Breeding Leopard Geckos
Leopard Geckos are popular pets known for their docile nature and striking morphs, making them an excellent choice of companion for reptile enthusiasts. However, breeding these animals is not something to be taken lightly.
This page is not a guide on how to breed Leopard Geckos but instead serves as a resource on what being an ethical breeder entails.
The Harsh Reality
Successful breeding demands significant commitment, both in terms of time and financial resources. Prospective breeders must be prepared for potential setbacks and failures in their breeding attempts, as not every clutch may hatch successfully. Moreover, the responsibility of both soft and hard culling, or selectively removing certain offspring, may be necessary for the well-being of the breeding population or the individual. In essence, while keeping Leopard Geckos as pets is a rewarding experience, breeding them requires a dedicated and responsible approach that may not be suitable for everyone.
What makes a breeder ethical?
Breeding with Purpose
As of November 2023, there are 790 available Leopard Geckos on Morphmarket in Europe and 3064 in the US and Canada. With such a significant number of Leopard Geckos already in existence, any pairings made by ethical breeders must be meticulously planned and thought through. While this approach doesn't guarantee that all pairings will be successful, it does contribute to mitigating the oversaturation observed in the current market.
Prioritising Health and Vitality
Structural problems, unfriendly temperaments, and shedding issues unfortunately prevail in many Leopard Geckos, but they shouldn't be commonplace. Ethical breeders should strive for soft culling—removing animals with significant flaws from the gene pool to enhance the quality, health, and vitality of the captive-bred population of the species.
When necessary, we should also be willing to engage in hard culling (humanely euthanizing) hatchlings with deformities that pose a significant threat to quality of life. In species like Leopard Geckos, this decision will eventually be faced by every breeder who produces a sufficient number of offspring.
Breeders should not only aim to provide their breeding animals with sufficient space and enrichment, but they should also be aware of scientific advancements and studies in reptile husbandry. This knowledge is essential to make informed recommendations to buyers, ensuring that the animals produced enjoy the best possible quality of life. A comprehension and advocacy for practices such as the use of loose substrate, UVB lighting, larger enclosures, and overhead heating are good steps in this direction.
Meeting Market Needs
Morphs such as Normals, Hypos, plain Mack Snows, and low-quality tangerines are exceedingly prevalent, and frankly, the market is oversaturated with them. By producing these morphs, breeders are not only competing with chain pet stores but also with rescues. Ethical breeders should be mindful that the morphs they produce do not contribute to the existing saturation in the market and do not inadvertently compete with rescue efforts.
Understanding not only the basic husbandry requirements of Leopard Geckos but also delving into the intricate details of the specific lines and genes you plan to work with is of the utmost importance. Only when you grasp the inheritance patterns and comprehend how different lines and genes interact can you make truly informed breeding decisions. While experience and mentorship contribute significantly to this knowledge, there is a substantial amount to learn before embarking on the ethical pairing of geckos.
Becoming an Ethical Breeder
In my experience, the most crucial step is seeking mentorship. Finding a breeder whose ethics align with your own and who is willing to guide you and address your questions can be challenging. Typically, these mentorship opportunities arise naturally as you develop friendships within the breeding community.
It is advisable to have at least five years of experience owning Leopard Geckos before considering breeding. This duration allows you to accumulate substantial hands-on experience with the species, enabling you to offer informed advice to potential buyers.
Complete transparency regarding your methodology, husbandry, and testing efforts is crucial. Building trust with pet owners instead of concealing practices fosters an understanding about the reasons behind our methods. Openness also cultivates trust among fellow breeders, as it involves disclosing hidden hets and avoiding questionable business practices.
Project > Individuals
You'll probably need to acquire new geckos that align with your project goals rather than utilizing those you have kept as pets. Always prioritize choosing geckos that match your project, rather than adjusting the project to fit the geckos.
Opting to acquire your stock based not only on the lines and genetics they contribute to your projects but also on the practices of the breeder you are purchasing from will help mitigate potential disasters, such as undisclosed hets and biosecurity risks, in the future.
Testing your breeding geckos for undisclosed genes is a gradual yet indispensable process. Nobody wants to unexpectedly hatch an albino from a line that was not supposed to carry albino genes.
Proper quarantine procedure keeps your geckos, and the geckos of your buyers safe. It is one of the most important things on this list.