The blue tongue skink (with the scientific name Tiliqua ssp.) is a good first lizard for a person venturing into owning reptiles. They are hugely popular as pets, due in part to their striking colorful tongue and also because they are easy to handle. Their bodies are sturdy and smooth, covered in shiny scales. They are less fragile than some of the other lizards and generally softer to the touch.
Blue-tongues come in a couple of different species, depending on their place of origin. The skinks from Australia are usually subspecies of Tiliqua scincoides, and those from Indonesia are T. gigas. When acquiring a blue-tongue from a private breeder, it is typically an Australian skink. Indonesian skinks are imported, and those are the variety usually available in pet stores. Experts encourage acquiring captive-bred animals.
Blue Tongue Skinks Lifespan & Size
The blue tongue skink can grow to be 24 inches in length. They can live from 15 to 20 years with the right type of care.
Behavior & Characteristics
Blue-tongues are not built for speed, as they have relatively small legs and feet when compared to their body size. They have an unusual quality among lizards in that they will make eye contact with their handler. With their friendly and personable gaze, these lizards seem to really bond with their owners.
When skinks are handled a lot, they will become very passive and friendly.
Blue tongue skinks are omnivorous, thriving on both meat and veggies. Generally, experts suggest giving them a mixture of 50 percent greens and veggies, 40 percent meat protein, and 10 percent fruits.
When feeding a skink, fresh greens are preferable. There are several vegetables to choose from:
- Beet Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Collard Greens
- Bok Choy
Skinks can eat various types of fruits, including:
For the meat portion of your blue tongue’s diet, use cooked ground beef, chicken, or turkey. Skinks also enjoy insects and worms. Some people feed them mice. If feeding dog food, use a canned variety with high-quality meat as the primary ingredient.
You should avoid giving skinks any rhubarb, seafood, mushrooms, or avocado.
Skinks can be fed every couple of days. But if your skink is gaining weight, cut their food back to once a week. Since they are generally inactive, the skink can plump out pretty effortlessly.
Many blue tongue skinks will lose the desire to eat much during the winter. Some even stop eating altogether, resuming their normal appetite when spring rolls around. Skinks should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. They drink a lot. They also tend to kick bedding and droppings into their water, so the bowl has to be cleaned and scrubbed out frequently.
Blue Tongue Skink Care
A blue tongue is a low-slung creature, spending most of its life on the ground. Therefore, it needs a decent-sized habitat that will give it plenty of floor room. Minimal dimensions should be around 3 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. Your terrestrial friend, if acquired as a juvenile, will grow at a rapid rate. Therefore, it is best to accommodate its habitat for its adult size, rather than try to adapt or enlarge it later.
Be sure to include a cover for the enclosure. A screened top will allow enough ventilation while preventing escape. Being a lizard, your skink will need a heat lamp, preferably at one end of the habitat, so they can move away from it if they feel too warm. The cool end, however, should still be at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm end should be around 100. At the hot end, the skink will appreciate a site to bask, with a flat surface, such as dark-colored tiles (the non-gloss type) or slate. The flat spot should be of a size sufficient for the skink to stretch out, the entire length of it, and bask away.
Avoid using hot rocks. A lamp will work well, although you must be sure to turn it off at night. Blue-tongues are most active in the daytime. In the wild, their bodies cool down at night, so it is natural for their lamp to be off during those hours.
Your skink will be at home with just about any type of bedding, except for cedar or sand. Artificial turf can be a good choice. Be sure to clean the area every day and do a complete change once a month. Skinks are sensitive to strong odors, so the cleaning must be thorough with an antibacterial cleanser, and there can be no remaining cleanser odors or the smell of bleach.
Many blue tongues have nails that grow rapidly. If they are not trimmed, they can become ingrown. This can lead to very serious foot problems in your skink.
Nail clipping can be an endeavor with a skink. Some people place a sock over the animal’s head. Sterilized human toenail clippers will generally do the job. Experts say to remove about half the nail. If there is blood, just place the skink on some clean paper towel until it dries.
In blue tongued skinks, telling the genders apart can be a challenge. Males are purported to have bigger heads and are thicker at the base of the tail. They may also have a fuller throat and brighter orange eye color. However, these features may be found in females. Some female skinks are larger than males and may have a bigger head and fatter tail base.
Since you should have a health check before breeding your skinks, making sure they are free of parasites, your veterinarian may be able to help you determine the sex of your animal. One way to tell if your animals are compatible is to place them together during springtime and watch how they behave. A male skink will stand still, frozen in position, for as long as 30 seconds and then suddenly run toward the female. A male will bite the female and hold on, perhaps dragging her around into various positions before mounting.
A female will wag and lash her tail around. She may parade past the male or nip at him, but she will eventually raise her tail as a prelude to mating.
Skinks can be aggressive during breeding season. Be sure to keep an eye on them. If they look like they will start to cause injuries, it is best to separate them.
Skinks usually breed in winter, from October through February. You can encourage the breeding season by keeping the skink in the habitat with ever-decreasing light. Gradually reduce the light exposure to about three or four hours per day.
During these weeks, your skink’s activity levels will drop, but their body will be ready for breeding. You should feed your skink only once every two weeks during this time of encouraged hibernation. This should continue for at least four months. At the end of this phase, begin to raise the enclosure’s temperature and start offering food. It will take them about two weeks to recover to normal activity levels. At that time, they will be rejuvenated and ready to breed.
Once the breeding is accomplished, weigh your female every couple of weeks to see if she is gaining weight, and be sure to give her plenty of nutritious food.
Depending on the species, your female skink will have her babies within three to six months. It is best to remove the babies within 24 hours to keep her from eating them.
The blue tongue skink has a reputation of being the easiest lizard to keep as a pet. With their friendly nature and easy maintenance, you should be able to enjoy your skink for many years.