As one of the most versatile pet reptiles, Blue Tongue Skinks make excellent pets (opens in a new tab) for beginners and advanced herpetologists alike.
Easy to care for with an abundance of personality, Blue Tongue Skinks can ease a novice reptile owner into caring for a unique pet, or they can pose a breeding challenge for more experienced owners.
These creatures can hatch eggs inside their body, amputate their own tails in an emergency, and are one of the few reptile species capable of recognizing faces and remembering voices.
With a Blue Tongue Skink in your menagerie, you’ll NEVER be bored as you find yourself continually delighted by this fascinating little creature!
What You’ll Learn In This Article:
- Background information on Blue Tongue Skinks
- Where to buy a healthy Blue Tongue Skink (plus what to look for!)
- Cost of a Blue Tongue Skink
- Proper diet & supplements for all ages
- How to properly set up their habitat
- Health concerns to be aware of
- Handling & bonding tips
- & So much more!
If you’re unsure about whether a Blue Tongue Skink would make a good addition to your household or want to learn more about the ins and outs of caring for one of these beauties, you’ve come to the right place.
After absorbing this comprehensive Blue Tongue Skink care sheet, you’ll walk away filled with EVERYTHING you need to know about creating the perfect home for your new pal, or to take your skink’s care to the next level.
So, with all of this being said, let’s dive in!
Blue Tongue Skink Background Information
Do you remember your first encounter with a Blue Tongue Skink?
You were likely drawn in by the unique electric-blue tongue flickering and oddly tiny legs propelling a powerful body.
Blue Tongue Skinks are fascinating creatures, not only in looks, but also in personality. Good-natured and easy to care for, a Blue Tongue Skink can make a great pet for anyone.
Before welcoming such an interesting reptile into your home, take a minute to learn about the wild roots of the skink…
These mild-mannered, social creatures hail from the semi-desert, mixed woodland, and scrubland regions of Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.
They prefer dry or semi-arid climates in desert-like ecosystems, and spend much of their time hiding in the sand or under logs.
Two of the more common pet varieties are the northern, Tiliqua scincoides intermedia, and Irian Jaya, an undescribed T. scincoides.
Some Blue Tongue Skinks are domestically bred, but many are imported from Indonesia and New Guinea.
Unlike some lizard species, Blue Tongue Skinks are terrestrial, as their short legs and powerful bodies are better adapted to burrowing and digging in the ground, rather than living in trees.
Pet skinks do well in enclosures that offer a hiding spot from people and plenty of room to turn around to avoid scraping off skin.
Under good care, these reptiles can live at least 10 to 15 years, with some exceptionally healthy skinks living to 20 years old or more. After reaching adult size, a skink can measure between 18 and 24 inches long, especially if it’s a Northern variety. Other Blue Tongue Skink varieties are smaller and may only reach a little over a foot.
Regardless of the variety of skink you choose – I recommend the Northern Blue Tongue Skink, as it’s exceptionally hardy and easy to care for.
Although it should be noted a complete setup may run you close to $1000.
Ideally, your skink should have a large enclosure of a 60 gallon aquarium, with a minimum of 40 gallons. Tack on the substrate, heat lamp, hiding shelter, food, and the cost of the skink itself, and the costs add up quickly.
Northern Blue Tongue Skinks may only cost $150 to $250, while high-colored or rare species, such as Centralian and shinglebacks, may cost anywhere from $1500 to $5000.
If you’re interested in breeding rare species or unique colors, your initial skink setup may be substantially more expensive, but the payout is priceless when welcoming these creatures into your home.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Background Key Takeaways: Blue Tongue Skinks hail from semi-desert regions of Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania and make great pets due to their mild mannered disposition. They enjoy burrowing and do best in enclosures that allow them to move about easily and hide from people.
Where to Buy a Blue Tongue Skink
Since these unique reptiles are such popular pets, especially among beginner lizard owners, they are often for sale in local pet stores.
However, I highly recommend you instead perform a quick Google search for Blue Tongued Skink breeders near you, or investigate nearby reptile expos for your future pet.
