While general care for them is quite simple, many factors can contribute to your African fat-tailed gecko not eating and it can be quite concerning and hard to figure out.
In this article I’ll point out every possible cause, and then, in the next section, go over the solutions and treatments.
Let’s get started.
Reasons Why An African Fat-Tailed Gecko Is Not Eating
First of all, when you bring your new African fat tailed gecko home for the first time, expect that they take a couple of weeks to familiarize themselves with their new environment.
All of the new sights and sounds can cause them a lot of stress, resulting in a temporary loss of appetite.
Furthermore, using the wrong decor/substrate (not enough hiding places or too moist ground) can contribute to their stress and, again, cause them to abstain from eating.
And lastly, African fat-tailed geckos do not need companions. It is not uncommon for one gecko to bully another or even eat all the food if housed together.
If housed together inappropriately, the stress of being bullied can also result in your African fat-tailed gecko not eating.
2. Food Or Feeding Method
The next factor is changing the food or feeding method. This factor goes hand in hand with your gecko’s adaptation to its new home.
If you feed them something different from what they ate in their original surroundings, it can trigger a reluctance to eat.
Also, changing the way you provide food for them (tongs vs. bowl or the bowl placed high vs. on the ground) may confuse your gecko, causing more stress and an unwillingness to eat.
Temperature is another common factor that contributes to changes in appetite among African fat-tailed geckos.
If it is not warm enough, your gecko might think it is getting into the winter season.
If they feel this temperature change, they will slow down their metabolism since they fast during the cold weather. The lack of heat will not trigger a feeding response, and your gecko may not eat at all.
4. Sexual Circumstances
Depending on whether you have a male or a female African fat-tailed gecko, certain sexual circumstances can cause them to lose their appetite.
If you have a female, she may stop eating if she is ovulating or being bothered too much by a male.
If you have a male, he may stop eating if he is over-bred during the breeding season or distracted by the scent of a nearby female.
5. Parasites Or Illnesses
If everything above does not apply to your situation, then the last factor that may be causing your African fat-tailed gecko not to eat is the presence of parasites or illnesses.
A common disease among most reptiles is Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD. When it gets severe, it can cause your gecko’s bones to bend or break, thus limiting their mobility and ability to consume food.
Other diseases that can affect appetite are Mouth Rot and Pinworms. Mouth Rot occurs most commonly if the tank is not kept clean. And Pinworms occur from consuming the feces of another reptile or second-hand by eating insects that have ingested the feces of another reptile.
There is also a rare disease most common in Leopard geckos and African fat-tailed geckos called Cryptosporidium. This illness can range from showing no symptoms to lethargy and starvation.
(If you have a leopard gecko and it’s not eating, check this article.)
Solutions & Treatments To An African Fat-Tailed Gecko Not Eating
When allowing your gecko to familiarize itself with its new home, it is essential to limit handling and constant changes to the environment.
These things can further stress your gecko and cause their lack of appetite to last longer. For the first couple of weeks, only interact by feeding and providing water. The more consistent the setting is, the quicker your African fat-tailed gecko will acclimate and start eating regularly.
It is also best to house your African fat-tailed geckos alone. They thrive on their own without interacting with other geckos.
Allowing them to have their own space, with good hiding spots and correct substrate, will ultimately reduce their stress and make them comfortable enough to reignite their appetite.
2. Food Or Feeding Method
To ensure your gecko experiences minimal stress, you would want to recreate its original environment as closely as possible, including food and feeding methods.
Ask the pet store or whomever you bought your gecko from exactly what they were feeding it and how. Matching the food and feeding technique will ensure familiarity and encourage your gecko to eat.
Crickets are always a viable option since their constant movement around the enclosure can trigger a feeding response from even the most stubborn geckos.
3. Temperature Solution
To guarantee the temperature is acceptable for your African fat-tailed gecko, it is a good idea to purchase an infrared heat gun.
The thermostat in the tank can often be inaccurate, and it is crucial to get a precise reading of the floor right under their heat source since geckos absorb heat through their bellies.
It is best to have a thermometer measuring the ambient temperature on the side of caution. African fat-tailed geckos require an air temperature between 65-80°F (18-27°C); dropping below will cause appetite issues.
4. Sexual Circumstances
You can solve the problems relating to the sex of your gecko by firstly keeping males and females separate. Keeping them away from each other will ensure the males are not distracted by a female’s scent, and the males will not harass the females.
The only factor that may be difficult to control is the lack of appetite a female gecko can experience while ovulating; it is normal and no cause for concern.
5. Parasites Or Illnesses
Lastly, there are certain things you can do to prevent your African fat-tailed gecko from contracting diseases.
With MBD, it is vital to supplement their diet with calcium and vitamin D3. The calcium will help strengthen their bones, while vitamin D3 is essential for the calcium’s proper absorption.
Regularly cleaning the tank can help prevent Mouth Rot and eliminate possible parasites such as Pinworms. If no other reptile feces are present, it is unlikely that your gecko will contract a parasite from the feeder insects you buy from the pet store.
Bringing your gecko to the veterinarian’s office for tests is the best defense if you suspect any kind of illness.
How Long Can An African Fat-Tailed Gecko Go Without Eating?
Generally speaking, an adult African fat-tailed gecko can go up to 14 days without eating in the proper environment. They store a lot of fat (energy) in their tail, so it is not uncommon for them not to eat every day.
Geckos also fast during the cold season while their activity is low, so technically, they could not eat for months. However, if you see your gecko has lost more than 10% of its tail weight, it would be best to have them checked out by an experienced reptile vet.
How Often Should You Feed An African Fat-Tailed Gecko?
A general rule is that you should feed geckos under four months old about five crickets every day. And about nine crickets three times a week for adults is enough since they have built-up fat storage in their tails.
You must not force-feed your African fat-tailed gecko. There is a reason they are not eating, and you should address or solve that issue first. Forcing food on them will only increase their stress level and cause more problems, which we are trying to prevent.
Following these guidelines will help assure your gecko is as happy and healthy as possible.