If you’re looking to add a new lizard to your household, it can be a daunting task to decide what animal fits best with you. The two most commonly debated between are the Crested and Leopard Geckos, as they have a similar docile temperament and are relatively low maintenance and inexpensive. When comparing the Crested Gecko vs Leopard Gecko as pets, it’s important to look at the space requirements as well as the style of handling you’d prefer and the number of feeding sessions a week. This is a quick overview of the similarities and differences between the two species and how to figure out which is best for you.
Crested Gecko vs Leopard Gecko as pets – which is right for you?
- Adult size: 7-9 inches including tail
- Lifespan: 15-20 years
- Diet: Feeding insects, fruits, and specialized crested gecko food
- Maintenance level: Easy
About Crested Geckos
Crested Geckos are native to Southern Grand Terre, New Caledonia, and at least one small surrounding island including the Isle of Pines, all off the coast of Australia, so this isn’t a lizard you’re likely to see in the wild. Still, they’re considered one of the best pet lizards available today for their ease of care, unusual appearance, and unlimited breeding potential.
The Crested Gecko is semi-arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in small trees and low shrubs, so this is necessary for them in captivity as well. When choosing a cage and a location for them, height is more desirable than length or width, especially for adult geckos. Crested Geckos actually have specialized toe pads that allow them to grip and move along vertical surfaces effortlessly, and their prehensile tails add to that.
Crested Geckos are especially unique and strange in that they store calcium in the roof of the mouth, in things called endolymphatic sacs, and you can actually see them. Owners should check these reserves to make sure they’re storing enough calcium, and if not, that’s a sign that you may need to increase that particular nutrient in their diet.
Crested Geckos are the most handlable of all lizards. A common technique to bond with them and help them grow comfortable with you is the “hand walking” method. To do this, simply hold your hand in front of them and allow them to walk on before putting your hand back in front – like a little reptile treadmill! However, they’re also a bit skittish and fragile and avid jumpers, so watch out for them attempting to jump as they could hurt themselves.
Unlike many other geckos, the Crested Gecko won’t regrow its tail if it falls off. This is a normal defense mechanism and not a medical emergency, and usually only happens if they’re handled improperly or pinched or squeezed. This is relatively rare, but if it does end up happening to your Crested Gecko, it isn’t anything to be concerned about and you’ll grow to love your tailless friend! Should the tail come off though, you may need to change their habitat, as their tail plays a large role in their climbing ability and this could be hindered without it.
Who should consider owning a Crested Gecko?
Crested Geckos are a low-maintenance pet suited for just about anybody, including children and novice lizard owners who may not have as much time to devote to daily care. Feeding is incredibly simple, and with the invention of specialized gecko food from pet stores, you don’t even need to be comfortable feeding live insects (although it is recommended as treats to keep your gecko happy). Overall, caring for a Crested Gecko is not too difficult. Just be a responsible pet owner like you would be with any other pet.
It’s important to note that because this lizard lives for so long, you need to be prepared to keep it for that long and provide the same standard of care throughout. If you’re looking for a unique lizard to show off your personality and be a long-lived companion while not wanting to clean or feed as often as a dog or cat, the Crested Gecko is for you!
Pros of owning a Crested Gecko
- Pretty low maintenance
- Come in a variety of beautiful morphs
- Have docile temperaments
- They only bite if they feel threatened, but it’s simply startling and won’t even draw blood
- They’re amazing to watch, especially while climbing
- Commonly sold as pets and not difficult to find
- They can even be affectionate (in their own way) and have a strong following of dedicated owners
Cons of owning a Crested Gecko
- They don’t regrow their tail if it falls off. Leopard Geckos do regrow their tails
- Males are territorial – only one per tank
- They get stressed at temperatures higher than 80 degrees
- They’re nocturnal, so unless you’re a night owl they may not be as active for you
- Can be prone to mouth rot, respiratory infections, and skin issues that can rack up a vet bill
- They need higher humidity and should be misted every day
Crested Geckos make fantastic pets, especially for first-time lizard owners and children. They’re able to be handled well and are incredibly docile with a mild temperament and unique features that many owners love. They’re very aesthetic as well, and make for a great low-maintenance pet that doesn’t require many live insect feedings and will simply sit and coexist with you.
