A leopard gecko or a bearded dragon? A beardie or a Leo? The choice between these two reptiles is a tough one. They are both excellent for beginner reptile keepers, both have pleasant temperaments, and all supplies necessary for safely housing them are easy to find. It’s easy to see why you might have trouble deciding which one to get.
For kids, bearded dragons are the better pet as they are easy to handle, not as delicate as leopard geckos, and they are diurnal, which means they are awake during the day. For older owners with a day job, a leopard gecko is better since they are only active in the evenings and slightly less work.
|Aspect of Care||Leopard Gecko Requirements||Bearded Dragon Requirements|
|Heating, lighting, Humidity||Need a warm spot, hygrometer, and thermometer.||Need basking area, and UVB light, plus hygrometer and thermometer.|
|Tank Sizing||10 gallon at minimum, 20 gallon is ideal for 1 Leo.||A 55-gallon tank is necessary for adult bearded dragons.|
|Cleaning the Tanks||Leos poop in one spot, making cleaning easier.||Beardies poop all over their tanks, so cleaning takes a bit longer.|
|Handling||Tail dropping is a risk. A steady and calm hand is needed for handling Leos.||Tail dropping is not a risk, making bearded dragons a better choice for young children.|
|Personalities||Tend to be a bit shy at first. They need time to get used to you.||Tend to have bigger and more vibrant personalities.|
|Activity Schedule||Mostly active in the early evenings or at night, sometimes in the morning.||Active during the day and sleep at night.|
|Eggs & Breeding||1 year to become sexually mature, one clutch laid every 15-22 days over 4-5 months||1 year to become sexually mature, one clutch laid over 1-2 days, another laid in a few weeks|
|Dietary Needs (weekly)||Adults: Only live foods once every 2 days||Adults: Greens, Live foods 2x a week, fasting one day|
|Age & Lifespan||10-20 years||15 years|
|Size||7-10 inches, Up to 3.5 oz||15-32 inches, 1.5 lbs|
As you can see, it is a matter of personal preference when it comes to figuring out which one is better for your family. In this article, we will discuss the differences between these two reptiles, sum it up and leave YOU to be the judge.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Tank Requirements
The first thing we’re going to talk about when comparing bearded dragons and leopard geckos is what you need in your reptile’s habitat to make it safe, suitable, and comfortable for them.
Heat/Light/Humidity Requirements – The Differences
For a bearded dragon, you will need a basking area with temps of 92°F to 110°F, plus a UVB light that goes over at least 50% of their tank. A tube-style light is best for covering the tank.
The heat is critical for bearded dragons. After all, they are not capable of producing their heat. They need it for proper digestion of their food and general comfort.
Now for the leopard gecko. You will need a warm spot of 82 to 90°F, and that’s about it. So as long as the environment in which you live is warm, the tank doesn’t necessarily need a heater.
It’s advisable to have one on hand in case your furnace fails, or you run air conditioning often because you live in a warm place.
Leos do not need to have a heat or a UVB lamp. You can place a small one in there if you feel so inclined, but it’s not required.
Leos use heat from their stomachs to digest their meals, so providing a heater underneath the tank is an excellent way to help them accomplish this.
Humidity levels are to be at 30-40% for each of these reptiles; do get yourself a good hygrometer to measure this easily.
Bottom line: Leopard geckos are easier to heat than bearded dragons. Beardies HAVE to have their basking spot and their UVB lights for their everyday functions to take place. Meanwhile, Leos simply need their tanks nice and warm to function.
What Tank Size Is Needed? Beardies vs. Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos can do well in a tank sized 10 to 15 gallons- babies and juveniles, anyway. For adults, it is advised to go for a 20-gallon tank, although we have seen some small adults thrive in their 10-gallon tanks.
So, it is strongly cautioned you to start with at least a 20-gallon tank at a minimum so you can be ready for the day your adult Leo hits adulthood.
