Q&A: Blue-tongued Skinks
Blue-tongued Skinks: Your Questions Answered
Kasey, Zen's Animal Care Manager and CVT, answers your questions about Blue-tongued Skinks including why they have blue tongues, of they are good for beginner reptile owners, and what their personalities are like!
Why do Blue-tongued skinks have blue tongues?
Kasey: Their tongues are blue to scare away predators! When threatened, they will stick out their tongues, hiss, and puff out their bodies. Researchers even discovered that the back part of the tongue is twice the brightness of UV-Blue than the tips of their tongues. It is theorized that this is to scare away predators that may see in the UV spectrum.
What’s the difference between the Indonesian Blue-tongued Skink and the Australian Blue-tongued Skink? Which subspecies is the best to have?
Kasey: Indonesian Blue-tongued skinks are primarily wild-caught because importing animals out of Indonesia is not illegal. Australian Blue-tongued Skinks are more challenging to find. They are always going to be captive-bred because of Australia's strict export laws.
Is a Blue-tongued Skink a good first reptile?
Kasey: I consider them an appropriate first-time reptile, as long as an owner does the proper research. I urge people contemplating new reptiles to use multiple sources when deciding to bring home a new pet.
Our Zen Habitats pet Blue-tongued Skink, Cleo!
Are they friendly and outgoing?
Kasey: Those that are captive bred are generally docile animals with loads of personality! They can be easy to tame because most are highly food motivated. This is all going to vary based on species as well as individuals.
My skink is skittish unless there’s food involved. How do I bond?
Kasey: When it comes to bonding with your skink, patience and routine are key. Make a daily habit of bonding sessions; this can include hand-feeding, snuggling, and just chilling out. It’s important to do this at the same time every day. Food can be an excellent tool when bonding with your skink. Another thing I like to do when habituating an animal is to just spend time around the enclosure, without handling them, just so that they can see that I am not a threat.
My skink won’t eat her veggies! I have wrapped a piece of chicken in kale and she peeled it all off. What can I do?
Kasey: All Blue-tongued Skinks are omnivorous. Younger animals have higher protein needs than adults and should be fed roughly 70-80% protein, whereas adults should have about 50-60% protein. The exception is with the Shingleback subspecies; they are still omnivores but have more of an herbivorous diet and should only be provided with 20-30% protein. Some skinks can be picky about eating their vegetables. You should try a wide variety of vegetables to see if you can find some your skink likes, add some mashed banana onto the veggies, chop up or blend vegetables into protein. Variety is vital for skinks.
Blue-tongued Skink Diet
Sources of Protein:
- Dubia Roaches
- Black Soldier Fly Larvae
- Earthworms (not from the garden)
- Superworms (as a treat)
- Turkey, chicken, duck, rabbit, lean beef, lamb
- Vegetables: Squash, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Etc.
- Greens: Collards, Dandelion, Cilantro, Escarole, Turnip Greens, Etc.
- Fruits should not comprise of more than 10% of their diet. Berries, Apples, Bananas, Etc.
High-quality wet cat food for juveniles
High-quality wet dog food for adults (if you are going to go with this option, raw diets are preferred as they also contain organ meat and bones)
Repashy’s Bluey Buffet can be added
Reptilinks is a complete diet that is blended up and delivered in frozen links
What size enclosure do you recommend for a skink?
Kasey: The minimum recommended enclosure size is 4’x2’x2’ and should have about 6" of substrate to burrow into as well as keep humidity up. I like to use a mixture of cypress mulch and coconut coir. Depending on the subspecies, their humidity needs can vary.
- Northern — 40-60%
- Classic Indonesian — 60-80%
- Halmahera Indonesian — 80-100%
- Merauke Indonesian — 60-80%
- Irian Jaya— 60-80%
What's the best kind of UVB for them, and what's the best heat bulb?
Kasey: This will also vary on the size and type of enclosure you are using to house your skink. At Zen, we have our pet skink Cleo housed in a 4’x2’x2’ PVC Panel Enclosure. I have a 24" 12% T5 for UVB and an 80w Halogen Floodlight Bulb for my basking spot in her enclosure.
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