The only times inbreeding should be used is to prove out a brand new trait (as in Matt Park’s Patient Zero piebald project, or to establish genetic inheritance probabilities (such as inheritance of polydactylism). There are plenty of unrelated* geckos available and there is no need to sacrifice the genetic diversity the captive population.
* It may be unrealistic to expect completely unrelated pairings. Only 200 individuals were brought back from the wild, and this is the gene pool our captive population has to make due with. We suggest breeding geckos with only a 1/32 relatedness – they don’t share anything closer than great-great-great grandparents. This can be a challenge as many breeders don’t provide lineages past grandparents, and many geckos are bought with unknown lineages.
Can you Make Money?
One of the most asked questions is Can I make money breeding crested geckos?
The answer is – maybe.
There are many factors that go into making money from breeding and selling crested geckos. There are two main strategies, buying breeder quality to create high-end babies or buying low-end to create a LOT of babies. The first strategy takes more money to start, the second takes more time. The more geckos you have, the more like “real” work caring for them becomes, and the easier it is to burn out.
The biggest start up cost is buying the initial breeders. If you want to charge $75+ for baby geckos, you’ll probably have to spend at least $500 on a breeding pair, as adult breeder-quality females usually run $300+ and a nice male at least $200. It’s always advisable to buy the best male you can afford because you can breed him to less nice females and still end up with stunning babies. Keep in mind that even the best breeding pair can throw offspring that are “pet” quality. This distinction is really determined by the marketplace.
You can start cheaply by buying breeders that aren’t quite so nice (less colorful, less patterned, less well-structured) and hope for the best. But with the crested gecko market being what it is (over-saturated with pet quality animals and more and more breeders every day), you might get $45 per baby. You may have to wholesale your stock to a local pet shop (not a chain store, they have exclusive contracts with mass-producers) just to have room to breed again next year.
Another cheaper option is to buy unsexed animals and hope you end up with a good breeding group. This would be my recommendation to someone just getting into cresties. You run the risk of getting mostly males (there seems to be a skew towards males hatching out) and pairings that might not be ideal. And you have to wait 1-2 years to breed them. You can sell the extra males, but unless they are of breeding quality, you don’t get much (if any) more money from them as you would selling unsexed babies, as there are more males available than females.
The more animals you have on hand, the more time you have to spend on care. It becomes less of a hobby and more like a job if you get overwhelmed. If you think of the time you invest in your stock as time that you could spend making money in a different way, you really do lose money. However, if you are happy spending 4-10 hours a week, on average, taking care of your colony and aren’t accounting for your time, the babies you sell are “profit” after a year or two of breeding.
Most people breeding crested geckos stop after 2-3 years. Either they lose interest in reptile breeding or they move on to a different species. Many breeders use any “profit” to buy new and different breeding animals and adding to their collection. There are successful breeders who focus on crested geckos. They produce high end animals and have the reputation to make good money even without a large breeding facility and only producing around 20-50 babies a season. Others rely on mass-producing with a mix of pet quality and high end animals produced; the former usually are sold wholesale to pet shops for $10-20 apiece.
So while you can make money, it’s not often and takes a year or two, in which case you might get frustrated at the returns on your investment and time. Many people think they can pick this up as a side-business but the reality of the big picture makes it unlikely. Not impossible, though! If you have lots of time to spend and you enjoy it, it may turn a nice profit.