Crested & Gargoyle Gecko Breeding
The basics of breeding Rhacodactylus auriculatus & Correlophus ciliatus
This guide will describe in detail how we breed Crested & Gargoyle Geckos here at New England Herpetoculture. This article doesn't cover any of the basics of care (covered in our other article), and will only discuss the slightly more advanced husbandry topics. Having said that, these are both incredibly easy & rewarding species to breed in captivity, and are suitable for a "first time" hobbyist breeder. Even on a small scale, breeding a few Geckos yearly can help your hobby pay for itself.
We urge new potential breeders looking into sales avenues before jumping head-first into actively breeding Crested & Gargoyle Geckos. Common venues include reptile expos, hobbyist forums, and even other breeders. If you sell to a pet shop, please make sure they provide (and follow!) appropriate care information so your Geckos have the opportunity to live a long, healthy life.
Before continuing, be sure your Geckos are ready!
The female should be a minimum of 12 months old (older is better)
The male should be at least 10 months old (older is better)
Geckos should be eating a proper diet, to help ensure reproductive health
Females should weigh 40+ grams before introduction.
Females weighing under 40G should not be introduced to a male.
Males should weigh 30+ grams before introduction.
Paired Geckos should be of a similar size, and be outwardly healthy.
Temperatures should be kept between 74-79F during breeding season, with night time drops as low as 69F. We increase our automated misting to 2-3 cycles daily, at about 1 minute/ea cycle to keep relative humidity around 70-85%. This will encourage breeding behavior, and will help limit the risk of eggs drying out if they aren't found right away. We usually keep a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of male to female Geckos per enclosure. Breeding pairs are kept in 18X18X24 (or larger) vivariums. Using larger enclosures helps minimize the risks of Geckos losing tails during breeding. While it's nothing more than an aesthetic preference, we're very particular about making sure Geckos keep their tails for as long as possible. (Ideally forever!) If you are planning on breeding in groups, be sure to have a very large, very tall cage.
Introducing The Geckos
When a Gecko is first placed inside an enclosure housing it's future mate, try and put it in a place that's as far as possible from the other Gecko. That way, they can slowly approach each other when they are ready. During this time, do not reopen the enclosure or interfere with either animal. We usually introduce Geckos a few hours before the lights go out, when they are less active to give them the best chances of a "good introduction". Eventually they will approach each other and many will use body language, squeaks, and other noises to communicate during breeding season. The first few hours after the Geckos have been introduced can sometimes tell you a lot about how the interactions between them will go. Some individuals will mate shortly after introduction, but some may not mate for a day or two (or even longer!). If either Gecko seems overly-aggressive immediately after introduction, it's important to separate them to try again later. Overly aggressive behavior can result in injury, so it's usually better to be safe than sorry.
Pairing The Geckos
It is normal for both Crested & Gargoyle males to gently bite up and down the female's sides, neck, and tail before mating. It is also normal for them to vocalize during this time. Do not interfere unless either Gecko's wellbeing is in question. Mating can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Depending on the individual pair's interaction, the Geckos can either be separated immediately after copulation (if there are clear signs of aggression), left for a limited duration (usually a few days to ensure a successful pairing), or even left in as permanent companions if both Geckos are non-aggressive and appear to "get along". It's always important to carefully monitor each pair's interaction over the first few days to ensure a good pairing if you decide to leave them together for any period of time. Measure the risks of negative interaction against each individual animal's disposition, since each Gecko can act completely differently than another. Typical signs of aggression include bite marks, scratches, and of course missing tails. Geckos that are well-paired long-term often sleep next to each other, eat together, and more.
There is different egg handling advice, depending on the enclosure type being used. Below, we've got suggested options broken down by the most commonly used enclosure setups.
