Skinks as Pets

The 1,575+ member Skink family is the lizard world’s largest…and a lizard fan’s dream come true! Within their ranks we find legless “sand-swimmers” (and water-swimmers!), tree-top dwellers, live-bearers. Lizard “rule breakers” include the communal-dwelling Great Desert Skink and the Prehensile-Tailed Skink, which exhibits a complex family structure. Both first-time lizard owners and pros looking for a challenge can easily find a skink (or many!) that meets their skill level.


Skinks belong to the family Scincidae, the largest of the lizard families composed of over 1,575 species.

Range and Habitat

Skinks are found worldwide but most abundant in Africa and Indo-Australia. They are found in various habitats because the different species can be terrestrial, arboreal, or aquatic. Some are burrowers, while others are desert dwelling “sand swimmers.”

Appearance and Temperament

Skinks look similar to other lizards but some species have very small legs and no necks. A few species have no legs at all, resembling snakes. They typically have long, cylindrical bodies covered with smooth, shiny, overlapping scales similar to fish. They have long tails that are shed (they regenerate) when they are distressed.

Most Skinks are about 8 inches in length, with the biggest specie (Corucia zebrata) growing to 24 inches. Males have broad, cone-shaped heads but unlike most lizards, they don’t have femoral pores. The pupils are round, with a transparent lower lid that allows the Skink to see even when the eyelids are closed.

Skink Housing

About half of Skink species are egg-layers, and the other half live bearing; as primitive placentas are present in certain species, they can be classified as truly viviparous. Some, such as the USA’s Great Plains Skink (Pleistiodon obsoletus) brood and guard the eggs until the babies are hatched. Some male Skinks display bright red or orange markings during breeding season. The popularly-kept Prehensile-Tailed Skink (Corucia zebrata), exhibits complex social behaviors, including defense of the young, while Australia’s Great Desert Skink (Liopholis kintorei) lives in extended family groups. Family members cooperate in constructing complex, communal burrows that are utilized for years.

Skink Diet

Skinks are mostly carnivorous. They prey on insects (crickets, grasshoppers, beetles), worms, snails, small rodents, and other lizards. Captive Skinks can also be given fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. A few species are herbivorous.