The African Fat Tail Gecko

By Snaketracks / April 29, 2020
African Fat Tailed Gecko
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African Fat Tail Gecko Care

African Fat-Tailed geckos are originally from desert areas in West Africa. Even if the majority of species coming from Africa are violent in nature, African Fat-Tailed geckos aren’t.

Amazingly,  they even seem to wear a permanent “smile”, which in fact, is due to the shape of their jaw.

In any case, and because of their docile disposition and their openness for being handled, they are becoming an increasingly popular pet. On top of it, they’re relatively easy to take care of and affordable.

As their name implies, they have fat tails. Their thick tail is meant for fat storage, making it an important energy reserve . They can go days without eating if food is scarce. The thicker the tail the healthier the gecko.

Their normal coloring consists of pale tan or brown background that is accented by bold brown and tan stripes, with some also displaying a thin white stripe along their back. 

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience level: beginner
  • Family:  Eublepharidae
  • Scientific name: Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
  • Average adult size: typically around 7-9 inches (18–23 cm), with females being slightly smaller than males
  • Average adult weight: as much as 75 grams
  • Lifespan:  15-20 years in captivity
  • Reproduction: oviparous
  • Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
  • Breeding season: lasts around 5 months. During this time, female geckos can lay up to five clutches of eggs (though many will lay fewer clutches in a year)
  • Clutch size: around 1-3 eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period:  varies based on temperature. Average is around 6-12 weeks, with higher temperatures resulting in shorter times to hatching
  • Diet: insectivorous
  • Predators: snakes, larger reptiles, and various birds and mammals
  • Conservation status: least concern Encyclopedia of Life
  • Average Temperature: 70F to 90F
  • UVB lighting: not necessary

African Fat Tail Gecko Interesting Facts

African fat-tailed gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus)
African Fat-tailed Gecko

They are one of only a few species of geckos that have eyelids, which help keep their eyes clean in their dusty natural environment. This also means they can blink!!!

You can gauge the health of an African fat-tailed gecko simply by looking at their tail. A thin tail will indicate they’re not getting enough food and can also be a sign of an illness.

If African Fat-Tailed geckos come under attack or feel threatened, they can voluntarily drop their tail to confuse their predator. If this occurs, a new tail will grow back.

It will develop even more rounded in shape than their previous tail to resemble their head. The new tail may have different coloring or patterning than the rest of the gecko’s body.

Another use of the tail occurs especially during hunting for food. When a Fat-tailed Gecko is nervous or hunting , it elevates its tail and waves it sinuously.

The specific purpose of tail wagging/waving is unknown, but many believe it is to distract the potential prey or perhaps distract predators while the gecko is otherwise focused on its food. (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1997; Bartlett and Bartlett, 2009)

Even if most geckos have sticky pads on the bottom of their feet (called adhesive lamellae), African Fat-Tailed Geckos don’t, therefore, it is difficult for them to climb vertically.

Sex in Fat-Tailed Geckos depends on the temperature at incubation. If the incubation temperatures are low (around 24 to 28 degrees C), the offspring produced will be predominantly female.

Higher temperatures (31-32 degrees C) produce mostly males, while temperatures of 29 to 30.5 degrees C will result in both sexes in roughly equal numbers.

Although the gender of Fat-tailed Geckos is determined by incubation temperatures, this does not seem to have a direct effect on the size of the newly hatched geckos. (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995; Bartlett and Bartlett, 2009; Kaplan, 2013; Viets, 1993)

Geographical Distribution: they are found in West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon.

Habitat

African Fat-tail gecko
African Fat-tail gecko

Their natural habitat is dry and arid, although they will spend most of their time in a dark, humid hiding place.

The elevation of the habitats averages 1000m (3280 ft) and may be higher or lower than this depending on which areas within West Africa where the African Fat Tail Gecko is found.

Fat-tailed Geckos are adept for rocky and uneven surfaces and given the fact that they are nocturnal, in the daytime they will likely be found in various shelters (under rocks, in burrows or other make-shift hideouts) where they will hide and sleep.

These specific burrows or shelters may also be favored by these geckos because they are territorial, thus this gives them a specific territory to inhabit and defend against other geckos. (Bartlett and Bartlett, 2009; Bauer, et al., 2006)

Enclosure

A 10-gallon aquarium can house a pair of geckos.

Multiple female geckos can be housed together or can be housed with a single male.

It is very important to never house two male Fat-Tailed geckos together as males will defend their territory through aggressive fighting.

While it might seem that you can house these animals together with the similar Leopard gecko species, these animals have different heating, humidity, and husbandry requirements.

