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Q: Incubator Substrate???
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Ok, here is my dilemma. I keep loosing eggs for no apparent reason. The temps are correct & humidity is correct. The eggs make it to about a week or so before projected hatch date and they go bad. 

Out of 5 Bearded Dragon clutches I have only had 1 egg successfully hatch. I currently have 8 Leopard Gecko eggs in the incubator (was 11 two days ago, the ones that went bad should have been hatching any day now).

I have been using the Scotts brand Vermiculite from LOWES. The bag says it is 100% pure Vermiculite. It is a very fine grade, like sand almost. I am using a Little Giant incubator (very much like a Hov-A-Bator) with an external temp control (ESU 1000).

With the Vermiculite particles being so small, could it keeping the eggs from "breathing" thus sufficating the embryos?

Can I switch the eggs that are in the incubator now over to Perilite? Or is it to risky?

Any help would be greatly appreciated, I am getting sick of not getting any babies.

Points: 150
Topics: Incubation , General Health , Knowledge Base
Tags: Eggs, Incubation, Incubator, Medium
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Member Comment 6/26/2009 1:02:35 PM

It is possible that you need a medium grade vermiculte. Maybe you could post pics of how you have the eggs in the incubator?

I think you could probably safely switch them over so long as you dont turn the eggs.

It is also possible that none of the eggs have been good.
Member Comment 6/26/2009 3:31:14 PM

Heat and Humidity (or bad eggs) ....
Post pics of the eggs and your setup.
Member Comment 6/26/2009 3:35:37 PM

Medium to coarse grade vermiculite may help them breathe better, but not being a lizard guy I'm not sure if that's actually your issue.  Moving them is not really a problem, just gently mark the top of each egg with an "X" in pencil and be sure not to rotate them about that axis (i.e. the "X" should always be facing up).
Member Comment 6/26/2009 3:40:40 PM

Did you ever candle the eggs?  I find this to be very helpful.

I also bought a bag of Vermiculite that seems a lot finer particles than what I've used before.  I was a little worried about that too, but I think it's alright.  I have several clutches in this fine stuff right now and so far so good.  I've been monioring them closely and keep the vermicuite moist.  I judge that purely by appearance.  But when I candle the eggs they look perfectly fine.

Are you sure the eggs were actually good up until that time? 

Also, are you careful to get the eggs into the incubator in the exact same position they were laid?  When you candle a new egg you wil see what is sometimes referred to as a "bull's eye" and this should be on top.  Occasionally, I've had Leo eggs that got turned, presumably by the mother lizard.  I've always set them in the incubator with the bull's eye up.  Fertile eggs will develop a very rosy pink glow after a week or two and start to develop obvious red vasculature inside.  Eggs that don't have the bull's eye also often glow a bright yellow when you candle them.  I usually take these and put them in a separate container in the incubator, because they are very likely infertile and I like to keep them separate.  Sometimes the infertile ones can sit there looking all round and white, just like good eggs, for a long time, with nothing growing inside.

One last thing.  Is the water that you put in good?  I usually use bottled water because I have a water softener and I worry that my house water might have too much salt from the softener.  That's just my own idea, just something I usually do just in case.
Member Comment 6/26/2009 5:53:15 PM

Also to add to what everyone else has said, is your incubator temp staying steady? I had an issue with an older temp control fluctuating like once or twice and that killed my colubrid clutches. Might have to monitor the temps for a bit and see if there may be an issue there. I know a guy who incubated his beardie eggs on sand so I don't think fine vermiculite is the issue unless there was some kind of chemical involved.
Member Comment 6/26/2009 7:33:49 PM

Heart and Soul Reps
Are you opening the incubator everyday in those last two weeks? The eggs do need more air to "breath" in that time.. atleast  in snake eggs.. not sure about lizards. Good Luck!
Accepted Answer 6/29/2009 12:35:57 AM

Pat, if I can say ALOT in a few words........buy a product called HATCH RITE. It goes for around $17 shipped for a 2 lb bag on Kingsnake.com and your hatch rate is guaranteed to be high. No mixing water problems, etc. Trust me, I have had your same identical problems back when I started, and this product saves me headaches. Hope it works for you.
Author Comment 6/29/2009 4:31:17 PM

Sorry for not getting back to this question sooner. I have been a little out of pocket this weekend (working my buddies pet store & going to the OKC Reptile Show). 

