The pink-tongued skink (Cyclodomorphus gerrardii) is a 15-18” long, nocturnal, semi-arboreal lizard native to the states of New South Wales and Queensland in Australia. They can be found in sub-tropical habitats such as sclerophyll forest, rainforest, and moist woodlands.
Pink-tongued skinks have blunt triangular heads, prominent brow ridges, an elongated but robust body, smooth scales, short limbs, and a long tapered tail. They are usually light brown to gray, with broad dark bands from their neck to the tip of the tail.
Pink-tongued skinks can make excellent pets due to their docile dispositions. However, due to their specialized diet, this is an intermediate-level pet reptile. With excellent care, they have a lifespan of up to 20 years.
Minimum terrarium size for pink-tongued skinks
The minimum terrarium size for a pink-tongued skink is 36”L x 18”W x 36”H to provide space for both terrestrial and arboreal movement. Of course if you want to provide larger, do it! They will use as much space as you are willing to give them.
Housing multiple pink-tongued skinks in the same terrarium is not recommended, and is likely to result in fighting and injuries if attempted.
Do pink-tongued skinks need UVB?
Despite being nocturnal, pink-tongued skinks are known to do best when they have access to appropriate UVB lighting. UVB helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for pink-tongued skinks are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 22”
- Arcadia Forest 6%, 22”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. If the lamp is positioned over mesh, the basking area should be placed 7-11” below for best results. If the lamp is mounted inside the enclosure, the basking area should be placed 12-18” below instead.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “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!
Best temperature for pink-tongued skinks
Pink-tongued skinks should have a cooler basking temperature of 90-95°F. The cool side temperature should stay between 75-80°F, and heat sources should be turned off at night. Nighttime temperatures should drop no lower than 68°F, however. Measure temperatures with two digital probe thermometers — one on the basking branch, and one on the cool end of the setup.
Provide heat for your pink-tongued skink with two halogen heat bulbs placed close together. Halogen heat bulbs are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
Best humidity levels for pink-tongued skinks
As a subtropical species, pink-tongued skinks need humidity levels generally between 70-90% to stay adequately hydrated. You can measure the humidity in your skink’s enclosure with a digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
You can increase humidity by misting the enclosure with a spray bottle at least once daily. If you live in a dry climate, it may be a good idea to also run a fogger at night. It’s also wise to provide a humid hideout lined with moistened sphagnum moss.
Best substrate for pink-tongued skinks
“Loose” substrates that mimic a reptile’s natural environment present a low impaction risk, cushion the animal’s joints, and offer a place where they can exercise natural burrowing behaviors. These substrates also help maintain correct humidity levels.
We recommend the following substrates for pink-tongued skinks:
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a pink-tongued skink terrarium
An empty terrarium leads to a stressed skink. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of decor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors. This will also make your skink more rewarding as a pet!
At bare minimum, you will need at least two ground hides, a climbing/basking branch, and some foliage. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
- cork hollows
- climbing branches
- thick/braided vines
- additional hides
- live or artificial plants
What to feed to a pink-tongued skink
Pink-tongued skinks are almost exclusive snail eaters, which can be the most challenging part about keeping them as a pet. Do not collect snails from the wild, as these are likely to be contaminated with disease and/or chemicals. Instead, you will need to use frozen escargot snails or canned snails. You can even breed your own supply of golden apple snails
Juveniles should be fed every day, and adults every other day. One meal is going to be between 4-10 snails, depending on the size and how hungry your pet is. Fruit treats such as mango can be occasionally offered.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your skink healthy, and to replace the lack of snail shells in your pet’s diet. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your skink’s feeder insects and organ or muscle meats. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your pink-tongued skink
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, pink-tongued skinks tend to tolerate human interaction well. Here are some tips for success:
- Don’t grab the skink from above. Instead, scoop from below.
- Let the skink come to you.
- Support as much of its body as possible.
- Let it climb on you.
- Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
- Put the skink back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.
*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!