African Fat Tail Gecko

AFT Morphs

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Standard BandedAmelStriped Het Amel
Standard Banded
Standard Banded
Striped Het Amel
Striped Het Amel

Hemitheconyx caudinctus

African fat tail geckos originate in West Africa. They live in dry, arid regions of Senegal and Cameroon.

Being nocturnal reptiles, AFT's spend a lot of their time during the day in dark, humid places. AFT's are terrestrial geckos that find crevices under and between rocks to hide. Although, they can climb a little, they are very clumsy at it.

African fat tail geckos are similar to the leopard gecko except for a few differences. AFTs are stockier, have slightly smaller feet, and bulkier heads. They, also, require more humidity than their leopard gecko cousins.

AFT's as Pets

This particular species is very docile, even more calm than leopard geckos. They rarely bite or show any aggressive nature. Although, they may hiss when they are spooked, African fat tails rarely bite.

Although they are very docile and withstand handling, you must be careful of their tails. Never grab an African fat tail by the tail because when they are frightened, they will drop their tails. Their tails do grow back, they do not grow back nearly as pretty.

Be weary when handling baby and juvenile geckos, they can be spooked easier than an adult and are more willing to drop their tails. Never allow young children to play with reptiles unsupervised.

African Fat Tail Lifespan

African fat tails can live an average life of 15 to 20 years with the proper care and husbandry. The earlier years of an AFT's life are the most important because without the proper care, young geckos can suffer health concerns later in life. Proper heating, supplements, and diet, must be provided for a gecko to have a long and healthy life.

AFT Size

AFT's grow anywhere from 6 to 10 inches on average.

Females tend to be slightly smaller than males at an average length of 6 to 8 inches, where males tend to average 8 to 10 inches.

African Fat Tail Shedding

AFT Enclosure

A 10 gallon aquarium is the minimum size for one African fat tail, whereas a 20-gallon long aquarium is more sizeable for one.

NEVER house more than one male together because they are territorial and will fight, to which one or more of the geckos will end up seriously hurt or killed.

Unlike males, you can house more than one female in the same enclosure, and with adequate housing, several females can live with one male for life, but this is not recommended because this can cause undo stress and bullying amongst the geckos.

African fat tail Set Up

Filling the Enclosure


African fat tail geckos should be housed on solid surfaces such as paper towels, tile, or reptile carpet. You should not house any reptile on loose substrates such as playsand, calci-sand, wood shavings, etc. Loose substrates can raise the risk of impaction.


Because African fat tails are nocturnal, you will need to make sure to include shelters and hides in the enclosure. Put at least two shelters in the cage- one on the warm side and one on the cool side.

Because AFTs require more humidity, you will need to add a humid hide in the enclosure. You can make a humid hide by taking a tupperware, cutting an access hole in it, and filling it with moist moss, vermiculite, or perlite. You can even put damp paper towels in it as well. Make sure to always keep it damp.

Reptile hammocks can, also, be added, allowing more room to roam.

Make sure to have plenty of room so the gecko can maneuver around the terrarium with ease; without adequate room to walk comfortably can cause stress on the gecko.


Since African fat tail geckos are nocturnal, they do not require any UV lighting, and it is really up to you as to whether or not you want to use a regular light.

Using a day light, creates a day and night scenario for the gecko, but is not necessary. Having a light will not increase the enclosure temperatures too much; it may affect the air temperatures, but not the substrate temps that the gecko will be getting the most of.


The proper daytime temperatures should range from 82 to 88F, and the proper nighttime temperatures should range from 75 to 82F.

The best way to provide an AFT the proper heat is by using an under tank heater, since they acquire most of their heat through their bellies. Make sure to follow the directions on the package, because if not followed properly, they can cause stress cracks to the aquarium.

When using under tank heaters, I recommend not attaching them to the bottom of the enclosure, as it makes cleaning easier not having to worry about it.

During the cooler months, in the wild African fat tail will adjust to the cooling temperatures and limited food by going into a hibernation, or brumation, state, in which they eat less and become more lethargic. If the brumation period is not done correctly, it can be detrimental to your gecko, so it is NOT recommended that you attempt to lower the temperatures.

DO NOT use heat rocks as exposure will burn your gecko.


African fat tails need a slightly higher humidity than that of a leopard gecko. In order to achieve this do not mist the cage, as misting can make the humidity level too high. High humidity levels can cause mold formation and health concerns such as upper respiratory infection in the gecko.

