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African Fat-Tailed Gecko vs Leopard Gecko: What’s the Difference? (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

You’d be forgiven for mistaking an African Fat-Tailed Gecko for a Leopard Gecko or vice-versa. These two species are very similar. In fact, they’re related! Both are part of the Eublepharidae subfamily of geckos. This means they share some similar traits, like movable eyelids that other species of geckos lack. They share similar appearances and they’re both nocturnal as well. But that doesn’t mean they’re the same.

The African Fat-Tailed Gecko is obviously from Africa, while the Leopard Gecko originates in the middle east. But the differences between these two geckos go deeper than that. Let’s take a look at each lizard closer to get a good feel for what separates these two species.

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Visual Differences

african fat tail vs leopard
African Fat-Tailed Gecko vs Leopard Gecko. Left: African Fat-Tailed Gecko (Source: PetlinDmitry, Shutterstock), Right: Leopard Gecko (Source: Silke Baron, Flickr)
African Fat-Tailed Gecko
  • Average length (adult): 6-8 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 45-75 grams
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Space needed: 20 gallons + 10 for each additional lizard
  • Grooming needs: None
  • Diet: Insects
  • Handleable: Yes
  • Temperament: Docile, gentle, timid, territorial
Leopard Gecko
  • Average height (adult): 8-12 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 40-100 grams
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Space needed: 20 gallons + 10 for each additional lizard
  • Grooming needs: None
  • Diet: Insects
  • Handleable: Yes
  • Temperament: Friendly, gentle

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African Fat-Tailed Gecko Overview

African Fat-Tailed Geckos aren’t nearly as common as Leopard Geckos, though they’re growing in popularity. They’re pretty similar to Leopard Geckos overall, though there are some key differences between these species. African Fat-Tailed Geckos are not a type of Leopard Gecko, as many people believe. They are from the same family, but they’re not the same thing.

African fat tail gecko
Image Credit: PetlinDmitry, Shutterstock

Size

African Fat-Tails are about six to eight inches long on average. They tend to have thick tails, hence the name fat-tail. These geckos weigh 45-75 grams, with males typically larger and heavier than females.

Temperament

These geckos are generally quite docile and calm. As juveniles, they’ll be more likely to get scared, which may result in them dropping their tails. Luckily, it will regrow.

But African Fat-Tailed Geckos will always have a degree of shyness in their personality. Even after they’re comfortable with you, you can expect these geckos to approach slowly and with trepidation.

Despite being somewhat timid creatures, African Fat-Tailed Geckos are also quite territorial. They’re likely to snap at you when you enter their space and they don’t want you to. If you try to hold them when they don’t want to be held, you might even get bit, though this isn’t a common occurrence.

Colors and Patterns

As African Fat-Tailed Geckos grow in popularity, more breeders are devoting attention to these lizards. In years past, there wasn’t as diverse of a selection available. Today, there are many different morphs and variations of these geckos available, so you can find them in all sorts of colors and patterns, similar to Leopard Geckos. However, they still haven’t been around for as long, so there aren’t quite as many options available in this species.

Care

These lizards might come from Africa, but they come from the more humid areas. They need high humidity in their enclosure to maintain their health. Keeping an African Fat-Tailed Gecko in a low-humidity environment can lead to a variety of health problems.

You might also find that these geckos are picky eaters. They’re insectivores, similar to Leopard Geckos, but they’re known to be particular about the foods they prefer.

African fat-tailed gecko
Image Credit: Milan Zygmunt, Shutterstock

Price

Because African Fat-Tailed Geckos aren’t as popular as Leopard Geckos, they aren’t carried in big pet stores yet. There also aren’t quite as many breeders working with these lizards and their numbers aren’t as high. As such, they’re generally more expensive than Leopard Geckos.

Suitable for:

An African Fat-Tailed Gecko is a great choice for someone who wants a pet that’s a bit more unique. Leopard Geckos are the most popular reptile to keep, but few people will even know what your African Fat-Tailed Gecko is until you tell them. They require a bit more care than Leopard Geckos since you have to keep their environment humid, but they’re still easy to keep and great for beginners and advanced reptile owners alike.

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Leopard Gecko Overview

Enigma leopard gecko
Image Credit: Destinys Agent, Shutterstock

Leopard Geckos are incredibly common pets. You can even find them at most major pet stores, unlike the African Fat-Tailed Gecko. These lizards come in a wide range of morphs and variations and they’re wildly popular due to their easy care and calm demeanors.

