The red eyed crocodile skink is also known as the Red-Eyed Busch Crocodile skink, Orange-Eyed Crocodile Skinks, or Tribbles.
This lizard is becoming a famous increasing pet in the United States since 1994 when it was introduced in the pet trade.
As a native of tropical forests of Indonesia, and New Guinea, this crepuscular lizard is mostly found scurrying across the ground and climbing latticework, plants, and branches.
Types Of Red Eyed Crocodile Skink
There are eight identified species in the genus Tribolonotus, found from Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands.
- novaeguineae (Irian Jaya) and Tribolonotus gracilis (from Papua New Guinea, Admiralty Islands) are the only two species of Tribolonotus commonly found in the pet trade.
Six other species are:
- annectent (New Britain, Bismarck Archipelago)
- ponceleti (Solomon Islands)
- pseudoponceleti (Solomon Islands)
- blanchardi (Solomon Islands)
- brongersmai (Admiralty Islands, Bismarck Archipelago)
- schmidti (Solomon Islands).
Live imports of T. novaeguineae and T. gracilis for the pet trade started in the mid-1990s to North America and Europe. Although red-eyed crocodile skinks are rarely imported, they can be easily found living under forest remains, most times, near water.
The rise in deforestation of their natural habitat and increase in coconut plantations has led these cuties to adapt to living on coconut plantations among piles of coconut husks.
Characteristics or Personality of Red-Eyed Busch Crocodile skink
The red-eyed crocodile skink possesses strong, stout legs and body and is a dark brown laterally and dorsally, with a yellow, cream-coloured underbelly.
It gets part of its popular name “Crocodile skink” from its four rows of dorsal, backwards-curving keeled scales, each one tapering to a point, which looks like the dorsal scales of a crocodile.
The flanks of T. novaeguineae have small keeled scales, whereas T. gracilis have tubercles. The T. novaeguineae has only a small patch of light orange-to-yellow colouration at the front of the eyes, while the T.gracilis iris is dark brown and designed by a bright reddish-orange semicircle of scales.
The two skink types measure 8 to 10 centimetres (snout to vent), with a tail roughly the same length as the body.
Juveniles have the same skin texture and body type as adults but vary in their eye colouration and head. The head of a juvenile T.gracilis is cream-brown coloured; the eyes have no sign of the reddish-orange scales that the adults have and have a light blue iris.
Mature colouration becomes visible from 6 months of age upwards.
Red-eyed crocodile skinks are active mostly at dusk and dawn and are shy lizards. They can also give hearable vocal sounds when defending their young or threatened. There are differences between male and female vocalization (sexual acoustical dimorphism) in these animals.
These lizards with 8-10 inch are more of a visual pet than one that likes to be handled often. Croc skinks will vocalize when in distress which is meant to alarm the captor (sometimes resulting in a startling drop reflex on the handler’s part), and many even play dead to getaway.
Juveniles have the biggest tendency to play dead than adults. This unique species of skink are masters at “tail dropping” when startled too.
Their unique appearance, small stature, and short life span of about 8-10 years make the skink a far more ideal pet for lots of apartment residents. Juveniles are usually dark brown with a white back stripe.
Adults, however, are solid dark reddish-brown with bright orange around the eyes, giving them a beautiful and striking appearance.
Red-Eyed Crocodile are generally maintained in a 10-gallon or 20-gallon aquarium or another tank of similar size.
Screen types are necessary for this species to maximize ventilation. Two skink tank mates can be kept in a 10-gallon enclosure as long as both skinks are female or one is male and the other a female.
Two males will stress and fight each other all day till one dies. A 20-gallon tank can comfortably house 3-4 lizards. The bigger the enclosure, the better!
Other options for enclosures include sweater box style containers that can be modified for lighting, heating, and ventilation.
These reptiles are not total tree-dwellers. Instead, these skinks are commonly terrestrial with an excellent climbing ability which should be considered when picking an enclosure.
Red eyed crocodile skink care sheet and information get more interesting…
- Cage Accessories
A natural-looking terrarium can be designed using live potted plants such as orchids, bromeliads, and Sansevierias, which stay relatively small.
Fake plants can be used without worry and give the same effect as natural plants but do not create humidity.
Potted plants should always be herbicide and herbicide-free in case of accidental ingestion of the soil or plant by the reptile. Plants are visually pleasing to wonders and offer security and enrichment for the skinks in the enclosure.
It is ideal for supplying as much foliage and shrubbery as possible.
Hides in the forms of small cork logs, rock caves (not heat caves), and other creative locations should be placed in at least two locations in the enclosure. Preferably, one hide area should be provided on the warm end and another on the cooler end to promote thermoregulation with minimal stress on the animal.
Small rocks, branches, and bark can also be added to the enclosure for basking and climbing purposes. These skinks love sun-basking. So, ensure there is a branch closer to the basking light for normal behaviour.
The importance of a water dish cannot be overemphasized as it increases the Crocodile skink enclosure. Ideally, the water dish should be shallow enough for the lizard to walk in without sinking out of sight but deep enough that the water comes up to their shoulders for soaking.
It is advisable to remove the water dish if you feed live crickets as they tend to jump towards the water and drown. However, almost all skinks will avoid a deceased prey.
Two thermometers should be used to ensure that the proper temperatures are being maintained.
The cool end of the enclosure should have the thermometer an inch above the substrate. The thermometer on the warmer end of the enclosure should be at the level of the basking site.
Daytime temperatures are generally maintained at 75-78°F Fahrenheit with a basking spot of 80-82°F. This is not a species that like high heat.
The basking spot should be situated ideally with a rock over the heating cable or under the tank heater and directly underneath the basking light. A branch high enough to rest under the basking spot is recommended, too, as long as the reptile has no direct contact with the lamp itself. Care must be taken to prevent burns from basking lights by raising the lamp itself off the cage screen.
You can add a fine wire mesh cage that can be treated around the lamp area to stop accidental burns for best safety.
When using heat cable or under tank heaters to increase the ambient temperature of the enclosure, proper carefulness must be followed so that the animal never contacts the heating element or the plastic, glass or wire over it. In addition, a layer of the substrate must be provided over the enclosure floor to avoid burns.
At night, the temperatures can go down to 68°F degrees Fahrenheit but are best maintained between 70°F and 72°F degrees.
If the ambient temperature in the reptile room drops blows 68°F, it is advisable to utilize the ceramic heat emitter (does not give off visible light) under tank heaters, heat cable.
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The humidity levels in the skink’s enclosure should be maintained at 70-90%. A water dish is an excellent way to keep the humidity up, especially when placed over an under tank heater.
Misting 2-3 times a day can keep the humidity levels up, but saran wrap may be required to cover half the screen lid to maintain the humidity in the room.
Also, a full-screen enclosure may need saran wrap on one or two slides to prevent excessive drying of the enclosure. Finally, a misting system or drip system is great for maintaining humidity and allow the skink to drink droplets. Some reptiles may learn to use a water dish but offering water droplets on leaves is a great way to begin.
Every reptile benefits from some form of UVB lighting. The best is natural sunlight, but most captive reptiles rely on specialized UVB emitting bulbs.
Red eyed crocodile skink tank mates rely on specialized UVB emitting bulbs. A 5.0 UVB bulb found at most local pet stores selling reptiles supplies are a great way to begin. The UVB light should be on 12 hours a day during day.
Crocodile skinks are majorly terrestrial, but they do not dig or burrow.
A great substrate to use for an enclosure would be outdoor/indoor or reptile carpet, which is more visually pleasing than newspaper and easier to clean than a paper towel. All are excellent choices for a hygienic cage setup.
Plants can be potted in topsoil only to avoid accidental ingestion of toxic materials. Naturalistic vivariums can be created but are beyond the scope of this care sheet.
The Crocodile skink is a true insectivore, relishing small crickets, small red worms, small roaches (such as Dubias), and small redworms (“red wrigglers”).
Heads up: Whatever food item you choose to feed your crocodile skinks must be live and only half the size of the skink’s head.
Young lizards and hatchlings should be offered 2-3 food items once a day, and adults should be given 2-3 food items every other day. Feeder insects should be kind of gut loaded but feeding them dark leafy greens such as kale, carrots or endive (for more vitamin A) 1 or two days before feeding to the skink.
This type of gut loading aids in keeping the prey alive longer. Ensure to take out uneaten food after an hour.
Breeding Red-Eyed Crocodile Skinks
Red-eyed crocodile skinks are aggressive toward others of the same sex, especially males toward other males, but pairs and their young may all live within a range of a few square feet inside the same enclosure.
Red-eyed crocodile skinks Tank mates in Pairs occupy the same nest, which they will aggressively defend, especially when an egg is present.
Single laid eggs are buried inside a hide, slightly below the surface of the substrate. This can happen every week for five to six weeks.
Although Female red-eyed crocodile skinks possess two working ovaries, only the right oviduct is functioning; therefore, eggs from the left ovary must migrate across the body cavity before oviposition.
Six eggs or more can be laid, approximately six weeks apart, during the wet (breeding) season, which occurs in Papua New Guinea between December and March. However, in captivity, breeding can be incited any period of the year by frequent misting and higher humidity.
Red-eyed crocodile skinks sexually mature around 3 to 4 years of age, and as they mature, they develop an orange-coloured throat.
Generally, the males are usually larger and more robust than females, but the size is never a strong indicator of sex.
A more guaranteed technique of checking sex is to photograph the underside of the skink through the glass bottom of a small, empty aquarium.
Male skinks possess greyish-blue, raised pores on the underside of the third, 4th and sometimes 5th toe of their hind feet. Males also have a rectangular section of 4 to 6 enlarged belly scales at the umbilicus, which I consider to be the most effective indicator of sex in red-eyed crocodile skinks.
