Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blue Tongue Skink


Blue-tongued skinks comprise the Australasian genus, Tiliqua, which contains some of the largest members of the skink family (Scincidae). They are commonly called blue-tongued lizards or simply blue-tongues in Australia. As suggested by these common names, a prominent characteristic of the genus is a large blue tongue that can be bared as a bluff-warning to potential enemies.

Systematics and Distribution

Blue-tongued skinks are closely related to the genera Cyclodomorphus and Hemisphaeriodon. All species are found on mainland Australia with the exception of Tiliqua gigas which occurs in New Guinea and various islands of Indonesia. One subspecies of Tiliqua scincoides is also found on several small Indonesian islands between Australia and New Guinea. Tiliqua nigrolutea is the only species present in Tasmania. With the exception of the pygmy blue-tongue, they are relatively large lizards (up to 37 cm total length), light-bodied, short-limbed, broad with a distinct head and dull teeth.


Most species are diurnal ground-foraging omnivores, feeding on a wide variety of insects, gastropods, flowers, fruits and berries. The pygmy blue-tongue is again the exception, being primarily an ambush predator of terrestrial arthropods. All are viviparous, with litter sizes ranging from 1-4 in the pygmy blue-tongue and shingleback to 5-24 in the eastern and northern blue-tongues.

Species and subspecies

Scientific name : Tiliqua nigrolutea

Common name : Blue tongue skink

Housing Size : 48" x 24" x 24"

Housing Type : Forest and field, semi-deserts

Adult Size : 7" to 24"

Care/Keeping : Keep singularly, as a pair or in a group with only one male.

Level Of Difficulty : Easy to Moderate

Life Span : Up to 20 years

Diet : Omnivorous


Hatchlings can be kept in 10 gal. Adults require at minimum 40-55 gal tanks; these lizards are wide-ranging inthe wild and so do better in much larger enclosures. Substrate can be clean dust-free pine (not cedar) shavings, aspen shavings or cypress mulch. Most prefer snug hides, so hide boxes, rock caves or half logs will be needed.

While these are ground dwelling lizards, they do have to clamber over things to get their relatively large bodies over things with their outlandishly tiny legs and feet. Many seem to enjoy the exploration and exercise climbing over and through things gives them, so providing different levels of branches and logs for them to climb on will make for better adjusted lizards. This also means that top-opening tanks need to be securely fastened, and open-top tanks need to be deep enough to prevent the skink from climbing out.

One area of slightly damp substrate should be kept, or a humidity retreat box (into which they can freely climb in and out, filled with damp sphagnum moss or a loosely piled damp towel, for use during shed periods).


They should have a bowl of water available at all times. They may defecate in it so it should be checked regularly. Bowl should be big enough for them to climb easily in and out of if it is to be used for bathing.


Regular exposure to UVB wavelengths are strongly recommended. This can be furnished by close proximity to a Vita-Lite or Zoo Med Iguana or Reptisun fluorescent lights (5.0+) or direct sunlight. If using the latter, be sure that there is a cooler retreat for the skink to go to. They do not tolerate very high temperatures and can easily become prostrate by the buildup of heat in their enclosure.


The overall gradient should range from the mid 70s on the cool side to the mid 80s on the warm side. A warmer basking area, with temps well into the 90s, must also be provided during the day. Depending on the type of skink and its place of origin, some will do better with basking areas into the low 100s, while others need basking temps in the low to mid 90s. Observe your lizard for signs of temperature related stress, and adjust accordingly.

A people heating pad under the tank at one end, and a radiant heat source overhead at the same end, will generally be all that is required to establish the necessary gradient. Cold winter weather outside will require additional heating or a stronger bulb in the enclosure. Temps should not be allowed to fall below 70 F at night on the cool side.


Blue-tongues are omnivores, consuming both plant and animal matter. Their diet should be about 60% plant and 40% animal. A basic mixed vegetable salad can be prepared similar to that fed to green iguanas. Along with the salad, thinly sliced greens (collards, dandelion, escarole) can be mixed into the mixed vegetables.

Hatchling skinks can be started on mealworms, redworms, small crickets, and pinkie mice. As they grow, increase the size of the prey (small earthworms, Zoophoba larvae and pupae, fuzzies and crews).


Blue-tongue skinks are very docile, curious lizards. They tame easily and are handleable by careful small children. They do develop claws, and while they don't particularly scratch, it can be startling and scary to someone who is nervous holding them, so always supervise people closely when first handing the lizard to them. Like many omnivorous and carnivorous lizards, blue-tongues find that wriggling human fingers look an awful lot like small wriggling mice...and may try to eat one if they are hungry. As with all such reptiles, it is best to wash your hands before handling them if you have been handling anything they normally eat.

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