The reason why?
Simply put, commercial pet stores are notorious for improperly caring for their reptiles and also miseducating new owners on how to care for them. By sticking with a reputable breeder, you can ensure that your pet is healthy AND you’re getting only the best information possible when it comes to caring for them.
Also, most breeders will happily answer any questions or concerns that arise after an adoption. This invaluable information can help you avoid a costly trip to the vet or worse, having to say goodbye to a sick baby.
On the flip side, wild-caught skinks are often loaded with parasites and possibly disease, which can be time consuming and costly to eradicate, so stick with skinks bred in captivity.
Indonesian skinks can be wild imports, whereas Australian skinks are typically captive-bred, since Australia has strict rules on wildlife exports.
What to Look for When Buying a Blue Tongue Skink
Before committing to a purchase, check the skink’s health carefully to ensure your new pet will be healthy and disease-free.
When examining your potential new skink, check for the following signs of good health:
- Active and alert
- Interested in the surroundings
- Absence of scars, retained shed, or wounds
- Ideal body weight with no jutting hipbones or spine
- Abdomen should be clean without discoloration or injury
- Mouth and nose should be clean with no bubbly secretions
- Mouth is clear of pus and gums are a healthy pink
- Body should be firm with no kinks
- Jaw should be strong and not rubbery or hanging open
- Absence of lumps on or under the skin
- All five toes are present and the tail is unbroken
- Eyes should be clear without cloudiness or discharge
- Absence of mites and ticks
- Clean vent area with no caking
The tank should also be clean, with adequate space, proper food, hiding spots, and lighting. The seller, whether they’re a breeder or pet store, should be able to answer any and all questions you have about the skink, such as the age and typical diet fed.
Blue Tongue Skink Cost
When searching for a Blue Tongued Skink, it is important you first decide why you want a skink.
If you’re simply looking for a pet, a Northern skink will work well, as they are hardy, docile, and great for beginners, plus they are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. These species will likely cost around $150 to $250.
But, if you’re more interested in breeding rare colors as an advanced skink owner, you may be looking at thousands of dollars for uniquely colored and patterned lizards.
Wherever you choose to purchase your skink, go with your gut feeling about the seller.
If the tank is dirty and the skink appears to be in poor health while the seller is pushing you to purchase, move along to a healthy lizard with a seller who will answer any of your questions.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Purchasing Key Takeaways: When on the hunt for a Blue Tongue Skink, be sure to pay special close attention to their disposition and physical appearance to ensure they’re healthy. Also, you’ll be better off purchasing through a breeder than a commercial pet store. The same goes for wild caught skinks that can have parasites. Expect to spend around $200 for your skink if purchased through a reputable breeder.
Blue Tongue Skink Diet and Feeding Guidelines
Blue Tongue Skinks are omnivores and require BOTH live animals and plants to remain healthy. These lizards only eat during the daytime, and do not require much once they reach adulthood.
The largest portion of your skink’s dietary costs will be providing proper protein sources. While you can share chicken or turkey you would eat, you can also purchase pinky mice, crickets, and mealworms to round out your lizard’s protein requirements.
The other portion of their diet includes fresh veggies and greens, which can be taken from your own groceries.
Baby and juvenile skinks will eat more frequently and larger amounts than adults, but food costs should still be relatively minimal regardless of skink age.
What Can A Blue Tongue Skink Eat?
The best way to keep your Blue Tongue Skink healthy is to provide a wide variety in their diet, rotating produce and animal protein sources to ensure complete nutrition.
The bulk of the diet—45 to 60%—should consist of greens. Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of nutrition for Blue Tongue Skinks, and they can be paired with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Skinks will eat almost any fruit or vegetable, and you can include these foods on their menu:
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Green peppers
Fruit should make up no more than 5 to 10% of their diet, and can include mangoes, papaya, apple, cantaloupe, blueberries, honeydew, and blackberries.
Flower blossoms, such as dandelions, hibiscus, and nasturtiums, are another tasty treat that can be given on occasion.