- Adult size: 8 to 10 inches
- Lifespan: up to 20 years
- Diet: Insects – primarily gut-loaded crickets, waxworms, and mealworms
- Maintenance level: Easy
About Leopard Geckos
The Leopard Gecko is another common beginner reptile. It’s native to Afghanistan, Pakistan, northwest India, and Iran, and compared to other lizards, require minimal care. They’ve been known to have more perky personalities and movements unique to the species.
Unlike other geckos, Leopard Geckos don’t have sticky toe pads, so they won’t need as many climbing activities in their cage. They’re also incredibly hardy and forgiving within their environment, which makes them doubly perfect for people who may not have kept a lizard before.
This lizard uses its tail to communicate and is considered a “tail rattler”, similar to rattlesnakes. This “rattling” of the tail indicates your lizard is excited to eat or mate and has been described as the same motion as a dog wagging its tail but much faster and only at the tip. And yes, the Leopard Gecko can self-amputate their own tail in self-defense and unlike the Crested Gecko, theirs grows back.
The Leopard Gecko is also nocturnal, but they’ve also been known to be most active at dawn and sunset to get maximum UV exposure. UVA and UVB light are very important to these geckos, as they’re the main preventative measure towards a metabolic bone disease that’s common in the species.
As a desert species, the Leopard Gecko doesn’t need as much humidity as the Crested Gecko, and is usually happy just at your household humidity.
Who should consider owning a Leopard Gecko?
Like the Crested Gecko, you need to be prepared to have this lizard for its full 20-year life span, and especially stress this to any children in the household. With proper care, your Leopard Gecko can be with you for a very long time.
Because the Leopard Gecko is more energetic and perky, it can put up with more handling than most and enjoys spending time with their people. The ideal person for them would be somebody who wants to handle them almost every day while appreciating their strange beauty.
On top of that, you need to be comfortable handling insects, as Leopard Geckos do require live, gut-fed insects. This can be mildly time-consuming and requires more planning ahead than simply feeding a dog, as the insects should ideally be gut-fed 48 hours prior to feeding them to your lizard. After they’re done gut-loading, they should be covered in a fine calcium powder to supplement the diet, and this can be a very strange thing to do at first and takes some getting used to.
Pros of owning a Leopard Gecko
- They have a great and energetic temperament
- They’re easily handled
- They come in a variety of beautiful morphs
- They’re readily available and affordable
- They don’t require a lot of cage maintenance
- Leopard Geckos can communicate their excitement with their tail
- They don’t require a lot of humidity
Cons of owning a Leopard Gecko
- They’re actually very vocal, especially while hungry, and this can be an unforeseen annoyance for new owners
- Males are territorial, even with other species
- The cage should still be spot cleaned once a day to remove feces and uneaten food
- Their food takes a lot more preparation
- They’re prone to metabolic bone disease
- They may need more specialized
The Leopard Gecko makes a great pet for anybody, but also especially beginner owners who may not want a high maintenance lizard to start with. They’re hardy and don’t have as strict habitat needs as the Crested Gecko, but they do require slightly more UV light to prevent bone problems. You can see them eating more live insects as a pro and a con, as yes it can be slightly gross and strange to adapt to, but it also makes it feel more interactive between you and them.
Both lizards make amazing pets, especially for those who may not have had a pet lizard yet and are looking for a long-term scaley companion. They’re both relatively low maintenance and incredibly unique, coming in a variety of colors and patterns.
The Crested Gecko is the perfect pet for the person who doesn’t want to feed live insects as often and is gentle enough to handle the lizard gently. The Leopard Gecko is slightly showier, as it can grow larger and requires more live feedings, and requires slightly more forethought when it comes to food. However, it makes up for it by being more resilient and durable, plus its tail can grow back while the Crested Gecko’s won’t.
Overall, it comes down to the owner and what they’re wanting out of this relationship. If you’re looking for a more interactive lizard, then the Leopard is the way to go. However, if you want a more delicate but aesthetic climbing lizard, then the Crested Gecko will make the perfect companion for you. Either way, they’re amazing animals and make fantastic pets.