For a bearded dragon, you are going to need at least a 55-gallon tank once they hit adulthood. It should be at least 3 feet in length as well. You can get by with a 40-gallon tank, but it’s just not as comfortable for the beardie.
Juveniles and babies can reside in a 15-gallon tank for up to 2 months, but they do grow fast, and they’re going to need that bigger tank faster than you think.
Leopard geckos require smaller, less expensive tanks than bearded dragons, who are going to need larger tanks to thrive.
Cleaning the Tanks
There are daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning tasks you must complete regardless of the reptile you choose, but what do they entail? Let’s take a look:
Leopard geckos will pick a “poop spot” much like dogs do outdoors. This makes cleaning a bit easier when it comes to daily tasks.
You will want to clean this each day as it gets quite smelly, depending on what they’ve consumed lately. Once a month, you will need to perform a deep clean and sanitization on their tank.
Bearded dragons will defecate all over their tanks, so it’s more like scooping a cat litter box. You will also want to be on top of it- get that poop out of there as soon as they drop it. (It stinks!) Another thing to consider is cricket parts.
Bearded dragons won’t eat dead crickets because they are not moving. As a result, leaving them in there can get pretty smelly- you will want to remove those as soon as feeding time is over.
Your beardie won’t be eating crickets every day, but you will want to be vigilant about removing uneaten food.
Leopard geckos’ daily cleaning tasks are much easier compared to bearded dragons’ daily cleaning tasks.
Part 2: Living with Your Reptile
In this part, we will take a look at what life will be like with your reptile of choice. We will talk about handling the lifestyles of these reptiles and their personalities (Yes, even reptiles will surprise you with their spunk)!
Are Bearded Dragons Easier To Handle Than Leopard Geckos?
As a reptile owner, you will treasure the moments you spend holding and interacting with your bearded dragon or leopard gecko.
It’s fun to hold these “tiny dinosaurs,” and you get to feel closer to your scaly family member. But there are significant differences in handling between the two you should be aware of.
Handling Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons that are comfortable with you and are used to your presence will enjoy your company and will welcome being handled.
There have even been reports of bearded dragon owners discussing their beardies, trying to get the attention of their keepers in hopes of getting out for a little while.
There are fun bearded dragon leashes you can use to bring your pet outdoors or around your home safely, too.
Safely holding a bearded dragon will require that your pet is used to your hand. You will want to slide your hand under the belly of the dragon to support them and then slowly lift them out of the tank.
Once handling is complete, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Handling Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos are OK with being held- they certainly don’t bite. However, inexperienced handlers should NOT be left with a leopard gecko, and neither should very young children. The biggest reason behind this is tail dropping.
The scientific term for this is autotomy, and it is the gecko’s form of self-defense when it comes to staying free from the clutches of predators.
Should the gecko be held by its tail and dangled, it could very well drop and run off. The tail will grow back but losing one’s tail is a very stressful thing and should be avoided at all costs.
As a result, ensure all handlers of the leopard gecko are prepared to properly hold the leopard gecko by letting them climb onto your hand when ready and slowly lifting it out of the tank.
Handlers should seat themselves on the floor to minimize falls and drops. Once handling is complete, be sure to wash hands with soap and water.
Bearded dragons are a bit less delicate than leopard geckos. Both require some training before they can be handled on both the owner’s and the reptile’s part, but beardies can take more “roughness” than leopard geckos.
Personalities: Bearded Dragons vs Leopard Geckos
You would be surprised at how much personality these reptiles have. They don’t seem as vibrant in the personality department when we think about other popular pets like birds, cats, and dogs. But the reality is that they have just as much to say as other pets!
The Personality of Leopard Geckos
Most of these reptiles enjoy being handled. They are lots of fun to play with- you can do this by placing fun toys like lizard ladders, lizard hides, and more into your gecko’s habitat and watching them play around.
They tend to be on the shy side, so make sure to give them plenty of time to get used to you. In time, they will open up, but some Leos will always be shy no matter what.
