My first reptile has arrived! 🥳 Help me fine-tune the basking spot/s?

image

(Better pictures to come—I didn’t want to disturb her for too long with the camera, haha.)

At last, my skink is home! :partying_face: I appreciate so much how helpful everyone has been in providing me advice as I set up! “Nova” just finished up her (most likely a “her”, lol) first meal here, and is now hanging out on her slate tile, enjoying a nice, post-meal bask. :smiley: I’ve been monitoring temperatures and humidity, and things are going pretty well overall! My only remaining quandary regarding the set-up is the fluorescent fixture…

It’s an Arcadia T5 linear fluorescent fixture, and covers around half of the 48” of floor space. I have it mounted to the inside of the (mesh top) enclosure, which is 24” in height. I’ve checked it with a solar meter, and it’s running smoothly and putting out the appropriate levels of uv, exactly as described. The only issue is that it needs to be closer to the ground. :confused: At its current height, I’m getting around 0.7-0.9 on the solar meter at the level of the substrate, and around 1.5-2.0 on top of one basking spot (the other is at ground level). Recommendations I found for northern bts were between 2.0-3.0.

Nova seems to prefer the floor-level platform, so I’m a little concerned about her getting enough uv. How can I lower the lamp? I’ve seen mounting hardware for fixtures in general, but I feel unsure about what will fit my lamp, specifically? Is it safe to lower a fluorescent fixture in a reptile’s enclosure? They don’t try to reach/mess with them, do they? Bts are generally terrestrial, so I kind of doubt it, but… I thought I’d check—better safe than sorry. :persevere:

Alternately, would it be easier/better to get a stronger bulb? I bought the one recommended for the 2.0-3.0 Ferguson zones, as directed… but would the next step up serve the same purpose if mounted further away? Or would there be other effects (too bright, maybe?) that make the “Desert” level bulbs unsuitable for a bts?

7 Likes

Well congratulations @adra on your new “girl”! She looks really pretty! Sounds like she is busy settling into her new home! I can’t help you with your husbandry questions but I will make one suggestion if I may?

Before you start changing/rearranging things that you have put into place, maybe you could give her a few days to adjust before you make revisions to your heating and lighting set up?

Maybe you won’t have to change anything after all……Others may advise you differently so if I am misspeaking please ignore me! :joy: lol! :pray:

Congratulations again for your new “Nova”! Great name btw! :ok_hand::clap::white_check_mark:

6 Likes

Haha, thank you! :grin: I’m very excited to have finally been able to bring her home! That’s a good point about letting her settle in…

The linear fluorescent is the only lamp on the inside of the enclosure, so it might be more alarming to see that moved around. :thinking: The uv level isn’t non-existent (just low), so I presume it wouldn’t be nearly enough time to cause any deficiencies.

6 Likes

Is she able to bask in a spot closer to the uv light? If so do you think she would know enough to move closer to the uv if she needed more exposure?

I am asking uneducated questions about this type of setup so bear with me…… lol. :thinking:

5 Likes

She definitely does have higher places to bask, but they aren’t as heat-absorbent as slate (and not flat enough to put a piece on top). The top of one hide gets about 1.5-2.0 depending on exact placement, and there’s a large cork round that I’ve seen her climb around on, but not BASK on. On top of the cork, it’s probably a full 3.0. :thinking:

As to whether she’d know enough to climb higher if she needed more UV… I’m curious about that, myself. Reptiles are obviously very good at thermoregulating and knowing when they need more heat to digest a meal or such… but do they have an awareness of UVB itself? They can see UVA I know (or bts can, at least), but do any of their senses cause them to prefer a UVB lamp over a non-UVB lamp, temperatures and all other factors being equal? :thinking:

4 Likes

Welcome, @adra ! Nova is beautiful, even with a fuzzy picture. I haven’t had skinks so I can’t offer a whole lot on the setup side, but @caron is right about letting your new girl settle before making changes to her enclosure as long as your temps are safe.

That’s a fascinating question! I wonder if anyone has explored that. If one has the animals, it should be relatively easy to design an experimental setup for this.

I work with snakes, and they reach everything in their enclosures. There are horror stories about injuries from decor and lamps. I don’t know about skinks, but horses are terrestrial too, and I’ve known of some bad accidents involving stall roofs and other places they’re not supposed to reach. My personal philosophy for animal setups is to assume that the animal is going to do its level best to kill or seriously injure itself; my job is to prevent that. I’d avoid placing any type of lamp inside the enclosure. Experienced skink people may offer different advice, they’d know the species better than me.

