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Bearded Dragon Vs. Leopard Gecko – Which is the Better Reptile?
Choosing between the bearded dragon vs leopard gecko can be a very difficult decision to make. Both of these reptiles are commonly considered the best pet reptile in the world, particularly for beginner reptile owners.
However, bearded dragons and leopard geckos are quite different from one another, and these differences should be considered to help you choose the perfect reptile for you.
Just to give you a quick comparison:
Bearded dragons live around 7-12 years while leopard geckos can live up to 20-years. In terms of size, bearded dragons usually grow to about 24-inches while leopard geckos don’t grow longer than 10-inches. Regarding costs, bearded dragons require larger tanks than leopard geckos and have a much larger appetite, making bearded dragons a bit more expensive. Overall, both are extremely docile and make great companions!
So, now that you know the basics, let’s dive a little deeper into each of these topics to determine which pet is right for you. By the time you’re finished reading this article, we hope you’ll be headed to the pet store to purchase your bearded dragon or leopard gecko!
A bearded dragon that is cared for will, on average, live anywhere from 7-years to 12-years. Most bearded dragons pass away before the age of 15. Some bearded dragons can live longer – to the age of 20 – but these cases are rare.
A leopard gecko that is well-cared for can live for as long as 20-years. A leopard gecko that is not properly cared for may only live to the age of 7.
For the most part, bearded dragons and leopard geckos have very similar lifespans. But, for a reptile that lives longer, a leopard gecko is the better choice.
When compared to other reptiles, bearded dragons are medium-sized. A young bearded dragon will only be around four-inches long. But, within a short span of time, a young bearded dragon can grow to be anywhere from 17-inches to 24-inches long.
A leopard gecko, when first born, is usually around 4-inches long. Throughout those early stages of development, until those stages are complete, a leopard gecko will never grow longer than around 10-inches long.
Bearded dragons are longer and larger than leopard geckos. To raise a bearded dragon, you will need a big enclosure, and the space to accommodate such an enclosure. Raising a leopard gecko is a little easier, since they are smaller and require less space.
Right after being born, a bearded dragon will weigh around 2-to-3-grams. Throughout the next two-years of their life, a bearded dragon can grow to be as large as 850-grams but, more often than not, will grow to weigh anywhere from 250-grams to 750-grams.
A leopard gecko will weigh far less than that. Most fully-grown leopard geckos weigh around 45-grams to 65-grams. Some leopard geckos can weigh as much as 100-grams, but this is quite rare and exclusive to male leopard geckos.
For a light reptile, leopard geckos are the best choice. But, leopard geckos are also quite fragile and, as a result, are not always preferable for new reptile owners. For a larger, and more rugged, reptile, bearded dragons are the best choice.
A bearded dragon is a colorful reptile that is covered in distinctive patterns and unique colors. All along various points on a bearded dragon’s body, you will notice small spikes. None of these spikes are sharp and, instead, they add a unique aesthetic quality to every bearded dragon.
A leopard gecko is a small reptile that is covered in dots of different sizes. The dots on a leopard gecko’s body go very well with their eyes, which are always striking and radiant.
For a colorful and exotic reptile – “exotic”, in terms of appearance – bearded dragons are wonderful to own. For a reptile with a similar experience, but slightly less color and more aesthetic simplicity, leopard geckos are just as beautiful and distinctive.
Day & Night
Just like us, bearded dragons stay up during the day and sleep at night. For people who are unable to stay up late and care for a reptile, this is a definite plus.
Leopard geckos, on the other hand, are most active during the evening and night. For people who go to bed early, this can be a minor annoyance.
For those who are unable to stay up late, a bearded dragon is a great choice. For those who can stay up late, and enjoy doing so, a leopard gecko will be perfect.
A bearded dragon eats live food – insects, primarily – as well as fruits and vegetables. During the early stages of development, a young bearded dragon will eat live insects and few fruits and vegetables. But, after that first year of growth, bearded dragons will begin eating more vegetables and fruits than insects.
Throughout that first year of growth, a bearded dragon will need to bed anywhere from 2-to-4-times per-day. Soon after that first-year, though, they will only need to be fed once per-day.
A leopard gecko eats live insects and only live insects. Unlike bearded dragons, you won’t need to feed them any fruits or vegetables.
A young leopard gecko must be fed once per-day. But, after 12-to-18-months, a leopard gecko will only need to eat once every other day.
Bearded dragons require live insects, vegetables, and fruits. You must feed those foods to your bearded dragon every single day. Leopard geckos, in contrast, only eat live insects, and must be fed once every other day.
A bearded dragon will begin brumation as soon as they are around 12-to-18-months old. More often than not, brumation occurs during the winter, when temperatures are lower.
