Bearded Dragon vs. Leopard Geckos: Which is Best?


If you consider a reptile for a pet, you must have had the bearded dragon vs. leopard gecko debate. Both creatures are amazing starter reptiles to keep at home for kids and adults. Choosing the best may be challenging, but these tips will help.

Caring for and maintaining leopard geckos is cheaper than keeping bearded dragons, and they don’t need frequent feeding and unique lighting in their cages. Bearded dragons are more friendly for petting, while leopard geckos are more of a display pet.

There’s more to comparing the bearded dragon and the leopard gecko. Keep reading for a detailed comparison of the two reptiles and tips to help you choose one of the two. 

Bearded Dragon vs. Leopard Geckos: What Are the Differences?

Every reptile has various unique physical features and other details. You should be able to tell the bearded dragon from the leopard gecko, and significant differences are in their sizes, personalities, eating habits, and breeding.  

Differentiating between the leopard gecko and the bearded dragon is crucial if you intend to keep any of them as pets. The differences between these reptiles also mean that they require different care measures. 

Can’t tell the two apart? Look out for these differences to help you out. 

Size

As a full-grown reptile, the bearded dragon can measure from 16 to 24 inches long and weigh between 9-18 ounces. 

Leopard geckos are smaller and grow to a height of 7-11 inches with a weight of up to 3 ounces. Their tails grow as long as their body size.

Physical Appearance

The leopard gecko’s fat, detachable tail that helps avoid attacks blends well with its soft, stout, but the small dotted body. It’s yellow-white with some black dots that match nature’s surroundings, keeping it safe from attackers. Its natural predators are spiders, snakes, frogs, birds, more giant lizards, and foxes.

The bearded dragon has a yellowish, tan scaled body and a trim beard of non-sharp spikes under the chin. In addition to its four clawed limbs to help it climb, this creature can change its color to hide from predators. The reptile is prey to snakes, hawks, birds, and crocodiles.

Diet

Bearded dragons live on both plants and live insects, but leopard geckos only eat live insects and worms.

The leopard gecko is a carnivore, and its main diet is feeder insects. They can also feed on:

  • Snails
  • Crickets
  • Locusts
  • Centipedes
  • Flies
  • Dubia roaches
  • Beetles
  • Mealworms
  • Grasshoppers. 

You can also opt for scorpions, butter worms, super worms, smaller lizards, and spiders to add calcium and vitamins to their diet.  

Bearded dragons survive on a primarily insect-based omnivore diet. Examples of what to feed them include:

  • Crickets
  • Mice
  • Small lizards
  • Locusts
  • Cockroaches
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables like carrots, cabbage, and peeled cucumber
  • Flowers
  • Fresh herbs
  • Grasses
  • Leaves, free from pesticides or fertilizing chemicals
  • An additional supplement like calcium

Eating Habits

Growing leopards can feed once a day, but you can switch to every two days once they’re adults.

It’s vital to feed adult bearded dragons once daily. However, growing reptiles eat more live insects than adults, at least 2-4 times a day. After one year, the grown dragon can now eat greens and vegetables twice a week.

Dragons feed daily, but leopard geckos may skip a few days before their next meal.

Personality

Although both creatures are unsocial under captivity, dragons are more tolerant and friendly.

Leopard geckos have solitary behavior, they are incredibly calm, docile, and gentle to the handler, and some may shy away from people. If your pet is showing distress signs, it’s best not disturb them.

Bearded dragons are pretty friendly, docile, and patient with kids and handlers. The dragon loves cuddling, bonding, and rubbing its favorite spots like the neck and chin.

Habitat and Behavior

The leopard gecko is nocturnal but more of a crepuscular type. Also, it is sensitive to intense and aided light. Ensure its environment is warm to about 83-90 degrees Fahrenheit to improve digestion. Try a heat cable or under-tank heater to warm its belly.

Enclosing the gecko in small colonies or burrows helps it hide from the heat, predators, and natural unfriendly conditions.

Bearded dragons can adapt to a new setting fast while remaining active during the day. Provide extra or special lighting in its acrylic or glass tank both day and night. Favorable constant temperatures to aid digestion and good health are between 92-110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The dragon’s favorite housing includes rocks and big stones. Also, they love to climb onto branches, rocks, and trees to warm their bodies as it isn’t self-regulatory. Dragons need special lighting in their cages, yet geckos are sensitive to special lighting. Hence, it’s easy to set up heat and light for geckos.

