Where Do Skinks Live? Facts, Breeds + Tank Tips


If you are interested in pet skinks or maybe your family owns one, then you will probably want to find out all you can about it. Finding out where they come from and the type of habitat is a great way of understanding them much better. So where do skinks live?

In the wild, skinks live all around the world with the exceptions of the polar and boreal regions. They live in a wide range of terrain including forests, deserts, savannas, gardens, grasslands, mountains, and urban areas.

To understand where your skink has evolved and become part of the environment is to understand it better, and also a good way of recreating a suitable environment in a tank. I will look at all the places skinks live in the wild, where exactly some popular breeds of skink live, and lastly look at how you can set up a tank to replicate a natural environment, and keep your skink healthy and happy.

skink

Where Skinks Live

There are 1200 species of skink living throughout the majority of the earth. Being the second largest species of lizards in the world, they have evolved to deal with a wide range of terrain.

The only places they are not found are the icy polar regions, and also the boreal regions. The boreal region is the cold ring of forest found in the Northern hemisphere, close to the North Pole. This region involves countries such as the North of Canada, Alaska, Norwary, Finland, and Estonia. Skinks are cold-blooded, and this freezing terrain is just not suitable to them.

They are found throughout the rest of the world, however, and are found both in rural and urban settings. In many towns and cities skinks are a regular sight, and they are often valued because they eat animals that are seen as pests such as insects. Let’s have a look at their varying terrains in closer detail…

Forests

A large proportion of skinks live in forests and rain-forests. Most skinks are arboreal. In lay-man’s terms, that means that they live in the trees. Therefore, forests are an ideal terrain.

Trees provide a wide range of opportunities for skinks. They help with:

  1. Providing food. A huge variety of insects live in the trees, and this is the skinks staple diet.
  2. Skinks can also eat leaves.
  3. Forests help with protection and camouflage, and provide a level of safety away from predators.
  4. Rain-forests provide an abundance of rainfall, and there are plenty of puddles and water-drops from leaves that they can drink.
rain forest

Aquatic Skinks

Some breeds are aquatic. This means that they spend their life in or around water. They cannot breathe water, but must breathe air.

Grasslands

Some skinks are terrestrial. This means that they spend their time on the ground, as opposed to trees.

Grasslands are another terrain where they are regularly found. Grass provides shelter, and also an abundance of insect and plant-based food.

Deserts

Skinks are cold-blooded, and so many enjoy basking on rocks in the daytime to warm up. Deserts give the perfect opportunity for this.

Skinks are also evolved in such a way that they do not need to eat every day. When they get an opportunity to eat, they take full advantage. They store up food from these binges over the subsequent days. This method of taking on food is excellent for survival in the deserts.

Urban Areas

Many skinks have moved in towns and cities, and are a common in sight in many spots around the world. Urban areas provided multiple places to hide and be unseen. They also offer plenty of food opportunities, and a good level of heat.

Mountains

Skinks are found throughout mountainous areas. There are generally less predators in the mountains, though there can often be large swings of temperature.

Savannas

A savanna is a grassy plain, usually found in tropical or sub-tropical areas, such as the plains of Africa. Skinks are found throughout savannas, which again accord them good protection and camouflage from predators, as well as providing with a range of insects, and some plant-life.

Gardens

Gardens provide a perfect terrain for many skinks. There are numerous types of insects there for them to eat, and most gardeners are happy sharing their space with skinks as they are providing an invaluable service, eating the pests that are otherwise eating the flowers and plants.

Where Do Some Of The Most Common Breeds Of Skink Come From?

Blue-Tailed Skinks

These are mainly found across Australia’s Christmas Islands. These are in the Indian Ocean.

They are primarily found in forest areas, where they live a life predominantly up in the trees. This is one of the breeds that have most en masse into some urban areas. They live in many towns around the coast. They have also begun living in several ‘ghost-towns’ – areas that are no longer inhabited as the town’s mine has closed down.

African Fire Skink

These skinks have fattish legs and wide tails. They now inhabit a large proportion of Africa, including many Central, Eastern and Western countries, such as Kenya, Angola, Guinea, Uganda, and Rwanda. They inhabit the rain-forests, woodlands, and thickets were they find dense vegetation. These give them many sources of food, water, and shelter.

Blue Tongued Skinks

These are the most common skink seen in Australia. They inhabit all over Australia as well as Guinea.

They are found in forests, but they are also seen in urban areas and gardens as well. They are valued in Australia as a force for good, and welcomed into gardens to eat the many insects they find there.

Blue-tongued skinks unfortunately are the prey of many predators found in towns and cities. The main one is cats, but also dogs can attack skinks. Sometimes they may be eaten by kookaburras.

Common Garden Skink

These are predominantly found in Australia, New Zealand, USA and South Africa. They have spread throughout a large proportion of the world.

As you can probably imagine these skinks are often found in gardens.

Red Eye Crocodile Skink

These are native to New Guinea. They are found in the rain-forests, and are an arboreal species that live up in the trees.

How To Set Up A Tank For A Skink

It is good to understand first something about where your skink would live in the wild before setting up the tank. Here are some guidelines to help you provide the perfect environment that they will enjoy:

Provide A Large Space

The rule of thumb with skink’s tanks is the bigger the better. Clearly economics will have a place in the decision, but if you are able to afford a large tank then definitely do this.

You want to aim for something around the 40 gallons (150 litre) mark. Hatchlings can start off in a smaller tank if you would prefer, but this is not essential. If you have money and space to get an even bigger tank, then this really is a good investment.

Use A Good Quality Substrate

Substrate is simply the mixture of materials that you put into the skink’s tank. Good guidance for substrate is the following:

  1. Have it about 6 to 8 inches deep
  2. Buy a substrate that is a mixture of sand and soil, often with wood chippings in it.
  3. Ask at local pet shops if they have a substrate that is specifically designed for skinks. If they do, then use that.
  4. Keep the substrate moist
  5. Don’t let the substrate become dry
  6. Replenish the substate when required (e.g. it has gone smelly)
  7. Check for signs of mould

Keeping the substrate moist also helps to keep the tank humid. There is no need to mist the air in the tank when you have a skink. Moist substrate will provide all the humidity that you need.

Provide Opportunities To Explore

Skinks are active and curious animals, and it is a good idea to give them multiple opportunities to explore in their space. In particular skinks love to have the opportunity to:

  1. Dig
  2. Hide
  3. Climb

Pet stores will usually have multiple activity opportunities for skinks. Check out some of these, and give you skink a few choices to keep them happy.

Conclusion

Skinks are found throughout the majority of the world, and are a very resilient breed of animal. They enjoy terrains that give them plenty of food, water and shelter. Set up your skink’s tank with plenty of space and opportunities to explore, and you will keep your skink healthy and happy.

Martin Williams

Martin is the Founder of Mercury Pets, and he's been a passionate enthusiast for a multitude of pets all his life. He is driven by his desire to share his knowledge and experience with other animal lovers around the world. Find out more about Martin at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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