As a general rule, brumation usually lasts for 1-to-3-months. But, depending on your bearded dragon, the period may be much shorter than that, or much longer than that.
One thing to note is that not all bearded dragons brumate. Many of them do, but some don’t, so keep that in mind.
A leopard gecko will, assuming there are no significant changes in its environment, rarely brumate. But, if there are changes in the temperature and light that your leopard gecko is experiencing, they may brumate.
Many leopard geckos brumate for as long as a few weeks, but there are some that can brumate for as long as several months. The exact length of the brumation period is dependent on your leopard gecko and their own preferences.
Both bearded dragons and leopard geckos tend to brumate during the winter. As a general rule, bearded dragons are more likely to brumate than leopard geckos, but leopard geckos can, if their environment changes, brumate as well.
Most bearded dragons are extroverts, in the sense that they enjoy being sociable and love being with their owners. Playing with and handling your bearded dragon is always a joy, and your bearded dragon will love spending time with you.
Most leopard geckos are extroverts, as well, but to a lesser degree than bearded dragons. Many leopard geckos are quite shy, and some leopard geckos do not enjoy being handled. But, that being said, leopard geckos still, for the most part, enjoy spending time with their owners and playing around.
For a fun, playful, and social reptile, bearded dragons make for excellent pets. For a more solitary reptile, that still enjoys being social and playing around, leopard geckos are lovely reptiles to care for.
Most bearded dragons enjoy being handled and are very tame. Some bearded dragons will demand to be handled at various points throughout the day, due to how enjoyable it is for them.
Most leopard geckos also enjoy being handled. But, leopard geckos are small, fragile, and easily frightened. This can make handling them a slightly more challenging task.
As a general rule, bearded dragons are much easier to handle than leopard geckos, due to being more social and quite a bit stronger. If you are careful, though, and know what you’re doing, leopard geckos are a joy to handle.
Tail Dropping While Being Handled
A bearded dragon will rarely drop its tail while being handled. Even if you make small mistakes, tail dropping is quite rare.
A leopard gecko, on the other hand, is more sensitive to being handled poorly and will drop its tail if frightened or handled improperly.
For those who are not confident in their abilities to handle a reptile, and worry about tail dropping, a bearded dragon will be the best choice. For those who are confident in their abilities to handle a reptile, and willing to be patient, a leopard gecko will suit you very well.
Since adult bearded dragons are such large reptiles – when compared to leopard geckos, that is – they require an enclosure that is 36-inches long, at the very least, and capable of holding 55-to-70-gallons.
Since leopard geckos are much smaller than bearded dragons, they require a smaller enclosure. A 25-to-30-gallon is, generally speaking, more than enough for an adult leopard gecko.
Bearded dragons require more space and, as a result, a larger enclosure. Leopard geckos require less space and, because of this, can live in a smaller enclosure. Depending on the space you have access to, a bearded dragon or leopard gecko may be the better choice for you.
Every bearded dragon requires, within its enclosure, a high-quality basking light. A high-quality basking light will often be a UVB lamp or a UVB tube that relies on UVB bulbs.
Unlike bearded dragons, leopard geckos do not require special lighting systems. Rather, all they require is a nice, warm tank. You can install a UVB bulb, but if you do, make sure it’s no more than 5-watts.
For the easiest and simplest lighting setup, getting a leopard gecko is the best choice. Even though bearded dragons require a more elaborate lighting setup, though, if you know what you’re doing, putting together the proper setup is often quite easy.
Every bearded dragon must have easy access to a basking spot that is anywhere from 92-degrees Fahrenheit to 110-degrees Fahrenheit. To create this basking spot, you need a high-quality UVB lamp or UVB tube that relies on a good UVB bulb.
Every leopard gecko needs a nice, warm tank. To warm up the enclosure, you can purchase low-watt UVB bulbs, or you can put a safe heater close to the enclosure. While doing so, make sure there’s a hot spot in the enclosure that is anywhere from 83-degrees Fahrenheit to 90-degrees Fahrenheit.
For a simple and easy heating system, getting a leopard gecko is the best choice. Just as with lighting, though, if you know what you’re doing, setting up the proper heating system for your bearded dragon is easy if you know what you need to purchase and what you need to do to put the system together.
Both bearded dragons and leopard geckos require low humidity levels. A humidity level that is more than 40% will be very uncomfortable for bearded dragons and leopard geckos. Just as a general rule, make sure to keep the humidity levels between 20% to 40% – somewhere in the middle is often ideal.
To ensure that the humidity levels are exactly where they need to be, purchasing a dehumidifier may be a good choice. But, if you live in a dry area, you probably won’t need to purchase a dehumidifier.
Since the humidity needs for both reptiles is the same, neither reptile is better or easier than the other.
Just like most reptiles, bearded dragons can, if improperly cared for, suffer from a variety of health issues. Some of the most common health issues include mouth rot, impaction, constipation, and various infections.
