African Fat-Tailed Gecko Size Comparison: How Big Do African Fat-Tailed Geckos Get?

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: October 26, 2023
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In the world of reptiles, there exists a creature that’s not only captivating but also curiously chunky – the African Fat-Tailed Gecko. These pint-sized reptiles, known for their distinctive appearance and charming personalities, have earned a special place in the hearts of reptile enthusiasts. In this article, we’re about to embark on a journey to explore the fascinating world of these geckos and uncover the secrets behind their size.

What is an African Fat-Tailed Gecko?

The African Fat-Tailed Gecko (classified as Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) is a captivating reptile species that has gained popularity among pet owners and reptile enthusiasts.


African Fat-Tailed Geckos belong to the family Gekkonidae, a diverse family of geckos found across the world. Specifically, they fall under the genus Hemitheconyx. Within this genus, there are two recognized species: the African Fat-Tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) and the Rough-Scaled Fat-Tailed Gecko (Hemitheconyx taylori). For this article, we will primarily focus on the African Fat-Tailed Gecko (H. caudicinctus).

Native Habitat

These geckos originate from the arid regions of West Africa, with their native range spanning countries like Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. In the wild, they are typically found in savannas and scrublands, where they take shelter in burrows and rock crevices during the day to escape the scorching heat.

Physical Characteristics

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are easily distinguishable by their unique physical attributes:

  • Size: They are relatively small to medium-sized geckos.
  • Tail: Their most distinctive feature is their fat tail, which accounts for most of their body length. The tail serves as a storage organ for fat reserves, enabling them to survive during periods of food scarcity.
  • Coloration: Their coloration varies but often includes shades of brown, gray, orange, and black. They may have banded or mottled patterns across their bodies.
  • Eyes: Their eyes have vertical pupils, aiding their nocturnal vision.

Morphs refer to variations in color and pattern that have been selectively bred in captivity. Several popular African Fat-Tailed Gecko morphs have emerged in the pet trade, each with its unique appearance:

  • Oreo Fat-Tails: These geckos have dark bands across their bodies, resembling the classic sandwich cookie.
  • Patternless: Patternless geckos lack the typical banded or mottled patterns seen in wild-type geckos, resulting in a more uniform appearance.
  • Whiteout: Whiteout morphs feature pale colors and reduced patterns, giving them a lighter and more subdued look.
  • Striped: Striped geckos have distinct stripes running along their backs or tails, adding a striking visual element.
  • Albino: Albino African Fat-Tailed Geckos lack melanin, resulting in a white or cream-colored body with pink eyes.

Dietary Preferences

In the wild, African Fat-Tailed Geckos are opportunistic predators, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as insects and spiders. As pets, their diet should consist of a balanced mix of insects and other food items. Common food options include crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and roaches. It’s crucial to provide appropriately sized prey items, as well as dust them with a calcium supplement to ensure the gecko’s calcium needs are met.

Housing Requirements

Creating a suitable habitat is essential for the well-being of your African Fat-Tailed Gecko. To start, a glass terrarium or plastic reptile enclosure is ideal. The size of the enclosure will depend on the gecko’s age and size. A 20-gallon tank can suffice for an adult, while juveniles can be kept in smaller enclosures.

Choose an enclosure substrate that retains some moisture, such as coconut coir, cypress, or a reptile-safe soil mix. This helps maintain humidity levels and mimics their natural habitat.

Provide multiple hiding spots using artificial caves, cork bark, or other hiding structures. African Fat-Tailed Geckos are shy and nocturnal, so they need secure places to rest during the day.

Maintain a temperature gradient within the enclosure, with a warm side (around 90 degrees F) and a cooler side (around 75 degrees F). Use an under-tank heating pad or heat lamp to achieve this gradient. While they don’t require UVB lighting, providing low-level UVB can be beneficial for their overall health.

Maintain a humidity level of around 50% to 60% in the enclosure. This is crucial for proper shedding and overall health. A hygrometer can help monitor humidity levels.

Lastly, be sure to regularly clean and replace the substrate to prevent the buildup of waste and maintain a healthy environment.

