In this article, we’re comparing African fat tail geckos to leopard geckos – two pretty common animals you can find in the pet trade. African fat tails are a bit less common among pet owners, unlike leopard geckos.
While these two pet reptiles belong to the same subfamily (Eublepharinae) and have many similarities, a closer look can reveal differences in terms of care, anatomy, and origin.
What is an African Fat-Tailed Gecko?
The African fat tail gecko is a type of crepuscular lizard that lives in Africa. It can be found on the ground, rocks, trees, and bushes. The body has a light brown color with darker spots or stripes running down its back.
The African fat-tailed gecko is one of only a few species of geckos that have eyelids, which help keep their eyes clean in their dusty natural environment.
Similarities between leopard gecko and African fat-tailed gecko
Judging from the origin and natural habitats, it is clear that these two geckos come from different regions, so, they do have some differences but first, let’s examine and go over their similarities.
They’re both terrestrial animals
First off, they look pretty similar. If you didn’t know gecko species you’d probably see both and think they are maybe the same thing, but they’re not. The two geckos are both terrestrial reptiles, meaning that they live predominantly or entirely on land.
They’re both crepuscular
Most people agree that leopard geckos are crepuscular, meaning that they are active at dawn, dusk, and during the times of day and then they sleep during the day and night. Fat tail geckos are similarly crepuscular, but they also seem to be more nocturnal.
Shedding and texture
Another important similarity is that both leopard geckos and African fat tail geckos shed very similarly and have got the same sort of bumps on the back. However, if you look at them keenly, fat tails usually seem to be a bit more textured with a little bit more roughness.
Temperature and gender
For both the lizards, you kind of starve them for a small period of time beforehand to make sure they are cleared before they start breeding because you’re going to lower their temperatures to about 69°F.
Once they are at these lower temperatures, they have a higher likelihood of starting to mate with each other and produce some eggs. Both leopard geckos and African fat tail geckos lay eggs normally and incubate for a similar period of time. The eggs are best incubated between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another similarity between the two geckos is that you can actually temperature sex them, which means that they produce a certain sex based on the temperature of incubation.
when it comes to husbandry it is super similar. In fact, I found a lot of guides that summarize and recommend the same care sheet for both leopard geckos and African fat tail geckos say leopard gecko and African fat tail. However, there are some minor differences as discussed in detail under their care summaries later below.
In general, leopard geckos tend to get larger, so they’ll require larger enclosures because they like more space to explore and feel more comfortable in. African fat-tail geckos can live in fairly small tanks and still be comfortable and happy.
So, what are the differences between these two geckos?
African Fat Tailed Gecko vs Leopard Gecko: Differences
These two geckos look a lot similar, but a closer look can reveal the differences even though they are very subtle. The eyes, tail, and general body nuances can also point to a few differences between these two reptiles.
Here are the differences between an African-tailed gecko vs leopard gecko:
Naturally, leopard geckos originate from the Middle East while African fat-tails originate from the deserts of Africa – mostly west Africa. These two geckos can be found in Europe, America and other parts of the world where they are kept as pets.
In fact, leopard geckos are very common because they are very cheap available everywhere. They’re bred all the time as it is not that difficult to breed them. Breeding leopard geckos has produced many different morphs in the pet world compared to morph availability of the African fat tail gecko.
Morphs and Breeding
There are many different variations when it comes to leopard gecko morphs, which are the colors and patterns of the lizard. Breeding can even affect the size of the animal, with types like giant and supergiant leopard geckos available today.
African fat-tailed gecko colors are brown with black spots. Some may have a pinkish-brown color and sometimes a purple hue. On the other hand, leopard gecko colors are grey or tan base color with large rosettes that have dark lines running through them. Sometimes there are yellow markings on the tail.
There is also one species of leopard gecko that has two different types of coloration: a bright green juvenile phase and an orange adult phase called “chameleon” leopards. These phases last for about 18 months after hatching before they revert back to the standard gray/tan patterning again. This happens even if they are only in captivity.
Although you can find leopard geckos that are super expensive, it seems that fat tails generally are more expensive once you get past the normal morph because they are breathless. The limited supply against the high demand side can drive the price of these African fat tails really high.
The size of an African fat tail is a little bit smaller than a leopard gecko. The African fat tail will never get as big as a leopard geckos on average. African fat tails grow to 7-9 inches while leopard geckos are between 7-10 inches, though there are giants and super-giant leopard geckos. There aren’t giant morphs for African fat tails.
Another primary difference is that leopard geckos reach maturity more quickly. Maturity is normally based on weight when you breed a gecko, especially a female. You don’t want a super tiny animal having these big eggs that may cause it to get egg-bound which is where the eggs get stuck, putting the animal at risk of death.
You want to make sure the animal is big enough to have a lot of nutrition to give the egg while still keeping itself healthy normally.
