Caring for African Fat Tailed Geckos
The African Fat Tailed gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) is a medium sized terrestrial gecko found across West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon. Their colouration reflects their savannah and forest edge homes; they are light brown to tan, banded with dark brown with a lovely velvety sheen to their skin. Some individuals have a thin white line that runs from between their large, dark eyes to the end of their tail. Popular within the pet trade, there are now several variations available including hypo, albino, and patternless.
They are renowned for their calm, even temperaments, and their willingness to be handled. They do make an excellent pet, and are easy to care for well. Males can reach up to 20cm, with females being slightly smaller, with a more slender head and less obvious femoral and pre-anal pores. Like their cousins the leopard gecko, they have true eyelids and can blink to keep their eyes hydrated – they don’t have to lick them like many other gecko species!
Although they do come from dry, arid climates, they like to hide away in more humid areas – under logs, rocks, leaf litter and down unused rodent burrows. Their vivarium should be furnished with a dry substrate but it must be provided with a humid hide; we tend to avoid sphagnum moss as we have had some geckos eating it when they shed, although this is quite a rare occurrence. They do very well in a semi-arid bioactive setup, where the live plants raise the ambient humidity a little.
They require a hot spot of 32ºC (90ºF), dropping to 25ºC (77ºF) at the cool end. Night time temperatures can go down as far as 20ºC (68ºF), although they must not drop below this.
Often described as nocturnal, like many other geckos the fat tail is crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk. Because of this, any captive habitat must include UVB light, either 5% or 7% tube or compact. Tubes are more efficient, and last longer, but compacts are fine in the short term. UV light allows the gecko to metabolise the calcium in their diet at a rate that suits them, rather than forced conversion with oral supplements alone.
Like all lizards, they benefit from the use of a good multivitamin/multimineral supplement twice weekly, and a plain calcium supplement every day. They are insectivorous, and will cheerfully consume any of the regularly available livefoods of locusts, crickets, mealworms and waxworms. All food should be gutloaded and dusted before it is offered to the gecko, and the larger variety you can offer the better.
Still often available as wild caught adults, it’s worth taking the time and effort to find some captive bred youngsters. Not only are they calmer and more happy to be handled, but they are very unlikely to be carrying the parasite load that many wild lizards harbour. Generally they prefer to live alone, although if you want to keep more than one in a vivarium then you should aim for a group of one male to two or three females. A glass vivarium of 60 x 45 x 45cm is fine for a single animal, although bigger is always better. For a group, the minimum should be 90 x 45 x 45cm, with multiple basking spots and hiding places.
If you like leopard geckos but are seeking something a little different, give the African fat tail a try. These charming lizards have bags of personality and are easy to keep – what more could you ask for?