Arid Skink Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Aug. 17, 2023
Schneider's skink

In This Article


Arid Skink Species Overview

Skinks are a large family of smooth-bodied, short-legged lizards. This care sheet outlines basic care needs for various arid skink species, including: 

  • Peter’s banded skinks 

  • Schneider's skinks

Peter’s banded skinks typically reach lengths of 8–10 inches in adulthood, making them smaller than Schneider's skinks. These lizards have white skin on their bellies, short tails, and alternating yellow/orange and black bands over their backs. They may have a large spot of black skin on their heads and lighter black bands on their backs. Peter’s banded skinks enjoy burrowing in substrate. 

Peter’s banded skinks are nocturnal (most active at night), while Schneider’s skinks are diurnal (most active during the day). Most arid skinks will spend a good deal of time hiding or burrowing in their habitat’s substrate.  

Schneider’s skinks have white skin on their bellies with olive-brown skin and orange specks along their backs. These skinks have long bodies, strong limbs, and short snouts. They enjoy climbing on small rocks and basking in the sun.  

Skinks can break off their tails as a defense mechanism to escape and run away from predators. Therefore, they should NEVER be held or restrained by their tails. 

All reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, including Salmonella bacteria, which is zoonotic (transmittable to humans). Pet parents should always wash their hands before and after handling their skink or its habitat’s contents. 

Arid Skink Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan 

Up to 15+ years, depending on species 

Average Adult Size 

8–18 inches 


Peter’s banded skink: Insectivorous (insect-eating); Schneider’s skink: Omnivorous 

Minimum Habitat Size 

Peter’s banded skink: minimum 20-gallon tank for one adult; Schneider’s skink: minimum 30-gallon tank for one adult 

Arid Skink Supply Checklist

To keep an arid skink happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

Arid Skink Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

Skinks are fast, active lizards that need plenty of space to roam, exercise, and burrow. A single adult Peter’s banded skink should be housed in a tank that’s at least 20 gallons. Schneider’s skinks are slightly larger, so adults need an enclosure that’s 30 gallons or larger. Since skinks enjoy running more than climbing, the enclosure’s width is more important than its height. All enclosures should have a screened lid to allow for proper ventilation and prevent escape. 

If more than one lizard is housed in the same habitat, the enclosure’s side should be increased accordingly. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Tanks for Peter’s banded skinks (20+ gallons for one adult) 

  • Tanks for Schneider’s skinks (30+ gallons for one adult) 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Habitat Mates 

Arid skinks are social animals and can be housed together successfully if the habitat is large enough. Lizards should always be introduced to each other slowly, in neutral territory, and under close supervision to ensure they are compatible.  

Opposite-sex skinks should not be kept in the same habitat unless the pet parent is prepared for them to breed. Never mix different species of reptiles in the same habitat. 


Arid skinks need a thermal gradient in their enclosure so they can warm up and cool down as needed. The recommended temperature for the warm end of an arid skink’s habitat is 95–110 F, while the cooler end should be kept at 80 to 85 F. Do not allow tank temperatures to fall below 75 F at night. 

Pet parents must check the temperatures of their skink's habitat daily. Two thermometers should be placed in the enclosure so that both the warmer and cooler zones can be checked at once. A digital point-and-shoot thermometer can also be used to read habitat temperatures.

Recommended Products: 

Light & Heat Sources 

Skinks are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. Use an incandescent light or ceramic heat emitter to create a basking area in a skink’s habitat. The wattage needed for the heat bulb will vary depending on the room’s temperature, the size of the skink’s enclosure, and the distance of the bulb from the skink. Adjust the wattage of the bulb to maintain the recommended temperature gradient within the tank.

Some bulbs provide not only light, but also heat and ultraviolet (UV) light, so be sure you are able to distinguish between them.

All heat sources should be attached to a thermostat to keep temperatures within a safe and comfortable range. 

Hot rocks should not be used because they can become too warm and cause injury to your skink.

Under-tank heaters are not recommended, as skinks enjoy burying in their substrate and may burn themselves on the heater. If an under-tank heater is used, it must be controlled with a thermostat to keep the habitat’s temperature within a safe range and prevent the skink from getting burned. 

Recommended Products:  

  • Light Fixtures & Hoods 

  • Heat Support 

  • Thermostats 

At night, turn off lights in the enclosure, or switch to a nocturnal heat bulb or a ceramic heat emitter that does not produce light. White lights should not be left continuously, as they will disrupt a skink’s natural sleep cycle and negatively affect their overall health.

Recommended Products: 

UV Light 

Pet parents should shine a full-spectrum UV light on their skink’s habitat for 10–12 hours each day. Lizards need daily exposure to UVB rays so they can produce vitamin D in their skin, which in turn allows them to absorb dietary calcium. Without adequate UVB exposure, arid skinks are at a greater risk of developing a range of life-threatening illnesses, including metabolic bone disease. 

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on bulb placement relative to the pet.

UV light intensity will decrease over time, and they should be replaced every six months even if the bulb still emits light.

Using light timers is recommended.

Recommended Products: 

  • UV Light Emitters 

  • Timers 


Humidity should be maintained at 40–60 percent and monitored with a hygrometer (humidity gauge). When humidity levels fall too low in their habitat, skinks will retain their shed skin and are at a greater risk of respiratory tract infection. To increase humidity, pet parents can mist their skink’s habitat and décor as needed. To decrease humidity, ensure the tank is well-ventilated so that humid air can escape. 

Recommended Products: 


The bottom of an arid skink’s habitat should be lined with 1–2 inches of loose substrate so the lizard can dig and burrow. A pelleted, paper-based substrate is recommended because it’s soft and digestible. 

Gravel, wood chips, and walnut shells are not recommended because they are indigestible and can lead to fatal gastrointestinal obstruction if consumed. Reptile carpet should also be avoided since it does not allow skinks to perform their natural behavior of digging and burrowing. 

If the pet parent chooses to use a particulate-matter substrate (such as sand, soil, wood chips, or walnut shells) in their arid skink's enclosure, the reptile should be fed in a separate enclosure without any bedding. Otherwise, they may accidentally consume bedding particles that are indigestible and can cause gastrointestinal obstruction. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

Food dishes: Food should be offered in a shallow dish off the floor or in a feeding tank without bedding to lessen the chance of a skink accidentally eating its tank’s substrate. Use worm dishes to keep wiggling live prey in one area. Food and water dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily. 

Recommended Products: 

Hiding area: Provide your arid skink with two hiding areas placed on either side of the enclosure (one on the warm side, one on the cool side). In addition to offering privacy and security, hideouts allow skinks to have a space away from their enclosure’s direct basking area.  

If more than one arid skink is housed in the same enclosure, make sure each lizard has its own dedicated hiding spots. 

Hideouts should not be placed directly in line with a heat source. 

Pet parents should monitor their skinks to ensure that they are getting enough UV light balanced with the ability to hide.

Recommended Products: 

Climbing branches and basking rocks: A flat basking rock or sturdy branch will allow your skink to climb and bask as needed. 

Basking branches must be large and sturdy enough to support the skink’s body. Otherwise, the branch could topple over and potentially cause injury. 

Recommended Products: 

Arid Skink Cleaning & Maintenance

Spot-clean your skink's habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls should be washed daily. 

An arid skink’s habitat must also be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly at least once a week (or more often if more than one skink lives in the same habitat). Remember to wash your hands before and after handling your skink or its habitat’s contents. 

Recommended Products: 

To clean a skink’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Move the skink to a secure environment. Remove any old substrate, décor, and accessories from the habitat. 

  1. Scrub the empty tank and any furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. The bleach solution should stay on the habitat for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the surfaces are properly disinfected. If using a commercial habitat cleaner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.  

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate and clean accessories into the habitat. 

  1. Return the skink to the clean habitat. 

Arid Skink Diet & Nutrition

Young arid skinks should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every two to three days. An arid skink’s ideal diet will vary depending on species: 

As insectivores, Peter’s banded skinks primarily feed on live insects. Pet parents should offer their Peter’s banded skink: 

A variety of gut-loaded (recently fed) insects, including:

  • Crickets

  • Roaches

  • Small mealworms

  • Calci-worms

  • Waxworms

Recommended Products: 

Small amounts of fruits and vegetables, including various leafy greens, peas, squash, carrots, and berries. 

As omnivores, Schneider’s skinks should be offered a diet of live insects and frozen/thawed pinkie mice. They also eat small amounts of leafy greens and fruit. 

Frozen food must be thawed before being offered.  

Recommended Products:  

All pet skinks need three vitamin supplements in their diet:

  • A calcium supplement with vitamin D

  • A calcium supplement without vitamin D

  • A multivitamin powder designed for reptiles

Administer vitamin supplements by lightly dusting insects with each powder before feeding the bugs to skinks. 

Alternate between the two types of calcium supplements between feedings. If a calcium supplement with vitamin D was used for their last feeding session, then a calcium supplement without vitamin D should be used next.

A multivitamin powder should be used once or twice a week. 

To dust insects quickly and efficiently, place insects in a bag or disposable plastic container along with a powdered supplement. Then, shake the bag lightly until the insects are coated evenly in powder. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Calcium Supplements with Vitamin D 

  • Calcium Supplements without Vitamin D 

  • Reptile Multivitamins 

Other Feeding Guidelines & Tips 

When feeding insects, only offer gut-loaded (recently fed) insects no bigger than the space between the lizard’s eyes. Never offer more insects at one time than your lizard can eat within a few minutes. Overfeeding leads to obesity, and uneaten insects can chew and damage lizards’ skin. 

