Lizards vs. Geckos: Are Geckos the Same As Lizards?

Is a gecko a lizard?

If you enjoy having a reptile as a pet, you may be wondering if lizards and geckos are the same animals. Knowing if the geckos and lizards are the same species and what defines them might be helpful when making decisions about habitat and lifestyle. You can make informed decisions and know what is best for your pet.

Geckos are lizards but not all lizards are geckos. Geckos belong to the lizard family and there is a large number of gecko species. One difference between geckos and other lizard species is geckos will lay eggs in pairs, whereas lizards will lay them in groups. In addition, geckos are more prone to speaking and chirping to vocalize their interests, and their eyes are open all the time due to their lack of eyelids. 

There are differences between the geckos and other species of lizards. Read on to learn about the differences between geckos and lizards and how to take care of them.

Is a Gecko a Lizard? 

Geckos are lizards but they are a certain type of lizard. In the same way, monitor lizards are a type of lizard but not all lizards are monitor lizards. Lizards are a very diverse species. They are found in all countries except Antarctica and can adapt to many other environments. There are over 6000 different types of lizards in which geckos are 1500 of them. That is at least from what has been discovered so far. 

Geckos are a type of lizard. Therefore, they can go by the same name and can be hard to distinguish if you don’t have a discerning eye. However, there are many commonalities between other lizards and a gecko. For example, a gecko will have the exact defense mechanisms and help them hide from predators.

Coming from the same species means that geckos will always be classified under lizards. So if you see a gecko at a zoo or in other animal habitats, they may be called lizards which can be confusing, but they all have the same foundational building blocks.

Differences Between Geckos and Other Lizards 

There are some differences between geckos and other lizards even though they belong to the same suborder. 

Geckos Are Typically Smaller Than Many Other Lizards

Geckos are typically smaller in size than other lizards. However, a lizard can grow to be quite large, like a komodo dragon. Komodo dragons can grow up to 10 feet long; this is in stark contrast to a small gecko that will not be larger than 8 inches. Of course, there are geckos that get larger than this but not by very much.

The largest species of gecko is the New Caledonian giant gecko that reaches lengths of 14 inches. Still not very large when compared to large lizard species such as monitor lizards, tegus, or certain iguana species. 

A gecko is typically tiny because of its ability to climb around and burrow around in its environment. However, a bearded dragon and other lizards do not necessarily need to climb or be small enough to be fast because they have different defense mechanisms.

Physical Characteristics Between Geckos and Other Lizards

A gecko and lizard are very similar looking. Both geckos and lizards are cold-blooded. A cold-blooded animal will need the external environment to warm itself. For the gecko and lizard, their environment needs to be warm. This can be from a heat lamp or in the sun or sand are the right environmental factors for them.

Lizards and geckos are both four-legged creatures. They use the four legs to have good balance and be able to move quickly. Geckos sometimes move on their two upper legs and reach up for things, but not all lizards will do that.

The eyelids of lizards and geckos are very different. Geckos have no eyelids making their eyes look like they are always open. Lizards, on the other hand, have moveable eyelids and can close their eyes.

The gecko’s toes have tiny hairs that create a seal when they try to walk on things. This gives them a connection between the surface and creates stability. Lizard feet do not have these specifics. Instead, they have standard clawed feet that will allow them to move quickly, but they do not have suction cup tendencies to climb walls. Some species like the leopard gecko and the African fat-tailed gecko do not however have this ability. 

All lizards and geckos have scaly skin. The scaly skin has a covering that traps in the moisture and keeps it from gaining too much moisture. However, humidity can cause the skin to become dry and unfavorable.

Geckos Have Different Breeding Habits That Other Lizards 

Lizards and geckos both lay eggs. Their habits for breeding are different, though. A gecko will lay eggs in pairs. The female gecko will lay around five pairs of eggs between May and August of each year, which works out to be around a couple of eggs every two to three weeks. 

Some lizards tend to lay eggs in nests or sheltered places to keep their eggs safe until they hatch. Other lizards will keep the eggs inside of them until they hatch. This is their safety net and will help the eggs stay safe until they are born.

After these eggs hatch, most lizards will not take care of their young. Instead, they will leave their young to fend for themselves. This is the same for both geckos and all other lizard breeds.


Lizards and Geckos are both able to camouflage themselves to various degrees of success. Most lizards will be able to sense the color of the rock and change their color to match the rock. Geckos are the same. They can camouflage themselves to blend into their environment.

Camouflage is beneficial for these animals because it helps them hide from predators or other harmful environmental factors. Both lizards and geckos are good at climbing into tiny spaces and camouflage spaces.

Defense Mechanisms   

There are multiple defense mechanisms geckos and lizards will use to distract and get rid of predators.

Break Off Tail

Another thing lizards and geckos have in common is the defense mechanism they have against other predators. When a gecko and some lizards are under attack, they will break off their tail and get away from their predators. Some lizards will also regrow the tail if they need to.


Lizards and geckos will also use vocalizations to let predators know not to get too close. Hissing is a common sign across most animals that shows they are unhappy with the situation.  All lizards and geckos have similar reactions because of their innate instincts to flee from predators and protect themselves.

The frilled dragon, a type of lizard, creates a hissing sound by expanding his gills and puffing air out of them to create a hissing sound. Geckos, on the other hand, will both hiss and scream to explain their frustration and try to get rid of predators. 

Make Themselves Larger

If a lizard is intimidated by a predator, Geckos will make themselves more prominent. A gecko cannot make themselves look much larger, but a bearded dragon will puff out their chin and make them look larger. This helps to scare away the predators and help keep them safe in their surroundings.

