How to Keep Your New Skink
Aqualand takes a look at several skinks
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Sina, April 15, 2008
I just thought I'd point out that you use the word "skink" interchangeably with "plated lizard." In fact, they are decidedly types of lizards, and skinks make up the family Scincidae, while plated lizards are in the family Gerrhosauridae. Conflating the two will make it very difficult for customers to find proper information on their care!
A: Probably not the last time I'll conflate. Guess I'm one of those "lumpers" that operate by eyeball. I always thought they were all skinks. Mea culpa. I'll add your correction to my skink page. LA
Origins: Skinks live in warm but not damp areas. Skinks like but are not limited to sandy areas. They are everywhere – including five species in Iowa. Iowa species cost the most because the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will fine you for keeping them.
Name: I’ve always figured they’re called skinks because of their resemblance to snakes. Some skinks have no legs but get along just fine. However, the name comes from the Greek word skinkos meaning lizard.
Description: All skinks have very short legs but can still run very well. All look like they’re covered with chain mail – shiny scales that gleam in the sun. They sport various stripes and colors.
De-Tail DeTails: Grab a skink by the tail, and all you have is a wiggling tail. The skink runs off to enjoy another day of freedom. Hungry predators usually decide half a skink is better than none. Some have stronger tails, but you want to handle yours carefully. Their tails grow back (sort of). They’re never as large and never look the same.
Water: Lizards often take a long, lazy soak in their water dish. They usually empty their bowels in the process. Ditto most skinks. Change their water daily.
Likes to Climb: Skinks are built for running on the ground. They still like to climb on rocks and branches.
Likes to Burrow: Give them a sand pile and they’re as happy as a Clampet. Skinks also like to dig under rocks and wood. They like to mess up your careful terra-scaping plans.
Size: Skinks come in all sizes. The skinny long-tailed grass lizard has a three-inch bod’ with a nine-inch tail. Heftier skinks resemble other lizards re-painted and chopped in the low rider style.
Foods: Skinks eat everything – crickets, snails, carrion (bits of turkey or chicken are okay, if you run out of carrion), fruits, flowers, vegetables, mealworms, earthworms, banana bites, greens, baby foods, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and smaller lizards. And eggs, boiled, scrambled, or raw, and probably poached.
Supplements: Give them regular calcium/vitamin supplements. The littler skinks need littler amounts.
Space Requirements: In small groups small skinks want a square foot of space each. Larger skinks want much more room. When you crowd them like we do, they seem to lose interest in arguing. Skinks act more naturally in smaller herds.
Breeding: If you’re willing to “hibernate” them by cooling them off and not feeding them a few weeks, you can probably breed most skinks.
Substrate Choice: Sand, coconut fiber, aspen, small gravel, or vermiculite would all make a good substrate to burrow into. Most people use gravel or sand. Skinks make a real mess if you use any kind of dirt.
Hidey Holes. Give your skinks caves or wood to crawl under. They like to dig and burrow. They usually hunker down nights and go prowling for food when the sun shines.
Tank Mates: You can mix your skinks with equal-sized non-violent terrarium residents. Skinks consider bite-size critters fresh meat on the hoof. The fire skinks will amputate the arms and legs of other lizards.
Skinks make nice, easy-to-keep lizards for most people.
Many will learn to recognize you (or at least put up with you) and
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