northern Blue-Tongued Skink (Blue Tongue lizard)
This care sheet applies specifically to the Northern blue-tongued skink, as this is the species available in New Zealand Blue-tongued skinks are ideal for beginners, as they have loads of personality and great dispositions. Blue-tongued skinks are also an excellent choice for advanced hobbyists, as breeding them can be challenging. The total length of an adult Blue Tongue usually ranges between 18 and 24 inches. Kept properly, blue-tongued skinks can live for 15 to 20 years.
Blue-Tongued Skink Enclosure
Baby blue-tongues should be housed singly in plastic reptile enclosures, terrariums or 20-gallon aquariums with full screen tops. An adult blue-tongued skink requires, at minimum, an enclosure measuring 36 inches long by 18 inches wide by 10 inches tall, with a full screen top. Larger is even better, keeping in mind blue-tongued skinks are terrestrial and prefer floor space over climbing area.
All blue-tongued skinks, both juveniles and adults, are best kept singly. You may be able to house females together, or a male and female pair, but watch them very closely. If they fight, keep them in separate cages. Males should never be kept together.
Blue-Tongued Skink Lighting and Temperature
Reptiles control their body temperature through thermoregulation and it's crucial for your blue-tongued skink enclosure to have a warm end and a cooler end (heat gradient). Place all heating and lighting at one end of the enclosure, this will allow your blue-tongue too choose where to go if it gets too warm or too cold. A thermometer at each end to monitor temperatures is recommended.
Blue-tongued skink enclosures should have ambient temperatures on the cool side from 23 to 26 C. The warm end should include a basking area of 30 to 35 C. This can be accomplished using an an overhead basking light or heat emitter. Daylight bulbs should be on a maximum of 12 hours each day. The cooler end of the enclosure can drop to 21 degrees at night.
We also recommend UVB lighting in Blue-tongued skink enclosures. The UVB lights should be on eight to 12 hours a day. Any UVB bulb will also provide UVA, which is beneficial to blue-tongued skinks and their development.
Blue-Tongued Skink Substrate and Accessories
Aspen, recycled paper substrate and mulch (as long as it's kept dry) can all be used safely with blue-tongued skinks. Cedar chips, clay cat litter, orchid bark and walnut shells should never be used, as these substrates may lead to toxicity, impaction or respiratory concerns. Whichever substrate you choose, be sure your skink does not ingest it. Accidental ingestion can be deterred by using a feeding dish. Blue-tongues spend their time on the ground, so keep the substrate clean and maintained.
Blue-tongues may climb over rocks and logs, but they are not agile climbers. Be sure they cannot fall from any high areas, such as stacked rocks or branches, in their enclosures. Proper housing accessories include bark, wood, logs, large rocks and hide boxes or other shelters. Do not clutter the cage, as blue tongues enjoy plenty of open space. Elaborate decorations are unnecessary and will be rearranged by blue-tongues.
Blue-Tongued Skink Diet and Feeding
Blue-tongued skinks are extremely hardy lizards that will thrive on just about any diet, but a well-balanced diet will result in a more active, healthier blue-tongued skink.
Blue-tongues are omnivorous and should be fed a combination of proteins, vegetables/greens and fruits. Variety is important. Switch protein sources and provide diversity when feeding canned foods. For each feeding, a ratio of 50 percent vegetables/greens, 40 percent protein and 10 percent fruit is ideal. Adult blue-tongued skinks should be fed every two to three days. Young blue-tongues do best when fed every other day. Feed them as much as they will eat in one sitting. After your skink has stopped eating, uneaten food should be removed immediately.
A quality vitamin/calcium supplement with vitamin D3 is important, especially if you're not providing a sufficiently varied and well-rounded menu. Sprinkle the supplement over your blue-tongue's food every third feeding for adults and every other meal for young blue-tongues that are still growing.
Below is a list of menu items that are appropriate for blue-tongued skinks. Feel free to try other types, but avoid citrus, avocado, eggplant, rhubarb and high-sodium canned meats/foods. We also stock a variety of pellets and gel foods especially for Blue Tongues.
Canned super premium dog/cat food
Dry super premium dog/cat food (moistened)
Canned insect products (any variety, but snails are a favorite)
Mealworms and waxworms
Ground turkey (cooked)
Lean ground beef (cooked)
Pinky mice (live or frozen/thawed, but only occasionally)
Fruits and Veggies:
Dandelions (pesticide free)
Hibiscus flowers (pesticide free)
If feeding canned dog/cat foods to your blue-tongued skink, be sure to feed only super premium foods that contain no by-products and no meat/bone meal. Many foods are available with fruits and vegetables included; they are not a substitute for fresh foods, but they are preferred over 100-percent-protein cat/dog foods. Cat foods usually contain twice the protein of dog foods, so if you plan to offer either to your blue-tongues, We recommend dog foods over cat foods. If a skink is emaciated, cat/kitten food will help add weight. Be sure to read the nutritional information on manufactured foods. Avoid corn-based foods, as well as foods that contain artificial colors, by-products (including chicken by-products) and meat/bone meal, as well as any foods that contain water as the main ingredient.
Blue Tongues also enjoy:
Blue-Tongued Skink Water and Humidity
Clean water should always be accessible in an appropriate water dish. Blue-tongued skinks are not good swimmers and must be able to easily exit the water bowl. Also be sure the water bowl cannot be easily tipped over. Northern blue-tongues are from semi-dry areas and require low humidity with adequate ventilation. Humidity levels ranging between 25 and 40 percent are ideal for Northern blue-tongues, use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels.
Blue-Tongued Skink Handling and Temperament
Any new reptile, should be allowed to acclimate for a few days and should not be handled until it is comfortable in its new environment. Once your new blue-tongue is feeding regularly, then handling can begin.
Initial handling sessions should be limited to 10 minutes or less per session which can be done a couple times each day during the acclimation process. Be sure to fully support the skink's entire body, which will help your pet to feel secure. While many reptiles do not like to be handled at all, and some merely tolerate it, blue-tongued skinks are very personable and often seem to enjoy being scratched on the head or chin.
Common health issues in Blue-tongues
Intestinal Parasites (worms): Blue-tongues are susceptible to worms. Faecal checks and worming can be carried out by an experienced reptile veterinarian.
Dysecdysis (Abnormal Shedding): Low humidity levels can sometimes result in a dragon having an ‘incomplete’ shed.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): Calcium or vitamin D3 deficiency as a result of incorrect diet and/or lack of or incorrect UV lighting.
- Loss of appetite
- Retained skin around toes or tail tip
- Abnormal movements
If your lizard is showing any of the above signs, we recommend taking them to an exotic vet immediately.