The African fat-tailed gecko, or hemitheconyx caudicinctus, as it is known to herpetologists, is a ground-dwelling gecko. Most geckos do not have the ability to blink their eyes, but the African fat-tailed gecko has moveable eyelids to keep their eyes moist and protected. Geckos can communicate vocally using clicking or chirping sounds. They are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during the periods of dawn and dusk. There are over 1,500 species of gecko found throughout the world.
They are docile creatures and are also quite comfortable being handled by humans. This makes them a good choice to keep as pets. Unlike many lizard species, they do not have sticky feet. This means they are not very good climbers. It also means they cannot climb the walls of a terrarium, which is another reason why they make such good pets. They can’t escape from their tanks!
The African fat tailed gecko lizards are native to West Africa where the habitat is arid and dry. They do need humidity to survive, however, and must be kept at the proper humidity level while in captivity. The lifespan of an African fat-tailed gecko in captivity can be anywhere from ten to 25 years. When this gecko feels threatened or is attacked by a predator it can detach its tail. A new tail will eventually grow back but in a more rounded shape and with different color variations. This gecko lizard stores fat in its tail for backup energy when food is scarce.
How Big Do African Fat Tailed Geckos Get?
While some species of gecko can grow as long as two feet, fat-tailed geckos grow to a length of between 7 and 9 inches. Baby fat tails are about 2 inches long when they hatch.
The female is a bit larger than the male gecko, but the males have a larger, more broad head than the females. Their body type is similar to that of the leopard gecko. Both subspecies of gecko have wide heads and sturdy feet.
The African fat tail gecko is small enough to fit in your hand and they are quite easy to handle. When picking up the lizard, it is best to offer your hand slowly with the palm facing up. Never reach down over them as this mimics predatory behavior and will cause them undue stress.
Also, never grab the lizard by its tail. When a fat tail is frightened or surprised it can drop its tail. The tail will grow back, but before that happens, an infection may develop. They also store fat (energy) in their tails, so it is important to handle your gecko gently and prevent this “drop” from happening.
African Fat Tailed Geckos Colors
When found in the wild, this type of gecko has brown and tan or beige stripes. Some of these lizards may also have a thin stripe of white coloring that runs along the length of their backs. The gecko’s underbelly is an off-wite or pale pink coloring.
After years of breeding in captivity, many different colorations and patterns have been developed in these geckos. Striped Tangerine, albino, oreo, banded, patternless, black out, aberrant, caramel and ghost, are a few of the different colorizations of this animal.
Other patterns of colorization include zero in which the bands on the back of the body are not connected. The stinger variation describes the pattern where the back band comes to a point which looks like a wasp stinger.
African Fat Tailed Gecko Cost
The African fat tailed gecko can be purchased commercially from pet shops and reptile breeders. They are available in a wide range of prices. You can find a gecko lizard for as little as $50 but some lizards may go for as much as $500 and even more depending on the age and color variation. Many breeders sell geckos online and can ship the animals alive anywhere in the United States.
How Often Do Fat Tailed Geckos Shed?
Fat tail Geckos molt about every 2 to 4 weeks. Don’t be surprised if your lizard eats its shed skin, it is typical of the species.
If the lizard does not shed its skin completely, there is the risk of infection in areas where the old skin is still attached. This typically happens in the areas around the toes and around the eyelids. If this happens, it could be an indication that the terrarium is too dry. Misting the substrate with water can help fix this problem.
If the problem continues, however, you can assist your lizard with its shedding by soaking its feet in a half inch of warm water before gently swabbing the skin to loosen and remove it.
If too much dead skin is retained and an infection occurs, amputation of the toes may be necessary. It’s important to not let it get to this point. If your gecko has a problem with completely shedding its skin, consult with your herp vet. They can advise you on the proper care of the lizard during its molting periods.
How Can You Tell if a Fat Tailed Gecko is Male or Female?
The male of the species is slightly smaller than the female. Of course, this information is only helpful if you have more than one gecko to compare. A male fat tail also has a broader head than the female. The base of the tail is also larger on the male of the species and they also have visible pores under their hind legs at the base.
If you’ve had a gecko in captivity for any length of time, the female will lay eggs which is obviously a dead giveaway that it is a female lizard!
African Fat Tailed Gecko Diseases
The African fat tailed gecko is similar to the leopard gecko in many ways and can be afflicted by the same diseases. Some of the more common diseases and illnesses geckos can contract are chronic malnutrition, abscesses, and intestinal impactions.
People who keep lizards as pets should find a vet who specializes in treating lizards. Known as Herp Vets, these professionals receive special training to treat lizards and snakes. Reptiles have a much different physiology than mammals and a different approach and diagnostic tools are required to treat them.
A common ailment that can affect gecko lizards is chronic malnutrition. This can occur when the lizard is not adequately fed. A steady diet consisting only of mealworms and crickets is not enough for geckos to sustain themselves.