Therefore, housing these two species together is never recommended.

Substrate

For ease of cleaning and health purposes, it is better to use a paper substrate such as newspaper, butcher/packing paper, or paper towel.

Never use sand as geckos might ingest it, and this can cause the gecko to be impacted within their digestive tract.

Temperature

An African Fat Tail Gecko´s enclosure should have different temperature gradients. A heat source able to remain at approximately 90F and situated at one end is required to give the gecko(s) the ability to thermoregulate by moving from it to a cooler area of the enclosure ranging in the high 70s to low 80s.

The heat should be provided below.

in the case of a glass enclosure, one you can use is the Zilla heat pad while the best option for a rack system is heat cable or heat tape controlled by a thermostat.

You can use a reptile thermometer to monitor the temperature.

Light

African Fat-Tailed geckos should be exposed to light for 10-12 hours per day.

Since they are nocturnal they don’t need a UVB light.

Humidity

The role of humidity is not well understood in African Fat Tail Geckos, but what is clear is that they do shed their skin like other gecko species, and thus require moderate humidity on occasion to carry out the shedding process properly

Therefore, at least one of the hide areas in your geckos enclosure should be kept moist.

You should place the dry shelter close to the heat source and place the moist hide at the cool end.

We also suggest misting the enclosure a few times a week. Please check our article Misters vs Foggers.

You should use a reptile hygrometer like the one from Zoo Med labs to monitor humidity conditions in the habitat.

Accessories

African Fat-Tailed geckos are nocturnal so you must provide your pet with appropriate reptile shelters like the one pictured about or this ceramic one which retains moisture.

African Fat Tail Gecko Feeding

jungle-african-fat-tailed-gecko
Jungle African Fat-tailed Gecko

The African Fat-Tailed gecko diet typically consists of live reptile food like crickets (create a cricket farm) and/or mealworms (create a mealworm farm).

They may also readily accept silkworms, waxworms (create a wax worm farm), or pinkie mice, but these food items should only be given as a supplement as they are high in fat content.

They won’t eat dead insects, only live prey.

Geckos that are under four months old should be fed about five crickets every day while juveniles and adults should be fed about nine crickets or mealworms three times a week.

Crickets should be appropriately sized for the gecko  and can be put in the enclosure to roam (but should be removed if your gecko does not eat them within a few hours).

Mealworms can be left in a shallow dish.

Insects should be gut loaded with calcium powder at every feeding and a supplementary vitamin should be dusted with around once a week.

Gut loading means that the prey insect is acting as a vehicle to pass on beneficial nutrients to your gecko.

How often you need to and should be feeding the gecko will really depend on the age of the gecko, because the older they get, the less they eat. African fat-tailed geckos tend to eat when they want, and at times their eating schedules are a bit sporadic.

Water

Keep a water bowl in the enclosure at all times, and make sure that it’s filled up constantly.

Fat Tailed Gecko Setup Video

Handling and Temperament

African Fat-Tailed geckos are open to being handled and can become tame with regular contact. Ideally, you’ll notice that after a few weeks and getting used to their environment, the geckos will be less jumpy and won’t be as frightened as easily.

It is important to never hold or constrain a gecko by its tail as it will detach as part of a defense mechanism called caudal autotomy. If your gecko does drop its tail, it will grow a regenerated tail, but it will have a different appearance than its original tail.

Pricing and Availability

African Fat Tailed gecko with its baby
African Fat Tailed gecko with its baby

African Fat-Tailed geckos are widely available online through breeders who specialize in their captive breeding and have developed different morphs over the years. Variants include tangerine, albino, patternless, blackout,whiteout, striped, and aberrant fat-tails.

The whiteout morph is one of the rarest and most sought-after African Fat Tail gecko morph and is higher-priced as a result of years of selective breeding.

Wild-caught geckos may be available but we strongly recommend purchasing only captive-bred animals. 

African Fat-Tailed geckos are available at https://www.tortoisetown.com/african-fat-tailed-geckos-for-sale/ at http://geckosetc.com/available_150orless.html and at https://www.backwaterreptiles.com/geckos/fat-tail-gecko-for-sale.html

African Fat Tail Gecko Care Video

Conclusion

African Fat-Tailed geckos make great pets: they are extremely tame, are reasonably easy to handle and stay relatively small in size. They are affordable, easy to care for, and, when cared for properly, they can live for up to  25 years.

We strongly recommend opting for a captive breed gecko instead of a wild-caught. With a breeder, you will also have the chance of choosing among amazing color variants!!!

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