Along with leopard geckos, crested geckos are one of the easiest pet lizards to breed at home. Many reptile breeders get their start by breeding crested geckos!
Whether you want to expand your collection, or develop new morphs, breeding this species is simple.
I have over 10 years of experience breeding crested geckos. In this article I’ll share my best tips and advice for hatching and raising your own cresties. You will quickly learn how to assess your geckos before mating, pair them and hatch the offspring.
- Key Takeaways
- How to Breed Crested Geckos
- My First Time Breeding Crested Geckos
- Crested geckos are a good choice for beginning reptile breeders.
- Breeding can be as simple as putting a male and a female together and waiting for hatchlings to appear!
- The breeding season is generally between January and September, with the best time to introduce a male around January. Female crested geckos produce 1-10 clutches of two eggs every 2-6 weeks. In general the eggs will hatch anywhere from 60-70 days after they are laid.
- Crested gecko eggs can be incubated in an incubator, but also do well being incubated in the cage at room temperature.
- In very rare cases females can have virgin births with no contact with a male.
How to Breed Crested Geckos
What You Will Need
It is important to have all the breeding and incubating supplies you need on hand, before introducing the geckos and starting the breeding process. I also recommend you get all the supplies you will need for housing and feeding hatchlings at this point too.
Author’s Tip: If you choose to use an incubator, be sure that you understand how it works and that you have tested it.
Most crested gecko breeding supplies are low tech, here is what you need:
- Incubator (if you choose to use one)
- Lay box for the enclosure
- Egg container for incubation
- Gram scale (if you need to weigh your female)
- Digital thermometer with temperature probe, or temperature gun
- Caging and cage “furniture” for hatchlings
Author’s Tip: It is important to make sure that the crested geckos you choose for breeding are sexually mature and in good health.
Crested geckos chosen for mating should be at least 1-2 years old, weigh in the neighborhood of 40 grams and be eating reliably. They should also be free of any birth defects, since it’s impossible to know whether or not the defect could be passed on to the next generation.
Female crested geckos in particular should have large, white calcium sacs visible on the roof of the mouth which you can see when her mouth is open.
Mating is an active and sometimes aggressive process that can last for several minutes. The geckos need to be watched carefully to ensure that it doesn’t become too aggressive; my female’s tail dropped during mating.
The season has now arrived! You have chosen mature, healthy crested geckos and your supplies are ready and waiting.
Step 1: Introduce the Male and Female
Place the male into the female’s cage in the evening when both are awake. If the male is to stay with the female for the entire mating season, the cage dimensions should be at least 18”x18”x24”.
Watch them both carefully for the first few hours.
It is not unusual for some pursuit by the male to happen. If the female is consistently resisting, or if there’s biting that’s severe enough to cause a gash, remove the male and try again in a week or two.
Author’s Tip: There’s no way to make an aggressive male less aggressive. Sometimes, he may just not be a suitable breeding partner.
Females will tolerate mating, and will produce eggs only when they are ovulating.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell visually whether a female is ovulating. In general, non-ovulating females may resist mating by fleeing or biting.
Step 2: Mating
Mating can look scary because the male appears to be attacking the female. Expect some pursuit and biting. Intervene only if either gecko is sustaining visible wounds, or if pursuit by the male continues for more than half an hour.
The male will most likely make squeaking noises, or move his head rapidly. He will approach the female and grasp her by the neck to hold her still while he mounts her.
If the female is receptive, she will allow this behavior, though she may flee or resist for a short time at first.
The male will remain on top of the female for several minutes, and then let her go.
If you plan to remove the male after mating, do so after you have observed copulation as described above. If you don’t see them mating, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. Some geckos are “shy”.
Since female crested geckos store sperm, they may lay some or all of their clutches after only one mating session. If egg production slows down, the male can be reintroduced.
Author’s Tip: If the female hasn’t laid within 4 weeks of removing the male, re-introduce the male.
Step 3: Prepare the Lay Box
Two to four weeks after mating the female crested gecko will lay her first clutch of 2 eggs.
At this point it is important to provide a place for the female to lay.
Some crested geckos are kept in an enclosure with a solid substrate at the bottom such as newspaper, tile or reptile carpet. In this case, provide the female with a lay box.
Ideally this lay box should be a plastic container approximately 6”x8”x2”, filled nearly to the top with moist coco fiber or sphagnum moss. If the lay box is left covered, cut a hole in the top so she can enter and exit.
Check the lay box daily for a pair of eggs, which are white ovals about 3/4” long.
If your crested gecko is in a planted enclosure, she will lay in the substrate. You may find her digging or sitting in a hole, but not necessarily. If the enclosure includes plants in pots, watch for disturbed soil in the pots, since she may choose to lay her eggs there.
I have found the best way to find eggs is to weigh the female after mating, and then regularly every few days.
When she has lost 5-10 grams at once, she has likely laid and you will need to dig through the substrate to find them.
Step 4: Prepare the Eggs for Incubation
Gecko eggs should not be turned during incubation. Use a sharpie pen to put a mark on the egg in order to know which side is “up”. Some breeders write the clutch number and/or the initial of the female.
Some people prefer a naturalistic process and let the eggs incubate in the enclosure.