They need a variety of insects and a calcium-rich diet in order to thrive. A malnourished lizard will burn all the stored fat in its tail first before its body becomes thin and emaciated.
An improper diet can also lead to hypovitaminosis A, which can lead to eye issues and problems with shedding. Another problem caused by malnutrition is known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. The symptoms of this are anorexia and lethargy.
A herp vet can recommend treatment and dietary changes for geckos who are malnourished. It is recommended, however, that crickets and mealworms be dusted with calcium prior to feeding. This is a supplement and should be considered to be a substitute for a varied diet of different insects.
Retained shedding on the toes and tail, also called phalangeal dysecdysis, occurs when the gecko is not housed at the right humidity level. When the lizards cannot shed properly, the built up skin can start restricting blood flow. Retained skin can be removed by soaking the affected areas and gently removing the skin.
Amputation of the toes may be required if the problem is allowed to get too bad. A herp vet should be consulted in serious cases. Geckos can also experience intestinal impactions which occur when they eat their substrate.
Stick tail is a term used to describe a gecko that has lost a significant amount of weight. Fat tail geckos store extra fat in their tails, so a gecko with a skinny tail has burned through those reserves. Stick tail could result from a number of different illnesses in addition to the poor diet discussed previously.
It could also be a result of a bacterial or parasitic infection, kidney disease, tumor, or what is known as cryptosporiosis. This is caused by a one-celled parasite. This disease has a high mortality rate and is very contagious among lizards. Consult a hep vet immediately if you notice any weight loss in your gecko.
Here are some signs to look for in a sick gecko.
- Lethargic, dazed, and unalert
- Thinning tail
- Bulges in stomach
- Discolored skin
- Cloudy eyes
- Swollen or bleeding toes
- Loose or discolored stool
If any of these signs are present in the gecko, consult with a herp vet right away.
Albino African Fat Tailed Gecko
African fat tailed geckos found in the wild have brown and tan coloring with beige stripes. After many years of cross-breeding in captivity, however, several different color variations have been developed.
The albino African fat tailed gecko is the result of this selective breeding. These geckos aren’t true albinos in the sense that they lack skin pigmentation, but they are a very light color. Albino African fat tailed geckos resemble the striped tangerine variety but are even lighter in color.
Can You House African Fat Tailed Geckos Together?
It is fine to house several female geckos together or even several females and one male. Two male geckos should not be housed together as they are very territorial animals and will engage in aggressive fighting which can result in serious injury to one or both of the lizards.
A ten gallon terrarium is large enough to comfortably house two geckos. As the African fat tail gecko is a nocturnal animal, a reptile shelter or enclosure should be kept inside the terrarium so they can sleep peacefully during daylight hours.
If you are planning on adding a new gecko to an enclosure, the new lizard should be quarantined from their others for one to three months. If the new gecko has a disease or parasite, exposing it to your other lizards too soon can result in illness or death.
Can Leopard Geckos and African Fat Tailed Geckos Live Together?
While the two species of gecko are similar in many ways, at the end of the day, they are unique species. Therefore, it is not recommended that they are housed together in the same terrarium. They each require different levels of heat and humidity to remain comfortable.
The African fat tail requires a higher level of humidity in their terrariums. Two female geckos of different species may be able to survive housed together, but combining two males in one container is never a good idea.
What is the Difference Between Fat Tailed and Leopard Gecko?
Both the African fat tailed gecko and the leopard gecko are popular geckos to keep as pets, but the leopard is still the more popular of the two. Both geckos are members of the same subfamily Eublepharidae.
Neither lizard has sticky pads on their feet so both types are suitable for keeping in terrariums. Both also have moveable eyelids that many species of lizards lack which requires them to lick their eyeballs to clean them and keep them from drying out.
The leopard gecko requires dry, arid habitats as does the African fat tailed gecko but the two subspecies are found in different parts of the world. The fat tailed gecko is commonly found in West Africa in the countries of Senegal south along the coast to Cameroon. The leopard gecko is commonly found in the Asian countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the northwest region of India.
The African fat tailed gecko requires higher humidity levels than its leopard gecko counterpart, but they are more docile and therefore much easier to handle. Leopard geckos are a bit larger than the African fat tail. Some have been known to grow as long as 12 inches. The leopard gecko has brighter coloration as well.
Both of these geckos have easygoing temperaments, although younger leopard geckos can be a bit more skittish around their human handlers. This makes them prone to running when their owners make an attempt to handle them. As they mature, usually around one year of age, they relax and become more receptive to handling.
The African fat tail, on the other hand, has an even more relaxed temperament. They move slowly, even when young, and are comfortable hanging out in their owner’s hand. If your gecko lizard does not want to be handled, however, it may snap at you. If this happens, you should respect the lizards’ wishes and leave it alone until its mood changes.
Care of African Fat-Tailed Geckos
African Fat-Tailed Geckos are relatively small reptiles that are easy to care for. They are receptive to handling, but they must be treated gently. They are very docile, more so than the leopard gecko, which is one reason why they are such a great choice for first-time pet owners.
