African Fat-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet

African Fat-Tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus)

Difficulty: Moderate

[click here for printable PDF]

african fat-tailed gecko care sheet

Welcome to the ReptiFiles African Fat-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet! This care sheet was written by a professional reptile husbandry specialist, compiled based on reputable sources such as scientific research papers, natural history data, and the experiences of longtime keepers and breeders of this species. You can find a list of these sources at the bottom of this page.

African fat-tailed geckos are 8-10″ lizards with soft, almost “pudgy” appearance: a long, stout body, stubby limbs, an oval head, pebbled skin, and a plump, segmented tail. Their coloring features alternating bands of medium and dark brown, sometimes with dark spots and white markings, including a white stripe from head to tail. Although they are geckos, they are unique from most others in that they have eyelids and can’t walk up walls.

African fat-tailed geckos are native to West Africa, ranging from Senegal to northern Cameroon. They prefer dry Sahel and dry/moist savannah for habitat, and are generally found near rock crevices and among the leaf litter of dry forests. 

African-fat tailed geckos generally have very docile, tolerant dispositions and can make very handleable pet lizards. If you pay attention to providing excellent African fat-tailed gecko care, your pet is likely to enjoy a 15-20 year lifespan, although longer is possible. 

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Shopping List

These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional African fat-tailed gecko terrarium. Some of the links in this care sheet are paid links — if you’d like to know why ReptiFiles uses paid links, visit this page.

Housing Your African Fat-Tailed Gecko

African fat-tailed geckos may seem small, but they still need an enclosure that is large enough to give them adequate opportunity to explore, hunt, and generally exercise natural behaviors. They are also terrestrial, which means that they are a ground-dwelling species, and generally prefer terrariums that are wider than they are tall.

This is why the minimum recommended enclosure size for a single African fat-tailed gecko is 36”L x 18”W x 18”H. Wherever possible, larger is strongly recommended! Although they are considered terrestrial, African fat-tailed geckos are built to live amongst rocks, and are capable climbers.

Here are some enclosures that are appropriate for housing African fat-tailed geckos:

Can multiple African fat-tailed geckos be housed in the same enclosure?

This species is generally considered to be solitary, and does not appear to live in groups in the wild. Seufer et al. notes that a pair can be successfully housed together in a large enough enclosure, but keep in mind that if the geckos don’t get along, they can fight and severely injure one another. Males in particular are known to fight. Altogether, it’s best to house only one gecko per enclosure.

Lighting & UVB for African Fat-Tailed Geckos

African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal, which means that they are primarily active at night.  This means that they are likely to prefer cooler temperatures, are exposed to low levels of indirect UVB during the day, and have exceptional night vision.

All lights should be turned off at night. You can use a 12/12 day/night cycle, or you can vary day length seasonally to encourage more natural hormonal rhythms. If you choose to do the latter, lights should be on for up to 13 hours/day during summer, and down to 11 hours/day during winter, with gradual increments in-between.

UVB Lighting

African fat-tailed geckos are capable of surviving without UVB lighting as long as they receive a high-D3 calcium supplement, but they are most likely to thrive when UVB is provided. In order to get the right strength of UVB (measured by UV Index, or UVI), distance, obstructions, and fixture type must be considered. The distances listed below should be measured from the gecko’s back on the basking platform to the UVB lamp.

Lamp placed over mesh:

  • Arcadia ShadeDweller 7% — 8-12″ / 20-30cm
  • Zoo Med T5 HO ReptiSun 5.0 — 14-20″ / 35-50cm

Lamp installed under mesh:

  • Arcadia ShadeDweller 7% — 10-16″ / 25-40cm

For best results, use an Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics brand T5 HO fixture. Josh’s Frogs and Bio Dude T5 HO fixtures are essentially the same as the VE. 

The UVB lamp should be installed on the warm side of the enclosure, overlapping with the heat lamp, because heat and UVB work together. The UVB lamp itself should span no more than half the enclosure’s length.

(These recommendations are approximations. It is strongly recommended to use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement to achieve a UVI of 1.0-2.0 in the basking area.)