The Personality of Bearded Dragons
These fellows have personalities as unique as the owners who keep them! Most of the time, these animals are calm and just enjoy hanging out with their owners.
There are stories online of owners who sit with their dragons on them while watching TV or surfing on their computers.
After all, YOU are a warm place to sit. Beardies have been known to “wave” at their owners, which is heartwarming to pet owners, but actually meant as a show of submission or mating.
Beardies also love to go outside, and on warm enough days, you can put your bearded dragon on a leash and take them for a backyard walk.
The temperaments and personalities of these reptiles are docile and friendly, but bearded dragons easily have more of a personality than leopard geckos. Owners are also able to do more with bearded dragons, such as take them outdoors.
Bearded Dragons Have A Different Activity Schedule From Leopard Geckos
Are you a night owl? An early bird? Something in between? It will be worth it to pick a reptile that somewhat matches your schedule- therefore, you can better enjoy each other’s presence. Let’s discuss the day-to-day habits of these reptiles.
Leopard geckos are what we call crepuscular animals. In the wild, these creatures spend their days under cool rocks or in burrows. Once the twilight hour hits, they hit the road for hunting.
This also is safer for the Leo. Snakes, foxes, and other reptiles are less likely to be out during this time. They are also protected against nocturnal creatures, who do not come out until nightfall.
This translates into your leopard gecko being most active in the evenings or early mornings. You can spend time with your Leo before you head to work or school, and they can relax the rest of the day while you are away.
You will notice they spend most of the daylight hours inside hides- this is normal for leopard geckos and no cause for concern.
Bearded Dragons are diurnal creatures. They are like most of us humans: active during the day and sleeping during the night. Daytime for these creatures is about 13 hours, after which point would turn on the nighttime lamp for them.
Most families would agree that this pet is the best choice in terms of its active time- after all, they are awake when the rest of the family is, making it easier to play with, feed, care for, and learn from.
Bottom Line: Leopard geckos tend to be active in the early evenings and early mornings, as in the wild, this is prime hunting time.
Meanwhile, bearded dragons are like most of us, moving around in the daytime and sleeping at night. Most of the time, the beardie tends to be the better choice for owners in terms of care.
Part 3: Caring for Your Reptile
This part will focus on topics such as dietary needs, egg-laying, brumation, and the good health of your beardie or Leo.
Are Bearded Dragons Healthier Than Leopard Geckos?
Bearded dragons are tough cookies. With proper care, diligent cleaning, and a healthy diet, they can live 12-15 years.
However, owners must be careful to learn about and prevent diseases such as mouth rot, metabolic bone disease, impaction, and infections of the skin.
These are not as scary as you would think, and many owners will never have to worry about them, provided they keep the habitat clean and neat, the diet of the dragon on point, and vet checkups regular.
Leopard geckos may be small, but they are mighty. They, too, will do well so long as their owner keeps them in good health, a clean environment, and feeds them properly.
Like bearded dragons, Leos can suffer from broken bones, metabolic bone disease, and internal/external infections.
The Bottom Line?
Both reptiles are great for beginners because they are hardy.
However, owners must be careful to keep their pet’s diet healthy and balanced, provide correct supplements, keep habitats clean and schedule regular checkups for their reptiles to ensure a long, healthy life for their pets.
Leopard geckos take about 1 year to become mature sexually. The female will lay her eggs 16 to 22 days after copulating with a male, and a clutch will be laid every 15 to 22 days over the course of 4-5 months. You will need to provide a breeding box as well.
Males will vibrate their tails, which sounds a bit like a toy rattle. Mating only takes about three minutes. Be sure to remove the female once this action is complete. Female Leos may also lay eggs with no male present, but they will not be fertile.
Bearded dragons are ready to mate once they reach 12 months old. Earlier instances of mating at 8 months old and up have been reported, but this is uncommon. Females can lay eggs without a male present, but these eggs will be infertile.
