As with any pet, there are many reasons why it’s helpful to know your crested gecko’s sex. However, with reptiles, determining whether they are male or female is a bit more complicated than knowing a dog or a cat’s sex! There are a few key indicators you’ll need to know how to look for when your gecko becomes a certain age. Additionally, knowing how to properly handle your gecko so they don’t get spooked (or worse, injured) is just as crucial.
Thankfully, this guide has everything you need to know when it comes to figuring out whether your crested gecko is male or female. I’ll also go over why you should sex your gecko as soon as they reach sexual maturity, how old they should be before you sex them, and other important details about the differences between male and female geckos.
Why Should You Know Your Crested Gecko’s Sex?
While it might not seem like it matters much whether your gecko is male or female, there are actually a few key reasons why it’s a good idea to figure it out as soon as you can. The most obvious reasons are breeding and cohabitation.
If you plan on breeding your gecko(s), you’ll definitely need to know whether they are male or female. Placing two male geckos together accidentally is not only a waste of your time but also potentially dangerous to both lizards! This is because males are often territorial and aggressive towards one another, both in the wild and in captivity.
Cohabitation presents similar issues. While a male crestie can easily be housed with another female or two, you should never put more than one male gecko in a single enclosure. Males tend to compete heavily over mates and other resources.
Female geckos, on the other hand, can be housed together or even in small groups with little to no issues, provided their enclosure has an additional 10 gallons of space for each additional gecko.
Female geckos will also lay eggs occasionally, even without the presence of a male! If your crestie does begin laying eggs, you’ll need to provide her with a private laying box full of moist substrate. Providing a bit of extra calcium and extra-nutritious food will also help make up for the huge amount of energy she’ll expend while laying.
Aside from these reasons, it can also be helpful for you to know if the name you’ve selected for your gecko makes sense based on their sex. Even though cresties don’t recognize their names in quite the same way dogs and cats do, choosing an appropriate name can help you bond with them.
When Can You Sex a Crested Gecko?
If you’re anxious to know your crested gecko’s sex, you’ll need to be a bit patient and wait until they are old enough to display certain traits. Generally, crested geckos reach sexual maturity at around 9 to 10 months of age. However, you’ll likely be able to determine if they are male or female by the time they are around 4 months old.
At about four months old, male and female cresties are much easier to differentiate. This is because they display slight sexual dimorphism, which becomes more prominent as they age.
Baby geckos are also very fragile and anxious, so you should hold off on handling them excessively in general until they are older and more substantial in size. Crested geckos in particular are strong jumpers, but the younger ones tend to miscalculate the distance needed to complete a jump. As a result, they often get nervous during handling. They can end up leaping out of your hands and injuring themselves if you don’t handle them with extreme care.
Method 1: Identify Hemipenal Bulges
If your crested gecko is at least four months old, the easiest way to tell their sex is to look for their hemipenal bulges. Male crested geckos have two penises that they keep stored in their cloaca until it’s time to mate. Their hemipenes give males a uniquely bubble-shaped bulge just below their vent, while females lack this bulge.
If your gecko is more tolerant of handling, you can simply hold your gecko above your head with a small flashlight or other light source and look at the base of their tail. Otherwise, you can just place the lizard in a clear-bottomed bowl or container and look underneath them.
If your gecko has a large, round bulge under their vent, they’re most likely male. If the base of their tail is smooth and flat, they’re most likely female!
Method 2: Identify Pre-Anal Pores
While identifying the presence of hemipenal bulges is the easiest way to tell a crested gecko’s sex, it isn’t the only method. There are other traits you can look to for additional confirmation of whether they are male or female, most notably the appearance of their pre-anal pores.
Male crested geckos have a small, horizontal line of barely-visible pores just above their vent between their legs. The pores look like tiny brown or tan dots, with one “dot” in the center of each individual scale. They use these pores to secrete a waxy substance full of pheromones to attract potential mates both in the wild and in captivity.
Your gecko’s pre-anal pores will likely begin to appear at around four months of age. However, they might not be clearly visible until they are a bit older, or around 9 to 10 months. If you’ve already determined whether or not they have a hemipenal bulge and you want extra confirmation, though, identifying the presence of pre-anal pores can be helpful.
Use the same method I mentioned above to look for your gecko’s pre-anal pores. If they tolerate handling well, then great! If not, just place them in a clear-bottomed container and grab a flashlight. The pores will be a lot harder to see than hemipenal bulges, but with a keen eye, you should still be able to spot them if your gecko is male. Using a magnifying glass or even a jeweler’s loupe will also help make them easier to see.
Alternatively, if you don’t notice any pre-anal pores or hemipenal bulges, then your crestie is almost definitely female.
Other Indicators of Sex
Hemipenal bulges and pre-anal pores are the main and most obvious differentiators between male and female crested geckos. However, these traits aren’t the only possible differences between these reptiles’ two sexes. Male crested geckos tend to be larger and heavier with slightly broader heads. Additionally, they usually have larger cloacal spurs, but females can have them, too.
Cloacal spurs are two small, pointed projections coming from either side of your gecko’s vent. It’s a common misconception within the reptile hobbyist community that only males have these spurs. While males generally have much larger and more prominent spurs, it’s fairly common for females to also have them.
These indicators can help you if you want additional confirmation of your crested gecko’s sex. Just be sure to use the first two methods I mentioned earlier first, as they are far more accurate, especially if your gecko is still younger than a year old or so.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sefa Kaya/Shutterstock.com
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