If you are someone who is interested in owning a reptile, follow these care instructions closely and your African Fat-Tailed Gecko will thrive for as long as 20 years or more.
Temperament of African Fat-Tailed Geckos
African Fat-Tailed Geckos have the ability to develop fascinating personalities, although they can be shy at first. If you would like a personable pet, it is important to handle your gecko gently and frequently from the beginning. In doing so, you will make your pet comfortable being touched and held. This will help develop the personality of your gecko because they will be completely familiar with you.
If you plan to handle your gecko frequently, it is important to remember and abide by one very important rule. Never hold or restrain your gecko by the tail.
The African Fat-Tailed Gecko has a defense mechanism that allows it to shed its tail when it feels threatened. The tail will completely detach. If this does happen, however, the tail will grow back, although it will not necessarily match the color and pattern of the rest of the reptile.
During this period of regrowth, the lizard will be more susceptible to infection, so if your gecko does drop its tail a close eye should be kept on the area. It’s also important that the fat tail maintain a proper diet. Since they store fat in their tails, it won’t be there as a backup should they need it.
An African Fat-Tailed Gecko can live comfortably in a 10-gallon terrarium from the time it is a hatchling to a juvenile. Once the reptile reaches adult age and size, a 20-gallon tank is most appropriate and gives them enough room to thrive.
You are able to keep more than one gecko in a tank, however, never keep two males in the same tank. Male geckos are territorial and will fight if kept in the same quarters. You may keep all females together, or females with one male.
Food and Water
African Fat-Tailed Geckos eat only insects. As hatchlings, they should be fed 5-7 small feeder insects a day. Once they reach adulthood and are fully grown, geckos should be fed 6-8 large feeder insects 2-3 times per week. Live crickets are widely accepted as the best insect to give geckos.
Mealworms are good for geckos as well. On occasion, other insects like silkworms or roaches can be given to your gecko. These insects, however, should not be eaten regularly as they are high in fat.
Live crickets can be placed directly into the open terrarium to roam. Mealworms can be placed in a shallow dish. After an hour or so, any uneaten food should be removed from the tank.
Before adding the insects to your terrarium, it is important that they have the proper nutrients inside or on them. All insects should be dusted with calcium powder at each and every feeding. In addition, another supplementary vitamin, like a multivitamin, should be dusted on the insects one feeding a week.
Feeder insects should also be fed a gut load product, sold at most pet stores. A gut load product is the food that the insects eat. It is important to regulate what the crickets or mealworms eat, as it is indirectly the food for your beloved reptile pet. Following all these steps ensures the proper health and nutrition of your gecko.
As far as water goes, it is very important that your gecko remain properly hydrated. Fresh water needs to be available to your pet at all times. A small, shallow dish in the terrarium can be the perfect water receptacle. This water should be changed frequently so that it is always clean.
It is imperative to have a reptile thermometer in your terrarium to regulate the temperature of your tank. If the temperature fluctuates too much, your gecko could be in serious danger. Reptiles are cold-blooded and rely completely on their environment for their warmth.
The daytime temperature of your tank should be in the range of 72-88 degrees Fahrenheit. The nighttime temperature should be 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, very importantly, there should be a basking spot kept at 90 degrees.
To heat your gecko’s habitat correctly, it is important to create a thermal gradient in their tank. It is suggested that the tank be heated by an under-tank heater and basking spot lamp on one side of the tank only. It may seem counterintuitive, but with both heating sources focused on one spot of the tank, the perfect heating gradient is achieved.
Although African Fat-Tailed Geckos do not generally bask, this setup is necessary for the proper temperature gradient. Also, placing a flat rock underneath the basking spot lamp, that will provide proper belly heat to aid in digestion.
Humidity is an important feature of a gecko’s habitat. The African fat tail gecko requires a higher humidity level than its close cousin, the leopard gecko. It is necessary to provide a humidity chamber or area for your gecko so that he has a place to safely and comfortably go through the shedding process.
While a hiding place for your pet should be placed in the hottest part of the tank, the humid or wet area should be placed on the cooler side of the tank. Simply place a damp paper towel or piece of moss in the cool end of your gecko’s enclosure. In addition, the entire habitat should be misted with water a few times a week to maintain proper humidity.
African Fat-Tailed Geckos are nocturnal reptiles, so do they need light? Geckos should be exposed to light for 10-12 hours a day. However, since they are nocturnal, this light does not need to be UVB light. During the daylight, a reptile enclosure should be provided so they can sleep in peace.
African Fat-Tailed Geckos have a breeding season of about 5 months during the year, from November to March. During one breeding season, males will typically mate with multiple females. Females have the ability to lay multiple clutches of eggs during one breeding season, depending on how many males mate with them.
Your gecko can grow into a wonderful and beautiful companion. If you properly care for them, your African Fat-Tailed Gecko can live a healthy life for more than 20 years.