Blue-Tongued Skink

Blue tongued skinks are terrestrial lizards found in Australasia and Indonesia. The numerous different species are found variously in open woodland, forest-field margins and semi-desert habitats.

The species most commonly kept as pets include T. gigas (New Guinea Blue-tongued skink), T. s. scincoides (Common or Eastern Blue-tongued skink) and T. s. intermedia (Northern Blue-tongued skink).

They are heavily built lizards with broad, blunt triangular heads, delicate limbs and deep blue tongues which are used as a defence mechanism. They can grow up to 50-60cm in length and live up to 20 years.

Suitability as Pets

These reptiles are very rewarding to keep and have a very long life expectancy. However their trade threatens their future and so they should only be kept by competent experienced keepers

Housing

Blue tongued skinks need large secure vivariums with the correct temperature gradient and places to hide. It is essential that vivarium temperature and humidity are monitored to ensure that this lizard is living in the correct environment for the species. The vivarium should be spot-cleaned regularly and completely cleaned and disinfected every 2 months.

Lighting

Blue tongued skinks need ultraviolet B light for vitamin D synthesis and calcium metabolism. While this is best provided by access to natural sunlight, this is obviously not a practical option in Britain. Light sources such as Iguana light, Reptisun (Zoomed) or Life-glo lights are the best alternatives. They must be replaced regularly as their UVB output declines rapidly after 6-9 months. A 12/12 hour day/night photoperiod should be provided as these lizards are diurnal.

Heating/ Temperature

Their preferred optimum temperature zone (POTZ) is 25-34oC. To stimulate appetite and digest their food, bearded dragons should have access to a basking area that remains at 30-35oC for 12 hours a day. The rest of the enclosure should have a temperature gradient from 30-35oC at the hot spot to 24oC at the coolest area during the day. Vivarium temperatures can drop by a few degrees at night time but should not drop below 16oC (20oC for juveniles)

A temperature gradient can be achieved by placing a heat mat under or against the side of the vivarium at one end. Alternatively ceramic bulbs, spot lights or power plates can be used, although it is essential that heaters inside the vivarium are guarded to prevent direct contact by the animal. Some form of basking lamp should be provided whichever other heating methods are used. Use a thermostat to control the heat system if possible. Hot rocks are not recommended.

Vivarium

Substrates such as sand, bark or wood chips and corn cobs should be avoided as they can be ingested causing fatal impactions. Newspaper is probably the easiest thing to use as it can be replaced regularly. Rocks or logs can be used to create hiding places or purpose built hide boxes can be used.

Water /Humidity

Humidity should be 20-30% with access to an area of higher humidity during shedding. This can be achieved by providing a small humidity chamber. This can be made out of a plastic ice cream or margarine tub containing damp vermiculite, moss or wet paper towels. The vivarium should be sprayed with water at least daily. A shallow water dish should be available and cleaned daily.

Diet / Feeding

Blue-tongued skinks are omnivorous, eating a large proportion of insects. Crickets, mealworms, locusts, cockroaches and wax worms are all suitable.

Adults may take an occasional pinky mouse. Dog food may be offered as part of the diet, although this should not become the main food item offered. A small amount of vegetable matter (this should comprise approximately 25% of the diet) should be offered daily with components well mixed and in bite-sized pieces. This should also be regularly dusted with Nutrobal (Vetark).

Suitable vegetables include dandelion (including flowers), clover, watercress, mustard cress, parsley, kohlrabi, escarole, collard, turnip greens, endive, Chinese leaves, carrot tops, green beans, peas (and pods), mange-tout, bean sprouts, grated carrot, sweet potato, peppers, and sweetcorn. Vegetables should be shredded, grated or finely chopped and mixed thoroughly together.

Adults should be fed every 1-2 days; juveniles require feeding twice daily with smaller prey items. When feeding juveniles, it is a good idea to place crickets in the fridge for a few minutes first, to slow them down. Remove any uneaten crickets from the vivarium.

Food Dusting/ Vitamin Supplementation

In order to ensure that the diet has a correct calcium : phosphorus ratio, prey insects should be gut-loaded with a product such as Bug-Grub (Vetark) for 48 hours before feeding. They should also be regularly dusted with a high calcium product such as Nutrobal (Vetark) before feeding. Juveniles should have their prey dusted daily whereas adults should have their prey dusted weekly. 

Source: Holly House Veterinary Hospital