Several species of blue tongued skinks exist but the most commonly found in the pet trade are subspecies of Tiliqua scincoides, especially Tiliqua scincoides scincoides. This subspecies is more often referred to as the common or eastern blue tongued skink and the information on this page refers primarily to this species.
Size of Blue Tongued Skinks
Blue tongued skinks are fairly large lizard at a mature size of around 20 inches (snout to vent length of 12 inches).
Lifespan of Blue Tongued Skinks
These are hardy lizards that live 10-20 years on average.
About Blue Tongued Skinks
Blue tongued skinks are ground dwellers with a flattened and elongated body (somewhat resembling a snake in appearance). They are docile, quiet, gentle and easily tamed, making them great beginner pets.
Native to Australia, these calm pet lizards have a distinct blue tongue (which is how they got their name), short legs, and dull teeth. In the wild, blue tongued skinks are diurnal omnivores that will hiss when threatened and spend all their time on the ground.
Housing Blue Tongued Skinks
Blue tongued skinks require a large enclosure, such as a 40-55 gallon tank, with a secure lid. Substrate (bedding) can consist of Aspen wood shavings, cypress mulch, or even newspaper, but whatever you choose, make sure your skink is not eating it or they could become obstructed.
Be sure to provide a large, shallow, and sturdy water dish.
Skinks like to bathe in their water but also often defecate there so frequent cleaning is required for the water dish.
Blue tongued skinks don't need branches for climbing since they are strictly ground dwellers but a couple of sturdy hiding spots should be provided since they like to burrow and hide.
Cork bark, wood, rocks, PVC pipes, or other hides can be used. Make sure any wood pieces or rocks are firmly placed so they will not fall on the lizard. A humidity hide (such as a plastic storage box with moss or cypress mulch to hold moisture) will help your skink with shedding their skin.
Heat and Lighting for Blue Tongued Skinks
Since blue tongued skinks are native to Australia (just like bearded dragons and frill necked lizards), temperatures should be warm with a thermal gradient of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit (24-29 degrees Celsius) and a basking spot of 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). A combination of under tank heating and a basking light on one side of the tank works well. Make sure the appropriate temperature gradient is provided by measuring temperatures in various spots around the tank, not just one. Night time temperature can drop to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). Cooler temperatures can cause several problems with your skink and make them more prone to getting ill.
In addition to the incandescent basking light, provide a full spectrum UVA/UVB light for 10-12 hours per day. This bulb will have specific instructions on how far away to keep it from your skink but typically it is about 10-12 inches.
You should also make sure nothing is blocking the light from reaching your skink, with the exception of a metal mesh screen if absolutely necessary. The invisible UVA/UVB rays help with metabolism, bone health, and more.
Feeding Blue Tongued Skinks
Skinks are true omnivores therefore this should be reflected in their diet. Variety is the key to providing a nutritious diet, and a calcium/vitamin D supplement should be added to the food regularly. You should strive for a balance of about 60% vegetable/fruits and 40% meat items from the following list of examples.
- Green beans
- Summer or winter squash
- Leafy greens (they can be shredded or pureed and added to meat portion of diet if your skink is reluctant to eat them)
- Low fat canned dog food (but do not offer too much meat or you may risk harming the kidneys of your skink)
- Pinkie mice
Other food items are also able to be fed to skinks but with the exception of the occasional canned dog food or pinky mouse, be sure to stay away from items that aren't fruits, vegetables, or insects.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT