What is a Red-Eyed Croc Skink (Tribolonotus gracilis)?
The “mini-dragon” commonly known as the red-eyed crocodile skink (scientific name Tribolonotus gracilis) currently available in the pet trade is a tropical species of skink originating from Papua New Guinea. Being full insectivores and only reaching a fully grown size of 8-10 inches, red-eyed croc skinks do not require a large, expensive enclosure and complicated care. They are shy by nature, but can make very rewarding pets for the intermediate-experienced reptile enthusiast.
Habitat & Enclosure
Temperature, Lighting & Humidity
Red-eyed crocodile skinks are a crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk) species that require mild tropical temperatures from the low 70’s to low 80’s Fahrenheit. Humidity is crucial for this species and needs to stay between 70-95%. While not a largely basking species, a low intensity 5.0 UVB bulb can be used to provide a natural UVB light cycle for the skinks and potential plants in a bioactive enclosure.
Hatchlings need a small Tupperware container with holes or small enclosure that includes damp sphagnum moss and a hide. The small container helps the baby skink feel less overwhelmed with the world and allows for easy monitoring of health, feeding, and defecating. Most people will not encounter hatchlings unless they breed a pair themselves.
Juveniles can be moved into a 10-20 gallon as they grow, and adults do fine in 20-40 gallon sized enclosures.
Land & Water Features
Croc skink enclosures lend themselves to having a full tropical land and water features because of Tribolonotus’s high humidity needs. Paludarium/vivarium setups can be a beautiful part of your home while providing a natural living area for your skink(s).
A selection of hides on the warm and cool sides of enclosures are absolutely necessary. Plants and other cage accessories can provide additional natural coverage.
Single or Male/Female Pairs
These skinks should not be housed in same sex pairs as they can be aggressive and territorial to the same sex. They can be kept alone or in a male & female pair.
Crocodile skinks are insectivores and do not require a large investment in time and money to feed. High quality, gut loaded insects such as meal worms, earthworms, crickets, silkworms, and other small invertebrates are widely accepted. Calcium with vitamin D3 is required around every other feeding, and it is especially important for growing young skinks to develop properly.
A small feeding dish is necessary to keep the insects from disappearing into your skink’s enclosure and limit the amount of substrate ingested by the animal. Even if you have a water feature within the enclosure you will need a separate clean water container.
Temperament & Handling
Tribolonotus is a shy species who prefers to stay hidden for much of the day. They will tolerate being handled, but prefer to be left in peace within their proper enclosure. Red-eyed croc skinks tend to be a look rather than touch pet, however do not let that deter you from enjoying this fascinating little reptile. As mentioned before, their enclosures and way of life can enhance your enjoyment of Herp keeping and become a beautiful part of your home.