African fat-tailed gecko a.k.a Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
Meet the African Fat Tail Gecko
Often living in the shadow of their popular cousin, the leopard gecko, African fat-tailed geckos are an underrated, yet amazing little gecko. These ground dwelling lizards are naturally found in West Africa, ranging from Senegal to Western Cameroon. Reaching max size at 8-10 inches, African fat-tails look almost exactly like leopard geckos in appearance. They’ve both got eyelids and no toe pads which is uncommon among geckos as a whole, and cannot climb smooth surfaces because of that. The best way to tell the difference between the two is colors and proportions. African fat-tails tend to be brown in coloration with large bands of darker shades running down their body. Sometimes a white dorsal stripe can be seen running down their back. These geckos also have a larger head and shorter arms than leopard geckos as well. They get the name “Fat-tail” due to their large tail, which is where they store extra nutrients, enabling the geckos to go long periods without food. The tail can also be used as a decoy for the gecko to escape predation, as they have the ability to detach it from their bodies and wiggle around to distract predators while they run off. The tail then grows back after about a month. African fat-tailed geckos aso live quite a long time, reaching upwards of 20 years in captivity.
African Fat Tail Gecko Care
Overall care for these geckos is fairly simple. The trickiest part is their diet, and it’s only because they’re stubborn. Crickets tend to be the only thing these little geckos want to eat, but it’s not impossible to get them onto other prey items. All it takes is a little tough love. Calcium and vitamin supplements should always be offered with insect feeders to ensure a healthy diet. Enclosure requirements are not extreme either, as a 20-40 gallon terrarium works great for life, although babies should be started in something smaller such as a 10-20 gallon enclosure. Being ground geckos, prioritize lateral space and offer lots of low-set hiding spots. Cork flats and rounds work great to provide hiding spots and plants are good to fill in empty space as they are primarily nocturnal and hide most of the day. It is recommended to provide at least one hide on the cool and hot ends of the enclosure. These geckos do like it humid, so humidity levels should stay between 65-80%. This can be achieved through a humid substrate and a large water bowl. Spraying the enclosure everyday also helps keep humidity in check. The hotspot should read in the high 80 degrees F to low 90 degrees F. A heat pad or heat bulb can be used to provide adequate heat. Be mindful of the bulb’s wattage and heat pad’s recommended tank size. 50-60 watts work well for 20 gallons and below, and a 75 watt suffices for 40 gallon enclosures. 5.0 UVB light is also beneficial but not required. These geckos do not come out much during the day, so many keepers prefer using heat pads. It is recommended to run a thermostat with heat pads to avoid overheating. Always keep any heat elements on one side of the enclosure to create a heat gradient, with their water bowl and humid hide on the opposite end.
Cohabitating African fat-tails is not impossible, but should only be done by experienced keepers. Females tend to get along fine, but males should never be housed together as they can and will fight to the death for territory. Out-Competition and conflict for resources are very common issues cohabitating may cause. If housing more than one, a 40 gallon enclosure works best for the geckos to have enough space from each other, and multiple hides on each gradient side should be provided so the geckos don’t stress each other out with their presence.
African fat-tails are regarded as the better option between them and the leopard gecko for hobbyists familiar with the species. They are known to be much calmer than leopard geckos and are great for those who want a pet they can regularly handle. They usually range in the brown and tan color spectrum, basically being coffee-colored geckos compared to the bright oranges and yellows of the leopard geckos. Despite the many morphs created via captive breeding, it is not rare to come across wild caught specimens. Either way, African fat-tails are widely available in the pet trade and often have a low to mid-ranged price point. This is an excellent choice for beginners who want a small and durable pet reptile that can easily be handled.
The ethical collection and sustainability of species Imported and Exported are monitored by USFWS & CITES. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. How does CITES work?: https://cites.org/eng/disc/how.php