Hello! Many newbie questions, help please.

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Skinker

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Hi, first time poster. I’m trying to do my due diligence before I commit, but I’m having trouble finding the information I need.

First, my climate. I can heat a habitat to cope with a proposed inhabitant's needs, but I can’t cool. My house can get to low-mid 30s in summer, so any reptiles/amphibians need to be able to cope with that.

The size of habitat will be limited. I’m currently dismantling a leaky aquarium I was given. Unfortunately the bottom has been glued to the single, u-shaped front and sides, not siliconed so to remove it, I’ll have to use acetone which will also destroy the plastic bottom frame. Because it will be frameless when I put it back together, I’m reluctant to add the foreground water I was planning on. The finished internal size will be W 58 cm, D 38 cm, H 49 cm. I’ve got access to branches, rocks and plants and can locally source the machinery for any heat, lighting, air movement, humidity needs, and etc.

With this small size habitat I understand I’ll be limited to mini critters, which fortunately I like a lot. Skinks, love them all, ditto geckos. Any suggestions for mini fauna that can can cope with the conditions?

Another possibility for an enclosure is this lovely little one https://www.petcity.com.au/exo-terra-tree-frog-enclosure. If I go that route, I will be able to have foreground water, yes? In which case I’d love to have dwarf green tree frogs, if they can cope with the previously listed climactic conditions. Will tiny frogs and tiny skinks coexist, or do I need to pick one or the other?

So, I throw myself on your collective expertise; all critique and suggestions gratefully accepted.
 

Sdaji

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Frogs are more sensitive to high temperatures. They'll probably be fine, but no guarantees. Any small/medium heliothermic ('sun-loving') skink will be fine, which is almost all of them other than specialists like Prickly Forest Skinks.

If you want to mix frogs and skinks be very careful about the choice of size. Frogs can eat things about the same mass as themselves and might attempt to eat something larger and kill it in the process. Skinks will want dry conditions unless you go for something like Eulamprus, which would be your only good choice for a mixed frog/skink enclosure. Eulamprus species are fantastic to keep, great to watch, and will probably be about the right size to mix with small frog species... I wouldn't mix them and you'll have extra hassles with things like making sure everything gets enough to eat, but it certainly could be done. Having a semi aquatic setup should also allow the animals to stay slightly cooler in the warmer weather, the skinks will love the higher temperatures and tropical frogs should be fine in the low 30s, which will probably be all they'll need to deal with if the room gets up to the mid 30s. Tropical species should *probably* be fine with mid 30s anyway.

I'd definitely suggest keeping them separately before trying to keep them together. Better to work out what they need and what they're capable of eating before trying to experiment with each other. You'll be much happier saying 'Wow, I didn't think it could eat an insect that large, how neat!' than 'I really didn't think it would be able to eat my favourite Water Skink, I've been crying all afternoon'.
 

Skinker

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Frogs are more sensitive to high temperatures. They'll probably be fine, but no guarantees. Any small/medium heliothermic ('sun-loving') skink will be fine, which is almost all of them other than specialists like Prickly Forest Skinks.

If you want to mix frogs and skinks be very careful about the choice of size. Frogs can eat things about the same mass as themselves and might attempt to eat something larger and kill it in the process. Skinks will want dry conditions unless you go for something like Eulamprus, which would be your only good choice for a mixed frog/skink enclosure. Eulamprus species are fantastic to keep, great to watch, and will probably be about the right size to mix with small frog species... I wouldn't mix them and you'll have extra hassles with things like making sure everything gets enough to eat, but it certainly could be done. Having a semi aquatic setup should also allow the animals to stay slightly cooler in the warmer weather, the skinks will love the higher temperatures and tropical frogs should be fine in the low 30s, which will probably be all they'll need to deal with if the room gets up to the mid 30s. Tropical species should *probably* be fine with mid 30s anyway.

I'd definitely suggest keeping them separately before trying to keep them together. Better to work out what they need and what they're capable of eating before trying to experiment with each other. You'll be much happier saying 'Wow, I didn't think it could eat an insect that large, how neat!' than 'I really didn't think it would be able to eat my favourite Water Skink, I've been crying all afternoon'.
Thank you so much for your reply! I’ll start my reading on water skinks. Hopefully 'commonly found' means they are adaptable and possibly forgiving of any inadvertent new keeper mistakes. I’m surprised how little information a quick google reveals, you’d think something as basic as social or solitary would be mentioned. So tried to buy a book but no, an Aussie skink book is no longer available. Off to try the local library.
 

