African Fat-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet
African Fat-Tailed Gecko ( Hemitheconyx caudicinctus)
African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal ground dwelling lizards that originate from desert areas in West Africa. African fat-taileds are becoming an increasingly popular pet, in part because of their ability to thrive in captivity but also because of their docile dispositions and their openness for being handled. This care sheet includes reptile supplies and husbandry tips for Reptile health and wellness.
Their normal coloring consists of a 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. They are one of only a few species of geckos that have eyelids, which help keep their eyes clean in their dusty natural environment.
African fat-tailed geckos are not yet as widely available as the more common leopard geckos, but are now widely available online through breeders who specialize in their captive breeding. You may also be able to find them at your local reptile expos. Wild caught geckos may be available but we strongly recommend purchasing captive bred animals. Color and pattern morphs have become more widely available over the past five years and now you can select from many different beautiful colors.
Fat-tailed geckos have a similar body shape to a leopard gecko but typically have a larger head and sturdier feet. Hatchlings will typically be about 2 inches and will grow to around 9 inches. Males will be slightly larger and have wider heads.
When cared for properly, fat-tailed geckos have been known to live for 15-20 years in captivity.
Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist/breeder or a pet owner our advice is the same and that is to keep it simple. For pet owners your best option for caging is a reptile terrarium, while the hobbyist/breeder who will be keeping several geckos should look to a rack system. A 10 gallon aquarium can 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 that can cause serious injury.
Reptile Heating and Lighting/Humidity
African fat-tailed geckos should be exposed to light for 10-12 hours per day but because they are nocturnal they do not require a UVB light. We believe it is best for the heat to be provided from below. In the case of a glass enclosure one can use an under tank heater, like the Zilla Heat Pad, while the breeder’s best option for a rack system is heat cable or heat tape controlled by a thermostat. A simple thermostat that can be used for single housed geckos, is the Zilla Terrarium Heat & Habitat Lighting Controller for Reptiles. Because reptiles are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to control body temperature it is important that the heat source remains at approximately 90F and is situated at one end. You can use a reptile thermometer to monitor temps. This will give the gecko(s) the ability to thermoregulate by moving from the heat source to a cooler area of the enclosure ranging in the high 70s to low 80s. In other words do not heat the entire enclosure.
African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal so reptile shelters within their enclosure will provide them with a peaceful retreat to sleep or hide in. In terms of Lizard habitat products, these can be as elaborate as you like or can be as simple as a plastic container turned upside down with a door cut into it to allow the geckos passage. At least one of these hide areas should be kept moist, to assist the shedding process, using damp paper towel or moss. We recommend putting the dry shelter close to the heat source while the moist hide is placed at the cool end. African fat-tailed geckos require a slightly more humid enclosure then leopard geckos, so we also suggest misting the enclosure a few times a week with an Exo Terra Reptile Mister. You may use a Reptile Hygrometer to monitor humidity conditions in the habitat.
For ease of cleaning and health purposes we recommend using a paper substrate such as newspaper, butcher/packing paper or paper towel. DO NOT use sand as this can cause the gecko to be impacted within their digestive track should they ever ingest it.
The African fat-tailed gecko diet typically consists of live reptile food like crickets and/or mealworms. They may also readily accept silkworms, waxworms or pinkie mice, but these food items should only be given as a supplement as they are high in fat content. Geckos that are under four months should be fed about five crickets every day and juveniles and adults should be fed about nine crickets or mealworms three times a week. Crickets should be appropriately sized for the gecko and as a general guideline we feed ½ sized crickets for hatchlings that are less than six weeks old, and then feed 2/3 sized crickets right up to and including adulthood. Crickets 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 either a commercial gut load product or a mix of either baby cereal, fish flakes or high grade dry dog/cat food as well as leafy greens such as endive, dandelions or romaine lettuce. Gut loading ultimately means that the prey insect is acting as a vehicle to pass on beneficial nutrients to your gecko. Food items should be dusted with calcium powder at every feeding and a supplementary vitamin should be dusted with around once a week
Fresh water must be available at all times and can be provided by utilizing a shallow reptile water dish.
Handling and Temperament
African fat-tailed geckos can be shy, but can also be open to being handled and can become tame with regular contact. It is important to always take great care when handling a gecko and it is important to never hold or constrain a gecko by its tail. The tail of a fat-tailed gecko 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.
For well over twenty-five years, Craig Stewart has worked with a wide array of reptiles. From colubrids to monitors and pythons to geckos. Craig has had a passion for reptiles since he was a young boy and he feels fortunate to have turned his hobby and a lifelong passion into a full time career. Today he and his wife Lori own and operate one of Canada’s largest reptile breeding facilities, The Urban Reptile. They currently offer reptile’s world wide through their web site www.theurbanreptile.com and are recognized for producing premium quality captive-bred reptiles.