Leopard gecko vs bearded dragon on a green background

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Which Is a Better Pet? Here’s What to Consider

So you are thinking about getting a reptile. Maybe for yourself or for your child. Congratulations! Reptiles make amazing pets if you are willing to put in the time and effort to care for them properly.

If you’re deciding between a leopard gecko and a bearded dragon—both often touted as great for first-time reptile keepers—it can be a tough choice. So in this article we’ll explain some of the most important factors to consider in your decision. Let’s dive in to help you decide which is the best pet for you…a leopard gecko or bearded dragon.

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Initial Questions to Ask

To kick off the discussion, start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Will a child be primarily caring for the reptile? 
  • Are you ok handling live insects as the primary source of food? (This goes for either one.)
  • Where will you keep the reptile, and do you have enough space? 
  • What is your budget for initial costs—e.g. the pet and habitat setup?
  • Are you prepared for a long-term commitment? (Think: a decade or more.)
  • Why do you want a reptile (or why does your child want one)? 
  • Are you willing to put in the effort for either pet? 

Which Is an Easier Pet to Keep, A Leopard Gecko or Bearded Dragon? 

Before you agree to adopt any pet, it’s important to understand the care requirements they need for a happy, healthy life. You might be wondering how easy it is to keep a leopard gecko or a bearded dragon. And the truth is, neither pet is exactly “easy” in the sense that a goldfish or betta fish might be. They do require a certain level of attention and effort. 

Comparison Chart for Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon

This chart will give you a quick look at the primary differences between leopard geckos and bearded dragons that will likely factor into your decision on which pet is better for you. 


Leopard Geckos

Bearded Dragons

Cost

$40-$500 up front

$300-$1000 or more

Diet & Feeding

Insectivores; usually not picky eaters

Omnivores; have a reputation for being picky; need daily salads as well as feeder insects

Enclosure & Setup

Require heat and temperature gradient; UVB lamp is beneficial, but not strictly necessary

Require heat, temperature gradient, and basking spot; UVB absolutely necessary for health

Size

8-10 inches long

18-24 inches long

Space

Minimum 20 gallon tank

Minimum 40 gallon tank (bigger is better; you may need 70-125 gallons)

Life Expectancy

20+ years

8-12 years

Personality

Gentle, docile

Curious, lively, interactive

Skill Level Required

Beginner friendly; relatively low effort required

Beginner friendly, but a bit more effort required


Based on the above chart, the leopard gecko has some clear advantages over the bearded dragon, and is technically the "easier" pet. But your decision boils down to your preferences, your budget, your reasons for wanting a reptile, how much space you have, etc. 

Now let’s unpack the information above so you can dive a little deeper in your consideration. 

Leopard gecko with black spots on a log

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Which Is Better for Beginners? 

All pets—even the most low maintenance animals—require some level of care. There’s feeding to be done. A habitat to maintain. An enclosure to keep clean. These are the minimum requirements for any pet, whether it’s a dog, a fish, a reptile, a bird, a bunny—you get the picture!

That being said, reptiles and other exotic pets often require a little more effort than typical pets like dogs or cats or goldfish. So before you dive in and buy a reptile, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into.

And you need to take into account your experience level with reptiles. Have you ever had a reptile before, or is this your first? How much do you know about husbandry practices?  

If you are a complete beginner (or if your child will primarily be caring for the pet), a leopard gecko is usually the better choice. They are less involved than bearded dragons, so it’s easier to learn the ropes.

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Care Requirements & More Factors to Consider

In addition to the basic level of effort and beginner-friendliness of leopard geckos and bearded dragons, here are some key factors to weigh in your decision. 

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Space & Size

Of course the amount of space you have in your home is a consideration to keep in mind when you adopt any pet. And reptiles are different from dogs and cats in that they have to have a designated space where you can keep their tank.

Leopard geckos are smaller than bearded dragons. 

  • Leopard geckos can grow up to 8 inches long (some will reach 10 inches).
  • Bearded dragons grow up to 19 inches long (female) or 24 inches (male). That’s more than twice the length of a leopard gecko.

As you probably guessed, that means bearded dragons require larger enclosures than leopard geckos.  

  • For leopard geckos: According to ReptiFiles, an adult leopard gecko needs 4.5 square feet of floor space in an enclosure that is 36 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches. That’s not exactly a small tank, but it’s not exactly huge.
  • For bearded dragons: At minimum, a 40 gallon tank is recommended (for smaller dragons). But bigger is better—think 70 gallons or more (at least a 125 gallon tank if you have a 24-inch-long adult). 

To help you picture this, these terrariums can range from a couple feet long to over 6 feet long, and 3 feet tall. You can’t just set it on the floor either—you’ll need a table or something to keep it on so you can easily access your dragon, check the temperatures, keep small children or other pets at bay, etc.  

Pro Tip: Space might be your determining factor if you don’t have a lot of it. Small space? Get a leopard gecko. 

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Habitat

Both leopard geckos and bearded dragons are exotic pets, meaning they will need you to put in a bit of effort to mimic their natural habitat. 

While the specifics differ, generally speaking, both reptiles require similar enclosure setups.

So, whichever reptile you end up going with, you’ll need the following:

  • Heat source such as a ceramic heater or heat lamp
  • UVB lamp*
  • Basking area with a rock*
  • Items such as logs for your pet to climb on
  • Safe substrate 
  • Hygrometer to check humidity levels
  • Temperature gun to check daytime and nighttime heat at both ends of the tank
  • Timer to make sure your lights and heat are set to the proper levels during the day and night, seasonally, and at times of brumation

*Necessity for bearded dragons; optional and beneficial for leopard geckos.

