The Ultimate Guide To The African Fat-Tailed Gecko

An African fat-tailed gecko may not be as popular as the leopard gecko, but this rarity adds to its allure. The unique qualities that make this ground-dwelling gecko worth caring for include:

  • Thick and bulbous, caterpillar-like tail
  • Movable eyelids protecting its eyes from dust
  • Calm and mellow temperament

Here is some basic information about these adorable geckos from Africa:

Common Names:Fat-tailed gecko
Scientific Name:Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
Adult Size:Seven to nine inches in length and up to 45 to 75 grams in weight
Lifespan:10 to 25 years

An African fat-tailed gecko, or AFTG, is the best pet for beginners and first-time reptile owners. Its impressive life span and docile temperament make it a great pet that can naturally thrive in captivity.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko in the Wild

AFTG lives in the wild West African tropical countries, inhabiting humid and dry regions. These geckos are not endangered species and thrive in their natural environment.

Their common predators include owls, small carnivorous mammals, and snakes. Sometimes, their fat tail is enough to distract predators, breaking them off so they can escape. But if they had to defend themselves, they would bite hard and stand tall with legs stiffed and tails curled up.

To learn more about how AFTG lives in the wild, be sure to check this article.

Why and How They are Unique to Other Geckos

The African fat-tailed gecko is not only known for its fat tail. A combination of unique characteristics, personality, and habitat requirements separates it from other geckos.

Some of the distinctive aspects that every AFTG has are:

  • Eyelids: Most geckos don’t have eyelids. An AFTG, on the other hand, has these as a way to provide moisture and protect their eyes from their dusty natural habitat.
  • Climbing: Compared to other geckos, an African fat-tailed gecko can’t stick to surfaces and climb vertically.
  • Temperament: AFTG are docile and calm. They walk slowly because of the weight of their tail. However, these reptiles are still territorial despite being timid.

In this extensive post, you’ll learn more about the unique qualities of AFTG.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko vs. Leopard Gecko

Geckos are great pets, but that doesn’t mean each species is the same. Even the Leopard gecko and African fat-tailed gecko, which look very similar, have subtle differences that set them apart.

For instance, the AFTG’s tail is broader than a Leopard gecko. AFTG is also shorter and weighs lighter. When it comes to personality, they belong to opposite ends of the spectrum. AFTG is calmer and timid, while a Leopard gecko is active and curious.

You’ll discover the more exciting differences between the two in this article.

Do African Fat-Tailed Geckos Make a Good Pet?

AFTG makes for a good pet because of its calm temperament and longevity. They are shy and do not require constant attention. As such, it’s a good choice for those who are only starting out.

Read this article to learn more if an African fat-tailed gecko is the best pet for you.

Buying a Happy and Healthy AFTG

Now that you’ve committed to having an AFTG as a pet, it’s time to discover how it checks if the gecko you’re buying is both happy and healthy.

Consider the following factors when buying this type of gecko:

  • Age: While you can buy an AFTG at any age, it’s always best to buy those between three to four months. This ensures that the gecko is not wild but bred in captivity.
  • Level of activity: While they are naturally docile, it doesn’t mean they are lethargic. A healthy AFTG moves around its habitat between dusk and dawn and is always interested in food.  
  • Healthy skin: They should not have any chronic shedding issues.

For more detailed tips on buying a healthy AFTG, take some time to read this article.

Should You Buy from a Breeder or Online Store

Understanding the differences between buying from breeders or online stores will help ensure you get the kind of AFTG you prefer.

You can meet both the breeder and gecko in person if you purchase directly from a breeder. Plus, you can check the habitat conditions the geckos are living in. However, geckos – especially those from prominent breeders – are more costly.

An online store is the better choice because it has a broader selection of morphs. You can have your pet delivered the next day without having to leave your home.

List of Morphs They Come In

An AFTG’s colors and patterns often dictate the amount you’ll have to shell out – the more difficult it is to reproduce a morph, the higher its price.

Here are some of the morphs you can choose from:

  • Patternless
  • Caramel Albino
  • Banded African
  • Ghost African
  • Oreo African

You can find a more detailed list, together with pictures, in this article.

How to Choose Between AFTG or Leopard Gecko

Choosing between these two species of gecko all boils down to your preferences and how much you’re willing to care for them. For instance, housing them requires different humidity levels, with AFTG needing them all the time. An AFTG is also more territorial than a Leopard gecko despite being shy.

