Blue-Tongued Skink

a close up of a Blue-Tongued Skink's head an blue tongue sticking out of their mouth

Blue-Tongued Skinks are lizards native to Australia, including the island of Tasmania and New Guinea. They are an average sized lizard species, and grow between 12 and 24 inches long. These lizards are very agile, and can climb trees and walls if given the opportunity. 

Blue-Tongues can be very fast moving animals if they get scared or feel threatened. Normally they are quiet creatures, and will usually remain still unless hunting or provoked.

They are very calm and laid back, and usually won’t bite or scratch unless you have a Tanimbar Island morph. Then they can be very aggressive towards people or other animals. For the most part they are very easy going, and will be fine living in a home environment.

They do well in a terrarium, or in a large cage. They are very independent animals and should be kept alone. Skinks are very territorial when kept with other animals

They eat both plants and meat and are not very picky eaters. They’ll eat just about anything within their diet that’s given to them. It’s easy to get them to eat the food that they need to stay healthy.

Blue-Tongues Skinks are one of the more docile lizards, making them a good pet for beginners. They are more expensive than many other lizards, and are not nearly as common as the others. Because they’re not as common you may need to find a breeder if you want to buy one. On the low end you can expect to pay around $150 dollars, but some rarer morphs can go for hundreds more.

Blue-Tongued Skinks Information

  • Average Length: 18 to 24 inches
  • Average Weight: 10 to 18 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Smooth with scales
  • Skin Colors: Light to Dark brown
  • Grooming Needs: Low Need
  • Shedding: Once every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold
  • Good Pet: They allow people to hand them, so yes! 
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Metabolic Bone Disease, Respiratory Infections and Scale Rot 
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 15 to 20 years

Physical Appearance of Blue-Tongued Skinks

a Blue Tongued Skink basking on a rock

Blue-Tongued Skinks are one of the largest species in the Skink family. They can grow up to 24 inches long, including their tail. Some subspecies only grow to 12 inches long.

Blue-Tongued Skinks have a unique blue tongue and that’s how they get their name. Their tongue is wide at the base and narrows towards the tip. They use their tongues to scare away predators when threatened. Predators see their blue tongue and assume it means they’re venomous. While their blue tongue may make them look venomous, they are not.

Depending on the subspecies their skin can have different colors and patterns. The popular Northern Blue-Tongued Skink has a light brown body with shades of red and orange. Other subspecies may have a dark brown body with black stripes.

Most Blue-Tongued subspecies have flat and smooth scales on their body. Their appearance makes them look similar to a snake. Their body is large and heavy with short thick legs.

Their head is large and pointed with powerful jaws. Some sub-species may have large yellow or red eyes.

Temperament of Blue-Tongued Skinks

Blue-Tongued Skinks are solitary lizards and should be kept alone. Keeping them together is not recommended because it may lead to fights. Sometimes female Blue-Tongued Skinks could be kept together but don’t try keeping two males together.

When it comes to interacting with their family, Blue-Tongued Skinks are calm and peaceful. They will allow you to handle them. Frequent handling will help them get used to you and being handled.

After bringing them home, wait a few days before you start handling them. They may take a few weeks to get used to their new environment.

Sometimes they may get scared and hiss. The hissing is more common when they are introduced to a new enclosure.

While not common they will sometimes bite. You should be a little careful while handling your Blue-Tongued Skink.

Their Compatibility with Children

a close up of a Blue Tongued Skink's head as they walk through the grass

As long as the Blue-Tongued Skink you bring home is captive born and not wild caught they should be a fantastic pet for your family. They’re great for children because they can be played with outside of their enclosure. With a little training they can even be potty trained so that they won’t make a mess outside of their enclosure while they’re being played with. They’re safer to have outside of their enclosure than other reptiles because they’re fairly slow moving.

Always have your children wash their hands after handling a reptile. This is because most reptiles are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in humans. Washing their hands should prevent your children from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from reptiles. Children 5 and younger should not handle reptiles because young children are at an increased risk of contracting Salmonella.

Living Space for Blue-Tongued Skinks

Blue-Tongued Skinks should be kept in glass enclosures with a secured screen lid on top. The screen lid will keep their enclosure ventilated and keep your Blue-Tongued Skink from escaping. Another option is to use a reptile glass enclosure with swinging front doors.

When getting an enclosure, remember that they are a ground-dwelling species and the length of the enclosure is more important than height.

Enclosure/Cage Size

The minimum recommended enclosure size is 36”Lx18”Wx24”H. If you have the space for a larger enclosure then a 48”Lx24”Wx24” enclosure will be much better for your Blue-Tongued Skinks.

Substrate

a Blue Tongued Skink as they extend their tongue to try to catch prey

Add a loose and dry substrate like cypress mulch, aspen or a mixture of peat moss and sand. Recycled paper can be used as a substrate, but it should only be used if you run out of the other substrates while changing it.

Don’t use hard or toxic substrates because your Blue-Tongued Skink may ingest the substrate, causing impaction. Impaction can become a serious problem requiring a vet visit to clear out the blockage in their digestive system. To keep them from ingesting substrate while they eat, use a feeding dish when you give them food.

