FAQ - Blue Tongued Skinks: Tiliqua sp.

common Blue Tongue skink. Image courtesy of Mark Hutchinson and the South Australian MuseumThere are eight species of Blue Tongue skink all of which are found in Australian and the neighboring islands (New Guinea, Tasmania, and some islands of Indonesia) where they are known simply as Blue tongue lizards or “blueys”. They are large, docile, ground-foraging lizards easily recognized by the blue tongue within a pink mouth. With the exception of the Pigmy Blue-Tongued (an endangered subspecies thought to have been extinct), adults grow to 17 to 24 inches and about 2 pounds. In captivity, with proper diet and husbandry, skinks can live about 20 years.


  As omnivores, Blue tongue skinks require a varied diet of plants, animal protein and insects. Variety is the key to providing a balanced diet.

 Animal Items*

Isopods (pill bugs)





Grubs & Snails

Pinky Mice

Occasional semi-dry low fat cat food

 Infrequent hard boiled or raw eggs.

Crickets & Mealworms may be fed, but require gut-loading 2 days prior to feeding.




*Never offer scorpions or lightning bugs.

 Plant Items

Beet Greens

(Greens & Flowers)

Grape Leaves


Bok Choy




(Flowers & Leaves)


Rose Petals

Mulberry Leaves


Snow Peas

Collard Greens


Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens

Frozen Mixed Vegetables


 A diet consisting of equal parts plant and animal items is nutritionally complete. When feeding live insects, live insects, only provide as many insects as the animal can eat in a few hours. Items from the list of green plants are appropriate when a mixture of 3 or more types is used in each meal. Vitamin supplements are unnecessary, and in fact are often harmful. Clean water should be available at all times. Food should not be left overnight or for extended periods or offered in very large amounts. Non-live food should be placed in a shallow bowl and not directly on any cage substrate. Blue tongue skins are opportunistic feeders and will eat all that has been provided.

Temperature and Lighting

Daytime ambient temperature (everywhere in the enclosure) should be maintained around 85 degrees F (29 - 32 C), with a basking site about 90-95 degrees F (32-35 C). Night time ambient temperature should be maintained at 75 - 80 degrees F (29.5 - 35 C).   

Blue tongue skinks require a good source of UVB light for at least 8 hours every day. Mimicking the natural light cycle of the region the species is found in is best.  Fluorescent lamps with a stronger UVB output, such as the Repti-sun 8.0 (ZooMed) or ReptiGlo 8.0 (Exoterra) are appropriate. The lamp should be within 18 inches of the animal's body, with no glass or plastic between them.  


Wild Blue Tongue Skink. Image courtesy of Sean MackBeing solitary creatures, Blue tongue skinks are best housed individually, as fighting with cage mates can occur between all combinations of blue tongue skinks. If breeding is desired, males and females should be introduced together only during spring or early summer and not left together unattended as serious injury can occur.  

In the wild skinks live in areas with heavy ground cover, including suburban backyards and gardens. As they are not very good climbers, it is best to have an enclosure that is long rather than high. Think “Long and Low”. Australian wildlife code requires the enclosure for a full grown skink to be 2.5 times the length of the skink by 2.0 times the length of the skink. This amount of space will allow the skink to move about freely between warmer and cooler zones, forage for live food (crickets, snails and grubs) as well as provide enough space for live plants and a water dish.  

Two hide boxes should be provided, a dry and a moist. The “moist” hide box should have moistened spagnum moss (washed with soil removed) or damp sponges placed in it. Do not use peat moss. A moist moss hide box is vital to preventing one of the most common reasons veterinarians see skinks, toe loss from difficult shedding. The dry house can be anything from a shoe box to an artifical hollow log.  

Recommended cage substrates include coarse gravel, dry orchid bark, forest mulch, and folded paper.  The majority of intestinal impactions occur due to sand (including Calci-Sand and Kritter Crumble), crushed walnut shell, or other substrates composed of small, equal-sized particles and therefore these are not recommended.  Indoor-outdoor carpeting is also not recommended due to the possibility of carpet threads constricting toes or being ingested.  

Due to the heat ande cold extremes of the Sonoran desert, it is not recommended to house skinks outdoors in Arizona.  


Gut-loading is the practice of feeding insects a diet high in calcium, protein, and other nutrients prior to offering the insects to reptiles and amphibians.  Domestic crickets and meal worms should be fed a diet consisting of four parts chicken or turkey starter mash and one part calcium carbonate for two or three days before offering the crickets to your pet. Also, offer the crickets water in a shallow dish or wet sponge.  Gut-loading beyond 2-3 days is not beneficial, and can actually decrease the life expectancy of the insects.

© Sonora Veterinary Group, 2011  Free for distribution with proper citation. 

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