Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink: Care, Facts, Information (with videos)
If you are fascinated with Red-Eyed Crocodile skinks, or even just curious you are in the right place (Click here for the best red-eyed skin book on Amazon). I will give you some in-depth facts and care information to help you satisfy your curiosity or decide if this is a realistic pet for you.
What Is The Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink? The Red-eyed crocodile skink is known by its scientific name as Tribolonotus Gracilis. The tribolonotus represents the genus of the skink. There are a total of eight sub-species within this genus. However, the red-eyed croc skinks are perhaps most common ones that can be found in captivity.
We have always been fascinated by the red-eyed crocodile skinks since they resemble so much to crocodiles. Let’s not forget why they were named the red-eyed! This is because of the exotic red ring that encircles their eyes.
They are the most beautiful lizards found in captivity. So, we can imagine your curiosity. They are a great pet to have and can live a long life in captivity. However, they still require proper care.
To learn how to care for them, you can follow our red-eyed crocodile skink care guide. The guide answers most of the commonly asked questions about caring for these creatures
What Other Names Do They Have?
The red-eyed crocodile skink is called so due to their high resemblance to crocodiles with their rough scales and spines down the body. They also possess eyes that are ringed with a red color, which is why they are called red or even orange-eyed crocodile skinks.
They tend to live in dense tropical forests where there are lots of low climbing places. These places often tend to be bushes. So, you will find these skinks mostly in bushes.
Apart from that, their heads are large and are more triangular, which is why they are also known as casque-headed skinks and helmeted skinks. The orange and red rings that are present around their eyes are often part of the charisma behind these creatures. They resemble small crocodiles and are often just called as bush crocodiles.
Where Is Their Natural Habitat?
Red crocodile skinks can be found living under forest debris and near water.
They live near water because they prefer to bathe themselves in shallow water. The forest floors are often full of low branches and plenty of hiding places for them to hide from their predators.
They love climbing, hence they are usually found 4-5 inches above the ground. However, they do not travel very far up the trees.
However, with the recent deforestation that has taken place in many areas of the world, these skinks were quite quick to adapt themselves. As their natural habitats were replaced by coconut trees, they have adapted themselves to live in these coconut plantations.
They are usually found in New Guinea Island in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Apart from the humid, tropical forests, they are found living in human-populated areas as well.
How Big Is A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink?
At birth, red-eyed crocodile skinks can be as small as only 2.5 inches. But once they grow up, they can become as massive as 10 inches long. This still renders them pretty tiny and morbidly cute.
They weigh approximately 36 - 45 grams, with a dark brown color at birth and a darker red at maturity.
One of the most defining characteristics of the skink is that they have a reddish or orange coloration encircling their eyes, which is they are called red-eyed skinks.
The underbelly has a beige/creamy color, similar to a light peach, and their heads are most triangular or slightly squared. These crocodile skinks have a few spiky ridges along their spine and tail, giving them that characteristic reptilian look.
How Long Do They Usually Last For (Lifespan)?
Unfortunately, this question can be heavily debated. While we have observed hatchlings born in zoos and watched them grow and die, we still don’t know what the natural lifespan of a crocodile skink is. In fact, researchers don’t even know at what time of day the skinks like to hunt and explore.
Usually, the ones in captivity come out at night, but that could easily be due to the lower number of visitors at night.
Even if an animal dies in captivity, this could likely be due to negligence from the zookeeper or due to disease.
And some animals are designed to last long in captivity. Our best guess was made by Cincinnati Zoo, which currently houses two female red-eyed crocodile skins.
They estimated that the species lives at most 6 or 7 years. However, the longest living crocodile skink to date lived up to 12 years. These are all in captivity.
As for in the wild, data varies. Some say it could be past 7, while others estimate that the Cincinnati Zoo didn’t guess wrong.
What Is The Ideal Housing For A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink?
Since red eyed crocodile skinks mostly hail from cool places with a lot of humidity such as in New Guinea. To know what type of enclosure they need, we believe you need to know what their natural habitat is.
They love climbing low branches. However, when it comes to the tank size, these creatures like a little more space than height. Since they don’t usually climb too high, a lower tank with a lot of areas would suit them much better. For this purpose, cages about 30 x 12 inches or about 18 x 18 inches would be best.
However, like in all reptiles, males are found to fight over territory disputes. Hence we don’t recommend keeping two males together.
So, we only recommend you to keep a single male or a single female. However, you can keep a single male with a female. So, breeding won’t be a problem.
However, if you do keep a pair, ensure to use a 20-gallon tank that provides a lot of floor space.
There should be enough cover to help them retreat to their hiding places. You can also add rocks, logs, and small trees. These trees can be either natural or fake.
