What Is The Best Substrate for a Blue-Tongued Skink?
Whether you are creating a naturalistic, bioactive, or easy to clean terrarium for your Blue-Tongued Skink, we will be covering several different, Blue-Tongued Skink substrate options to help you choose the best substrate for your Blue-Tongued Skink!
Before diving into the best substrate options for a Blue-Tongued Skink, it is important that you are able to identify which species of Blue-Tongued Skink you own. Australian Blue-Tongued Skinks require lower humidity levels than Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skinks, and therefore the substrate choices will be different depending on the environment where your Blue-Tongued Skink is native. The best options for an Australian blue tongue would not be ideal for an Indonesian blue tongue.
How To Create Your Own Substrate Mix For Blue-Tongued Skinks
Australian blue tongues require a semi-arid mix that are well draining. Indonesian blue tongues need a humidity retaining tropical mix. To create your own mix, you can use the proportions below. You can also mix in some of the other elements listed to make a chunkier substrate mix.
Australian Blue Tongues:
- Semi-arid mix of 60% topsoil, 40% play sand
- Cypress mulch
- Coconut husk
Indonesian Blue Tongues
- Tropical mix of 40% topsoil, 40% peat moss / sphagnum peat / or coco fiber, 20% play sand
- Coconut husk
- Cypress mulch
We do not recommend these products as these are inadequate choices for Blue-Tongued Skinks and may pose significant health risks:
- Softwood products like pine, fir, and cedar wood
- Shredded paper products or small mammal bedding
- Calcium sand
- Walnut shell
- Reptile carpet
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 the humidity levels they would experience in nature.
As Blue-Tongued Skink skinks love to burrow in their substrate, provide a substrate layer that is at least 4-6” deep. Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Non-bioactive substrate should be completely replaced once every 4-6 months.
How To Make Bioactive Enclosure for Blue-Tongued Skink?
To create bioactive substrate for a Blue-Tongued Skink, you will need to create an environment to support a cleanup crew - typically isopods and springtails.The most common soil used for bioactive mixes is organic topsoil. Ensure that whatever soil you choose does not have added fertilizers or weed inhibitors. Zoo Med Reptisoil, Zoo Med EcoEarth, and ExoTerra Plantation Soil are the most common substrates found in brick and mortar stores that can be used in bioactive mixes. ReptiChip (coconut chips) and ZooMed Forest Floor (cypress mulch) can be mixed into bioactive substrate to create a chunkier mix.
For Australian Blue-Tongued Skinks, you will want to make a soil that is made up of more sand to ensure quick drainage and lower humidity. For lower humidity environments, it is important to look into the cleanup crew that can survive with lower humidity. Powder orange isopods are a popular choice for lower humidity bioactive vivariums. Indonesian blue tongues need higher humidity and will appreciate a substrate that is high in peat moss or coconut fiber to aid in holding humidity. Most commonly used tropical isopods and springtails, such as dwarf white isopods and tropical white springtails, will be suitable for an Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink’s enclosure.
While we do not have a dedicated enclosure build video for our Blue-Tongued Skink, Cleo, you can see what her enclosure looks like here: Updated Reptile Room Tour 2022! | MASSIVE Tegu, Blue-Tongued Skink Upgrades + MORE! | Zen Habitats.
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. Although skinks do climb on low, sturdy decor, Blue-Tongued Skinks are not very graceful climbers due to their stubby legs. They also have a tendency to uproot live plants as they burrow or flatten fake plants as they plow through their enclosure. Some keepers may opt to use sturdy plant pots to give the live plants more protection from being uprooted as the skink creates burrows. Placing cork rounds half buried into the substrate can give your skink a good starting point to create burrows. Decor used for skinks should be wide and sturdy enough to support their bodies.
To learn more about reptile enrichment, check out our reptile enrichment article here: How To Provide Enrichment For A Variety Of Reptile Species.