When feeding your blue-tongued skink the protein portion of the diet, focus mainly on feeder insects. Gut-loaded insects will provide your skink with the proper nutrition and grant exercise opportunities.
Occasionally, you can feed raw or cooked eggs, as well as lean, cooked meat.
For protein, the following are fine:
- Pinky mice
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Lightly dust your blue-tongued skink’s meal with a calcium carbonate supplement that does NOT contain phosphorus or vitamin D, just prior to feeding your adult lizard. Repeat this process two to three times per week.
Calcium supplements should have a minimum calcium:phosphorus ratio of 2:1.
Avoid products containing Vitamin D, as this can lead to toxicity. A separate multi-vitamin supplement can also be offered one to two times weekly, on days where you don’t supplement with calcium.
Offer “gut-loaded” insects or insects fed high-calcium diets for several days before being fed to your pet. This calcium-rich diet may include a commercial cricket diet, grain, or a high protein baby cereal mixed with reptile vitamins, or dark, leafy greens.
Foods to Avoid
When feeding your blue-tongued skink, be sure to avoid the following as they are toxic:
- Lightning bugs
- Monarch butterflies
Also avoid citrus fruit, avocados, eggplant, onions, spinach, garlic, rhubarb, and high-sodium canned meats.
Blue-Tongued Skink Diet Based on Age
Hatchlings will get their protein and energy from their egg, absorbing the yolk into their abdomens while developing. This yolk will sustain them for the first few days after birth.
After the yolk is used up, hatchlings will hunt and forage for food and eat an adult diet.
Juvenile skinks will eat more prey animals than adults. As juveniles near adulthood or 12 months of age, protein requirements will decrease to allow produce to create roughly half of your lizard’s diet.
How Often to Feed Your Blue Tongue Skink
Baby skinks under 5 months old will need to eat every day with one day of fasting. Offer as much food as a baby will eat two to three times per day to encourage proper growth and nutrition.
Be sure to remove uneaten food within a few hours after your skink is done eating to avoid spoiling.
Juvenile skinks aged 5 to 10 months should be fed every other day.
Adult blue-tongued skinks over 10 to 12 months old only need to eat about three times per week.
In general, an adult skink should be offered one to two tablespoons of food at each feeding.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Diet Key Takeaways: Blue Tongue Skinks require both protein and vegetables as a staple part of their diet. While babies and juveniles need a protein heavy diet and daily to every other day feedings, adults benefit from a diet rich in leafy greens and can be fed just several times a week. Regardless of age, all Blue Tongue Skinks should be given a calcium supplement several times a week.
Blue-Tongued Skink Habitat and Tank Setup
As with all reptiles, a clean and properly maintained habitat is VITAL for your pet’s health. With the wrong substrate, too-small of an enclosure, or incorrect humidity level, your blue-tongued skink can suffer.
Fortunately, the following outline has all the key components necessary for your lizard’s habitat to ensure their safety and health.
Size of the Enclosure
Even if you begin with a baby or juvenile skink, they’ll quickly reach adulthood and need a larger habitat…
Avoid purchasing multiple sizes of enclosures and stick with a minimum of a 60 gallon aquarium to ensure your lizard will fit as an adult. However, skinks have large ranges in the wild and would appreciate as large an enclosure as you can afford or fit into your home.
Also, keep in mind that the height of the enclosure needs to accommodate a hood to hang a heating element, but, since blue-tongued skinks are terrestrial, they don’t need a tall enclosure for climbing equipment.
If you have multiple skinks, even if they are breeding partners, each skink MUST have their own individual enclosure to avoid fighting and injury. These are solitary animals and do best when housed alone.
Type of Enclosures
A glass tank with plenty of floor space is ideal for your blue-tongued skink. As a terrestrial lizard, they need room to explore and hide on the ground, since they don’t climb nearly as much as other lizards.
Glass tanks are also preferable, because the glass easily allows the transfer of heat in and out of the tank.
Ideal Temperature Gradient
In a blue-tongued skink’s natural habitat of a desert-like ecosystem, temperatures fluctuate and have a range that must be replicated in their enclosure.
