What Do Ocellated Skinks Eat?

what do ocellated skinks eat - mealworms

What do ocellated skinks eat? Ocellated skinks are primarily insectivorous, which means that their diet is mostly composed of arthropods (bugs).

The literature disagrees on whether they are insectivorous or omnivorous, as certain accounts report significant quantities of plant matter found in Chalcides ocellatus stomachs. Breeder Dave Clemens reports that his ocellated skinks will routinely accept offered produce. Personally, my own skinks generally ignore plant matter when offered, aside from nibbling the occasional berry. However, it’s unlikely to be harmful to occasionally offer fresh vegetables for your skink to nibble on desired.

Captive ocellated skinks are likely to do best on a diet that reflects what they eat in the wild, so when designing a feeding schedule for your skink, make sure to plan for plenty of bugs.

Ocellated Skink Feeding Schedule

It’s difficult to say exactly how many bugs to feed an ocellated skink per day, as this depends on the type of bug, the age of the skink, and the size of the bugs in question. However, here’s a good starting point:

  • Babies — daily
  • Juveniles and adults — 2-3x/week
  • Pregnant and postpartum females — daily

Offering vegetables 2x/week should be plenty.

Offer as many insects as the skink will take consecutively in a 5-minute period. A good way to figure this out is to count out some mealworms, stick them in a dish inside the enclosure, and then after the skink has eaten its fill, count how many are missing from the original number.

If you are using a commercial diet, then provide a portion a little larger than the skink’s head.

If you have a pregnant female, note that she will probably stop eating toward the end of her pregnancy. This is normal and nothing to worry about — just make sure to feed her well after she gives birth!

How large should prey be?

I’ve known my skinks to effectively take down bugs as big as their head. They will also go after dwarf white isopods (Trichorhina tomentosa), so they will accept a pretty wide range of prey. As a general rule, only use prey at least slightly smaller than their head.

Will ocellated skinks fight over food if housed together?

Sometimes. If commercial diet like Repashy Grub Pie or canned cat food is offered, then conflicts are highly unlikely — they’re usually content to eat from the same plate. With live prey, you might see some bug-stealing going on, but significant conflicts are still going to be rare as long as you provide enough food for everyone.

Food Options for Ocellated Skinks

Feeder Insects for Ocellated Skinks

Ocellated skinks are opportunistic feeders, eating just about whatever prey is available. Taylor et al. reports that “almost all types of prey have been recorded in anecdotal reports.” This means that it is extremely important to use a variety of different foods in your skink’s diet, not just the same 1-2 things every time.

Here is a list of appropriate feeder insect/invertebrate options for your ocellated skink:

Treats (no more than 1x/month): butterworms, waxworms

After you have figured out how much your skink will eat, I recommend letting prey run loose in the enclosure. This is a good way to provide some entertainment for your skink, since it will spend all day chasing them. This is good enrichment as well as a good form of exercise!

Ocellated skinks are enthusiastic predators and will try to take down just about anything. I have seen them pull apart darkling beetles and dubia roaches that should have been too large for them to consider as food, and yet…evidently not. That being said, it’s still best practice to offer prey items roughly the same size as the skink’s head or smaller. In the case of worms, they should be no wider than the skink’s head.

Ocellated skinks are attracted to motion and generally prefer live, moving prey to pre-killed, but their sense of smell seems to play a large role in determining whether something is likely to be edible, and I have successfully gotten them to take non-live foods such as preserved insects and commercial diets.

Plant Options for Ocellated Skinks

Because ocellated skinks are known to occasionally eat plants, it’s a good idea to make nutritious options available to them on a routine basis just so they have the option of picking at it as needed. Here are some safe, nutritious options that you can try with your skink:

  • alfalfa
  • arugula
  • basil
  • carrot greens + roots
  • chard
  • cilantro
  • collard greens
  • dandelion greens + flowers
  • endive
  • hibiscus leaves + flowers
  • kale
  • mustard greens
  • nasturtium leaves + flowers
  • parsley
  • tomatoes
  • turnip greens
  • spinach
  • squash
  • white clover

Harder vegetables should be cut into small pieces, grated, or mashed, as ocellated skinks have relatively weak jaws.

Don’t worry too much about goitrogens or oxalates, as plants are too minor a part of their diet for those compounds to cause much of a problem.

Commercial Diets for Ocellated Skinks

Although ocellated skinks are primarily noted as insectivores, I have observed that they seem to have a certain scavenging tendency that predisposes them to eating anything that smells enticing. Although most sources recommend live prey, Daut & Andrews fed the skinks in their study on crickets and canned cat food, and it has been my experience that ocellated skinks will eat canned cat/dog food and similar diets with gusto. These foods also good to have on hand for emergencies when you don’t have fresh food on hand.

Here is a list of appropriate commercial diets that can be fed to your ocellated skink:

Because of the higher fat/calorie content of cat and dog food relative to insect diets, it’s best to limit this food item to occasional use rather than being offered frequently, as it may lead to obesity and/or organ dysfunction. For a list of brands likely to be best, see this page.

DON’T NEGLECT VARIETY!