Uneaten fruits and vegetables should be discarded after 10 hours. 

Meals should be offered in a dish, instead of being placed directly on the floor of the enclosure. Otherwise, the skink may eat some of its substrate accidentally, which can lead to fatal gastrointestinal obstruction. 

Live rodents should not be fed. While still alive, rodents can become aggressive and leave severe wounds that lead to life-threatening infections. 

How to Gut-load Insects 

Gut-loading diets are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help provide optimal nutrition to the reptiles that feed on them. To gut-load prey, pet parents need to place insects in a container with a gut-loading diet that the bugs can gorge on. Insects should be gut-loaded for at least 24–72 hours before being dusted with a vitamin supplement and fed to a skink. 

Recommended Products: 

  • Gut-loading Supplements 

  • Insect Housing 

  • Insect Diets 

How to Thaw Frozen Prey 

To thaw frozen prey: 

  1. Remove the needed number of food items from the bag. 

  1. Put the frozen food in a sealed plastic bag and place it in a thawing container filled with cold water. The thawing container should only be used for thawing your reptile’s frozen meals. 

  1. Keep the food in the water until it thaws. Discard the cold water. 

  1. Refill the thawing container with warm water. 

  1. Place the thawed prey, still in the sealed plastic bag, in the warm water. Allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes before discarding the water. 

  1. Just before feeding, run nearly hot water over the thawed food to warm it above room temperature. 

  1. Remove the thawed food from the container and plastic bag.  

  1. Using feeding tongs, offer the food to the pet right away. 

Never use a microwave to thaw or warm frozen rodents, and never offer food that's still frozen to a pet. Frozen food that is not consumed should never be re-frozen for future use, as this encourages bacteria to form in the food.  

Avoid preparing frozen rodents in the same area that you use to prepare food. If this is unavoidable, be sure to disinfect the area thoroughly after use. 

Arid Skink Grooming & Care

Shedding: Healthy arid skinks will shed their skin regularly. It’s important to keep their habitats’ humidity levels between 10–35 percent to encourage healthy shed cycles. 

To aid in shedding, skinks should have access to a humid hide filled with moistened sphagnum moss or substrate. 

Unlike snakes, lizards shed their skin in patches rather than a single, complete piece. 

Soak your skink in a large, shallow container of warm water once a week (or more often if the pet is having trouble shedding) to help the lizard shed its skin more easily. The water container should be wide enough to allow the lizard to submerge its entire body while keeping its head above water. 

Arid Skink Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Arid skinks should be seen by a veterinarian once annually. They can be transported using a travel carrier. Carriers can be made with tupperware containers that will need traction on the bottom and plenty of ventilation from the tops and sides. It is recommended to take pictures of your skink’s enclosure, diet, heaters, lights, etc. so your veterinarian can assess their care at home as part of the exam.

Signs of a Healthy Arid Skink

  • Clean, clear, bright eyes

  • Intact skin

  • Even muscling throughout, including into the tail

  • Good appetite

  • Alert personality

  • No lumps, bumps, or swellings

  • Easy movement and posturing

  • Appropriate basking behavior

  • Clean vent

When to Call a Vet

  • Eyes are swollen, sunken, stuck shut, dull, or have discharge

  • Pink ulcerations of the skin or mouth

  • Decreased appetite or refusing food (unless seasonally appropriate)

  • Failing to bask

  • Failing to burrow or climb when applicable

  • Lethargy

  • Discharge, swelling, or protrusions from vent

  • Lumps, bumps, or swellings

  • Cannot ambulate or posture appropriately

  • Muscle atrophy

  • Stuck shed, especially around the toes, extra especially if any are swollen

Common Illnesses in Arid Skinks

Arid Skink FAQs

What does a skink need to survive?

Skinks need an enclosure suitable to their needs. Some prefer to dig and burrow, others to climb. They need appropriate temperatures and humidity in their enclosure, including a basking area for arid skinks. Maintaining access to water and a nutritionally balanced diet is important, as is providing a place for hiding to keep stress levels low.

Do Schneider skinks like to be handled?

Schneider skinks aren’t as naturally interested in being handled as their cousin the blue-tongued skink, but with practice they can enjoy being handled also.

Can you keep a wild five lined skink as a pet?

While five lined skinks make great pets, they should not be taken from the wild. This presents a risk of disease and parasite transmission, not just to other reptiles but also to you.

How often do you feed Schneider skinks?

A Schneider skink’s diet needs change with their age. When they’re young, they need to be fed daily, but as they become adults this can be reduced to just 2–3 times per week.

Can I keep a wild skink as a pet?

Wild animals should be left in the wild. Wild skinks can transmit disease and parasites to you, other pets, and other reptiles in the home.

Do skinks need to be wet?

Some skink species need wet substrate to burrow in to maintain healthy skin and shedding, while arid skink species can become ill if always wet or living in too high humidity.

Featured Image:

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health