However, with natural trees, you face the problem of having to maintain them along with your lizard. When it comes to fake plants, they are much easier to handle. But, you still need to make sure that they are non-toxic. If your lizards end up eating these, it could lead to a process known as impaction.
Will They Benefit From A Hide Box?
Like most lizards, these crocodile skinks need suitable hiding places in their cages. This is because they are very shy creatures and prefer to hide to avoid the heat.
Otherwise, your skink might end up feeling stressed. These areas can be any sort of enclosures where the skink can lie low.
Most skinks can be seen hiding in the trees, logs, and even behind and beneath rocks in their natural habitat. As we already mentioned, the number one step to keeping them happy is to imitate their natural habitat as closely as possible.
Of course, you can provide them with natural hiding places by placing larger rocks, small rocks, and hollowed out logs. These provide them with natural cover from enemies and the heat.
However, there are various hides present in the market as well. These include Snake caves and hide boxes. They allow your skink to hide especially if you keep two together.
Even though they may mate, they still need time to themselves, which is why your skink will benefit greatly with a hide box.
What Is The Ideal Substrate For Them?
The substrate is an important part of designing an enclosure for your skink. This is because these skinks need an increased humidity level as compared to other lizards.
These skinks are generally found in humid forest enclosures.
So, whatever substrate you choose, you need to choose one that retains moisture well and allows the tank to be sufficiently humid for the lizard. The skinks need about 70-90% humidity.
This is quite higher than most normal lizards. This means that your normal substrates won’t cut it. Peat moss or Coco fiber can make for better substrates as they will allow the humidity to reach higher levels and will even allow the skink to burrow through them.
However, Coco bricks, along with orchid bark, can be used as a substrate as well.
Of course, artificial substrates such as newspapers or tissue paper can also be used. However, do not use soil or sand as the lizard can often end up eating it, which might lead to impaction.
This can make them seriously sick as the soil would not be digested and would block the passage through their stomach.
Whatever substrate you choose, ensure it is about 4 to 6 inches thick.
What Lighting And Heating Do They Need?
In terms of heating, these skinks love to bask under the sun. SO, you need to set up a basking lamp at one end of the tank. However, ensure that you provide these creatures with a basking temperature of about 86 degrees F. Anything higher might stress them out and dehydrate them. It can even cause death.
Remember to keep the basking lamp at one end of the tank as it will provide your skink with areas of multiple temperatures. One end of the tank will be cool while the other will be much warmer.
This will allow your skink to move to the higher temperature end if it needs to bask and to the cooler end if it needs to cool down! This is because, like all reptile, they are cold-blooded and require thermoregulation.
For the day, ensure the temperatures are about 70-75 degrees on the cooler end while during the night 65 degrees temperature will do.
You can already tell that these skink like cooler temperatures when compared to other lizards.
You can place a UVB lamp at ambient temperature as well. Although crocs are nocturnal, they still do become active at dusk and dawn.
What Are Their Water Requirements?
For skinks, the most comfortable environment is typically an enclosure with a running source of water along with a proper misting system. Placing a few living plants within the enclosure will ensure sufficient humidity levels within the atmosphere.
Ensure that these skinks have dry places too in case the humidity and mist aren’t cutting it out for them.
The best way to mist them is to do so at frequent intervals. Misting and maintaining humidity levels within the enclosure is very important.
This can cause eye infections and inflammation, and may even be lethal in some cases. Other decorative items can also be placed within the vivarium, like branches, logs, plants, and water sources.
Additionally, the water dish is supposed to be shallow so the skink can easily drink from it. A typical range would be within 1 inch deep. However, you can add a deep end pool because they do love swimming.
What Can You Feed A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink (Diet)?
Knowing the proper diet and eating habits of the animal is crucial. You can't just feed anything to the red-eyed skink. Since they’re insectivores, we suggest giving them huge loads of insects to munch on.
These can include any non-poisonous non-invasive small insects, such as earthworms, mealworms, beetles, silkworms, and crickets. The exact likes and dislikes of your skink may vary. Some may have a favorite, while others may love diversity in their daily quotas.
A good idea would be to dust the insects with a bit of vitamin D3 and calcium to overcome any dietary deficiencies, especially in juvenile skinks.
Knowing when to feed the animal goes hand in hand with what to feed them. Typically, adult skinks should only be fed a large bundle of insects every three days.
Those which are still young or newborn should be fed every alternate day. If the skink is sick and needs extra energy, contact the veterinarian on when to feed.
Providing multivitamin supplements at least twice a day is also a great idea.
It is best to monitor their feeding and feces to ensure that your skinks are indeed eating and littering healthily.
How Often Should You Clean Out Their Housing?
Regular maintenance is the best you can do. However, due to lack of manpower or resources, the cleaning can be diluted down to at least once or twice per week.
