African fat tailed geckos (Hemitheconyx caudicunctus) are often mistaken as leopard geckos, and owners make them suffer because they do have some differences. Despite the fact that 70% of this care sheet will be the same as the leopard gecko’s, African fat tailed geckos cannot survive and thrive without the other 30%. As their name suggests, the fat tailed gecko originates from West Africa. They are much more mild and calm than leopard geckos, and are enjoyable pets.
These geckos have fairly round tails, but their name is more appropriate if the tail falls off. It is much shorter, smoother, and thicker. They have stocky bodies, and a large head.
Fat tailed geckos can live up to 20 years in captivity, and grow to be 8 inches long on average. There is not much of a difference between males and females, but females are normally smaller.
These geckos may be some of the easiest reptiles to tame and handle. They can even be felt without being jumpy like leopard geckos. They prefer to sit around during the day, and are much more active at night. Fat tailed geckos rarely bite, and if they do, you have upset or disturbed it. Be gentle and smooth with your motions when handling.
The fat tailed gecko is not very picky when it comes to food. Hatchlings can eat anything from mealworms and silk worms to crickets and locusts. Be sure whatever you decide to feed it, that they are not too big. Oversized crickets will be regurgitated, and undersized crickets need to be fed in mass quantities.
Adults can eat larger sized items of food, and as babies grow, so should the size of food. Unlike babies, who need to be fed every day to every other day, adults only need to eat a couple times a week.
Baby and juvenile geckos can be housed in plastic shoeboxes, critter keepers, or small glass aquariums. The bare minimum for an adult is 10 gallons, and 20 gallon terrariums are preferred. Males should never be housed together because they will fight. For every female you keep in the same cage, they should each receive 10 gallons.
A lid needs to be on the tank at all times because fat tailed geckos will try to escape because they are very curious. Screens do not have to be locked on because they are not strong enough to lift it up.
Young fat tailed geckos should be housed on a solid substrate like paper towel or newsprint. Loose substrates can be ingested, raising the risk of impaction. Adults can be housed on paper towel or bed-a-beast. Non-fertilized potting soil works well to, and there should be about 2-3 inches.
African fat tailed geckos need a basking spot of 85-88F, and the rest of the tank can be slightly above room temperature. A night, temperatures should drop 15F. Since these geckos cannot climb walls, under tank heat mats will heat your tank to the proper temperature. Heat lamps heat the air temperature, and terrestrial geckos like the fat tailed and leopard gecko absorb most heat through their bellies. Never use heat rocks or heating devices inside the tank because they have been known to burn away the scales of reptiles.
The main difference between leopard geckos and fat tailed geckos is their humidity requirements. Many reptiles die every year because of improper humidity, both too high and low. Fat tailed geckos need a humid hide. Do not mist the cage because this will cause over humidity. Fill the hide box with sphagnum moss or soil. This should be kept moist at all time to provide a place for them to retreat to.
Having soil or bed-a-beast instead of sand will raise the humidity in the tank enough for your fat tailed gecko to be comfortable. In the wild they hide under moist rocks during the day, and come out when there is lower temperatures and higher humidity at night. A live plant can be put in the cage as well, but never mist the entire cage. They should have a dry part and wet part that they can switch to. A shallow water bowl should be found in the tank.
Paper towel and newsprint should be removed from the cage when soiled. Any loose substrate should be replaced every six months, and the entire tank rinsed with 5%bleach solution. This will prevent the spread of bacteria. Spot clean, and remove feces as you see them.
Breeding fat tailed geckos is similar to breeding leopard geckos, but be sure to understand what you are getting into before you throw a male and female together. First, be sure you have properly sexed them. Females need to be fed heavily before breeding because lay eggs takes a lot out of them. Feed pinkie mice once every couple of weeks along with the regular crickets. Gut loading and dusting prey with calcium should happen before every feeding. Wax worms and other insects should be used to fatten her up and switch up the diet.
Start to drop the heat at night in late October or early November at least 10F lower, but not too low. Daily temperatures can be kept at 85F like normal. This will get them both in the mood. When you drop the temperatures, they should be together in at least a 20 gallon cage. Mating normally happens at night, and you probably will not realize it happened. After a week, start checking a female’s belly. Eggs can be seen as translucent ovals in the light. Separate the male and female once you know they have mated.
The female now needs a lay box filled with vermiculite at least 2 inches deep. After 3 weeks, start checking for eggs daily. The female will lay clutches of two for the next month or so. Once eggs are laid, remove them and place them in an incubator. These can normally be purchased for $30. Eggs should not be turned any way, or the embryo will be destroyed. Incubation takes 50-80 days with temperatures at 86F. Try to avoid temperature changes, and keep them steady.
As soon as the babies have fully emerged from their eggs, they should be placed in a 10 gallon tank or plastic shoeboxes, 5 per box. Keep them on paper towel, and give them enough hides. They will eat after their first shed, which will take place after about a week. They should be provided appropriately sized crickets. As they grow, they should be given more room until they all have their own 10 gallons.
African fat tailed geckos are great pets to own, requiring very little attention. It is entertaining to watch them hunt, and interact with you. They are beautiful, and worth your while. Before you buy any pet, be sure you know what they need, because many reptiles die year after year from uneducated owners. Fat tailed geckos are a great pet choice.
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