It can be nearly impossible to tell the difference between a male and a female leopard gecko unless you know what to look for. If you purchased your leopard gecko directly from a breeder, then they may have already told you what sex your gecko is.
Male and female leopard geckos incubate at different temperatures while in their eggs, but if you don't know the incubation temperature of your gecko, you'll have to look in the right place to know what sex they are. The underside of a leopard gecko holds the secrets to tell what sex they are, but to see if your gecko is a boy or a girl, you'll have to safely pick them up first.
Picking up Your Leopard Gecko
Sometimes the hardest part of sexing leopard geckos is simply in the handling of them. Geckos are known to "drop" their tails if they feel threatened or scared, and this is a definite risk if your leopard gecko is not accustomed to being picked up. Dropping a tail is when a gecko causes its tail to detach from its body, so to calm your gecko and avoid a dropped tail, approach them slowly in its enclosure.
Gently stroke your leopard gecko and slide your hand underneath them to scoop them up. Do not grab your gecko if they are not used to being picked up. Gently but firmly hold their body, not their tail. If your gecko struggles to get free, release your hold and allow them to walk out of your hands. If your gecko feels trapped, then they are more likely to drop their tail to aid in their escape. Once your gecko gets used to being held this way, you can peak between your fingers and look at their underside so that you can sex them.
Sexing Leopard Geckos
Juvenile leopard geckos, unlike adult leopard geckos, can be very difficult to sex. Typically, it gets easier as the leopard gecko gets older. It is recommended to wait until your leopard gecko is at least six months of age before sexing them.
The differences in the undersides of male and female leopard geckos are obvious 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 to identify what sex leopard gecko you have:
- Pre-anal pores: Male leopard geckos have a distinct V-shaped row of pre-anal pores in front of their vent. The vent is also called the cloaca and is the opening that the fecal matter comes out of. As a gecko matures, these round pores that look like dots become quite prominent and exude a waxy material. Females have a similar row of small pores, but they are not nearly as obvious. 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: Male leopard geckos 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 two 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 during breeding. Some people will gently push these hemipenes out 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 this in some leopard geckos that are not used to being handled, 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, since 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 way of identifying that you have a male.
Know the Sex Of Your Leopard Gecko
Aside from choosing an appropriate name for your lizard, it is important to know what sex you are caring for so that you can be better prepared for what may come. Females may lay eggs if given the right conditions, even if they are housed alone. 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, since they will most likely fight.
Gamble, T. A Review Of Sex Determining Mechanisms In Geckos (Gekkota: Squamata). Sexual Development, vol 4, no. 1-2, 2010, pp. 88-103. S. Karger AG, doi:10.1159/000289578
Leopard Gecko. Lehigh Valley Zoo, 2020