Are you looking for a reptile for the first time?
Do you want to branch out into exotic pets and don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve done some research and you have narrowed it down to leopard geckos or bearded dragons, but you’re not sure which is right for you.
No problem, because we have you covered. Here we will go over the comparisons between these two mild-mannered pets. We will go over tank setups, mannerisms, lifespan, possible health complications, and more.
Both of these pests are great for beginning reptile keepers and seasoned veterans. Once the initial setup is taken care of, they both require minimal upkeep, and each has its own unique personality. Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
Leopard Gecko VS Bearded Dragon
Leopard Gecko Info
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Eublepharidae
- Scientific Name: Eublepharis macularius
- Common Name: Leopard Gecko, Leo
- Lifespan: 10 to 20 years in captivity
- Size: 7 to 11 inches long
- Average Cost: $30 to $100
Bearded Dragon Info
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Agamidae
- Scientific Name: Pogona vitticeps
- Common Name: Bearded dragon, Beardie
- Lifespan: 10 to 15 years in captivity
- Size: 18 to 24 inches long
- Average Cost: $40 to $100
These Reptiles Like Being Handled
Many reptiles don’t care to be handled much and are usually the look but don’t touch types.
Beardies and Leopards break that rule though. While initially, they may try to get away, or not want to be handled, with proper handling techniques, these reptiles take to the human touch well.
Many beardie owners report that their pets get excited when they see their owners. Sometimes you will be able to put your hand into the enclosure and the pet will climb on, or come seeking treats.
Leopard geckos may not exhibit as much excitement at being handled, but they tolerate it well, especially if they are handled often for short periods. They may like to hang out on your hands or arm for the extra warmth we emit. Each individual reptile will be different in how much or how little they like to be held.
If you’re looking for a pet that you want to interact with a lot, you may want a bearded dragon for this one. They are more tolerant, and often seek out attention, while the leopard gecko often just tolerates being handled.
Both of these reptiles have a mild, docile temperament overall. Though every individual will have their own perks and characteristics, both of these pets are very mild-mannered overall.
Do Bearded Dragons And Leopard Geckos Make Noises?
Leopard geckos are capable of being vocal. They may make a series of chirps, clicks, squeaks, or barks, but this species is usually less vocal than other geckos. When they are stressed, or hungry they may start to bark and make noise, but it all depends on the individual.
The only sound a bearded dragon makes, aside from climbing, glass surfing, or scratching is a hissing sound. They only do this when they are threatened or very upset. If a bearded dragon hisses at you, it’s best to leave it alone.
These reptiles don’t often bite, but it can happen. While a leopard gecko bite may feel like a pinch or uncomfortable, they will very rarely draw blood. An adult bearded dragon on the other hand can cause mild pain and draw blood.
If you’re bitten by either of these reptiles, either it’s because of mistaken identity—your finger looked like food or you were holding food too close—or from a very stressed or in pain animal.
Are You A Night Owl Or An Early Bird?
Your activity patterns may determine which pet is right for you. If you work late hours or stay up until the wee hours of the morning, then you might consider a leopard gecko. These reptiles are crepuscular.
That means they are more active during the evening hours. They aren’t truly nocturnal, but they are more active in the twilight and dawn hours of the day.
Beardies on the other hand are diurnal. They like sunlight, need a lot of UVB rays, and are active from morning until dark. If you’re an early bird that settles down when the sun begins to set, you might have more in common with bearded dragons.
What Kind Of Setup Do They Need?
Leopard geckos come from warm dry climates of Afghanistan, India, Iran, and Pakistan. They need a dry environment with plenty of places to hide during the day and prefer gravel or clay-like substrate.
Bearded dragons hail from the Land Down Under. They like a hot, arid climate with lots of light, but sometimes they need a place to hide as well. Bearded dragons also require a little bit more space compared to the Leopard Gecko.
Both Reptile Species Are Loners
While you might be tempted to get two of the same reptile to keep them from getting lonely, if you did, you’d be doing them a disservice. Both leopard geckos and bearded dragons are loners.
When you put more than one in a tank together, there most likely will be some aggression between them. They may fight over food, territory, or just because they don’t enjoy the company.
It’s best to keep both beardies and leos in their own enclosures by themselves.
A Perfect Place For Leopard Geckos
Starting out, juvenile leopard geckos will be happy in a 10-gallon tank, but as they grow you should increase the size to a 20-gallon enclosure minimum. A shallow tank with more floor space is what’s needed for leopards.
Tall tanks are more for tropical geckos and climbing lizards. The leopard gecko is a ground dweller that prefers more square footage.
You don’t need much lighting for “Leo’s” as they tend to hide in shady spots during the daylight hours, but you will need a warm basking spot and a humid spot for your leopard gecko.