Looking forward to seeing more of you and your beautiful new addition! Congrats again on felt Nova home!

4 Likes

Congratulations! Blue tongue skinks are by far my favorite reptiles! You will not regret it ever! They have such personality and no two are alike. Mine will sometimes come up to the front of his enclosure to get head scratches! :joy:

Now to the UVB issues-
So are you using the Arcadia desert 12%? How far away is it from the basking spots? As someone with a blue tongue skink, I can say lowering it will probably not be an issue. They are really, really bad climbers. I would just to be safe, keep it over a foot over the closest spot. Also like others have mentioned, let her settle in before doing anything to her enclosure.

Remember, people have kept blue tongue skinks in tubs and they lived perfectly healthy lives while living to 30 years. Not saying that I agree with this but a week or 2 with slightly lower UV levels isn’t going to hurt anything!

Also what are you feeding? Has nothing to do with UVB (obviously :sweat_smile: ) but I just like seeing what other people do differently or similar to me! Also have you watched Reptile Mountain TV? I think he has the best blue tongue information on all of YouTube!

5 Likes

Thank you, everyone!!! :grin: She’s been active and exploring everything over the last couple of days, and seems to be getting bolder and more adventurous. She finally decided that all three hides are her property, and is testing out how many ways she can climb into, over, under, and around them. XD She also charged the food dish as I was setting it in her enclosure today, all fear forgotten when she recognized the smell—I was so startled, I almost spilled it. :rofl:

I was surprised that I couldn’t really find any studies on how well (or not) reptiles regulate their own UV exposure in captivity… I do wonder—since some reptiles can see UVA light—if they find that more attractive than a warm basking spot lit by an incandescent or other type of bulb. I’ve read that some animals will struggle to recognize certain foods without UVA, due to colors not looking “right” on fruits or veggies. :thinking:

Lol, you have the same attitude as me when it comes to pets! XD A lifetime of rescuing cats has taught me: if there is anything in a room that could potentially, under some absurd circumstance, pose a safety concern… they will make a beeline for it. :woman_facepalming: I once rescued a stray baby kitten… and the first thing he did when he came in the door was to go find a tool rack in the entryway, and start batting at a handsaw hanging from a nail, far above his head. :carpentry_saw: I went on a long “catproofing” mission that day… and forevermore saw the world through “dangervision”. :expressionless: (I ended up creating an entire “no cats allowed” area in my home, just for reptiles and vivariums… They don’t even know what’s behind the locked door, but they resent my secretive behavior. :rofl:)

If and when I get a snake, I am legitimately horrified at the idea of trying to keep them from getting into everything… How do you stop them from pulling out thermostat probes, and other things that have to go inside the enclosure? It’s a living noodle with a sense of curiosity… what can possibly stand in its way? :rofl:

I’m absolutely loving just being able to watch her explore and be adorable! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: She decided to see if she was a gecko today, and attempted to climb straight up a smooth, flat wall. She learned that she is not a gecko… and that she is also not Spider-man. So she settled for climbing one of her caves, instead. :joy:

I have the Arcadia 6% “Forest” bulbs—is that the issue? I waffled between those and the “Desert” bulbs, but ended up going with “Forest” because of the label saying that they were for reptiles with a Ferguson zone rating of 2-3. Would the “Desert” bulbs solve the problem with height/strength, without being too hard on her eyes or anything like that? I decided to err on the side of caution, but I’m willing to replace the bulbs if it will be better for her. The tank is 24” tall, and the fixture is mounted flush to the ceiling. The substrate raises the ground level by around 1”-3”, and the basking spot she seems to prefer is at the lower end of that… She has ACCESS to higher places, but really prefers the lowest one. :thinking:

I watched Reptile Mountain TV OBSESSIVELY leading up to bringing Nova home! XD I feel like if I didn’t see every single skink care video on there… I must have come close, lol. :joy: I’ve been feeding a blend of grain-free dog and cat foods (the dog food is the same brand she’s been eating since birth, as I understand it, so I wanted her to have something familiar she could feel certain was “her” food), and Repashy Bluey Buffet, with supplemental calcium (mostly the kind “without D3”, but I add a bit of “with D3” in, to be safe). A multivitamin is on the way, which I also plan to occasionally mix into meals. The brands of cat and dog food I bought were Merrick’s, Wellness Core, Zignature, and Orijen, in both “pate” and shredded forms. I freeze the big cans into blended “food cubes” in silicone ice cube trays, and thaw as needed. I read that Vitamin B1/thiamine was destroyed by freezing, which I found a little concerning, so besides the multivitamin, I’m trying to offer “fresh from the can” meals whenever possible (easier with small, cat food cans than it is with massive, dog food ones…).

