Red Eyed Crocodile Skink 101 – Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are little lizards that look like they came from a fantasy movie. Their bright red-orange eye scales and spined backs make them beautiful and exciting exotic pets at home.

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are small, docile reptiles, usually only measuring 10 inches long and weighing 1.4 ounces. They thrive on a 100% insect diet and in tanks as small as 10 gallons. However, these pets are only for looking and not playing–croc skinks are so shy they can hardly tolerate being handled by their owners.

Where did these reptiles come from, and what else do you need to keep them happy and healthy? Read on to learn everything about them!

Meet the Red Eyed Crocodile Skink 

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink

Eight crocodile skink species are found in Indonesia and several New Guinea and Papua New Guinea islands’ rainforests.

The red-eyed crocodile skink (Tribolonotus gracilis), in particular, is endemic to New Guinea. This species was only discovered in 1909 and is the only crocodile skink species in the pet trade.

Aside from their beautiful scales and eye rings, these skinks are unique because they can vocalize. The only other lizard that can do so is geckos.

Crocodile skinks can detach their tails to run away from a threatening predator. They sometimes freeze and fall over, appearing to “play dead” for defense.

Species Key Aspects

Care LevelIntermediate
AppearanceSpiny grayish-black or brown scales, creamy beige undersides, and red-orange ring around their eyes.
Lifespan5-12 years
SizeTen inches long, 1.4 oz.
TemperamentDocile and shy
Enclosure size10-gallon tank minimum
TemperatureA gradient of 75 – 82 °F
SheddingEvery 4-6 weeks
Handling Handle rarely

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Species Basics 

What defines a red-eyed crocodile skink? Here are some basic identification methods for this lizard.


Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink face

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are dramatically beautiful lizards. They look like miniature crocodiles because of their spinose or spiny scales, similar to what you’d see on a crocodile’s back.

Younger skinks have light-colored heads, which darken as they age. Upon reaching adulthood, they will have grayish-black or brown scales that act as protective armor and creamy beige undersides.

Despite their name, these lizards do not have red eyes. Instead, they have a striking bright red-orange ring around their eyes. 

Size and Lifespan

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skinks on owner's hand

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are small lizards. They are born 2.5 inches long and grow to a maximum of 10 inches. Half of this length is usually their tail!

When fully grown, they weigh 1.4 ounces on average.

Crocodile skinks reach their full size at 3-4 years of age.

In captivity, these reptiles live between 5-12 years.


shy red-eyed crocodile skink on tree trunk

While each crocodile skink has its personality, the species tends to be very shy and docile. And because of this social awkwardness, they are fidgety and do not enjoy being handled.

Similarly, in the wild, they have a range of defensive mechanisms to avoid fighting, including ejecting their tail, vocalizing (chirping, screeching, or barking), and playing dead.

However, they are one of the few reptile species that tolerate living in small groups. You can keep several red-eyed croc skinks in one tank, provided there is only one male.

Though these lizards are predominantly terrestrial or ground-dwellers, they spend much time climbing low branches and staying 4-5 inches above the ground. They also enjoy spending time in the water swimming.

Otherwise, they can be found hiding under wet rocks and logs. They often emerge at dusk or dawn to feed on insects.

Enclosure Setup

Being relatively new in the pet trade, more information on this species in captivity is needed. Experts and current owners, though, recommend the following to keep your skink happy and healthy.

Enclosure Size 

red-eyed crocodile skink enclosure

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are primarily terrestrial animals that do not burrow or dig.

This means a longer or larger floor space is more important than a high tank.

These croc skinks require a tank of at least 10 gallons in size or a tank that measures 20x10x12 inches. If you can provide a 20-gallon tank for your skink, it will be even happier!

Editor’s Note
The 10-gallon size fits two skinks comfortably, but three to four skinks will need a 20-gallon tank.


Crocodile skinks will be happy with almost any type of substrate.

Paper towels are popular among owners because they are affordable, easy to keep moist and humid, and easy to clean out and replace.

Otherwise, you can also use peat moss, cypress mulch, coconut fiber, or other similar materials. 

Be careful when using sand or soil as a substrate for your skink since it may eat these and develop intestinal impaction or blockage, which can cause severe health issues. 

Your croc skink’s substrate should be kept damp but not sopping wet.


Red-eyed Crocodile Skink Enclosure Accessories

Skinks have two necessary accessories in their tanks.

First, ensure your skink has a large, shallow water dish always filled with clean water. Croc skinks need constant access to drinking water; sometimes, they may also decide to soak for a while.

