With conspicuous red eyes, yellow or orange lines adorning their black body, and white stripes accentuating their black tails, Chinese cave geckos are an absolutely stunning gecko. It’s no wonder they’re becoming more popular in the hobby. Fortunately, breeding Chinese cave geckos is not too difficult provided proper husbandry, and we’ll take you through the process so that you can produce your own beautiful hatchlings!
Before breeding your cave geckos, you’ll need to make sure you’re working with healthy animals. Proper care is essential for the successful breeding of any species; not only is producing and laying eggs a toll on a female and her resources, but the geckos may not even attempt to breed given poor conditions or health. We have a care sheet at Josh’s Frogs that you can use as a reference, and we always encourage you to perform thorough research using books and online resources to supplement your knowledge of the husbandry of any species. Before pairing any of your animals, they should look well fed. Thick, robust tails in cave geckos are a telltale sign of good health.
A cooling period (brumation) is recommended to incite breeding in this species, but it may not be absolutely necessary for breeding to occur. If you decide not to brumate your geckos, then a 3-4 month break should still be offered to your breeding animals. This will allow your females to rest and recuperate before the next breeding season. Otherwise, feel free to skip to the next section!
Should you choose to brumate your Chinese cave geckos, the cooling period should similarly last around 3-4 months, from around October to January, during which your cave geckos can be kept at around 10-15 degrees (F) cooler than their normal ambient temperature. Make absolutely sure that your geckos are healthy, well fed, and at least one year old; cooling sick or gaunt geckos can be fatal. Avoid exposing your geckos to an immediate drop in temperature, as it’s always better to gradually introduce them to cooler temperatures.
During brumation, you will probably notice a decrease or complete cessation in your geckos’ appetites, and they may appear lethargic compared to their usual movements. This is completely normal, and you may offer fewer feeder insects as a result. Avoid offering chitinous insects such as mealworms, since their capacity to digest food well will diminish with lower temperatures. Offering slower prey or providing them in a food dish from which they can’t escape is also recommended. More importantly, you must keep your geckos well hydrated during this period. Mist your geckos and their enclosure regularly, and provide them with a water dish that always has fresh water.
Be sure to monitor your brumating geckos while disturbing them as little as possible. Never handle them outside of necessary care and monitoring. Weighing your Chinese cave geckos right before brumation and then once every two or three weeks is a good strategy. This will allow you to have a concrete evaluation of their health. As a rule of thumb, any geckos losing more than 10% of their original weight should be gradually introduced back to warmer temperatures and then returned to their normal care regime. Continued cooling of animals that are not faring well during brumation can cause further detriment to their health. At the end of the brumation period, give your animals a week to warm up to their usual temperatures and return to their regular care, and then pair them up for breeding!
Whether or not you decide to cool your cave gecks, you’ll of course want to make sure that you have at least one male and one female! Sexing mature cave geckos is not difficult at all: males will exhibit a conspicuous bulge at the base of their tail, whereas females will not. You can pair a male with one to three females with no issues, just be sure to provide them with adequate space and food. No more than one male should ever be housed together to avoid aggressive behavior. Not only can this be injurious to your males, but they might end up too busy establishing dominance to breed at all!
A female Chinese cave gecko to the left, and male Chinese cave gecko to the right. Notice the obvious bulges at the base of the male’s tail.
After initially pairing your animals, it will be a few weeks before you’ll spot a gravid female--that is, a female with developing eggs. In the meantime, continue providing regular care, making sure that your animals are regularly fed and hydrated well--appropriate care and conditions are keys for any successful breeding attempts. While waiting for your first eggs of the season, it’s best to leave your geckos alone outside of regular maintenance and checkups. Handling your breeding animals unnecessarily may cause undue stress, which you’ll want to avoid as much as you can, especially on females who will already be expending a large amount of energy and resources towards their eggs.
After a few weeks, you may notice one of your females looking engorged. If you look closely at her sides, you might even see the white of the eggshell through their semi-translucent skin--congratulations, that’s a good sign that she is gravid and is developing eggs! It’ll continue to be important to leave your females alone and continue providing them plenty of food and water.
