Blue-Tongued Skink Pet Care Basics

Blue tongued skink (Tilaqua scincoides scincoides)
Blue tongued skink in grass outside. Kristian Bell / Getty Images

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. Learn about this species.

About the Blue-Tongued Skink

The blue-tongued skink is a fairly large lizard, with a mature size of around 20 inches (snout to vent length of 12 inches). These are hardy lizards that live 10 to 20 years on average.

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 require a large enclosure, such as a 40- to 55-gallon tank, with a secure lid. The substrate (bedding) can consist of Aspen wood shavings, cypress mulch, or even newspaper. Whatever you choose, make sure your skink is not eating it or your lizard could get an intestinal blockage.

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. Provide a couple of sturdy hiding spots 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 its skin.

Heat and Lighting

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 to 85 F (24 to 29 C) and a basking spot of 95 F (35 C). A combination of under-tank heating and a basking light on one side of the tank works well. Ensure 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 F (21 C). Cooler temperatures can cause several problems with your skink and make it more prone to getting ill.

In addition to the incandescent basking light, provide a full spectrum UVA/UVB light for 10 to 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 to 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 percent vegetable/fruits and 40 percent meat items from the following list of examples.

  • Green beans 
  • Summer or winter squash 
  • Carrots 
  • Parsnips
  • Leafy greens (they can be shredded or pureed and added to meat portion of diet if your skink is reluctant to eat them)
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas 
  • Melons
  • Low-fat canned dog food (but do not offer too much meat or you may risk harming the kidneys of your skink)
  • Superworms 
  • Pinkie mice 

You can feed your skink canned dog food or a pinky mouse occasionally. Otherwise, stay away from items that aren't fruits, vegetables, or insects.