I'm not sure if I misread the pattern directions or messed up not turning when I was supposed to, but I've decided to cut the yarn, turn the tail and work the dc v sts from the wrong side, turn it again to work the scales as I saw on YouTube, so the right side of the tail is the backside of the scales. This way I don't have to secure them down.
There will be three distinct changes in the scales themselves, but I don't think it will harm the overall aesthetic of the magical piece. :)
I will frog DD2's tail to work the crocodile sts the correct way -- that's a post for another day.