Blue Tongue Skink Care Sheet provided by Reptifiles
Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua spp.)
Blue tongue skinks are a group of diurnal, terrestrial lizards found throughout Australia and parts of Indonesia. They can be easily recognized by their triangular head, heavy torpedo-shaped body, short legs, and distinctive blue tongue.
Blue tongue skinks are omnivorous, which means that they need to eat both plants and animals to receive the nutrition that they need.
Depending on the species, blue tongue skinks generally measure between 15”-24” long, with an average lifespan of 15-20 years in captivity.
Blue tongue skinks are rapidly becoming very popular reptile pets due to their general hardiness and vibrant personalities.
This care sheet will address the most common blue tongue skink species kept in the US:
- Northern (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia)
- Classic Indonesian (Tiliqua gigas gigas)
- Halmahera Indonesian (Tiliqua gigas gigas halmahera)
- Merauke Indonesian (Tiliqua gigas evanescens)
- Irian Jaya (Tiliqua sp.)
Different types of blue tongue skinks have slightly different care requirements. Go here for visuals on what each type looks like.
- 4’x2’x2’ Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosure with PVC Panels
- 5” dome heat lamp with a ceramic socket
- high-wattage PAR38 halogen flood bulb, white light
- plug-in lamp dimmer
- digital thermometer + hygrometer with probes
- 22-24” T5 HO desert UVB bulb and fixture
- light timer
- pressurized spray bottle
- substrate (bedding)
- sphagnum moss
- basking surface (ex: flagstone)
- caves (x2)
- decorations (logs, plants, etc.)
- shallow food dish
- large, shallow water bowl
- calcium supplement without vitamin D3
- multivitamin supplement
- soft-tipped feeding tweezers
Keep reading for specifics on the supplies that you will need!
Leading experts recommend keeping blue tongue skinks in no smaller than a 120 gallon (48”x24”x24”) enclosure. Because these lizards are fairly large and can be quite active, larger should be provided if possible. The enclosure should be front-opening for easy access.
Do not house more than one blue tongue skink per enclosure. Blue tongue skinks can be very territorial, and may fight and severely injure one another if confined to the same space.
Blue tongue skinks are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day. And as reptiles, they need UVB lighting to promote optimum health and wellness.
The Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO or Arcadia Desert 12% are high quality UVB bulbs which provides the right amount of UVB for blue tongue skinks housed in 24” tall enclosures. These bulbs must be replaced once a year to be effective. For best results, install the bulb in a reflective fixture like the Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO Terrarium Hood.
Bulb and fixture should span 1/2 of the enclosure’s length and be mounted on the same side as the heat lamp. Mesh blocks UVB, so make sure to mount the fixture on the underside of the mesh.
When it comes to UVB, brand matters and you get what you pay for. Don’t cheap out on UVB, or your pet is likely to suffer.
Unlike humans, blue tongue skinks and other reptiles are cold-blooded, which means that they need external heat for their bodies to work properly. In the wild, reptiles get their warmth from the sun, so your blue tongue skink will need a heat source that mimics the sun. They also need a range of temperatures within their enclosure that will allow them to warm up and cool down as needed:
- Basking surface:
- Northerns — 105-115°F
- Others — 100-105°F
- Cool side: 70-80°F
- Nighttime: No lower than 65°F
To create a basking area for your blue tongue skink, use a use-wattage halogen flood bulb instead of a dome heat lame with a ceramic bulb socket. You can get heat bulbs from a pet store or a hardware store, but ideally it should be a white or clear PAR38 halogen flood.
The average 48” x 24” x24” blue tongue skink enclosure will need a 100-150w heat bulb to achieve the basking temperatures you need. It’s also highly advisable to plug the heat lamp into a lamp dimmer so you can dial down the heat as needed.
To create the best basking area possible, use a large, flat stone (ex: paver stone, flagstone, slate tile) as the basking surface. This absorbs heat from the lamp and warms the reptile from below as well as above.