Size

On average, Leopard Geckos are about 8-10 inches long. But there are many morphs of Leopard Geckos, including size morphs such as the Super Giant and the Godzilla Super Giant varieties. Some Leopard Geckos have been known to get as long as 12 inches and weigh up to 140 grams.

Temperament

One of the reasons for the popularity of Leopard Geckos is that they’re very amicable creatures. They don’t mind being held and they’re usually mild-mannered. Once they’re comfortable with you, they tend to be bold, walking right into your outstretched hand.

Colors and Patterns

After years of careful and selective breeding, Leopard Geckos are now available in a myriad of different colors and patterns. There are even many morphs of these geckos that produce unique eyes, such as RAPTORs that have red eyes or eclipsed geckos with all-black eyes. There are morphs that come in giant sizes, albino morphs, melanin morphs, and more. They’re an incredibly versatile species and you’re guaranteed to find a lizard that suits you.

Care

Leopard Geckos come from the middle east, in dry, desert regions. They need dry climates, almost devoid of humidity. However, you’ll also have to keep a humid hide available for when your gecko needs to shed its skin. But since you don’t have to keep their environment humid, caring for a Leopard Gecko is very easy; another reason for their immense popularity.

Feeding a Leopard Gecko is similarly simple. They’re not picky eaters at all, and will generally eat whatever insects you provide.

bell albino leopard gecko
Image Credit: cowboy54, Shutterstock

Price

Thanks to their popularity, these lizards are very common. You can find geckos in wild and fancy patterns at your local pet store for well below $50. But there are also many unique morphs available and some of these get pretty pricey. There are even Leopard Geckos that sell for several thousand!

Suitable for:

There are good reasons that Leopard Geckos are such popular pets to keep. They’re friendly, easy to handle, simple to care for, and affordably priced. These lizards are great for beginning reptile owners because they’re not picky eaters and they don’t require much in the way of care. Plus, there’s such variety in the species, you’re guaranteed to find a specimen that you love the looks of.

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The Main Differences

As we’ve mentioned, there are plenty of similarities between these two lizards. Even looking at them, you might have a hard time distinguishing between them. So, let’s take a closer look at the main differences that separate these two geckos.

Popularity

Leopard Geckos are the most popular reptile to keep as pets. African Fat-Tailed Geckos just can’t match that level of popularity. This means there are far more Leopard Geckos available, so you have a wider selection to choose from, including more morphs and varieties. Leopard Geckos also tend to be easier to find for this reason.

Price

But there’s another advantage to popularity. Leopard Geckos are usually cheaper than African Fat-Tailed Geckos. If you have a lizard of each species of a similar variation, the African Fat-Tail will often cost more. That said, there are some Leopard Geckos that command incredibly high prices. But there are also some available for very low cost, making them cheaper overall.

Personality

Both of these lizards make great pets that you can easily handle. They’re both generally calm animals that aren’t aggressive most of the time. But there are some differences in their temperaments.

African Fat-Tailed Geckos are often shy and timid. Even when they’re comfortable with you, they’ll likely approach you slowly every time, while Leopard Geckos will become bold when they’re comfortable.

Likewise, you’re more likely to see territorial behavior from an African Fat-Tail.

Bandit leopard gecko
Image Credit: Elina Litovkina, Shutterstock

Is Their Care the Same?

Caring for these lizards is similar in some regards. They both eat the same foods, though African Fat-Tailed Geckos are pickier about which foods they’ll eat.

The biggest difference in their care is their habitats. Leopard Geckos need dry habitats with a humid hide where they can loosen up their skin to shed. But African Fat-Tails require humid environments. You’ll have to ensure their habitat stays humid to avoid health problems.

Can You Keep Them Together?

Because these two species look so similar, many people wonder if they can be kept together. While several geckos of the same species can be kept together, it’s not advisable to keep specimens of different species in the same habitat.

The main reason is that they have different needs. You’ll be caring for these lizards in different ways and they even live in different habitats. But it can also be dangerous to put these lizards together; especially if it’s two males. They could fight, causing damage or death to either or both.

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Which Species is Right for You?

Both of these lizards are easy to care for and can make great pets for beginners, though Leopard Geckos are the easier of the two. If you’ve never owned a reptile before, then a Leopard Gecko is a better choice. But if you want something that’s a bit more exotic, you might go with the African Fat-Tail instead. They look similar, but these lizards are far less common, though you can still find them in a wide range of colorful morphs.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.