This is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of how similar the setups are. Keep in mind that temperature and humidity requirements vary because leopard geckos and bearded dragons come from very different areas, so please do your research to make sure you know the details and requirements for each one.

Bearded dragon near a basking lamp

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Time & Effort

As with any pet, you’ll need to spend some time each day taking care of your leopard gecko or bearded dragon. 

The time required is pretty close to the same, with the exception of weekly bathtime for bearded dragons (which leopard geckos don’t need) and salad prep for bearded dragons (this includes grocery shopping or gardening to get the greens and veggies they need). That’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s a difference between the two pets.

Both pets require: 

  • Monthly deep cleaning of the enclosure
  • Daily tank spot cleaning 
  • Daily removal of uneaten feeders/food and providing fresh water
  • Multiple daily feedings for younger pets
  • Less frequent live insect feedings for older pets (exact frequency differs depending on whether you get a bearded dragon or a leopard gecko)
  • Daily salad prep for bearded dragons 
  • Annual vet checkups (this is pretty much par for the course with any exotic pet) 

Helping your bearded dragon or leopard gecko get exercise, playing with your pet, and observing its behaviors so you can get to know it better all takes time as well, but we would hope this is time you enjoy spending with your reptile! 

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Diet & Feeding

Leopard geckos are insectivores. Meaning they only eat insects such as Dubia roaches, crickets, and mealworms. That’s how their digestive system works. 

Bearded dragons are omnivorous. Meaning they eat insects and plants. When they are young, they primarily eat insects, which provide the proper nutrition for a growing dragon. Adult dragons primarily eat vegetables, but still need live feeders a few times a week. 

Note: For either pet, you’ll need to be okay handling live feeder insects. Pellet food and dead insects, or solely veggies, won’t work. Leopard geckos and bearded dragons need their natural diet to be replicated as closely as possible. 

If you recoil at the thought of keeping bugs in your home…you may want to consider a different type of pet. Not a reptile.

Bearded dragon on a brown slate

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Cost

In general, leopard geckos cost less initially. On a monthly basis, care costs are roughly the same.

Assuming you want a standard type of morph or more common type of morph for your pet, you may end up paying a bit more for a bearded dragon unless you adopt (which is typically free).

  • Bearded dragon: you could pay anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars depending on the type of dragon you want.  
  • A leopard gecko, on the other hand, costs $40 to hundreds of dollars. 

Pro Tip: Always do your research and purchase from a reputable breeder. 

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon Cost Comparisons

Here is a quick look at expense comparisons: 

Type of Expense

Leopard Gecko

Bearded Dragon

Cost of the pet itself (if not adopted for free)

$40-$500 

$300-$1000 or more

Other setup costs (enclosure, lighting, etc.)

$650-$950

$900 or more

Monthly costs (feeders, calcium supplements, salad, replacing UVB bulb, etc.)

$50-$100

$50-$100

Annual vet costs

$300+

$300+


Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Lifespan

So, both pets require a long term commitment, but, statistically speaking—and all things being equal—a leopard gecko is likely to live longer than a bearded dragon. 

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Personality & Interaction

Leopard geckos and bearded dragons are both known to be affectionate with their owners once they get used to you. Bearded dragons come to associate your presence with food; leopard geckos learn to recognize your scent. 

With both pets you need to give them time to get used to their new home before you just start interacting with them. You need to know how to recognize if they do not want to be handled. And you need to make sure you and your kids know how to safely handle them.

Also, in general, bearded dragons tend to have more feisty, inquisitive personalities. No two animals are the same, of course; but leopard geckos do tend to be more docile and calm vs. curious and active.

Leopard Gecko vs. Bearded Dragon: Which Is Better with Kids?

If you have kids, or if you’re primarily buying a reptile as a pet for your child, it’s good to know how leopard geckos and bearded dragons interact with children.

Sometimes bearded dragons and leopard geckos can be skittish around children (or really people of any age), particularly if they are stressed or haven’t settled into their new home yet. 

However, both pets tend to be good with kids, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Let your pet get used to their new environment before allowing any handling. 
  • Let your pet get used to your kids by having them spend quiet time by the tank and, if appropriate, engage in some hand-feeding (you can use tweezers for the insects).
  • Teach your kids how to safely approach and pick up the bearded dragon or leopard gecko (bearded dragons have a third eye on the top of their head, which is a predator detector; so make sure you always approach your dragon in their line of sight).
  • Supervise your kids the whole time.
  • Have your kids thoroughly wash their hands before and after handling (this is very important as reptiles can transmit salmonella). 
  • Sanitize any surface that your reptile was on outside the enclosure. 

In general it’s not a great idea to let very young children handle reptiles. A supervised interaction—or, better yet, observation—tends to be safer and less stressful for both the child and the reptile. 

Takeaway: So, which is a better pet, a bearded dragon or a leopard gecko? The truth is, it depends! Your personal preferences, available space, budget, time commitment, and other factors will help you determine which pet is right for you

Sources & More Information: 

https://youtu.be/7lSjew4zAGY?si=dVWA61d6a4W11npc 

https://reptifiles.com/leopard-gecko-care/leopard-gecko-terrarium-size/

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