When you get your gecko, you might call them male or female without really knowing what they are. If you plan on adding more geckos to your space, you might want to tell if your gecko is really male or female—but how in the world do you do that?
Believe it or not, there are a few ways you can tell if you have a boy or girl scurrying around your terrarium. With some gentle respect, you can do a quick inspection and find out once and for all.
Begin With Careful Handling
Before you can check, you’ll have to make sure your gecko is relaxed and comfortable. Never stick your hand in the cage and grab them up unexpectedly.
To acclimate your gecko to handling, slowly place your hand to the bottom of the cage so they can familiarize themselves with your presence. Then, slowly encourage them to come onto your hand by corralling them with the other.
Once your gecko walks safely onto your hand, cradle them securely, but not too tight. Give them a few minutes to warm up to the situation before you start prodding around.
The 4 Ways to Tell a Gecko’s Sex
Now that you have your little one secured, it’s time to check things out. Especially if you plan to introduce a new cage mate or two, knowing the sex can prevent breeding—or aggression—since male pairs are known to spar.
1. Hemipenal Bulge
The vent lies on the underbelly at the base of the tail. When male geckos develop, they form what is called hemipenal bulges directly below the vent. They look like two small nodules directly beneath the skin.
Females never develop bulges in this area. So, if you see these two nubs, this is the easiest way to tell if you’re dealing with a boy or girl. Geckos usually sexually mature between 18 and 24 months.
If your gecko is this age or older, the hemipenal bulge should be fully apparent if you look closely enough. Absence thereof means you have a girl on your hands.
2. Preanal Pores
This is another surefire visible difference between the two. Even though males and females share preanal pores, a lady’s pores aren’t visible to the naked eye unless you really strain to see. Males are much more prominent and noticeable.
Preanal pores secrete a waxy substance containing pheromones that mark territory, telling other nearby geckos who’s in charge. These pheromones are also responsible for attracting potential mates, letting others know they’re looking for love.
If you look at the vent area above the slit, you might see tiny visible dots in an upside-down V formation. If you peek and spot this mark, you have a boy on your hands.
As your gecko ages, differences in the male and female will become fully apparent. However, it would be best if you didn’t rely on this method only because individual geckos mature at different speeds.
Leopard geckos sexually mature faster than a crested gecko. So, you might be able to tell by 3 to 4 months whether your Leopard Gecko is a boy or girl. With a crested gecko, you might have to wait until about 6 months before you can pinpoint the signs.
When your gecko reaches these ages, do your research about checking the specific species you have to avoid misidentifying.
4. Physical Differences
As with many other critters, male geckos are larger than females—in most cases. But before they’re fully grown, the physical traits aren’t too trustworthy.
On the back of your gecko’s hind legs, you might notice tiny spur-like protrusions. These are called cloacal spurs, which are on both sexes. If you set a male and female side by side, you can see that the males have much larger cloacal spurs than their female counterparts.
Similar to preanal pores, male geckos also sport what is called femoral pores. Instead of being on the underbelly, these pores are arranged in a line down the thighs. If you don’t notice anything, you might have a little lady.
But be very careful when relying on these physical traits. The other methods that we discussed are much more efficient ways to tell. Males can carry female attributes and vice versa.
When in Doubt, Ask a Professional
There are possibilities that you might not know exactly how old your gecko is when you purchase them. Because of that, you might be looking too early and won’t be able to spot the differences right away.
The only real way to tell for sure is to take your gecko to a professional, whether a breeder or a veterinarian. They will be able to look and tell you the sex of your little critter.
Not only is this the most educated way to find out if you have a male or female, but it is also the safest. You don’t run into the risk of harming or injuring your gecko. You also don’t risk them dropping their tail due to stress, which can wind up leading to infection and a slow healing process.
Even if your curiosity strikes, you might not need to know whether or not you have a male or female. You can name your male gecko Ms. Frizzle and your female gecko Dr. Spock and it would be no worse for the wear.
But if you’re asking because of potential breeding or thinking of adding a cage mate, you must discover exactly what you have. If you can’t tell by visual cues, don’t hesitate to ask your vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and you want to keep everyone in your terrarium as safe as possible.
Featured Image Credit: BANK lloyd LIGHT, Shutterstock