Sandfish skinks are insectivores, which means that they depend on a diet of bugs for optimal health and nutrition. Their bodies are uniquely evolved to be able to detect and pinpoint the movement of insects up to 6 inches (15cm) away!
How much do sandfish skinks need to eat?
It’s difficult to say exactly how many bugs to feed a sandfish per day, as this depends on the type of bug, the age of the sandfish,
and the size of the bugs in question.
- Hatchlings (under 3” long) — 2x/day
- Juveniles (3-5” long) — 1x/day
- Adults (at least 5” long) — Once every other day
Offer as many bugs as the sandfish will finish in about 5 minutes. However it’s alright to leave some loose in the enclosure, as this
will give the sandfish something to chase throughout the day.
What do sandfish skinks eat?
Sandfish rely on vibrations in the sand in order to find prey rather than using their sense of smell, so they need live insects, not
- Small locusts
- Dubia roaches
- Discoid roaches
- Red runner roaches
- Black soldier fly larvae
- Darkling beetles
The feeders you offer should be no larger than the widest part of your sandfish’s head, because although they do chew their food, they still swallow the bugs that they catch more or less whole. Offering feeder insects that are too big may result in refusal or possibly choking.
You may notice your sandfish occasionally plunging its snout or even its entire head into the sand — this isn’t a failed attempt at hiding; it’s actually how they detect the vibrations produced by insects hidden under the sand. (Use of vibratory cues for detection of insect prey by the sandswimming lizard Scincus scincus by Thomas E. Hetherington)
For information about the nutritional value of different insect feeders, read our article, Feeder Insect Nutrition Facts for Reptile Keepers.
Can sandfish eat fruits and vegetables?
As an occasional treat, yes. Based on findings in The comparative diet of three Saharan sand dune skinks by Omar Attum et al., it is speculated that wild sandfish may snack on vegetation when they can’t find bugs to eat. However, like an average human presented with the choice between steak and salad, they prefer the bugs.
Here are some safe options to try:
- Millet seeds
A small, shallow bowl of reconstituted crested gecko diet powder (Pangea or Repashy brand) may also be accepted.
All fruits and vegetables should be chopped into very small pieces to be easily eaten. And let me emphasize again: fruits and vegetables should be used as a treat only. Attempting to feed a sandfish solely on an herbivorous or vegetarian diet will
result in the animal’s death.
Should I feed inside the enclosure?
Some new owners may be concerned about feeding their sandfish inside a tank full of sand. After all, won’t the sandfish ingest the
sand when it catches its prey? Yes, but there’s no cause for concern. Sandfish’s stomachs and intestines are built to handle sand ingestion — and in large amounts at that. In Adaptation to life in aeolian sand: how the sandfish lizard, Scincus scincus, prevents sand particles from entering its lungs by Anna Stadler et al., researchers found that 40-60% of wild sandfish poo is, in fact, sand! They pass it just fine as long as they are adequately hydrated and have high enough basking temperatures.
Plus, letting feeder insects free roam in the enclosure for the skink to find will keep it well entertained, as it will spend all day chasing them. This is good enrichment as well as a good way to encourage exercise.
Dietary supplements for your sandfish skink
Because you will be providing UVB lighting for your sandfish skink, you will need a plain reptile calcium powder without phosphorus or much vitamin D. Dust the calcium on all insect feeders by sticking the bugs in a plastic sandwich bag with a little bit of powder and shaking them around a bit. If the bugs look like powdered donuts afterward, you used too much powder.
Dust all feeders for every feeding, although it’s okay and even encouraged to skip a dusting once or twice a month, as this helps prevent overdose.
Best calcium for sandfish skinks:
For more information on why reptiles need calcium supplementation, read our article: What You Need to Know About Reptile Vitamins.
Reptiles need an occasional multivitamin supplement to make sure they’re getting the vitamins and minerals that they need in their diet. Unlike humans they don’t need it every day — in fact, this practice can kill them from vitamin overdose. However, it’s good to add reptile multivitamin powder to the bag for dusting feeders 50/50 with the calcium.
Use this schedule for dosing multivitamins:
- 1x/week for hatchlings
- 2x/month for juveniles
- 1x/month for adults
These are the best multivitamins for sandfish:
Gutloading feeder insects
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 bran and cardboard, or bugs fed on vegetables and fruits? The latter, obviously! What your feeder insects eat directly affects the nutrition that your sandfish 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:
Just add water!
What I like about these formulas is that they’re plant-based rather than grain-based, mimicking the insects’ optimum diet in the wild rather than just using cheap filler ingredients. The result? Delivering the very best nutrition to the reptiles that eat them. Avoid cheap insect gutloads like Fluker’s Cricket Diet, Orange Cubes, Nature Zone Total Bites, or anything similar. It’s poor quality nutrition for the bugs, and therefore poor nutrition for your sandfish.
On the Subject of Water
The best water to use for your sandfish is tap water (assuming that the water in your area is safe for humans). Not distilled, softened, or even filtered. Here’s why.
A small water bowl should be provided, large enough for your sandfish to be able to soak its entire body if desired, but no more than an inch deep to reduce the risk of drowning. The water should be changed every other day or whenever it gets dirty.
- Introduction to Sandfish
- Sandfish (Scincus) Species
- Shopping List
- Enclosure Size & Cohabitation
- Lighting, Temperature & Humidity Needs
- Substrate Options
- Environmental Enrichment: Decorating the Enclosure
- Feeding Your Sandfish (YOU ARE HERE)
- Handling Tips & Behavioral Notes
- Health Information
- Additional Resources