Sdaji

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Water Skinks are quite social and do well kept in groups. They're very hardy. I've only personally kept Eulamprus tympanum but other than being slightly less cold hardy, Eulamprus quoyii is very similar and these are the two species easiest to obtain. Without doing anything too ridiculous they're almost impossible to kill. You could literally put either of them in a tub of water in the fridge for a week, pull them out, warm them up and they'd be fine (don't actually do this, it's unnecessarily stupid). As long as you feed them dusted insects and don't physically damage them, they should thrive.
 

Skinker

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Water Skinks are quite social and do well kept in groups. They're very hardy. I've only personally kept Eulamprus tympanum but other than being slightly less cold hardy, Eulamprus quoyii is very similar and these are the two species easiest to obtain. Without doing anything too ridiculous they're almost impossible to kill. You could literally put either of them in a tub of water in the fridge for a week, pull them out, warm them up and they'd be fine (don't actually do this, it's unnecessarily stupid). As long as you feed them dusted insects and don't physically damage them, they should thrive.
They sound (and look) delightful. Unfortunately they seem to be too big for the space I will have? Every photo and video of them that I found showed them in decent sized enclosures, which they took full advantage of…so fast! There are some very sweet, tiny northern skinks that would fit better (and hopefully better tolerate the heat) but I never see them for sale. I had no idea it would be difficult to get small, common skinks. I’m in QLD, so I think I’m allowed to collect a couple from my own property? With a license needed to keep them. The common garden skinks around here can be very coppery and attractive, maybe they would be suitable?
 

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If I understand it correctly, you're allowed to collect some species of skinks for feed lizards but you can't keep them as pets (don't blame me, I didn't make the rules). Small skinks are very difficult to obtain on license - even what is probably the most common species of skink in Australian gardens (Lampropholis guichenotti) was extremely difficult for me to get on license and I was the first person to legally have them in QLD, they actually added that species to the QLD system because of me. For years after I stopped keeping them I had many people contacting me trying to track some down, and I have no idea where you could go to get some, though it would be possible with some creativity (some places do have the legal ability to get these things on to the books, but you'd need to either know the right people or have some sort of carrot to offer them). I wouldn't keep the normal garden skinks in a semi aquatic enclosure. They'd probably live and might do okay, but it's not really the right environment for them and you would need to be very careful with your enclosure design to ensure they always had a dry retreat despite all the water in the enclosure. I've seen Eulamprus Water Skinks kept happily in enclosures smaller than yours, but hey, if you're thinking about undertaking a mixed-species semiaquatic enclosure, just go get yourself a 3' or 4' aquarium. Mixed-species enclosures are problematic enough without trying to cram all those animals into a confined space together.
 

Skinker

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If I understand it correctly, you're allowed to collect some species of skinks for feed lizards but you can't keep them as pets (don't blame me, I didn't make the rules). Small skinks are very difficult to obtain on license - even what is probably the most common species of skink in Australian gardens (Lampropholis guichenotti) was extremely difficult for me to get on license and I was the first person to legally have them in QLD, they actually added that species to the QLD system because of me. For years after I stopped keeping them I had many people contacting me trying to track some down, and I have no idea where you could go to get some, though it would be possible with some creativity (some places do have the legal ability to get these things on to the books, but you'd need to either know the right people or have some sort of carrot to offer them). I wouldn't keep the normal garden skinks in a semi aquatic enclosure. They'd probably live and might do okay, but it's not really the right environment for them and you would need to be very careful with your enclosure design to ensure they always had a dry retreat despite all the water in the enclosure. I've seen Eulamprus Water Skinks kept happily in enclosures smaller than yours, but hey, if you're thinking about undertaking a mixed-species semiaquatic enclosure, just go get yourself a 3' or 4' aquarium. Mixed-species enclosures are problematic enough without trying to cram all those animals into a confined space together.
No, definitely not thinking mixed species, your previous posts have put me off that idea (I do listen!), not a fan of captive bloodshed. It’s a shame the tinies aren’t better appreciated. I enjoy watching them outside, but it’s too easy to send them scarpering. If you think the water skinks wouldn't be unhappy with the confined quarters then they sound perfect (novice keeper friendly, easy to acquire, active, very attractive). Sdaji, your help is much appreciated, I can now go and read up on Eulamprus and start designing my indoor enclosure. I’ll be back when I have a draft plan, before committing to a build. Yay, something to work towards. Thank you!
 

Sdaji

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If you're not going for the mixed species enclosure, a smaller species of skink would potentially be better for that size enclosure, but if you want to keep them legally on license I doubt you're going to find anything. The regular small skinks are a lot of fun to watch doing their thing and interacting with each other.