For both leopard geckos and African fat-tail geckos, you want to wait until they’re about 45 to 50 grams or so to make sure that they are big enough. Leos simply reach that more quickly, normally within 12 months, while fat tails can take one to two years (but normally it’s under two years). Still, that’s quite a lengthy time, so it’s going to take longer if you want to breed a baby fat tail.
While the care for these two geckos is quite similar, a major difference emerges when it comes to humidity.
Fat tails require a little more humidity while leopard geckos can live with slightly lower humidity ranges as it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s not too high.
- Leopard gecko humidity: 10 to 40 percent (ideal is 30-40%)
- African fat tail gecko humidity: 40 to 50 percent range
Therefore, the substrate might be a bit different because leopard geckos will need a drier type of environment while African fat tail geckos need a little bit more humidity.
What I’d recommend if you’re keeping a fat-tail gecko as a leopard gecko tank mate is to provide humidity, which is a container that has very high humidity or a lot of moisture in there so that they can very easily get their shed off once they start shedding and pulling the layer off the skin.
African Fat Tailed Gecko Care
Caring for an African fat tail gecko is not a difficult task, but it does require some research and work. There are many things to consider: what type of enclosure to purchase, how much light the geckos need, as well as if they eat live prey or pre-killed prey.
Here’s a basic, summarized care guide to help you note the differences between an African fat tail gecko and a leopard gecko.
The enclosure of an African fat tail gecko should be made of glass or clear plastic. The tank size depends on the number and size of geckos you want to house together, but it is recommended that a tank for one adult male have at least 40 gallons.
It can also help if your tank has multiple levels so they may climb around and use different areas as their “home.”
Provide hiding spots by adding live plants or fake pieces of deadwood. Also, provide lighting and heating elements to help your gecko regulate its body temperature.
Some of the best substrates for your African fat tail gecko’s tank include aspen bedding or sand.
African fat tail geckos require a temperature gradient in their enclosure. The high end of the temperature range should be 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit, and the low end should be 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 68 degrees can lead to respiratory problems for fat tail geckos.
To maintain proper temperatures, fat tail geckos require a heat source to provide radiant and/or convective heating. In addition, they also need an area in the enclosure where the temperature can be allowed to drop below 80 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Use both ambient lighting and basking lights as well as a thermal gradient with one side of the tank being kept warmer than 85 F during daytime hours while another part is maintained at 70-75F overnight.
Humidity is a major differentiating factor between fat tails and leopard geckos. African fat tail geckos are quite sensitive to humidity changes. Maintain a humidity level of 40-50%. If humidity is too low, your gecko will not shed properly. Misting with a spray bottle can help increase the humidity in the enclosure and aid shedding.
If you notice that your gecko’s skin has turned white or opaque, it may be dehydrated due to lack of water intake; misting them often helps remedy this.
Leopard Gecko Care
Leopard geckos are small, nocturnal reptiles that make great pets for beginners. They are native to the dry and rocky regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other countries in Asia. Leopard geckos can grow up to 10 inches long from nose to tail tip and live between 8-10 years.
Here’s a quick care guide to help you choose between a leopard gecko and an African fat tail gecko.
Leopard geckos do not need large tanks to live in. A 20-gallon tank is perfect for one leopard gecko and 40 gallons will work well with two. They are often kept as pets in smaller enclosures because they’re easier to clean!
Make sure that your leopard gecko substrate, or flooring, can be properly cleaned like paper towels or newspaper so the lizard does not get constipated from eating its own waste particles off of its feet.
Put some plants that are safe for leopard geckos in the vivarium, as well as dead logs and rocks to provide hiding spots for your gecko. This is very similar to what an African fat tail gecko’s tank requires.
The ideal temperature for a leopard gecko is 75-80°F on the cool side and 80-85°F on the warm side. Use an ambient thermometer or a digital probe if you have one available to monitor the temperature in the vivarium.
To maintain the proper temperature within the enclosure, use an under-the-tank heater (UTH) on one side of the enclosure to maintain a temperature gradient.
You can also get creative with heating methods like heat mats, overhead lights, and basking lamps or infrared night bulbs.
Leopard geckos do not require high humidity levels as they live mostly in arid zones where there is little rain. The preferred humidity range for leos is 10-40%. However, you should provide your pet with some form of water dish containing fresh water at all times and misting it occasionally during the hotter months if desired for increased humidity without more risk of disease.
The best way to increase ambient humidity within a vivarium is to use a substrate such as moss or live plants, which will not increase the risk of mold growth like artificial turf.
African fat tail geckos are naturally just a different color palette with a lot of whites, browns, grays, and earthy colors overall while leopard geckos are a bit more yellowy and a bit more whitish. Leopard geckos have many colors including browns, reds, oranges, yellows, and bright greens.
READ NEXT: 13 Unique Boy Gecko Names for Your Pet