How to Care for Your Blue Tongued Skink
Blue Tongued Skinks (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia or Northern Blue Tongued Skink is one species commonly available; other species may be available as well) are moderately large (18- 24”), diurnal, terrestrial reptiles native to Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia. Their habitat is generally considered to be arid, and they spend much of their time basking on rocks, though they also enjoy burrowing and hiding. Blue Tongued Skinks can be found in a variety of colors including gray, red, beige or brown and have banded, spotted or blotched markings. They also all have the distinctive blue tongue from which they get their common name. They have a long, smooth scaled, tube-shaped body and very short legs which makes it hard for them to climb. Blue Tongued Skinks are among the more intelligent reptiles, appear to interact to an extent with their keepers and are popular as beginner pets.
A single Blue Tongued Skink may be housed in an enclosure of at least 36”x18”x12”, though this is considered to be a minimum size. A lower enclosure height is recommended to facilitate achieving the proper basking temperatures at ground level. Blue Tongued Skinks can be kept on a solid substrate such as ceramic tile, but since they enjoy burrowing, they do best on a substrate such as aspen shavings or carefresh pet bedding (made from recycled paper). Smaller particulate substrates are not recommended, though some keepers do provide a planted, bioactive environment with a substrate composed of a mixture of coco fiber and sand. Blue Tongued Skinks bask during the day and require a flat rock that can accommodate the entire body. A heat lamp should be installed directly above this rock to bring surface temperatures on the rock during the day to 95 100F. Hiding areas and space for burrowing should also be provided as they like to seclude themselves at times. A water bowl for drinking, and a food bowl for their “salad” are required as well.
Heating and Lighting
Since they are moderately large diurnal reptiles, Blue Tongued Skinks require two kinds of lighting: a source of UVB throughout the cage to provide vitamin D3 for metabolizing calcium, and a focused basking light, as mentioned above to provide heat and mimic the desert sun. The recommended UVB light is a full-spectrum 10.0 fluorescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure. The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Fluorescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels. The basking light can be a flood light or LED light and should provide a heat level of approximately 95-100 degrees F when the skink is on its flat rock.
Food and Supplementation
Blue Tongued Skinks are omnivorous and require fruit, vegetables and protein. Adult Blue Tongued Skinks should get 50% of their calories from leafy green vegetables, 40% from “meat” (see below) and 10% from fresh fruit. The bulk of the plant matter fed to Blue Tongued Skinks should consist of nutritious leafy greens and orange vegetables such as squash or yams. Lettuce, except for romaine, does not contain a significant amount of nutrients and should not be the main component of the vegetable diet. The most nutritious greens include collard greens, arugula, dandelion greens, carrot and beet tops. Spinach, chard and kale should be provided in limited quantities as these tend to reduce the body's absorption of calcium. Tough vegetables such as carrots or yams may need to be lightly steamed to facilitate digestion. Fruit should make up only 10-15% of the skink’s diet and can cause loose stools if provided in excess. The “meat” component of Blue Tongued Skinks’ diet can come from well-cooked lean beef or chicken, canned insect products, high quality premium dog food or cat food or live prey. There is some difference of opinion as to whether cat food or dog food is best. Blue Tongue Skinks enjoy a variety of live prey such as roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, superworms, butterworms NutriGrubs (black soldier fly larvae, also known as phoenix worms), and locusts. Care should be taken to feed appropriate sized prey and not to leave prey in the enclosure for long periods of time. Adult blue tongue skinks will do best with the large size of crickets and Dubia Roaches. Blue Tongued Skinks require calcium to build strong bones, vitamin D3 to metabolize the calcium and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. It’s generally recommended to dust their prey or other food with calcium, vitamin D3 and other vitamins using a commercially available product weekly. Blue Tongued Skinks can be bathed periodically to assist in their fluid intake.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Blue Tongue Skinks, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.