The African fat tail gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) is native to
the West African region from Senegal to Northern Cameroon. Adults can obtain
a length of 8 to 10 inches and easily 100 grams. Babies are around 3 to 3 1/2
inches in length and 3 grams. Fat tails are a terrestrial animal which means
they are ground dwellers. Being nocturnal they are most active at night. Fat
tails are very similar to leopard geckos although there are a few physical differences.
Fat tails have smaller stockier feet and generally bulkier heads and bodies.
Because they are similar to leos they have been gaining popularity as every year
Fat-tails are very easy to house. A pair (1 male and 1 female) can
live comfortably in a 10 gallon glass aquarium but larger is always
better. Most breeders use some kind of rack system. Racks are easier
because one can fit more geckos in a given area than with aquariums.
Aquariums however are clear giving you the opportunity to view them
better and see their natural behaviors. I house my adult fat tails
in 28 quart Rubbermaid containers and hatchlings in 6 quart tubs.
Never keep an animal in cramped quarters. This can cause stress and
lead to other health issues.
Substrate - The best substrate to use is paper, newspaper,
paper towel, slate, tile or packed eco earth. I suggest not using sand
at all as the gecko may become impacted and their environment needs
to be more humid which sand consistently doesn’t provide. Impaction
is when the gecko ingests sand which can build up and block the intestine.
This is usually in an attempt to get calcium (see below for supplementation).
My animals are all kept on paper or paper towel. When keeping them
on these substrates you must provide a humid shelter. If you’re
looking for a more naturalistic look packed eco earth (coconut fiber)
works well. Don’t ever use aquarium gravel, walnut shells or
calcium sand. These substrates can be fatal if caught in the gecko’s
digestive system. Never use cedar or pine shavings. These are toxic
Hides - In order for the gecko to feel secure in its enclosure
provide several hiding places. These can be as simple as inverted plant
saucer pans, plants, wood etc. It’s a good idea to put a hide
on both the warm end and cool end (discussed in heat section below)
of the cage. This will allow them to hide and feel comfortable on both
ends of the cage. Along with a “dark” hide they need a
humid hide. This is important because fat tails need more humidity
in their environment. The most popular is using a throw away container
such as a glad or Tupperware container. Cut a hole in the lid and fill
it with moist peat moss, sphagnum moss, eco earth, or paper
towel. This will provide enough humidity to allow the gecko to shed
Heat & Light - Provide a hot spot of 88 to 90 degrees
fahrenheit on the warm end with the cool side of the cage in the mid
It is very important to provide a temperature gradient for the animal.
This is basically having a warm end and a cool end that will allow
the animal to regulate its own body temperature. There are several
different ways to provide proper heat. One is using under tank heating.
This is a strip of heat tape or an under tank heat map that runs
under the cage. This is probably the best heat as it is direct belly
heat. Another way is to provide a heat lamp with a 40 or 60 watt light
bulb. This will give off heat and light. Because fat tails are nocturnal
there is no need for special UVB lighting. The heat source will need
to be somehow regulated. This can be achieved by using a rheostat or
dimmer switch allowing you to adjust the temperature. Make sure to
never overheat your geckos. Excessive heat even for a short period
of time can and will most likely be fatal.
Quarantine - Quarantining new animals is very important and should
be practiced by everyone. This is placing new animals separate from
established colonies to make sure they are healthy. They should be
in a separate room using their own items that are not shared with the
established animals. This period should last anywhere from 30 to 90
days. Take care of the quarantined animals last and wash your hands
thoroughly afterwards. If there happens to be a problem with your quarantined
animals it’s easier to treat them than it is your entire collection.
Handling - Fat tails are by far one of the tamest geckos I have seen,
even more so than leopard geckos. When holding any animal it’s
best to take it slow. When you first acquire a new animal don’t
hold them for several weeks to several months depending on the individual.
This will allow them to adjust to their new environment. Once they
have calmed down gently hold the gecko by letting it walk across your
hand as it is inside the cage. Once the gecko is familiar with you,
you can take it out and hold it. Remember that too much handling too
fast or too rough of handling can cause stress on the animal. Another
thing to remember is to never grab the tail! If threatened, the tail
will detach. Many reptiles are capable of this defense mechanism. It
will grow back but will look nothing like the original.
Food & Water:
Fat tails are insectivores and the most common items used in captivity
are crickets, mealworms, superworms, silkworms and small cockroaches
as a staple diet. The occasional pinkie mouse (only a few days old)
and waxworms can be given as a treat. Pinkie mice should only be
given to full grown adults and are excellent for breeding females.
Not all individuals will eat them but the majority prefer them live.
Feed waxworms sparingly as they can become very addictive to geckos
and not as healthy because they are very fattening. Only feed as
much as the gecko will consume in a given feeding. Depending on the
size of the gecko this can be anywhere from 4 to 8 crickets. Left
over prey running in the cage can cause stress and the gecko might
get nibbled on by hungry insects. Babies should be fed everyday with
adults being fed every other day. If you’re feeding mealworms,
superworms or anything else that can be contained in a dish they
can be left with the animal 24/7 without harm. The gecko will only
eat what it wants. As a general rule the prey item should be no larger
than half the width of the geckos head to prevent choking.