The basking spot can be achieved using heating pads and low-light heating bulbs such as this Zilla Incandescent Heat Bulb or using a ceramic heater Simple Deluxe 150W 2-Pack Ceramic Heat Emitter Reptile Heat Lamp. Ceramic heaters last longer than bulbs, put out more heat, and don’t light up your cage. They are more expensive, but worth it in the long run.
When heating your tank, don’t use heating rocks, or put heating pads directly into the tank because they can get too hot for your gecko. They have soft, sensitive skin that can burn easily on these heating devices.
You’ll need a thermometer to measure the tank temps. Leopard geckos need a basking spot that stays between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and a cooler side that stays between 70 to 75 degrees.
Leopard Geckos Need Moisture
While they come from dryer regions and are at home in mild desert-like habitats, Leos still need a humid area. Preferably, this area will be situated on the cooler side of the tank.
Leopard geckos rely on this humid section to help cool off when they get too warm and to keep their skin moisturized. The humid area also helps during the shedding process. Unshed skin that doesn’t come off can cause skin lesions.
The best way to accomplish this is to provide a reptile hide and put peat moss, coconut coir, or some similar substrate under it, and mist it occasionally. You’ll have to replace the moist substrate regularly as it can start to mold though.
Also, make sure you provide fresh water daily in the form of a shallow water dish. This needs to be cleaned and replaced daily.
Proper Leopard Gecko Substrate
While there are a lot of substrate options sold at most pet stores, you shouldn’t use some that are sold as a “safe alternative.” Sand, crushed walnut shells, wood chips, and even “digestible” calcium sand can be fatal for leopard geckos.
The problem with these substrates is that leopard geckos—beardies too—can accidentally ingest these tiny pieces. Then it ends up sitting in their digestive systems and not passing through. Calcium sand especially has a bad habit of clumping together.
Impaction can quickly happen because of the clumping action. When a reptile becomes impacted, it can’t pass waste through its digestive system. It can cause constipation, bowel obstruction, and if not treated, death.
I had a bearded dragon become impacted because I used calcium sand when I first got my pets. According to the packaging, calcium sand is safe and “highly digestible.” I found out firsthand, and from my vet, that this isn’t true!
The best substrate for leos is slate stones, river rock, or excavator clay such as Zoo Med Excavator Clay. These substrates are too large to be ingested and simulate their natural habitats.
Some people opt for easier-to-clean substrates or none at all. You can also use reptile carpets, newspapers, or paper towels. The main thing to look for is something that can’t be ingested.
Leos and beardies are curious and will “taste” their environment as they explore. The substrate you use will also depend on how easy it is to clean. Large pieces of slate are easier to clean than river rocks, though the rocks might be more aesthetically appealing.
Leopard Gecko Accessories
Lastly, you’ll need to purchase some hides and accessories. Leos like to hide during the day, and sometimes at night. Plan on getting two reptile hides, boxes, or something they can climb into.
Put one in the basking spot and one in the cool section of the enclosure. Sometimes leopard geckos will eat and then climb into the hide in the basking spot to nap and digest.
For added enrichment, provide some elevation in the form of rocks or climbing stations.
Now For The Bearded Dragon Setup
Bearded dragons get bigger than leos so they will require larger tanks, but they also need more floor space. Flatter, shallow tanks are better than vertical tanks when it comes to beardies.
You can start off small if you want to, or if you don’t have much space right now. Eventually, though you will have to get a larger tank. Adult bearded dragons need between 40 to 75-gallon tanks.
If you don’t want to constantly upgrade, or you have the money upfront, go ahead and get a large enclosure.
Lighting And Heating
Bearded dragons need UVB lighting to stay healthy so you’ll have to get a quality light for them. They also like it hotter than leos. Like leopard geckos, you’ll need to set up a basking spot and a cool-off area in your tank setup.
I like to put a ceramic heater and a heating pad in my tank on the basking spot because it reaches the high temps they like. Speaking of temperatures, the basking spot for beardies needs to be between 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cooler side needs to be between 75 and 85 degrees.
At night the temps can cool off to around 60 to 70 degrees.
Bearded dragons require plenty of light, so you’ll need to purchase a timer. Set it to keep the light on for 12 to 14 hours a day.
It may be tempting to set up its enclosure near a sunny window but refrain from doing this. While bearded dragons enjoy plenty of natural sunlight, the tank (especially glass) can heat up and intensify the sun’s rays to dangerous temperatures.
Bearded Dragon Humidity Levels
You don’t need to add a moist area to the bearded dragon enclosure. They do best when the humidity is a little drier. Around 40 to 50% humidity is ideal for bearded dragons.
You do need to provide daily fresh water for them, though they don’t often drink. Just be sure to set the water dish out of the basking area to keep it from evaporating and increasing the humidity in the tank.