Breeding

Leopard geckos can lay eggs for one year if weighing about 1.7 ounces. Thus a grown bearded dragon is ready for breeding after 18-24 months and weighs 14 ounces. These fantastic creatures can lay eggs though unfertilized without mating.

Both pets can lay infertile eggs without mating but start to breed at around one year.  

Hygiene

Leopard geckos will identify a favorite spot to poop. The waste is smelly and requires immediate clean-up to prevent stink and lousy health. Ensure you disinfect their feeding bowls and toys.

The bearded dragon will drop its waste in any possible spot. Their smelly poop will require constant clearing to prevent related infections and odor. After cleaning, disinfect their toys and feed dishes.

Clean both tanks with hot soapy water daily to remove food residues. But transfer your domesticated to a safe holding point before cleaning.

Brumation

Dragons will brumate with ease, unlike geckos. However, both will survive for a few months without losing much weight.

The leopard gecko is unlikely to brumate on itself unless provided with features similar to its natural habitation. In winter, they eat less, reduce weight, sleep more with reduced action in all their moves.

Some bearded dragons will brumate in winter between 12-18 months. Although they eat less and sleep more, most don’t reduce weight.

Do not initiate brumation without prior experience or breeding intentions. Both reptiles can survive a few months during this period; hence, it is vital to get this stage right.  

Health

Leopard geckos are hardy but may suffer from mouth rot, bone diseases, skin infections, and constipation. Unlike dragons, geckos need to grow their tail again after dropping it. 

Bearded dragons are also hardy but still need proper care to prevent spreading diseases like salmonella to humans. The common health issues include bone disease, yellow fungus, mouth rot, constipation, or skin infections.  

Both creatures are hardy lizards but need excellent care to remain in good health.

Defense Mechanism

Leopard geckos have attachable, thick tail that helps them escape predators and climb heights. Their toe pad is not sticky like other geckos but still helps climb and avoid an attack.

A bearded dragon, if tamed, is friendly and tolerates the handler. Thus, a dragon won’t drop its tail for fear of an attack. Also, it will puff and change its beard color when stressed to scare off hunters.

Scientific Names

Pogona vitticeps is the scientific name for bearded dragons. Eublepharis macularius is for leopard geckos. 

Both are reptilians in the Animalia Kingdom class.

Choosing Between Bearded Dragon and Leopard Geckos 

Picking between a dragon or a gecko boils down to your preference. The bearded dragon is your pick if you prefer a friendly pet that will warm up to you. However, you might want to go for the leopard gecko if you choose not to pick droppings from all over.  

Whatever you decide, choosing a reptile as a pet is no easy decision, and it would help if you considered several factors before making the decision. Below is an explanation of some of the factors. 

What Are the Factors to Consider Before Owning a Reptile? 

Lifespan

The dragon’s lifespan is between 6 and 15 years, while the gecko can live for between 8 and 15 years. So, fewer worries if you fear the reptile will outlive you. As a first-timekeeper, these lizards have more benefits than cats or dogs, and they live longer, and you won’t have to worry about allergies. 

Affordability

Consider the initial buying and care costs before you can grab a reptile today. Lizards, especially dragons, are easier to maintain than other domestic pets, and a young reptile would be cheaper and easier to bring up than an older animal. However, the cost may increase as the reptile grows. 

Family Friendly

Go for a warm, family-friendly animal that can tolerate handling and cuddling as a pet. Both geckos and dragons become close to their handlers, and they adapt to their new homes fast, so bringing them into your home would not be an issue. 

Ideal Size

Consider getting a suitable-sized lizard. However, that will depend on the availability of tank spacing in your apartment or backyard. If you get a dragon or leopard while they are still young, you should get a tank that would still accommodate them comfortably as they grow. 

Reptile Legality

Ensure you check whether your local area allows for reptile-owning before getting one. It is illegal to keep certain reptiles under some US laws. For example, California and Hawaii States have strict pet/animal regulations to preserve the native ecosystem. Hence, you may need to procure a license.

FAQ’s about Leopard Gecko

Conclusion

Both creatures make perfect family pets/zoo reptiles for new pet owners or reptile keepers. However, their unique features and care can make life easier for you to pick the best. Go for the bearded dragon if you’re looking for a simple, engaging, family-friendly reptile.

However, go for the leopard gecko if you need an affordable, easy-to-maintain reptile. Geckos are more accessible and cheap to care for and maintain as display animals, while dragons are friendly with kids and handlers.

As a beginner, you need no special lighting or daily feeding to house a gecko, unlike dragons. Also, the geckos are more petite than dragons, requiring a bigger tank.

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