The Blue Tongue Skink (BTS) is one of the easiest pet lizards to care for. Many top lizard hobbyists regard it as one of the best large pet lizards to have.
It may not be as popular as other well-known pet lizards like small dragons, geckos, iguanas, or chameleon but you may also find this lizard as a much better pet for many good reasons. Read on to have a better grasp of what it’s like to have the blue tongue skink as your next pet.
Table of Contents
Blue Tongue Skink Facts
- Experience level: Beginners to Advanced
- Family: Scincidae (Skinks)
- Scientific name: Tiliqua Scincoides
- Average adult size: 18-24 inches (including tail)
- Lifespan: 20-25 years, with some reaching 30 years
- Clutch size: 10-15 once a year
- Egg incubation period: 100 days
- Food: Vegetation, fruits (such as berries), insects (such as worms and crickets), snails, and mice
- Average Temperature: 21°C minimum and 38°C maximum
- Humidity: 40% on average
- UVB lighting: Recommended
- Average price range: $150(babies) or $200(adults)
- Conservation Status: Not listed
The Blue Tongue Skink lizard belongs to the Tiliqua genus of the Skink (Scincidae) family. Seven of their species are native to Australia, while the others come from parts of New Guinea and some parts of Indonesia (Merauke being the most popular one).
Blue Tongue Skink lizards are not good climbers due to their short stubby legs. And as typical with all Skink lizards, it burrows and dwells in the ground, under logs and thick foliage in woodlands, scrublands, or grasslands.
The most popular species among pet-lizard-enthusiasts are the Northern Blue Tongue Skinks which is the largest, heaviest, most durable, and versatile; and the Merauke BTS which is considered the longest in length.
The Blue Tongue Skink makes for an excellent pet even for beginners. It is docile, easily tamed, and not difficult to take care of. Its smooth cylindrical body with no large claws to hurt or scratch you makes it quite pleasant to hold.
Most other pet lizards are not as easy to handle and don’t seem to enjoy being petted, but the Blue Tongue Skink loves the attention and is very fond of strokes on the head or under the chin.
With its very friendly and submissive personality, it might just very well be the best pet lizard available out there.
So, how exactly do we take care of this wonderful creature?
Blue Tongue Skink Care Sheet
Blue Tongue Skink Habitat
To provide a new home for your reptile pet, there are preparations you can make to ensure that it looks and feels like a natural habitat. Here’s a list of things you will need for a setup:
The dimensions should measure at least 36”L X 18”W X 10”H, but longer and wider is best. Most plastic reptile enclosures are only good for baby Blue Tongue Skinks for just about a year or less since they reach full size within 2-3 years.
If you have an empty fish aquarium (a 40-gallon might have the right dimensions) available, a screen top on it might just do the trick. If not, you will need a glass terrarium. There are ones that are a little cheaper but the ones made of OSB boards and glass are also excellent and they cost you a lot less.
Lighting and Heating
Hides: Blue Tongue Skinks naturally live in burrows so you need a small cave-like place for it. You can add a corrugated pipe that’s cut in half sideways and placed like a tunnel cave on the substrate.
For help with humidity: Water dish
Thermometer for temperature and humidity monitoring.
How to set it up along with tips
The Blue Tongue Skink is not a climber so give it a lot of open space to crawl on when you put in the substrate, hides, and the water dish. Fewer decors mean less clutter. A small brick and a few small rocks might be good to add.
Put your UVB lighting (on for 8-12 hours a day) at one end of the terrarium so your pet can warm itself in that corner (ideally at 92-100°F or 33-38°C).
The other end serves as a place to cool down (ideally at 70-85°F or 21-29°C). Place your thermometers at each end for better monitoring. Humidity is ideally 25-40% for the Northern BTS and 40-45% for the Merauke BTS.
Secure the water dish on one end so it doesn’t spill and affect the humidity. Keep the water clean and very safe for the Blue Tongue Skink, as it is not a good swimmer.
Blue Tongue Skink Feeding
The Blue Tongue Skink is omnivorous, so feed young ones every other day and adults every 2-3 days. A balanced diet may include the following:
40% proteins such as hard-boiled eggs, cooked ground turkey or lean beef, super premium (wet or dry) canned dog food, canned insects like crickets, snails, mealworms, superworms. An occasional live or frozen (thaw first) pinky mice would be a good treat. For weight gain, giving it some canned cat food would be good until it reaches the desired health or weight.
10% or less fruits such as pesticide-free mangoes, figs, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, and papaya.
50% vegetables such as collard, turnip, and mustard greens, peas, green beans, squash, zucchini, parsley, brussel sprouts, carrots, dandelions, and hibiscus flowers. Some commercial foods already include some of these veggies.
Feed it as much as it wants during mealtime but discard leftovers immediately.
Foods to avoid
Onions, rhubarb, eggplants, avocados, corn-based foods, artificially-colored foods, meat/bone meals, live seafoods, citrus, and high-sodium canned products.
If the Blue Tongue Skink’s head is huge for its body, you might want to feed it more. If its head looks tiny and its body looks huge, you will need to decrease food portions and frequency of serves.
Although the Blue Tongue Skink is very friendly and loves attention, it’s always best to let it feed by itself (as for most pets). In case you need to handle it during feeding time, minimize stress and risk by supporting the center of its body.
More information on Blue Tongue Skink
Here are a few more things to know about this amazing reptile and how to better care for and handle it.
The Blue Tongue Skink can live up to more than 20 years (some even reaching 30 years), so, you’ll be able to enjoy this pet for quite a long time.
Before handling the Blue Tongue Skink, allow it to feed regularly and acclimatize for a few days. Once adjusted, handle it for 10 minutes (or less), twice a day for several days. Let it feel secure by supporting its whole body when you hold it.
Never grab it by its tail as it can drop it if you do. When it feels threatened it will hiss and show its blue tongue. With such strong jaws, its bite can do damage and a lot of pain. Calm it down before handling.
The Blue Tongue Skink should be alone in its terrarium. Even males and females can become hostile against each other. Avoid substrate materials like cedar chips, orchid bark, and walnut shells because they can be toxic for the Blue Tongue Skink.
Keep the terrarium clean always. Make sure there are no high structures in the terrarium it can fall from as it is not a climber.
Watch out for reptile ticks that can cause paralysis. Don’t leave the Blue Tongue Skink around its natural predators like falcons, Kookaburras, large snakes, cats, and dogs. Conduct regular fecal parasite testing.
Would-be buyers may find this pet’s availability and price a problem depending on the season. Australia (where the Northern and many Blue Tongue Skinks come from) prohibits its commercial exportation.
Since breeding is only once a year, the limited supply cannot always meet the demands. This is why breeders and importers sell them at higher prices.
Rarer and more colored variants (like the Centralians and the Shinglebacks) cost around $1,500 to $5,000 each, but the more common and most sought after ones by pet handlers, like the Northern BTS and the Merauke BTS (most available in the market) may cost only a fraction of that.
Care Video on the Blue Tongued Skink
Many reptile experts and experienced reptile pet owners have the opinion that the Blue Tongue Skink makes the best pet reptile. From their knowledge and experience, we may indeed agree with them.
But what do you think? We’d love to hear your impressions or experiences with this amazing reptile. Please leave your comments and even suggestions below.