The ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus) is a 7-9” long, diurnal, terrestrial lizard native to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and some coastal areas of the Arabian peninsula. Their habitat features sandy, sometimes stony soil, scrubby vegetation, and arid to semiarid conditions.
Ocellated skinks have a small, triangular head, long cylindrical body, short limbs, tapered tail, smooth scales, and long toes on the hind legs. Most ocellated skinks in the US pet trade have a tan base color with small black and white spots, black eyes, and a pale belly.
Due to their hardiness and outgoing personalities, ocellated skinks are beginner-level pets. However, they are not a good choice for anyone looking for a pet reptile that will tolerate regular handling.
Minimum terrarium size for ocellated skinks
The minimum terrarium size for an ocellated skink is 30”L x 12”W x 12”H, or a 20 gallon “long” tank. Of course, larger is always better — if you provide, they will use it!
While ocellated skinks do fine when housed singly, they can also be housed in groups. A 36” x 18” x 18” enclosure can hold up to 3 individuals. However, cohabiting is best avoided unless you can confirm the sex of each skink, as this species is livebearing.
Do ocellated skinks need UVB?
Ocellated skinks are diurnal, so they need high-quality UVB lighting as part of their setup. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your skink needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for ocellated skinks are:
- Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6%
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0
For best results, house the UVB bulb in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. The bulb should be roughly half the length of the enclosure. Mount this lamp 9-11” above the basking surface if over mesh, and if not, then it should be 12-14” above the basking surface.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window isn’t “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Ocellated skinks are likely to benefit from bright grow lights as part of their environment. Add a full-length ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination.
Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter. This should be done gradually to simulate seasonal changes in day length, and helps regulate your skink’s hormonal rhythm for better health.
Best temperature for ocellated skinks
Ocellated should have a basking surface temperature of 110-120°F and cool side temperature between 75-85°F. Heat sources should be turned off at night. Place a digital probe thermometer on the cool side of the enclosure to make sure it never gets too warm, and use an infrared temperature gun to check the temperature of the sand directly under the heat lamp.
It’s best to provide heat for your skink with a low-wattage halogen flood heat bulb. Heat bulbs (especially halogens) are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. The heat lamp should be placed on one side of the enclosure. If the heat lamp is too warm, dim it with a plug-in lamp dimmer. If too cool, you need a higher-wattage bulb.
Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for ocellated skinks
Ocellated skinks need 15-35% humidity during the day and a spike up to 90-100% at night. The best way to accomplish this is by spraying the enclosure with water each night, or installing a fogger to run for a few hours every night.
Humidity levels can be measured with a digital probe hygrometer with the probe in the middle of the terrarium.
Best substrate for ocellated skinks
Ocellated skinks need a layer of substrate around 4” deep so they can dig and burrow, which is a natural behavior for them. The best substrates for ocellated skinks include:
- Zoo Med ReptiSand
- Exo Terra Desert Sand
To keep the substrate clean and your lizard healthy, remove old food and waste every day, along with contaminated substrate. Using a sand scoop can be very helpful. But you will need to completely remove and replace your substrate every 3-4 months.
How to decorate an ocellated skink terrarium
It’s terribly boring (and stressful!) for a lizard to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and food/water bowls. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with.
Here are some ideas:
- small logs and branches
- stacks of flat rocks (secured)
- additional hides
- live or artificial plants
It’s also best practice to cover three sides of the enclosure to help the skink feel more secure in its environment!
What to feed to an ocellated skink
Ocellated skinks are insectivorous, which means that they eat mostly insects and other invertebrates. Here’s a basic feeding schedule for your pet ocellated skink:
- Juveniles — daily
- Adults — 2-3x/week
- Pregnant and postpartum females — daily
Variety is the key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your ocellated skink. The more variety you can provide, the better!
Ocellated skinks will also occasionally take finely chopped greens, vegetables, and fruit. This can be offered as often as 2x/week.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your skink healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl for your skink to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your ocellated skink
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and this holds true for ocellated skinks. Instead of trying to pick up and hold your skink (they’re very fast and slippery!), try hand-feeding via feeding tweezers or even straight from your hand!
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet! We recommend the following sources: