This one is for all the lizard lovers out there! Both Bearded Dragons and Leopard Geckos make fun and wonderful pets. Having to choose between them is an excruciating choice. Personally, I couldn’t decide and just went with both.
But I understand most people can’t do that so I’ve gone through a detailed comparison below, highlighting what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Usually, leopard geckos live for 10 to 20 years. But this figure can go down to 7 if a leopard gecko isn’t properly cared for, especially if it’s a female.
Bearded dragons have an average life span of 7 to 12 years.
While these reptiles’ lifespans are similar, leopard geckos are the best option for someone looking for a long-term pet.
While a baby leopard gecko measures around 3 inches, it can grow to be up to 10 inches in adulthood.
Bearded dragons grow to be anywhere between 15 and 23 inches, even though they are also around 3 inches long when they hatch.
This doesn’t make them difficult to hold, though. On the contrary, their size can make it easy for kids to hold them. Their calm nature also contributes to this ease.
Another major difference between bearded dragons and leopard geckos is their weight.
Leopard geckos usually weigh between 1.7 to 2.2 ounces. Some males even grow to be 3.5 ounces.
Bearded dragons start off at around 3 grams but end up being at least 0.5 pounds. They can even grow to 1.5 pounds.
However, you should be concerned if your bearded dragon weighs above 1.8 pounds – this is a sign of obesity.
Lighting, heating, and humidity requirements
Both bearded dragons and leopard geckos need a lighting and heating setup, particularly because they get their heat from their environment and need it to function properly.
However, their needs are different. For one, leopard geckos need daytime temperatures of around 85 ℉ and a basking temperature of around 90 ℉.
Also, their nighttime temperatures need to be kept low – the lower 70s are good.
To provide these temperatures, you can use appliances like heat lamps and mats – you don’t need a UVB light though.
Bearded dragons need a lamp that creates a basking spot with temperatures of 92 ℉ to 110 ℉.
These reptiles also need a UVB light that can cover at least 50% of the tank. For best results, use a tube-style light.
Bearded dragons and leopard geckos need 30% to 40% humidity levels.
As anyone who’s ever had a leopard gecko will tell you, these reptiles poop in the same spot every time.
This makes poop removal and overall tank cleaning easier.
Bearded Dragons are messier – they poop all over the tank and can quickly make it stink. So if you are planning to get a bearded dragon, be ready to scoop up its poop immediately.
Whichever reptile you get, keep an eye out for uneaten dead insects. Both leopard geckos and bearded dragons won’t eat them and instead leave them in the tank to decay.
As such, you’ll need to do a little daily cleaning of these reptiles’ tanks and then have a day set apart for thorough cleaning.
Bearded dragons need a larger tank than leopard geckos, particularly because they are bigger.
While adult leopard geckos need at least 20 gallons of tank space, adult bearded dragons need at least 55 gallons. If your bearded dragon is a baby or juvenile, you can get by with a 15-gallon tank.
Keep in mind though – these reptiles grow fast and can only use these tanks comfortably until around 2 months of age.
Beyond this age you will have to move to a 40-gallon or 55-gallon tank – try to get one that’s at least 3 feet in length.
Ultimately, it’s best to get a large tank from the beginning. This rule also applies to leopard geckos.
Just get a 20-gallon tank even though babies and juveniles can survive in a 10 to 15-gallon one.
Egg-laying and breeding matters
Both leopard geckos and bearded dragons reach sexual maturity around the age of 12 months. After this age, females of both species will regularly lay eggs.
But you can’t just start breeding these reptiles at this point. A leopard gecko needs to be at least 50 grams first while a bearded dragon will need to be at least 400 grams.
Also, it’s best to wait until your bearded dragon is 18 to 24 months before you try to breed them.
If breeding occurs, female leopard geckos will lay eggs 16 to 22 days after mating and continue to lay a clutch every 15 to 22 days for up to 5 months.
Bearded dragons will also lay a clutch of eggs after mating – the egg-laying process will take 1 to 2 days.
Afterward, they will take a break for a few weeks before laying more eggs.
This can go on for a few months. After all, like leopard geckos, female bearded dragons can store sperm in their bodies for up to a year.
However, a bearded dragon clutch contains more eggs than a leopard gecko one. It has around 20 eggs – they can even be more than 30. On the other hand, a leopard gecko clutch contains only one to two eggs.
While leopard geckos are insectivorous, bearded dragons are omnivorous.
This means that the former will only eat insects unless there’s a medical emergency.