Most of the breeding activity occurs between adult’s pairs in their love nest, as very little is yet known about this shy, secretive skink’s breeding behaviour.
Causing the right conditions for reproduction should start well before trying to breed them. A healthy adult love pair should be picked and provided time to settle into their environment, which should have at least 3 square feet of floor space.
Ideally, pairing should coincide with the dry season in Papua New Guinea, which happens from June to September. During this period, feed the skinks every other day with a wide array of worms, grubs, and insects, the most of the diet being earthworms and crickets.
Prey should be gut-loaded with nutritious feed and sprayed or dusted every second feeding with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements.
Keeping And Breeding Crocodile Skinks
By providing different hiding spots, you allow the skinks to choose the ones they feel most comfortable in. For example, slightly covered pieces of cork bark or large coconut huts work well.
If the tank mates ate compatible, they’d eventually choose to stay together in a single hide. Make an indentation, several inches deep, directly underneath the selected hide and fill it with a loosely packed, slightly damp mixture of potting soil and peat moss for the pair to dig into.
Humidity must be maintained to around 7% during the dry season, with occasional misting if needed.
As the breeding season approaches, put humidity higher at 85 to 90 per cent by misting many times a day. Temperatures may rise and fall a little bit during day and night, but they should stay between 73 and 81 degrees, with warmer temperatures associated with the breeding (wet) season.
As egg-laying begins, one leathery, 0.8-inch, oval egg is laid and buried inside the hide, slightly below the surface of the substrate, every 5-6 weeks, up to 6 times per breeding season.
Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Ailments
Not so much is known about Tribolonotus and parasites, and healthy, wild-caught animals have proven to experience sudden death, even after years in captivity.
So, when buying red-eyed crocodile skinks, there are lots of things to look for. First, examine the skink for any external parasites, deformities/ and or wounds.
Second, look for eyes that are alert, shiny, and clear. Dull-looking eyes are an excellent sign of dehydration and/or illness. Lastly, look at the animal’s general demeanour. For example, red-eyed crocodile skinks are naturally alert but may often remain motionless, try to escape, vocalize or even play dead when handled.
Once a new one arrives, they should be singularly guaranteed in small, sparsely decorated containers like plastic sweater box with moist paper towel substrate, a coconut hide, and a shallow water dish.
A faecal exam should be carried out as soon as possible, looking for other harmful micro-organisms and parasitic worms. I use praziquantel for flatworms, fenbendazole (Panacur) for roundworms, and metronidazole (Flagyl) for protozoans. If it passes these tests, it can then be moved to a more secure and permanent, fully decorated terrarium.
Metabolic bone disease, caused by a lack of calcium and/or vitamin D3 in the diet, is always a concern with captive reptiles. This is because reptiles cannot utilize vitamin D3 without UV light, and calcium cannot be properly metabolized without adequate vitamin D3 present.
Good news! MBD can easily be avoided by dusting food items every second meal with a mixture of vitamin D3 supplements and calcium powder.
Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Care of Eggs and Young
The best hatching results are gotten via artificial incubating the eggs. First, remove each egg from the nest and place it, half-buried, into a little ventilated container covered with moist peat moss.
Take proper care not to reposition the egg from its original orientation in the nest. The perfect moisture level in the incubation should be one that, when tightly squeezed, no more water will drip from the peat.
Skinks that are still juvenile should be fed daily, and their food dusted with D3/Calcium supplements at every other feeding.
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So far, the egg remains plump; no more water should be introduced to the incubation medium. Although some sweating and dimpling might occur naturally in eggs that are about to hatch, an indented egg is usually dead, dehydrated, and a sweating egg is generally about to die or is already a corpse.
If faced with a necessity to add more water to the incubation container, add it to the hatching medium. Be careful not to get any water on the egg itself.
From 65 to 85 days, at 73 to 81 degrees, egg incubation will be completed. Before hatching, the baby skink will make one or more slits in its eggshell, from which it will emerge.
Hatchlings are rather unusually small at 6 to 8 centimetres and weighing about 3 to 5 grams. Within several hours of hatching, newborn skinks will be on the lookout for hiding spots and food.
Egg incubation time varies from 65 to 85 days at 73 to 81 degrees. Just before hatching, the baby skink will make one or more small slits in its eggshell, from which it will emerge. Hatchlings are quite small at 6 to 8 centimetres and 3 to 5 grams. Within several hours of hatching, newborn skinks will be searching for food and hiding spots.
Small skinks should be fed daily, and their food dusted with D3/Calcium supplements at every other feeding. Juvenile and Hatchling skinks may be fed size-appropriate live prey, such as small crickets. Generally, prey width should be no larger than the pace between a skink’s eyes.
Red-eyed crocodile skinks are wonderful little dragon-like animals that can live for at least ten years in captivity, inspiring wonder and youth in their keepers and in all those who are fortunate enough to observe them or take care of them.
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