This month, Gecko Time spoke to Aliza Arzt of Geckcessories. Aliza is a small scale breeder who also happens to be one of the editors of this publication.
Who is Geckcessories and what is your mission or goals? (Give us a little history)
I have been a leopard gecko owner since 2003. In 2004 I took a ceramics course and began making leopard gecko hides, dishes and designs which I call “gecko accessories” or “Geckcessories”. My first project was a gecko hide that is roughly shaped like a gecko body, sort of a half cylinder with a tail along the side. Over the years, these hides have gotten bigger and bumpy like real gecko skin. I also make round food bowls with a gecko head coming out one side and a tail from the other, and square trays to put in the geckos’ poop corner that say “poops” inside.
My mission is to create high quality and affordable geckos and “geckcessories” without exceeding my money, space and time resources.
How did you get started in Breeding and how long have you been doing it?
As a teenager I wanted to breed parakeets for color but never had the space or the time. When I discovered leopard geckos I considered them to be the “parakeets of the reptile world” in terms of morph possibilities. I got excited reading in different gecko forums about everyone else’s breeding experience, and after a year and a half of gecko ownership I decided to try it for myself in 2005. I’ve just completed my 5th successful season which has been my most successful one yet.
Who, if anyone, would you say is your mentor for getting started breeding reptiles?
I don’t have a specific mentor. I’d have to say that a number of gecko forums, some of which are no longer in existence, were my collective mentors. For at least a year before I attempted breeding, I would copy and paste anything that seemed to be applicable into a document so I could have it all at my fingertips. If there’s something I’m not sure about I research it online or post a question in one of the forums. Of course, I have to be careful to evaluate the answers I receive.
What types of projects or products are you planning for the future?
As I said before, I’m limited by space, so I can’t grow indiscriminately. I will be breeding an enigma for the first time next season which I’m excited about and also making Tremper albino snows for the first time. This past season I produced some other species –African fat tails and SW banded geckos (Coleonyx) and I’m looking forward to continuing with them. Although I have no plans to focus on selling projects, I do collect lightly used items and put together gecko 10- and 20 gallon set-ups. I feel that if I expect people to have appropriate set-ups for their geckos, I should provide them. I also breed mealworms and keep several people in my neighborhood who have bought geckos from me supplied at a very good price.
Do you think you have a particular niche in this market? If so what do you think that is?
I’m committed to producing nice looking geckos, but also to making sure they are affordable. Because of this, I deliberately don’t breed very high end geckos because I don’t want to have to sell them at high prices. Most of my sales are local, so I’m available to my buyers even after the sale is completed. Recently someone called me with a question about a gecko they’d bought from me 2 years ago. Also, with my expansion into other species, I’m able to provide some easy to care for, more unusual animals to people who normally may not have access to them.
Would you consider yourself a small, medium, or large breeder? What size would you like to grow to?
I am definitely a small breeder, with a maximum of 3.7 breeding leopard geckos, 1.2 fat tails and 1.2 Coleonyx. This past season I produced a record, for me, of 75 leopard geckos, 4 fat tails and 12 (and counting) coleonyx. I’m still evaluating whether or not I’ll need to cut back next season based on how successful I am at selling this season’s offspring. I have found that the breeding year has a certain rhythm to it. During the first half, or so, of the calendar year I’m focused on producing geckos and increasing my inventory. During the second half of the year I’m very focused on selling geckos and decreasing my inventory. I find that the same excitement exists for each part of the year. Right now I’m in the selling phase and I make sure to mention the geckos to everyone I encounter because you never know who may be interested in buying. I’m a home care speech therapist, so my patients get to hear a lot about my “lizards”.
What is your favorite morph?
I’m particularly into stripes and speckles, though that’s not really a morph. I didn’t get as many stripes as expected this season, mostly because I separated my male and female stripes, but I’m putting them back together next season and am hoping for some nice speckling with my enigma breeding.
Where do you see Geckcessories headed in the future?
I’d be happy just to keep producing nice geckos and being able to sell them. My nightmare is to have a house full of juvies getting older and older, but I don’t think about that much and just have faith that they will sell. As you may know, I’ve been helping to edit the Gecko Time online magazine for the past 6 months and have gotten much more excited about writing about geckos and encouraging others to do it as well. I feel strongly that any writing that appears in public should be grammatical and spelled correctly. I’ve had the opportunity to edit all sorts of reptile-related documents of different lengths for people, including helping non-native English speakers produce documents that read well in English.
Do you attend any reptile shows? If so, which ones?
I love reptile shows, but I’m limited because I don’t do any business on Saturdays. I have been vending at small, local shows –the Maine Herp society show in August and the NE Herp society show in October. After many years of Saturday only shows, the Manchester (New Hampshire) Reptile Expo will be on a Sunday next April and I just signed up. That will probably be the biggest show where I’ve sold geckos.
What advice to you have for people interested in breeding geckos?
Think very carefully about the consequences of what you’re planning –your life situation, space, time and money resources. It’s very hard to say no to something you really want to do, but sometimes it is not the best idea. If you feel it’s still the right thing to do, read as much as you can and be sure you have at least a year of experience caring for geckos before breeding.
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Where would be with without our wonderful editor? Great interview :).