Geckos are highly popular in the reptile trade as adaptable, cute, and long-living reptiles. There are multiple gecko species available and even more morphs for each species to choose from.
However, confusion may arise when choosing your favorite species, given that many geckos look alike.
Today, we will discuss precisely such a case, comparing 2 of the most popular and similar-looking gecko species in the trade. More specifically, I’m talking about leopard and frog-eyed geckos.
What are their main differences, and what should you know about each species? Let’s have a look!
What is a Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos are desertic lizards that prefer to live in arid and dry environments. They have adapted to harsh environmental conditions, allowing them to thrive in habitats with low humidity and extreme temperatures, jumping up to 105 F.
These geckos have adapted to life in captivity extremely well and are easy to breed. As a result, we now have multiple leopard gecko morphs to choose from, some of which cost thousands of dollars.
Leopard geckos rank as beginner-friendly since they don’t need intensive care and are generally hardy and adaptable.
From a popularity standpoint, leopard geckos occupy the #1 by far.
One of the reasons for that is their warm and distinct ‘smile,’ highlighting their cuteness and unique look. We’ll discuss this feature more in-depth shortly.
What is a Frog-Eyed Gecko?
Frog-eyed geckos look similar to leopard geckos, but it shouldn’t take much to notice the differences. This species is also a ground dweller and resides in geographical regions like the Middle East and Asia, preferably in desertic areas.
Frog-eyed geckos often share space with leopard geckos, as they prefer a similar habitat with little-to-no vegetation.
These geckos aren’t as popular as leopard geckos. Part of that is the lizard’s difficulty of care, making it unsuitable for inexperienced reptile keepers. However, frog-eyed geckos are manageable with the right approach, which we’ll discuss today.
Comparison: Leopard Gecko vs. Frog-Eyed Gecko
We will use a handful of metrics to assess the differences between the 2 species.
Leopard geckos are highly recognizable thanks to their wide smile, which isn’t really a smile, but their natural mouth positioning.
This species comes with numerous morphs, all varying in color and patterns. Leopard geckos are typically yellow with dark spots, but several variations exist, depending on the morph.
The lizard has an agile and slim body with a medium and thick tail and long limbs specifically made for running. These lizards are ground dwellers, so they’re not meant for climbing.
The head is slightly flat, with big eyes and a pointy snout. The skin is scaleless but contains tiny blister-like bumps.
Leopard geckos can have very fat tails, depending on their diets. That’s because they first store fat in their tails, causing many people to confuse fat leopard geckos with fat-tailed geckos, which is an entirely different species.
Frog-eyed geckos are similar in appearance, but there are several noticeable differences to mention. For one, the head is shorter and bulkier than that of leopard geckos.
The eyes are also oversized and protruding, similar to those of an amphibian. The lizard’s body is stocky and compact, with a short tail with limited uses. A long tail wouldn’t make much sense, given that these lizards can’t climb.
The body is covered with snake-like scales, which is one of the main differences between this species and leopard geckos. This species’ color patterns are generally randomized, with spots, lines, and curves covering the entire body.
The underbelly is either white or light-colored, while the rest of the body contains warm colors like yellow and brown.
Size and Growth
Leopard geckos can reach 11 inches as adults, but that’s fairly rare. Most specimens grow up to 6-8 inches for the most part.
Frog-eyed geckos are smaller, only growing up to 5-7 inches, depending on the specimen. Both reptiles need several years to reach their maximum size at a growth rate of 0.5 to 1 inch per year.
Their growth rate and maximum size depend on numerous factors, such as:
- Diet diversity and meal size and frequency
- Proper nutritional intake with optimized calcium absorption
- Stable and optimized environmental parameters
- A stress-free habitat that mimics the animal’s natural conditions
- Overall health state over the years
- Adequate long-term maintenance, etc.
The lizard’s genetic makeup also makes quite a difference in this sense. If your gecko’s genetic buildup won’t allow it to go past a certain size, there’s nothing you can do about it.
When it comes to accommodating your lizards, consider the following metrics:
- Enclosure size – Both leopard geckos and frog-eyed geckos need at least 10 gallons per lizard. This is the absolute minimum, which is more fitting for medium-sized specimens. I recommend 20 gallons per lizard, no matter the species.
- Temperature gradient – Leopard geckos and frog-eyed geckos share pretty much the same habitat, so they require a similar temperature gradient. The basking zone should occupy close to 30% of the tank and reach temperatures of up to 90 F. The main dwelling area should have temperatures around 75-80 F. Nighttime temperatures can drop as low as 70 F, but not lower.
