THE URBAN GECKO

caring for an african fat-tailed gecko

11 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 help keep their eyes clean in their dusty natural environment. African fat-taileds are becoming an increasingly popular pet, 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 9 inches and when cared for properly 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. Color morphs are just starting to become more widely available and here at The Urban Gecko we specialize in the most cutting-edge and extreme color morphs available today, including our caramel and patternless morphs.

Enclosure

Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist/breeder or a pet owner our advice is the same and that is to keep it simple. For pet owners your best option for caging is a glass enclosure (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.

Heat:

We 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 90F and is situated at one end. This will give the gecko(s) the ability to thermo regulate by moving from the heat source to a cooler area of the enclosure ranging in 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.

Substrate:

For ease of cleaning and health purposes we 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 be impacted within their digestive track should they ever ingest it.

Shelter:

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 like or can be as simple as a plastic container turned upside down with a door cut into it to allow the geckos passage. At least one of these hide areas should be kept moist, to assist the shedding process, using damp paper towel or moss. We recommend putting the dry shelter close to the heat source while the moist hide is placed at the cool end. African fat-tailed geckos require a slightly more humid enclosure then leopard geckos, so we also suggest misting the enclosure a few times a week.

Water/Minerals:

A vital ingredient to proper bone development and overall heath in African fat-tailed geckos is calcium. This along with fresh water must be available at all times and can be provided by utilizing a shallow dish.
Multiple female geckos can be housed together or can be housed with a single male.
It is very important to never house two male fat-tailed geckos together as males will defend their territory through aggressive fighting that can cause serious injury.

Food

African fat-tailed gecko’s diet typically consists of crickets and/or mealworms. They may also readily accept silkworms, waxworms or pinkie mice, but these food items should only be given as a supplement as they are high in fat content. Geckos that are under 4 months should be fed about 5 crickets every day and juveniles and adults should be fed about 9 crickets or mealworms three times a week. Crickets should be appropriately sized for the gecko and 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. 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.

Health

African fat-tailed geckos are very hardy animals in captivity if they are properly fed, housed and are kept in regularly cleaned enclosure health problems will be unlikely.

Shedding:

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 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 assisting the process by gently removing the skin with tweezers.

Handling:

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 is important
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.
We hope this care sheet has provided you with some useful information and insights into African fat-tailed Geckos. We are always available to support our clients so please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail should you have any further questions.

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