The Complete African Fat-tailed Gecko Care Sheet for Beginners

The African fat-tailed gecko may be one of the best reptiles you could have.

This is backed up by the fact that they are among the most popular reptile pets. There are many reasons for this which you will soon discover.

They have strikingly beautiful colors, are docile, and their care requirements make them a great addition for both the novice and the professional reptile keeper.

Add to that, they have a cute facial expression, which they wear permanently.

Despite all this, you must understand what their specific requirements are for them to thrive before acquiring one.

Our complete Fat-tailed gecko care sheet will provide you with everything you must know about this unique lizard.

African Fat-tailed Gecko Overview

African Fat Tailed Gecko On Rock

The African fat-tailed gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) is a member of the Eublephariane family. Other members of this family include the banded and leopard gecko.

As with other members of this family, African fat-tailed geckos lack toe pads and have eyelids.

Males are larger than females and can be distinguished by their larger and wider head.

A native of West Africa, African fat-tails geckos can be found from Senegal to northern Cameroon usually in rocky woodlands and savannas.

Being nocturnal, these geckos spend the day under rocks or in abandoned burrows. 

Size

This species attains a length of 7 to 9 inches.

Appearance

Fat Tailed Gecko Posing

Besides being of an unusual appearance, the tail of this species has a number of important functions.

The tail is used to store fat, and like many other lizards, it can be used to distract predators by dropping it.

However, the lizard has been observed to use its tail in a way that is yet to be understood.

The price of Africa fat-tailed geckos can range widely and is based on their appearance.

Their price can run from $75 to $500 for some morphs.

Life Span of the African Fat-tailed Gecko

African-fat-tailed geckos can live up to 25 years in captivity.

Little research has been done on wild specimens, so it is not known if they live this long in the wild.

The African Fat-tailed Gecko Care Sheet

Wild African Fat Tailed Gecko

African fat-tailed geckos share many similarities to leopard geckos when it comes to care.

However, some significant differences could lead to failure to thrive or death if not followed.

The following are care tips that are important to know.

African Fat-tailed Gecko Diet

African-fat-tailed geckos are completely carnivorous.

In the wild, they prey on insects. In captivity, they are commonly fed crickets, roaches, mealworms, wax worms, silkworms, and even pinkie mice.

You should adjust your gecko’s feeding schedule according to its age.

Geckos that are under four months should be fed up to five crickets per day. It is recommended that juveniles and adults be fed less often.

These later age groups should be fed nine crickets or mealworms three times a week. 

When feeding crickets, it is recommended that any crickets that are not eaten be removed from the enclosure. Mealworms can remain in the enclosure if kept in a shallow dish or jar lid.

To maintain your gecko’s health, fortify the insets that you feed with vitamins and calcium powder.

There are two ways to do this, dusting and gut loading. With dusting, you can cover the insect prey with calcium powder and vitamins.

When gut loading, you can feed the prey items any of the following:

  • A commercial gut load product
  • Baby cereal
  • Dog/cat food
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Leafy green vegetables

The prey item then will contain the supplemental nutritional content that your gecko needs.

When gut feeding, feed the prey insect 24 to 48 hours before offering them to your lizard.

Insects should be dusted with calcium before each feeding, while prey items should be dusted with vitamins weekly.

When feeding your African fat-tailed gecko, offer food items that are no larger than the width of the gecko’s head.

For baby African fat-tails, offer crickets that are ¼ inch long. When they reach 10 grams in weight, they can take ½ inch crickets.

Upon attaining 18 grams, your gecko can take full-size crickets.

Enclosure

Fat Tailed Gecko Close Up

African fat-tailed geckos can be kept in a terrarium. Reptile Guide recommends using an Exo-Terra glass terrarium with the dimensions 18” x 18”x 12.”

They are a desirable enclosure because they have a front opening that makes for easy access when maintaining the enclosure.

Other alternatives would be to use a 10-20 gallon aquarium.

A 20-gallon tank is large enough for two adult lizards. Remember that this species is territorial. Never keep two males together.

Females can be kept together as long as they are approximately the same size.

Larger geckos have been known to be aggressive toward smaller ones.

In the wild, African fat-tailed geckos bury themselves inside burrows or moist logs.

This behavior enables them to obtain the moisture they need to remain hydrated and successfully shed their skin.

Additionally, these geckos are nocturnal.

For all these reasons, the enclosure must contain hiding places. This can easily be done by getting a small box or plastic container and cutting a hole in it for an entrance.

Provide at least two hiding places for your gecko. In the second hiding place, provide damp moss or paper towel.

The moisture from it will help your gecko shedding properly; additionally, it will allow them to rehydrate.

Lighting and Temperature

Captive Fat Tailed Gecko

When keeping African fat-tailed geckos, the correct temperature and lighting are crucial for the animal’s overall health.

However, it gets a little more tricky than that. You also need to know how and where to provide the heat source.

Remember, African fat-tails are terrestrial animals; they do not climb. For this reason, providing a heat lamp will not be effective.

Heat lamps raise the air temperature. Terrestrial geckos absorb the majority of their heat from the ground through their undersides.

Using heating pads will allow your gecko to effectively heat itself.

The temperature should be kept between 85-88 F (30-31 C). 

Like most reptiles, it is important to provide a temperature gradient, meaning that one part of the enclosure is warmer than the other. Temperature gradients allow the reptile to thermoregulate.