If the cage is planted with several inches of substrate, the eggs can be left in situ.
Eggs laid in a lay box will need to be transferred to a closed container since the female may disrupt them when she lays her next clutch.
If you choose to incubate in the enclosure, be aware that there’s no guarantee that the adults won’t cannibalize the hatchlings.
If the eggs are to be removed from the enclosure, take them out of the lay box or the substrate, and place them in a 16 oz. deli cup, which is where they will incubate until they hatch.
Fill the deli cup about 3/4 of the way with moist perlite, (available from a garden store), vermiculite (also from a garden store), or a commercial hatching medium such as Hatchrite.
Perlite and vermiculite should be moist, but not wet; there should be no water at the bottom of the cup. For commercial hatching media, follow the directions on the bag.
Place the eggs in the deli cup, half buried so you can still see the markings at the top.
Don’t make any holes in the deli cup. Simply open the lid every week for at least 10 seconds to allow air exchange.
Step 5: Incubate the Eggs
The egg container can be placed anywhere that consistently has a temperature in the 70-78°F (21-25°C) range. Ideally the temperature will not fluctuate more than 3 degrees over time.
Since the breeding season extends through winter, spring and summer, it is important to consider the effects of heating and cooling on the temperatures in your home.
If you tend to keep the house cool in winter, or don’t have air conditioning, consider an incubator. If you choose to use an incubator, set the temperature somewhere between 70-78°F (21-25°C).
Some incubators have a cooling function and some do not.
Note that if your incubator doesn’t have a cooling function, and if the temperature in the room (“ambient temperature”) gets higher than the incubator setting, the temperature in the incubator will rise as well.
Since I live in New England and have no AC, I chose to use an incubator. During the summer months, when I had a non-cooling incubator, I would place it in the much cooler basement.
Step 6: Check the Eggs
For best results, check for fertility within the first week of placing them in the incubator.
A fertile egg, if held in front of a flashlight, will show several concentric red-lined rings, often called a bullseye.
Be aware that in some cases the “bullseye” doesn’t show up right away, and that even if one appears, there’s no guarantee that the egg will hatch.
After that, the red “bullseye” will give way to a generalized red color and eventually, as the developing gecko grows, the whole egg will look dark.
Avoid checking for fertility too often.
My advice is to incubate the eggs until they either hatch, or collapse and stink.
Step 7: Hatching
Crested gecko eggs will hatch anywhere from 60-120 days after they are laid, though there are rare exceptions at either end of this range.
An egg that’s ready to hatch may look as if it’s about to collapse.
The hatchling has a sharp tooth at the front of the mouth called the “egg tooth” which falls out after hatching. It will use this tooth to make a slit in the shell and eventually wiggle out of it.
Hatchlings often begin the hatching process and “rest” partway through. It can take several hours for the process to be completed.
As tempting as it is to assist the hatchling out of the egg, it’s best to leave it alone. A healthy, vigorous hatchling will succeed and a weak hatchling may not make it out, which is probably for the best.
There will be some unavoidable degree of “infant mortality”. This is due to possible genetic factors in the parents, “luck of the draw”, or widely fluctuating incubation temperatures.
The first few clutches, especially with new breeders, may not be fertile. Some females simply don’t lay fertile eggs, or the male may not be fertile. If the female has poor calcium reserves, or is in poor health, she may not produce fertile eggs.
Step 8: Caring for the Hatchlings
Place the hatchlings individually in a 6qt, shoebox-sized plastic container.
The container should be furnished with:
- Paper towel substrate (for ease of cleaning)
- Small hide, a coconut shell works well
- A piece of bamboo or cork bark placed up against the hide at an angle
- Small food bowl
Keep the lid on the box to prevent escape.
There is no need to make air holes; the container will have sufficient ventilation.
Below is an example of my recent gargoyle gecko hatchling setup, but you can use the same for crested geckos.
Mist the hatchling 2-3 times a day for the first week and then keep the same schedule that you use for the adults.
The hatchling will not eat until after its first shed, which usually occurs 3-7 days after hatching. Once you have observed shedding (or after 7 days), provide a small amount of whatever you’re feeding the adults.
Check for droppings, which are a good sign that the hatchling is eating.
My First Time Breeding Crested Geckos
I fell in love with crested geckos the first time I held one, back in 2006. I have had Spencer, who is almost 17, since then. Years later, I became fascinated with cream crested geckos so I decided to try my hand at breeding them.
In my first breeding season, my female crested gecko laid five clutches. The first three clutches hatched, two clutches in the incubator and one in the cage.
The breeding season in the northern hemisphere is generally between January and September. The male and female(s) can be placed together during mid-winter, around January.
Some breeders keep their crested geckos together for the entire breeding season, as I did. Others “introduce” the male to the female(s), and then remove the male after mating has taken place.
One male can mate with numerous females, with successive introductions to individual females. Only one male should be placed in an enclosure at a time, since males will fight each other, especially during breeding.
In some cases, mating can be as simple as putting a male and a female together and waiting for hatchlings to appear. I discovered this one day when I encountered a hatchling running around the parents’ enclosure!
While this is true, breeding without proper preparation can result in tragedy with cannibalized hatchlings, weak females and overaggressive males.