Setup is extremely easy for 'normal' skinks - you basically just want a basking spot (a $2 spotlight from the hardware store) at one end of the enclosure, a well-ventilated, escape-proof lid, let your imagination and creativity do its think in terms of wood, rocks, etc, and something you won't usually see in care guides etc but I've used is a damp retreat, something like an ice-cream container half filled with wet sand and something like sphagnum moss on top of the sand, and just a small entrance hold so the moisture isn't lost. These skinks don't want to be constantly in a humid environment and a basking lamp will dry things out quickly, and while dry conditions are perfect for them most of the time, they'll very quickly die of dehydration if they don't sleep somewhere moist. If they always have access to a moist/humid area they'll never actually need to be given standing water (I've bred generations of several species of skinks, geckoes and other lizards without them ever being sprayed with water or being given a water bowl, they just have access to slightly moist sand). If you want to you can keep them in an entirely humid/moist environment but you won't have them live as long and might get some skin or other issues.

For water skinks, just keep them as wet as you like. You can actually keep them in a similar environment to regular skinks and they'll be fine, but it's more fun to have them set up with a semi aquatic enclosure with plants etc. You can put their basking spot over a couple of pieces of wood which themselves are situated over the water and it looks pretty neat.

And having said all that, if you want to you can keep any of these small skinks in extremely minimalistic enclosures much smaller than what you're planning with nothing but floor heat (or ambient heat if the room temperature is favourable), sand (either slightly moist sand or dry sand with a moisture box like I described) and they'll live happily enough and breed like flies anyway. If your goal is to enjoy them as pets and make them look pretty, I'd definitely go with something nicer rather than a minimalistic enclosure, but I've certainly seen it done with a range of skink species.

Most people will tell you they need UV. They definitely don't and many consecutive long-lived generations without a single ray of UV confirms that, but you should dust your feed insects with calcium and multivitamin powder (and no, UV is not a substitute for the supplements).
 

Skinker

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If you're not going for the mixed species enclosure, a smaller species of skink would potentially be better for that size enclosure, but if you want to keep them legally on license I doubt you're going to find anything. The regular small skinks are a lot of fun to watch doing their thing and interacting with each other.

Setup is extremely easy for 'normal' skinks - you basically just want a basking spot (a $2 spotlight from the hardware store) at one end of the enclosure, a well-ventilated, escape-proof lid, let your imagination and creativity do its think in terms of wood, rocks, etc, and something you won't usually see in care guides etc but I've used is a damp retreat, something like an ice-cream container half filled with wet sand and something like sphagnum moss on top of the sand, and just a small entrance hold so the moisture isn't lost. These skinks don't want to be constantly in a humid environment and a basking lamp will dry things out quickly, and while dry conditions are perfect for them most of the time, they'll very quickly die of dehydration if they don't sleep somewhere moist. If they always have access to a moist/humid area they'll never actually need to be given standing water (I've bred generations of several species of skinks, geckoes and other lizards without them ever being sprayed with water or being given a water bowl, they just have access to slightly moist sand). If you want to you can keep them in an entirely humid/moist environment but you won't have them live as long and might get some skin or other issues.

For water skinks, just keep them as wet as you like. You can actually keep them in a similar environment to regular skinks and they'll be fine, but it's more fun to have them set up with a semi aquatic enclosure with plants etc. You can put their basking spot over a couple of pieces of wood which themselves are situated over the water and it looks pretty neat.

And having said all that, if you want to you can keep any of these small skinks in extremely minimalistic enclosures much smaller than what you're planning with nothing but floor heat (or ambient heat if the room temperature is favourable), sand (either slightly moist sand or dry sand with a moisture box like I described) and they'll live happily enough and breed like flies anyway. If your goal is to enjoy them as pets and make them look pretty, I'd definitely go with something nicer rather than a minimalistic enclosure, but I've certainly seen it done with a range of skink species.

Most people will tell you they need UV. They definitely don't and many consecutive long-lived generations without a single ray of UV confirms that, but you should dust your feed insects with calcium and multivitamin powder (and no, UV is not a substitute for the supplements).
Yes, there seems to be no love for the tinies, almost impossible to find. I did see these, https://www.reptileclassifieds.com.au/ads/dark-bar-sided-skinks/, but it’s a breeding group which I can’t keep on a basic QLD license. I don’t disagree with the licensing conditions, I think breeding creatures that may prey on their own young is not a good beginners project! I also found a couple of smaller skinks but they were pick-up only, and hundreds of k away. Your care notes make them sound very easy, which makes it all the sadder I can’t find any.