To achieve a good humidity level, provide a humid hide in the enclosure, making sure to keep it moist as all times. The AFT will go to the humid hide when he feels he needs to. Do not force an African fat tail gecko to stay in his humid hide.

Remember that too low and too high humidity can be detrimental, but as long as you provide a humid hide, your AFT will be able to get the proper humidity that he needs.

African Fat Tail Diet

African fat tail geckos are insectivores, meaning they eat insects. The diet of an African fat tail gecko can be based mainly on crickets.

Remember that any feeder insecet needs to be size appropriate; insects must be at least half the width of the gecko's head and no longer than the length of the gecko's head.

Do not get insects from your backyard because insects travel and can carry pesticides and chemicals used by either you or your neighbors, which can be detrimental to the gecko's health, even killing the gecko.

Gut-load any insect that you decide to use to feed your gecko. This gives the insect more nutrition that can be passed on to your gecko. Even though you gut-load, you still have to dust the insects with calcium and/or a multivitamin.

Water should be provided at all times. When keeping a baby African fat tail gecko, do make sure that the bowl is not so large that the baby can drown.

African Fat Tail Eating Crickets

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Comments 292 comments

Aly 4 years ago

We have a Day Gecko and he shed 4 weeks ago, all but his face. Any suggestions of what to do? I have a shallow dish of water, but he hasn't been going to it like he usually does to get the tough skin off.

kimie 4 years ago

Why dose my leopard gecko raise its tail when anybody but me touches it.Then it try ti bit and sometimes ti dose bit them.

Shaun Davies 4 years ago

My gecko has just died for some reason the symptoms were loss of skin colour, gone slimmer, tail shrunk, less active, loss of appetite, not shedding, not pooing these have only occurred the last few days could anybody suggest a reason for his death please.

aftgeckos 5 years ago

I was trying to find an African Fat Tail growth chart on the internet, but didn't have any luck. Do you have any idea how old a 5 inch (from tip of nose to end of tail) 11 gram Fat Tail is? Also, is this a good weight for this size and how many crickets should I expect it to eat per day.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Try using moist paper towels in the humid hide. It's not uncommon for geckos to ingest loose bedding.

Spike the AFT 5 years ago

Put moss in my AFT hide about 6 weeks ago never used it before keep it most and it did help him shed but the past two days he's been pooping moss ... I have removed all moss from his tank and been giving him a bit of olive oil on his snout a few times daily to help him out .... Do they usually eat the moss ?? I won't use it again any other ideas for his moist hide??

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

The overhead light will not cause health problems, but it more than likely isn't providing enough heat.

I'd opt for paper towels instead of a loose substrate, and use a moss mix in a humid hide instead of throughout the entire enclosure.

Brittany 5 years ago

Ohh and also, we have an overhead heating lamp for them and after reading this I'm realizing I need an under tank heater. Until I get one, could the over head heater be causing any health problems? I'm really worried that I am not taking as great of care as I thought.

Brittany 5 years ago

Hi Whitney, I have 2 AFT and I'm worried I do not have them on the right substrate. I believe its coconut shavings or something like it and moss. What would I be able to use instead if I dont have them on the right substrate? Ive only had them about a month or 2 so I am trying to get this all right.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Could be a burn. Do you have a heat rock or under tank heater that the gecko can sit directly on?

Try crickets.

What substrate are you using? What is the temperature in the tank, as measured by a digital thermomter with a probe.

britt 5 years ago

help my gecko looks very ill she has a very red iritated looking sore under her tail and she wont eat her worms this has been happening for about a week and i just relized the sore i am very worried for her please help

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gecko_boy 5 years ago from england

Hi whitney, do you have any info on elegant geckos? i am getting some tomorrow even though i no everything i think it might be better to find acknolagement off you

Lina 5 years ago

I got a juvenile aft 3 weeks ago. first day i got him he ate 3 wax worms. then he stopped eating followed by shedding(so i guess him not wanting to eat was normal). he started eating again until i noticed regurgitated crickets. this happened twice. he stopped eating and i noticed he lost weight. to help him gain weight i gave him some baby food. he seemed to like it so i took it a step further and would kill crickets and put some of the paste on them and he would eat. today I tried giving him live crickets (held it in my hand as always, he takes it) and he seemed like he was scared of them. i killed them and he took it again. so my question is, is it normal for him to just want to eat dead prey?

