Blue tongue skinks (Tiliqua spp.) are 18-24” long, diurnal lizards native to Australia and Indonesia. Depending on species, they can be found in scrublands, grasslands, mediterranean and temperate forests, tropical rainforests, and even deserts.
There are 12 recognized species and subspecies, all but one of which being available to the pet trade. Blue tongue skinks are stout, sturdy lizards with an elongated triangular head, a medium-length tail, and short, strong limbs with short digits. Pattern and coloration can vary widely from species to species. Knowing which type of blue tongue skink you have is important to knowing how to care for them, so first we recommend identifying yours here.
Blue tongue skinks generally make good pets due to their hardiness and personable temperaments. In fact, they’re one of the most popular pet lizards in the US. With good care, a pet blue tongue skink can live 20-30+ years.
Minimum terrarium size for blue tongue skinks:
The minimum terrarium size for a blue tongue skink is 48”L x 24”W x 24”H. Of course, these are fairly large, active lizards, so larger is always better — if you provide, they will absolutely use it!
Housing multiple blue tongue skinks in the same terrarium is not recommended, and is likely to result in fighting and injuries if attempted.
Do blue tongue skinks need UVB?
Technically blue tongue skinks can survive without UVB, but they are healthier when it is provided. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for blue tongue skinks in a 48x24x24 enclosure are:
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. If the lamp is positioned over mesh, the basking area should be placed 7-11” below for best results. If the lamp is mounted inside the enclosure, the basking area should be placed 12-18” below instead.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Best temperature for blue tongue skinks:
Northern/Eastern blue tongue skinks should have a basking surface temperature of 105-115°F, and Indonesian blue tongue skinks should have a slightly cooler basking surface temperature of 100-105°F. The cool side temperature should stay between 70-80°F, and heat sources should be turned off at night.
Provide heat for your blue tongue skink with two halogen heat bulbs placed close together. Halogen heat bulbs are better at imitating sunlight, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
For best results, use a large flat stone (ex: flagstone, paver stone, slate tile) as the basking surface. Measure temperatures with an infrared thermometer or digital probe thermometer.
Best humidity levels for blue tongue skinks:
Humidity is one of the biggest differences between caring for a Northern/Eastern blue tongue skink and caring for an Indonesian blue tongue skink.
- Northern and Eastern blue tongue skinks need average humidity levels between 40-60%.
- Indonesian blue tongue skinks generally need average humidity levels between 60-80%.
- Halmahera Indonesian blue tongue skinks need average humidity levels between 80-100%.
Measure the average humidity in your blue tongue skink’s enclosure with a digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium. You can increase humidity by mixing water into the substrate, misting with a spray bottle, and providing a humid hideout lined with moistened sphagnum moss.
Best substrate for blue tongue skinks:
“Loose” substrates that mimic a reptile’s natural environment present a low impaction risk, cushion the animal’s joints, and offer a place where they can exercise natural burrowing behaviors. These substrates also help maintain correct humidity levels.
We recommend the following substrates for blue tongue skinks:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a blue tongue skink terrarium:
An empty terrarium leads to a bored skink. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
At bare minimum, you will need at least two hides/”caves” for the skink to use. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
What to feed to a blue tongue skink:
Blue-tongue skinks are omnivorous, which means that they need both plant- and animal-based foods in their diet. Here is a basic feeding schedule:
- Feed babies (up to 3 months) daily.
- Feed juveniles (3-8 months) 3 times weekly.
- Feed subadults and adults (8+ months) 1-2 times weekly.
For skinks younger than 12 months, high-protein foods should make up 70-80% of their diet. For skinks older than 12 months, high-protein foods should only be 40-50% of their diet. The rest should be leaf greens and other vegetables. One meal should be roughly the same size as your skink’s skull.
The key to balanced nutrition is variety, so make sure your skink gets as many different (but still appropriate) foods as possible! Here are some ideas:
High-protein foods for blue tongue skinks: high-quality dog or cat food (no fish flavors), chicken hearts, chicken gizzards, eggs, mice, dubia roaches, grasshoppers, locusts, snails, hornworms, silkworms, earthworms
Safe vegetables for blue tongue skinks: collard greens, cactus pads, spring mix, arugula, kale, pea shoots, alfalfa, bok choy, carrot greens, spinach, dandelion greens/flowers, hibiscus leaves/flowers
Fruit is high in sugar, so it shouldn’t be given too often, but it does make a good treat!
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your skink healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your skink’s feeder insects and organ or muscle meats. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your blue tongue skink:
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, blue tongue skinks tend to tolerate human interaction well. Here are some tips for success:
- Don’t grab the skink from above. Instead, scoop from below.
- Support as much of its body as possible.
- Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
- Put the skink back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet! Here are some more sources we recommend checking out: