African Fat-Tailed Gecko

a close up of an African Fat-Tailed Gecko

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are native to Africa, where they live along rivers, in both wet and dry savannahs and dusty plains. Their tail is big because they store fat in it, not for balance as many people think. These Geckos are generally land dwellers and are not known for climbing like other Gecko species.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are not venomous, and are non-aggressive towards humans. They are very quiet creatures, and will only make noise when they feel threatened. African Fat-Tailed Geckos are very calm and docile, and will usually remain still unless startled.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are very gentle animals that are easy to handle, even in the wild. Many are nocturnal, and only hunt during the night.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are very hardy animals, and only eat live insects. They love termites. In Africa they will often make their home inside of a termite mound, even laying eggs inside!

They’re very easy to take care of, and will thrive in captivity. They’re very common to find at pet stores that sell reptiles. They typically cost between $20 to $50 from reputable breeders, but can go from $100-$200 at pet stores. Different morphs can greatly increase the price.

If you’re looking for a quiet pet for your family that you can keep in an apartment or a smaller home and not bother the neighbors then African Fat-Tailed Geckos should be considered.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Information

  • Average Length:  8 to 10 inches 
  • Average Weight: 1.6 to 2.65 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Banded or Striped
  • Skin Colors: Light Base with Beige or Brown Stripes
  • Grooming Needs: Low Need
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes! 
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Respiratory Infections, Mouth Rot, Bacterial Infections and Cryptosporidiosis
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 10 to 25 years

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are from West Africa. They live near the river edges, savannahs and dusty plains in the region between Cameroon and Senegal.

Physical Appearance of African Fat-Tailed Geckos

an African Fat-Tailed Gecko basking on a rock

African Fat-Tailed Geckos look similar to Leopard Geckos but have slightly larger heads and much larger, thicker tails.

The shape of their jaw makes it look like they are always smiling. They have eyelids that protect their eyes from dust, a characteristic lacking in many Gecko species. Their pupils are vertical slits, just like snakes.

They can grow up to 9 inches long with males longer than females. Hatchlings are born only 2.5 inches long but they grow fast.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos have small strong legs with little toes that let them burrow and climb. They don’t have sticky feet like many Gecko species have.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko’s tail is their most unique physical characteristic. They have large round tails that look similar to a caterpillar. Their tail is bulky in the middle and gradually tapers towards the end. Their tails are bulky because they store fat in them.

Males’ tails are more rounded than female tails.

They can lose their tails in fights with other Geckos or they may drop their tail if they feel threatened. They can regrow their tail but their new tail will have a rounder shape than the last and may be a different color than before.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos have a beige or brown base with either dark brown stripes or bands. The bands stretch along the entire length of their body, from head to tail. Some African Fat-Tailed Geckos may have white stripes. They usually have a white underbelly.

Because of their popularity and extensive breeding of African Fat-Tailed Geckos, they can have several color variations or morphs. There are light gray and orange morphs.

Temperament of African Fat-Tailed Geckos

an African Fat-Tailed Gecko looking off in the distance for food

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are ground-dwelling lizards that are most active during the dusk and dawn. They will be active at night when they will eat and explore their enclosure. During the day they will sleep in hiding spots or bask.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are calm and peaceful Geckos. They don’t usually get aggressive with their family or other animals.

Because they are calm, their family members can handle them. African Fat-Tailed Geckos may take time to adapt to their new enclosure when you first get them home. Once they are comfortable you can start handling them.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos don’t bite or twist and will usually walk right into your hand.

To communicate they make clicks or squeaks. When catching insects sometimes Geckos will wave their tail to distract their prey.

Males tend to be territorial and should be housed alone but a male can be kept with a female or multiple females. Several females can be kept together because they won’t fight.

Their Compatibility with Children

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are small, calm Geckos. They usually don’t make sudden movements or bite their family, making them safe pets for children.

Your children should always wash their hands after handling them. Most reptiles carry a harmful bacteria called Salmonella that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in humans. Washing their hands should keep your children from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from reptiles.

Living Space for African Fat-Tailed Geckos

We recommend using wooden enclosures for your African Fat-Tailed Gecko. These enclosures are good at maintaining the moderate humidity levels your Gecko needs. The wooden enclosures should have air vents or glass doors for air circulation. 

Several decorations like plants, wooden logs and hiding boxes should be added to make their enclosure look natural.

Enclosure/Cage Size

a close up of 2 African Fat-Tailed Geckos together on a rock ledge

African Fat-Tailed Geckos don’t need a large enclosure and can be kept in a small 20-gallon tank. The minimum recommended size for a single Gecko is 20”Lx10”Wx12” T. We recommend getting a bigger enclosure because that will give them more room to move around. If you can get a larger enclosure then it will be better.

If you want to keep more than one Gecko, then a 30-gallon enclosure will be the minimum you need. 

Substrate

Because they need moderate humidity, a substrate that retains moisture is needed. Good substrate options are orchid bark, coconut fiber and cypress mulch. A mixture of sandy soil and coconut bedding can also be used as a substrate. 

Don’t use a sand-only substrate because these can cause digestion problems if ingested by your Gecko. 

Decorations

Your Gecko’s enclosure should have several hide boxes to let them hide and relax. Their hide boxes should be placed both in the warm and hot areas. The hide box in the hot area should have some sphagnum moss to keep it humid. A humid hide box helps your Gecko have a good shed.

