Blue-tongued skinks have often been referred to as
"Cadillacs of the pet lizard world." Certainly they are one of the
most popular pet lizards around today. Their gentle personalities,
longevity, attractiveness, and undemanding husbandry add up to
great desirability. There is a continuous demand for blue-tongues, despite the fact
that virtually all are captive-bred, which renders them somewhat expensive
when compared to other lizards--around $200 for juvenile
scincoides, for example.
Despite the popularity of b-ts, however, as far as we know, no single authoritative volume exists which
discusses how they live and function in their natural habitats
and addresses their herpetocultural requirements in detail. To provide
a partial remedy for this glaring deficit, we decided to produce
a Fact Sheet based upon what we have learned from our own experiences with
b-ts, sentiments expressed by long-time b-t keepers, and what we
could glean from available literature that appeared trustworthy. As
might be expected under such circumstances, several areas of
husbandry--like constituents of an ideal diet, for example--remain
controversial. Still,we feel if our general guidelines are adhered
to, fairly good results will be obtained.
This Fact Sheet is a unique byproduct of the Internet. Beginning
as a simple exchange of b-t questions, answers, and anecdotes, it
rapidly evolved into a more thorough, meaningful, and (hopefully)
significant treatment. No Fact Sheet, however, is truly exhaustive.
We have done our best to do justice to our blue-tongued friends,
but welcome all sincere additions and revisions as well as personal
observations and comments. And we take full responsibility for
any errors or defects.
- Genus : Scincidae
- Family : Tiliqua
- Subfamily: Tiliquinea
NATIVE TO: Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea
T. occipitalis - Western Blue Tongued Skink
Likes dry habitats, compact
animal with short tail-growing to 50 cm./ 19.5 in.
and spiders. Produces 5-10 live young.
T. scincoides - Common/Eastern Blue-Tongued Skink
Likes semi-desert to
agricultural areas. Grows to 60 cm./23.5 in. (average 45 cm./17.5 in.)
May be different subspecies since external differences are noted.
Feeds on small animals, plant material. Often found in suburban
Hardy in captivity. Averages 12 live young.
T. intermedia - Northern Blue Tongued Skink
woodlands -growing to 60 cm./23.5 in.
Produces 5-20 live young.
T. nigrolutea - Blotched Blue Tongued Skink
grows to 60 cm./23.5 in.
Omnivorous. Procuces 4-10 live young.
Often crosses with T. scincoides,
offspring are not sterile.
T. mustifaciata - Centralian Blue-Tongued Skink
Found in desert and tropical
environments. Grows to 40-45 cm./15.5-17.5in.,
Feeds on wildflowers,
small vertebrates, and insects.
Produces 2-5 live young.
T. gigas - New Guinea Blue Tongue Skink
This skink is grey or grey brown
with irregular narrow bands of dark brown across the back.
T.gerrandii - Australian Pink tongued skink
Found in New South Wales,
Grows to 40-45 cm./15.5-17.5in.
This skink lives
in a wetter forest habitat than the other Aussie Skinks, is nocturnal
in warm weather and diurnal in cold and feeds almost exclusively on
snails and slugs.
Produces 12-25 live young in summer.
Temperature - DAY 28-32C/82-90F NIGHT 18-20C/65-68F Local hot
spot up to 40C/104F
Heat - Undertank heat recommended.
Chemical heat packs can prevent dangerously low temperatures
in the event of a power failure. These come in 2 types,
reaction pacs like The Heat Factory (TM) which yield fairly high
temperatures (120 deg. F) for many hours and are not reusable, and
sodium acetate packs which give lower temperatures for a few hours
but can be recharged by boiling. The Heat Solution (TM) is an
example of the latter. Both types, espcially the former, should
be well wrapped in cloth to protect the skink.
Cage - Spacious dry terrarium, with slightly damp hiding place.
Neodesha 3 foot cage used for young, 4 foot size used for adults.
Water - Large water bowl since some species like to bathe.
Keep water fresh and clean.
Food - Arthropods, snails, small pieces of meat, fruits, vegetables.
Diced/mashed fruits and vegetables are often preferred.
Monkey biscuits soaked in water until soft or high quality cat
food can also be offered.
Light - Broad-spectrum fluorescent tube
When using broad-spectrum fluorescent tubes, make certain
they are powered from quality fixtures, i.e. those having
fused ballasts and sealed, heavy-duty transformers. Although these
can run twice the price of cheap fixtures, they're worth it in
the long run!
Vitamins - Calcium and Vitamin supplements.
Substrate - Orchid bark, sphagnum moss, or cypress mulch.
(Alan) Juveniles shed more frequently than adults. Healthy adults
should not shed more frequently than every six weeks. Because
shedding takes a considerable investment of energy, it tends to
redirect bodily resources away from regular food metabolism. Thus,
time between defecations may be lengthened considerably when a
shed is imminent. Eating habits are usually not affected, though.
