Since I’ve been a little boy I’ve been fascinated by reptiles. When I was a kid I chased lizards, just like any other kid, but I took it a step further. Since that time I evolved into a gecko breeder keeping up to 150 geckos at a time ranging in price from $20 to $600. A normal gecko collection for most, but this was all before I was 18 years old.
When I was 10 years old I was helping my neighbor move a stack of firewood. In the middle of the stack I found a clutch of five lined skink eggs. I packed them in rotting wood and placed them in my garage for incubation. A few months later I had baby skinks running all over and I strategically placed them around my house where I thought they’d grow best.
How It All Began
When I was only about 12 I started spending Saturday mornings reading care sheets instead of watching cartoons. How exciting, leopard geckos are temperature sexed? That’s how you make a super hypo? The weird part of all of that is that I never imagined actually owning a gecko, I mostly just enjoyed learning about them.
After a visit to a pet store one day I acquired a larval tiger salamander. Over the span of a year and a half my collection of amphibians grew as I read and learned more about herps in general. One day I found a pet store pretty close to my house where I eventually got a job. Here I spoke to the owner about leopard geckos and asked if he ever got any in. He had one in stock for me the next week.
After getting a job just past the ripe old age of 15 I became the resident gecko expert. I had the opportunity to work at a reptile show with the pet store in Florida one weekend. I took some money out of the bank and headed for the expo! My parents were surprised, to say the least, when I returned with 13 new geckos. My mom asked what I’d do and I promptly replied “breed them, of course”.
What I Learned
Of course everyone likes hearing about my life, right? Well, I wanted to take what I learned from this experience and hopefully help others who are considering owning geckos for more than just a hobby at a young age.
The Biggest Challenge
What do you think the biggest challenge would be for a teenage gecko breeder? Finances? Room for a gecko collection? Surely not free time. My biggest challenge was gaining a reputation in the field. The gecko breeders I knew and still know to this day (Golden Gate Geckos, Bright Albino, HISSS, and so on) took me in like one of their own, and treated me like their peer. However, attending reptile shows and on forums many people talked down to me. Of course, who would trust a teen? Even more important, who would let a teen correct them in a public place? Fighting my age was a great lesson for my future business ventures, however. I wouldn’t take that back for anything.
Greatest Lessons I Learned
Here are some lessons I learned and why I’d recommend to any teen to consider breeding geckos:
- Understanding of Finances: While keeping geckos I had to manage my money wisely. Not only did having the income from my gecko business help me become more financially independent at a young age, it also helped me learn when to spend money and when to hold on to savings.
- Dealing with People: In business you meet life long friends and quickly learn how to identify the difficult ones. This was a powerful lesson for me to learn at a young age and I still use those talents and will for the rest of my life.
- Managing my time: Being a teen is the perfect time to get involved in something. I think you have more free time at this stage in your life than any time until retirement. However, I had to make sure I carried through on responsibilities such as cleaning and feeding. This was one of my challenges and times got really tough during big breeding seasons when I was alone in all the work I had to do.
- How to Negotiate: The first couple of times I sold geckos or bought them at a reptile show I was intimidated about negotiating the price. However, it’s a fact of life that happens in all marketplaces. I think I’m still perfecting this skill but breeding and selling geckos helped for sure.
In Closing: Do It
Consider your circumstances before you jump head first into a gecko collection. It was difficult for me to sell my collection before I left for college and I wouldn’t recommend getting many geckos if you plan on going to school soon or moving a long distance. Understand that your parents aren’t going to care for these critters for you.
However, take time to research, ask questions, and take the initiative to start in the gecko business if you have a passion for it. As always, I’m here to answer any questions and help in any way I can.