When she gets to adulthood and needs more plant matter in her diet… I have easy access to a small, organic, backyard vegetable garden with summer squash, cucumbers, romaine, and a few other veggies I’ve seen recommended for bts—I’m hoping that will be superior to using only frozen or rehydrated veggies? Do I need to worry about parasites or microfauna from outside posing a danger? I can absolutely confirm that no pesticides or weed killers have ever been used on or near the plants, but could anything else create an issue?

I’m also trying to decide on an option for healthy “treats” to offer once in a while, but have heard crickets aren’t great options, and not a lot of strong opinions about what insect options they prefer. I would love to find ethically and safely sourced frozen snails, but haven’t had any luck. :confused: I want a source that dispatches them in as humane a way as possible (no boiling), and is absolutely free of parasites (because there are seriously nasty ones that can be transmitted by mollusks, and it kind of terrifies me…).

3 Likes

I will have to say @adra that you are the most thorough person I’ve ever encountered before during and after when it comes to adding a living thing (animal) to your environment and I say that with the utmost respect and admiration! Would that every Human be so responsible and caring about the animals they choose to share their living space (adopt)! Including me! :heart::+1:

Nova is one lucky little lizard! :blush:

3 Likes


I would definitely say that if you are able to, switch out the bulb for a 12%. You could use the 6% as a back up just in case something happens, or for a future animal that doesn’t require higher UVB levels.

Also my skink absolutely loves Tiki cat/dog so if you ever want to add another brand I would recommend it!

As for the plant matter, as long as you wash it thoroughly don’t worry about anything bad happening because of it.

For the snails what I would recommend, if you have the space, is to set up a 10 gallon aquarium for aquatic snails and then they will breed and produce tons more and then you can feed fresh snails to your skink. I am planning on doing this soon because I can’t find any snails for sale with shells. Their shells provide excellent exercise for their mouth along with calcium and other nutrients. it is also really good enrichment when you feed whole snails.

4 Likes

100% agree with you! Nova has one of the best owners she could possibly have!

4 Likes

Awwwww… thank you guys for saying that. :smiling_face_with_tear::relaxed: I always just feel so lucky to have the chance to live with these animals in the first place… so I want to repay them with the best possible care and life I can manage. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: I can’t imagine anything better than getting to interact with animals from vastly different places and environments around the world, that I would otherwise likely never see in my life. Even a ball python or a random housecat still seem incredible to me, considering all the history behind the species, and how far their ancestors traveled to end up here. :thinking:

Whew, that actually sounds like a much easier solution that having to re-mount fixtures or reorganize the enclosure! :sweat_smile: I’ll pick up some Desert bulbs next time I’m out.

I’m really interested in keeping gargoyle geckos at some point—would they be good candidates for the 6% bulbs? I’ve read that they need relatively little UV (and due to their climbing around, I would prefer to have any lights/heaters OUTSIDE the enclosure itself, which would lower the output further).

Oh, I actually saw the Tiki brand when I was shopping, but I didn’t know anything about them (at least with regards to skinks, lol). I’ll check them out—it’s always nice to have more options. :grin:

Alas, the only issue with raising the snails myself… is that I find snails exceptionally cute, and know I would get attached to any I brought home. :confounded: Do you know of any private breeders who do this for their reptiles/other pets, and sell them frozen? It would be a lot easier to inquire about whether they’re CB (and thus, extremely unlikely to have parasites), how they’re harvested, if they’re raw and/or have shells included, etc.—whereas major producers usually don’t have or provide that kind of individual oversight. I’ve even seen “raw” frozen snails marketed as HUMAN food that can’t/won’t tell you these things, which seems weird!

4 Likes

I unfortunately don’t know anyone who breeds snails. I have actually spent HOURS looking and haven’t found any breeders in the US. I found tons in Europe but none over here. If/when I start breeding snails I would be happy to send you some!

