The most common pet gecko in the United States is the Leopard Gecko. The second most common pet gecko is the African fat-tailed Gecko, originating from the desert areas of West Africa. They can make great beginner pets, as they are relatively easy to handle and usually tolerate handling quite well.
As with any pet it is imperative that you do a lot of research before deciding to bring a fat-tailed gecko home. Although they can make great beginner pets they still require a complete reptile setup and dedication since they can live for 15-20 years.
They do better when kept alone and the minimum size enclosure for a fat-tailed gecko is a 20 gallon tank- though bigger is always better since they can grow to be 6-10 inches at adulthood. Even though fat-tailed geckos live in sandy environments in the wild keeping them on a sand substrate is not recommended. In captivity thee little creatures tend to eat the sand which can cause a serious medical problem known as impaction. This is life-threatening to your gecko. Additionally, sand substrate tends to be very dry and can prohibit normal shedding especially in the feet. If the toes are not able to shed properly this can lead to loss of digits in severe cases. The best substrate for fat-tailed geckos is reptile carpet, or a paper substrate such as newspaper, packing paper or paper towels.
The inside of the enclosure should be dry with several semi-moist areas such as shed-boxes. These shed boxes should also contain vermiculite or sphagnum moss- although artificial varieties or moistened paper towels may be safer due to the potential of introducing bacteria to your habitat in the live moss. There should be a shed box in the warmer end and a separate shed box in the cooler end. It is also advised to provide another shelter in the hot end of the enclosure to provide your gecko with a safe place to sleep and hide during the day.
The temperature inside the enclosure should range from 95-100F at the warm end to 80F at the cool end. In order to maintain the temperature at 95-100F on the warm side of the tank many owners need to use a heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter as well as an under-tank heater. Even though these little critters are nocturnal they still require UVB lighting. This must be provided using specialized bulbs that need to be changed every six months. You should provide your fat-tailed gecko with 10-12 hours of light and 12-14 hours of dark per day. Please note that heat rocks should never be provided as they can cause severe burns to your animal. At least two separate thermometers will be needed to monitor the temperature gradient in the enclosure. Stick-on thermometers are notoriously inaccurate.
Your fat-tailed gecko should be fed crickets and meal worms as the staple of its diet. Wax worms and silkworms can be given occasionally as treats due to their high fat content. All crickets and meal worms should be dusted with a calcium supplement. If this is not done your gecko could develop life-threatening deficiencies. An additional multivitamin supplement can also be dusted on your gecko’s food 1-2 times weekly. A dish of fresh water should also always be available for your gecko.
If you have any questions about the proper care or health of your African fat-tailed gecko, please contact River Road Veterinary Clinic.