- Humidity – Leopard geckos need humidity levels around 30-40%, while frog-eyed geckos only accept 30% as a maximum value. The 2 species are similar in this sense due to them thriving in a similar wild habitat.
- Lighting – Both species are nocturnal, so they need a stable day/night cycle with approximately 12 hours of light per day. Your gecko will sleep during the day and become active and hunt during the nighttime.
- Layout – Both gecko species are ground dwellers. This means that they need horizontal rather than vertical space. Aim for 20 gallons, so you know you have the right space to fit all the decorations. These lizards don’t necessarily need vegetation, but one or two plants couldn’t hurt. Aim for 2-3 hiding areas to serve as resting/sleeping zones during the day. Some open space is also necessary for exploration and patrolling purposes, even if your geckos aren’t born roamers.
In short, don’t clutter your gecko’s layout with a lot of unnecessary decorations. Keep it simple, and make sure your geckos have sufficient space.
You don’t want them to feel claustrophobic or trapped.
Both species are generally easygoing and calm. These lizards rank as ambush predators, so they’re used to spending much of their time motionless, monitoring their habitat with a hunter’s eye.
You won’t see them performing too much activity during the daytime since nocturnal geckos sleep most of their days.
This is why you should only feed them at dusk when their natural hunting behavior comes online.
At their most active hours, you may notice your gecko moving around its habitat, migrating from one area to another to regulate its temperature and scanning the outside of their enclosure if anything peaks its attention.
Leopard geckos are generally friendlier and more docile than frog-eyed geckos. They aren’t too fond of handling and petting, but they won’t mind so long as you keep these interactions to a minimum.
Frog-eyed geckos aren’t as friendly. They tend to be more skittish and avoid human contact, especially at first, when they’ve yet to become familiarized with your presence.
Make sure your gecko is in a good mood before picking it up. If it appears stressed, and showcases aggression (open mouth, upright posture, raised tail), leave it be. Also, don’t hold your gecko anymore if it appears uncomfortable and attempts to leave your hand.
Leopard and frog-eyed geckos can live up to 20 years or more in captivity. However, leopard geckos have longer average lifespans overall. Frog-eyed geckos usually live up to 12-15 years, depending on the quality of care and housing.
Even so, the lifespan of both species depends on their overall care, diet, and general lifestyle.
Well-fed, clean, and happy geckos will always outlive stressed, poorly fed, and improperly kept-ones.
Leopard geckos are fairly easy to care for, making them great for beginners with little-to-no experience in reptile keeping.
Sure, it doesn’t mean that you can simply put your geckos on autopilot, but the overall care level necessary is negligible once you learn your pet’s needs.
Frog-eyed geckos are typically more pretentious in terms of overall care. They need more careful maintenance planning to keep the lizard healthy.
If I were to recommend a handful of maintenance practices that apply to all geckos and reptiles in general, I would choose the following:
- Have a well-planned maintenance routine – Weekly and monthly maintenance sessions that include removing feces and food leftovers and replacing the substrate whenever necessary. Once a month, you need to perform generalized cleaning and sterilization to remove bacteria, fungi, mold, and parasites that may infest the gecko’s habitat.
- Parameter stability and monitoring – Make sure that the gecko’s core environmental parameters, like humidity and temperature, remain stable at all times.
- Adjust the diet – Geckos need a varied diet with careful supplementation planning. Gut-load the insects to increase their nutritional value, and speak to your vet if your lizard needs calcium and D3 supplementation. A moderate UV light source can also help your reptiles synthesize vitamin D3 more effectively, increasing calcium absorption. We’ll discuss this point later on.
- Always check your reptiles’ wellbeing – Learn your reptile’s behavior, appearance, and lifestyle to differentiate between normal and abnormal behaviors and situations. This allows you to detect health problems in time and address them before they aggravate.
Besides that, geckos don’t need much except for peace, comfort, and quietness.
Both species are equally resilient and deal with similar health problems.
Here are some issues to consider:
- Respiratory infections – These generally occur due to improper temperature or humidity. Low humidity is most likely to blame, but high humidity can also lead to pneumonia. You can tell that your lizard is struggling with respiratory infections if it sneezes, wheezes, and appears to struggle for air. Professional assistance is mandatory at this point, given that respiratory infections are deadly in advanced phases.
