How to Care for a Blue-Tailed Skink

By Gayle Rodcay

The blue-tailed skink is one of the most common lizards found in the United States. Also called the five-lined skink because of the five cream-colored lines along the top and sides of its body, this little guy grows to a maximum length of about 8.5 inches, including its 5-inch tail. Young skinks have a bright-blue tail, which distracts predators' attention away from its body and breaks off when the young lizard is attacked. Blue-tailed skinks are lively with a lot of personality and make a good pet if you know how to provide the proper environment and care.

Give your skink plenty of leaves and branches to hide under.

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Set up a suitable habitat. A 10-gallon glass or Plexiglas aquarium makes a good terrarium for your blue-tailed skink. Length is more important than height as these lizards rarely climb. Cover the bottom of the enclosure with a substrate such as soil, sand, newspaper or bark or a commercial product. Place branches, leaf litter and other debris in the tank to give him plenty of hiding places to feel safe and to get out of the heat. If you use live plants in the terrarium, put them in pots because you will need to replace the substrate periodically. In their natural habitat, these skinks like to crawl out on rocks to soak up the sun so be sure to include several fairly large rocks for him. Every few days, use a spray bottle to mist the terrarium to provide humidity for your skink and plants.

Provide the proper temperature. Use a heat source such as a commercial under-tank heater or a heating mat to keep the terrarium warm. The heat source needs to have a temperature regulator so you can keep the temperature between 85 and 90 degrees. Place the heater under only one side of the terrarium so that it has a warm side and a cool side. The cool side should remain between 72 and 80 degrees. This allows your skink to get out of the heat when he gets too warm.

Provide proper lighting. Use an aquarium hood that contains an incandescent or UV light bulb. Place the bulb so that it shines on the hot side of the tank. Set a timer so the light is on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours each day.

Keep the terrarium clean. Remove leftover food and fecal matter weekly. Each month, move your skink to a separate enclosure while you clean his terrarium. Remove the substrate and wash the bottom and sides with a reptile cage cleaner from your local pet store or a 5 percent bleach solution. Rinse well and add new substrate.

Feed a healthy diet. Your skink's diet should consist mainly of crickets and mealworms. For variety, add grasshoppers, beetles and other small insects and spiders. Feed him every two days until he is full and no longer looking around for more food. Every two to three days, supplement his diet with a reptile multivitamin and crickets dusted with calcium powder. Make sure he has a dish of water available at all times. A dish large enough for him to crawl into and get wet is ideal.