A temperature gradient of 75 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, with a basking area of 90 to 100 degrees being optimal. Thermometers on each end of the enclosure are recommended to ensure proper temperatures are reached for a “cool” side and a “warm” side.
An under tank heating unit with a heat lamp works well in the basking area to achieve the correct temperature gradient. Avoid using electric heat rocks, since these items can short circuit and burn your lizard.
Daylight bulbs should be on for a maximum of 12 hours per day, allowing the cooler end of the enclosure to drop to 70 degrees at night. Bulbs with a bright white light will stimulate activity and appetite, so be sure to turn off the daytime bulb to allow time for rest.
Also, you’ll want to avoid using a colored heating bulb at night as a nightlight. Your skink will ONLY need white light in the day time. No colors ever.
Don’t forget that your blue-tongued skink will need a UVB light to produce vitamin D3 in their skin, which is CRUCIAL for the absorption of calcium. A high output 10 to 12% UVB tube light is the BEST option, as tube light is superior to a light bulb.
Choose a tube that runs 50 to 70% of the length of your lizard’s enclosure and purchase a hood with a reflector to maximize efficiency and allow it to disperse the light better. A UVB light should be kept on for 8 to 12 hours per day and can be alternated with other lighting.
Also, you’ll want to be sure to replace ultraviolet bulbs every six months.
You can even take your skink outdoors when temperatures exceed 75 to 80 degrees to soak in some sunlight, as long as you’re careful to avoid overheating.
Ideal Humidity Levels
Each Blue Tongue Skink species requires slightly different humidity levels, so let’s discuss the most popular pet—the Northern blue-tongued skink.
Northern Blue Tongue Skinks need a humidity level between 35 and 45%, while other species may need high humidity spikes. If your humidity level is too high, it can lead to skin or respiratory infections from bacterial growth.
To get a complete picture of the humidity levels in your lizard’s enclosure, place two or three hygrometers throughout the extremes in the temperature gradient. If you need to increase the humidity level, place a large shallow water dish in the enclosure.
Blue-tongued skinks enjoy soaking in water, but they are poor swimmers, so ensure your lizard can easily get out.
If you need to decrease the humidity in the enclosure, be sure the water dish is placed on the cool side to avoid rapid evaporation.
Proper ventilation and substrate also greatly influence humidity levels, so for Northern blue-tongued skinks, choose the appropriate substrate to avoid excessive humidity.
When it comes to ideal substrate for Blue Tongue Skinks, you’ll have a good selection to choose from!
The following substrate all make wonderful flooring for any skink’s enclosure:
- Filtered aspen wood shavings
- Cypress mulch with no additives
- Sugar cane mulch
Avoid cedar chips, clay cat litter, walnut shells, sand, gravel, or corncob bedding, since they can cause respiratory infections, skin infections, or gastrointestinal blockages.
Spot clean areas around the water dish and elimination area daily to remove soiled bedding. On top of this, you’ll want to clean the entire tank weekly.
Decor and Accessories
Blue Tongue Skinks spend most of their time hiding, so place several hideouts throughout the enclosure so they can take advantage of the entire temperature gradient.
Do NOT clutter the tank, though, as skinks enjoy plenty of open space.
Proper housing accessories include:
- Cork bark
- Mopani wood
- Large rocks
Blue Tongue Skinks also enjoy rocks placed under their heat lamp to provide an ideal basking spot. Check the length and width of the rock or platform to ensure your lizard can lay on it comfortably.
Since Blue Tongue Skinks are poor climbers, avoid creating tall structures they may fall from. Short logs or platforms allow them to exercise as they clamber over the structures, but make sure they can’t fall and get hurt.
Ponytail palms, snake plants, and jade plants are excellent live additions to your reptile’s enclosure, but be sure there is plenty of room for plant life, food and water dishes, hiding areas, a basking spot, and space to exercise.
However, live plants can make it difficult to maintain proper humidity levels, plus skinks enjoy digging, so they may damage the roots. As such, artificial plants that offer hiding spots are a better option.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Tank Setup Key Takeaways: Your Blue Tongue Skink’s enclosure will play a pivotal role in keeping them healthy, and as such, you’ll want to ensure you provide ample room for them to run around, plenty of hides, as well as maintain humidity levels and the temperature gradient.