A clutch will be laid over 1-2 days, a few weeks will go by, and she will do it again. During this time, be sure to provide your female abundant calcium- the act of producing those eggs drains that vital nutrient!
The bottom line: Both of these creatures can and will lay eggs regardless of whether or not a male is present.
Dietary Needs: Difference Between Bearded Dragons And Leopard Geckos
Bearded dragons are the sorts who eat insects and greens to stay healthy– they are undoubtedly omnivorous creatures. They do enjoy certain fruit when it’s time for a treat, too.
Baby and juvenile dragons will need to eat live insects such as crickets more often than adults, who will only get crickets twice or three times a week max, fasting one day and eating greens the rest of the days.
Baby dragons should be eating twice a day at least, which can be reduced to just once a day once they become adults at 12 months of age. And don’t worry about the fasting days for your dragon- in the wild, these animals go for up to a month without eating at times.
Leopard geckos are insectivores– live food ONLY is to be served to these little guys. You will need to keep a stock of live food handy, and some leopard geckos will be OK with eating freeze-dried insects as well on occasion (but the healthiest is always live foods).
Your young Leos will be eating once per day, and adults can eat once every two days.
The Bottom Line?
Bearded dragons, when adults, are somewhat easier (and cheaper) to feed because they eat mostly greens, fast one day, and take live foods just 2 or so times per week.
Meanwhile, leopard geckos must eat every other day as adults, and live food is best. The diet of the leopard gecko will likely cost more as well.
Part 4: Size And Lifespan
As you make your comparisons, size is likely a matter you’ve thought about. After all, the tank size is one thing, but what about the size of the pet itself? Here we will discuss all things related to the size of the reptiles.
Bearded dragons may live up to 15 years old when given proper feeding, cleanings, and care. This will vary from dragon to dragon, so prepare to have your beardie for over a decade if you choose to purchase one.
Leopard geckos can live anywhere from 10 to 20 years, depending on the level of care they receive. With great care and regular vet checkups, you can expect your Leo to live for at least a decade and up to 20 years beyond that.
The bottom line? These are long-term pets. Be prepared to care for them for a LONG TIME and make sure that any kids involved understanding that this is a long time to care for and love a pet.
Bearded dragons, on average, will be anywhere from 15 to 23 inches long, give or take. They are medium-sized reptiles. Babies will measure about 3-4 inches long when they hatch and will max out on length at 2 years old.
Leopard geckos are quite small in comparison, measuring at 3 inches when born and reaching about 7-10 inches once they hit adulthood.
The bottom line? Bearded dragons are much bigger in size when compared to leopard geckos. They’re certainly easier to hold since they are so calm and not as delicate as leopard geckos, especially for young children.
At the time of their birth, beardies weigh about 3 grams. Once they get older, they weigh a minimum of .5 lbs. They can get up to 1.5 lbs., but if your beardie goes above 1.8 lbs., he or she needs to lose weight and get some more physical activity in their day-to-day lives.
Meanwhile, leopard geckos can weigh anywhere from 1.7 to 2.2 oz, making them comparatively lighter than bearded dragons. Males can even get up to 3.5 oz!
The bottom line? Bearded dragons are quite heavier when compared to leopard geckos. Some families and pet owners will appreciate this, while others will prefer the lighter leopard geckos.
So, are beardies better than Leos? Ultimately, it is for you to decide. They both make stellar companions for beginner and veteran reptile keepers.
Bearded dragons are better for young kids and new reptile keepers because they offer these folks a hardy pet with a big personality and relatively easy maintenance. They’re amazing “tiny dinosaurs” that will delight these owners for years to come.
Meanwhile, leopard geckos offer easier care because they require no special lighting, and they eat only every other day. They also need a smaller tank.
As you can see, both of these have their advantages. For absolute beginners, bearded dragons are best. But for intermediate owners with a steady hand, leopard geckos are better. Whichever you choose, good luck and happy keeping!