One of the hardest things a breeder does is to price their geckos. What criteria do you use when pricing or buying?
My thoughts-I think babies are really tough because there is so much potential with them but often not a lot of data for the customer to go on. They won't know the gender, often the color changes, the pattern changes, desirable traits like white walls often don't even start to show up until 10 grams or so... it can be a risky investment. There is an article a little further down about what you should expect to pay for a gecko, but I thought I would share some key things that I personally keep in mind when pricing my babies and when purchasing babies from other breeders. *This is from the viewpoint of purchases made by a collector or a breeder rather than a person who is looking for a single purchase of a pet gecko. Those purchases are usually based on budget and simply what appeals either emotionally or visually.
1. For a sale: What did I pay for the parents and what would they sell for today.
2. For a purchase or a sale: Is the bloodline rare or unusual in some way? Is the bloodline well documented?
3. Does the baby reflect the (desirable) look of the parent or is it likely to do so? For a purchase: If it doesn't, are the genetics enough for me to gamble on?
4. For a sale: Do I mind holding this one back and growing it up or putting it back into my breeding program if it doesn't sell? Also the very subjective: "How much will I cry if I sell this one?"
5. For a sale: am I holding a lot of this bloodline back already?
6. For a sale: Am I out of space? Do I have the time to care for what I have? Do I have a ton of hatchlings about to pop out of their shells?
7. Where am I selling? I have to think about the extra costs and headaches of shipping if I am selling online. Typically I offer one shipping fee for the convenience of my customers but often it does not actually cover my costs and definitely does not cover my time. I am trying to match national pricing when I sell online and try to keep up with the major classifieds sites to keep current with seasonal pricing. If I am selling regionally or at a small expo then I need to think about what my customers expectations are and also look at the competition. I might also need to recover the costs of the show (hotel, gas, table etc.).
8. When am I selling? Am I trying to sell when the market is glutted with babies? Are there gorgeous males for sale for a fraction of what people paid for them? Is everyone trying to save their pennies for Christmas? Timing can be everything when it comes to price.
9. What size gecko am I selling? This is a part of timing but more specific. If you are selling babies then your price is going to be lower because of the factors I outlined above. Also if you are selling babies when the market is glutted with them your price is going to be a lot lower. If you are selling older juveniles when everyone is selling babies, you might not be as affected by pricing because you are offering a different product. The same is true for adults. You might also find the opposite to be true. If the season has moved on and everyone is selling adults and juvies you might find that your babies (which are still cheaper than the adults and juvies) are suddenly very popular at a higher price than when the market was glutted. *A note on selling babies: do not sell them too young. Babies should be a minimum of a month old before they are shipped or go to a show. I prefer 2-3 months and over 3 grams unless you are selling to an experienced breeder or keeper and they are aware of the risks. For a show/expo, the older the better.
10. For a purchase or a sale: Will this gecko be worth at least 25% more as a juvenile and at least 33-50% more as an adult if I/the customer decide/s it doesn't fit with my/their needs?
This last one is something I try to keep in mind because you will pay for the food, care, housing, and medical expenses of the animal as you raise it. Hopefully you will keep it forever, but if your needs change or it is not the gender you were hoping for then you might be in a position where you need to put it up for sale. If that's the case you don't want to find yourself emotionally upset to be parting with the gecko and also taking a huge financial loss.
11. For older babies: Gender or probable gender if that can be determined. Usually it can't until at least 4-5 grams and only then if males show a definite line of pores. Girls who weren't showing pores have been known to suddenly develop them as late as 18-20 grams. Typically by 12-15 grams they have sorted themselves out though. Females are often considered more valuable because you can have several to one male in a breeding program. There is also the chance that you can house 2 or more females together and so save space. That can be problematic though and is by no means guaranteed success. Many geckos, females or males, are territorial and will try to dominate cage mates for food or space.
12. Color/Morph/Pattern This is a moving target. Many times certain looks are hot and in demand, but the next season they can be out. If you want to keep up with the trends then you are going to have to do a lot of market research and comparative pricing. If you want to be a cutting edge breeder then you are going to have jump on expensive breeding stock and try to stay ahead of everyone else, or create your own fashion. My personal preference is to go with what I enjoy looking at. I spend a lot of time looking at my geckos and I want to be excited when I open the baby boxes and see colors and patterns that make my heart go pitter-pat. Any gecko is a great gecko of course. They all have wonderful and unique personalities so it's hard to go wrong when choosing animals for your heart.