Also: his temps are good. he has a wet and a hot hide. temps are between 85-90 warm side and 75-80 cool side.

i use paper towel as a substrate.

also he seems pretty healthy and active. i cant afford a vet but what was his runny poop all about? (after i saw that, i cleaned his tank and all the furnishings well and kept it clean). last time i saw his poop, it looked normal.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Farrah, the gecko may be impacted. It's hard to tell. Sand is not a wise choice for an AFT though. You should not leave in the cricekts or the carrot.

TJ, You need to seek assistance of a reptile vet! The gecko could have an eye infection from retained skin in the eye. Could be parasites. Could be improper housing or temps.

TJ 5 years ago

My AFT is very skinny and won't eat...she shed recently but did not get all the skin off her face...only one eye is open and the other covered by shedding skin. She also breathes very deep breaths every so often. Please help!

Farrah 5 years ago


well..I dont want to put him on sand either but his prev. owner had him on it and he seemed to respond to his environment more when i changed the bark to sand. also when he was on bark he wasn't eating at all..he did poop once was big (sorry for being detailed) it had a big brown part to it..but he hasn't pooped since that means he is not impacted right? since he was able to poo? he has gone to the washroom since but only had the white and yellow part again..

also i tried leaving the crickets in overnight with a piece of carrot, and only then i noticed he is eating..I can't remove them right away because he won't eat it in such a short i have discovered that he eats 2 every other that ok??

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Sand can cause impaction, which can be fatal.

If the temperatures are accurate within the tank, the gecko won't hibernate.

Impaction is essentially constipation. When the sand is eaten, it can build in the intetines, which can cause a lack of appetite, and extreme blockage if it's not removed. The animal will not eat very much, nor will it go to the bathroom.

Plus, sand with an AFT can cause a drier climate, which is not ideal for this species, which needs a slightly increased humidity level.

farrah65 5 years ago

just to be detailed:

i put the thermometer on the sand under his hot hide and it it 85 ..and the cool is around 70-75...

thank you

Farrah65 5 years ago

Thank you for the advice..

I have been using an under tank heater...i have the basking light over also...the temperatures are a little higher now...

I changed his substrate to all sand, which he was on previously yesterday and he seemed to like it..

I tried 3 crickets and he only ate one but he pooped a nice one for me!! this is the first time it actually had a brown part to it...

I am thinking that he might be hibernating... he is eating but very little...maybe he just needs more time adjusting to his new environment..

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I'd keep the heat around 85, not 75. Make sure that's the surface of the tank, not the air. You want to provide the heat via an under tank heater.

The yellow is the urate, which is essentially the urine. Try crickets, as most AFT's don't care for worms.

farrah86 5 years ago i got an aft about 9 days ago..I got him from someone that could no longer care for him..he is about a year old..8 inches...over the past week or so that I have had him i think he has had only had 2 crickets..I know that it takes time for them to adjust but how long is ok??

I have tried superworms, silk worma and he has no interest in food whatsoever..also he has only pooped was white and a little yellow..there was no brown part to his poop?? is that bad??

his warm side is between 75-85 and cool is 70-80... he has a uth and has 2 mosit hide spots and a hot hide spot.. i also use a basking lamp over the warm side..the substrate i am using is half sand( he was originally on sand when i got him) and half rain forest(bark) substrate.. he has a dish of water and calcium..I change the water daily and mist the moist hide..

I don't know what else to do..he stays in his moist hide all day...

the previous owners said that he ate well but i don't know..his tail was pretty fat when I got him but he is losing weight...

Any help would be appreciated...

Thank you


MoeCunn 5 years ago

@GeckoFriend -- AFT's get heat from their belly's not there backs, so the red basking light you have may not be helping. Under the tank heating pads are a much better idea, using them correctly is not harmful. Too many people try to assume they know what they are do, so they don't bother to carefully read the instructions. Sounds like you care a lot about your gecko and you are doing a great job of trying to make her feel better. Good Luck and I hope she get better soon. Also if your worried about the shedding, give her a warm bath to help it along.

