Why the Blue Tongue?
One of the most unique characteristics of this amazing reptile is its large fleshy blue tongue. For an animal whose color is made up of tans, browns, oranges, silvers, and blacks, it definitely stands out. So what is it for? The bright fleshy blue tongue is used for defense, and to scare off predators. When a skink is approached by something looking to make it into a meal, it puffs up and makes its body as large as it can, hisses loudly, opens its mouth wide, and flattens out that bright blue tongue. The combination of bright pink flesh in their mouth and that dark blue tongue is an unexpected sight and will confuse the predator long enough for them to run away. If absolutely necessary, they can also drop off their tail to get away when attacked.
Blue tongue skinks are native to Australia, New Guinea and islands of Indonesia. The majority of species found in the pet hobby are the New Guinea and Indonesian species Tiliqua gigas, and the Australian species Tiliqua scincoides. Their habitat ranges from open woodlands, at the margins of forest and fields, and semi-desert habitats. These lizards spend most of their day foraging for food and basking under the sun light. They will also spend time burrowed under leaf litter and debris.
Housing must be sealed and escape proof. Hatchling blue tongue skinks can be housed in a 20L Zilla Critter Cage, while adults require a minimum of a 40BR Zilla Critter Cage. While blue tongue skinks can get up to 24”, they are terrestrial and don’t need a tall tank. Provide blue tongued skinks with substrates that enable burrowing such as Zilla Lizard Litter or Zilla Bark Blend. Decorate the tank with a hide box and artificial foliage, driftwood, rocks, or logs for ample basking and hiding opportunities, and don’t forget a bowl or dish of fresh water. These lizards shouldn’t be kept together, as they can fight and be territorial.
Temperature and Lighting
It is important to create a thermal gradient (or a warm side) in the cage/enclosure. This can be done with an appropriate sized Zilla Heat Mat adhered to the bottom of the tank all the way to one side. Ideal temperatures for blue tongued skinks range from 75-80°F on the cool side and 80-85°F on the warm side. Provide a basking area on the warm side around 90-95°F. Blue tongued skinks also require UVB lighting to thrive and be healthy. Using a Zilla Heat & UVB Fixture with a Zilla 50W Mini Halogen bulb and a Zilla Desert Series 50 UVB Bulb will provide the correct heat and UVB needed for your blue tongue skink to thrive. Make sure to place the light over the side with the heat mat to help create that warm side of the thermal gradient. Spot clean the enclosure for urates, feces, or uneaten food at least twice per week, and every 3 months, remove all substrate and clean and disinfect the tank and décor.
Feeding / Diet
In the wild, blue tongued skinks are omnivorous, meaning they will eat both plant and animal matter. Blue tongued skinks in captivity should eat a mixed assortment of chopped up vegetables, including carrots, peas, collard, mustard, and dandelion greens, and beans. They will also accept crickets, mealworms, superworms, roaches, and waxworms. Another option that they enjoy is Zilla Reptile Munchies Omnivore Mix. Don’t forget to feed Zilla Gut Load Cricket Drink to your feeder insects for added nutritional value, and make sure to spray their foods with Zilla Vitamin Supplement spray and Calcium Supplement Spray.
As with many reptiles, hatchling and juvenile blue tongued skinks typically tend to be initially more nervous. Handle your skink gently and deliberately, but do not drop or injure the animal. Allow them to walk on and through your hands and don’t squeeze them. Most adult blue tongued skinks will settle down considerably and become quite docile and personable pets to keep.
Also be sure to wash your hands after handling any animals.
Created in cooperation with the
Madison Area Herpetological Society, Inc.