Many breeders refer to 'pores' when selling crested geckos or discussing gender. Pores are a black dot seen in the middle of a scale usually in a line between the back legs or girdle. If the gecko has a clear black line of pores it is a male. The pores usually show before the hemipenal bulge so they are considered to be a more accurate way of determining gender in a young creste than looking for a bulge alone. Once the crestie has 'dropped' the bulge then guesswork usually isn't necessary, but females have a small bulge so when in doubt checking for pores can help.
Close up of pores
Male bulge seen from the side
Egg in front of the LED light on a slide out lighted 30x loupe.
What does candling mean? Candling is a term held over from the days when people used candles for light. Farmers often held a chicken egg in front of a candle to see if it was fertile. Today an LED light provides a simple way to accomplish the same thing with gecko eggs. The pictures in this article are of various crested gecko eggs in front of a small LED light on a slide-out lighted 30x loupe.
This is an image of an infertile egg. The egg is thinner, oval and not as round as a fertile egg tends to be. It also has a thinner shell with less calcium. When candled all that can be seen is a clear yellow interior.
This is a fertile egg. Note the red round dark area in the lower center of the egg. It has a red dot in the center as well. This is called the cheerio and sometimes just appears to be a single red ring. This egg is mottled on the exterior and the calcification is not even- dark blotches are on the exterior and do not have anything to do with fertility.
This is the other side of the fertile egg above. The dark marks are again on the outside of the shell and you can see the darker area in the bottom center that is thinner than the surrounding shell. Despite the marks and uneven calcification this is still a healthy egg and will likely produce a healthy hatchling. You can't see the cheerio from this angle, so it is important to turn the egg so you see both sides when candling. Just remember which side was up in the nest box so you can incubate it that way.
This is a perfectly calcified white egg with a very healthy cheerio inside. The cheerio is usually slightly left of the 'top' side of the egg if you forget to mark your eggs before you turn them.
Are you a hobbyist trying to breed crested geckos for the first time? Maybe you didn't intend to be a breeder but your female suddenly produced fertile eggs?
I'm going to hit a couple of highlights about eggs here-but this article is not intended to be comprehensive regarding breeding or incubation. Feel free to post questions.
Are your eggs fertile?
Question: If you have raised your female since she was a baby and she has always lived alone but then you come home one day to find an egg in her cage, did a crested gecko Don Juan sneak into her cage?
Nope. Geckos lay infertile eggs just like chickens and other egg laying species. The females can start laying anytime after 25 grams and should be provided a nest box so that they can lay in there if they want to. Many won't lay infertile eggs in a nest box. They lay them on the substrate instead. But giving the gecko the option keeps her from holding on to the eggs and becoming egg bound.
Question: If your female is living with a male can she become gravid even if she isn't 40 grams yet?
Yes. You should separate males and females as soon as the males 'drop'. Many people recommend having them live separately from the time they show pores.
Question: My female may have lived with a male at the pet store/breeders/my friends house but I don't have a male and she has lived alone for the last 8 months. Could her eggs be fertile?
Yes. Females can retain sperm for a year. So even though she hasn't been with a male on your watch, she could still lay fertile eggs if she was bred previously.
Question: How do I know if the eggs are fertile?
Candle them. This term is a holdover from the days when candles were used for light, but today it simply means holding the egg in front of a light source in an otherwise dim room. The easiest light source to use is an LED pen light flashlight. Hold the egg in front of it and look for a red ring that can encompass 1/4-1/3 of the top of the egg. If the egg is yellow all the way through with no red spots, veining or ring then chances are it isn't fertile. But incubate it a week and check it again because sometimes it takes a little time to develop.
Hopefully you provided your female with a nice moist nest box and she did you the honor of laying her eggs in there. The first thing you want to do is use a felt tip pen (or a pencil but don't press too hard) and mark the top of the eggs as they were laid in the box. You can write the date and mother's name or initials on there if you want too. This won't work if the eggs are poorly calcified and the shell is bumpy so just put a dot on the top under those conditions.
I prefer to wash my eggs so I can candle them and see how the shell is doing. I just rinse them off with cool water and rub the dirt off lightly with my fingers to get them clean. They will be slippery so be careful.
After washing I place them in a container with a moist hatching medium. You can use deli cups, GEO's, craft containers or any container with a lid that won't let too much air in/moisture out. If I am placing the eggs right on the medium then I dig a shallow hole and nestle the eggs in so that they won't roll around. Place them with your marked side up. They can be side by side or in individual compartments. I haven't found that it matters. If your container is air-tight you might want to poke some very small holes in it or open it once a week for some circulation.
