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Gecko vs Salamander: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

Geckos and salamanders have similar body styles, and they are about the same size, but that’s where the similarities between the two end. The gecko is a reptile, and there are over 1,500 species, while the salamander is an amphibian with over 550 species. If you see one of these creatures, and you are near the water, there’s a good chance that you are looking at a salamander. If you are not near water, it’s more likely to be a gecko.

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Visual Differences

Gecko vs Salamander
Image Credit | Left: Gecko by Thichaa, Shutterstock; Right: Salamander by Geza Farkas, Shutterstock

At a Glance

Gecko
  • Average height (adult): .5 – 24 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 26 – 100 grams
  • Lifespan: 10 – 20 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Intelligent, quickly learns routines
Salamander
  • Average height (adult): Less than 6 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 120 – 200 grams
  • Lifespan: 5 – 20 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Easy
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Will learn some routines

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Gecko Overview

gecko on a rock
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

Environment and Habitat

As mentioned earlier, the gecko is a reptile and can survive far from a water source. Most species like to live in trees in warmer environments, but you can find them almost anywhere in the world. Geckos lay hard shell eggs that keep the moisture inside, allowing them to survive even arid environments. When owning a gecko as a pet, you will need to provide plenty of space, a place to climb, and a place to hide. You may need to use a heat lamp.

Health and Care

Of the more than 1,500 species of gecko, only a few are pets, including the Giant Day gecko, White Lined Gecko, Central American Banded Gecko, Frog-Eyed Gecko, Leopard Gecko, and more. Many breeds have long lifespans, with some reaching 20 years old. It has very few health problems but will require a moderate amount of maintenance. You will need to clean and disinfect the habitat regularly and keep it at the proper temperature and humidity, and you may also need to help them with their shedding.

gecko on a branch
Image Credit: Christo Ras, Pixabay

Suitable for:

Geckos are best suited for warmer climates with lots of sunshine but can live long lives anywhere if you are vigilant about keeping the environment at the right temperature. Most have sticky pads on their feet that allow them to climb glass and walls, so it could be dangerous to have around cats and other animals if there is a risk of escape. However, their long lifespan means you’ll have a companion for some time, and they are especially fascinating to small children.

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Salamander Overview

salamander in the wild
Image Credit: Ippicture, Pixabay

Environment and Habitat

Though there are a few terrestrial species, most spend their lives near or in water. Those that leave the water remain on the shoreline of ponds, lakes, and rivers. However, they do not take to saltwater. While salamanders do like warm environments, you can often find them in cooler climates than you might find a gecko. Salamanders are nocturnal carnivores that can detach their tail if a predator gets them. Salamander eggs are soft and need to stay in the water to prevent them from drying out.

Health and Care

You usually keep salamanders in an aquarium with various water amounts, depending on what species you have. Most like to swim and then rest on the sand, so you will need to create that tank environment. In most cases, you will also need to regulate the humidity and clean the aquarium once a week, but you shouldn’t need to do much more as salamanders are easy to maintain. Though some only live about five years, many more have a longer life expectancy of 10 to 20 years.

Red Salamander
Image Credit: Nashepard, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

Salamanders are suitable for most homes and are quite adaptable. However, their adaptability makes them illegal in some areas because they can become a threat to the eco-system if they were to get out. It’s best to check with the local authorities before purchasing a salamander to make sure it’s legal. Some salamanders excrete a toxin that can be harmful to other salamanders in the same tank, and it can also harm small children if they handle them, so you will need to lay down some rules and not mix species. However, like geckos, they make great long-term pets that are fascinating to children, and since they don’t usually try to escape their cage, it’s generally safe to have them around other pets like cats and dogs.

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Which Breed is Right For You?

Both the salamander and the gecko make great family pets. Salamanders swim and look cute, while geckos climb the wall and detach their tail. However, if this pet is for a small child or your first pet, we recommend going with a salamander because it’s easier to care for and is slightly more adaptable to cooler temperatures. However, if your child plans to handle it, you have your heart set on it, or salamanders are illegal in your area, there’s no reason you can’t own a healthy gecko. The only downside to these pets is that both are nocturnal, so they will be most active while you sleep.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this comparison, and it has answered any questions you’ve had. If we have helped you choose your next pet, please share this comparison of the gecko and the Salamander on Facebook and Twitter.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.