MoeCunn 5 years ago

Humidity for AFT should be 40%

geckofriend 5 years ago

Ive had an AFT for 17 days now and she is 25 grams and at least 6in. She had been eating regularly:


until she stopped eating for some reason. I keep her on repticarpet, and she has a humid hide box with some moss and paper towels, so I doubt it's impaction. I did get from PetCo, so I think it may be parasites, but I did take to Vet for checkup. Ive been feeding her only crickets until she stopped eating; I went out and got baby food. Shes uninterested in everything I even took cricket legs off, but that didn't work. I then tried to put crickets in front of her mouth but she still didn't take. I'd rather not force feed because it is stressful. Heating on hot side is about 83 to 85 and cool side 77 to 78; I do not use heating pad. I use a 100 wat red light and she seems comfortable with the temps. I also have a large rock cave on the hot side which she loves. Her skin has dried out very much especially the last two days, and I am wondering if she is about to shed or if she is dehydrated or suffering from parasites. I use gatorade caps and have two with water in a 20 gal terrarium. The main concern I have is her stool which was okay in the beginning, but the last 3 or 4 days its gotten runny and I think it's pinworms. Like I said though I took to vet, should I go again and get money back? haha. I want to save this lil girl I went to PetCo not because I'm stupid but because I wanted to improve a life. I have also taken a lot of fish from them and have some great fish. Please help me out. I have been giving her baths and used q-tips once a day at least on the driest parts. Again, I think this is preparation for shedding and would appreciate more advice on what to do about parasites. Any way I can avoid another vet visit and still get the right antibiotics and correct diagnosis? I understand these are small animals and overdose is very easy so I want to be 200% sure that I give her stuff she needs and helps her rather than begin a new health problem. I could also use some tips on getting her to eat, her tail is healthy, she has a good body and head size, and she has been active. However the last 2 days she has been in her rock cave a lot more. Thanks for any comments that may help.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I would make the switch to carpet or anything other than calci-sand; research shows that it doesn't digest in a timely manner.

Crickets can and will bite and nibble on geckos while they sleep. It's not ideal to leave them in with the gecko.

I do not have a percentage for the humidity. A nice and humid hide typically does the trick.

Geckos don't get attached to humans as we think, and they typically could care less about being out of the cage. Some are just a little more handleable than others.

Yoshi 5 years ago

Okay. I work at a pet store and someone surendered their AFT to me. I've had her for almost a year now and she is full grown. The people I got her from told me to keep her on calcium sand. After reading your article and all the advise you have given other people I will be moving her off of the calcium substrate and onto reptile carpeting.

I have three questions however. My first question is what should the humidity be inside of the tank in general? I know that she should have a humid hide, which she does and I take care to spray at least once daily, but I have a hygrometer in the tank that stays between 30 to 40 percent. Is this too high? If so, what can I do to raise or lower the humidity to make sure she stays happy?

Second question is that the people I got her from and the people I work with have told me that it is okay to keep the crickets in there with her all the time. Is this true? I've read up on crickets biting the gecko, but I've never noticed a problem with this. Should I still separate the crickets? And if so, how many should I give her at a time?

Third question is that she seems to like being out of her cage more than she likes being inside of it. Is this normal? Granted I love holding her and playing with her, but I just wanted to make sure that there's nothing wrong with her.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

May not be fertile. Some geckos will lay eggs whether they are fertile or not. There are some who will lay eggs who have never been with a male, and will be infertile eggs. Otherwise, yes it is possible that the pet store you bought the gecko from had her with a male.

Libby 6 years ago


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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Generally, you want it low enough so that they can just step onto it, or have an easy climbing décor piece leading up to it. You don't want the hammock too high, as these guys aren't theb est climbers.

Ocoee 6 years ago

How does the aft get to a reptile hammock

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Being that the reptile came from a pet store, there is high possibility of illness and parasites.

You also have to keep in mind that you just got the gecko and it takes time for them to adjust to a new home.

They will not soak in the water bowl. The humid hide is there to provide humidity and aid in shedding, not the water bowl.