Because of the inavailability of the smaller skinks, I’m back to thinking about dwarf tree frogs. To reduce summer day temperatures, will a fan with cross ventilation be enough? I was thinking to have a lid with a screened section in the front, combined with an aquarium fan inset into the lower part of the back glass set to extract, drawing fresh air through the screened section.

An additional idea is to utilise evaporative cooling. If I build unglazed ceramic cylinders and put them upright in a shallow tray of smooth stones and water, they should wick up the moisture, cooling as the moving air passes them. Given how fond the backyard GTFs are of downpipes, I imagine the dwarfs will utilise the cooler interior of the cylinders, moving to one or another of them to find the goldilocks zone of temperature. Will this work for them? Will unglazed bisque-fired ceramic be too rough a texture for them? If so, my less aesthetic option is to sew cylinders of something like Hygrolon, which wouldn’t be as rough.

If you think it might be possible to achieve good conditions, I’m happy to set up and monitor for a couple of seasons. If the temperatures are still too high, I might have to wait until I live in a cooler house.
 

Sdaji

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You'd have to experiment with the temperatures, I couldn't comment on how that would go in your home, but I'd be keeping an eye out for some skinks. Maybe that's just because I personally like them!
 

Skinker

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Skinks do seem more ‘personable’ than frogs, don’t they? Given the temperatures in this house, frogs might end up as unhappy as I am in summer, so I’ve been trying to find information on plants suitable for a drier glass enclosure. Again, so little available! The closest I find is people landscaping for BTS, the enclosures for which are much larger in size. The nicer looking ones seem to use wider than taller enclosures and have distinctly drier and moister ends, but I’ll stick with using the aquarium I’ve got and adapt. Off to a nursery specialising in local natives (including the smaller ones). If I build it they will come :).
 

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I wouldn't bother with plants in a skink enclosure. It's very difficult to provide conditions favourable to both, so you'll probably end up looking after one and killing the other, or compromising and killing both. Water Skinks are the exception there, they'll thrive in conditions which plants will also love, and they're probably the easiest small(ish) skink to find on license.

And yeah, I love frogs, but most of the time they're about as exciting as a pet rock, while skinks are active, interactive both with you and each other, you'll watch their social behaviours, they'll pretty quickly like you and run over for a feed, they're pretty comical and fun, they're just much more rewarding to keep (by my preference anyway). Nothing against frogs, they're also very cool in their own way and when I was younger I had a lot of fun keeping them too.

Even after all the different reptiles I've kept and worked with, one of the things I look forward to doing when I'm a little older and tied down living at home with a family etc (which means I might as well have some higher maintenance animals I can't currently keep) is a nice planted vivarium with Water Skinks.
 

Skinker

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I wouldn't bother with plants in a skink enclosure. It's very difficult to provide conditions favourable to both, so you'll probably end up looking after one and killing the other, or compromising and killing both. Water Skinks are the exception there, they'll thrive in conditions which plants will also love, and they're probably the easiest small(ish) skink to find on license.

And yeah, I love frogs, but most of the time they're about as exciting as a pet rock, while skinks are active, interactive both with you and each other, you'll watch their social behaviours, they'll pretty quickly like you and run over for a feed, they're pretty comical and fun, they're just much more rewarding to keep (by my preference anyway). Nothing against frogs, they're also very cool in their own way and when I was younger I had a lot of fun keeping them too.

Even after all the different reptiles I've kept and worked with, one of the things I look forward to doing when I'm a little older and tied down living at home with a family etc (which means I might as well have some higher maintenance animals I can't currently keep) is a nice planted vivarium with Water Skinks.

As a kid, I knew where every interesting pet lived, if you keep water skinks when you have kids you will become known as the fun house on the block!

Yeah, you’re right, frogs are very pretty, but not exactly interactive.

Keeping in mind the advice you have given me, I do think I can have garden skinks in a planted enclosure. If it’s one thing we have in surplus it is plants that can thrive in dry conditions! Looking at enclosures people have built for larger animals like blue tongues has given me a lot of ideas. While I will be dealing with a much smaller space necessitating much smaller plants, I will have the advantage of lightweight animals that won’t trample them. What is the common theme is dividing the area into a warm, sunny side blending into a cooler, moister side. The growing medium is also different from that of the tropical, humid enclosures and doesn’t hold as much moisture, especially in the upper layer which has more open, unplanted areas with a leafy mulch. Anyway, I’m going to have a go at making this then monitor it for a while to see if it does what I want. If I’m successful, then I’ll start looking for the tiny inhabitants I want.
 

