The blue-tongued skink is an interesting animal to own, and is not too difficult to care for. They come from New Guinea and Australia, and can get over a foot long. They are gentle, and have a spectacular appearance.
As their name suggests, blue-tongued skinks have a blue tongue that they use to catch prey, and keep their eyes clean. Generally, a skink is a stocky lizard with short legs, and a thick body. The tail makes up much of its body length, and comes to a point at the end.
As they become more comfortable with you, you can have them out for longer periods of time. Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling any reptile or amphibian.
Being able to hold a reptile is a wonderful thing, but if you try to pick it up the wrong way, you may get bit, or even whipped with its tail. When picking up a reptile, go slowly, and don't grab. Slide your hand gently under the belly, and lift. Once it is off the ground, make sure all four feet are supported. Doing this will make the skink feel safer, and it may trust you more.
A blue-tongued skink will eat both plants and animals. Insects should be their staple, or main food source. 60% of their diet needs to be insect, the rest plant. Plants that can be used as food include a mixture of greens. The darker the vegetable, the healthier it will be.
Crickets, mealworms, super worms, and even pinkie mice can be fed to your blue-tongued skink. Pinkie mice should not be fed constantly, or else the skink has a higher chance of getting fatty liver disease. Mealworms are better for babies because if you feed them to adults, they are not as filling, and would need to be fed in bulk.
Blue-tongued skinks get pretty big, and love to burrow, so a large cage is needed. A 40-gallon tank should be the absolute minimum for a blue-tongued skink. Babies can start out in a 10-gallon and work their way up as they grow. Skinks are terrestrial so a high tank will do nothing for them. Never keep two males together or they will fight, and one or both will end up injured.
Substrate is what goes on the bottom of the tank, and some are better than others. For babies, paper towels or newspaper can be used until soiled. As they grow however, they may be more interested in digging. Wood shavings like aspen work well. Never use cedar or pine because they release toxic fumes into the air.
Non-fertilized potting soil can also be used, and is preferred over sand. Any loose substrate needs to be about 5-6 inches thick so a blue-tongued skink cannot easily reach the bottom.
Two or three hides should be present inside the cage. Hides should be placed on both the cool and warm side of the tank so they can thermo-regulate. These hide boxes should be big enough for the skink to fit in easily, but tight enough so it feels secure. Hide boxes may need to be replaced as they grow and develop.
A humid hide can be kept in the tank. Fill it with moss, and keep it damp but not soaking. This will aid in hydration and shedding.
The overall tank needs to stay at about 75F, but a basking spot of 90-95F is needed. If your blue-tongued skink never switches sides, it means the cool side is too cold, or the basking spot isn't warm enough. Temperatures can drop 10F at night, but it is not necessary.
Heating the tank with a bulb is more effective because an under tank heater cannot heat through 5 inches of soil, and if they burrow to it, they will get burned. UVB and UVA bulbs can be used but do not provide a huge benefit in overall health.
A water bowl filled with fresh, clean water needs to be in the tank at all times so your blue-tongued skink stays hydrated. Keep the humid hide moist and you should be good to go.
Replace paper towels and newspaper when soiled, and replace loose substrates every 4-6 months. The moss or paper towel in the humid hide should stay fresh, and if it gets old, put new stuff in. Remove feces as you see them, and take out uneaten crickets. Once you fall into a routine, cleaning becomes much easier.
If you choose to breed, don't just throw a male and female together hoping to get eggs. Do your homework and be prepared for hatchlings. Once you have a male and female that are at least 2 years old, you can put them together. The breeding season usually starts in April or May.
After two months of a cooling period of about 75F with no basking spot, the male and female will be more in the mood to mate. Once they are together temperatures should go back to normal. They only need to be together for a week, and you can be pretty sure they have mated. Males are violent in the process, and may even tear skin. Males will bite the neck of the female while mating.
After a successful mate, they should be separated so the male does not try to mate again. The female will not need a hide box because they produce live young. There can be anywhere from 5-12 hatchlings that need to put into a separate tank immediately.
Hatchlings can be kept together, and each needs 5 gallons of space. As they get older the cages should increase in size. Feed small crickets, most will not take leafy items at this point. Make sure they all get enough to eat. If one is smaller and being bullied, or is too slow separate it. Once they catch up in size or speed, they can be reintroduced to the rest.
Make sure that for every two skinks, there is a hide. A humid hide is important because they will shed as they grow.
Blue-tongued skinks are stocky lizards with a habit of burrowing. They can grow over a foot long, and have a blue tongue. Overall these pet reptiles are good for any reptile enthusiast. Once you get the right care down, they are fun, and interesting creatures.
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Katelin - April 3, 2016
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