How to Transport Your Gecko

Your African fat-tailed gecko requires more attention when transporting since it’s not in its natural habitat. To ensure smooth travel for your pet, here are a couple of tips to follow:

  1. Use a small container with enough room for your gecko to move about, but not too large that it gets tossed around.
  2. Keep your gecko warm during transit as it can die from cold shock. 

For a more comprehensive list of what to do and avoid for your AFTG during transport, be sure to read this post.

How to Set Up an AFTG tank

Set up the AFTG’s tank correctly if you want it to live long. While they live for up to 15 years on average, you can extend it to 25 years if you care for them well.

First off, you’ll need a vivarium made of wood with a screen instead of glass. A wood vivarium regulates heat efficiently and maintains a warm environment for your pet. A 20-gallon vivarium is best as the space will allow your gecko to have plenty of room to move about.

Decorating the tank is a matter of matching the natural habitat of your AFTG. You can put plants like pothos and creeping figs, wood for clambering over, and caves like bamboo hollows for hiding.

Be sure to read this article for an in-depth guide on how to set up your African fat tail gecko’s home.

How to Clean Tank

In a nutshell, you’ll need to follow these steps to give your gecko’s tank a deep clean:

  1. Wear your gloves and move your gecko to another container.  
  2. Remove everything from the tank.
  3. Perform initial cleaning by using warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
  4. Dry the tank completely using paper towels.
  5. Disinfect the tank and leave it for around 30 minutes before rinsing.
  6. Rinse and dry thoroughly, then wash your hands.

These steps should give you a quick overview of what you need to do when cleaning your pet’s tank. Check out All About Cleaning An African Fat-Tailed Gecko’s Tank Explained for a more detailed guide.

How to Feed Your AFTG

A common misconception about AFTG is that they eat fresh fruits and veggies because other geckos have this diet. But it’s not the case for AFTG since they are carnivorous animals.

You should only feed them with live insects such as crickets. They also need a healthy amount of vitamin D3 and calcium powder which you can place on a shallow dish.

Regardless of what type of insect you give or your gecko’s age, you need to remember to make fresh water available at all times in a shallow dish. Also, ensure that the tank is always clean.

What to do if they are too fat

Before placing your AFTG on a diet, you need to determine first if your gecko is fat. Unlike humans, they can’t go on a crash diet as their bodies can’t handle sudden changes.

To help your AFTG get back in shape, you should limit the volume of food and only give what it naturally eats in the wild – live insects and worms.

What to do if they are too thin

There are various ways to address an underweight gecko, and one of the common causes of this is stress. Stressors that can affect your gecko’s appetite include:

  • A new or uncomfortable living condition
  • Too much handling
  • Bullying from other geckos in the same tank

Fixing this is a matter of removing the cause of the stress.

How to Create a Good Bond with Them and Get Them to Trust You

Bonding with your AFTG includes providing it with a proper habitat, correct handling, and healthy food. The most obvious sign you’ve established that special bond is when your gecko starts to enjoy getting held by you most of the time.

How to Handle Them and Do They Need Attention

Compared to common pets such as dogs and other mammals, your African fat-tailed gecko does not require a lot of attention. However, once you’ve gained your gecko’s trust, you’ll find that they love to socialize with you.

Avoid squeezing your gecko, no matter how cute they are, and never grab them by the tail. The rule of thumb is that as long as you handle your AFTG gently, it won’t see you as a threat and will not hurt you.

What To Do If You Get Bitten

African fat-tailed geckos don’t bite unless they feel threatened or mistake your hands for food when you’re feeding them. Don’t panic even if you get bitten since they are not poisonous. You’ll need to clean the wound immediately with antibacterial soap and cover it to prevent infection.

Learn more about why AFTG bites in this article.

How to Know If They are Happy

There are numerous ways to check if your AFTG is happy. Remember that a healthy gecko is always a happy one. An excellent living habitat with the right temperature and plenty of space to move around ensures them a comfortable life. If your AFTG gobbles up its food quickly and has wide-open, alert eyes at night, then it’s a happy gecko.

How to Make Sure They Are and Stay Healthy

Your gecko shows several tell-tale signs of whether they are healthy or not. Skin shedding, poop quality, and even their tails can help you determine if it’s in top condition.

