Tips to care for your pet blue-tongued skink

Tips to Take Care of Your Pet Blue-tongued Skink

A blue-tongued skink is a great exotic pet. But before getting one home, you should be aware about its living conditions, food habits, and other important things. This Buzzle article will guide you towards being a great pet owner of a blue-tongued skink.
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The blue-tongued skink comes from Australia, but now it is found around the world as a pet. As its name indicates, it has a bright blue tongue. It has smooth, overlapping scales, short legs, and a thick tail. The tail might break off if it's grabbed by a predator, which can partly grow later. It is quite a shy lizard, but can take a stand when threatened. It puffs up its body and sticks out its tongue when threatened. It is an omnivorous animal, which means that it eats both plants and meat.

The average size of a blue-tongued skink is 14 - 18 inches (entire length), and its average lifespan is between 10 - 20 years. Now that you have a basic knowledge about this reptile, we layout handy tips and suggestions for prospective pet owners.

blue-tongued skink looks

Keeping a Blue-tongued Skink as a Pet

Enclosure Details

The enclosure should be a big one because it is a curious animal and loves to roam around. Buy the maximum size you can afford. It should be glass-sided and should at least be 40 - 60 gallons of glass terrarium or larger for an adult; it could be 20 gallons for a juvenile. The smallest size would be a 3 ft long by 18 inches terrarium. However, bigger the better!

The enclosure should have an escape-proof and a metal top so that a heat lamp could be kept above.

The heat lamp should be kept in such a way that you're pet cannot come in direct contact with it. If it does, it can create threatening problems. It should also be kept out of reach from children or other pets like cats and dogs.

A heat pad could be stuck properly at one end. Heat pads manufactured specially for reptiles are safe to use.

It has to be exposed to UVB light for quite a few hours, almost 8 - 12 hours. It is very important for your pet to get calcium and vitamin D3 from it. A fluorescent bulb can be used, but it has to be kept far from the animal. Consult your exotic pet veterinarian for the exact placement.

Temperature

Blue-tongued skinks require varied temperatures, which include a hot side for basking, a cold area that has water, and normal temperature in between. In the mornings, the temperature at the basking end could be 95 - 100°F and at the cool side, it could be 70 - 80°F.
A heat lamp of minimum 10-inch diameter is suitable as it will give a good range of heat, and a 100-watt bulb is good enough. If you have a taller enclosure, you might need a 150 - 200 watt bulb.
In the night, you can turn the heat lamp and the temperature should be 60 - 70°F, not less than 60°F.
If your room is very cold, for example the air conditioner is on in summers, you may want to try an under-the-tank heater.
Day and night timings should be balanced properly as your pet will have its routine accordingly.

Other Requirements

A bedding can be given to your pet. It can be shredded aspen because it is easy to clean and not harmful for your pet if it ingests it by mistake. Other reptile substrates can be used such as Repti-Bark, Lizard Litter, Bed-A-Beast, and carefresh ped bedding. Do not use newspaper or any type of pine or cedar products for bedding.

Branches and plants could be kept because your pet will like climbing and exploring. Do not get branches from outside; it may have parasites that will trouble your pet. Keeping plastic plants is a good idea as they won't rot.

blue-tongued skink hiding
Your pet also loves burrowing and hiding, so appropriate hiding spots could be given.

Maintenance

The entire enclosure should be cleaned properly at least once a month. It can be cleaned with a mild dishwashing liquid in warm water. After that, vinegar in water or bleach in warm water can be used. Never mix vinegar and bleach, as it becomes toxic.

Everyday hygiene includes cleaning the water bowl, wiping the glass, and removing any dirty bedding.

Feeding Habits

The Blue-tongued skink is an omnivorous animal, so its diet should include both meat and vegetables.
Feeding a baby or a juvenile often is fine, but as it grows, feeding should be done accordingly. It is very prone to getting obese.
A large portion of its diet should constitute fresh vegetables like collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, alfalfa pellets, parsley, squash, etc. Remember to wash vegetables properly and then cut them so that it's easy for your pet to digest them. Avoid spinach and iceberg lettuces.
Fruits like raspberries, figs, papaya, mangoes, etc., can be given.
Meat diet can include cooked chicken pieces, beef or turkey, and insects. Insects like crickets, mealworms, and roaches could be fed. Never feed them wild insects as they can have infections that will infect the skink.
Chicken/beef/turkey should be cooked to free them from any possible contamination.
Do not leave the uneaten insects for days. It can bother the skink. One or two can be left as it can find and eat it later.
Mice should be given occasionally.
Egg yolk or scrambled eggs can be given when it is not eating well.

Water
A bowl of water is necessary. Try not to use tap water. You can buy distilled water or maybe boil water and keep it for your pet.
The water should be given in a shallow plate-like surface. Choose something that is sturdy and won't spill water out when the skink is drinking.

Soaking

Blue-tongued skinks like to soak in water once in a while. So a big soaking dish can be kept, but not in the basking area. Just give it what it needs; it will soak itself whenever it feels like.

Shedding

Like other reptiles, the blue-tongued skink also sheds, but in parts. Before shedding, the color gets dull or dark and then the other new layer can be seen. Do not peel off the skin yourself!
If you feel that the enclosure is dry, spray it with water 2 times a day to keep the enclosure moist, in the shedding time.
After a few days, make sure that there is nothing left on the toes or tip of the tail. That skin has to be removed very carefully. After shedding, a new shiny and smooth coat is seen.

Healthy Signs

Signs of a healthy skink are that it's eating properly. Physical signs include even and smooth skin, clear, bright, rounded eyes, and no traces of small reddish-brown spots near the ears, eyes, and nostrils.

Always keep a journal and write about behavior changes or difference in feeding patterns.

Signs of Getting Sick
  • Irregular feeding and defecating
  • Eyes getting dull (when not shedding)
  • Irregular scales
  • Small reddish-brown spots near eyes, nose, and ears
  • Red patches (indicate heat burns)

Common Health Problems

Blue-tongued skinks can be prone to metabolic bone disease. This happens because of lack of variety in the diet. The treatment includes understanding the cause and correcting it before it's too late!
Vomiting can happen 1 or 2 times. The skink may have an upset stomach. It is not really a serious problem till it continues. You should visit the vet immediately in such a case.
Not cleaning the tank properly will invite worms, which lives inside your pet and can be seen in their waste.
Mouth rot is a bacterial problem that causes red swelling around the lips and mucus in mouth.
Mites or ticks is rare in those that are captive, but can be common in those caught in the wild.
Egg binding can happen in females, which causes abdominal enlargement, difficulty in defecating, and loss of appetite. Visit the vet immediately in case of any such occurrences.

Preferably, medical tests should be done every year to ensure that your pet skink is doing fine.

Tips for the Pet Owner

The most important thing is to remember to wash your hands every time before and after you handle your pet, to save yourself and also to protect your pet from any foreign bacteria.
There are many ways to hold your pet, but remember whichever way you choose, you should support its whole body. If not, then it'll feel insecure and might pee or panic!
It tightens its grip when it urinates or excretes. Do not panic or throw it when you get scared! The urine is just water and has no odor. The stool has an odor, but it's not going to hurt you in any way.

Remember, it excretes once it gets active. So, that might be the first thing it will do when you remove it outside the cage. It normally defecates once a day.

It is possible to train the skink for a proper schedule.
Taming the skink should be done slowly as it may feel insecure at first. Hand-feeding is a great idea to strengthen your bond.

Blue-tongued skinks are gentle animals, so take utmost care. Keeping a pet is not an easy job, so be a responsible and well-read owner. You would never want your pet to suffer because of your ignorance.
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