Leopard geckos of both sexes look very similar to the untrained eye, especially if you don't get a chance to pick them up and look at their undersides. If you purchased your leopard gecko directly from the breeder they may have already told you what sex your gecko is since the males and females incubate at different temperatures. But if you don't know, don't worry. Sexing leopard geckos is not difficult to do if you know what to look for and the same techniques can be used for many other species of geckos and other lizards.
Sometimes the hardest part in sexing leopard geckos is simply in the handling of them.
Sexing Leopard Geckos
Juvenile leopard geckos, unlike adult leopard geckos, can be very difficult to sex. Typically, you can sex leopard geckos at around three to four months of age if you have some experience in doing so and it gets easier as the leopard gecko gets older (sexing is usually easier after about six months of age). The differences between male and female leopard geckos are quite distinct if you are experienced in sexing leopard geckos or if you have geckos of each sex to compare side by side. There are a few key traits to find in order to identify whether you have a male or a female leopard gecko.
- Pre-Anal Pores - Male leopard geckos have a distinct v-shaped row of pre-anal pores in front of their vent (cloaca). As the gecko matures these pores become quite prominent and exude a waxy material. Females have a similar row of very small pores but they are not nearly as prominent. Some would say female pre-anal pores are barely noticeable and they do not exude the waxy substance that you'll find in male leopard geckos.
- Hemipenile Bulges - Males have two distinct bulges behind their vent on both sides of the base of the tail. This is where the hemipenes (male reproductive organs) are located. Hemipenes are basically penises that are housed inside the sides of the tail and pop out on either side of the vent like a sock folding inside out when breeding. Some people will gently pop these hemipenes out (like they would in a snake) to confirm that their leopard gecko is a male but when this is done you run the risk of hemipene prolapse or causing an injury to the hemipenes. It is also difficult to do in some leopard geckos that are not used to being handled a lot because they may drop their tail if they are uncomfortable or feel threatened when this is happening. It is best to not traumatize the hemipenes, or any part of your leopard gecko, to determine what sex you have. There are less invasive ways to find out what sex you have.
- Femoral Pores - Similarly to the pre-anal pores, femoral pores will only be obvious in a male leopard gecko. Males have these enlarged pores on the underside of their hind legs on their thighs. They are in a straight line on each thigh and are similar in appearance to the pre-anal pores. They will appear as a row of white dots. Femoral pores and pre-anal pores are obvious on adult male leopard geckos and are the easiest to see indicators that you have a male.
Why Does it Matter if You Have a Male or a Female Leopard Gecko?
Aside from choosing an appropriate name for your lizard, it is important to know what sex you are caring for so you can be better prepared for what may come. Females may lay eggs if given the right conditions, even if they are housed alone, and if you have a male leopard gecko you need to know that you can't get him another leopard gecko that is also a male as they will fight.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT