RESPONSIBLE PET OWNER CREED:
1) If you cannot afford or take care of an animal, do not get or breed the animal.
2) Never release an animal into the wild. Placing any living organism into the wild can throw the entire ecosystem into instability, resulting in a potential ecological disaster.
3) Treat the animal as you would want to be treated if you were that animal.
4) Provide adequate space for your animal in their cage.
5) If you already have an animal and do not want it anymore, find an appropriate organization to take it to.
6) Know the laws in your area (kids - this means the "laws" of your parents' home as well) regarding animals before proceeding to buy one or breed it.
7) If you see or know about ANY animal abuse going on, REPORT IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
8) If you have questions, simply ask an appropriate organization or do some research on the topic.
9) If you have health related questions, ASK A VETERNARIAN!
I keep 2 skinks in one 40 gallon breeder tank with a screen lid. I use a tank divider to keep them seperated. I used to keep them both in a 30 gallon tank until they had gotten into a bad fight. Luckily both were ok and are doing well now. If you have just one skink, a 30 gallon tank will work fine. You should use store bought play sand as a substrate; beach sand may have contaminants in it. Make sure there is at least 6 inches of sand in the tank. I put just over 100 lbs of sand per 40 gallon tank.
The tank should be set up with a cool end and a hot end. The daytime temperature for the hot end should be between 85-100F and the cool end should be around 70F. Nighttime temperatures should be around 70F. I use an under-tank heat mat and a heat light for warmth. If you are using a divided tank, use the center of the tank as the hot end.
The type of bulb you would want to use for the heat lamp would be a typical 40, 60, or 75 watt incandescent bulb depending on room temperature. The wattage of the bulb is not important, what is important is that it provides sufficient warmth for your skink. Do make sure though that the bulb you use is appropriate for the lamp it is going into; a bulb with too high of a wattage for a lamp becomes a fire hazard. Heat rocks may short circuit and can burn your skinks. You should avoid using them.
You should use a fluorescent light bulb specially designed for reptiles in order to provide your reptile with the proper UVA and UVB radiation. The fluorescent light bulbs sold in stores designed for typical house lamps contains no UVB radiation according to one of the leading manufacturers. One of the best bulbs to use for proper UVA and UVB radiation is the "Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB". This bulb comes in both a strip light and compact version. The place I bought my 2 UVB bulbs from was Big Apple Herpetological Supplies. I paid half the price that I would have if I had bought them from a pet shop; even after shipping and handling there was a savings of about $20. The bulbs were also shipped to me in excellent condition. It is because of the excellent shipment condition, quick delivery, and cheap prices that I am recommending this site. This bulb will cover the 290nm - 300nm UVB range needed for the development of D3. This vitamin D3 is needed for proper skeletal development. The UVB bulb should be placed over the same side of the cage as the heat lamp. The UVB is good for your reptiles. However the UVB lamp should only be used for a few hours or so (3-6 hours) per day, unlike the heat lamp which should be on for a much longer length of time each day (8-12 hours). The reason for this is because too much UVB exposure is not good for your reptile either. The UVA lighting plays a large role in their eating and mating behaviors. A lack of UVA lighting could cause your reptile to either not eat properly or even not eat at all. The best way to control the length of time that any lamp is used during a day is to set them up on a timer.
Provide a water dish and a cave or shelter of some sort to keep the skink cool. The shelter is also good, because it provides the reptile an opportunity to escape the UVB rays if they need to. Place these in the cool end of the tank. If you wish, you may decorate by adding live plants, but these are not essential. If you use live plants, make sure they are reptile safe. Purchase these live plants from pets shops or do some research on the topic.
It is important that people be aware of the fact that after over a decade of my adults sharing the same cage without a single problem, that on March 27th, 2008 my adults fought and the female lost one of her front legs. The female had undergone medical treatment and has since been removed from the cage with the male. My female is doing well once again. This was certainly an unforseen situation and a complete shock to me considering their temperment towards each other for the past decade, but is important to bring this to people's attention as something to be aware of for their own reptiles.
The sand is easy to clean. You can simply buy a sifter to scoop out the fecal matter. I would suggest washing the sand with hot water a few times a year and maybe replacing the old sand with new every year or two as needed.
Clean the water dish out every day with mild soap and water; rinse it well. You can also use soap and water to clean heat rocks and any shelter. Use water to wipe down the glass on the inside of the tank.
Schneider's skinks are omnivorous; they will eat plant and animal matter. Provide your skinks with a variety of food. Try using grapes, blueberries, oranges, kiwis, bananas, peaches, apples, pears, and strawberries. Some vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower and broccoli work well too.