In other words, they can find the right temperature to maintain their bodily functions.

For this reason, position the heating pad at one end of the enclosure. The rest of the enclosure should be maintained around 80 F (27 C) or the high 70s. 

As African fat-tails are nocturnal, it is important to provide a sheltered area (see the above section, Enclosure) above the heating pad so that they feel secure.

It is important to note that heating rocks should NOT be used. Usually sold in pet stores, heating rocks have been known to burn reptiles when they maintain contact with them.

Even though a heating pad provides for the temperature requirements, having a lighting source is still important in order to provide your gecko with a photoperiod.

Provide the animal with 10-12 hours of light. As they are nocturnal, UVB light is not needed.

Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. Thermostats are also available for maintaining the correct temperature.

Humidity

African fat-tailed geckos require a humidity level between 50-70%.

This can be accomplished through the use of the right substrate.

It was previously noted that it is important to provide hiding places for your African fat-tailed.

In one of those hiding places, add a damp paper towel or sphagnum moss. Keep these moist at all times.

Also, provide a shallow water bowl in the enclosure.

The water bowl should be cleaned daily, even though your gecko may not drink from it.

Keeping live plants in the enclosure will also help in this regard. 

It is important not to make the enclosure too humid, as this can cause health problems for the lizard.

For this reason, do NOT mist the enclosure. Providing the right substrate and a shallow water dish should provide the necessary humidity levels.

Substrate

For substrate, Reptile Guide recommends using eco earth or Exoterra sand mats.

Other suitable substrate options for fat-tailed geckos include:

  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Coconut bedding
  • Orchid bark

A blend of peat moss and vermiculite is a good substrate for sub-adult and adult specimens.

Use a 1-1 ratio and layer it 1 inch deep. This substrate offers the benefits of retaining moisture, preventing mold, and making spot cleaning as needed.

Never use sand in the enclosure; sand can block the digestive tract of your gecko! Blockages occur when geckos ingest sand while feeding.

Regardless of the substrate that you use, spot clean the enclosure each day. 

When feces are allowed to build up, it could cause serious health issues.

African fat-tailed gecko can become inflicted with a disease known as cryptosporidiosis. Leopard geckos are also susceptible to this disease.

The disease is caused by a parasite that is attracted to unclean conditions.

Besides daily spot cleaning, do a thorough cleaning of the enclosure every three months.

Rinse out the tank with a 5% bleach solution and replace the substrate. 

Health Concerns in African Fat-tailed Geckos

Fat Tailed Gecko Up Close

Most health issues in African fat-tails are the result of not maintaining the right conditions. 

Respiratory infections are commonly associated with improper humidity levels. As mentioned earlier, cryptosporidiosis is caused by not keeping the enclosure clean.

This disease is caused by parasites that inhabit the soil and water. This is why spot cleaning and cleaning the water dish are so important to your reptile’s husbandry.

Remember to check the condition of the gecko’s tail. These geckos store extra fat in their tails, so a plumb tail is a good sign!

If it is not, there may be a health issue going on.

Handling African Fat-tailed Geckos

African fat-tailed geckos are gentle and shy creatures that are readily tamed.

This is one reptile that poses no risk of harming its handler, even when it is a child. However, it is not difficult for the handler to harm it!

For this reason, it is not advised that you let children handle it unless supervised.

It is important to be very gentle with them. Do not restrain the lizard. Instead, let the lizard be supported by you by holding it in your hands.

When handling them, use smooth and gentle motions. Also, it is important to never grab them by the tail as they will drop them.

Though it will regenerate, it will never have the same appearance as the original one.

It is recommended that you do not handle new animals until they have started eating and defecating. This will indicate that they have acclimated to their new home.

Where to Buy African Fat-tailed Geckos

Iranian fat tailed gecko
Iranian fat-tailed gecko

It seems counter-intuitive, but the African fat-tailed gecko has become one of the most popular reptile pets in recent years, despite its limited range.

Further, they remain common in the wild.  This species is commonly captive bred and are available online.

If you decide to get an African fat-tailed gecko, it is recommended that you get one from a reputable breeder.

By doing this, you will help maintain the wild populations. Also, wild-caught specimens frequently have parasites and are subject to stress from being shipped to the pet trade.

By purchasing from a breeder, you will avoid all the issues that come with a wild-caught specimen.

Additionally, breeders are coming up with morphs that have amazing color and pattern variations.

Variations in African Fat-Tailed Geckos include:

  • Blackout
  • Whiteout
  • Tangerine
  • Albino
  • Stripped
  • Aberrant

The rarest and most sought-after are the whiteout morphs.

Are African Fat-tailed Geckos Good Pets? A Summary.

So, is the African fat-tailed gecko one of the best pet lizards to own?

They are striking in their coloration, gentle in nature, and can be easily handled. Because of their small size, housing them can be done at a reasonable cost.

If all that was not enough, they have a permanent grin on their face! For these reasons, the African fat-tailed gecko can be a great pet if you know what you are doing!

 It is essential that you keep the humidity and temperature at the proper levels.

You also need to provide the “furniture” in their enclosure so that they can hide and feel safe.

If you are a beginner reptile collector, African-fat tails are a great start in learning how to keep exotic reptiles.

If you are a seasoned keeper, you can get involved in breeding and create truly incredible color variations. Given all this, African fat-tails are among the best pet reptiles!

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