The most common “beginner” pet geckos are Crested Geckos and Leopard Geckos.
Either is a great choice.
The question is, which one is best for you?
My first lizard was a Leopard Gecko. I went to the pet store and looked at all the lizard care sheets. Any care sheet that looked too complicated I put back in the pile. When I was done, all I had left was a Leopard Gecko care sheet. I don’t think there was even a Crested Gecko care sheet!
Since my first Leopard Gecko, 20 years ago, I have raised hundreds of geckos as a breeder and keeper. Currently, I own 22 Leopard Geckos (including one celebrating his 19th birthday this year) and 5 Crested Geckos.
This Crested Gecko vs Leopard Gecko comparison guide should help you to decide which one you’d like to have as a pet.
Crested Gecko vs Leopard Gecko
In terms of appearance, care and habitat, these lizards are very different from each other.
The biggest difference to be prepared for, based on my first hand experience, is that Leopard Geckos scurry and Crested Geckos jump. You will never end up with a Leopard Gecko on your face, as happened to me with a very jumpy crestie!
What they have in common is that they both make very fun and interesting pet lizards.
|Wider body with a skinny tail.
Soft and “squishy” to the touch.
Relatively long legs with rounded toe pads that allow it to stick to vertical surfaces.
|Narrow body with a fat tail.
Eyes with eyelids.
Hard and bumpy to the touch.
Short legs with claws.
|8-10 inches long with tail (4-5 inches without tail).
|Similar size, but “giant” morphs may be 12 inches long.
|Generally different shades of brown, sometimes with white patterning.
Morphs can be red, yellow, olive green or white and may have black “Dalmatian” spots.
|Originally yellow with black spots.
Morphs can have few to no spots and can be bright yellow, pale orange, deep red/orange, white or nearly black.
|Up to 20 years or more as pets.
|Often active at night and usually tolerates handling
|Generally calm and quiet. Some do not tolerate handling.
|Starting at $75.
|Arboreal (live in trees), though may spend some time on the ground.
Requires moderate temperatures (65-80°F), moderate to high humidity with daily misting and a fruit nectar diet. They do not need a diet of live insects, but often enjoy hunting.
|Terrestrial (ground dwelling), though some like to climb.
Requires belly heat, low humidity and a diet of live insects or worms.
|Tank should be taller than it is long (20 gallon tall – minimum size 18”x18”x18”).
|Tank should be longer than it is tall (20 gallon long).
|Often explores the enclosure in the evenings and may roam through the entire cage
|Frequently sedentary and may spend lots of time inside hides. Some like to explore.
Crested Geckos and Leopard Geckos are both very hardy lizards. They can be held without damage to their skin, and nearly all of them tolerate being held. Some even appear to enjoy it, especially if the hand is warm and the day is cold!
If handled regularly, most crested and Leopard Geckos can be taken out of the enclosure and given a chance to explore in safe areas.
One of my Crested Geckos used to accompany me into the kitchen while I prepared his food. He would cling to the wall near the sink while I mixed up his food. Another would hop out of his cage when I was misting to sit on my hand and “help.”
For the Leopard Geckos, I would pull the couch pillows forward and let them wander around behind them.
In both cases, they need careful supervision to make sure they don’t escape.
Both Crested Geckos and Leopard Geckos can drop their tails without significant harm. However, I have found that Cresties are a bit more likely to drop their tail, though 4 out of my 5 still have theirs. Leopard Gecko tails will grow back (though not as perfect looking as the original), while cresties do not re-grow their tails.
Many Leopard Geckos and Crested Geckos seem to enjoy exploring in their enclosures, though most leos are less active.
Crested Geckos enjoy climbing and they can just walk up the walls! A Leopard Gecko can climb, though it needs a ramp or a mesh-like surface. They will benefit from a second level platform in the cage or a hammock to sit in. All of mine have platforms which they can reach by climbing onto their humid hides and then up to the next level.
They are both fun to watch as they hunt.
A Leopard Gecko will lift its shoulders and point its head down in “hunting position” when it sees prey. It will advance slowly, or with a jerky motion, and grab the prey item with its mouth.
Crested Geckos usually see the prey from above and will “dive bomb” the feeder.
Crested Geckos vs. Leopard Geckos are different when it comes to the type of habitat and food they need. This is often the determining factor when first-time owners are trying to decide which one to get.