Decorations

Blue-Tongued Skinks don’t need lots of decorations like branches and plants in their enclosure. A flat rock to lay on under their basking spot and a few hiding spots are the only decorations they’ll need.

Best Climate for Blue-Tongued Skinks

Blue-Tongued Skinks cannot regulate their body heat on their own and depend on their environment. Their enclosure should have separate warm and hot areas to let them regulate their body temperature. 

Keep the heating equipment on one side of their tank to create separate temperature zones. An incandescent light bulb or heat emitter can be used as heating equipment.

Temperature

The temperature in the warm area should be kept between 75°F to 85°F and in their basking spot should be kept between 90°F and 100°F. The night time temperature can be allowed to fall to around 70°F, but not below.   

Humidity

a Blue Tongued Skink walking through the grass

Blue-Tongued Skinks need a moderate humidity between 40 to 60 percent. Don’t let the humidity get higher because this can lead to respiratory issues in your Blue-Tongued Skinks.

Lighting

They need standard lighting equipment for their enclosure. They will also need a UVA/UVB bulb. Keep the lights turned on for 12 to 14 hours a day. The easiest way to remember to turn the lights on and off is by using a timer.

Replace the UVA/UVB lights every 6 months because they lose their efficiency. 

Water Source

While Blue-Tongued Skinks usually don’t drink water from a bowl, keeping a water bowl in their enclosure is still recommended. They may use the water bowl to soak themselves when they get dehydrated. The water bowl will help keep the enclosure humid.

The water bowl should be shallow, sturdy and large enough for them to soak themselves. 

The Attention a Blue-Tongued Skinks Needs

Two thermometers should be used in their enclosure, one on the warm side and the other on the hot side. Check the readings regularly and make changes if needed.

Use a high-quality hygrometer to check the humidity levels. If the humidity level drops, mist their enclosure to raise the humidity.

Clean and replace the water bowl with fresh water daily.

Health Issues

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory infections are a common health issue in reptiles. Poor enclosure conditions like excessive cold or humidity as well as stress can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia. 

Symptoms include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Bubbles in mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy

Take your reptile to your vet if they have any of the above symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. If the infection is severe, they may need to be hospitalized.

Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Maintaining the right temperature gradient and humidity levels inside their living enclosures can prevent your reptile from getting respiratory diseases.

Skin Infections

Scale rot is a commonly occurring health problem with Blue-Tongued Skinks. The infection is typically caused by an unclean or unhealthy living environment. Scale rot is very treatable, and easily preventable. If left untreated for too long the damage can become quite severe, even affecting internal organs.

Symptoms of Scale rot are:

  • Dark or discolored scales, usually brown or red and typically on the belly
  • Blistering
  • Broken, cracked or crusty scales
  • Missing scales
  • Swollen scales

The best treatment is catching it early. Because of the medication involved your Blue-Tongued Skink will need to be brought into see your vet. Your vet will inject your pet with an antibiotic treatment. You should see improvements over the next two weeks.

To prevent scale rot you’ll want to do a deep clean on your pets enclosure. You’ll also want to eliminate the cause of the infection. Scale rot typically occurs because the enclosure is not clean enough or the substrate isn’t good for your pet or the temperature or humidity levels aren’t set right. In rare cases it can even be caused by an injury. 4 of the 5 are things you have control of.

Grooming and Care

Spot clean the substrate everyday and completely replace it once a month.

Clean and replace the water bowl with fresh clean water everyday.

Feeding A Blue-Tongued Skink

crickets are the perfect food for Blue Tongued Skinks

Blue-Tongued Skinks are omnivore lizards that have moderate feeding needs. They are not choosy about food and will usually eat what is given to them.

They should be given 40 percent meat-based food and the other 60 percent should be vegetables (50%) and fruits (10%). Rotating the food and feeding them a variety is recommended.

For meat-based food, feed them crickets, mealworms, thawed mice, boiled eggs, ground turkey or canned dog or cat food.

Vegetables like spring greens, spinach, dandelion, carrots, peas and collard greens are all good for them. For fruits, raspberries, mangoes and figs are all good choices.

While young Blue-Tongued Skinks should be fed every other day, adults should be fed every 3 to 4 days.

Calcium and vitamin supplements should be added to their food occasionally.

Related Questions:

Why does My Blue-Tongued Skink Sneeze so Much?

Blue-Tongued Skinks use their nose and head to burrow and push through the substrate. The burrowing could lead to their nasal passages getting congested with dirt or substrate material. To clear their nasal passages your Blue-Tongued Skink will sneeze. The sneezing is normal.

Only if the sneezing is paired with a discharge, then it may indicate an infection. If you notice an irregular discharge from your Skink while they sneeze consult your vet to check if your Skink has an infection.

Can Blue-Tongued Skinks Drop Their Tail?

Yes, Blue-Tongued Skinks can drop their tail when threatened. The tail may continue to move for a few minutes after it has been dropped. The tail’s movement helps distract predators, allowing Blue-Tongued Skinks to escape. They will usually regrow their tails.

How do Blue-Tongued Skinks Breed?

Blue-Tongued Skinks can start breeding when they are around 2 years old. They reproduce by giving birth to live babies and not laying eggs. The number of babies can vary between species, some giving birth to one while others to 24 babies at a time!