I have been putting the eggs in deli cups with lids, 1 - 1.5 inch vermiculite mixed 2 to 1 with water. The thermostat is set at just below 90 for the beardies & just below 95 for the leos. Set up this way the inside temps of the cups are 85 & 90. I check the humidity level everyday and mist the vermiculite every other day. I also keep a cup of water in the incubator at all times.

I talked to several people at the OKC show this weekend and for the most part they all said that the fine grain vermiculite is not allowing proper moisture/air transfer and the eggs are drying out. 

And no one at the show had any med/large grain vermiculite, perilite or Hatch-Rite.

Thanks everyone for your input & suggestions.

Pat Higdon 

Author Comment 6/29/2009 4:33:22 PM

Oh, and about 80% of the eggs that have gone bad, had partially developed embryos in them.
Member Comment 6/29/2009 5:23:28 PM

Pat, here is where I saw it............. http://market.kingsnake.com/detail.php?cat=68&de=576020
Author Comment 6/29/2009 5:59:19 PM

Thanks, gonna order some tomorrow!!
Member Comment 7/1/2009 11:37:23 AM

You said that you had the eggs in deli cups with lids right? Are there any air holes? And if not do you open them once a week for air? I had this problem with my crested eggs, I had put them in a container with no air holes, and the week before they were supposed to  hatch, they suffocated.  And I was airing them once a week. :0(  And with the leopards eggs, are they burried all the way or half way? I don't have any leopards, but I heard they're almost the same as cresteds, and I know a few ppl who had hatching problems with them burried all the way. Just a few suggestions!!! I hope your luck gets better with your eggs!!!
Author Comment 7/1/2009 12:41:53 PM

All of the deli cups have air holes in them. The eggs are half burried. The eggs seem to stay firm to the touch and in the last week to a few days before the projected hatch date, they start molding and start oozing puse. When I slit the bad eggs open, I find dead partially or fully developed  babies.

As of today I have 2 Leo eggs that have gone 2 days past the projected hatch date and they stil look fine. I believe all my lizards are done laying eggs for the time being so maybe I can revamp my incubator setup.

Thanks everyone for you input and advice!!

Pat Higdon
Member Comment 7/1/2009 1:25:45 PM

The only thing I can think of is the temps in the incubator getting too high or too low? Man that's crazy! I'm so sorry your having this trouble :0( I hope the eggs you have left make it and are ok. Good luck!
Assisted Answer 7/1/2009 3:46:35 PM

Heart and Soul Reps
I agree with the hatchrite. I use it exclusively. But another helpfull hint.. I have heard that a Mixture of Perlite and Vermiculite seems to work well too. I've been told a 2:1 ratio is the best. i.e. 2 cups of Vermiculite for every 1 cup of Perlite. 
But hatchrite is the easiest solution, it comes in a resealable bag, but I always re-bag it in a gallon ziplock bag Over the original bag, just in case :)
Author Comment 7/6/2009 4:25:29 PM

Well, 3 more leo eggs have gone bad. I held my nose and cut the eggs and 2 were Bell Albinos & 1 was a CoDom Snow het Bell Albino. I am still not sure whats going wrong. As soon as all my other eggs hatch or go bad I am gonna revamp my whole incubator setup. Probably just gonna buy a real HovaBator and get it over with.
Member Comment 7/6/2009 5:47:40 PM

Man, sorry to hear that! What a bummer with those Bell Albinos. The Hatch Rite should work like a charm. Try that when you revamp, and you won't regret it!
Assisted Answer 7/18/2009 3:11:12 PM

I personally use perlite and I have ben using it on crested geckos, and in the past with beardies with no problem, only non hatched eggs I get are from the crested geckos, but they are first season breeders and they tend to lay alot of infertiles theyr first few clutches. But I would considering cooling the temps down, beardie egg incubation temps need to only be around 85-88 and the same with leos, I think your temps are a bit to high for the eggs.
Member Comment 7/18/2009 3:17:48 PM

I just bought some Perlite at Home Depot, and when you open it, pour it side-by-side on a table, I noticed it's the same as HATCH-RITE. Therefore,I will be buying Perlite from Miracle grow from this day forward.
Member Comment 7/18/2009 3:46:46 PM

I use Scott's brand perlite
Author Comment 7/20/2009 12:24:58 PM

I already got my Hatch-Rite, so I'll give it a shot. I did notice that it resembles Perilite quite a bit.
Member Comment 1/17/2011 6:33:46 AM


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Member Comment 5/13/2012 3:56:23 AM

Be careful that the peralite from MiracleGrow doesn't have plant food added to it! I have been unable to find plain peralite for two years.
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