For the most part, they eat live insects – only some will accept freeze-dried ones. And even then, these insects will not be as nutritious for a leopard gecko as live ones.
As such, freeze-dried insects should only be served occasionally or when your gecko is too weak to hunt.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to feed juvenile and baby leopard geckos once a day. On the other hand, adults will only need to eat every two to three days.
When it comes to bearded dragons, you’ll need to offer the babies and juveniles food at least twice a day.
Once they reach one year of age, bearded dragons need to eat only once a day. Keep in mind that adult bearded dragons only need to eat live insects two to three times a week.
They can eat greens for the other days and even fast for one. You can occasionally offer them some fruit as a treat.
Ultimately, bearded dragons’ diets get cheaper as they grow. By the time these reptiles are adults, feeding them is cheaper than feeding adult leopard geckos.
Leopard geckos are crepuscular reptiles – they sleep from dawn to dusk. This means they are most active during dusk and even prefer to hunt at this time.
However, bearded dragons are diurnal – they sleep at night and stay active during the day. So if you’re more active during the day than at night, a bearded dragon could be a better option for you than a leopard gecko.
Leopard geckos are shy and reserved, especially when they first meet you.
However, they can be really fun when they get used to you. Leopard Geckos are willing to play with toys like lizard hides and ladders.
Unlike them, bearded dragons love the outdoors and interacting with their owners, even earlier on.
Some love to sit and watch TV with their owners while others even wave at them. As such, bearded dragons are a good option for someone looking for a pet to take on walks or to hang out with as they work.
Ultimately, while both bearded dragons and leopard geckos are docile, the former are more sociable and open to handling.
Some leopard geckos are even skittish and drop their tails if you mishandle them accidentally. As such, they are less suitable for children.
Even though leopard geckos and bearded dragons have some similarities, they look different. Leopard geckos have smooth heads and thick tails. Many of them have spots and they exist in a variety of morphs.
As for bearded dragons, they look like miniature dragons. They have small blunt spikes all over their bodies and beards that puff up when they feel threatened. They also come in a variety of morphs.
Leopard geckos usually brumate when temperatures are low for prolonged periods. When they’re in this state, they don’t eat or move a lot.
Instead, they spend most of their time sleeping. Ideally, you shouldn’t intentionally induce brumation in leopard geckos unless you’re experienced and aim to breed them.
Either way, brumation can last for weeks or months, and most leopard geckos won’t lose more than 10 grams during this period.
When it comes to bearded dragons, brumation starts at the age of 12 to 18 months.
While most bearded dragons of this age brumate during winter, others never brumate at all.
However, the process lasts a few weeks to a few months for those that do – it can even last 3 months. The good news is that bearded dragons don’t lose any weight during brumation.
Propensity for illness
While bearded dragons and bearded dragons are both hardy reptiles, they can get sick.
Some common diseases that plague leopard geckos are mouth rot, metabolic bone disease, and parasitic infection.
Interestingly, these diseases also plague bearded dragons, together with yellow fungus.
When you have a bearded dragon, you will have to spend around $5 to $30 per week on food.
This figure will fluctuate depending on the size of the reptile. You will also have to spend a few dollars a month on electricity and replace your UVB light every 6 months.
If you have a leopard gecko, you’ll spend less on food and lighting, particularly because they eat less than bearded geckos and don’t need UVB lighting.
While both bearded dragons and leopard geckos are suitable for beginners, the former requires a little more effort to keep, especially in the beginning.
You’ll have to spend more energy and time setting up the tank heating and lighting. However, the workload does reduce with time.
To avoid constipation and impaction, you need to avoid using loose substrates in your pet’s tank, regardless of whether it’s a leopard gecko or a bearded dragon.
Such substrates are easy for your reptile to eat. Instead, use substrates like newspapers, reptile carpeting, and paper towels.
When it comes to tank material, both bearded dragons and leopard geckos do well with glass.
This is especially a good choice if you want to observe your reptile throughout the day. However, glass isn’t your only option – you can go with alternatives like wood and PVC.
Wood is a particularly good choice if you want the tank to retain heat for a long time.
However, wood tanks are usually heavy and difficult to build in a way that you can still see your reptile inside.
On the other hand, PVC is lighter but still provides the same benefits as wood.
Ultimately, the best reptile for you depends on your budget, availability, experience, and behavioral preferences.
So take your time when choosing between a leopard gecko and a bearded dragon – better safe than sorry!