Living plants should be added to your African Fat-Tailed Gecko’s enclosure. Plants will make the enclosure look natural and help keep it humid. Decorations like rocks, wood and shelters also make great additions.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are ground-dwelling lizards and don’t need branches in their enclosure.

Best Climate for African Fat-Tailed Geckos

Their enclosure should have separate warm and hot areas. They need a temperature gradient to regulate their body temperature.

Keeping the heating equipment on one side of the enclosure will create different warm and hot areas. Basking lights and under-tank heat mats can be used as heating sources. 

Temperature

The temperature in the hot area should be between 80°F in the warm area and around 90°F to 95°F,.   

Humidity

They need a humidity kept between 50 to 70 percent. Adding a water bowl, moist substrate, plants and misting their enclosure regularly should keep their enclosure humid.

Lighting

Because African Fat-Tailed Geckos are active at night they don’t need artificial lighting in their enclosure. Normal room lighting during the day should be enough for them. Many people will use some inexpensive LED strip lights that are dimmed so that they can watch their pet at night.

Because they’re active at night they don’t need UVA and UVB lights.

Water Source 

A shallow water bowl should be kept inside your Gecko’s enclosure to let them drink water and soak. 

The Attention an African Fat-Tailed Gecko Needs

2 thermometers, one on the warm and the other on the hot side of their enclosure are needed so you can check the temperatures regularly. It’s important to make sure they are within the recommended ranges.

Use a hydrometer to check humidity regularly. If the humidity is low, mist the tank and if it gets too high, open the glass doors or vents to increase air circulation. Increasing the airflow will lower the humidity.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are friendly reptiles and easy to care for, making them a great pet for first-time reptile owners. One major consideration is they can live up to 25 years, making them a long-term commitment for their owners.

Health Issues

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are a common health issue in reptiles. Poor enclosure conditions like excessive cold or humidity as well as stress can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia. 

Symptoms include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Bubbles in mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy

Take your reptile to your vet if they have any of the above symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. If the infection is severe, they may need to be hospitalized.

Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Maintaining the right temperature gradient and humidity levels inside their living enclosures can prevent your reptile from getting respiratory diseases.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is an infection in a reptile’s mouth. Mouth rot is very serious and can cause your reptile a great deal of pain, and could eventually lead to their death. Mouth rot is typically caused by an injury to your reptile’s mouth, or their enclosure not being kept at the correct conditions.

Symptoms of mouth rot in your reptile are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Blood in your pets mouth or their water bowl
  • Swollen areas in their mouth
  • Weight loss

The first step to fixing the problem is finding out if they injured their mouth on something, or if their enclosure’s conditions are not right. If their mouth is injured you should get them to a vet to have them look at your reptile. If the problem is environmental then fix the problems in their enclosure.

No matter what the cause of your reptile’s mouth rot, you’ll still need to take your reptile to your vet because the treatment requires prescription antibiotics. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the mouth rot. Because this infection kills tissues in your reptile’s mouth, areas may need to be removed, including teeth. It’s better to prevent this problem before it happens by keeping your reptile’s enclosure at the conditions they need to be happy.

Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is the name of a dangerous internal parasite that affects a number of lizards and snakes. Unfortunately Leopard Geckos seem to be the most affected by this disease. This parasite will have your Gecko looking like skin and bones in no time.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are:

  • Anorexia
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Slowed growth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Diarrhea

The mortality rate is close to 50% for animals infected. The danger of this parasite is a big reason why all new lizards should be kept quarantined for the first few months when they’re brought home. The most common way they’ll become infected is through contaminated feed or by being exposed to another animal that is infected.

Unfortunately this disease mimics other types of wasting diseases that Geckos can have. It’s not easy to correctly diagnose, and there appears to be no magic bullet to cure them of the disease. The best thing to do is take your pet to your vet if you start noticing any symptoms of this disease. The key to saving your pet is to catch this early before they’ve lost too much weight.

Grooming and Care

Spot clean their enclosure every day and perform a deep clean once a month. Use a reptile-friendly disinfectant to clean the walls, floor and decorations inside their enclosure.

Remove uneaten food and your Gecko’s poop regularly. Waste build-up can cause health issues like Cryptosporidiosis.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos like to soak in water. The water in their bowl should be cleaned regularly. Clean and replace the water daily to make sure their bowl has clean water at all times.

mealworms

Feeding An African Fat-Tailed Gecko

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are carnivores and should be fed protein-rich insects. Their primary source of food should be crickets and mealworms.

Waxworms, silkworms, mealworms, caterpillars, pinkie mice and canned snails can be fed to them occasionally as treats. These are high in fat and shouldn’t be fed regularly.

Gut-load the insects before feeding them to your African Fat-Tailed Geckos. Gut-loading involves giving nutritious food to the insects. When your Gecko eats the prey, the nutrition passes to them.

Dust the insects with calcium and vitamin supplements, every time you feed your Gecko.

Hatchling African Fat-Tailed Geckos should be fed 5 insects every day and adults 9 insects, 3 times a week.

The size of the prey insects will depend on the size of your Gecko.

Remove uneaten insects after a few hours.

Related Questions:

Can an African Fat-Tailed Gecko Climb?

These lizards have difficulty climbing because they lack the sticky toe pads that most Gecko species have.