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Fat tailed geckos are a small gecko very similar to the more commonly kept leopard gecko. They have a similar silhouette except for a shorter snout and a shorter fatter tail. They are soft scaled, slow moving and unlikely to bite or scratch making them an excellent choice for beginner reptile keepers.
As they aren't seen as often in captivity there isn't the same range of colour and pattern morphs as leopard geckos but the common African fat tailed gecko is still as stunning animal.
Fat tailed geckos come from a warm environment so they struggle with the cold and humidity of the UK. To insulate against both of these factors we recommend keeping the gecko in a wooden vivarium. Due to the temperature gradient required we would normally select an enclosure a minimum of 3 x 2 x 2ft with large vents and glass sliding front doors.
All of this ventilation should ensure that heat and humidity is lost from one side of the enclosure to the other while keeping the basking spot itself at a consistent temperature.
Fat tailed geckos can be a little shy when they are young. We still use the full size enclosure to make sure that the correct temperature gradient is in place but we will provide more decorations to begin with.
Naturally, fat tailed geckos would experience temperatures of around 90of in the sun. We try to provide this heat over 1/3 of the enclosure while letting the rest of the enclosure cool to 70of on the opposite side. To achieve this we attach a basking lamp to the ceiling of the enclosure on one side. This is controlled by a dimming thermostat to make sure that the temperature is kept correct throughout the day. Fat tailed geckos will be able to reach the top of their enclosure without decorations to climb on so the basking lamp must be surrounded by a guard. The basking lamp is left on for 10-12 hours per day.
At night, all of the lights should go off and the enclosure should be completely dark. This should make sure that the gecko has a clear day night cycle.
Though at this point the sun has gone down, there would still be rocks, paths and roads that have warmed up in the day and that will radiate heat for much of the night. To provide this warmth throughout the night without introducing light to the enclosure we lay a heat mat under the basking area. The heat mat will warm objects around it providing a warm patch of ground for the fat tailed gecko to rest on. To make sure that the heat mat remains the correct temperature it is controlled by a simple on/off thermostat set to 80of. The heat mat is buried under around an inch of bedding, the sensor for the thermostat is then rested on the bedding covering the heat mat so that it can track the surface temperature of that patch of floor.
During the day your temperatures will be much too warm and the heat mat thermostat should keep it off automatically. The heat mat will only begin to heat once the temperatures have dropped below 80of at night time.
Though the thermostats we sell are very reliable it is always best practice to monitor your temperatures with a thermometer. A 5of variance on the basking spot is nothing to worry about as long as your cool side is still cool. A simple dial thermometer on each side should be sufficient but digital probe thermometers are much more accurate.
Fat tailed geckos are not afull time basking species by nature so they don't need an intense UVB source. We recommend somewhere between 2-7% over a small portion of the enclosure depending on the gecko. Albinos or any gecko with less pigmentation would be on the lower end of that spectrum while a common fat tailed gecko could have a wide 5% tube or a short 7% tube.
UV tubes are currently available in 2 sizes, T8 and T5. The T8 lamps are around 1 inch in diameter, they must be replaced every 6 months or so and they have an effective range of 9-12 inches. T5 lamps are the newer iteration. They are around half an inch in diameter, last 12 months and have an effective range of 18-24 inches.
Whichever lamp you choose we would advise mounting it to the back of the ceiling, close to the warm end. This should provide a nice UV gradient from the back of the enclosure towards the front. In this configuration we achieve a temperature gradient along the length and a UV gradient along the width meaning that whatever the dragons requirements they can find the perfect position within the enclosure.
At times the gecko may desire some time in an area with no light. To achieve this we would provide partial and full hiding spots throughout the enclosure.
Fat tailed geckos thrive in a low humidity environment with hard decorations to climb over and bask on. When selecting a bedding we try to ensure that the pieces are unlikely to increase the enclosures humidity. In store we normally use a coarse beech woodchip as it is clean, cheap, easy to spot clean and dust free. If you prefer a more natural looking decoration a soil / clay mix would be perfect. If you plan to keep the gecko in a bio-active enclosure a nutrient rich soil and clay mix with some sand for aeration would be perfect.
Fat tailed geckos love the warmth coming from their basking lamp but they also appreciate secondary belly heat which will radiate from warm objects. Natural rocks like slate are perfect for this, so are heavy artificial ornaments. These decorations can be placed under and around the basking area and should warm up nicely. If the lamp is too low there is a chance that natural rocks could get too hot so you are best to check the surface temperature to avoid burns.
As discussed in the lighting section there will be times when the gecko does not want any UV and needs a bit of shade. To ensure that the gecko can get away from the light whenever necessary we advise spreading full and partial cover throughout the enclosure. Examples of full cover decorations would be caves, flat cork pieces or any other ornament that provides a shady spot to rest. Examples of partial cover would include tall plants, trailing plants.
Panther chameleons are carnivorous meaning that they can eat a varied diet insects. For this species we would recommend brown crickets. They are very nutritious, fairly easy for the chameleon to hunt, widely available and great value for money. If your chameleon will not take them, black crickets and locust are also a brilliant alternative. Every now and again you might want to provide your chameleon a treat, for this purpose you could feed: waxworms, calciworms, cockroaches, mealworms or beetle grubs. The grubs and worms tend to be quite fatty so we normally offer these a maximum of once or twice a week. Mealworms, morio worms and cockroaches can be difficult to digest so we would normally only provide these to mature geckos (12-18 months or older) and only once or twice a week.
We always include a small or medium sized water bowl in the chameleons enclosure. You might never see the gecko drink from it but it should be there as a back-up. You might notice the gecko use it for bathing, this is usually to cool down or to help loosen it's shedding skin. The water bowl should be kept on the cool end of the vivarium to make sure that the water doesn't evaporate too quickly.
If you keep a male and female together, they may breed. You do not need to do anything to encourage this. As long as they are healthy and the conditions are good, it will happen naturally. You need to consider whether you want this to happen before introducing the pair. What will you do with the babies if you incubate the eggs?
A gravid female should have access to a nesting box to lay her eggs. The box should be large enough that she can fully turn-around inside it. Inside the nesting box we use a soil mix that is kept humid enough to hold its shape but not so wet that it will saturate any eggs. We have found that ProRep spider life is perfect for this.
Once laid, the eggs should be incubated in an incubator at 84oF. We incubate our eggs in sealed boxes on a moisture rich substrate (such as Hatchrite) to trap the humidity around the eggs. After approximately 60 days the eggs will start to hatch, the first babies to emerge will encourage the rest of the eggs to hatch.
Fat tailed geckos, as with most pets, require a clean environment to thrive. We recommend a spot clean as often as possible (every day) and a full clean every 4 weeks or so. If you are keeping the gecko in a bio-active enclosure you can spot clean and monitor the enclosure. It may still be a good item to change out the bedding a few times per year.
When cleaning the enclosure you should remove your animal, all decorations and all of the bedding. Once the enclosure is clear you can spray it all over with a reptile friendly disinfectant. These usually work very quickly and only need to be left for around 30 seconds, instructions can normally be found on the disinfectants packaging. Once the disinfectant has done its work it can be wiped away from the surfaces with a paper towel. In some cases you might want to repeat this process a second time to ensure that the enclosure is thoroughly cleaned.
Your decorations can be cleaned in a similar method, simply spray them down with the disinfectant and rinse thoroughly with water before drying them off and putting them back into the enclosure. We recommend this process is done during the day time to make sure that the gecko will be going back to a warm vivarium for at least an hour before the basking lamps are turned off for the night.