Difference Between Gecko And Lizard: All You Need To Know

Lizards are made up of over 6000 species. Although, geckos are part of that, there is a  difference between gecko and lizard that any future pet owner should now.

If you are a beginner in the reptile world, you might get confused by the different species and subspecies. One of those are geckos and lizards.

Is the gecko, also a lizard? Well, the gecko is a type of lizard. Not only that, but many times when people use the term “gecko” they mean lizard and vice versa.

Although, geckos are subspecies of lizards, there are some differences worth noting such as

  • Grouping and classification of species
  • Habitat
  • Diet
  • Appearances
  • Communication
  • Breeding
  • Lifespan

What Is A Subspecies

A subspecies is a specific group that’s within the main species. The subspecies would appear by separating from the main group. Usually, this happens because of geographic or climate reasons.

Although, subspecies can develop unique features that differentiates them from their main group, they will still have a genetic link and therefore many similarities.

Grouping And Classification Of Species

Difference Between Gecko And Lizard

Lizards are part of the reptile species and geckos are a subspecies of the lizard. Therefore, technically geckos are lizards. However, there are is a difference between gecko and lizard in more than one area.

The classifications used to group these animals is as follows kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

Both geckos and lizards are part of the Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Tetrapoda Superclass, Reptilia class, Squamata Order and Lacertilia suborder. This is where their similarities come from. Then what is the difference between gecko and lizard?

Well, the difference is that a gecko is always a lizard. However, a lizard is not always a gecko. This is because lizards also represents other groups of similar species such as iguanas and more.

The lizard species consist of Iguania, Gekkota, Scincomorpha, Platynota and Diploglossa. The geckos are actually part of the Lacertilia suborder which have 5 groups including the Gekkota group.

There are around 800 gecko species. This is divided into Diplodactylinae, Gekkoninae, Sphaerodactylinae and Eublepharinae. The Gekkonidae contains most of the gecko species.


Difference Between Gecko And Lizard

Another difference between gecko and lizard is their habitat.

As the lizard is the main species and the gecko is the subspecies, lizards can be found in many more places than a gecko. Some type of lizard can be found in most places in the world, except from Antarctica.

For instance, Chameleons (type of lizard) are found in rain forests and deserts in Africa.

On the other hand, geckos are normally found in warm climates such as:

  • US
  • Northwest Mexico
  • Southeast Asia
  • South America
  • Caribbean islands
  • Mediterranean area near southern France to north Africa


Difference Between Gecko And Lizard

In the wild, lizard’s diet is diverse and can consist of any of the following, depending on the type of lizard:

  • Fruits, vegetables and plants
  • Insects and small animals such as mice, frogs
  • Larger lizard species hunt big prey such as deer

When kept as pets, most lizard species such as the bearded dragon get fed live insects and worms.

On the other hand, gecko’s diet in the wild consist of variety of insects such as:

  • Cockroaches
  • Crickets and moths
  • Beetles, butterflies and mosquitos

However, larger geckos such as the Caledonian gecko will hunt bigger prey such as mice, small birds and even other lizards.

An interesting fact is that gecko’s tail saves fat that can be used later on when food is scarce. 

When kept as pets, geckos are fed insects and fruit. Not only that but the crested geckos can live off fruit as their only source of food.


Difference Between Gecko And Lizard

When it comes to appearance, lizards and geckos are quite similar. As geckos are subspecies the lizard, that’s to be expected. The similarities include:

  • Four legs
  • Cold blooded
  • Lizards and geckos can change color to blend in with their environment

However, there is one or two worth mentioning difference between gecko and lizard when it comes to their appearance such as

  • Normally, lizards have scaly and dry skin. Whereas, geckos have thin skin and small bumps on it
  • Lizards have external ears and can move their eyelids. Whereas, geckos only have a thin, transparent membrane that covers their eyes. To keep it clean, the geckos use their tongue and lick it
  • Lizards can’t climb vertical surfaces. Whereas, geckos have evolved pads on their toes that allows them to be able to do that
  • Lizards don’t really have many ways to defend themselves. Whereas, geckos have the defence mechanism of using bad smelling discharge and feces against any predators
  • Lizards have clawed feet, whereas geckos have spread out toes covered with flaps of skin containing many bristles
  • Some lizards are known to have a detachable tail. Whereas, most geckos can shed their tails and grow a new on to replace


Another interesting difference between gecko and lizard is the way they communicate.