Blue Tongue Skink General Health Information
Naturally, Blue Tongue Skinks are susceptible to a variety of health concerns, just as any animal is. Take a look below at 2 of the more predominant health conditions you’ll want to be especially wary of…
Mouth rot, or stomatitis, is an infection affecting the mouth and gums of reptiles.
It is often caused by prolonged stress, unsanitary living conditions, injury, vitamin deficiency, or by eating only soft foods.
Signs of stomatitis include:
- Yellow, cheesy secretion from the mouth
- Red, inflamed gums
- Damage to the mouth scales
- Swollen and tender gums
- Missing teeth
If you notice these signs in your Blue Tongue Skink, schedule a veterinary appointment. Your veterinarian will likely need to prescribe an antiseptic mouthwash and antibiotics to clear the infection.
Once the infection has improved, ensure your lizard receives plenty of crunchy vegetables to maintain oral health.
Also, make sure the tank is kept clean and at the proper humidity levels as well to avoid repeat stomatitis issues.
One of the most common illnesses in blue-tongued skinks, respiratory infections can be caused by a dirty tank, poor diet, stress, high humidity levels, or low tank temperatures.
You may notice the following signs of illness:
- Heavy breathing
- Bubbles of froth or mucus from the mouth
- Excessive salivation
- Open-mouth breathing
- Puffy appearance
- Poor appetite
Low tank temperatures are the MOST frequent culprit behind respiratory infections in skinks.
Fortunately, mild infections often pass within a week. However, if they last much longer or cause severe illness, a veterinary appointment is in order.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Health Key Takeaways: As with all reptiles, Blue Tongue Skinks are prone to specific illnesses and as such, should be monitored regularly to ensure symptoms are dedicated early for easier treatment. Specifically, you’ll want to pay special attention to overall oral health.
Blue Tongue Skink Handling and Bonding Tips
Any new reptile, especially a new Blue Tongue Skink, should be allowed 10 to 14 days to acclimate to a new home before being handled.
Only approach your skink’s cage to clean and offer food, and allow your lizard to hide in the various shelters placed in the enclosure.
An easy way to win over your skink? Try to come visit them by bearing gifts to help form positive associations with your presence, such as snails, pieces of fruit, or flower blossoms.
Your skink’s willingness to eat and appetite level is a good indicator of comfort level, besides a distinct lack of hissing.
Initial handling sessions should be limited to 10 minutes or less to avoid stressing out your new pet.
Keep your lizard close to the floor or a piece of furniture in case handling does not go well and your skink leaps from your arms. Support the entire body to help your reptile feel safe and secure.
When picking up your skink, gently encircling the body near the forelegs with your fingers, supporting the body with your free hand.
Skinks don’t have the legs to hold on as well as other lizards, so always take care to support them.
Like most lizards, blue-tongued skinks can be frightened by fast movements and when approached from above, so move slowly and always approach from the side.
Although skinks may be content to be held for long periods of time, do NOT keep them out of their cage too long, as they cannot keep themselves warm at room temperature.
With gentle, frequent handling, your skink WILL bond with you and come to recognize your face and voice.
🔑 Blue Tongue Skink Handling & Bonding Key Takeaways: Give your Blue Tongue Skink time to adjust and be patient. Specifically, allow 10 days to get used to your presence before handling. When you do handle them, ensure it is in short doses of no more than 10 minutes and that you fully support their body. You can facilitate bonding by bringing them treats.
Is a Blue Tongue Skink Right for YOU?
A Blue Tongue Skink makes a wonderful pet for anyone, whether you’re just beginning your foray into reptile care, or you’re a more advanced hobbyist.
These docile, unique lizards are generally easy to care for and form strong bonds with their owners, making them a delight for people of all ages.
By setting up the ideal enclosure, feeding your skink a proper diet, and treating your lizard gently and calmly, you’ll have a friendly addition to your household for years to come.