The crested gecko and the leopard gecko both have a docile temperament and are easy to care for, making them an excellent choice of pet for beginner reptile keepers.
How do you know which gecko is right for you?
In this article, we will look at the differences and similarities between the crested gecko and the leopard gecko to help you decide.
The crested gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) is native to the southern part of New Caledonia, an island around 750 miles east of Australia.
Crested geckos are avid climbers, and they are generally found in the upper canopy of trees in a humid rainforest environment.
The crested gecko will rarely spend time on the ground and instead prefers to do all of its hunting, eating, and sleeping in the branches of trees.
The leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is found in the dry, rocky grasslands and the arid desert regions of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal.
Leopard geckos love to burrow and dig, and they will spend most of their time during the day inside of burrows or beneath vegetation to escape the heat.
The leopard gecko stays on the ground unless it is basking on a rock, and it is most active at night when it hunts for food.
Due to their natural habitats, the crested gecko and the leopard gecko have very different requirements for an indoor enclosure environment.
Indoor Habitat Requirements
The crested gecko and leopard gecko have in common the type of habitat they live in.
Both geckos will do well in a glass vivarium with a size of at least 20 gallons, but the main difference is in the shape.
Since crested geckos are avid climbers, they will need their vivarium to be taller than wide to accommodate plenty of plants and ledges to climb.
Leopard geckos are just the opposite because they need plenty of ground space to explore and dig in.
Crested geckos and leopard geckos have different lighting, temperature, and humidity requirements, and we will explore those differences in this section.
The gecko’s enclosure should be spot cleaned every day to remove feces, and the entire enclosure should be deep-cleaned at least once a month.
Since both crested and leopard geckos are mostly active at night, they do not require a UVB light.
Be aware if you do not use a UVB lamp, you will need to use a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement powder at every feeding.
Without enough UVB light rays, neither a crested gecko nor leopard gecko would properly synthesize enough D3, which would lead to a calcium deficiency.
You will need to provide a fluorescent lamp for a 12-hour light cycle at the bare minimum so the crested and leopard geckos will settle into a day and night rhythm.
However, the best choice in lighting is a 5%-6% UVB bulb, which provides a low level of UVB rays without raising the enclosure’s temperature too much.
Crested geckos are very sensitive to high temperatures because they come from a cooler rainforest environment.
The average ambient temperature should be between 72-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C), easily achievable without special heat lamps or ceramic heaters.
The temperature of a crested gecko’s enclosure should never go above 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C).
Prolonged high temperatures are fatal for crested geckos, so heating devices of any kind are usually avoided unless the room temperature is frequently below 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C).
Leopard geckos, on the other hand, enjoy much warmer temperatures to mimic their native desert environment.
Leos need much more of a temperature gradient, with temperatures on the cool side ranging from 75-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) on the cool side and ambient temperatures remaining between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
Leopard geckos also need a very warm basking spot with a temperature range of 90-95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C).
A crested gecko has very strict high humidity requirements, so you will need to invest in a quality hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels in the enclosure.
The crested gecko enclosure will need to be misted several times a day at certain intervals to maintain the higher humidity levels.
When the humidity levels of the crested gecko’s enclosure drop to 50%, you will need to raise the humidity to 80% by lightly misting the enclosure with purified water.
These highs and lows should naturally prevent the enclosure from being too humid for long periods, not ideal for the crested gecko.
Check out our post on crested gecko humidity requirements for detailed information on this.
Leopard geckos have much more arid environments, with humidity levels in the range of 30%-40% on average.
However, leopard geckos require humidity levels of 70%-80% for a healthy shedding process.
To achieve this higher humidity for shedding without raising the overall humidity of the enclosure, provide your leopard gecko with a humid hide made with sphagnum moss.
You should place this humid hide on the warmer end of the leopard gecko enclosure, and you should regularly monitor the humidity levels to ensure they remain high enough.
Since crested geckos require such a humid environment, the substrate needs to help maintain the moisture levels inside the enclosure.
Some excellent substrate choices for a crested gecko enclosure include orchid bark, cypress mulch, coco coir, or a combination of the three.
Soil may also be added to this substrate mix to hold even more moisture.
Crested geckos spend most of their time climbing trees, so the substrate’s depth only has to be between 2-4″ inches (10 cm) to support the high humidity within the enclosure.
Our post on the top crested gecko substrates goes into more detail if you want to learn more.
There are various substrates, such as reptile carpet, tile, and newspaper, but the most beneficial type for a leopard gecko is a soil mixture.
The soil mixture for leopard geckos should include a mix of organic topsoil, clay, and sand.
The substrate for a leopard gecko enclosure should be at least 3″ inches (7.5 cm) deep to allow for digging and burrowing.
If you provide a loose substrate such as soil or coconut coir, you should always monitor your gecko for signs of impaction.
