AFT/ African fat-tails quick care sheet (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus)


Moderator/The French Viking Moderathorr
AFT Basic care hints

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AFTs are as big but less active than leos. They are slow-moving and purely terrestrial. For those who have kept leopard geckos, you will see a difference in behavior: AFTS are more secretive and less active than leos.

A 60x40 cm (24"x18") floor space is adequate for a single individual or a pair. Height does not matter much. They are not great climbers at all and one should avoid to use any perches or decoration on which the geckos may climb, as it may result in an injured limb. Keep things horizontal only!

Temps: a local basking spot on one end of the enclosure should provide temps around 85°F/30-32°C during the day. The rest of the tank should be in the 77-80°C range during the day. (24-26°C). At night, switch off all heating aggregates and leave them at room temp, provided it does not go under 18°C/ 68°F. I use a 25W heating cable (connected to a thermostat) under the tanks, under half of the surface of the latter so as to create temperature differences inside the tank, and a 25W standard bulb or 26W 5.0 Zoomed bulb (ExoTerra ones are cr*p) as a basking spot.

Lighting: they have quite sensitive eyes. Avoid bright lights. UVBs are not absolutely necessary, though a 5% (not more) source cannot harm, provided it's placed not too far and not too close from the animals, 8"/20 cm is a good distance between the UVB source and the animals.

Humidity: this is the main difference with the care of leopard geckos. One-third of the substrate should be kept slightly moist at all times. Spraying lightly that part of the substrate every other day will usually be enough. Keep in mind AFTs do not live in deserts, but in savannahs and forest boundaries in Western Africa.

Substrate: I personally use Eco Earth for years without problems. A mix of fine sand and Eco earth (50/50) will do too, as well as paper towels. DO NOT use vermiculite or similar coarse substrates.

Hides: they can be made out of coconut shells, pieces of cork bark, large bamboo poles cut longitudinally in half and must remain on the floor. They are essential for the well-being of your AFT. They will spend a lot of time inside them. They are shyer in general than leos. A moist hide (use the forum search tool for more info) is also necessary.

Other furniture such as fountains, foggers...are completely useless, if not harmful. The simple the set-up, the better.

DO NOT USE HEAT ROCKS. It may overheat your AFT in no time.

A water dish, easily accessible for the geckos, must be present at all times with clean water. If your local tap water is filled with chlorine or other potentially harmful substances, better use bottled water in case of doubt.

Daily routine: remove the poos, change the water. As simple as that.

Feeding: adults are voracious feeders. Feed your animals twice weekly when they are adults, more often for subadults and juvies. Give them as much prey as they can take within an hour, then REMOVE ANY WANDERING PREY: this is likely to cause unnecessary stress to your gecko. AFTS LOVE locusts, if they are available where you live. An adult AFT can easily devour 2-4 adult big locusts in a single meal. Roaches are a bit too fast for them, but you may use them, smashing the roaches a little prior to feeding to reduce the roaches' mobility. Crickets are fine too, as well as silkworms. They may eat up to 15 or even more adult large black crickets in a single meal. DUST PREY ON EVERY FEEDING with an adequate Calcium+other minerals+D3 supplement: Miner-All I is perfect for them. Other supplements may contain too much D3 (harmful!). Use small amounts of reptile vitamins every 2-3 weeks on prey. AFTs store fat in their tails, so you may leave your home for 2 weeks without having to feed them- they will still need temperature control and fresh drinking water.

Hardiness: hardy for geckos, especially as adults. A good choice for the beginner.

Morphs: there are several AFTs morphs. Many specimens in the wild have a white line on their backs. Be aware that albinism is a genetic defect, causing eyes and skin to be much more sensitive than normal!

Handling: yes, you can handle them. I don't recommend any handling during the first month at home, and you have to make sure your gecko eats unproblematically first. They may bite a too brutal hand, and they can painfully bite as they have strong jaws. Proceed with gentle moves, taking the animal from behind and leaving them wander freely on your palm or arm. AVOID falls at all costs, they are prone to breaking their bones. Small children should not be allowed to handle them. When you handle them, make sure your dog or cat is not around. Handling them twice weekly for a few minutes is fine, handling them too frequently will cause harmful stress. Don't think they LIKE being handled. They merely TOLERATE it.

Wild-caught (WC) vs. CB (captive-bred): this species is widely bred by professionals and amateurs alike. They are still massively imported but imports may be a pain for a first gecko or for poorly experienced owners. WC specimens carry internal parasites 99% of the time and will have first to see a vet for a complete examination, including a fecal sample to check for gut parasites. Some internal parasites may cause your AFT to stop feeding, or even die. ALWAYS QUARANTINE NEWCOMMERS for at least 6 weeks in simple set-ups with paper towels at the bottom and check if their food intake is normal, if their poos look normal. On top of that, prices for CB animals are usually not very high. In Europe, 80 euros for a normal pair is the usual price. It may be a bit higher in the US.

Breeding: they should be brumated for 2 months with a GRADUAL temp decrease in late fall, stop feeding them as soon as you lower the temps. In mid February, gradually raise the temps and also raise humidity, this will trigger breeding. Winter temps should be in the mid 70s/22-24°C during the day and around 70°F/19-20°C at night. Females lay two large-sized, oval, white,soft-shelled eggs. DO NOT TURN eggs and transfer them in an incubator, homemade or professional. See the incubation subforum for more details. Females should not be bred before reaching their full length (20-23 cm/ 10" with tail) and not before the age of 18 months.

Hatchlings should be housed individually. PVC boxes with enough ventilation and a minimum floor surface of 20x30 cm (8"x12") will do. The temps are the same as for adults, use paper towels only as a substrate. A water dish and a small shelter and there you go. Mist them lightly every other day and offer them the same appropriately-sized prey items as adults.