Egg Handling - Naturalistic Terrariums + Breeder Boxes
Unless your male & female pair is a long-term pair, we usually separate gravid females that are ready to lay from their male counterpart. The gravid female can be kept in her in a simple terrarium with either thinly spread fir bark/coconut fiber substrate, or paper towels as substrate to discourage the female from laying outside the lay box. A lay box should be provided containing a few inches of slightly moist coconut fiber & fir bark (a roughly 50/50 mix) to give the female gecko a safe & humid place to lay her eggs. Some people prefer to use sphagnum or peat moss as substrate, but we've personally had the best luck with coconut fiber & fir bark, or NEHERP V2 vivarium substrate. For the box itself, you can use anything from a simple tupperware container with a hole cut in the top, to a decorative reptile-specific lay box like a Zoo Med Repti Shelter. Either type works well, and is just a matter of personal preference. During breeding season we check the boxes for eggs daily, but keeping an eye on the female's size can help make this a quicker job. They usually noticeably lose a little belly weight after dropping eggs.
Egg Handling - Live Vivaria - Pulling Eggs
If your breeding female is housed in a live vivarium and you'd like to pull eggs for incubation, offering a "repti shelter" style decorative lay box can help. This way, things still look great, while making locating eggs easier than digging through the entire vivarium. The lay box should contain a few inches of slightly moist coconut fiber & fir bark (or NEHERP Vivarium Substrate) to give your female gecko a safe, humid place to lay her eggs. You can discourage the female from laying eggs outside the lay box by adding a screen mesh under a thin layer of your vivarium's substrate. This has saved us hours of labor when breeding Crested & Gargoyle Geckos by eliminating the need to search for eggs. Be sure that your automated misting system (if applicable) isn't spraying directly into the lay box, as if it's too wet the female won't deposit the eggs inside. (Or worse, the added moisture can kill otherwise viable eggs!)
Egg Laying - Live Vivaria - Natural Development
We have been experimenting with leaving the eggs to develop directly inside a vivarium since 2008. That effort eventually lead to the development of our NEHERP V2 Vivarium Substrate, which works very well for an in-vivarium egg incubation media. If you'd like to try breeding "hands off" by leaving the eggs to develop in-vivarium, we'd highly recommend using V2! Isopods & Springtails will help to maintain the eggs while they are in the substrate by eating any detritus near the developing egg. For this reason, natural egg development vivariums should be well seeded with a thriving microfauna population before proceeding. A thermostat & heat pad controlling the temperature inside the vivarium is also a good help (if ambient room temperature is cold enough to make it necessary), as the enclosure itself will be able to function as an incubator. Males should be housed in a separate enclosure when eggs are nearing hatch dates, to limit the risk of cannibalism. Once the eggs have hatched, the baby Geckos should be swiftly removed & placed into a grow-out enclosure.
Eggs & Incubation
Most gravid females will drop 2 eggs about once per month. Eggs should look white to milky white in color, and should be a smooth oval shape. Yellow & misformed eggs are usually infertile, but you can also candle an egg to check for fertility. This is done by shining a bright light (we use an LED flashlight) through the egg and looking for a red "bullseye" usually formed by a developing embryo. Either way, it never hurts to incubate the egg(s) just in case. When the eggs are first discovered, we recommend using a sharpie marker to dot the side facing upward before they are moved. This helps to ensure the egg will remain oriented correctly throughout the incubation period, and maximize the egg's chance of hatching.
We incubate at exactly 75F, but anything between 70-80 should work well, as these aren't super-temperature sensitive species. Our incubator is kept at just about 80% humidity. We use Repashy Superhatch exclusively for our Crested & Gargoyle Gecko incubation media. Once we switched to Superhatch, our hatch rate jumped just over 10% compared to using vermiculite. After hydrating the superhatch (as instructed on the bag), we fill 16oz deli cups about halfway up with the media, and carefully add the eggs. Each is then gently settled into the superhatch about 3/4 of the way up the egg's sides. We don't pop holes in the lids, but we do open them about once per week to keep the air from becoming too stagnant. Be careful using cheap-o poultry style incubators, as the mechanical thermostats are known to have wild fluctuations in temperature. We suggest using any incubator with a digital/electronic thermostat, and ideally one that's got a pulse-proportional thermostat (the Zoo Med Reptibator is a good example of this). Eggs usually begin hatching after 45-65 days, so be sure to check them daily after day number 40.