Your eggs might look different depending on the experience, diet and health of your female. They might also be affected by the medium in the lay box-coconut bark/eco earth is well known for staining.
If they come out white and then start turning brown though chances are they are going bad. It is still worth incubating since it can be hard to tell sometimes if an egg has truly gone bad-if it is growing then it still has a chance of hatching. In the picture above the eggs were collected in the same 2 week period. The eggs that are starting to sink and turn brown are going bad. The eggs with the brown speckling however are still viable. The eggs on the left that are dented and fuzzy were most likely infertile to begin with.
Denting is not always a sign of an egg going bad. It could be that your nest box was dry or that your female laid outside of the nest box. That type of denting is due to a lack of moisture and the egg is drying out. Wash the egg off and place it into a humid incubating box and it has a chance of recovery. If your incubating medium is too dry the same thing will happen. Add water but add it as far away from the eggs as possible.
Sometimes too much water can be just as harmful as too little and humidity changes can be an issue with viability. Try to keep your humidity level inside the incubator as steady as possible. Temperatures can vary a bit-cool at night with a natural steady rise during the day is fine and mimics natural conditions. But sudden temp spikes should be avoided and can kill a batch of eggs.
As the eggs develop they will change shape and size and possibly color. Some eggs get very dark grey right before hatching. Others simply swell and tip up at the ends. Most will sweat and cause condensation to form on the top of the deli cup or incubator as they get closer to hatching. Their initial composition affects how they will change over this time.
Eggs that were poorly calcified might swell early because they are absorbing a lot of water through the shell. This can delay the growth of the hatchling and cause a longer incubation time. A poorly calcified egg also tends to be more leathery and more difficult for the hatchling to get out of. Watch this type of egg closely in the 2 weeks before you expect it to hatch (hatching time is based on temperature for crested geckos) to make sure that the baby hasn't slit the egg. Once it does you may want to help it out, but that is an individual choice. A healthy egg and hatchling rarely need this kind of intervention so I don't personally intervene with normal eggs that don't hatch. However a hatchling might be perfectly healthy and still not be able to get out of and egg that is tough and leathery egg due to poor calcification.
Your incubation time will vary depending on your temperatures. Eggs can be incubated from 65-78 degrees. Most people stay in the 68-75 degree range. At the lower temps you might have as long as 130 days of incubation. At the top of the range you can have as few as 65 days. There is some evidence to suggest that staying over 80 days creates a better crest and tail structure. If your goal is to incubate for 75 days or longer your temps will need to be 75 degrees and under at the hottest part of the day.
Once your babies hatch they will need a small enclosure with hides and humidity so they can complete their first shed. Have a small Kritter Keeper or tall deli cup nearby with greenery and paper towels all ready to go. Beware though-the little hatchers are given one survival skill at birth. They are tricky. They hold very still to fool you into thinking they are dead. Then when you touch them they take off like rockets into the smallest, most awkward spot they can find. Best of luck with your hatchlings!
Someone recently suggested to me that pricing for crested geckos was a 'trick'. I can see where pricing (which can range from $30-1030) can be confusing. This is a business with a product. Like any business, different people are going to figure in different levels of overhead. When dealing with a private breeder some of the overhead includes medication, quality food and gut loaded insects, vet testing, quality and well known breeding stock with established breeding lines (so that you have some idea what they will look like and what they will produce), time spent waiting for that breeding stock to grow to healthy weights, and also to rotate them with seasons off in order to keep them healthy and not abuse them by overbreeding, large caging with plenty of greenery and other things to make their lives in captivity as pleasant as possible, time spent supporting customers and new breeders, time spent raising the babies so they are well-started and won't die on you and a warranty if the worst happens, less quantifiable time and money spent on education and shows to meet other breeders and experts within the field to improve husbandry and address issues in the community. The final product is typically priced based on color, pattern, and structure...but the other factors all go into that.
Sometimes you can find a 'puppy mill' deal at a pet store or in the local classifieds. If all you care about is the up-front price then I say go for it. But 'caveat emptor' or buyer beware. A sick animal can cost hundreds to treat, especially if the illness spreads to your other animals. I'm not knocking all pet stores, some of them buy from local and/or major breeders who care for their animals and offer interesting patterns/colors and even decent structure. Some of them care for their animals carefully within the store. They are usually educated about reptiles and make sure their staff is too-and they typically won't be the cheapest store on the block. So how much is 'normal'? $50-100 is normal for a chain pet store. Shows are $40-550. Privately you can pay more for stock that isn't generally available to the public or is cutting edge with regards to color/pattern.