Always make sure your skink can get in and out of the bowl easily. You can even place rocks inside and outside the bowl as “steps”!

Second, your skinks need to have several hiding spots. These can be a mix of plastic hide boxes, fake plants, fake rocks, or pieces of wood.

Never use heavy objects such as big rocks that can fall over and squish your lizard.

To be effective, these hiding spaces should be large enough for your skink’s entire body.

Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting Requirements

A skink’s enclosure should be between 75 – 78 °F, with a warmer basking zone at one end maintained at 82 °F.

Red-eyed crocodile skinks need a consistent humidity between 70-90%. Tank misting 2-3 times daily is recommended.

Lighting for this reptile is a slightly confusing topic since many claim the species does not need it, being nocturnal. 

However, it’s more accurate to say that red-eyed crocodile skinks are more crepuscular animals active during dawn and dusk. This means the species needs a clear night and day cycle to maintain their regular body clock.

Install UVB light for your croc skink, which is turned on for 12 hours daily. This will help your little lizard with its natural circadian rhythm!

Enclosure cleaning

Cleaning is essential not only for your skink’s physical health but also for its mental well-being.

A general rule of thumb is to check your tank regularly and remove debris as often as needed. Common debris includes:

  • Droppings,
  • Dead or rotten insects,
  • Dead skin, and
  • Vomited food.

The tank should be deep cleaned once a month, which includes replacing all its substrate. If this is too costly for you in terms of time and resources, you can opt to do so every two months instead.

Your skink’s water must be replaced daily.

Editor’s Note
If your tank has two or more skinks, expect to clean it more frequently!

Red-Eyed Crocodile Skink Care

Setting up your lizard’s enclosure properly is only half the picture–now you must consider its regular maintenance requirements!

Food & Water 

Insects100% of diet
Fruit and Vegetables0% of diet
Meat0% of diet
Required supplementsVitamin D3 and Calcium
WaterMaintain a one-inch water depth in drinking bowl

What do red-eyed crocodile skinks eat?

Unlike other reptiles, crocodile skinks will not eat fruit or vegetables.

These skins are insectivores who love eating live insects, including earthworms, mealworms, beetles, crickets, roaches, superworms, and silkworms.

Though they may prefer specific bugs, always keep their diet varied. This ensures they get all the necessary nutrients and don’t become too picky over time.

However, like other reptiles, dusting your croc skink’s insects with vitamin powder supplements is recommended. This is particularly important while they are young and still growing rapidly.

Here are a few more tips for feeding your lizard:

  • Skinks like live food and will refuse to eat dead insects.
  • Feed your skink its food in a bowl to prevent it from accidentally eating its tank’s substrate.
  • Insects you feed your skink should be no bigger than the width of its head. Ideally, it should only be half as large.
  • Feeding your skink larger worms is no problem since these are soft and easy to eat.
  • Experts recommend “gut-loading” your insects. This means feeding them kale, carrots, or other vegetables daily before feeding them to your skink. This increases the vitamins for your lizard!

How often should you feed red-eyed crocodile skinks?

How often a red-eyed crocodile skink eats is directly related to its age.

Hatchings and juveniles a few months old must eat once per day. Adults can eat one big meal every two to three days.

How much water do red-eyed crocodile skinks need?

These small lizards only need a little water in their bowls. Filling its bowl with water one-inch deep is more than enough for its drinking needs.

Some owners provide their skinks with a deeper bowl they can swim in. Bowls with ramps that allow your lizard to climb in and out easily are a great item to consider!


red-eyed crocodile skink soaked in water

Reptiles can absorb water through their skin. Baths aren’t only essential for hygiene–it’s another way they stay hydrated!

Most lizards like to jump into the water and soak on their own. 

If your lizard doesn’t, you can gently place it inside its water bowl or mist it 2-3 times a week. This is particularly important when they are shedding.

This is all the cleaning your pet requires. Never put soap or any other type of cleanser in their water!

Editor’s Note
Room temperature or lukewarm water is best for your lizard. Never give them water that’s too hot or too cold!


red-eyed crocodile skink on owner's hand shedding

Red-eyed crocodile skinks shed every 4-6 weeks on average. 

Keeping your tank at the correct temperature and humidity levels will keep shedding an easy process for your lizard.

If your reptile’s enclosure is too dry, you handle it too often, or it is not getting enough vitamins and nutrients, it may struggle and have incomplete or improper shedding.

