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The fat-tailed gecko hails from mostly arid West Africa and has a distinctive club-like, fat-storing tail that slightly resembles a rattlesnake's, as the name suggests. Its coloring shifts to suit its surroundings and varies in hues of red, earth tones and even purple — often with a white stripe down the center of its back. Officially named Hemitheconyx caudicinctus, this reptile is an exotic, yet common, household pet, with eyes that blink and follow objects visibly around the room.
According to herpetologists, the fat-tailed gecko is generally calmer than other geckos and most active at night. Males of the species are generally bigger than females and more apt to be aggressive in defending territory. As a pet, it may take a few weeks for the fat-tailed gecko to warm up to its owner, but this will happen once it recognizes the owner as part of its new habitat.
Fat-tailed geckos prefer a humid, naturally lit environment. With a natural habitat ranging between Africa's Cameroon and Senegal, keeping a fat-tailed gecko in captivity requires a heated and roomy glass enclosure set to a temperature between 82 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (27 and 35 Celsius). They can grow to nearly 10 inches long and can live for as long as 15 years or more — especially in captivity, where there's no predatory threat. The gecko's enclosure should include some thick, leafy branches on which it can climb and hide.
When tending to geckos, it is important to keep the fluorescent lighting on for about half of the day and to regularly monitor the heater. In addition to the high heat, owners should occasionally mist the tank with a spray bottle of water, even if the tank has a small bowl of water. This will allow the reptiles to consume droplets of water naturally from leaves and the side of the tank. Owners should also place a reptile substrate on the bottom of the enclosure to soak up waste, and replace it regularly, since the artificially humid climate could breed bacteria. Peat moss, shredded paper and reptilian carpets are the most common flooring materials.
Adult fat-tailed geckos eat insects about every other day. Younger geckos and ovulating females need daily meals. The most prevalent food for these reptiles are "gut-loaded" crickets, which have just eaten a meal themselves. Other insects prized by the fat-tailed gecko are various types of worms. These meals can be purchased at most pet stores. A reptile nutritional supplement is also commonly placed in a bowl of water in the creature's aquarium.
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