Blue-Tongued Skink General Reptile Care Guide
|(Tiliqua spp.) Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Blue-tongued skinks are a genus of diurnal, terrestrial lizard found throughout Australia and parts of Indonesia. All Tiliqua species (except the Adelaide pygmy skink, T. adelaidensis, which is not addressed in this guide) can be easily recognized by their triangular heads, heavy torpedo-shaped bodies, short legs, and distinctive blue tongue.
Blue-tongued skinks are omnivorous, which means that they eat both plants and animals in the wild. Affectionately referred to as “garbage disposals” by some keepers, they are enthusiastic eaters with a taste for just about anything — insects, slugs/snails, roadkill, small animals, fruits, flowers, etc. However, they still require a specific, balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.
Depending on species, blue-tongued skinks generally measure between 15″-24″ (38-61 cm). Average lifespan is 15-20 years, although they are known to be capable of living 35+ years, which is an important consideration to keep in mind when you’re thinking about getting this pet.
- 4'x2'x2' Meridian PVC Panel Reptile Enclosure
- dual dome heat lamp
- 2x 100w halogen flood heat bulb (white)
- plug-in lamp dimmer
- infrared thermometer
- digital thermometer/hygrometer with a probe
- 22-24” UVB bulb and fixture
- LED plant grow light(s)
- environmental enrichment
- Zen Cave or Zen Corner Cave
- zip ties
- reptile mister
- plug-in outlet timer
- large water bowl
- soft-tipped feeding tweezers
An adult blue-tongued skink requires minimum 8 sq ft of floor space, or a 4'x2'x2' Reptile Enclosure. Skinks are extremely active and love to explore, so bigger is better. Even baby blue-tongued skinks can be housed in an adult-sized enclosure as long as they have lots of hiding places to help them feel secure.
Front-opening enclosures are considered best for housing reptiles, and skinks are no exception. Skinks are strong and clever, so whether you’re using a front- or top-opening cage, it must be securely latched to prevent escape.
Can multiple skinks be housed together in the same enclosure?
Never house more than one skink per enclosure. I promise s/he will not get lonely! But, if possible, position the enclosure in a relatively mainstream area of house where s/he can watch you. Skinks like to watch you just as much as you like to watch them!
Lighting, Temperatures & Humidity
Blue-tongued skinks are diurnal, which means that they are more active during the day. This also means that they are stimulated by the presence of bright white light in their environment, and they require high-quality UVB lighting for survival.
UVB lighting can be tricky because, to get the right strength of UVB (UV Index, or UVI), distance and potential mesh obstruction must be considered. To provide appropriate UVB for a blue-tongued skink, you will need a T5 10.0 or 12% bulb, long enough to span half of the enclosure and placed on the warm side of the enclosure, preferably not obstructed by mesh.
The basking platform should be placed according to the following, with the distance being measured between the UVB lamp and the height of the skink when on the basking surface.
With mesh obstruction: 7-11”
Without mesh obstruction: 12-18”
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Blue-tongued skinks, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. Skinks warm up by basking under the sun in the wild. In captivity, they do best with a halogen heat lamp.
Basking surface: 105-115°F (40-46°C)
Cool side: 70-80°F (21-27°C)
Generally speaking, 100w PAR38 halogen flood bulbs should be plenty to achieve those basking temperatures in a 24” tall enclosure. However, if you notice that they’re getting too hot, dial it down with a plug-in lamp dimmer. If your basking area is too cool, you need higher wattage bulbs.
To measure the basking surface temperature, use an infrared thermometer (a.k.a. temperature gun). To passively track basking temperature, use a digital probe thermometer, with the probe placed on the basking surface under the heat source. The Etekcity 774 is a good infrared thermometer, and most reptile-brand digital probe thermometers function well.
Maintaining the right humidity is important for helping your skink shed easily, as well as prevent illnesses like respiratory infections. As a general rule, Australian species thrive around 40% humidity, and Indonesian species require 60-80% humidity.
Blue-tongued skinks are healthiest and happiest when they are housed on a substrate (a.k.a. “bedding”) that imitates the conditions of their natural habitat and facilitates moderate humidity levels. Natural soil is generally best for meeting this need.
You can use a DIY mix of 60% organic, additive-free topsoil + 40% play sand (this option tends to be the most affordable as well).
Provide a substrate layer that is around 4-6” deep. Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced once every 4-6 months.
Decorating the Terrarium
Decorations play an important role in your skink’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your skink’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nice!
Cork rounds, cork flats, sturdy branches, and live or artificial plants work well as décor in a skink terrarium.
Feeding Your Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skinks are omnivores, which means that they need both animal- and plant-based foods to get the nutrition that their bodies need.
Blue-tongued skinks 12 months and younger should receive high-protein foods as 70-80% of their diet. After this point, high-protein foods should only make up 50-60% of their diet. The rest of a blue-tongue skink’s diet should come from leafy greens and other vegetables, with fruit offered as a treat.
The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet blue tongue skink is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier pet that always looks forward to mealtime. High protein ideas for skinks are:
- Dubia roaches
- High quality dog or cat food
- Chicken hearts
- Chicken gizzards
How often blue-tongued skinks need to eat depends on age:
- Babies (up to 3 months) daily
- Juveniles (3-8 months) 3 times weekly
- Subadults and Adults (8+ months) 1-2 weekly
To ensure that your blue-tongued skink is getting all of the vitamins and minerals that they need, you will need a calcium powder and a multivitamin powder — or a good all-in-one.
Blue-tongued skinks are extraordinarily curious lizards that get bored easily, with above average needs for mental as well as physical exercise. Taming and regular handling can help fulfill that need for stimulation while also teaching the skink to feel secure in your presence.
Blue-tongued skinks are hefty, little sausages of joy, so when you handle yours, take care to support its whole body across your forearm, including the tail. Skinks are defensive and quick to hide, so avoid loud noises or sudden movements. Keeping one of your hands visible can help your pet feel more secure.
If you wish to pet him/her, good places to start are the neck, back, and chin. Avoid touching the top of your bluey’s head, though, as they have a shadow-sensitive “third eye” there.
Eventually your skink will start to squirm and scratch to escape. You can increase his/her tolerance for handling by only taking it out for 5 minutes a day at first. When s/he sits still in your arms, increase handling time by 1 minute. Repeat the process until the skink sits still for at least 15 minutes.
Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water after each handling session.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles.
Need to rehome your pet?
Don't let it loose! Remember - it is NEVER okay to release animals. Many pets released into the wild are unable to survive. If your pet does survive, it can become an invasive species that can be harmful to native wildlife, the environment, and the economy. If you are no longer able to care for your pet, you can reach out to friends, retirement communities, local shelters, or visit https://www.dontletitloose.com/rehoming-a-pet/ to find a rehoming partner near you.