If you plan on investing in a leopard gecko, you should know that you also have the freedom to breed the reptile, should you choose so.
This is primarily due to the leopard gecko’s ease of mating and reproduction in captivity, all thanks to its more developed social sense. It’s not uncommon for leopard gecko keepers to house two or more geckos in the same enclosure.
While the mating process goes on without any assistance on your part (or should we say minimal assistance), the situation is different when the eggs come out. Today, we’ll discuss leopard gecko eggs for those who don’t know what to expect in this department.
Reproduction of Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos tend to reach maturity by the time they’re 18-24 months old. Leopard geckos typically breed in the summer in the wild, when temperatures are high enough to ensure a shorter incubation time for the eggs.
If you plan on breeding leopard geckos in captivity, consider the following points:
- Find the perfect match – Your first job is to find a male and a female, which can be trickier than you might think. If you can’t determine the lizards’ gender on your own, ask for some professional assistance to make sure you won’t mess things up. Females are typically slightly larger with bulkier bodies, while males have preanal pores, which become more visible as they mature.
- Wait for it – Not all geckos mature at the same rate. Females typically mature faster and must wait for the males to catch up. Also, some geckos reach maturity later than others based on environmental conditions, genetic makeup, diet, and other factors. If either the male or the female appears sexually immature, you may need to postpone their romance.
- Ensure proper environmental conditions – Geckos require specific conditions to begin their mating ritual, and temperature is among the most important. Increase the tank’s temperature slightly above the gecko’s normal threshold to mimic the lizard’s natural conditions. This will put the geckos in their breeding mood.
- Prepare for the coming eggs – Leopard gecko’s reproductive cycle lasts approximately 4-5 months each year. During this time, the female will lay one clutch of eggs every 15-22 days, depending on the circumstances. Younger females will only lay one or two eggs, but older ones may produce several more, depending on their genetics and size. This amounts to a fair share of leopard gecko eggs that you need to handle properly. Make sure you have the resources and space necessary for that.
Overall, leopard geckos have no problems breeding in captivity, so long as you provide them with adequate facilities and parameters for the job.
Characteristics of Leopard Gecko Eggs
Leo’s eggs are small, typically around 1 inch tall and 0.5 inches in circumference, oval-shaped, and white. The eggs are fertilized before being laid, but you need to assess the eggs’ fertilization status to make sure.
That’s because not all eggs will be fertilized, with the infertile ones soon becoming food for bacteria and fungi.
To determine whether leo’s eggs are fertile, hold the egg against a light source. This allows you to see inside the egg and detect the dark spot, which is the early embryo starting its developmental cycle.
If the egg is clear, give it a couple more days and check it again. If the result is similar, you have an infertile egg, which you should remove from the bunch.
For a useful mental note: just because an egg is fertile doesn’t mean it will hatch. The egg’s survivability and proper development depend on the environmental parameters.
Leopard Gecko Egg Fertilization
The fertilization process takes place during copulation when the male’s sperm meets the female’s eggs. This happens inside the female’s body before the eggs can complete their growth.
Only after that will they develop their shell to protect the embryo that has already started forming.
Incubation of Leopard Gecko Eggs
Geckos require 3 primary resources, and you can control all of them:
- A proper amount of calcium – The calcium is necessary for the formation of the shell and the embryo. The eggs suck calcium from the gecko female’s body before even being laid out. This is why it’s important to feed your female a nutritious diet and ensure optimal nutrient supplementation, depending on the lizard’s needs.
- Temperature – The ideal incubation temperature sits between 85 and 90 F, which means that you need to move the eggs into a separate nursing enclosure. The temperature can fluctuate a bit, as the eggs are fairly resilient, but not by much and not too frequently. The eggs will die if the temperature jumps above 100 F or drops below 75 F for extended periods of time.
- Humidity – Aim for humidity values around 60-70%, which is the golden standard for leopard gecko eggs. You absolutely require a hygrometer in this case because drastic variations in humidity will lead to egg death. Excessive humidity causes bacterial, fungi, and mold growth, which can cover the egg’s pores and ‘suffocate’ the embryo. If the humidity is too low, the shell might crack, which, again, is a death sentence.
