Leopard Gecko Egg Incubation
How To Incubate Leopard Gecko Eggs
Leopard Gecko Egg Incubation
The process of incubating your eggs is pretty straight forward. By now you should have read the Leopard Gecko Breeding Preparations page. If you haven't read that page yet, start there and read each of the supplied links below it on the Leopard Gecko Index page.
Your incubation tray can be any plastic container that is deep enough to hold substrate (Perlite) and your eggs, with room for hatchlings to move around when they hatch. Your container should not have air holes in it. You will be opening the egg container 2 times per week and this will create the air flow they need to sustain them. I try to limit my openings to once a week but I am a worrier and it happens twice. Not adding air holes will allow the eggs to be maintained at the perfect humidity level. There will be no evaporation and this will prevent your eggs from drying out.
You typically want to have your incubation trays already set and ready to accept eggs. I normally make my containers up when I begin pairing my males with their females. Eggs can come in as little as 2-4 weeks after a pairing and it is better to be prepared than having to rush around and get things in order after they lay their eggs.
WeighMax Postage Scale
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I use Perlite as my incubation medium and I use vermiculite inside my egg laying chambers. (An egg laying chamber is a moist hide that should be present in your leopard geckos enclosure at all times.) Some people prefer to use vermiculite as their medium and have had great success. That choice is up to the breeder.
I learned early on that a digital scare with tarring ability is ideal for getting the correct ratio of water and medium for the trays and have always owned one since then. At this current time I use a WeighMax postage scale. Most postage scales are very accurate within 0.2oz and come with a tare function. The tare function allows you to place your tray on the scale, hit the tare button and the scale is then zeroed out again. When you place your medium in you get just the weight of the medium without the weight of the container. I also use this scale to weigh my geckos and snakes with great accuracy.
I learned years ago to incubate the eggs in a Perlite to Water ratio of 1 part Perlite to .8 parts water, by weight. I have been using this formula ever since with great success. I fill my breeding containers around 2/3 of the way with Perlite, while the container was tarred out. This gives me the weight of the Perlite that I added. I then take a calculator (This is the simplest way to prevent human error) and I multiply the weight of the Perlite by .8.
Example: Perlite weighs 75 grams. I multiply 75 x .8, which gives me 60. This means that I need to add 60 grams of water. The easiest way to do this is to now take the weight of the Perlite and add the weight of the water.
Perlite = 75 grams, Water = 60 grams, Total Weight: 135 grams.
With the container still on the scale and reading 75, I begin spraying water over the top of the Perlite using a mist sprayer I use for spraying my crested gecko tanks. (I keep several species of reptile.) I try to get a nice even coat of moisture across the top. Add you add water, the scale is going to change its reading. Once the scale reaches 135 grams, I stop spraying and remove it from the scale. I now have a perfect 1:0.8 ratio of Perlite to water. It is that simple!
Make sure that whichever medium you choose, it is chemical free. Many stores carry these mediums and some of them are produced with growth enhancers (avoid all miracle-grow products), so make sure that you are buying pure perlite or vermiculite.
Placing The Eggs
I use my thumb and make a depression into the substrate to accept the egg. I like to make the first depression away from the side of the container to prevent condensation from running onto the egg and sitting there. I then take the eggs from the laying box and place them in the dimple I created, covering half the egg, with the mark I made on the egg facing upwards. You can then move the medium around to get a nice fit. I will leave about a 1/4 - 1/2 inch of space and will add the next egg, doing the same thing. I try to get as many eggs in a tray as I can. The number itself changes based on the trays I am using that year and which parents were bred. I use individual containers for breeding separation to keep the different morphs separated.
Once all of the eggs are in place I put the cover on, which also has no holes in it, and I add a note to the top of the container that shows the date the eggs were added and what parents were bred that created those eggs. This is part of my record keeping that I describe under the Grouping - Pairing Leopard Geckos section.
I then place the container inside the already warmed incubator and allow them to incubate. I open the containers at least once a week to check how they are doing and for air flow. I do find myself opening it twice when working with new projects because I worry. Once is all that is needed however and you should avoid opening it more than twice as you are releasing the ambient humidity that you are trying to preserve.
Placing The Eggs - Suspension Incubation
Suspension Incubation is an alternative form of egg incubation and is described here: Suspension Incubation
Transferring the eggs simply requires that you carefully place them between the rails with the line facing upwards. Since there is no substrate, there are no additional steps.
The temperature you incubate at determines the sex of the leopard geckos being produced. The sex of a leopard gecko is determined in the first 3 weeks of incubation. Females are easily produced when the incubator is set at a constant 79-82° for the first 3 weeks of incubation. (80° is perfect for producing females.) At these temperatures, you will yield primarily females. Following those 3 weeks, the incubation temperature can be raised to 88-90°.
Males are best produced at temperatures of 88-91°.
A mix of both males and females is best produced when the incubator is running at 83-87°.
The temperature in which you incubate at also plays a few other roles in the development of the embryo. Please read our Temperature Effects On Incubation page for more information.
Author: Richard Brooks