(Linda) I agree with above, but have also observed the following behavior
in my animals. A few days before shedding, the underbody turns pink,
and often the appetite decreases. My adult has eaten large pieces of
shed skin during the process, though I have not observed this with my
juveniles. However, all are usually ravenous the day after shedding.
A large water bowl has been used by my adult for soaking prior to
and during the shed (sometimes I think he acts more like a snake than a skink).
An object-such as a log-is useful for rubbing to help remove loose skin. The
whole process for my adult takes about 4-6 hours. The juveniles tend to take
longer since the skin is thinner and comes off in smaller pieces.
Hiding Instinct: As is true with most juveniles, they tend to be concerned
about predators and as a result, hide and hiss more when young. As they
mature, they seem to mellow with age, and become more relaxed.
When disturbed, a blue-tongue will usually stand its ground,
hissing loudly, puffing up its body, and opening its mouth to show the
beautiful blue tongue. It is quite a contrast again the pink mouth
Biting: They have no well defined teeth, but are capable of a powerful bite.
When biting humans, they have a habit of not letting go, contributing
considerably to the pain.
Mattison, Chris, "Keeping and Breeding Lizards" (Sterling Publishing Co, N.Y.,
Sprackland, Robert George, "Giant Lizards" (T.F.H. Publication Inc., N.J.,
Hoser, Raymond T., "Austrailian Reptiles and Frogs" (Pierson and Co.,
Austrailia, 1989) 108-112
Obst, Fritz, et. al., "Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians
for the Terrarium" (T.F.H. Publication Inc., N.J., 1988) 749-50
Broaddus, Jane. "Blue-Tongued Skinks: _Tiliqua_" _Reptile & Amphibian Magazine_
(Pottsville, PA, Mar.-Apr. 1994) 32-39
Note: Excellent photos in the Hoser book-as well as description of the
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES (ALAN) :
Minnie's now over a year old and about 14 inches from
snout to tail-tip. Since her body's noticeably wider than her
head, I'm confident I didn't misname her. Most males have the
opposite arrangement: wide head with a narrow body. But there
are always a few intermediate types who have to be sexed by
experts--or other b-ts. I raised her on a sterilized play-sand
substrate with no apparent ill effects but eventually became
paranoid after hearing so many horror stories of herps suffering
from intestinal sand impactions. She seems perfectly healthy and
content eating a softened monkey biscuit sprinkled with
Reptivite or Rep-Cal every other day, but I intend to get her
accustomed to a wider variety of foods. The moistened biscuit is
lightly sprinkled with supplement. A sample schedule would be:
Mon: 1 biscuit with Reptivite(TM), Wed: 1 biscuit with Reptivite,
Fri: 1 biscuit with Rep-Cal (TM), and so on. Periodically, I offer
more food to see if Minnie wants to increase her intake. Food left
uneaten after 8 hours is removed.
I chose her from a litter of ten because she was the most
curious and friendly of the lot. Her engaging personality has actually
become more pronounced with time; the juvenile habits of fleeing from or
hissing at every unfamiliar event have almost vanished.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES (LINDA):
Sydney is about 14 months old, and is 20 inches in length (snout to tip of
his tail). His nickname is the Australian Sausage since he is rather plump.
He is a cross between T. nigrolutea and T. intermedia. His markings are
light grey background with black/brown blotches in a "stripped" pattern.
He was my first "major" lizard and was 6 months old at time of purchase.
Friendly from the start, I often hand feed him treats of cooked turkey,
pineapple, and banana-his 3 favorite foods. His staple diet is a mixture
of grated and diced vegetables and fruits including: carrot, zucchini, winter
squash, banana, pineapple, and pear. Other items are added to his diet
as the season or salad bars permit. He does not like strawberries. When
a juvenile, he ate kingworms, and an occasional pinkie mouse. Now shows
no interest in these. Though he fits the general algorithm for sexing, that
Alan describes above, I am not certain he is a male. At some point I will
have him sexed since he will be an integral player in my future blue tongue
Boomer is 5.5 months old and is 15 inches in length (snout to tail tip).
A male, T. scincoides, he is aggressive about food and loves pinkie mice
and superworms. It is hard to keep him interested in fruits and vegetables
unless I mix in a little cat food. He does love banana though-and it is
here that I hide the calcium (Rep-Cal(TM)) or Nekton Rep(TM). A friendly
sort, he shed at about 2 week intervals as he was growing, and now is about
on a 4 week schedule. His full name is Boomerang, with a nickname of
Sheila is 3.5 months old and is 12 inches in length (snout to tail tip).
A female, T. scincoides, she is Boomer's intended. Whenever they view
each other (controlled) - she hisses at him and opens mouth to bite.
Hopes are they will eventually share the same cage. She is much less
aggressive than Boomer, and to date has no interest in mice or worms.
She sticks to her catfood and fruits and vegetables. She also adores banana.
She is shedding at about 3 week intervals.
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