Impaction occurs when tiny substrate particles are accidentally ingested during feeding time, and over time these particles form a blockage in the gecko’s intestines.
Crested geckos will need various plants, branches, and other ledges to climb inside their enclosure.
Since crested geckos do not spend time on the vivarium floor, you will need to provide special feeding ledges for placing their food and water.
Crested geckos also need plenty of vegetation or some other sort of hiding place where they will be able to go when they feel threatened.
In addition to the humid hide mentioned earlier, leopard geckos also need a flat rock for basking.
Leopard geckos will also frequently soak themselves in water for hydration, so you will need to provide a shallow water dish inside the enclosure.
Be sure to change the water when it gets dirty, which is often several times a day.
While they are both species of gecko, there are marked differences in the appearance of the crested gecko and the leopard gecko.
Both geckos are similar in size, with the average length being between 6-10″ inches (25 cm) for both species.
Crested geckos range in color from pale yellow, red, and brown, and they usually do not have any patterning.
Leopard geckos are generally yellow with their trademark black spots, but they may range from bright orange to solid black or white in rare morphs.
Aside from their size and color, there are more distinctive traits setting crested and leopard geckos apart.
Crested geckos are also known as “eyelash” geckos due to the tiny spikes of fringe surrounding the eyes and continuing to the sides of the head.
The crested gecko does not have eyelids, so it has to lick its eyeballs to provide them with moisture.
A crested gecko is also equipped with pads on its feet which allow it to climb vertical surfaces.
By contrast, leopard geckos have eyelids, but they do not have pads on their feet to help them climb.
Instead, a leopard gecko has long claws to aid in digging and burrowing.
Another key feature of the leopard gecko is its ability to regrow its tail if it gets detached.
The new tail will usually grow back to be shorter and fatter, but a leopard gecko has the ability for this regrowth several times during its life if needed.
A crested gecko is also able to lose its tail without causing a life-threatening injury, but its tail will never grow back.
Crested geckos have an average lifespan ranging from 10-15 years, and leopard geckos have similar longevity ranging from 10-20 years.
While both of these lizards are low-maintenance, they will require many years of commitment.
Leopard geckos are more prone to internal parasites than crested geckos, but both species are hardy animals.
Common diseases among crested and leopard geckos include metabolic bone disease, upper respiratory diseases, and tail rot.
These diseases are easily preventable with proper diet and habitat maintenance.
Both crested geckos and leopard geckos are mainly insectivorous, but the crested gecko is also frugivorous, meaning it eats fruit.
Crickets, roaches, small locusts, mealworms, and superworms are all excellent choices of feeder insects.
Feeder insects should be properly gut-loaded with nutritious foods and lightly dusted with a calcium or multivitamin supplement before feeding them to your gecko.
Always remove any uneaten insects after around 15 minutes to avoid any chance of biting injury to your gecko.
In addition to insects, a crested gecko will also enjoy an occasional fruit treat such as watermelon, mango, strawberries, figs, or bananas.
Due to the high amount of sugar naturally present in fruits, they should only be treated.
Adding Supplement Powders
Even with a well-rounded insect diet, crested and leopard geckos will still not receive all of the nutrition they require.
Insects are usually high in phosphorus, which will inhibit a gecko’s ability to properly absorb calcium and other trace minerals.
Vitamin D3 supplements should also be added if your gecko is not provided with any UVB light rays, as D3 is also vital to the proper metabolization of calcium.
Vitamin supplement powders are used by lightly dusting feeder insects right before feeding them to your gecko.
This is done by placing a small amount of the supplement powder in a plastic bag or container, adding the insects, and shaking the container gently to coat the insects.
You may spritz the insects with a light mist of water to help the powder stick to their bodies.
Since crested geckos do not spend time on the vivarium floor, you will need to provide them with a feeding ledge for their food and water.
For leopard geckos, a shallow dish should be placed at the bottom of the enclosure.
You should provide fresh, clean water every day, and you should monitor the water throughout the day to ensure it is clean.
You may need to change the water several times a day, especially for leopard geckos who are known to defecate in their water.
Temperament and Behavior
Both crested geckos and leopard geckos are very docile animals, and they are both nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night.
In both crested and leopard geckos, the males are very territorial, and you should never house more than one male in an enclosure.
Only keep females and males together in the same enclosure if you are prepared for breeding.
Crested geckos are slightly skittish and are known to jump if they are being handled.
Leopard geckos, however, are different because they don’t mind being handled too much and will happily relax on their owner’s shoulder or lie on their chest.
Crested geckos and leopard geckos are hardy reptiles with similar care requirements, and they each make great pets, even for beginners.
The main difference is the crested gecko will need a taller enclosure for climbing, while a leopard gecko needs more horizontal space for digging.
Leopard geckos also prefer to be handled more than crested geckos, which may be another consideration for you.