Each different type of food has a slightly different array of nutrients to offer, so one of the best ways to make sure that your skink gets well-rounded nutrition is to offer as diverse of a diet as possible. According to Elsheikh et al., ocellated skinks have taste buds on their tongues, which means that offering lots of different types of foods is not only important for balanced nutrition, but also constitutes a form of sensory enrichment.

Treats are a great way to create additional variety in your ocellated skink’s diet, especially if you are limited in the types of feeder insects available to you. Soft fruit, boiled egg, and even very small pieces of meat can all make good treats. These should be offered no more than 1x/week.

Ocellated skinks have also been reported to eat the young of other lizards, as well as the tails of other ocellated skinks, so they are likely to accept lizard meat (Adamopoulous & Pafilis, 2019). This also means that there is a certain risk to housing adults with juveniles.

Dietary Supplements: Calcium, Multivitamins & Gutloading

Although providing UVB and a variety of different foods goes a long way toward balancing your ocellated skink’s nutrition, dietary supplements are a handy way to help cover any leftover deficiencies. Let me make one thing clear, however: dietary supplements are NOT a “fix” for a poor diet!

(Prepared diets do not need to have supplements added, as they contain supplements as part of the formula.)

Calcium

Calcium is essential to a captive insectivore’s diet because captive-bred insects have a chronically low calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. When there is more phosphorus than calcium present in a food, the animal’s body has to source calcium from its own reserves to properly process the phosphorus. Dusting feeder insects and invertebrates with calcium helps correct this imbalance.

For this reason, ReptiFiles recommends lightly covering all invertebrate prey with a high-quality reptile calcium powder supplement (excepting isopods and hornworms, which are naturally high in calcium). Here is a list of ReptiFiles’ preferred calcium supplements:

To “dust” prey in calcium powder, put the prey in a plastic bag with a little bit of calcium powder, seal, and gently shake until lightly coated.

What about vitamin D3?

If you are providing enough UVB for your ocellated skinks according to the specifications on the Lighting page, your pet should be able to make all of the vitamin D3 that its body needs. However, occasionally using a low-D3 calcium supplement or multivitamin containing D3 is a reasonable way to “top up” your skink’s reserves without risk of overdose. See the Arcadia EarthPro Feeding Programme for more information.

Supplementing vitamin D3 “instead” of using UVB lighting is not recommended. This is very dangerous, as vitamin D3 supplementation is an imprecise science at best. Supplementing D3 to replace the role of UVB in the environment requires guesswork and may provide too much or too little to the animal, depending on individual needs that can vary depending on the individual’s current health, life stage, and time of year. UVB (appropriately provided) is the best way to make sure your pet is consistently getting the perfect amount of D3 for its needs.

Vitamins

Using a reptile multivitamin powder supplement every once in a while is a good way to help cover any potential vitamin/mineral deficiencies in your ocellated skink’s diet. However, it’s easy to overdose a reptile with vitamin supplements, so when in doubt, use too little rather than too much — reptile bodies are VERY good at making do with what they have.

Here are ReptiFiles’ preferred reptile multivitamin supplements.

Use each supplement as directed by the label.

Gutloading

Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? Generally it’s used to encourage a healthy, balanced diet in humans, but it’s also very applicable to feeder insects. Which do you think would have more nutrition: bugs fed on oatmeal and cardboard, or bugs fed on vegetables and fruits? The latter, obviously! What your feeder insects eat directly affects the nutrition that your skink gets by eating them, and the practice of giving nutritious food to feeder insects is called gutloading.

Even if you aren’t raising your own colony of feeder insects, it’s important to gutload any bugs you buy for at least 24 hours before feeding them to your skink. These are my preferred commercial insect gutload formulas:

You can mix these formulas with water or offer them alongside hydrated water crystals as a source of water. Do not offer a water dish, as the insects may drown.

If you raise your own feeder insects, it’s best practice to use a rotation of different foods to create variety in the bugs’ diet, which will create additional variety in your skink’s nutrition.

Drinking Water

Your ocellated skink must have access to a shallow bowl of fresh water in its enclosure at all times. Without free access to fresh water, your skink can become dehydrated, potentially leading to health problems like organ strain, trouble shedding, and impaction.

The water bowl should be shallow and small enough for it to easily climb out if it falls in. Use tap, spring, or filtered water for your skink. Avoid distilled and softened water, as these aren’t very good for reptiles to drink.

Change out the water whenever it gets soiled. Once a week, give the water bowl a scrub with a veterinary disinfectant like F10SC, Rescue, or chlorhexidine to get rid of potential pathogens. Make sure to pay attention to usage instructions!

SUMMARY —

  • Ocellated skinks primarily eat insects.
  • High-quality commercial diets can be good for variety.
  • Treats add additional variety to the diet.
  • Invertebrate prey should be lightly dusted with reptile calcium powder.
  • Reptile multivitamin powder should be used occasionally.
  • Feeder insects should be well fed and hydrated before offering.
  • Fresh, clean water should be available for drinking at all times.
  • PROVIDE AS MUCH DIETARY VARIETY AS POSSIBLE!

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