Leopard Geckos are terrestrial, meaning that they are most comfortable on the ground. They need an enclosure that’s longer than it is tall. This means that a Leopard Gecko enclosure will take up more horizontal space in a room.
By contrast, Crested Geckos are arboreal, meaning that they spend most of their time above the ground. They need a cage that’s at least 18” tall, and it needs to be taller than it is long.
Author Tip: If your available space is on the narrow side, a Crested Gecko may be easier to accommodate. If it is difficult to keep a tall enclosure in your home, a Leopard Gecko is best.
Crested Geckos come from a humid environment, while Leos are from a drier environment. Leopard Geckos benefit from having a small humid hide (often made from a 6”x6” plastic container with coco fiber or a paper towel inside), but Crested Geckos need to have their entire habitat misted every evening.
Author Tip: If you don’t want to deal with a spray bottle every evening, a Leopard Gecko is a better pet for you.
Leopard Geckos need belly heat in the low 90s. This means their cage needs to be equipped with a heat source, usually an under tank heater connected to a thermostat.
Crested Geckos don’t need any supplemental heat in most environments. They do best in the 70-80°F range, but can tolerate temperatures as low as 65 and as high as 90°F for a few days, though this isn’t ideal.
When I had only one Crested Gecko, I would put him in a spare cage in my basement on very hot days, since I live in New England in the US and have no air conditioning. During a New England summer, my house may get into the 90s for a few days. If I’m concerned I also put an ice pack into the cages.
Author Tip: If you live in a climate that’s mostly hot, and you don’t have air conditioning, you may have difficulty keeping a Crested Gecko.
It is possible to feed a Crested Gecko a fruit nectar diet, some complete diets have insects mixed in to provide more protein. Leopard Geckos are different, they need live insects. Some people are squeamish about keeping live prey such as mealworms, crickets or dubia roaches in their homes.
Author Tip: If you hate the idea of having bugs in your home, you will do better with a Crested Gecko.
Since I have both crested and Leopard Geckos, my home always sounds like a campground with the crickets!
How To Tell Them Apart
There are many types of geckos ranging from small Common House species, to the Giant Leaf-Tailed! If you are looking at two geckos and you already know that one is a Leopard Gecko and one is a Crested Gecko, here is how to tell the difference…
A Crested Gecko has a thin tail (if it has a tail at all) which is much narrower than the rest of its body.
The Leopard Gecko looks much different. It has a fat tail that tapers at the end. Because of the fat tail, they are pretty much the same width from head to toe.
Cresties have fat toes with a rounded portion at the end of each toe and no visible claws. The bottom of their feet are textured to allow them to stick to smooth surfaces. This is why Crested Geckos are most often seen clinging to a wall.
Leos have short legs and a body that is usually low to the ground. You can easily see their claws at the end of each toe.
Crested Geckos are brown or other earthy shades of red, tan, olive, green and beige. They may have spotting (called “Dalmatian” spots) or a lighter-colored pattern on their sides or back.
Most, but not all, Leopard Geckos will have black or brown markings on the head, tail and body. Their body color will be yellow or pale orange.
Cresties have fringed scales that look like eyelashes, they are often called “eyelash geckos”. These fringed scales run from their eyes, along the top of their head and down their back in two rows. Sometimes these scales are white, contrasting nicely with the darker body colors.
Leos have eyelids and you may see them closing their eyes. Crested Geckos have no eyelids, so their eyes appear open all the time, even when they are sleeping.
|Long, thin tail
|Fat tail that tapers at the end
|Fat toes, no visible claws and textured feet
|Short legs and visible claws
|Yellow or pale orange
In conclusion, if you’re deciding between a Crested Gecko vs Leopard Gecko, the best choice is…
Whichever gecko best suits your needs and preferences!
If after reading about Crested vs Leopard Gecko similarities and differences, you still can’t make up your mind, go and visit some. You may fall in love with one or the other when you actually see and handle them.
One young boy and his mother came to my home years ago to buy a Leopard Gecko. When they looked around, they fell in love with gargoyle geckos, and that’s what they ended up getting.
Whatever you choose, make sure you have all the care instructions and supplies available before you get your pet, and, most importantly, enjoy them!