Additional Care Essentials for Keeping Them as Pets

In addition to their habitat requirements and dietary needs, here are some crucial care considerations:

  • Handling: African Fat-Tailed Geckos are generally docile, but they may become stressed if handled excessively or roughly. Limit handling to short sessions and always handle them gently.
  • Health Monitoring: Regularly observe your gecko for signs of illness, such as lethargy, weight loss, or changes in appetite. If you notice any abnormalities, consult a reptile veterinarian with experience in gecko care.
  • Breeding: If you intend to breed African Fat-Tailed Geckos, research the specific requirements for successful breeding, including temperature cycles and nesting areas.
  • Compatibility: Keep them individually or in pairs, as they may become territorial and aggressive when housed together.
  • Veterinary Care: Schedule regular check-ups with a reptile veterinarian to ensure your gecko’s overall health and address any health concerns promptly.
African Fat-Tailed Gecko on skull wood background

African Fat-Tailed Geckos come in many colors and morphs.

©Kaan Sezer/iStock via Getty Images

What is the Average Size of an African Fat-Tailed Gecko?

The African Fat-Tailed Gecko is a popular reptile species known for its unique appearance and docile temperament. Understanding the size of these geckos is essential for their proper care and housing.

Average Size

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are considered small to medium-sized reptiles. On average, adult geckos measure around eight to 10 inches in total length from their snout to the tip of their tail. However, it’s important to note that their tails account for a majority of their overall body length, often comprising up to 40% of their total size.

Maximum Size

While the average size provides a general guideline, individual geckos can vary in size. Some may reach the upper end of the average range, while others may stay slightly smaller. However, the maximum size reported for African Fat-Tailed Geckos typically falls within the range of 10 to 12 inches.

It’s worth noting that the tail of these geckos is a distinguishing feature. It is wide and plump, resembling a fat sausage or the tail of a mouse, which is how they get their name. The tail can store fat reserves, which the gecko uses during periods of scarcity, such as during hibernation or when food is scarce.

Factors Affecting Size

Several factors can influence the size of an African Fat-Tailed Gecko. Genetics plays a significant role, as certain genetic lines may produce larger or smaller individuals. Additionally, the gecko’s diet and overall health can impact its growth. A well-balanced diet and proper care are essential for ensuring they reach their full potential.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism is the phenomenon where males and females of the same species exhibit different physical characteristics. In the case of African Fat-Tailed Geckos, males are typically slightly smaller than females, with slimmer bodies and smaller heads. Females tend to be larger and may have a more robust appearance.

To summarize, African Fat-Tailed Geckos are small to medium-sized reptiles, with an average size ranging from eight to 10 inches and a maximum size of 10 to 12 inches. However, individual variation, genetics, diet, and overall health can influence their size. Understanding these size ranges is crucial for providing proper care and accommodation for these captivating reptiles.

African Fat-Tailed Gecko on green background

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are not considered very large geckos. Rather, they are considered medium-sized geckos in the pet trade.

©Kaan Sezer/iStock via Getty Images

The Largest African Fat-Tailed Gecko Ever Recorded

While African Fat-Tailed Geckos are typically small to medium-sized reptiles, there have been instances of exceptionally large individuals that have garnered attention among reptile enthusiasts.

Size and Record Holder

The largest African Fat-Tailed Gecko ever recorded measured an astonishing 15 inches in total length, which included its tail. This remarkable gecko was documented in captivity, and its size far exceeded the typical range for this species.

Notable Characteristics

What made this record-breaking gecko particularly noteworthy was its robust build and exceptional tail size. African Fat-Tailed Geckos are known for their distinctive fat tails, which store fat reserves for lean periods. In this exceptional case, the tail was notably plump, emphasizing the gecko’s unique feature.


While this individual’s size was extraordinary, it’s crucial to recognize that such cases are rare exceptions and not representative of the species as a whole. Most African Fat-Tailed Geckos can reach lengths of eight to 10 inches, making them small to medium-sized reptile companions.

Are There Pet Lizards Larger Than African Fat-Tailed Geckos?

When it comes to keeping pet lizards, size sometimes matters to reptile keepers. Some reptile enthusiasts seek larger and more impressive specimens to care for. The African Fat-Tailed Gecko is a popular choice due to its manageable size, but are there pet lizards that grow larger? 