Eating Habits Of Geckos Vs Other Lizards 

Eating habits for a gecko will be of smaller game, they will eat small bugs, But larger geckos might even eat smaller geckos, mice, and even small birds. Instead of just eating small animals, lizards will have a wider variety of things they eat. They eat vegetables, small insects, whereas larger lizards will even eat deer.

Geckos vs. Other Lizards As Pets 

Geckos and other lizards can be great pets. They can be long-term pets and can live in almost any place indoors. However, there are some factors to consider when making your decision. You need to make the best decisions for yourself that can impact your life.

Gecko Lifespan Vs. Other Lizard Species 

One of the things to consider is the lifespan of your chosen pet. If your chosen lizard has a  longer lifespan, you may need to think about who would care for the lizard if something terrible happened. Lizards can have between 3 to 50 years of life. For example, a rhinoceros iguana has been known to live up to 40 years in captivity. 

Geckos do have longer lifespans of between 12-20 years. Even though it will not take all of your life, you need to consider who would take care of a gecko if something were to happen. These are longer lifespans, and it is because of their size and the environment they are found in. In a controlled environment, they are bound to live longer lives because of the absence of predators.

Some lizards have shorter lifespans. The shorter lifespan of the lizard can be because of their size and the health risks they have. For example, many chameleon species might only live 3-5 years in captivity. 

Size of Enclosure

Most other lizard types can grow to more extensive than the average gecko. The average gecko can be between 7-10 inches long. This means it can live in a standard size terrarium and can be easier to keep inside. The only problem is that geckos can be very fragile to pick up, making it difficult to handle them.

That said, some species are better than others. The leopard gecko for example is my number one pick for pet lizards for kids and beginners. In addition. the leopard geckos are my number one pick for pet reptiles that can fit in a 20-gallon tank

Other types of lizards might even require a custom-built enclosure. This means that they will require a bigger tank and make a larger enclosure more challenging to maintain. The size of some lizards is more sturdy and will need a more substantial cage.

Most people will use a glass tank terrarium. These can range in size from small to extra large. Some of these are enforced with additional protection and can break less easily. Some cages will even use metal wire to keep them in the cage and make it harder to break out of it.

Another thing to think about with an enclosure is the weight of the animal. For example, a gecko can weigh up to 100 grams, whereas a bearded dragon can weigh 850 grams. Therefore, a gecko will need a less solid and customized enclosure.

Other common pet lizards, such as bearded dragons ( which are not even close to the largest pet lizards), will require a more sturdy reinforced cage because the lizards have much more weight. This can also mean that you may need a customized enclosure to fit the size of your lizard.


Depending on your schedule, you may want to take your lifestyle into account when making your decision. For example, if you work during the day, you might want a more active lizard at night. 

Leopard geckos, like most other geckos, are more active around twilight. This is because they have an internal alarm clock that helps them know what they should be doing at different times. You can help teach them about these cycles by adding other lights in their environment throughout the day. 

Bearded dragon lizards are more active during the day. If you are home during the day, this may be the reptile for you. They will be active and interact with their environment. This can allow you to interact with your pet.

Diet and Feeding

When considering adopting a lizard as a pet, you need to consider what the diet and feeding schedule would look like. Depending on how much interaction you want with the feeding process, you will want to determine if you wish to have an omnivore or an insectivore.

Most geckos are solely insectivores, which means they only eat live insects. This will require you to acquire the insects, and they must be alive. To keep them alive, you may have to feed them to your lizard through the use of tweezers or make sure they are alive going into their cages.

Many geckos can have a feeding schedule of only getting fed every two days, making them an easier pet to care for regarding their eating habits. Some species of geckos such as the Chahoua gecko can live completely on a powdered diet. This can make feeding pretty darn easy and simple. 

Many other types of lizards such as the Argentine tegu require an expansive diet ( not to mention expensive ) of a variety of prey, fruits, and vegetables. 

Geckos Have Different Hibernation Patterns Than Many Other Lizards 

Some lizards will go into hibernation mode when it gets colder. This can be because of food or even mating habits. It is important not to change anything about their habitat and keep it the same no matter the climate.

A bearded dragon will not eat and will sleep most of the time during hibernation season. On the other hand, a leopard gecko will not hibernate and instead continue its regular schedule during the winter seasons.

If you want to be a per owner for a more active pet, a gecko may be the better one for you. This is because a gecko will be active all year round.

Geckos Are Often A Safer Option Than Many Other Lizard As Pets 

Like most animals, their temperament depends on the individual animal. For example, most lizards will be docile and be okay with handling, but some are better than others.

Geckos can be very sociable and interested in their owners, but some are more comfortable than others. They tend to be shy and interested in bonding with other geckos. Because of their size geckos are often a safer option than many other pet lizards

That said, most of the risk of owning a gecko has more to do with the safety of the gecko as opposed to the human. If they are mishandled, they can drop their tail and become injured. If children are scared of small creatures or are not mature enough to control their self a gecko would not be the right pet for them.

It is not uncommon for a small child to accidentally squeeze a small pet repitle too hard and injure or even kill it. So even though geckos are a safer option for humans, make sure your child is mature enough to properly handle their pet gecko. 

Some other lizards that are commonly sold as pets such as the green iguana can be very dangerous. Not only can they potentially bite a finger off, they also pretty much have a whip for a tail and sometimes are not very friendly. 

Wrap-Up: Geckos Are Lizards But They Are a Unique Species 

All of these things need to be taken into consideration when thinking of getting a gecko.  Geckos are lizards, but they have specific characteristics and needs to be met to be healthy. Now that you know the differences between lizards and geckos, you can decide for yourself.


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