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Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Care Sheet

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Tribolonotus gracilis

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink

Overview 

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are native to the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, where they spend most of their time on the forest floor under leaf litter and other debris, often near water. These skinks get their name from the red/orange ring of scales that surrounds each of their dark brown eyes.

 

Typical appearance and behavior  

  • These lizards get their name from the four rows of backward-facing, pointy scales running down their backs, just like a crocodile’s 
  • Adult red-eyed crocodile skinks have muscular bodies that are dark brown to black with yellow to cream colored bellies 
  • Juveniles look similar to adults but have light brown heads, blue eyes and no red rings around their eyes; they look like adults by 6 months of age 
  • Red-eyed crocodile skinks reach maturity in 3–4 years 
  • Males are slightly larger than females and have gray-blue, raised pores on the bottoms of the third, fourth and sometimes fifth toes of their hind feet; males also have a rectangular patch of enlarged scales on their bellies 
  • These skinks become stressed when handled, so frequent handling is not recommended 
  • While sometimes referred to as nocturnal (more active at night), these lizards are actually crepuscular (active mostly at dawn and dusk), which coincides with their feeding times 
  • These skinks are one of the few species of lizards who vocalize when stressed and freeze, fall over and play dead when startled; sometimes they will also release (or “drop”) their tails 
  • While they can climb, these skinks spend most of their time on the ground, hiding under bushes or logs and hunting for food 

 

Characteristics 

Care Difficuty Intermediate
Average Life Span Up to 10+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 7–9" long
Diet Insectivorous
Minimum Habitat Size 15 gallons for one adult

 

Habitat  

Habitat size 

Provide an appropriately sized and shaped habitat to accommodate normal behavior and exercise. A glass tank may be used to house an adult skink, as long as it is well ventilated. Horizontal space is more important than vertical space, as these skinks spend most of their time on the ground. The minimum habitat size for one adult is 15 gallons. The habitat should have a tightly fitting mesh top to prevent escape. 

Building your habitat 

  • Humidity - 
    • Maintain habitat humidity at 70–90% by misting the habitat 2–3 times per day and providing a shallow bowl of water every day in which skinks can soak and drink to help ensure they stay hydrated 
    • Provide a humid hiding box (commercially available or an upside-down plastic box with a cutout door containing damp sphagnum moss) to increase humidity for proper shedding 
    • Use a humidity gauge to monitor humidity levels 
  • Décor - 
    • Red-eyed crocodile skinks are more comfortable when they have plants, commercially available low rocks, cork bark and logs where they can hide for security 
    • However, they need a lot of surface area to move around, so don’t overcrowd their habitat with décor 
  • Substrate - 
    • Commercially available, pelleted, paper-based bedding, coconut fiber, aspen shavings or cypress mulch mixed with damp sphagnum moss can be used as substrate 
    • Cedar chips, walnut shells, orchid bark and sand are all indigestible if consumed and can potentially lead to a life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction 
    • Skinks love to burrow, so substrate should be at least 2–3" deep 
    • Reptile carpet is not ideal; it does not allow skinks to dig  
  • Temperature - 
    • Crocodile skinks prefer cooler temperatures, with a daytime temperature gradient from 82°F in the basking zone to 72–75°F for the cool zone 
    • Nighttime temperatures should not fall below 70°F 
    • Use at least two thermometers to monitor habitat temperatures 
    • Use an incandescent light or ceramic heat bulb as a primary heat source during the day, with a ceramic heat bulb or a red incandescent bulb at night 
    • Do not use a hot rock for heat, as reptiles who sit on them commonly get burned 
  • Lighting - 
    • Although red-eyed crocodile skinks are crepuscular and hide most of the day in nature, as pets they thrive when provided with full-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) light for 10–12 hours a day 
    • UV lighting helps ensure they receive adequate UVB exposure to make vitamin D in their skin so they can absorb dietary calcium 
    • Skinks without adequate UV light exposure are prone to developing metabolic bone disease with skeletal deformities, bone fractures and potential death 
    • UV lighting also helps establish a clear day/night cycle for normal behaviors 

Cleaning your habitat 

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily. The habitat should be spot-cleaned daily to remove droppings and discarded food.  
  • Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week:  
    • Place skink in a secure habitat 
    • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution 
    • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell 
    • Dry the tank and furnishings before putting fresh substrate and the skink back in the habitat 

 

Feeding 

Things to remember when feeding your red-eyed crocodile skink: 

  • Fresh, clean water should be available all the time 
  • Offer insects and worms in a small feeding dish or in a separate feeding tank without substrate; this prevents them from burrowing into substrate before they are eaten and lessens the likelihood of skinks accidentally ingesting substrate 
  • Vary the diet as much as possible to keep skinks interested and to provide nutrient balance 
  • Feed juveniles daily and adults every other day 
  • Lightly sprinkle food with powdered calcium with vitamin D every day for juveniles and every other day for adults, plus a multivitamin supplement once a week 
  • Insects that are not eaten should be removed from the tank, as they may chew on and injure skinks 

 

Where to buy a red-eyed crocodile skink

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are available for purchase at your local Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.

 

Supplies 

 

Habitat mates  

  • Crocodile skinks should be housed either individually or one male with one female; males kept together or females kept together will be territorial and fight 
  • Do not house different reptile species together 

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy red-eyed crocodile skink 

  • Active and alert 
  • Clear, bright eyes with no swelling or discharge 
  • Full, muscular tail 
  • Supple skin with no sores, swellings or discoloration 
  • Droppings are firm, not runny or bloody 
  • Eats and passes stool regularly 
  • Clear nose and vent 

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian) 

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite 
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, mouth or nose 
  • Lesions, swelling or discoloration of skin or retained shed  
  • Lethargy 
  • Sneezing, runny nose or difficulty breathing 
  • Weakness or paralysis of limbs 
  • Runny or bloody stool or lack of stool 

 

Common red-eyed crocodile skink health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueGastrointestinal disease Symptoms or CausesRunny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent, weight loss and loss of appetite; may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection or nutritional imbalance Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian
Health IssueMetabolic bone disease/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or CausesInability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or inappropriate diet or supplementation; if untreated, can lead to skeletal deformities, soft or fractured bones, swollen limbs, decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, seizures and death Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and the proper diet and calcium/vitamin supplements
Health IssueRespiratory tract disease Symptoms or CausesLabored breathing, discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth, decreased appetite and lethargy. Can be caused by inappropriate temperature, humidity or lighting in habitat, or other underlying diseases Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure habitat has the proper temperature, lighting and humidity

 

FAQs 

  • How big do red-eyed crocodile skinks get? Red-eyed crocodile skinks grow to be 7–9" long. 
  • What do red-eyed crocodile skinks eat? A well-balanced red-eyed crocodile skink diet consists of a variety of live insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, mealworms, roaches, superworms, calci-worms, hornworms, earthworms and waxworms. 
  • Where can I buy a red-eyed crocodile skink? Red-eyed crocodile skinks can be found at Petco; always call ahead to check availability. 
  • Can red-eyed crocodile skinks swim? Red-eyed crocodile skinks like to swim and should be provided with a shallow water dish in which to submerge themselves. 
  • Can you hold a red-eyed crocodile skink? Red-eyed crocodile skinks become stressed when held, so they should be held infrequently. 
  • How long do red-eyed crocodile skinks live? Red-eyed crocodile skinks live up to 10+ years with proper care. 

 

Additional care sheets 

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile. 

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.