About Anthony Caponetto Reptiles, Inc.
This page is here to tell about how I got started, what my business is all about, and the basics of what we do here.
Thanks for taking an interest, and be sure to get in touch if there's anything we can do for you!
The History of ACR
Like most anyone who does this for a living, I have been catching and keeping reptiles for most of my life. I caught every frog, toad and snake I could get my hands on from as early as I can remember (pre-school age). Keeping reptiles at home started with a couple green anoles that I got as a birthday present at the age of seven, followed shortly after by a house gecko. I had a pretty decent little collection of fish tanks and some native Missouri frogs as a kid, which were kept in various aquariums and terrariums in the basement.
I finally got the OK to have a couple snakes by 8th grade, and I had raised up a fairly big Burmese python from a hatchling by my senior year of high school, which is when the idea of doing this for a living really took hold. In 1998, about 18 months after graduating high school, I was forced to sell off the few reptiles I had. I was going to college, working full-time and still living at home...and no matter how good my pitch, I couldn't get the OK to start a reptile business being started in the basement. In 2001, maybe a year after I moved out of my parents house, I began putting together my existing reptile collection. I started with pythons and I made up for lost time by putting together a legitimate collection rather quickly. It wasn't very long before the idea of doing this for a living started swirling around in my head again. It just didn't sound like a very doable idea, at least not quite yet.
I got my first crested geckos in late 2002, after reading an article about them. I started buying quite a few geckos and finally began breeding them in 2003. My first crested hatched January 4, 2004. By then, I had absolutely fallen in love with crested geckos for a variety of reasons. Being a graphic artist and website designer by trade (at the time), I quickly became obsessed with producing designer crested geckos, an idea that almost no one had really given much thought, but something I saw as inevitable. Having seen it happen in many other species, I saw this as something that was bound to happen. Someone just needed to put in the work to develop these geckos and then put them on the market, so I decided that's what I was going to do.
In October of 2004, after leaving Gateway, Inc. (the big-name computer company I had spent 5 years working for), and having seen how quickly the popularity of crested geckos was growing, I made the decision to breed reptiles full-time, and to focus on designer crested geckos.
Needless to say, none of my friends or family really understood what I had envisioned, not to mention actually thought it was a good idea. That was OK, though - they didn't know the crested gecko like I did, not to mention the designer reptile market and genetics. Today, we maintain and breed the largest collection of crested geckos in the world (to my knowledge) and our geckos are sold all over the world.
In addition to breeding tons of crested geckos, and our cutting edge ball python morphs being bred at another facility in Wichita, KS (Milbradt Caponetto Reptiles), I also maintain a pretty good sized personal reptile collection at our gecko facility, consisting of several other species...carpet pythons, blood pythons, various boa species, gargoyle geckos, and mourning geckos.
Why did I choose the crested gecko?
A lot of reptile friends ask what made me decide to focus my efforts on a new species, rather than one that people were already making a lot of money with. Here are my main reasons, in a nutshell...
- Suitability as a Pet
Crested geckos are very easy and inexpensive to keep in captivity because they don't require heaters, lights, or live insects. Care could be compared to that of a hamster, only you keep them more humid and with less frequent cleaning and feeding. On top of that, they're about as tame as a reptile can get, they're very hardy and they live for decades. The 2002 "Reptiles, USA Annual" crested gecko article written by Allen Repashy was titled "The Perfect Pet Gecko" and it couldn't have been more appropriately titled.
- Patterns, Colors and Structure Variation
The crested gecko is a great "canvas" reptile for serious selective breeding projects. I've been at this for 15 years, and I honestly feel like we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. These will have a growing following in the hobby for years to come.
- Captive Bred Sustainability
All of the crested geckos in the pet trade are bred and hatched in captivity, which makes for a pet that acclimates readily to a new home, and it puts zero pressure on the wild population. This means that the species isn't being endangered by our hobby, it means animals aren't stressed out from being plucked from the wild and landing in someone's basement, and it means that our business will never be impacted by an inability to get wild caught geckos.
- Because I Enjoy This
Last, but not least - it's because I can't get enough of crested geckos. I wouldn't have been willing to put this much work into my collection if I wasn't crazy about working with these geckos...there are easier businesses to get into, but none that I enjoy this much. That's called passion, and, if you're cut out to run a business, it'll take you places.
15+ years of "Quality Over Quantity" produces "Quality in Quantity" Today
If you're under the impression that we're just a mass producer, you've been seriously misled. Some would-be competitors, and other online personalities, have misleadingly asserted that ACR is "just a mass producer", implying that our geckos somehow aren't high-end geckos because of the numbers we produce. The fact of the matter is every single thing we do revolves around selective breeding - not money or numbers.
Every project in my collection was developed here from scratch, starting with the basic morphs available 15-20 years ago. Remember that crested geckos were previously considered extinct, and had only been readily available on the reptile market for a few years, back when I started.
We only raise up geckos that will further our selective breeding efforts or genetic diversity - and preferably both. We never keep and raise geckos in order to have a certain number of breeders. Also, it has never been about keeping prices artificially inflated, either by limiting how many nice geckos we produce or lying about production numbers. It has never been about producing X number of geckos, but about how they look.
I have been doing this for a living for 20+ years now, without ever getting rid of old breeders, even when a project has moved several generations forward. With this approach, the high-end geckos of generations past tend to slowly become the pet store geckos of today. I firmly believe putting nice looking, but no-longer-rare, gecko morphs in stores because it will further the crested gecko hobby as a whole. The better looking the pet store geckos are, the better chance those people will take an interest in crested geckos and ultimately end up on my website, buying the expensive ones.
The large production numbers we see today are simply the byproduct of 20+ years of selective breeding efforts without selling off our old breeders. We have been refining our projects, and constantly outcrossing to start new bloodlines/projects, for over 20 years now. I've also built relationships with various pet shop distributors as we grew. Today we only keep back the best 10% or so to sell direct to the public. That means that when you're buying a gecko from us, you're buying one of the nicest geckos available from that particular project.
One benefit to having a large number of geckos is that we have lots of options when it comes time to select our future breeding stock. Having so many options makes selective breeding projects move forward faster than ever. For example, if I find that a particular pairing produces an appearance that I like, I can almost immediately put together several unrelated breeding groups, and end up producing hundreds of unrelated, but similar looking geckos within a matter of a couple years, which I can then pick from for the next generation breeders. Back in the day, it would sometimes take years to put together a single breeding group - the Tangerine project was a prime example...took me 3 years to get a male like the original female. Large numbers also gives me the luxury of being able to try more crosses and pairings, ultimately enabling me to discover more looks that I like.
Finally, there's the fact that new alleles (or mutations of a particular gene) can and do surface out of thin air, and we're producing thousands of geckos annually, meaning we're bound to have entirely new alleles (or versions of a gene) appear from time to time.
Selective breeding and genetic diversity will always take priority over volume here, and anyone who says differently simply doesn't know what they're talking about.