Many lizards such as skink, monitors and anole are diurnal. In order to communicate they use body language and pheromones.

On the other hand, geckos unlike other lizards are quite vocal. They can be seen chirping at each other, especially when in groups.

In addition to that, geckos might hiss or crackle to show their displease. Another feature that improves gecko’s communication skills is their ears.

Their hearing is more advanced compared to other lizards. The gecko’s auditory system is built differently and if you look at the their ear, you’ll see a light shining.


frilled lizard isolated on white background

Another interesting difference between gecko and lizard is their process of breeding and laying eggs.

Some lizards will lay their eggs in a nest. Whereas, other lizards will hatch the eggs inside their body and give birth to the babies. An interesting fact is that the female lizard doesn’t care for her babies.

On the other hand, geckos will strictly lay eggs. The female gecko will lay 4 to 5 pairs of eggs. This is done between May and August.


The gold tegu isolated on white background

Probably one of the biggest difference between gecko and lizard is their lifespan.

Normally, a lizard will live 1 to 3 years. In some rare cases, they will live up to 10 years.

On the other hand, geckos’ average lifespan is 5 to 7 years.

Final Thoughts

Lizards are part of the reptile family and geckos are part of the lizard family. However, is there a difference between gecko and lizard?

In this article, we have found that geckos are lizards but lizards are not always geckos. As geckos are a subspecies of lizards, they share many similarities such as:

  • Being cold blooded
  • Four legged
  • Have the ability to change their color to blend with their environment

On the other hand, difference between gecko and lizard include:

  • Lifespan. Normally, lizards live 1 to 3 years, whereas geckos can live up to 7 years on average
  • Communication. Lizards use body language and pheromones to communicate, whereas geckos use sounds such as chirping and have advanced hearing
  • Diet. Some geckos such as the crested gecko can live off fruit only as their diet
  • Breeding. Lizards will either lay eggs or hatch the eggs inside their body and then give birth. Whereas, the gecko will strictly lay eggs

Related Topics

Should I Get a Lizard or Gecko as a Pet

Lizards are a diverse group of reptiles that can be found all over the world from rainforests, deserts to mountains, except from Antarctica. Lizards are made up of over 6000 species and subspecies. One of those subspecies is the gecko.

The lizard’s diet is as diverse as it gets from fruits, vegetables to insects and larger animals such as mice and even deer depending on the type of lizard.

Whatever reptile pet you decide to get, it’s important that you research the following beforehand:

  • Environment needs
  • Diet
  • Personality

What type of lizard or gecko you should get as pet depends solely on your preferences and lifestyle.

For instance, some reptiles don’t enjoy being handled and are best kept as display animals and admired from afar. Whereas, some lizards are very friendly and enjoy being picked up.

On the other hand, some lizards have special care requirements and need extra care. Whereas, other lizards are easy to care for and are easy going.

Most lizards and geckos will require the following to stay healthy and happy:

  • Heating lamp
  • UVB lighting in order
  • Appropriate habitat such as terrarium. This must be bought depending on the adult size of your reptile rather than the size they are as babies

There are many great options for pet lizards and geckos. However, you must remember that the different species have different needs and personality.

For instance, the bearder dragon, a type of lizard, is very friendly and likes being handled. On the other hand, Chameleons don’t particularly enjoy being handled as it causes them stress.

The same goes for geckos. Some like to be handled such as the crested geckos and some don’t as much such as the leopard gecko.

Below, we have put a list together of good options for lizard pets and gecko pets.

Lizards That Make Good Pets

  • Bearded Dragon
  • Blue Tongued Skink
  • Fire Skink
  • Jeweled Lacerta
  • Chinese Water Dragon
  • Green Iguana

Read more about types of lizard pets here 9 Types Of Lizard Pets: How To Pick The Perfect Pet

Geckos That Make Good Pets

  • Crested Gecko
  • Day Geckos
  • Fat-Tailed Gecko
  • Gargoyle Gecko
  • Leopard Gecko
  • Spiny-Tailed Gecko


My name is Iliyana and I'm a passionate animal lover and pet owner. As there is significantly less information online about unusual and exotic pets, I decided to found this website and recruit expert writers to help pet owners.

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