Blue-Tongued Skinks: Low Maintenance Pets
Skinks make great pets for people who enjoy a low-key, low-maintenance reptile. Once an adult skink is settled in a nice reptile tank, it only requires feeding once or twice a week, changing the water, and monthly cleaning of the terrarium. Owning a skink requires an initial investment in the terrarium, heat lamp, habitat structures, and the pet itself. Once you have supplied these up-front costs, skinks are cheap pets that take little time out of your life.
What Are Skinks?
Skinks are one of the most diverse and widely spread families of reptiles in the world. There are over 1,200 species of skinks living in tropical, desert, temperate, and arctic climates. Typically, skinks have small legs and a minimal neck and are active during the day. They are burrowing lizards that enjoy being able to dig. Skinks are mostly insectivores, but many species eat fruits and vegetables as part of their diets. The Solomon Island Skink is the largest skink in the world, reaching nearly three feet long.
The skinks people typically keep as pets are blue-tongued skinks, which come from Indonesia and Australia. Some people also keep Berber skinks, which are native to northern Africa. People like to keep these skins because they are docile creatures that do well in terrariums. These species of skinks live about 15 years, making them long-lived, low-maintenance pets.
Setting Up the Skink Tank
If you are thinking of getting a skink as a low-maintenance pet, note that you will have to invest some time and money to get the skink settled into your house. Skinks require a handful of objects to live happily and healthfully.
A Skink Terrarium
First, a skink needs a relatively large terrarium (sometimes called a tank). A 55-gallon tank is the smallest recommended size for a skink, as they like big tanks compared to other lizards. This sized tank would be about eight cubic feet of space, which is about the footprint of a small desk. If you can, get a larger tank! Skinks are active animals. Your skink will have more places to explore and ponder life in a bigger terrarium. Terrariums that open from the front rather than the top are easier to maintain.
Bedding and Substrate
As mentioned above, skinks are burrowing creatures. This means they need a deep layer of substrate to bury into. This substrate should be no less than six inches deep. Various substrates can be used.
Habitat Structures: Caves, Logs, Sun Rocks
Do you ever feel like hiding from the world in your room? Skinks are the same way! They need spaces to decompress and feel safe. Reptile companies sell plenty of structures for lizards to hide out in. In addition to hiding places, sinks enjoy rocks to sun on and fun-shaped objects to explore and crawl around on.
The Lizard Heat Lamp
Cold-blooded creatures can only regulate their body temperatures by absorbing heat from their surroundings. In the wild, skinks bask in the sun to gain the energy needed to hunt and move. Houses are too cold for the blue-tongued skinks kept as pets because they prefer temperatures of 90 F. A heat lamp is the best way to warm up your skink’s terrarium. Put the heat lamp on one side of the terrarium. This placement makes a hot side and a cold side, which gives the skink options in order to thermoregulate.
Where Do I Get This Stuff?
A specialty reptile store will be the best place to buy the required items necessary for starting your skink terrarium. This is especially true if the skink is your first reptile pet. The expert staff at reptile-exclusive stores will know the appropriate tank size, heat lamp power, and type of vitamins to feed to your specific skink. Additionally, these stores will have all the materials you need, making the start-up process quick!
If you are on a budget and looking for second-hand items, there are plenty of terrariums and pet items on websites like NextDoor and Craigslist. Fortunately, once you have the terrarium set up, you are most of the way to caring for your new low-maintenance pet.
Once your skink terrarium is set up, you will need to begin regular care of your new pet. Young skinks require feeding more often than adult skinks. Skinks younger than three months should be fed daily. Three to eight-month-old skins should be fed about 3 times per week. For the next 14 years of their lives, skinks only need feeding one to two times per week, making them low-maintenance pets.
In addition to feeding more often, younger skinks require a higher ration of insects in their food than older skinks. Young skinks should eat about 70% insects and 30% vegetables, whereas adult skinks should eat even portions of both.
Some owners swear by cat food and dog food, while others prefer to use live crickets and mealworms. While using live insects is more thrilling for your skink, cat and dog food are certainly a more low-maintenance pet alternative. Skinks like leafy greens and other soft vegetables. While skinks will eat a wide variety of fruits, owners should only feed them fruit as a special treat.
Low-Maintenance Pets Do Require Some Cleaning
The biggest regular maintenance of any low-maintenance reptile is cleaning the terrarium. Every day or so you should change the water, pick out any uneaten food, and pick up any feces. Skinks tend to get their water bowls quite dirty, so some may require their water to be changed daily.
More comprehensive cleaning is required each month. To perform a deep clean you will need to remove everything from the tank, then clean and disinfect each surface. Pay special attention to the corners where grime can build up. If the substrate looks dirty, replace it. Cleaning the skink tank shouldn’t take more than an hour or two a month, which is part of the reason these reptiles are great low-maintenance pets.
What Are Other Low-Maintenance Pets?
Other small lizards, certain birds, and guinea pigs are excellent alternatives to skinks as low-maintenance pets. When considered a pet, be sure to think about expenses, your long-term plans, your space, your interest, and your schedule. When all these factors line up and point you towards a skink, it’s probably time you got yourself this lovely reptilian companion.