Gutloading - Make sure to gutload all food items for 24 hours prior
to feeding. Gutloading is feeding very nutritious/high quality foods
to prey prior to feeding to your animals. These can include but not
limited to fruits, vegetables and grains. There are also many commercially
available products that are in powder form. I make and use Pro Gutload
for all my feeders. Gutloading will ensure a healthier insect and in
the long run a healthier gecko. Remember your geckos are what they
Supplementation - Calcium and vitamins are essential for
reptiles. The most common way of offering this to them is by dusting
the prey just before feeding. This can be done with the “shake
and bake” method.
Using a plastic bag or some type of container, add a small amount of
calcium and vitamins supplement. Add a few food items and gently shake
the bag until they are covered in calcium. They are now ready to offer
for feeding. When dusting crickets make sure to feed them right away
because they clean the calcium off. Babies should get dusted prey items
at least 4 times a week but preferably at every feeding and adults
1 to 2 times per week. Egg laying females should also get dusted food
items at every feeding as they are using large amounts of calcium to
produce the egg shells.
I use and recommend osteo-form and vionate as my calcium/vitamin supplement.
There are many different products on the market with Rep Cal and Miner-all
being the most notable. I also provide a dish of calcium for the gecko
that’s with them 24/7. If the gecko wants more calcium they can
lick what they want. You may not see your geckos doing this but believe
me they are. Lack of supplementation will eventually lead to MBD (Metabolic
bone disease) and can cause serious problems with reptiles. Some symptoms
include very weak and lethargic animals that will display soft limbs
Water - Offer a dish of fresh water at all times. I use a
2 ounce or 4 ounce portion cups for my babies and adults. Keeping the
water fresh is very important so it should be changed regularly. Water
that is stagnant is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause illness.
Cleanliness is an absolute must especially when keeping several geckos.
The cleaner the cages are the less chance there is of having diseases
spread. So this should be done on a regular basis. If you’re
using paper or paper towel change it every week or sooner if needed.
Change water dishes and give fresh water. Each month you should deep
clean everything including water dishes, hides, the cage and anything
else that may be in it. Chlorhexidine solution is excellent for cleaning
and disinfecting everything.
Fat tail breeding is almost identical to that of leopard geckos. However
before you attempt breeding keep in mind the amount of time, space
and resources needed to maintain the breeders and babies. What will
you do with the babies if they don’t sell right away? Can you
still house and take care of them? These are just a few things to
consider before attempting breeding. Most people fail to realize
this until they have babies.
With that being said you’re breeders need to be ready. Make
sure they are full grown adults, healthy and at a good weight. I recommend
males a minimum of 8 months old and 45 grams and females being a minimum
of 1 year old and 50 grams. Although those are the minimums I prefer
my females to be no less than 60 grams as it will be easier on them.
If your female can be around 2 years old that would be even better
Sexing - Before you can start breeding you’ll need a sexually
matured pair. There are a few different methods to do this. The easiest
way is to look at the under side of the gecko. The male will have two
pronounced hemipenal bulges behind the vent on the tail side. You can
also look for pre-anal pores that will be in a "V" shape
just above the vent between the hind legs. Females will not have the
hemipenal bulges but may have pre-anal pits rather than enlarged pores.
If a female is obese she may appear to have bulges but it’s just
fat. Another way to tell is just by looking at them. Males are heavy
bodied, have thicker necks with their heads being broader than a female.
Breeding - Fat tails aren’t as easy to breed as leopard
geckos are. Unlike leopard geckos fat tails should have a cool down
or hibernation period to stimulate breeding. Stop feeding a week prior
to a cool down. Gradually lower the temperature until it is 70 to 75
degrees fahrenheit as a high. Do this for about 4 weeks then gradually
raise the temperatures back to normal. Once they are warmed up offer
the pair as much food as they’ll eat so they can gain back the
weight they lost during the cool down. After a few weeks, put the male
with the female. The geckos may mate right away or it might take a
little time. Leave the male with the female for several days and then
take him out. You may need to do this several times until you have
a successful mating. It also doesn’t matter if you place the
male with the female or visa versa. Both ways will have the same result.
When you place the pair together the male will be aggressive toward
the female. He will start biting her and if she is not receptive she
will bite back. It may appear as if they are fighting but this is normal
behavior. The male will also shake the tip of his tail very quickly.
This can be loud at times but again it’s normal behavior and
nothing to worry about.
Eggs - Up to 4 weeks after a successful mating the female
will lay her first clutch of eggs. Each clutch will consist of 1 to
2 white oval eggs. Fat tails can easily lay 8 clutches a year with
each clutch being laid in 2 to 4 week intervals. Make sure to provide
a suitable container for the female to lay her eggs in. This is basically
the humid hide filled with moist but not saturated bed-a-beast.
Incubation - After being laid the eggs need to be removed and placed
in an incubator. Fat tail eggs are temperature sexed dependent. This
means that you can decide what sex baby you want just by incubating
at a certain temperature. The text below shows the results with the
Female = 80 degrees fahrenheit
50% mix of both sexes = 85 degrees fahrenheit
Male = 90 degrees fahrenheit
The eggs will hatch in 30 to 105 days. Males generally hatch faster
because of the higher temperatures. Females take longer because of
the cooler temperatures. On average incubation for females lasts around
60 days and males around 35 days.
Although fat tails aren’t as popular as leopard geckos they are
still close to the top of the list. There are not as many color variations
as there are with leos but as more people work with them more will
be created. Their ease of keeping and very gentle nature is winning
the interest of keepers everywhere. If you’re looking for a first
time pet gecko the fat tail is one of the best.