How to Care for Your Gidgee Skink
Gidgee skinks (Egernia stokesii) are small, diurnal, terrestrial lizards native to arid and semi-arid parts of Western Australia, Southern Australia, Queensland, and North South Wales. They are usually found in stony areas with plenty of crevices for hiding, but they can also be found in dry woodlands, using hollows in and under trees for shelter.
The gidgee skink is typically 7-10” long, although they can grow as long as 12”. They have a stout, almost obese appearance with a small head, thick body, sturdy limbs, long toes, and a short, spiny tail. Coloring and pattern varies by subspecies, with some having a red-brown blotched pattern, others being near-uniform brown, and one population being black.
Gidgee skinks are intermediate-level pet reptiles that can live 20+ years with proper care.
How much space do gidgee skinks need?
A single gidgee should be housed in no smaller than a 36”L x 18”W x 16”H enclosure (40 gallons). However, if you can provide a larger enclosure, do it! Providing a larger enclosure will provide your pet with more opportunities to exercise, explore, and demonstrate natural behaviors.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple gidgee skinks together) tends to work well for this species, as they naturally live in family groups in the wild, and being kept in a group may even help them be healthier and less stressed than they would be without. Do not house males and females together without the intent to breed. To minimize the likelihood of violent conflict, raise juveniles together rather than introducing two strange adults. The enclosure will also need to be proportionately larger — 36”L x 18”W x 36”H should be sufficient for a group of up to three, and provides plenty of vertical space for the skinks to climb on.
Do gidgee skinks need UVB?
Yes! Gidgee skinks are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day, and naturally exposed to lots of sunlight on a day-to-day basis. This means that they need UVB light as part of their enclosure. The best UVB bulbs for gidgee skinks are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0
- Arcadia Forest 6%
The bulb should be roughly half the length of the enclosure and housed in a high-quality reflective T5 HO fixture, such as Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. If the UVB is mounted over mesh, place the basking area so the lizard’s back will be 6-9” below the lamp if through mesh, and 11-12” if there is no mesh obstruction.
Note that UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your lizard UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. Also make sure that your UVB fixture does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.
In addition to UVB, since gidgees are day-active lizards, it’s beneficial to provide an additional daylight-spectrum lamp to make sure the enclosure is brightly illuminated. Use a strong 6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow light for best results.
Gidgee skinks should get 10 hours of light per day during winter and 14 hours of light per day during summer. This simulates natural seasonal changes in day length and encourages healthier hormonal rhythms.
What basking temperatures do gidgee skinks need?
Gidgee skinks like it hot! They should have a basking surface temperature between 110-120°F, with cool side temperatures down to 80°F. Nighttime temperatures should be between 70-80°F, which can usually be accomplished by turning off the heat source. Measure your temperatures with a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the desired surface.
Provide heat for your gidgee by imitating the sun with at least one halogen heat lamp on one side of the enclosure. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), heat mats, red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. For best results, the basking surface itself should be a large, flat piece of rock or Retes Stack.
If nighttime temps routinely fall below 70°F, you will need a lightless heat source to keep the air inside the enclosure comfortable for your skink. This can be done with a ceramic heat emitter or radiant heat panel connected to a thermostat, depending on your heating needs and the size of your enclosure.
What humidity levels do gidgee skinks need?
Looking at their natural habitat, it’s easy to think that gidgee skinks don’t need much in the way of humidity. However, they actually do best with average humidity levels between 40-60%, with the enclosure being lightly misted each morning with a water sprayer.
Make sure your gidgee skink has access to a humid burrow at all times. A good way to do this is to simply moisten the substrate below/inside one of their hideouts on the cool end of the enclosure.
What substrate is good for gidgee skinks?
Substrate covers the floor of your lizard’s terrarium and helps make the enclosure more attractive, but it also helps maintain desired humidity levels and provides something for your skink to dig around in.
It’s ideal to use a substrate that imitates the “substrate” that the reptile naturally lives on in the wild. For gidgee skinks, that means sand or sandy soil. We recommend the following substrates for gidgees:
Alternatively, you can mix 60% clean topsoil with 40% play sand.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep to facilitate burrowing, and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
What décor can you use in a gidgee skink terrarium?
A bare enclosure is a boring enclosure, and worse still, it can stress out your skink. Although size matters, if there’s nothing inside it, it won’t do much for your pet. Enrichment items that help simulate the reptile’s natural habitat help prevent boredom and encourage your gidgee skink to exercise natural behaviors.
At bare minimum, you will need at least two caves/burrows for the skink to hide in and a flat stone for basking on. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
- secure stacks of flagstone or aquarium slate
- more hiding places
- hollow logs
- artificial plants
- live, nontoxic plants
What do gidgee skinks eat?
Gidgee skinks are primarily insectivorous, which means that they need to eat a variety of insects in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. However, they are also known to eat fruits and vegetables when offered.
Juveniles should be fed both insects and greens daily, but adults should only be fed every other day. Offer as many insects as will be eaten in a ~5 minute period.
Leafy greens for gidgee skinks: collard greens, cactus pads, spring mix, arugula, kale, alfalfa, bok choy, carrot greens, spinach, dandelion greens, hibiscus greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, romaine lettuce, escarole, watercress, clover
Other vegetables for gidgee skinks: broccoli, rapini, zucchini, cauliflower, sweet potato, bell pepper, squash, carrots, okra, sprouts, pea pods, green beans, shredded carrots
Due to its high sugar content, fruit should be used as a treat. Options include berries, mango, cantaloupe, apple, banana, and papaya. Edible flowers such as dandelion and nasturtium can be offered more often.
The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your skink is VARIETY!
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your skink from developing a deficiency. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a small to medium-sized water bowl for your skink to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
Do gidgee skinks like to be handled?
Few reptiles actually “like” to be held, and gidgee skinks generally prefer to be left alone, as they usually don’t tolerate much in the way of handling. However, hand-feeding via feeding tweezers is a great way to interact with your pet and build trust.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species.