The frequency mostly depends on how many individual members you have in the enclosure, and how big the boundaries of the vivarium actually are. It also depends on the eating and defecating habits of the skink.
Some may require additional cleaning, while others may not make that much of a mess. Over time, a lot of dust and dead insects will accumulate, so you will need to clean out the tank regularly.
Things to look out for when cleaning include animal droppings, vomited food (check with a doctor if vomiting happens regularly), dead or rotten insect prey, dead plants, broken or chewed pieces of plants (leaves, branches, etc), and sometimes even dead skin.
Overall, at some point, you might have to clean out the entire tank. This should be done at most once a month. But if you can't afford it, we recommend just once every three or four months.
Are There Any Known Health Issues They May Get?
As stated previously, we know little to none about the natural habitat, lifespan, and habits of the red-eyed skink.
At best, you can lower the number of health issues they may get by looking out for obvious signs of disease. Do not invest in skinks which have visible parasites or deformities on them. Perform a thorough check of the mouth, ears, skin, claws, and eyes. Have the keeper show you inside the mouth and ears.
Look for a hint of liveliness and wakefulness in the skink. Dirty, dull, and sleepy eyes usually indicate either bad health, sleeping habits, or some sure form of internal infection. They may even signify dehydration.
If the parasites are present, then contact a professional veterinarian to find out the perfect cure for it.
The healthier ones should then be placed in permanent enclosures, either with each other or separately.
Once in captivity, most reptiles fall victim to the metabolic bone disease. This disease is caused by the deficiency of calcium as well as insufficient vitamin D3 present in the animal’s feed.
This is a big concern and is normally results in the skink being unable to process vitamin D3, which ultimately renders it useless for digesting and assimilating calcium.
This disease can be prevented through providing an adequate amount of calcium and D3 in powder form during every meal. The powder is best when administered via dusting on the regular food.
Are They A Good Pet For Beginners?
These skinks make for perfect pets, especially for beginners. All they need is proper housing, food, and water along with their ideal temperature and humidity. They are very easy to feed as well. You can feed them every 3 days so you don’t need to worry too much about their diet either.
However, they are harder to hold so, kids won’t like them as pets since they won’t find them to be more sociable.
Where Can I Buy A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink? Of course, you can buy them from your local pet stores. However, they are also available in online stores as well.
These stores can ship to many states in the US and even internationally. These websites may include Underground Reptiles and Blackwater Reptiles.
Can You Hold A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink? The Red Eyed Crocodile skink is one of the few lizard species that can speak when they are in stress or distress. They are very shy creatures otherwise.
However, their vocalization makes it much easier to care for them. You can easily tell if they are at discomfort or if they are hungry simply by hearing them.
Apart from that, being shy creatures, they do not like a lot of socializing.
So, handling them can cause a lot of distress. If you hold them that can freeze and play dead. You should not handle them too often. If you do decide too, they might be surprised and might try to jump out of your hands. They can even start vocalizing and calling out as a signal of distress.
They can even shed their tails if they feel too intimidated. So, we don’t recommend that you hold them for long.
How Much Does A Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Cost? Red Eyed Crocodile Skinks are quite inexpensive. They can be found in stores and most are often farm bred.
They can cost anywhere from $120 to about $170. However, the prices depend on how well the red crocodile is cared for and what stage of their life they are at.
Do Red-Eyed Crocodile Skinks Bite? The simple answer is no, but there are a lot of factors that come into play here. These animals, although may look deadly, are actually very harmless and sometimes very cowardly themselves. However, they can be quite unwelcoming as well.
They don’t like being handled. So if you try to pick up one, the poor reptile will start vocalizing and “screaming” loudly enough, which can be annoying. They may even try to play dead or appear motionless to dissuade any potential predators.
However, these are only minor inconveniences. In short, the red-eyed crocodile skink does not bite.
However, a bit of precaution never hurt anyone. Sometimes the animals may scratch you in self-defense, so be careful when handling them. Use gloves or a cloth to hold up the animal.
If the animal is sick or infected, then you would surely like to take as many precautions as you can, lest you want to catch their disease. Furthermore, their squirming and attempting to escape may be harder to control, especially those of slightly younger skinks.
Do Red-Eyed Crocodile Skinks Swim?
If you really want to include a mini pond or pool in your vivarium, then be sure to only do so with adult skinks, as the younger ones might drown (again, there is little to no research on this, so just to be on the safe side).
All in all, red-eyed crocodile skinks are best suited for beginners as they are very easy to care for. These are beautiful creatures and can even vocalize. You can easily find them on online stores or in regular pet stores. We hope our red-eyed crocodile skink guide helped quench your thirst for knowledge on these creatures.
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