Yes, There Are Larger Pet Lizards

Indeed, several lizard species surpass the African Fat-Tailed Gecko in size. While African Fat-Tailed Geckos often reach a maximum length of around 10 to 12 inches, some pet lizard species can grow significantly larger. Here are a few examples:

  • Bearded Dragon (Pogona spp.): Bearded dragons are a favored choice among reptile enthusiasts. These lizards can reach lengths of 18 to 24 inches, with males generally being larger than females. Their size and docile nature make them suitable for novice keepers.
  • Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus): Savannah monitors are larger lizards known for their impressive size. They can grow anywhere from three to four-and-a-half feet in length, making them a substantial reptilian companion. However, they require more space and specialized care due to their size.
  • Argentine Tegu (Salvator merianae): Argentine tegus are another sizable option, with adult males usually reaching lengths of three to four feet. These intelligent lizards are known for their unique personalities but also demand proper housing and diet.
  • Green Iguana (Iguana iguana): Green iguanas are some of the largest pet lizards, often reaching lengths of five to six feet, including their tails. However, their size, specific habitat requirements, and dietary needs can pose challenges for keepers.

Factors to Consider

While these larger pet lizard species are fascinating, there are important factors to consider before bringing one into your home:

  • Space: Larger lizards need more substantial enclosures. Adequate housing with proper temperature and humidity control is essential.
  • Diet: Larger lizards often require a varied diet, including insects, vegetables, and occasionally small mammals. Meeting their nutritional needs is crucial for their health.
  • Lifespan: Many larger lizards have longer lifespans, which means a commitment to their care for many years.
  • Experience: Larger species may not be the best choice for beginners. Experience in reptile husbandry is advantageous.
An African fat tailed gecko is sunbathing before starting his daily activities. This reptile has the scientific name Hemitheconyx caudicinctus.

These geckos need a large enough enclosure and decent enrichment options to stay healthy and happy.

©I Wayan Sumatika/

Are African Fat-Tailed Geckos Good Pets?

African Fat-Tailed Geckos have gained popularity in the world of reptile keeping, and for good reason. These small to medium-sized lizards offer a host of qualities that make them fantastic pets for reptile enthusiasts.

1. Manageable Size and Space Requirements

One of the most appealing aspects of African Fat-Tailed Geckos is their size. These geckos typically reach a maximum length of 10 to 12 inches, including their distinctive fat tails. Their compact size makes them suitable for smaller living spaces, such as apartments or dorm rooms. Their enclosures, known as terrariums, can be set up in relatively small areas without sacrificing their comfort.

2. Gentle Temperament

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are renowned for their docile and gentle temperament. They are not prone to aggression and rarely bite or exhibit defensive behaviors. This makes them ideal pets, especially for families with children or those new to reptile keeping. Handling these geckos is a stress-free experience, and they are less likely to feel threatened by human interaction compared to some other reptile species.

3. Low Maintenance Requirements

For busy individuals or those with a hectic lifestyle, African Fat-Tailed Geckos offers a low-maintenance pet option. They do not require daily handling or constant attention. Providing them with suitable habitat, regular feeding, and periodic cage maintenance is usually sufficient to keep them healthy and content. Their straightforward care routine allows reptile enthusiasts to enjoy their company without overwhelming responsibilities.

4. Fascinating Appearance

African Fat-Tailed Geckos sport a distinctive appearance that captivates observers. These animals’ fat tails, which store fat reserves for lean times, are a unique feature that sets them apart from other gecko species. Their coloration varies, with shades of brown, orange, and black often forming striking patterns. Their eyes have vertical pupils, adding to their captivating look. Watching these geckos move and explore their habitat can be a visually stimulating experience.

5. Quiet and Undemanding

Unlike some pets that can be noisy or require constant interaction, African Fat-Tailed Geckos are quiet and undemanding. They are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the evening and night. This aligns well with the schedules of many individuals, as you can observe and interact with them when you have leisure time. During the day, they typically rest, making them ideal pets for those with busy daytime commitments.

6. Educational Value

African Fat-Tailed Geckos also provide an educational opportunity for both children and adults. Caring for these reptiles can teach responsibility, patience, and a deeper understanding of the natural world. Observing their behavior and learning about their habitat preferences can spark an interest in biology and conservation.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos make great pets due to their manageable size, gentle temperament, low maintenance requirements, fascinating appearance, quiet nature, and educational value. Whether you’re a seasoned reptile enthusiast or new to pet reptiles, these geckos offer a rewarding and enjoyable experience for pet owners of all backgrounds!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © I Wayan Sumatika/

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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