As for gargoyles, from what I hear 6% would probably be to high especially since it is a 24 inch bulb.

Some things that would work with 6% would be-

Corn snakes
New world rat snakes
Carpet pythons
Ball pythons
Fire skinks
Emerald tree skinks
Cuban false chameleons
Garter snakes
And a lot more

3 Likes

That’s so odd! I would think snails would be more common, especially since some are parthenogenic… :thinking: Are the European ones intended for human consumption? They’re more common in cuisine in parts of Europe, so that would explain it. I’d definitely be up for buying frozen snails if you ever start breeding them, though! :grin: If you find any other U.S.-based sources, let me know!

I only wish that wide-scale care standards for commercially-raised invertebrates were more reasonable… I don’t have a problem with things like snails as a food source, but the “traditional” means of keeping and preparing them just show no respect—or even basic decency—towards the snails at all. :’( I would definitely opt to feed them live as the more humane choice to conventionally-prepared mollusks from the human supply chain… Sadly, due to that being the typical approach to harvesting them, I don’t even trust pet food or bait grade snails to have been managed humanely, unless I see statements or evidence from the distributors that prove otherwise. :pensive: I have huge respect for how many herp keepers I’ve seen who breed or source their rodents and other feeders with great regard for their welfare and comfort. It really does go unappreciated by those outside the hobby, and that’s a shame—because many major suppliers of animal-based products (and most big box pet stores…) could learn a lot from their example! :+1:

Wow, I’m surprised at how little uv gargoyles get by on! I would have thought they’d be encountering a lot more in their native habitats… but I haven’t read too much in-depth about their care, beyond the major points of housing, diet, and temperament. I had been leaning towards getting a bp in the future, so that could work out. :slight_smile: Fire skinks are also a pretty amazing species, so I’m sure I’ll find a use for those 6% bulbs sooner or later. XD

4 Likes

I would not mind having a fire skink myself. I have an extra huge tub:enclosure that is empty right now and bugging me…. lol!

2 Likes

I haven’t really thought about how to dispatch the snails humanely. What would you suggest?

3 Likes

I’ve done some digging on this topic, and it can be tricky… when the ultimate goal is to use them as food for our pets. There seems to be a consensus about certain beers, ethyl alcohol, or clove essential oils used as an “anesthetic”, so that the snails die while unconscious in the freezer. Just going straight to the freezer is less than ideal, unfortunately… :frowning: I’m seeing that clove is toxic to many reptiles, and I don’t hold out much hope that alcohol-based beverages are any better. :confused: There was the simple solution of just… squashing… but if you want to keep the food value intact… would that still work? The most promising thing I read was related to Co2, which is the method used to humanely euthanize rodents… I would do a bit of digging on that topic, if you’re seriously interested in breeding and selling them. :slight_smile: The big things to steer clear of are boiling, anything involving salt, and anything “extra” that’s typically done to accommodate human sensibilities. :pensive:

The other aspect is very simple: don’t “purge” them by starving them for long periods of time. Thankfully, lizards are not so “gourmet” minded, and don’t care if the snail’s last couple of lettuce leaves are still inside it at the time of comsumption. :expressionless: If born/raised in captivity, they should NOT have had access to anything poisonous, so the safety issue is moot. Second-generation hatchlings from wild caught parents should be free of parasites and such (If anyone knows differently, please correct me! I have a casual interest in gastropods, but am not an expert!). Since you control what the CB snails are eating from beginning to end, purging would be pointless, and possibly detrimental to its nutritional value (and of course, needlessly cruel).

3 Likes

More Nova! You can see her pretty colors and patterns so much better under the basking light. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


EDIT: fixed size issue! They can be enlarged, now. :sweat_smile:

5 Likes

She really is a pretty little lady! You really thought long and hard about what reptile was best for you and you surely picked a winner!

I ran across some pictures of some adorable little fire skinks and now……. Hmmmmmm! Lol!

Will you be able to handle your girl after she gets settled in? I like reptiles that I can interact with…… :blush::sunglasses:

3 Likes

Same here, I love pets that can be safely/easily handled and taken on little “outings” beyond their vivs. :joy:

I’m looking forward to that the most! :grin: I chose this exact species for their tendency to be easygoing little buddies, who don’t mind just hanging out in your lap now and then. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: I’m really excited for when I’ll be able to start handling her and interacting more.

And thank youuuu! :hugs:

3 Likes