To measure the temperatures inside your blue tongue skink’s enclosure, you will need a digital probe thermometer and/or an infrared temperature gun. Place the probe for the thermometer directly under the heat lamp to read basking temps. Don’t get a cheap stick-on thermometer — these aren’t very accurate and are generally a waste of money.
All life on Earth depends on water. Aside from eating/drinking sources of water, the amount of water in the air also matters. Blue tongue skinks need specific levels of humidity in their environment for good health:
- Northern — 40-60%
- Classic Indonesian — 60-80%
- Halmahera Indonesian — 80-100%
- Merauke Indonesian — 60-80%
- Irian Jaya— 60-80%
One of the easiest ways to boost and maintain humidity is by using a pressurized spray bottle as needed.
Humidity will naturally be higher on the cool side of the enclosure than on the warm side, so place the humidity probe for your digital thermometer + hygrometer device on the cool side of the enclosure. This will more accurately track the humidity levels in your skink’s habitat.
“Substrate” is another word for bedding. Blue tongue skinks are burrowing lizards, so they need 4-6 inches of deep, soft substrate in their enclosure. They also need a substrate that is can retain moisture well, which plays a significant role in maintaining healthy humidity levels. Here are some popular options:
- coconut husk
- cypress mulch
- reptile soil
- 80/20 topsoil/play sand mix
Leaf litter and moistened sphagnum moss are great materials to layer on top of your substrate to encourage better humidity retention.
Feeding Your Blue Tongue Skink
Blue tongue skinks are omnivorous, which means that they need both plant and animal matter in their diet. But the exact ratios for each type of food change as they grow:
Animal-based foods —
- 70-80% for <2 years old
- 50-60% for >2 years old
Plant-based foods —
- 20-30% for <2 years old
- 40-50% for >2 years old
How much should a blue tongue skink eat?
- Feed babies (up to 3 months) daily.
- Feed juveniles (3-8 months) 3 times weekly.
- Feed adults (8+ months) 1-2 times weekly.
One portion should be about the same size as the skink’s skull.
The key to success with blue tongue skinks (and most reptiles, for that matter) is to feed them as large a variety of foods as possible. The below options are just a small sample list. For a more comprehensive list of foods, and which foods to avoid, visit ReptiFiles.
- small rodents, live or pre-killed
- high quality dog food
- high quality cat food
- snails (not wild)
Hard-bodied feeder insects should be no bigger than the space between your skink’s eyes. ALL FEEDER INSECTS SHOULD BE LIGHTLY DUSTED WITH A CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT BEFORE FEEDING.
- collard greens
- dandelion greens
- carrot greens
- turnip greens
- shredded squash
- bell pepper
- shredded carrot
Non-citrus fruits can also be offered, but due to their high sugar content it’s best to use these as treats only.
Calcium & Vitamins
To ensure that your skink is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need, you will need both calcium powder and multivitamin powder. Neither supplement should contain vitamin D. Dust calcium on all feeder insects, and sprinkle multivitamin on the skink’s food 1-2x/month.
Blue tongue skinks need ready access to clean drinking water in their enclosure. Choose a bowl that is large enough for the skink to soak in as desired, but shallow enough to prevent drowning. Clean and disinfect the bowl whenever it gets soiled.
When you first bring your new blue tongue skink home, resist the temptation to immediately start cuddling it. You’re huge compared to a skink, and they need time get used to you as well as their new living space. Let your skink settle in for at least 2 weeks before you start handling.
Once your skink is eating regularly and seems fairly confident in their new home, you can introduce yourself. Let them get comfortable with your scent/presence by placing an old, used shirt in the terrarium. Let your hand rest in the terrarium and allow the skink to familiarize itself with your hand.
Once your skink has stopped running away from your hand and seems calm in your presence, you can start holding them. But just because you have reached this step does not mean your skink trusts you. Trust and friendship (as far as it goes for lizards) takes time and short daily handling sessions.
- Support the whole body.
- Avoid moving quickly.
- Do not grab or forcibly restrain unless absolutely necessary.
- Do not return the skink to its enclosure until it is calm in your hands.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles. Visit ReptiFiles.com to view the full version of this care guide.