Bearded Dragon Substrate
Just like what we discussed concerning leopard geckos, the same things apply here. Don’t add any substrate that the bearded dragon can accidentally ingest. The best substrates for bearded dragons include:
- Ceramic tiles
- Reptile carpet—don’t use gravel carpet. The pieces can come loose and be ingested.
- River rock
- Large slate pieces
- Excavator clay—you can get creative with this stuff and make interesting terrain
Bearded Dragon Accessories
Beardies like to bask a lot, but they also like to climb and explore.
Provide plenty of terrain changes, such as things to climb on such as logs, rocks, or limbs. Just be careful when using wood, some types are harmful such as pine and cedar.
Also, don’t use driftwood unless it is purchased from a pet store. Driftwood you find at the beach can contain large quantities of salt and hide harmful bacteria in the wood.
Many bearded dragons love to hang out on hammocks such as this Niteangel Bearded Dragon Hammock. They also can benefit from a hide to help regulate their temperature or just to get away for a little while.
What To Feed Leos And Beardies
Leopard geckos are strict insectivores. You’ll need to feed them mostly live prey such as crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, or other insects.
Most pet stores sell live crickets and sometimes roaches and mealworms. You can also find more food options online.
Leopard gecko adults only need to be fed 2 to 3 times per week. Babies and juveniles should be fed every day or every other day.
Bearded dragons require a more varied diet. Babies and juveniles are mostly insectivorous because of the increased protein needs as they grow. As they get older, beardies start requiring a balanced mix of insects and vegetables.
Bearded dragons require feeding every day, as opposed to the leopard gecko. As adults, you don’t have to feed them insects daily. Their diet should be 60 to 70% vegetables and some fruit, and insects should be fed once or twice a week.
You can also feed them a commercial diet if preparing live insects and fresh vegetables is too time-consuming or just “icky.”
Both species need calcium supplements. When reptiles don’t get enough calcium they can come down with a fatal disease called metabolic bone disease (MBD).
Bearded Dragon And Crested Gecko Lifespans
Crested Geckos can live between 10 to 20 years with proper care. Bearded dragons frequently live between 10 to 15 years. Both of these reptiles have similar life spans that depend on how great the care they receive.
Either way, you’ll have a great companion for at least a decade.
Are Bearded Dragons And Crested Geckos Healthy?
Both of these reptiles are very hardy animals. With the proper care, you’ll only need to take your pets to the vet for the occasional checkup.
The most common health problem comes from impaction. This can be easily avoided by choosing the correct substrate and making sure they don’t consume insects that are too large.
If they are not getting enough calcium they can come down with MBD, but offering supplements such as calcium-dusted insects can easily avoid this deadly disease.
Shedding problems may occur at times as well. Usually when shed skin gets stuck, or they have a hard time shedding completely, a warm bath and a soft bristle brush can help.
Leopard geckos can sometimes lose their tails. This is a painful process and is only caused by improper handling or extreme stress. The tail will grow back, but it may look different.
When the tail comes off, it’s an open wound that can become infected so keep an eye on the stump if this happens.
Bearded dragons won’t lose their tails, but they will show signs of discomfort when they don’t want to be handled or are being handled too roughly.
They can puff out their throats and make them black, or they will flatten themselves out when they are uncomfortable or don’t want to be touched.
Reptiles And Salmonella
Most reptiles carry salmonella in their digestive tracts. Leos and beardies are no exception. Most people never get sick from their pets, but as a precaution, you should always wash your hands whenever you handle them or anything that may have come in contact with them.
How Much Do They Cost?
Leopard geckos are popular pets and you can find them at most pet supply stores or from reputable breeders for around $30 to $100. While they come in various colors or morphs, these can quickly rise in cost.
Depending on the type of morph, how popular it is, and how difficult it is to get certain colors, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars or more for rare colorations.
Bearded dragons are similarly priced. Expect to pay between $40 to $100 for regular colorations. If you’re looking for rare colors and patterns, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars.
Are Leopard Geckos Or Bearded Dragons Prettier?
This is totally objective. Poll 100 people and you’ll probably get a pretty even split. It all depends on what you are looking for.
In my humble and completely irrelevant opinion, I think they both are beautiful reptiles. I would give points for cuteness to the Leopard gecko, but I’d give the same amount of points to Bearded dragons for just overall “coolness” when it comes to looks.
It all depends on what pleases you.
So Which Is Best For You?
I believe both reptiles have an equal number of pros and cons. Leopard geckos may be less expensive overall, especially during the initial setup, but I like a more hands-on pet.
The bearded dragon is more active, but it requires a little bit more care than leopard geckos.
If you’re looking for a pet you can get out and socialize with more, then the bearded dragon is probably your best bet. If you are more of a look but don’t really touch pet owners, then the leopard gecko might suit you better.
Either way, these lizards are good for beginners and experts alike. We just hope we have helped you make a decision based on your individual preferences.
If you have any insights or have experience with these pets and want others to know about your experiences, please leave us a comment below!