A gravid female Chinese cave gecko. Looking closely, you can see the white of the eggshell through the gecko’s skin.
Be sure you’ve provided a good substrate for layin. Chinese cave geckos are not picky, and something as simple as coco fiber works well. A laybox may be placed in the enclosure but is not necessary--they will just as likely lay directly in the enclosure’s substrate. The female will know best where to place her eggs, and it’s a good idea to provide a moisture gradient in your substrate: keep all of the substrate too wet, and you may find your eggs moldy or drowned before you can get to them; keep it too dry, and your eggs might quickly dry out. Spraying one half of the substrate heavily and the other side lightly will help ensure that your female has a nice choice of egg laying placement, so even if you don’t find them right away, they’ll be in acceptable temporary conditions.
After your geckos have been together for a few weeks, continue checking the substrate every other day or so for eggs. You can also keep an eye on your gravid female and wait until she becomes noticeably slimmer. Either way, when you search the substrate, make sure you gently comb through it with your fingers. Be patient and careful--you don’t want to accidentally destroy the eggs while looking for them. Carefully move any cage items as necessary, as it’s not uncommon for geckos to lay their eggs under bark, dishes, or any other objects. During the breeding season, females will lay a pair of eggs every 30 to 45 days. Providing a small cup of powdered calcium or ground-up cuttlebone is a good way to ensure that your females have an extra source of calcium for their eggs should they need it.
Two beautiful Chinese cave gecko eggs unearthed from the substrate!
Once you locate new eggs, take care to move them as little as possible from their original orientation. It’s recommended that you remove the egg and incubate it so that it remains in consistent, ideal conditions, thereby strongly increasing your chances of a successful hatching. An incubation container can be as simple as a standard 8- or 16-ounce cup that has some airflow (simply poke several holes in the side of the container with a pushpin).
Fill the container with an inch or two of a substrate that retains moisture well but doesn’t mold easily. Standard incubation substrates like vermiculite or perlite work well. The egg will draw water from the substrate and ambient humidity, but you need to be careful--leaving the eggs in a substrate too wet or too dry can be detrimental. Use an incubation substrate to water mass ratio between 1:1 to 1:1.5 (e.g. if you use 100 grams of vermiculite, mix it with 100 to 150 grams of dechlorinated water).
If you want to avoid this step, you can also simply use a THG egg incubation tray. That way, you can saturate the substrate with as much water as you want since the eggs will be securely placed on the tray and have no direct contact with the substrate. Otherwise, once your incubation container is ready, gently remove the eggs from the enclosure and nestle them onto the incubation substrate.
The Chinese cave gecko eggs set up in a simple incubation container, minus the lid.
Moisture is only one key to successfully incubating eggs; temperature is the other. We recommend incubating Chinese cave gecko eggs at a range of 78-80F. They will tolerate fluctuations outside of this range, but it is ideal to keep the eggs at a stable temperature range. During the incubation period, keep an eye on your eggs. Eggs that appear severely discolored, moldy, or indented should be removed or at least placed in a separate incubation container to avoid contaminating other eggs.
If you notice the incubation substrate has dried or the egg is starting to indent slightly, add a few drops of dechlorinated water to the substrate around the eggs. Never add water directly on top of the eggs, as this will weaken the eggshell. If you want to maintain a consistent ratio of incubation substrate to water, you can weigh your egg incubation container with the eggs and substrate and add water accordingly. For example, if your egg incubation setup weighs 100 grams at setup, and you weigh it a couple weeks later at 98 grams, add a couple of grams of water to the substrate around the eggs.
If you incubate your Chinese cave gecko eggs at 78-80F, you should expect hatchlings in about 60 days or so. Lower incubation temperatures will result in a longer incubation period. Hatchlings will look like miniature adults, and their care is not much different to that of their parents, so long as they are offered a smaller enclosure and appropriately sized insects. Happy breeding!
Above: Take proper care of your breeding adults, and you will be rewarded with some gorgeous hatchlings, like this one produced at Josh’s Frogs!
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