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Heating Requirements

Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. African fat-tailed geckos, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. In the wild, African fat-tailed geckos warm up during the day by sleeping in a warm burrow or patch of sunlight. In captivity, the best way to replicate the warming effects of sunlight is with a heat lamp, possibly supplemented (but not replaced) by a heat mat.


  • Warm hide: 90-94°F (32-34°C)
  • Cool side: 72-77°F (22-25°C)
  • Nighttime: 72-77°F (22-25°C)

DRY/COOL SEASON (November-March)

  • Warm hide: 79°F (26°C)
  • Cool side: 68-74°F (20-23°C)
  • Nighttime: 63-64°F (17-18°C)

Generally speaking, a ~50w halogen heat bulb or two should be plenty for achieving the desired temperatures in your African fat-tailed gecko terrarium. My preferred halogen flood bulbs for reptile heating are the Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp and the Zoo Med Repti Tuff Splashproof Halogen Lamp.

If you notice that the warm hide is getting too warm, add another piece of stone/wood on top or switch to a lower wattage bulb. If things are too cool, try an additional heat lamp or using a higher-wattage heat bulb.

Creating the Basking Area

Place one of the hides (I prefer a rectangular black box hide for this) directly under the heat lamp(s) and place a light-colored slab of stone (ex: flagstone, sandstone) or hardwood on top to create a basking platform. The hide underneath will be the warm hide. The heat lamp should be able to heat the warm hide to the target temperature, but this can vary depending on room temperature, thickness of the basking surface, etc.

If your warm hide is not getting warm enough: add a heat mat under the hide box, covered with 1” of substrate to prevent direct contact. Plug this heat mat in to a thermostat such as the Inkbird brand. Place the thermostat probe inside the warm hide to regulate its temperature correctly. For best results, schedule your heat mat to turn off a few hours after sunset rather than immediately at sunset to replicate that lingering-warmth effect nocturnal reptiles benefit from in the wild! 

Tracking Temperature

To measure the general temperature of different areas of your terrarium, you can use an infrared thermometer (a.k.a. temperature gun). To passively track basking temperature, use a digital probe thermometer, with the probe placed on the basking surface under the heat source. The Etekcity 774 is a good infrared thermometer, and most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.

NOTE: If you’re bringing home a juvenile African fat-tailed gecko <6 months old, it must have rainy/warm season temps until it’s at least 6 months old!

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Humidity Requirements

African fat-tailed geckos do best in an environment that cycles between wet and dry seasons:

  • Rainy/warm season — 70-80% daytime, 100% nighttime
  • Dry/cool season — 50% daytime, 70-75% nighttime

It is also important to your gecko’s health to provide them with consistent access to an area of higher humidity. This can be done with a “humid hide” — a cave or hide with moistened substrate (NOT sphagnum moss), placed on the cool end of the enclosure. This helps your gecko shed successfully and stay hydrated. Keep the humidity levels in this hide around the same as your current target nighttime humidity.

You can monitor humidity levels in your humid hide with a digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle. You will need another device if you want to monitor the humid hide separately.

To increase humidity levels in the enclosure, use a handheld pressure sprayer. Distilled or reverse osmosis water works best if you have hard tap water.

Substrate Options for African Fat-Tailed Geckos

Providing substrate for African fat-tailed geckos is a bit of a controversial issue, but the short of it is that as long as a naturalistic substrate is used, and the gecko is adequately heated, hydrated, has access to UVB, and is otherwise healthy, there’s nothing to be worried about. For a more thorough explanation, read this article.

For African fat-tailed geckos, it’s best to use a well-drained, naturalistic substrate that is similar to what is found in their native habitat. This substrate should be layered at least 4″ deep to allow for burrowing behavior. Here are a few options:

  • DIY semi-arid mix: 40% organic topsoil, 40% play sand, 20% Zoo Med Excavator Clay
  • Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
  • Zoo Med ReptiSand
  • Exo Terra Desert/Riverbed Sand
  • Exo Terra Stone Desert

New African fat-tailed geckos should be >6 months old and must pass quarantine before naturalistic substrate is added to their enclosure. Before then, use paper towels or blue shop towels.

Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-6 months, depending on how diligent you are about daily cleaning.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Décor Options

Decorations play a vital role in your African fat-tailed gecko’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your pet’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nicer! Without décor, your gecko’s terrarium is just an expensive box of dirt.

Hollow logs, thick branches, leaf litter, ledges, and artificial or drought-resistant live plants work well as décor in an African fat-tailed gecko terrarium. You can also provide additional hideouts.  Arrange these items in a way that encourages your gecko to climb and explore, and provides a variety of places to sleep or shelter in during the day.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Food

African fat-tailed geckos are insectivores, which means that they eat insects.

How often an African fat-tailed gecko needs to depends on age: The general rule is to offer 2 appropriately-sized bugs per 1 inch of your gecko’s length, or however much they can eat in 15 minutes. Juveniles should be fed daily, and young adults fed every other day/every 3 days. Adults whose tail is fatter than their neck can be fed every 5 days.

Feeder insects:

  • crickets
  • dubia roach nymphs
  • discoid roach nymphs
  • black soldier fly larvae
  • mealworms
  • darkling beetles
  • hornworms
  • silkworms
  • grasshoppers/locusts

The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier pet that always looks forward to mealtime.

Feeder insects can be easily sourced online from reputable breeders such as, Beastmode Silks, and Luna Roaches.


All insect feeders should be lightly “dusted” with calcium powder to balance the calcium-phosphorus ratio. Multivitamin powder can be used every once in a while to provide extra nutrients. All-in-one powders provide a balanced dose of both at once.

There are many options in terms of supplements, but Repashy CalciumPlus LoD is a solid all-in-one supplement for African fat-tailed geckos that have appropriate UVB. For best results, use as directed by the manufacturer.

Drinking Water

African fat-tailed geckos should have free access to a shallow bowl of fresh, clean water daily. Scrub out the water bowl with veterinary-grade disinfectant every week to maintain good hygiene.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko Handling Tips

Once you’ve brought your gecko home, it’s tempting to start playing with them right away. But wait 2 weeks after buying before beginning handling — your gecko needs time to settle into their new home, and handling on top of that can cause additional stress. If your gecko hasn’t eaten by the time the 2 weeks are over, do not handle and make an appointment with an experienced reptile vet.

After the 2 week waiting period is over, introduce yourself to your gecko by putting your hand in its enclosure every night for a few minutes so it can get used to your scent and presence. They should already be relatively familiar with you, since you’ve been in their space replacing water, offering food, cleaning up, etc. Let it come to you! (Food bribes can be helpful here.)

When you begin handling, start with 5 minute sessions every other day, gradually increasing the length of the sessions and escalating to daily. Support the feet, body, and tail. Never grab the tail, as it is detachable. Consistency is key to successful taming.

Stay close to the ground or a soft surface (ex: bed, couch) in case the gecko jumps. You want handling to be a positive experience, and injury is not a positive experience. It’s best to handle your gecko in the evening rather than during the day so you don’t disturb its rest.

Where to Buy African Fat-Tailed Geckos

If you’re looking to buy a pet African fat-tailed gecko, the best place to go is ReptiFiles’ official partner,! All breeders listed on the HappyDragons marketplace are thoroughly vetted for legitimacy and held to high standards in ethics and husbandry.


African Fat Tail – Advancing Husbandry. (n.d.). Facebook. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

Gerster, K. (n.d.). Hemitheconyx caudicinctus. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

Kirschner, A., Seufer, H., & Kaverkin, Y. (2005). The Eyelash Geckos, Care, Breeding and Natural History (pp. 176–185). Kirschner & Seufer Verlag.

Low UV Species. (n.d.). Arcadia Reptile. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

West African Fat-tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus). (n.d.). INaturalist. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from

Special thanks to Seth Hoffpauir of Huff’s Herps for his input.

The ReptiFiles African Fat-Tailed Gecko Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care guide. While I have done my best to ensure that the information contained is accurate, due to time constraints, the research behind ReptiFiles care sheets is not as thorough as the research involved with my full-length care guides. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research from high-quality, reputable sources outside of just this care sheet as part of preparing for your new pet reptile.