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How to Care for Your Rainbow Skink

How to Care for Your Rainbow Skink

Rainbow skinks (Trachylepis quinquetaeniata) are also known as the rainbow mabuya and the African five-lined skink. They are small, diurnal, terrestrial reptiles primarily native to Africa between the Sahara desert and the equator, although they can also be found in Egypt as well as invasive populations in California and Florida, USA. This species occupies a variety of habitats, particularly savannah, scrub, and deciduous woodland.

Rainbow skinks are typically around 8” long, with a pointed snout, robust body, glossy scales, and long, slender tail. Males and females differ significantly in appearance. Females and juveniles are dark brown to black with golden longitudinal stripes, and a pale to bright blue tail. Males are light to dark brown with a black throat, yellow to orange stripe from the lips to the flanks, and silver to light blue spots on the throat and sides. 

Rainbow skinks tend to be quite skittish, and make better display animals than a pet to be handled frequently.

How much space do rainbow skinks need?

A single rainbow skink should be housed in no smaller than a 24”L x 18”W x 18”H enclosure. This species is very active and quick, so even more space is likely to be used regularly if provided!

Cohabitation (keeping multiple rainbow skinks in the same terrarium) is not recommended unless for the purpose of breeding. Breeding groups should consist of one male and two to three females, housed in no smaller than a 48” x 24” x 24” enclosure.

Do rainbow skinks need UVB?


Rainbow skinks require UVB lighting to stay healthy in captivity. They are a diurnal species often observed basking in the morning. The best UVB bulbs for a rainbow skink housed in a 18” tall enclosure are:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6%, 22”
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0, 22”

If the UVB is mounted over mesh, place the basking area 7-9” below the lamp. If the UVB is mounted inside the enclosure, place the basking area 11-12” below the lamp. The basking area should be the closest surface to the UVB bulb. 

The UVB bulb should be housed in a reflective T5 HO fixture like the Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics, and placed on the basking side along with the heat lamp. 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 the fixture your UVB bulb is in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover.

In addition to UVB, since rainbow skinks are day-active, 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 plant grow light across the majority of the enclosure for best results.

Lights should be on for 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter, or synced with your local sunrise and sunset times.

What basking temperatures do rainbow skinks need?

Rainbow skinks should have a basking temperature around 90-95°F, with a cool side temperature of 75-85°F. Nighttime temps can drop as low as 68°F by turning off the lamps. Measure your temperatures with a digital probe thermometer with the probe placed on the desired surface. 

Provide heat for your rainbow skinks by imitating the sun with a ~50w heat lamp placed 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 flat stone.

Monitor temperatures with two digital probe thermometers: one placed on the basking surface and one placed on the cool end.

What humidity levels do rainbow skinks need?

Rainbow skinks prefer moderately humid habitats with an average humidity between 60-80%. To achieve the needed humidity levels, mist the enclosure 1-2x/day with a pressure sprayer. It can also help to mix water into the substrate. Humidity levels should naturally fluctuate lower during the day and higher at night.

Monitor humidity levels with a digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure.

What substrate is good for rainbow skinks?

Substrate helps maintain healthy humidity levels and contributes to the enclosure’s overall attractiveness, and also provides a burrowing medium. We recommend the following substrates for rainbow skinks:

  • Zoo Med ReptiSoil
  • Zoo Med Eco Earth
  • Exo Terra Plantation Soil

Alternatively, you can mix your own substrate with 60% topsoil or coconut fiber, and 40% play sand, measured by volume.

Substrate should be at least 3” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.

What décor can you use in a rainbow skink terrarium?

It’s terribly boring for a rainbow skink to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate and food/water bowls. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with! 

Rainbow skinks will appreciate a fairly cluttered enclosure that gives them plenty of things to hide in and climb around on. Here are some ideas for ways to create the perfect setup for your pet:

What do rainbow skinks eat?

Rainbow skinks are primarily insectivorous, which means that they need to eat insects (preferably live) in order to get the nutrition that their bodies need. Offer as many insects as your skink is willing to eat in a day. If your pet is starting to look fat, reduce feedings to every other day.

Feeder insects for rainbow skinks: dubias, discoids, red runner roaches, red head roaches, crickets, black soldier fly larvae, small hornworms, silkworms, mealworms, mealworm beetles


You will need calcium and vitamin supplements to help prevent your lizard from developing a deficiency. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your lizard’s feeder insects. It’s okay to skip a dusting every once in a while.


Provide a small water bowl where your lizard can always get a drink when needed. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.

Do rainbow skinks like to be handled?

Few reptiles actually “like” to be held, and rainbow skinks are generally not one of them. However, they can be tamed with patience. Start teaching it to trust you by hand-feeding it with a pair of feeding tweezers

*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.

"Rainbow Skink (Trachylepis quinquetaeniata) juvenile ..." by berniedup is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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