The Differences Between African Fat-Tails and Leopard Geckos

Updated on March 27, 2017
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I'm an avid herpetoculturist and a lover of books, photography, and zoology. I enjoy life and live with a menagerie of pets.

Leopard Gecko
Leopard Gecko

African Fat-Tails vs. Leopard Geckos

I've seen quite a few people asking about the difference between African fat-tailed geckos and leopard geckos. While I don't think it is entirely right to say which is better, the question is definitely a valid one to ask. Visually, leos and fat-tails are quite similar, and to new keepers, they can easily be confused. However, there are a few differences. The biggest one is the husbandry that is required for each. Many people incorrectly believe that fat-tail geckos can be kept the same way you would keep leos, or vice versa. If you are deciding on which gecko to get, the following information and advice will help you determine which one is best suited for you.

Differences Between African Fat-Tails and Leopard Geckos

African Fat-Tails
Leopard Geckos
Hemitheconyx caudicinctus
Eublepharis macularius
Region of Origin
Scrublands of Western Africa, from Cameroon to Senegal.
Arid, high desert mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and India.
More mellow and easy to handle.
Active, inquisitive, and squirmy.
Stockier, with bigger eyes and smaller feet.
Have banding, but rarely have morphs.
Come in a wide variety of morphs and colors.
Required Size of Enclosure
Minimum of 10 gallons. 20 gallons is ideal.
Minimum of 10 gallons. 20 gallons is ideal.
Social Level
Males cannot be kept together. Males and females can mix.
Males cannot be kept together. Males and females can mix.
Sleeping Habits
Need a hot and cool side. 86-88 F on the hot side.
Need a hot and cool side. 90-94 F on the hot side.
Require higher humidity. Need misting.
Moderate humidity.
Insectivores that enjoy a varied diet.
Insectivores that enjoy a varied diet.
Every 2-3 weeks.
Every 2-3 weeks.

Husbandry Requirements

Enclosure Size

Leos and AFTs require a similar enclosure size. A 10-gallon tank is generally recommended, with 20 gallons being ideal. Both species thrive when kept singly. The males of each species cannot be kept together, though males can be kept with females.


Like most reptiles, both geckos rely on thermoregulation. They need a hot side and a cool side in their enclosure. They will need some belly heat via heat tape or a heat pad, not an overhead lamp. Leos require slightly higher "hot side" temperatures (90-94 degrees Fahrenheit), while AFTs prefer things a bit cooler (86-88 degrees Fahrenheit).

One of the biggest differences between these two species is that AFTs require higher humidity. Leos and AFTs both need a humid box, but AFTs will benefit from misting every few days. In fact, AFTs that are kept in low humidity can get quite ill.

Diet and Other Care

In this area of care, they are both very much the same. Both species are strict insectivores and enjoy a varied diet. Compact substrate is best for both of them, and they require no special lighting. They shed every 2-3 weeks on average.

Although caring for an African fat-tail is very similar to caring for a leopard gecko, AFTs are a bit more sensitive and will greatly suffer without the above requirements.


Many people have noticed that their African fat-tailed geckos shed their tails quite easily. Tail loss is a sign of stress, fear, or illness.



African fat-tails and leopard geckos both have excellent temperaments, but AFTs are much more mellow, and even wild-caught adults can be easily tamed. AFTs tolerate handling better, even as babies, and may make better pets in that respect. Leos, on the other hand, are more active and inquisitive. They are more interactive with their owners but squirmy, while AFTs are more mellow and easy to handle.

African Fat-Tail Gecko
African Fat-Tail Gecko

Physical Appearance

Leos and AFTs are pretty similar in overall appearance. If we had to find a difference, I would say that the AFTs' body and tail are a bit more pudgy-looking. They move more slowly because they are stockier. They also have bigger eyes and smaller feet. Leos are a little longer in length.

Leopard geckos and African fat-tails have different patterns as well. Most AFTs have banding. Leos come in more color morphs, so to some people, they are more aesthetically pleasing.

Speaking of morphs, in general, AFTs are more expensive because they are not as common as Leos. However, a Leo with rare morphing patterns will be more expensive than a normal AFT. In turn, AFTs with morphs can get pretty pricey because they themselves are more expensive than Leos.

© 2011 misspeachesx


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      Pfffft 7 months ago

      Leopard geckos aren't crazy when you handle them. They move but they aren't squirmy and what not...

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      Cat 2 years ago

      I love AFT I have one myself and his name is Pickle, he is about 4 years old, he is a rarer morph, bright yellow and a bright purple tail, purple feet, and an orange stripe down his back, he is VERY tame I tamed him myself he will sit on my shoulder and he allows me to put him in the costumes I get him, they are actually pretty hard to keep if you work all the time because they won't get tame if you don't work with them(-: not great pets for children if not tame, even though I am 12 I have lots of experience