There are up to 800 different types of skinks all over the world. Several types are common in the pet trade, but some may be less often seen. This care sheet will direct you toward proper care of the common skinks listed. If your type of skink is different than these, research your skink and discover where they originate from. The best thing to do is replicate their native environment as closely as possible. Select the right substrate, decorations, temperatures, and humidity levels for your specific type of skink.
This is a basic care sheet for a skink, but in particular, we are looking at the types of skinks listed below. All skinks are listed along with their maximum size.
Red Sided Skink (8-12”)
Ocellated Skink (8-12”)
Fire Skink (14-15”)
Schneider’s AKA Berber Skink (12-16”)
Five Lined AKA Blue Tailed Skink (5-8”)
Blue Tongue Skink (14-18”)
Sandfish Skink (7-8”)
Crocodile Skink (7.2”)
Cage Setup and Maintenance
Skinks are all ground dwelling lizards that do not climb, unless it is onto a low rock or cork bark slab. Therefore, they really need a low tank with a lot of floor space. A 20 Long tank as a juvenile to a 40 Breeder as an adult is great for all of these species. The Blue Tongue Skink, however, would thrive in a 75 gallon tank as an adult.
Skinks love to burrow deep into whatever substrate they are in. Make sure they have approximately 3 inches of bark, coconut husk shreds, Eco Earth, or sand. You can mix several of these together to see which your skink prefers. To help keep humidity up, you can add moss to part of the terrarium that is kept moist, but not saturated, at all times. Skinks are ground dwelling lizard, so branches are not necessary, unless for decorative purposes. They appreciate a background and plants around the sides of the terrarium for added security.
Spot clean soiled areas daily for all skinks, and generally do a full cleanout once a month for smaller species. Larger species, such as the Blue Tongue Skink, will often need their cage emptied and disinfected once every week or two.
Special Note for the Sandfish Skink: This skink has very specific requirements for their substrate. First, these lizards need a good 6 inches of sand on the bottom to accommodate their burrowing habits. The bottom layer of this sand bed needs to stay wet. This is achieved by running airline hoses to that bottom layer before filling the tank up with sand. You can then run water down the tube to moisten the bottom. Change this sand every few months and fully disinfect the cage with a reptile safe cleaner.
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Special Note for the Crocodile Skink: These skinks are actually only semi terrestrial. They live in areas that are always along the edge of the water. They need a very large water dish, or even two large ones, depending on the bowl size and the tank size. This species of skink is shy and easily stressed. It’s extremely important to keep a background on the tank and fake plants set up around the sides of the tank to help them feel more secure.
Lighting and Humidity
Most skinks have the same basic requirements for temperature, humidity, and UVB needs. They all need an ambient temperature that is 80-85 degrees with a basking area of 100 degrees. Make sure to use one or more thermometers to get an accurate reading. Don’t guess when it comes to heating your terrarium! Every type of skink will enjoy and appreciate an under tank heating pad in addition to a heat lamp. Make sure you offer your skink a large enough tank to be able to escape from the heat, if necessary.
Humidity can range from 50%-80% depending on species, but it is recommend to mist their cage down at least once, first thing in the morning. Use a hygrometer to measure your humidity rate. If you have a humidity box or cave, keep the moss bottom wetted down at all times. Keep an eye out for mold growth, and replace this moss once every week or two.
A UVB bulb is required for ALL Skink species. A bulb with a 5.0 Tropical rating is sufficient for most species. This has to be replaced every 10-12 months. It’s important that the skink is within 6-8 inches of this bulb to get the benefit of it.
Special Note on the Sandfish Skink: This skink loves a HOT basking site of up to 125 degrees. Ambient temperature should still be in the 80’s, so it is best to help your animal get closer to the heat source. Use slate rock pieces that are stacked on top of each other gradually building up a high basking area for your Sandfish. Make SURE you securely attach these rocks together using a safe binding agent like Holdfast, an animal safe putty used to bond live coral to rocks. This way the lizard does not knock these slate pieces down, which could prove fatal to your animal.
Special Note on the Crocodile Skink: This skink loves a humid tank but NOT a hot basking area. Their bask site should be no hotter than 86 degrees. Their cool end should be 70-75 degrees that builds up to that 86 degree warmer end. Their humidity level should be maintained around 60-100%.
Special Note on the Schneider’s Skink: This skink is from a dryer region. The humidity should only be 20%-30%.
Skinks should be offered a variety of insects, such as crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, waxworms, or silkworms. All insects should be dusted with a Calcium powder that has Vitamin D3 every time you feed. However, once each week, dust the insects with a multivitamin powder to ensure they don’t develop vitamin deficiencies. Some skink enthusiasts recommend that you offer dark leafy greens and various fruits to your skink to see if they like it. While some do, most will remain solely insectivores, more readily trying a small piece of plain, boiled chicken before a blueberry. If your skink will eat fruits and veggies, these food items must also always be dusted with Calcium powder daily.
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Special Note for the Blue Tongued Skink: These lizards love to eat anything! They can often be overfed and become obese. If this happens, their diet MUST be adjusted to avoid further health problems. They should be fed dark leafy greens, such as Dandelion Greens, Mustard Greens, Romaine Lettuce, and Collard Greens, in addition to a mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables such as, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, greens beans, peas, artichoke heart, apple, shredded carrot, squash, and mango. They should eat plenty of insects, especially when they are young, but they will also take hard boiled eggs, pinkie mice, and pieces of plain, boiled chicken. These should be offered in moderation. Do not feed them any processed, sugary, or fattening foods.
Special Note on the Schneider’s Skink: This skink has been known to eat small fish placed in a clean water dish. Yours may not take to it, but it’s worth a try. These are one of the skink species that will eat fruits and veggies when offered.
Skinks are very fast and often skittish lizards. They like to feel secure in their environment, so handling can be scary. Certain skinks tame down easier than others, but all of them take time, care, and patience to be handleable. The Red Sided Skink, Schneider’s Skink, and the Blue Tongue Skink are a few that are easier to tame with frequent handling.
Some skinks are egg layers and some have live birth. If looking to breed your skink, do some research on your individual type to ensure you have the knowledge and resources to be successful.
As far as housing, skinks are often gregarious and can be housed together. Females and male-female pairs can be kept together with little issue, but two males shouldn’t be housed together.