blue-tongued skink as a pet :
Internet purchases :
The internet is a great source to purchase (yes, when done correctly, shipping reptiles overnight is pefectly safe and is done every day). Beware of companies and web sites you are unfamiliar with or have never heard of. Read around, ask around, do a little reseach. Avoid large companies. There are many sellers who buy from international exporters (sellers/companies selling wild caught animals). Use your judgement. Look for the acronym 'CB' (captive bred), or "We only sell and breed quality captive bred reptiles", etc. Of course, people can lie...but ask for some references. Request to possibly email some of their customers. See if they have a reputable website. Avoid classifieds like: "Blue tongue skink for sale. Nice size, feeding well. $100." And that's it. Avoid that. You want friendly, well explained classifieds with an email address, phone number, and hopefully a website. If they have a nice website, it likely means they're in the BUSINESS of selling blue tongues and other reptiles. It's not just an inexperienced person that happened upon one. This can also mean however, that they sell wild caught animals. Many/most big time reptile dealers will most assuredly deal and sell wild caught animals. If a phone number is not already listed, request it! There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't be allowed to call. If they refuse to speak with you personally, are hard to get a hold of, or respond with one-liner emails, definitely move on to another ad. These types of people will not be available when you have a problem or question about your new pet. I would highly recommend calling and speaking with each and every person you consider buying from. Talk to them and get an idea of what kind of person or company they are. Don't forget pictures are a must, and your local newspaper is another good place to look. Then, you can actually go to someone's house and see them!
Scams and Dishonesty :
I am a firm believer in the idea that an animal is worth only what it is worth to the individual, but I draw the line when a seller charges more while making an animal look more valuable than it actually is, or deliberately making the animal sound special or "one of a kind". One thing that drives me up the wall is something called "Morphs". They've gone completely out of control in the bearded dragon market, and in reality, they are nothing more than color variations given fancy nicknames to differentiate bloodlines and help the animal sell. Here is an example of a bearded dragon morph: "Red HypoRed/Orange German Giant X Chris Red". These morphs have also hit the leopard gecko market with names such as: "Super Hypo Carrot-Tail Leopard Gecko". These genetic differentiating 'nicknames' have not yet hit the world of blue tongued skinks, and I'm doing everything I can to keep it that way. While these morphs are generally accepted and commonly used in the bearded dragon community, many people are beginning to use similar tactics to sell their blue tongued skinks. For example, you could sell an average orange-colored Indonesian for $100 which would be a fair price. OR, you could slap on a name like "Orange Citrus Flaming Morph Indonesian - RARE - $400". Would this be honest? Certainly not. First of all, there is no such thing as an "orange citrus flaming" Indonesian blue tongued skink. It's simply a made up name to make the animal sound good. Secondly, the animal is not rare. The fake name however, could make it sound rare. The only "rare" blue tongued skinks in the United States are Westerns, Centralians, Blotched, and Shinglebacks. It is a rare occurrence that you will ever find an Indonesian worth over $200. The only attribute that would make an Indonesian—or any species—more valuable is an exceptionally unique coloration or pattern. Some blue tongue babies may look incredible, some might be very vibrant, or some may be very lightly colored such as a Silver Tanimbar. In any case, these specimens may sell for more.
Use your knowledge from the above topic on the best way to communicate with the seller. Don't be afraid to ask specific questions, and don't bother if you get ridiculous one-liner emails in return. Also, familiarize yourself with the different blue tongued skink species. Once in a while if you come across a unique animal, you very likely could have a hybrid on your hands as hybrids are definitely different looking, so to find out for sure, you'd want to ask an expert. People should NOT be breeding hybrids in order to sell them for cash. That is despicable, and deceitful. Also, keep an eye out for words like "leucistic", "hypomelanistic" or "anerythristic" being used as money-making words. There are no known leucistic blue tongues, and anerythristic specimens are usually not more valuable than any other blue tongue. One other word that you might hear is "Pastel". This word generally only means "lighter in color", and is completely subjective. "Pastel" could mean anything to anyone depending on who's looking. It does not necessarily make an animal valuable or not valuable. As mentioned before, people just throw around these words to make money, so the real meanings are rarely used, and the words in their entirety should probably not even be used at all just to avoid all the confusion! The whole thing is just a mess in my opinion because so many people get tricked and deceived—that's why I encourage REAL species and REAL names be used when selling an animal to somebody else. That way there is no doubt, no questions, and no concerns.
Keep a watchful eye on those internet classifieds, and do not buy into charlatanism. There are dishonest ingratiating individuals out there every day posting bogus ads advertising incredible claims with no proof. Their usual response will be: "Hey folks, buy it or not." They don't care. Take the time to really purchase from someone who loves the animals as much as you do, and is not just out for a quick buck.