Newly hatched Geckos are sensitive and require more attention than their adult counterparts. Most keepers recommend keeping hatchlings in the incubator until they've had their first shed, which is critical. (Typically within 12-24 hours of hatching, provided there is enough humidity) Be sure the 1'st shed comes off completely before proceeding by providing plenty of humidity.
We keep our hatchlings in small & medium Herp Havens using paper towel substrate & simple decor until they are about 4 months old. Do not use loose substrate until the Gecko is 4-5 months old, to minimize the risk of impaction. The small home to start with keeps things easier to clean, makes the Repashy food for the Gecko easier to find, and doesn't allow for any "big falls" at a young age. We suggest keeping hatchlings separately from each other to avoid tail loss & co-habitant aggression. Cage furniture should be solid, easy to climb, and most importantly not something they can accidentally ingest! Once the gecko is over 4-5 months old, it can be moved into a larger terrarium or placed in a new home.
We feed our hatchlings every other day by placing a roughly dime to nickel-sized blob of Repashy Gecko food on an upside-down 1.5oz deli cup. This provides a hard-to-tip "table top" for the Gecko to eat from, while minimizing the chances of it stepping in it's food. If a hatchling Gecko gets food on it's feet, it's important you remove it right away. (Gently misting usually works great!) Otherwise once the food dries, it can damage the sensitive hatchling's skin. Other suitable food offering containers include washed milk or soda bottle caps, film canister lids, and just about anything similar. As the Gecko grows, we add more food until eventually the 1.5oz deli cup can be turned upright with food inside; the same way we feed our adult Geckos using the feeder ledges.
We mist our hatchling Geckos once lightly in the morning, and once generously at night. (Hitting all four sides of the habitat) They should be misted at least once every night to ensure shedding occurs without issue. Stuck shed on young Geckos can cause serious problems. If you notice some stuck shed (commonly around the legs & feet), generously mist the herp haven as well as the affected area on the gecko. With the habitat still moist, leave the Gecko overnight to encourage it to shed on it's own. If there is still stuck shed on the Gecko the next morning, it should now be easier to gently, carefully remove. To do this, we try to use our hands 1'st, with tweezers used extremely carefully as a 2'nd choice. This is an extremely delicate job to attempt, so if you are inexperienced, it's worth calling someone for a little assistance, since doing this incorrectly can do serious damage to a Gecko. They are tiny & fragile at this point, so be sure to handle with care.
Tips & Tricks
Crested & Gargoyle Geckos do not hatch out with adult coloration. They can take up to 8 months to color up fully, and even longer in some cases. If you are buying a young Gecko, it's important to trust your breeder's coloration information for what the Gecko will look like as an adult. (Looking at it's parents is usually a good indicator of what it could look like as an adult)
Mark the deli cups with lay dates & breeding pair info. It can be helpful when you'll want to estimate when your eggs will hatch.
The first clutch of every season has the worst chance of survival. Don't panic if it doesn't pan out as planned.
Some hatchling Geckos act like tiny little demons. They bite, squeak, and position themselves aggressively. No worries; they are absolutely harmless at this size, and usually grow out of the Napoleon complex within a few weeks. Do not over-handle them as day-old hatchlings with the excuse of "getting them used to people". They are scared and don't know you aren't a threat yet. Give them a few days of seeing you through the enclosure to get them used to you.
Females with no male can still lay (infertile) eggs. If this happens; consider purchasing a male. It is more difficult for a female to produce an infertile egg than a fertile one.
Check the calcium sacs of breeding Crested females (located at the back of her mouth) at least a couple times every season. If the sacs appear to shrink drastically, or look small to begin with, consider not breeding the female until the sacs appear healthy. This hinges on a proper diet, and using Repashy gecko food has always proven to keep our females healthy & happy.
Give hatchlings at least a few days to settle into life outside the egg before handling them.
Never house hatchlings with their parents long term; especially with adult males. The hatchlings can become food!
Avoid handling newly acquired or hatched Geckos until they've had at least a couple weeks to settle in to their new environment.
Be prepared! Have your incubation media, cups, incubator, and lay boxes all straightened away before you introduce your males & females.
Thanks for choosing NEHERP as your herp info & supply source! If you have any questions at all about the info in this article, don't hesitate to contact us. We're happy to help!