All About Shedding Skin

An AFTG shedding its skin is a natural process and a good indication that it’s growing and healthy. Your gecko won’t need your help in this process as it can complete the entire shedding in a matter of 30 -60 minutes.

All About Their Poop

An AFTG’s poop tells so much about their health. An ideal poop looks similar to bird droppings – it’s colored dark brown and well-formed. However, their poop can look different sometimes when they eat the substrate in their tank.

But if your gecko gets diarrhea, you need to visit the vet immediately. For a complete guide about their poop, be sure to check this article.

Every AFTG can detach its tail which is entirely natural for them. However, if your AFTG does this, you need to check what caused it. In the wilds, these geckos use it as a defensive mechanism. But since they’re living in captivity, there shouldn’t be any other predators in the tank with them.

Read our extensive article on Common Questions About Your African Fat Tail Geckos Tail can help you further understand this topic.

Some Sicknesses

AFTG can occasionally experience health problems even if an expert gecko keeper takes care of them. Fortunately, the most common health issues are easy to recognize.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can affect most reptiles, which means a compromised immune system. When an AFTG has mouth rot, you’ll see cuts in the mouth or gums. Food stuck between their teeth is also an indication of this disease.

Stick Tail

A stick tail disease is easy to determine as the AFTG’s tail looks thinner. The tail stores a lot of fat, giving an AFTG its distinctive tail appearance. If your pet is sick, it will consume this fat to help compensate for the health condition. The issue can range from a poor diet to bacterial infection. It’s always best to take your AFTG to the vet if you observe signs of a thinner tail.

Common Questions About Taking your AFTG to the Vet

Annual checkups are essential to maintain your gecko’s well-being. Aside from ensuring your pet’s health, these visits will help identify potential illnesses that might be developing. Not all vets are experts in treating reptiles, so you’ll have to spend some time researching.

Some of the common questions include “Is my gecko healthy?” or “Am I feeding my pet correctly?” For more information about what you should be asking your vet, check this post about Common Questions About Vet Visits for your African fat-tailed gecko.

Common African Fat-Tailed Gecko Behaviors

Taking care of your gecko requires considerable knowledge about its behavior. Here are some of AFTG’s usual demeanor:

Why Do they Lick

When your AFTG licks you, then it’s a clear intent that it wants to get to know you more. It’s one of your pet’s ways of showing affection to you. However, excessive licking could mean an underlying issue.

Why Do they Dig

An AFTG digging can mean several things, but rest assured that this behavior is entirely natural. Your pet could be building a hole to sleep in or finding a way to cool its temperature down. Sometimes, though, your pet will dig due to boredom.

Why are they Staring

If you see your AFTG staring at you, then it means it’s trying to communicate. It can either be curious about you or is asking for food. Intense staring could also happen if you’ve just recently brought your new gecko home, which will eventually subside as you bond.

Rubbing Against Things

When an AFTG rubs itself against things in the tank, it could either be marking its territory or about to start its shedding process. This behavior is normal, even if your pet does this excessively.

All About Breeding the African Fat-Tailed Gecko

Breeding your AFTG has several benefits, which can help decrease the need to capture these geckos from the wild. Here are the four factors you need to consider if you decide to do this:

  • Breeding time
  • Cooling period
  • Introducing the partners
  • Caring for the eggs

Read All About Breeding the African Fat-tailed Gecko for a more in-depth guide on breeding AFTG.

Common Cohabitation Questions

You can certainly have more than one AFTG living together. But you need to know about the essential rules of cohabitation first. A male AFTG is highly territorial and requires its own tank because it can’t cohabitate with the same gender. On the other hand, two or more female African fat-tailed geckos can live together in the same tank.

How to Care for Eggs

An AFTG female can lay up to five clutches of eggs during the annual breeding period. Each clutch can have one to two eggs, depending on the gecko’s size and its health.

Once the eggs hatch, you need to help your pet care for its eggs by checking for dents and making the habitat comfortable for the mother.

Frequently Asked Questions about African Fat-Tailed Geckos

Most owners of AFTG ask the following common questions: You can find the answers at my FAQ page here.

Can they swim?

Can they see in the dark?

Do they pee and poop a lot?

What is the rarest AFTG?

Do they climb?

Do they get lonely?

Are they poisonous?

Do their colors change?

When do they reach full size?

See the faq page about African fat tailed geckos here to get answers to the common questions above.

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