- Skin infections – Several triggers are responsible for skin infections. These include low humidity, leading to dry skin that lacks elasticity, and improper shedding due to poor humidity and temperature. The latter is known as dysecdysis and refers to incomplete or abnormal shedding. Such an issue can lead to secondary infections and even localized necrosis due to the skin getting stuck around the legs or tail. Needless to say, skin infections can become fatal in some cases.
- Digestive problems – These can also occur for various reasons. One problem stems from improper food leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and, consequently, dehydration. Another digestive problem is the result of the gecko ingesting insects with hard exoskeletons, making them difficult to digest, or even rocks and pieces of wood decorating their habitat. These can lead to intestinal clogging, known as impaction, which can be fatal.
- Parasites – Skin parasites are of concern here because they spread fast, they multiply even faster, and can cause an array of secondary problems. They are generally easy to combat, provided you possess the knowledge for it. I’ve already written a more detailed article on gecko parasites that you might want to consider.
- Nutritional issues – Calcium deficiency is of particular importance here. All reptiles are prone to calcium deficiency, which can develop into Metabolic Bone Disease in its more severe forms. MBD is deadly in advanced stages, and it has no cure.
All of these problems have their own fixes, but only when tackled early on. Theoretically, every condition can become deadly if ignored.
Contact your vet for professional assistance if you can’t diagnose your reptile’s condition accurately.
Price & Cost
Leopard geckos can come as cheap as $15 per specimen or as costly as $3,000 or more per specimen. The price difference is linked to the specific morph and its rarity.
Depending on their rarity and uniqueness, some morphs can reach thousands of dollars. Even geckos belonging to the same morph can vary in price drastically, depending on the pattern and its exquisite features.
Frog-eyed geckos don’t reach such astronomical prices, but their standard cost is higher than that of leopard geckos. The typical frog-eyed gecko sits between $50 and $100 per specimen.
It’s important to note that several features will influence the lizard’s price. These include age, size, overall health, color pattern, and the geographical area where you live.
Maybe leopard geckos are cheaper or more expensive in your area, depending on the sellers and how much competition there is in the local market.
Diet & Feeding
Both species are insectivorous and demand a varied diet to remain healthy and live longer lives. While the diet-and-feeding topic is complex and encompasses a variety of must-know aspects, I’ll try to keep it short.
Here’s what to know about feeding your geckos properly, no matter the species:
- Food variety – Don’t stick to one or 2 insect species. Geckos need a variety of insects to remain healthy over the years. Alternate their food items accordingly and maybe even get an insect feeder tank in place. This will provide you with long-term, fresh food for your geckos.
- Keep worms to a minimum – Superworms, silkworms, hornworms, and other caterpillars and larvae are normal food items for geckos. However, you should only feed them as treats to your geckos. These worms contain too much fat, too little protein, and not enough calcium, making them unfit for becoming regular foods for lizards. You can skip them completely, and your geckos won’t notice the difference. Also, keep in mind that worms like hornworms only consume sweets, which makes them quite tasty. Your gecko may become addicted to them.
- Gut-load and dust insects – Gut-loading and dusting insects are good ways of increasing their nutritional value. Dusting is also a good way of delivering extra calcium and D3 to your geckos, should you decide your lizards could use the extra nutrients.
- Mind the insect’s size – Your gecko should be able to swallow the insect with ease. The insect shouldn’t be larger than the distance between the gecko’s eyes. This is to prevent choking, especially when consuming insects with harder exoskeletons.
- Have a steady feeding schedule – Leopard geckos eat once every 2-3 days, depending on the specimen, while frog-eyed geckos have 4-5 meals per week. No matter the species, the gecko should only eat as many insects as it can consume with excitement. If your gecko appears to ignore the insects after ingesting several of them, remove the live food from their enclosure.
Finally, assess your gecko’s eating pattern and behavior closely. If your gecko appears to gain weight, lay back with the feeding for a bit.
Cut the meal size and expand the time between the feeding sessions.
Leopard Gecko vs. Frog-Eyed Gecko – Which is Better for You?
If I had to choose, I’d opt for leopard geckos. These lizards are cheaper and easier to find than frog-eyed geckos.
They are also easier to care for, making them great for beginners with little experience in growing reptiles.
This being said, don’t let my advice stop you from experimenting. Frog-eyed geckos are also great as pets, so long as you have the expertise and patience necessary to care for them over the years.
While leopard geckos and frog-eyed geckos are similar in many ways, they are also different in at least as many aspects.
Learn which species matches your preferences the most and go for whatever feels right and comfortable to you.
Don’t forget to share your experience with other gecko keepers, so everyone can learn from you!