Ryan-James

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Pfft @Sdaji frogs are so cool man 😜 (but perhaps I like frogs a little too much)

Hay, I could recommend eastern dwarf tree frogs in the enclosure you have mentioned as they are fairly active both day and night, they get a little hierarchy going amongst themselves and if you can feed them flying fruit flies occasionally (or ever get fungus gnats in your enclosure), it's pretty neat to see their acrobatic abilities of catching those suckers mid air and then landing perfectly before swallowing it, not for regular handling but they do become accustomed to feeding times and will take food from tweezers or fingers.
Definitely do heaps of research on bioactive set ups and if you really decide that's what you want then get the enclosure sorted first and let it cycle in for a while before adding inhabitants, they are a lot of extra work to keep them running right and looking good. I usually spend 4-10 hours a week on my bioactive set ups, you still have to clean them, pick up poo, routine maintenance etc.
Long term, skinks and frogs will do just as well in a naturalistic set up without the plants too.
 

Skinker

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Pfft @Sdaji frogs are so cool man 😜 (but perhaps I like frogs a little too much)

Hay, I could recommend eastern dwarf tree frogs in the enclosure you have mentioned as they are fairly active both day and night, they get a little hierarchy going amongst themselves and if you can feed them flying fruit flies occasionally (or ever get fungus gnats in your enclosure), it's pretty neat to see their acrobatic abilities of catching those suckers mid air and then landing perfectly before swallowing it, not for regular handling but they do become accustomed to feeding times and will take food from tweezers or fingers.
Definitely do heaps of research on bioactive set ups and if you really decide that's what you want then get the enclosure sorted first and let it cycle in for a while before adding inhabitants, they are a lot of extra work to keep them running right and looking good. I usually spend 4-10 hours a week on my bioactive set ups, you still have to clean them, pick up poo, routine maintenance etc.
Long term, skinks and frogs will do just as well in a naturalistic set up without the plants too.
They do seem a tad food motivated 😃. I read conflicting views on bioactive, but think much comes down to stocking rate., or so it seems. I want to understock to help the setup function with less input from me.

The planting is as much for me as for the inhabitants, it just looks better. I will definitely let the environment settle before introducing anything except the invertebrates. As a gardener I’m comfortable with the idea of creating microclimates for plants, so feel I might be able to use some of my experience in making the conditions suitable for animals.

I think if I use the recycled aquarium I’ve got I might be best to stick to skinks because of its size. If my finances improve, I’ve got that lovely Exo Terra frog enclosure on my wish list and your description of the antics of the little dwarfs is definitely appealing. In a previous post I mentioned using bisque fired, unglazed cylinders set in shallow water dish as one idea to use as evaporative cooling towers. Do you think the texture would be too rough?

I’m not sure why the full size green tree frogs are such a popular pet. I’ve watched them in the yard and they really do like to conserve their energy!

Thank you for your input, I appreciate the information
 

Sdaji

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Pfft @Sdaji frogs are so cool man 😜 (but perhaps I like frogs a little too much)

Hay, I could recommend eastern dwarf tree frogs in the enclosure you have mentioned as they are fairly active both day and night, they get a little hierarchy going amongst themselves and if you can feed them flying fruit flies occasionally (or ever get fungus gnats in your enclosure), it's pretty neat to see their acrobatic abilities of catching those suckers mid air and then landing perfectly before swallowing it, not for regular handling but they do become accustomed to feeding times and will take food from tweezers or fingers.
Definitely do heaps of research on bioactive set ups and if you really decide that's what you want then get the enclosure sorted first and let it cycle in for a while before adding inhabitants, they are a lot of extra work to keep them running right and looking good. I usually spend 4-10 hours a week on my bioactive set ups, you still have to clean them, pick up poo, routine maintenance etc.
Long term, skinks and frogs will do just as well in a naturalistic set up without the plants too.

Frogs are brilliant little critters, I like them a lot and used to enjoy keeping them. Hey, plenty of people love pot plants and stamp collections, no judgement from me and I'd certainly still prefer frogs over most popular hobbies :)
 

Ryan-James

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Frogs are brilliant little critters, I like them a lot and used to enjoy keeping them. Hey, plenty of people love pot plants and stamp collections, no judgement from me and I'd certainly still prefer frogs over most popular hobbies :)
Stamp collecting!
Youve twisted my arm and I'm going to have to do a frog post now 😜
 

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