Common Name: African Fat Tail Gecko Scientific Name: Hemitheconyx caudicinctus Distribution: West Africa Size: 7" - 8" Natural Habitat: This terrestrial Lizard inhabits savannah, woodland, and scrubland area of West Africa. Behavior: Males may become territorial, Keep separate from other males. Usually a tame lizard and easy to handle. This lizard is nocturnal (active primarily at night).
You will find many housing options available to you, but I much prefer a rubber maid or sterilite setup. For one AFT, I recommend using a Rubber Maid or Sterilite that is 2 Â½ feet long by 16 inches wide. You may actually house 2 in this enclosure, bottom line, the more room you can provide them the better. Males can be territorial but may be kept with multiple females but please bear in mind that the more of them that are housed together the higher the level of stress it will create for them.
A substrate which I like to use is Eco Earth. Eco Earth makes a good substrate because it is a natural substance which is totally digestible, maintains moisture and naturally absorbs odor. Mix the Eco Earth with warm water until the Eco Earth has absorbed all the moisture. You may have to wring it out a bit to get eccess moisture out. Firmly pack the Eco Earth in the bottom of the cage and let it dry in the sun or under a heat lamp for a couple of hours until all moisture has evaporated. Normally African Fat Tails will defecate in the same area making cleanup easy.
Hiding Places & Humid Hide
Hiding places are another must! You must have some sort of cave or rock crevice for them to hide in when they get scared or want to sleep. If you do not have one of these, they can become over stressed which causes sickness and even death! Another thing you must have is a Humid-Hide. A Humid-Hide is another container with moist peat-moss or paper towels inside. It is used in aiding the shedding process. Parts like the toes and eyes are trouble spots for shedding. The Humid-Hide helps these spots to shed normally. If the toes do not shed properly they can actually fall off.
Here is one big difference between Leos and AFT Geckos. AFT need more humidity then Leos. Therefore you should mist their cage at least once a day.
Water Dish & Calcium Dish
AFT Geckos will drink right from a water dish, so a shallow dish with fresh water should be offered 24 hours a day. Also a calcium dish should be offered. Calcium dishes can be made out of an old milk carton top filled with powdered calcium.
Feeding consists of a main diet of crickets coated with a vitamin and calcium supplement. Some of the best supplements on the market are Rep-Cal (calcium and vitamin D) and Nekton-Rep (vitamin). At feeding time, use either product as a major component for vitamin and mineral supplementation - shaking this product back and forth to coat the crickets before feeding. Crickets may be found at your local pet store and are about $1.30/dozen. I would suggest ordering your crickets from an online supplier. You can order from online suppliers at a cost of as little as $13.50/1,000. The crickets may be kept in a tall trash can with a screen top and fed baby chicken starter mash as a diet. Water should also be made available by an inverted water dish, also available from most suppliers at a cost of $5.00. The crickets have a life span of about six to eight weeks so its best not to order anymore than you will use in two to three weeks. Fat Tail hatchlings should be fed 1/2 inch crickets and adults should be fed 3/4 inch crickets. Mealworms may be fed once a month. Feeding should take place three to four times a week. An adult will usually eat between five to seven crickets at a feeding. A hatchling will usually eat two to three crickets at a feeding.
Daytime temperature should be around 85 degrees F and may cool to 75 degrees F at night. The daytime temperature may be achieved with a spotlight, such as a fifty watt reptile bulb. Make sure it is not possible for your animal to come into contact with the bulb because will cause burns. A small part of the substrate should be heated from 85-88 degrees F. You may heat the substrate using heat strips or a heating pad made specifically for reptile cages or one bought for human use at Walmart, but make sure it does not have an auto off on it. You want to purchase these heat strips or pads to place under the tank so they do not come into direct contact with your animal. Do not use heat rocks they can get too hot and may burn your animal. Remember these lizards are ectothermic (require heat from outside sources).
Just as Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, so are AFT. This means they do not need UV lights. They can, however, have normal lights for heat in the day time, and infrared at night. Make sure the lights are no more than 40 watt bulbs. They should have a normal 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark.
AFT Geckos will tolerate handling to an extent. You can hold them for a couple of minutes each day if you like. Try to avoid handling hatchlings. Wait at least 1 or 2 months before handling babies. The recommended handling time is 5 to 15 minutes Any longer and they might become stressed.
Many African Fat-Tails can become aggressive if never held. Aggressive AFTs try and bite and hiss at you. A good way to tame them is to hold them at least 5 minutes a day. Even though they will try to bite you, soon the will realize that you are not a predator. Eventually they will calm down. To make this technique work, you must keep it up. You cannot hold it once a month and expect it to be tamed.
A breeding group may consist of one male and three to four females. Never house males together because they are very territorial and will fight. Mating for the African Fat Tail usually takes place in November or December with the first eggs being laid in late December. Eggs are usually laid in clutches (which consist of two to 4 eggs). A clutch is then laid every ten to fifteen days afterwards. Each female can lay between three to thirteen clutches in a season, depending on their health and genetic makeup. Keep a closed plastic container inside the cage with an opening large enough for the Fat Tails to go in and out. This plastic container will act as a hide box as well as an egg laying site for the females. Keep about two-three inches of coarse vermiculite (commonly found at garden stores) inside the container. Mist the inside of the container occasionally to keep the vermiculite damp but not wet. The eggs can become damaged by to much moisture or by becoming to dry. The female will lay her eggs inside the plastic container. The eggs will be soft shelled and can be removed for incubation. Place the eggs inside a plastic container with dampened vermiculite and cover the container with a lid and place it into the incubator. Check the container every few days to make sure the vermiculite maintains moisture and to let fresh air into the container. Make sure you check the containers often when it is close to hatching time and remove hatchlings as soon as they have hatched.
Incubating and Sexing
The sex of the hatchlings is determined by what temperature the eggs are incubated at. To produce females the eggs should be incubated at 80-83 degrees F. Unlike the Leopard Gecko the African Fat Tail eggs should not be incubated below 80 degrees F as this will kill the embryo. To produce mostly males incubate from 85-88 degrees F. Incubators are available at most farm supply stores sold as chicken egg incubators (Hovabator). The eggs usually hatch out between forty to sixty days, depending on the temperature incubated at. The higher the temperature in the incubator the sooner the eggs will hatch but remember, the higher the temperature in the incubator the more males you will produce. The hatchlings will not feed until they have had their first shed, which usually takes about five days after hatching. For sexing these hatchlings I would suggest purchasing a 30X illuminated hand held microscope (found at most Radio Shack stores). The cost is about $10.00. In males just above the cloacal opening you will find an angular row of nine to fourteen pre-anal pores. These pores are prominent in the males and are lacking in the females. As the males grow you will notice they have a widened tailbase in which the hemipenes are housed. Males also tend to have a larger or wider head and tend to be larger than the females. If you do not feel comfortable in sexing your hatchlings it is best to have an experienced person do this for you.
The same thing applies with AFT as with Leopard Geckos. They are nocturnal and will hide most of the day. Only really appearing at dusk. You should not keep messing with the gecko while it is in its hideaway. You can easily feed them while they are inside. Just drop the food item in front of opening to the hideaway. Don't worry about them drinking. They will come out when you are sleeping and explore its new environment, and most likely find the water dish.