Name/Common Name: African Fat-Tailed Gecko
Scientific Name: Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal ground dwelling lizards that originate from desert areas in West Africa, from Senegal through Ghana and Togo all the way over to Cameroon. They are one of only a few species of geckos that have eyelids, which helps keeping their eyes clean in their dusty natural environment. African fat-tails are becoming more and more popular as pets, in part because of their ability to thrive in captivity but also because of their docile dispositions and their openness for being handled.
Fat-tailed geckos have a similar body shape to a leopard gecko but typically have a larger head and sturdier feet.
Adults will grow to around 25 cm (9-10 inches) in total length and vary in weight from 40 grams all the way up to a little over 100 grams for very big individuals. When cared for properly they have been known to live for 15-20 years in captivity. 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. African Fat Tails are now being bred in many different colour and pattern morphs.
Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist/breeder or a pet owner my advice is the same, to keep it simple. For pet owners your best option for caging is a glass enclosure (terrarium or aquarium) while the hobbyist/breeder who will be keeping several geckos should look to a rack system. In order for your gecko to thrive there are four basic fixtures required within the enclosure, which are heat, substrate, shelter and water/minerals.
I 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, while the breeder’s best option for a rack system is heat cable or heat tape controlled by a thermostat.
Because reptiles are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to control body temperature it is important that the heat source remains at approximately 32°C (90°F) and is situated at one end, about 1/3 or 1/4 of the enclosure.
This will give the gecko(s) the ability to thermo regulate by moving closer to or further away from the heat source.
The coolest area of the enclosure should range down to about 25°C (the high 70’s to low 80’s).
In other words do not heat the entire enclosure. 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.
For ease of cleaning and health purposes I 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 become impacted within their digestive system if they should ever ingest it.
African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal so shelters within their enclosure will provide them with a peaceful retreat to sleep or hide in. These can be as elaborate as you would like or can be as simple as a plastic container turned upside down with a door cut into it to allow the geckos passage. I provide them with two dry hides, one being placed on the hot side of the enclosure and the other placed as far away from the heat as possible, on the cool side of the enclosure.
I also have a moist hide/laybox in the enclosure for them which should be kept moist by regular misting, to help them with the shedding process. This is made out of a big ice cream box with a hole cut out in the lid big enough for them to fit through. As substrate for the moist hide I use peat moss, but damp paper towel or moss can also be used.
A vital ingredient to proper bone development and overall health in African fat-tailed geckos is calcium.
I always provide them with fresh calcium and water in bowls/shallow dishes within the enclosure.
This must be available at all times and changed out regularly. African fat-tailed geckos require a slightly more humid enclosure then leopard geckos, so I also suggest slightly misting the enclosure a few times a week.
They can be set up individually, each gecko in their own enclosure or multiple females can be housed/kept together in one enclosure, or can be housed with a single male.
It is very important to never house two male fat-tailed geckos together in the same enclosure as males will defend their territory through aggressive fighting that can cause serious injury. Never house african fat-tailed geckos together with any other species of geckos/lizards.
African fat-tailed gecko’s diet typically consists of crickets and/or mealworms. I mainly feed mine crickets but also give them dubia roaches from time to time just to vary their diet. I also give them pinkie mice about once a month, mostly during the breeding season. They may also readily accept silkworms and waxworms, but these food items should only be given as a supplement as they are high in fat content. I personally don't use mealworms and superworms (zophobas) that often as I've found that only a few of my geckos will eat them. But I sometimes give them to the ones that will eat them from time to time. Geckos that are under 4 months old should be fed about 5 crickets or dubia roaches every day and juveniles and adults should be fed about 9 crickets or dubias three times a week.
All insects should be appropriately sized to the gecko. As a general guideline we feed 1/2 sized crickets for hatchlings that are less than six weeks old, and then feed 2/3 sized crickets right up to and including adulthood.
All insects should be gutloaded with either a commercial gutload 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. Gutloading 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.
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. As mentioned above, your gecko should always have a fresh bowl of water and a shallow dish of calcium in their enclosure.
African fat-tailed geckos are very hardy animals in captivity if they are properly fed, housed, cleaned and cared for.
Health problems will be unlikely if these requirements are met. I regularly clean and change out the papers in all enclosures once a week or as needed.
African fat-tailed geckos will shed their skin approximately every four weeks. Prior to each shed the gecko will start to appear dull in coloration. It is very important to ensure that the gecko has a moist area (moist hide) in its habitat during this period to aid the shedding process. Shedding typically takes a few hours to complete and while you may see some of the shed skin at the bottom of the cage, it is often eaten immediately by the gecko. If your gecko has any unshed skin, which can happen in areas like the toes, we suggest letting your gecko soak in a shallow container of luke-warm water for 30 minutes.
You can then assist the process by very gently removing the skin with tweezers.
African fat-tail 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 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.
I hope that this care sheet will help and provide you with some useful information and insights of how to properly care for your african fat-tailed gecko(s). If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me by sending me an e-mail, and I will do my best to help you.
African Fat-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet
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