Sandfish skinks are not like a bearded dragon or leopard gecko — generally speaking, they don’t tolerate being picked up and petted very well. They prefer to dig around and hunt bugs undisturbed, and too much handling can actually make them so stressed out that it makes them sick. So if you’re looking for a pet that you can pick up, play with, and cuddle, a sandfish is not for you.
That being said, you can tame them enough to accept your presence in their life, and maybe a mealworm from your fingers. Start by
placing the insects in the enclosure by hand. Once the sandfish stops fleeing at the sight of your hand, gradually get closer to the skink with each feeding. (This is a lot easier if you use a front-opening enclosure rather than a top-opening one.) Around this point the sandfish should start associating your hand with food. Then rest your hand on the sand with a slow-moving feeder worm in your palm and wait for the skink to be attracted to the movement and come over to investigate. It might take a few tries, but eventually the skink should become comfortable with taking treats from your hand.
If you ever need to pick up your sandfish (cleaning the enclosure, vet appointment, health check, etc.), pick it up from below, not
from above. Grabbing from above is predator behavior, and you don’t want your sandfish to think that it’s about to be dinner. Drag your fingers through the sand to locate the likely buried skink, then lift it out of the sand. It will wiggle around, so be swift to secure it in your hand. This will take some practice, and expect the skink to pee on your or possibly even bite you in an effort to escape. Stay calm, be persistent, and don’t worry about getting bit — it doesn’t hurt.
Sandfish skinks spend most of their time hidden under the sand, but if they feel secure in their environment, they will come out to bask
and hunt for bugs. But once they’re done basking, they will dig ‘til kingdom come, so give them plenty of space to do it!
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)
Although not very vocal, S. scincus have been observed to make squealing sounds during fights between males.
The skink in the video above is a malnourished rescue, and so while it is demonstrating a healthy, natural behavior, this is not how a sandfish skink’s body should look. The enclosure is an example of a small quarantine tank simplified for rehabilitation purposes.
Sandfish Care Guide — Table of Contents:
- 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
- Handling Tips & Behavioral Notes (YOU ARE HERE)
- Health Information
- Additional Resources