06 Nov African Fat-tailed Geckos (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus)
By Ultimate Exotics
The African Fat-tailed gecko is a truly beautiful gecko in it own unique way, and is a must have for any keen gecko collector or breeder! African Fat-tailed geckos are members of the primitive gecko family Eublepharidae. This family contains primarily terrestrial geckos that share such characteristics as well developed and fully functioning eyelids, and toes without expanded toe tips. Some may consider it as the African Leopard Gecko as certain characteristics of these two species are remarkably similar. African Fat-tailed geckos can reach sizes of approximately 20-25cm with males being slightly larger than females. The African Fat tail has banded markings alternating from a light brown to dark chocolate brown, with some having a pure white stripe which starts from the top of the head and runs down the middle of the geckos back to the tail. Their colouring is truly beautiful and is an important adaption for them to blend in their natural surrounding in order to avoid predators.
The African Fat-tailed gecko is found in Western Africa including Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Malawi and Ivory Coast. The habitat varies from dry woodlands and savannahs to rocky hillsides and semi-forested areas.
African Fat tailed geckos are solitary geckos and it is best to house these geckos individually, or in small groups of no more than three eg. one male and two females. Never have two males in the same cage as they will fight and most likely hurt or even kill one another. These geckos require floor space and therefore height is not an important factor when it comes to caging. Floor space of an enclosure when housing a trio of African Fat- tailed geckos will need to be about 30cm x 60cm. Try to provide at least one hiding place per gecko as during the days they will seek a dark, warm and humid hiding spot.
Lighting is not needed as these geckos are nocturnal. Temperature is important and a hot spot on one side of the enclosure will need to be about 28 ̊C – 30 ̊C. This is best achieved by having a heating pad under one side of the enclosure.
Humidity is important when it comes to housing these geckos. I find the best is to have a humid hide box which can be a small container with a hole cut in the lid for the gecko to access it. In this container I use sphagnum moss or peat which is slightly moist. Place this enclosure on the warmer end of the cage to allow the humidity to build up inside the hide.
Substrate can be anything from the more attractive orchid bark, sphagnum moss and repti-sand mix to paper towel and even plain newspaper. What ever works best for you. These geckos are not messy and will often defecate on one end of the enclosure, spot cleaning can be done regularly and a once month thorough clean is recommended.
A shallow water dish that cannot be tipped over easily is a must, and it is important to make sure water is always clean.
Feeding African Fat-tailed geckos is fairly straight forward and a stable diet of Crickets and mealworms will be perfect. I like to have a shallow dish were the mealworms can’t climb out with calcium and always a few mealworms in. About three times a week I like to offer crickets. Pinkies can be offered every 2 – 3 weeks. Calcium is a must for these geckos especially growing juveniles and female breeders. When feeding Crickets dust them with Calcium powder as this is one of the best ways to insure your gecko is receiving the calcium it needs. Feeder insects should also be gut loaded prior to feeding.
Sexing and Breeding
African Fat-tailed geckos can only be sexed as the get older and this can be done by examining the underneath of the gecko. Males will have pre-anal pores which will be in a ‘v-shape’ and two bulges at the base of the tail which is formed by the hemipenes. Females lack both the pre-anal pores and bulges and are smaller than males.
When it comes to breeding African Fat tail geckos a cool period is a must to stimulate breeding later on. I like to keep males and females separate during these times, as I find when they are introduced later on the male seems to be a lot more stimulated as he hasn’t seen another gecko for a while. The cooling period can be anywhere from 30-60 days where the temperatures are dropped to about 21 ̊C during the night and the day time temperature reaches about 25 ̊C. During this period less food is offered as their metabolisms slow down.
After this period the temperatures are returned to normal and feeding and humidity is also increased. All these factors will lead to stimulating these geckos into breeding season ‘mode’. After a few weeks the male is introduced to the female, and copulation usually commences shortly after introduction. The male will approach the female and waggle his tail and if the female is receptive he will place his body along side hers. The male usually will bite the female’s neck to keep her in position, as copulation occurs. The male is left in the enclosure with the females until the breeding season is over. Females will normally lay clutches of two eggs at a time at two week intervals. It is important to ensure that you have a hide box with moist sphagnum moss where the female can lay her eggs. Once the eggs are laid they will need to be removed from the egg laying box and placed in a separate container containing moist vermiculite where the eggs can be incubated.
The sex of the African Fat-tail can be determined by the temperature at which the eggs are incubated, just like Leopard Geckos. Temperatures of 29 ̊C to 30.6 ̊C will produce both sexes. Temperatures below 28.3 ̊C mostly females will be produced, and temperatures above 31 ̊C will produce mostly males. Eggs will hatch anywhere between 55-65 days depending on the temperature.
These geckos are ideal for someone looking for a bit more than the common Leopard Gecko. They are not so easily available but if you are persistent you will find a few breeders in South Africa who breed African Fat-tails. They are a rewarding species to keep and breed and, as long as the correct requirements are met they will do very well in captivity.
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