I have seen geckos priced as high as $1600 and one particularly famous one for $35,000. Were those prices a 'trick'? If you are looking for a pet then animals at these prices aren't for you. They were specifically aimed at high-end breeders and collectors who were looking for rare animals and understood what they were paying for. As a pet owner, entry level collector, or start-up hobby breeder it is fair to expect your price range to be between $40-350 for good quality and healthy animals. Particularly if you are buying babies or juveniles. If you are looking for ready-to-breed (RTB) females you are going to be looking at a higher price. If you are looking for high-end animals that other breeders are competing to buy, you are looking at a higher price. If you want unusual patters or colors then the price will be higher. Set your expectations accordingly and do your research. If you see a gecko that looks just like the last one you saw, but at double the price, then ask (politely) what the difference might be. Perhaps the breeder knows the pair that the baby is coming from throws outstanding animals and that this one will change later or has genetics that makes it more valuable. If you don't care about all that, then the less expensive gecko might be a better bet for you. Decide which factors are most important to you and don't pay $300 for a high-end gecko if all you wanted was a healthy pet of any color/pattern. You will feel tricked because you are not paying for qualities that matter to you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a high-end animal for your breeding program or a special look for your collection, be prepared to pay for your choices.
This is a sterlite 50 qt modified into a love nest for 2. It is large enough for 3.
Breeders have different opinions about pairing crested geckos. Some leave them in 1:3 groups, others 1:2 and 1:1 and still others only leave the male in long enough to do his job and then separate them. My personal choice (and I am running 1.1 and 1.2's right now) is to have a 1.1. Tracking the genetics is important to me and I like to know who mom is. But with a 1.2 I like the fact that it saves space, also I think that it gives the girls some relief from the male. I leave in older males because they usually don't lose weight or cause their partners to either, but remove the younger males because they are more likely to get into a prolapse situation, drive the girls crazy, and keep them from laying on a regular schedule by wanting to mate every time the girl heads for the nest box. But if the girls get along then I leave them together. I have certain girls who can only live with a male and certain girls who can't live with anyone, so that makes a difference too.
Bottom line: You can breed in any of those combinations. But you have to make sure you have girls who won't fight each other, plenty of space, food and hides for each of the geckos, plenty of nest boxes. Overcrowding can cause excessive stress and fighting and will lead to illness. Then you need to be willing to live with "mystery moms" or else watch daily to see who is in the nest box. You particularly need to keep an eye the health of everyone in the box, the male to make sure he isn't losing too much weight, the females for the same reason, both to make sure that neither one is getting beat up too much (some wear and tear is normal, you might see missing crests particularly, but you shouldn't see bleeding cresties), and watch the females for egg binding and the males for prolapse. Group size depends on the personalities of the cresties involved and what you need in order to meet your space and breeding goals. Just remember: the health of the geckos should always come first.
A crested gecko cage specifically, and most of the nocturnal geckos we raise in general, should be at 90% humidity at least ONCE a day. It should not stay that high but fall to around 30-40%. So misting once is usually enough in most climates. This will vary depending on extremes in humidity. For example, winter in most areas of the US is dry outside, and particularly dry inside since we have the heater and fires running to keep us warm. Indoor humidity can fall as low as 18%. You may find that to keep your humidity at rainforest levels that you need to increase your misting to twice a day or even install an automated mister or fogger. If you are in a dry desert climate the same can apply all year round. Installing a moist hide and/or a large shallow water dish is also a good idea if your enclosure runs dry on a regular basis. Your gecko can choose the moist environment if it needs to shed or is uncomfortable. If you are in a humid climate during the summer months on the other hand, you may find that you need to increase the ventilation in your enclosures or decrease the amount you mist or both. A moist hide is still a good idea, but be careful it isn't staying too wet and promoting mold growth within the enclosure. You should not see mold on the surface or fungus gnats. These are signs that your enclosure is too wet. Food left overnight in the cage should not show signs of mold the following day either. This is another sign of a lot of moisture within the cage. The food should stay fresh for at least a day and a half with optimum humidity levels and the walls and plants will be dry by the start of the next misting period.