Comprehensive Blue Tongue Skink Care Guide
Blue tongue skinks are personable, hardy, and thick-set little reptile wonders and one of my favorite lizards! They are great for novice reptile keepers as well as experienced reptile experts.
That friendly disposition and the incredible bright blue tongue make them totally awesome reptile pets!
This blue tongue skink care guide focuses on tiliqua scinoides or the Northern blue-tongued skink. However, most subspecies of blue tongues can be kept following these guidelines.
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- Blue Tongues In the Wild
- Size and Coloration
- Are Blue-Tongued Skinks Difficult?
- Do Blue-Tongue Skinks Bite?
- Blue Tongue Skink Handling
- Creating Your Blue-Tongue's Enclosure
- Hides and Humidity
- Lighting and Heating
- Food and Water
- Blue Tongue Skink Care Conclusion
Blue Tongues In the Wild
Blue-tongued skinks are found on mainland Australia with exception of the Indonesian blue tongue (tiliqua gigas) which is native to the nation after which it is named.
Blue tongues are diurnal omnivores that forage on the ground for insects, flowers, fruits, and berries.
Size and Coloration
Blue-tongued skinks range in size from 18-24 inches in length depending on the species; northerns being the largest. They are heavy-bodied with short legs and triangular shaped heads.
Northern blue tongues usually have uniform, light brown colored, vertical bands with shades of orange markings on their sides and have short, gray legs.
The defining characteristic of blue tongues; are their blue tongues!
Are Blue-Tongued Skinks Difficult?
We suggest that if you’re getting a blue-tongued skink, especially as a beginner, to choose a northern blue tongue as they’re known to have gentle demeanors and make a good pet that you’re able to handle.
While blue tongue skinks can make great pets they are a bit more to house, feed, and take care of than smaller, more common lizards such as crested or leopard geckos.
One great thing about blue tongues if their hardiness and ability to thrive on varying diets and foods.
Do Blue-Tongue Skinks Bite?
The fact is that anything with a mouth can (and probably will) bite you; at least at some point over your reptile keeping career.
That said, blue tongues make great pets because of their docile nature and the fact that they aren’t likely to bite and will only do so if they feel threatened or trapped.
As a defense blue-tongues will open their mouths wide, hiss, puff up their bodies to appear bigger, and flick out their blue tongues trying to warn others to stay away.
Sometimes however, these warnings don’t get the message across or we misread our skinks warning signs.
A bite from a blue-tongued skink will hurt a bit but since their teeth are not sharp they’re aren’t liable to draw blood or tear away flesh.
They do however possess strong jaws and tend to latch onto whatever they bite. They use this bite as a last resort as they are not aggressive and will not give chase.
If you are bitten by your blue tongue, it’s best to remain calm and gently pull the skink away from you while holding it.
It won’t stay latched onto you and will most likely let go after a few seconds. Make sure you wash the area well with soap and water.
Two of the simplest ways to avoid being bitten:
- Do not pick up or handle your blue-tongue when it does not want to be handled
- Be cautious when feeding so that your blue-tongue doesn’t mistake your finger for food
Captive bred northern blue-tongues are generally the least likely to bite and females tend to be less aggressive than males.
Lastly, blue-tongued skinks are NOT poisonous unlike beaded lizards or Gila monsters.
Blue Tongue Skink Handling
One of the things that makes blue-tongued skinks such great pets and so popular is that they’re easy to handle!
When you first acquire your skink it’s best to tame them and acclimate them to being handled. They need to develop a trust with you.
Make sure your “handling sessions” only last 10 minutes or so each at first and increase the time gradually.
Always handle your blue tongue by supporting it from underneath as it will feel more safe and secure; handling close to the ground or over a soft surface also helps prevent accidents and mistrust.
Blue tongues are one of the few retiles that will become accustomed to and recognize your face and voice!
Creating Your Blue-Tongue’s Enclosure
Blue-tongued skins are ground-dwellers and do not like to climb therefore the more square-footage of the enclosure the better.
A minimum of 18 inches by approx. 12 inches would be considered as the smallest enclosure size appropriate for your skink. The enclosure can be a plastic reptile tub, terrarium, aquarium tank, or vivarium.
Adult blue-tongued skinks do well in habitats in the 24 and 36 inch range.
Whichever enclosure you choose it should have a ventilated screen top and be designed so that it will help retain heat to keep the habitat warm. The enclosure needs to be big enough that you can provide a temperature gradient within the structure.
Hides and Humidity
Being ground-dwellers, blue tongues like to burrow and have places to hide and feel secure.
Humidity levels should be maintained around 25-40%
You’ll need to provide at least two hides for your skink; one on the cooler side of the enclosure and one on the warmer, more humid side.
Half logs, cork rounds, or commercially available hides make great additions to your blue tongue’s habitat. You can even add some damp sphagnum moss to the hide on the warm side to add extra humidity to the habitat if needed.
Lighting and Heating
Blue tongues are native to hot and arid areas of Australia and bask in the sun during the day. As such, it’s important to provide your skink with the necessary lighting and heating requirements.
You can use a combination of under the tank heating pads, light fixture that uses UVA/UVB-emitting bulbs, and heat lamps to keep a temperature gradient of between 75° at the cool end, all the way up to 95° under the basking spot. (with temps around 85° somewhere in the middle.
Your lamps can provide the correct high temperatures needed for the basking spot and your under-tank heating pad can ensure that the “cool” end maintains its temperature.
The use of thermometers and a hydrometer is essential to the success of keeping a blue-tongued skink.
Substrate or bedding is what will cove the floor of your skink’s enclosure and also provide it a means to dig and burrow.
The need for blue tongues to burrow excludes some substrates such as reptile carpets, paper towels, and slate or tile.
Some of the best substrates for blue-tongued skinks are,
- Aspen shavings
- Cypress mulch
- Shredded newspaper
- Commercial reptile bedding such as Reptichip or Terra Firma
Substrate to avoid,
- Cedar chips
- Cat litter
- Pine wood products
Some products such as cedar are toxic to reptiles and substrates made of sand or wood chips can cause problems such as impaction; intestinal block age from ingesting foreign substances.
Blue-Tongued Skink Care Guide Checklist
- Suitable enclosure (tank, terrarium, etc)
- Hide boxes, caves, half logs (moist hide & warm hide)
- Substrate (easy to clean and safe)
- Heating (basking, warm, and cool zones)
- Thermometer and hydrometer (calculate temperature and humidity)
- Lighting (fixture using UVA/UVB bulbs)
Food and Water
Fresh, clean water should always be accessible and cleaned daily.
Blue-tongued skinks may be omnivores but in the wild they seem to eat more protein by consuming beetles, grasshoppers, worms, snails, slugs, etc than they do eating fruit or vegetables.
In captivity however, they do well on a varied diet consisting of protein, and both fruit and vegetable matter.
A good rule of thumb is that 50-60% of a blue tongue’s diet should be made up of fruit and vegetables while the other 40-50% should be protein.
Some great options for diet includes:
Vegetables (and small amounts of fruit)
- Leafy greens (collard, dandelion, mustard)
- Carrot, green beans, peas
- Broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper
- Blueberries, apples, strawberries
- Dubia roaches
- Mealworms and crickets
- Boiled chicken, turkey, or beef
- An occasional pinie mouse
- Many keepers even feed canned premium cat/dog food
Adult blue-tongued skinks can be fed 1 to 2 times a week, about a serving size that is approximately the same size as their head.
Younger skinks can be fed every 2 to 5 days.
As blue-tongued skinks grow they need to shed their old skin to make room for the new growth.
Fortunately shedding is something that blue tongues usually handle with ease. (they will many times even eat their shed skin)
The main thing you must do as a pet owner is provide them that sweet-spot of 20-40% humidity and they will take care of the rest.
However, if you skink does show signs of a stuck shed, many times on the toes) have them soak in slightly warm water for a while and help them by rubbing the stuck shed gently with a q-tip.
The last thing you want to do is force or pull at stuck skin. Give it some time in the warm water and be patient.
Sometimes shed can be left inside the skink’s ear, fortunately this is easily removed with your fingers.
Blue Tongue Skink Care Conclusion
We hope this guide helped you not only make the decision to acquire one of these reptiles but also informed you on how to take care of, maintain, and enjoy the incredible blue-tongued skink.
As always, thank you!
Cover photo – “BlueTonguedSkink” by Conor Lawless is licensed under CC BY 2.0