Most important of all: always separate the eggs from your leopard geckos. It’s not uncommon for leopard gecko females to eat their own eggs. Sometimes they eat infertile eggs to prevent them from dying and protect the fertile and healthy ones.
But there are times when females simply exhibit calcium deficiency due to the egg production and laying process. And the best way to replenish their calcium reserves is by consuming their own eggs. Including the fertile ones.
You don’t want to risk that, which means you need to move the eggs into a secure location with personalized environmental parameters.
Handling Leopard Gecko Eggs
This doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: the leopard gecko’s eggs are very frail and delicate.
You should handle them with extreme care because they can crack even under low mechanical pressure. Use a spoon to pick them up and transport them with care to their incubation setting.
More importantly, don’t disturb, touch, or grab the eggs until they hatch to prevent unwanted accidents.
Hatching Leopard Gecko Eggs
The hatching process is always a thrilling experience for all gecko breeders, no matter their experience. You can count the days to the hatching process, knowing that leopard gecko eggs incubate for approximately 45-65 days, depending on the environmental conditions.
As the hatching time comes, you might be able to detect the tiny hatchling moving and squirming inside the egg several days before the actual birth.
When the time comes, the hatchling will hit and push the egg’s shell with its snout to make an opening. Once that goal is achieved, the small lizard will then use its whole body to force itself through the opening.
This process can last between several hours and several days, as it’s naturally difficult for the baby gecko to escape its egg shelter. Don’t worry, though, this is good practice for the lizard because the prolonged efforts will strengthen its body, allowing it to emerge stronger and fitter.
You should refrain from assisting the tiny gecko during the hatching process because you’re likely to make things worse.
Your only assistance should come in the form of breaking the eggshell in the area where you see the baby lizard pushing. Other than that, just allow nature to follow its course.
Egg Laying Problems in Leopard Geckos
The egg-laying process may not always be as smooth as you’d like. In such cases, you may have to deal with egg-laying problems, some of which are fairly common for geckos.
Some of these include:
- Improper setup – The gecko female requires a proper environmental setup to lay its eggs. This includes a number of hiding spots, at least one nesting site, and the right substrate. If these are not present, the female will either refuse to lay the eggs or lay and eat them shortly after.
- Dystocia – This is a condition more commonly known as egg retention. In short, the female cannot lay eggs. The causes are multiple, including cloaca infection, the eggs being too large, the lizard being stressed, the lizard experiencing calcium deficiency, etc. Whatever the cause may be, you should discuss the issue with your vet; dystocia can turn deadly in its more severe forms.
- Infertile eggs – It’s not uncommon for some of the eggs to be infertile, but it is uncommon for all of them to be. This can occur for various reasons, including the male’s poor sperm count, improper mating conditions, and genetic problems experienced by the male, female, or both lizards.
- Difficulties producing the eggs – This problem is usually linked to poor calcium intake and Metabolic Bone Disease. If the gecko isn’t getting enough calcium from its diet, it may not even be able to form eggs. Eggs require a lot of calcium to form the shell. This is why gecko females tend to eat more when gravid and require a more calcium-dense diet compared to non-gravid geckos.
- Bacterial infections – Some geckos experience bacterial infections in their reproductive tract. Such problems can produce internal abscesses, which can prevent the female from eliminating the eggs altogether.
Fortunately, you can control some of these issues, like nutritional deficiencies, improper environmental parameters, and the male’s poor sperm count. Regarding the latter, you should simply look for another, more fertile male.
But it’s dystocia that’s the real reason for concern. This is a potentially deadly condition, so you should always speak to your vet, even if the situation doesn’t appear to justify that. It’s always better to have an expert’s opinion and guidance on your side.
Leopard geckos are fairly easy to breed in captivity, but this doesn’t mean that everything goes buttery-smooth in all cases.
You also play a role in your gecko’s reproductive process, as well as the eggs’ incubation time.
If you plan on breeding your geckos, provide them with the right diet and environmental conditions to achieve the best results.