Leopard geckos are, just like bearded dragons, capable of suffering from a variety of health issues. Some of these health issues include mouth rot, skin infections, internal infections, impaction, along with a plethora of others.
Even though bearded dragons and leopard geckos can suffer from those health issues, both reptiles are very strong. As long as they are comfortable and properly cared for, they will be just fine.
For both bearded dragons and leopard geckos, you will want to clean their enclosure once every week. To do this, remove your reptile from the enclosure, take everything out of the enclosure, and begin wiping down the surfaces with a sponge and a terrarium-safe detergent. Right after that, dry those surfaces off and put everything back in its rightful place.
Sometimes, cleaning up after your bearded dragon can be a little tricky. Many bearded dragons poop in odd, random spots throughout their enclosure. Finding their feces, and cleaning it up, can be surprisingly challenging.
Cleaning up after a leopard gecko is much easier. Most leopard geckos poop in the same spot every time. Finding this spot is often quite easy and, once you know where this spot is, cleaning up your leopard gecko’s feces is very easy.
No matter the reptile you get, cleaning up the enclosure is the same process. Cleaning up feces, however, is a little different, due to the patterns of each reptile. A bearded dragon will often poop in random spaces, whereas a leopard gecko will poop in the same spot every time.
Good for Beginners
Both bearded dragons and leopard geckos are great reptiles for beginners. Caring for bearded dragons and leopard geckos is never particularly challenging, yet always very enjoyable.
Even though both reptiles are great for beginners, caring for a bearded dragon, initially, can be a little challenging. You will need to set up a somewhat elaborate lighting and heating system. But, after that, everything else is much easier.
The initial cost of setting up a bearded dragon enclosure can be rather high. But, after that, the costs go down quite a bit.
Every month, you will need to pay a couple-of-dollars for the electricity that is required to run your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Every couple of months, you must also replace the UVB bulbs you are using for the basking lamp.
To keep your bearded dragon healthy, you will need to feed them live insects, vegetables, and fruits. The total cost for this can be as much as $30 per-week or as low as 5$ per-week. As your bearded dragon grows, the cost will go down, since you will only need to feed your bearded dragon live insects every other day. But, they will still need vegetables and fruits every day.
The initial cost of setting up a leopard gecko enclosure is less than that of setting up a bearded dragon enclosure. Most leopard gecko enclosures will require some kind of heat source, though, so keep that in mind. To continue running this heat source, you will need to spend a couple-of-dollars every month.
Since leopard geckos eat only insects and, when grown, only once every other day, you won’t need to spend a lot to keep your leopard gecko healthy. You can get away with spending as little as $5 per-week, or as much as $20 per-week, depending on what you buy and where you buy it.
Raising and caring for a bearded dragon is often more expensive than raising and caring for a leopard gecko. But, when it comes to electricity costs and dietary needs, the prices do not differ very much.
Living in Groups
Both bearded dragons and leopard geckos are meant to live alone. Putting either of those reptiles in a group, with other members of the same species, is not a good idea and can easily lead to problems.
No matter what, make sure your reptiles have their own space. Setting up this space may be difficult, but if you plan on having multiple bearded dragons or leopard geckos, it is absolutely essential.
A bearded dragon will become mature enough to breed around the age of 8-to-12-months-old. But, that being said, it is often better to wait another year, to ensure that the eggs are healthy.
A leopard gecko becomes mature enough to breed by the age of 12-months. Right before your bearded dragon can breed in a healthy manner, though, they should weigh at least 50-grams.
In more ways than one, bearded dragons and leopard geckos offer many of the same breeding characteristics. But, leopard geckos can begin breeding sooner than bearded dragons, even if they mature a little more slowly.
Conclusion: Should You Go with a Bearded Dragon or a Leopard Gecko?
Bearded dragons and leopard geckos are both fantastic reptiles. Despite their many similarities, though, the two are different in a multitude of ways. How you feel about these differences will determine which reptile is the right choice for you.
Raising and caring for a bearded dragon can be expensive and time-consuming. Bearded dragons require a fair amount of elaborate equipment, while also requiring plenty of attention and care. But, bearded dragons are very sociable and hands-on, making them great for people who want to forge a genuine relationship with their reptile.
Raising and caring for a leopard gecko is somewhat expensive, but less so when compared to raising and caring for a bearded dragon. Taking care of a leopard gecko is far less time-consuming, since leopard geckos are somewhat shy reptiles that require less one-to-one time and are active during the evening.
In the end, the choice is yours. For a sociable reptile that will love spending time with you, you cannot go wrong with a bearded dragon. For a simpler reptile that is easy to take care of, pretty to look at, and nice to have around, a leopard gecko is the perfect choice.