Skinks will eat crickets, earth worms,and waxed worms. If you look for your own insects make sure that they are not collected in areas where poisons, such as lawn chemicals, have been applied. Be careful of feeding your animal too many grass hoppers; the legs of grass hoppers are harder for your reptile to digest and could cause him to become impacted (impacted - too much build up internally causing the animal to not be able to excrete wastes which would result in the death of the animal). Get the right sized crickets. Baby skinks should eat small cricket also known as "pinheads." Adolescent and adult skinks will eat adult crickets.
Dust a powdered vitamin supplement over the insects. Be sure to use the vitamin supplement every other feeding. Using the vitamin supplement more than that is not good for the reptile, the same as if a human took too many vitamins. You may also lightly dust fruits and vegetables with the supplement as well. The specific reptile vitamin I use is the "Zoo Med Reptivite." I like this one because they have recently formulated it to stick better onto the crickets so it remains on them longer as well as the fact that it provides a wide variety of vitamins including D3 (also called cholecalciferol) which is very important. According to my herpetology professor, the vitamin D3 is unique in that the reptile needs UVB exposure in order for the D3 from the vitamin supplement to synthesize in the reptile's body. The reptile's body will absorb all the other vitamins, but if they lack the UVB exposure, their body will simply not use any of the D3 from the supplement. The UVB bulb will, on its own, also help your reptile produce vitamin D3. It is also a good idea to leave a small dish of cricket food such as "Fluker's High Calcium Cricket Feed". This feed has calcium and other minerals in it that they will digest second hand by consuming the crickets which eat this feed; in some cases directly,which is alright in small quantities.
Most if not all reptiles do not need to eat a meal every day or even every other day. Provide 1.5 - 2 dozen crickets per skink once a week (adjust the number of crickets needed accordingly). An adult skink can easily consume 6 large crickets in a single feeding, therefore if you have over a dozen, your skink should be set for the week. Usually the skink will eat about 6 crickets when first put in the cage and then 1 or 2 crickets at a time for the remainder of the week. If your skink goes without eating for a week, especially if they are new, do not panic. This animal might not eat for a little while, especially when placed in a new environment. It could be a week or so before they eat. If your reptile is not eating, make sure he is warm enough and also make sure he is getting enough UVA lighting (UVA is in your typical household incandescent light bulb). If this problem exceeds 9 or 10 days, call your local reptile veterinarian.
The first rule of handling lizards is to NEVER pick up, hold, or handle their tail. Most lizards have a defense mechanism which allows the animal to drop their tail if they are caught by their tails or even if they feel threatened. A new tail will eventually grow back, but it is never as nice looking as the original.
Only handle reptiles in short sessions a few times per week. Hold the skink firmly, but gently, in your hand. Remember to be calm and keep the location quiet. Animals in general have the ability to notice nervousness and stress; if you are calm, the animal should also remain calm.
With reptiles in general, it would be easiest to handle them if they have been out of their heat source for about 20 minutes to half an hour. Reptiles are most active when warm, so by turning off their light they will cool off a little bit, making them easier to handle. Remember not to keep the reptile out for too long; they need a heat source to keep warm due to the fact that they are ectothermic, also known as cold blooded.
HUMAN HEALTH CONCERNS:
There is a concern that reptiles carry salmonella. The truth of the matter is that reptiles don't all carry salmonella. Reptiles get salmonella the same way people do in that they have to first come in contact with it. Despite the small chance that your reptile has salmonella, it is always in your best interest to wash your hands well after handling any reptile. It is because of this concern that young children should be supervised when around reptiles.
Lizards' nails can be trimmed periodically if the owner desires. This is not essential to the health of the animal, but certainly doesn't hurt. Be advised though, only trim the tips of the nails if you choose to do this and get help if needed.
ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR OR INJURIES:
If your animal is not behaving like his usual self or is not eating, take the animal to the vet; it is possible that the animal has a parasite or isn't developing enough D3 in their system. If the abnormal behavior is due to a lack of D3, the vet will be able to help you in determining an appropriate UVB light and vitamin supplement for your animal. Heat is needed to help reptiles in digesting their food properly. If the reptile is lacking the proper amount of heat, it could result in him becoming impacted. If you do end up taking a trip to the vet due to your reptile not acting right, I would highly recommend that you bring a fresh fecal sample or as fresh of one as possible. The vet may want to test it for possible parasites.
If your reptile gets a minor cut or burn, I would recommend using ZooMed's "Reptiwound". I have needed to use it once or twice and it works well. However, if a cut or burn persists or is large in size, take your reptile to the vet.
UPDATE - Unfortunately my female (mother) skink passed away recently from old age, 9/5/09.