As long as the temps are measured properly and are accurate, and the humid hide is kept moist, you have accurate enclosure. I would have a vet check out the gecko, as parasites is always a HUGE concern when buying pets from a pet store. They use wholesalers in most cases, and never know what illnesses the animals come with. The healthy animals can also contract illnesses from animals previously in the tanks. The tanks aren't fully disenfected and cleaned as often as they should be.

cg 6 years ago

Question for Whitney: I bought a fat-tail for Christmas for my son one week ago and have been taking care of it until we surprise him with it tomorrow. He is on a reptile carpet substrate, temps are where they are supposed to be. He has an under tank heater and a heat lamp. He has a humid hide which I have been misting the moss inside twice a day. Though the humidity levels on the dial only say around 10%. My concern is that he has only eaten one day this past week (4 crickets). I offer him crickets daily and few times mealworms. He has a large water dish (the pet store recommended to help him shed) and a small shallow water dish where I have been keeping water mixed with some calcium powder. The crickets are gut loaded and have been coated in calcium before I offer them. I've been keeping them in 15 minutes and then removing them. And other than the daily offering and removal of crickets and the moss misting I am basically leaving him alone. Anything I am doing wrong? Anything I should be doing? Raising humidity somehow? Should I be worried about him not eating or is this normal. Thankyou.

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

They DO NOT need companions. They do better when housed alone. They are best kept as solitary animals in an enclosure.

Anonymous 6 years ago

Hello, Whitney. For this Christmas, I'm getting a Fat Tailed Gecko. It's really cute, and I want to make it at home, but how do I know when to get it a companion? We're going to get one first, and then we'll look for another, but how do I know if I'll need one? And should I change the habitat when introducing a new gecko?

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

No. You do NOT ever want to house multiple species in the same enclosure, as you are not able to meet the housing requirements for both species.

The temps for leopard geckos are too high for AFTs. The humidity for AFT is too high for leopard geckos.

Javier  6 years ago

I have a leopard Gecko and an AFT in the same 20 gallon long tank they seem to get along fine and they both look very healthy I was wondering if it is okay for them to be in the same tank

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Loose substrates raise a high risk of impaction. Coconut coir and dirt substrates are considered loose substrates.

AQ 6 years ago

Hey Whitney,

You didn't refer it so I wanted to ask you.Can I use Eco Earth,coconut fiber or some sort of potting soil as a substrate?Thanks

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

There is always a chance that one or the other will hurt the other gecko. You won't know unless you put them together.

Just make sure that if you're ready to breed, that you have the incubator and housing available for up to 10 babies a year.

Michelle 6 years ago

I meant, after I put the female into the male's tank, is there a chance he may hurt her or vice versa? If so, how do I know if they aren't going to get along?

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Generally, reptiles aren't bred for temperament, but which has the best genetics, health, and what the genes can produce.

Michelle 6 years ago

Hi Whitney, I've had my males about 4 years now. I got a female about a year ago. She wasn't in really good shape, but we've cared for her and "fattened her up" (meaning she's very healthy now). They've never been in the same tank. I'd like to try to breed her once. How do I introduce her to my male? And how do I know which male? Is there a dangerous behavior I should look for? Should I leave her in for a little while during the day or night and take her out afterwards? So many questions! Thank you, Michelle

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

They do better being housed separately. Make sure that you know the gender before introducing them. You do not want to put two males in the same tank because they will fight. Sometimes two females will fight, and then a male and a female will breed.

If you have to have them together, keep a really close eye for any signs of stress and bullying.

Introduce in the same cage, they're not like dogs or mammals that need a slow introduction. Reptiles don't generally care for cage mates. They either like each other or they don't. There's no adjustment period.

Gecko Boy97 6 years ago

Hey I got a new another AFT about a week ago. They are housed separate for the quarintine but when i introduce them should it be in the inclosure or out of it? I kknow that it should be quarintined for about 3 months.

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Cool. Let me know how it goes after the shed.

sweet-joey 6 years ago

Thanks for your help. I just noticed he is shedding his skin now. His moist hide is in and I am going to keep an eye on those white rings and see if they come off with this shed...thanks again!

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Lukewarm soaks and gently rub it off. Don't force it, as you may injure the toes.

Just make sure to provide a good humid hide for future sheds and proper humidity.

sweet-joey 6 years ago

I was also thinking it was retained to get it off??

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Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Check for retained skin on the toes. There could have previously been retained skin which caused indentations or something on the toes.

sweet-joey 6 years ago

My son just gave me a AFT ..someone was moving and wanted to find a good home for him..after reading your care requirements I realize the person who had him was not taking proper care of him...he had heat lights and calcium sand Ive switched to carpet and undertank heaters.I will be making a humid hide tomorrow.Ive noticed thick bands of white around several of his toes any idea what this may be??? AFTs are new to me...I love Beardies but could not refuse this little cutie!

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    Whitney (Whitney05)3,491 Followers
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    Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises and other exotics since 2003

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