What to Know About African Fat-Tailed Geckos

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 21, 2022
4 min read

Hemitheconyx caudicinctus is the scientific name for African fat-tailed geckos. They're found in the wild in west Africa. They are ground-dwelling geckos that live in the savannah, near river's edges, and in other desert plains. They're initially shy, but they'll be content with you when they adjust.

Fat-tailed geckos prefer a semi-moist habitat that includes a dry area for foraging. Although you can choose a fancier option, if you're keeping one in captivity, a plastic storage box is a good starting point. The opaque sides will help the African fat-tailed gecko feel secure. Place a smaller plastic container inside the larger tub to provide a hiding place. Cut a one-inch hole in the smaller container. The smaller container should provide a moist environment with moist vermiculite, which is a naturally occurring mineral that retains water.

The fat-tailed gecko’s enclosure should also include a dry area. They prefer temperatures around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Because fat-tailed geckos are used to rocky, uneven surfaces, you should include items for them to climb on in their cage. They're active at night, and during the day, they'll usually be hanging out in their favorite hiding spots. 

Providing enrichment items in the form of decor will encourage your African fat-tailed gecko to get enough exercise. Give your pet hollow logs, leaf litter, branches, and plants, either artificial or drought resistant, to entertain your gecko. You want to make sure your gecko has lots of places to hide, climb, and explore. 

The ideal African fat-tailed gecko setup will include bedding of larger vermiculite granules that are best for egg-laying. The larger granules don't break down as quickly. You'll need to spray the bedding periodically to maintain its moisture content. You can also use shredded newspaper or orchid bark instead of vermiculite.

To create a warm hide, you can take a small box and put it directly under the heat lamp. Place a slab of stone like an aquarium slate on top of the box to create a basking platform. The box underneath the tile will be the warm hide, which should be kept at around 90 degrees. You can add a heat mat under the box if the warm hide isn't getting warm enough, although you should cover it with one inch of a substrate to prevent direct contact with the hide.

African fat-tailed geckos are territorial, solitary animals. They closely resemble leopard geckos, but they're smaller and come in fewer colors. Their eponymous fat tails are used to store fat, and they can discard them as a defense mechanism if attacked.

What do African fat-tailed geckos eat? 

African fat-tailed geckos are entirely carnivorous. They eat crickets and larval worms, such as mealworms, wax worms, and hornworms. In the wild, they also eat other types of small insects like beetles and roaches. African fat-tailed geckos in captivity need additional minerals and vitamins. Special powders are sold in pet shops so you can "dust" the crickets with them before feeding them to your fat-tailed gecko. 

You can also ensure your fat-tailed gecko gets the nutrients it needs by "gut loading," which is the process of feeding the insects a high-nutrient diet before feeding them to your fat-tailed gecko. You can also occasionally feed your fat-tailed gecko small frozen mice. However, this should only be a treat, not a regular part of their diet. 

In general, you should give your gecko either two bugs per inch or as much as they can eat in 15 minutes. If you have a juvenile African fat-tailed gecko, feed them every day. Adult fat-tailed geckos should be fed every two or three days. If your fat-tailed gecko's tail is fatter than their neck, you can feed them every five days. 

What kind of lighting do African fat-tailed geckos need? 

Since African fat-tailed geckos don't need as much light as lizards that are active during the day, they can survive without a UVB bulb as long as they're getting enough D3 in their diet. All lights should be turned off at night. They need 12 hours of daylight, although you can provide 11 hours of daylight during the winter and 13 hours during the summer, with a gradual transition. 

African fat-tailed geckos need three temperature zones. One area of their tank should be a warm hide that's 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm side of their tank should be 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cool side should be 70 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What is the ideal humidity for an African fat-tailed gecko? 

Try to mimic both a wet and dry season for your African fat-tailed gecko. During the wet season, humidity should be 70% to 80% during the daytime and 100% at night. During the dry season, the humidity should be 50% during the daytime and 70% to 75% at night. During both the wet and dry "seasons," your fat-tailed gecko should have access to an area of higher humidity. You can provide this by ensuring your fat-tailed gecko has access to a hide with a moistened substrate that's kept on the cool side of the tank. 

Cleaning your African fat-tailed gecko's cage.

You should remove feces from your fat-tailed gecko's tank daily. You should also remove areas of the substrate that contain urine. Every three to six months, you should remove all of the substrate and replace it completely. 

What is the African fat-tailed gecko lifespan?

Given the right care, your African fat-tailed gecko can live up to 15 to 20 years.