How To Sex A Crocodile Skink 

There are a few physical differences between male and female crocodile skinks.

Males are always larger than their female counterparts. They also have different head shapes: males have triangular-shaped heads, while females have rounder-shaped heads.

Next, check the toes of their hind legs. Males have raised, white padding at the base of their middle two toes, while females do not.

Lastly, male and female crocodile skinks reportedly make different vocalizations, causing some scientists to suspect differences in their larynx. However, this theory is yet to be confirmed.

Handling Red-eyed Crocodile Skinks

frightened red-eyed crocodile skink on owner's hand

Red-eyed crocodile skinks are very uncomfortable being handled.

When held by their owners, they tend to be stiff and quiet, waiting for their chance to escape. Once these lizards begin vocalizing their discomfort, return them to their tanks as soon as possible.

If you insist on holding them past this stage, they may bite.

Keep your handling sessions short and spread out to only once every few days or around 2-3 times a week.

Always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile to avoid spreading bacteria. Also, always fully support your skink’s body when carrying it—never let it dangle! 

Common Health Issues 

lethargic red-eyed crocodile skink

There are four common health issues of pet red-eyed crocodile skinks. These are

  • Metabolic bone disease caused by calcium deficiency. This can lead to skeletal deformities, broken bones, and sometimes, death.
  • Respiratory diseases caused by problems in the enclosure, such as improper humidity levels or a dirty tank. Symptoms include wheezing sounds, difficulty breathing, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
  • Gastrointestinal diseases caused by a bacterial infection or problems with its food. Symptoms include weight loss and diarrhea.
  • Parasitic infections, either internally or externally, on their skin.

However, remember that reptiles are complex creatures who are very good at hiding any signs that they are sick. This is necessary in the wild since showing weakness is an open invitation to predators.

Therefore, always observe your lizard’s behavior. Any strange changes may be early signs of an underlying problem.


Red-eyed crocodile skinks can start breeding at a year old. 

Very little is required to encourage these lizards to breed; placing a male and female together in a tank large enough for both is usually sufficient.

However, ensure enough hiding places within the enclosure that both lizards can fit into. This will make them feel secure and comfortable enough to breed.

Female red-eyed crocodile skinks only lay one egg every two months or so. These eggs can either be left with the mother or taken out and placed in an incubator.

Croc skink eggs should be incubated at 80 °F. They typically hatch after 70 days.

Editor’s Note
Some experts recommend keeping hatchlings in a separate, high-humidity tank for a few months before joining them with the adults.

How much does a red-eyed crocodile skink cost? 

More red-eyed crocodile skinks are bred in captivity yearly, making them more affordable and easily found in the United States.

Red-eyed crocodile skinks cost between $120-$170 on average. Each lizard’s final price depends on factors such as its age, sex, and health.

Are these skinks dangerous?

adorable red-eyed crocodile skinks on owner's hand

All skinks are non-venomous, so there is no chance that your pet will inject you with toxins.

Additionally, these reptiles are non-aggressive and are more scared of you than you are of them.

Do red-eyed crocodile skinks bite? 

Red-eyed crocodile skinks rarely bite.

They are timid and will always prefer to run, hide away, and be alone.

Skinks will try several defense strategies before attacking, including ejecting their tail, playing dead, and screaming at you.

Only if all else fails will they bite or scratch you.

Editor’s Note
If you get bitten by your croc skink, thoroughly clean and disinfect the area to ensure it doesn’t get infected.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Keep My Reptile Warm If I Lose Power?

A quick power outage is no problem, but if the power loss continues, you must find another way to keep your pet warm.

One option is to use packaged hand warmers that give off several hours of heat. However, these can get very hot—place several towels between this warmer and your reptile to avoid giving it burns!

If you don’t have those on hand, a hot water bottle with warm (not boiling) water can also temporarily act as its basking rock.

How Many Red-Eyed Crocodile Skinks Can Live In One Tank?

Skinks are happiest when they live alone or in pairs of one male and one female.

Two males tend to fight over their displays of dominance, while females can get territorial and defensive toward each other.

However, each skink has its personality. If you find the right mix and your tank is large enough, you can keep three or even four skinks together in one enclosure.


Even after reading this guide and becoming certain you have everything it takes to own a red-eyed crocodile skink, we have one last piece of advice: take your time picking your lizard.

Remember, each reptile has its personality. Pick the lizard you feel happiest and most connected with. 

After all, this pet has a lifespan of 5-12 years. You’ll spend some time together–so it’s much better for you both if you get along!

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