Fabricated photographs :
A big problem in today's reptile classifieds are dirty dealers creating slightly altered deceptive pictures to make an animal look brighter, more colorful, or anything that might make it look more appealing. Depending on cameras, lighting, angles, and a number of other factors, an animal's actual color could be much different than it actually appears on screen. A good question to ask a seller is: "On a scale of one to ten, how close does this picture match the actual animal's true color?"Ask for multiple pictures—at least 3-5 taken in different situations and in different lighting. Remember, if a seller doesn't want to bother taking pictures for you, it's not worth it. It's absurd in my opinion to sell an animal online and not offer pictures of the darn thing. How is one supposed to even guess as to what they'll be getting otherwise? A problem with many reptile dealers being dishonest today is simply this: they can get away with it. There is no rating system such as ebay for customers to praise or complain about transactions. Besides the BOI on faunaclassifieds.com (a board where users may post about positive or negative experiences on buying reptiles) and our Resolution Center here, there isn't anything out there to expose fraudulent sellers. Random buyers do not know about all the different websites, and they simply key in their desired reptile on google, click the first site, and buy. Even if a customer is displeased, over half will not seek resolution (beyond their own pleading emails). So what do we do about it? RESEARCH. Know your species, and be smart about your search for your pet. Study the pictures. Does it look natural? Is there a strange hue coving the whole image? Is it crisp and clear? Does it possibly look digitally screwed with? Is the animal possibly in shed? Many animals lose almost all of their color when they shed. This might be the perfect opportunity for a seller to snap a quick pic and advertise his animal as "SILVER" or "WHITE" when in all actuality, the BTS will only retain the lack of color for a couple of days. The seller's excuse might be: "Well, I bought the animal, took the picture, and put him up immediately; I don't know anything about them changing colors". Excuses like this are common. The following image is just such a picture. The bottom portion shows the animal's true color, and the top is the animal in shed with a little something extra added to make him look good. Notice the color of substrate on each of the pictures (the two pictures are combined to show the difference). The top picture appeared in an ad on Kingsnake.com about a year ago and was being sold as a "Rare Silver Indo".
1- Blue-Tongue Skink Care Sheet
courtesy to :
BY PHIL GOSS
Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia)
This care sheet applies specifically to the Northern blue-tongued skink, but most species and subspecies of blue-tongued skinks can be kept using these guidelines. 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 and certain blue-tongue species and localities are extremely rare.
Blue-Tongued Skink Availability
Northern blue-tongued skinks are available seasonally, with most litters dropped June through August. Other species, including Indonesian blue-tongued skinks (Tiliqua gigas gigas), are more readily available and often imported, but Northern blue-tongued skinks are hardier and make better pets. Be sure to choose reptiles from a reputable source and look for active lizards with bright, open eyes. Check for open ear canals, clean toes with no sign of retained shed skin, and observe the overall appearance of the lizard for signs of health. Northern blue-tongued skinks range in price from $150 for babies to $250 for adults. High-colored or rarer forms may cost more. Rare blue-tongued skinks such as centralians and shinglebacks may cost between $1,500 and $5,000 each.
Blue-Tongued Skink Size
The Northern blue-tongued skink is the largest blue-tongue. The total length of an adult usually ranges between 18 and 24 inches.
Blue-Tongued Skink Life Span
Kept properly, blue-tongued skinks can live for 15 to 20 years, and possibly longer.
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. Remember, 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 observe them very closely. If they fight, keep them in separate cages. Males should never be kept together.
This 2-week-old baby northern blue-tongued skink can be kept in a 20-gallon terrarium or similarly sized enclosure.
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. Place all heating and lighting at one end of the enclosure, so if your blue-tongue gets too warm, it can move toward the cooler end opposite, and vice versa if it gets 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 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm end should include a basking area of 90 to 100 degrees. This can be accomplished using an under-tank heating device, such as a heat mat or heat tape, and/or an overhead incandescent basking light or heat emitter. If both under-tank and overhead heat are provided, the overhead heating devices should be turned off at night. Daylight bulbs should be on a maximum of 12 hours each day. The cooler end of the enclosure can drop to 70 degrees at night.
Though there are documented cases of blue-tongues being raised successfully without exposure to full-spectrum lighting, I do 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.
This adult northern blue-tongued skink is more lightly colored than usual. .
Blue-Tongued Skink Substrate and Accessories
Aspen, recycled paper substrates, fir bark and cypress 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 cork bark, Mopani 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.
This young blue-tongue will grow into a personable pet lizard that enjoys having its head and chin scratched.
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.
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 superworms
Ground turkey (cooked)
Lean ground beef (cooked)
Pinky mice (live or frozen/thawed, but only occasionally)
Fruits and Veggies:
Squash (including spaghetti, scallop, butternut, acorn, Hubbard, etc.)
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, I recommend dog foods over cat foods. If a skink is emaciated, cat/kitten food will help add weight. Cat food may also be fed to breeding skinks.
Be sure to read the nutrition information on manufactured foods. I recommend avoiding 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-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. Indonesian, Tanimbar, Irian Jaya, Merauke and Kei Island blue-tongued skinks may prefer slightly higher humidity levels in the 40 to 45 percent range. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels.
Blue-Tongued Skink Handling and Temperament
Any new reptile, including a new blue-tongued skink, should be allowed to acclimate for a few days. It 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. This can be done a couple times each day during the acclimation process. Be sure to hold your blue-tongue close to the floor or over a bed, sofa, etc., in case you accidentally drop the lizard. Also 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. They seem to enjoy the attention.
Blue-tongued skinks will consistently reward and surprise their keepers with their friendly and curious personalities. They are great for reptile enthusiasts of all levels, and the unique and intelligent blue-tongued skink just may be the ultimate pet lizard!
Phil Goss has been breeding blue-tongued skinks since 2001. Visit his website at www.GossReptiles.com.
2- Tips on Successful Skinks Breeding
courtesy to : www.bluetongueskink.org/skink-breeding-tips/
The breeding of a blue tongue skink lizard is similar to that of a number of other reptiles; the process takes place slowly and requires proper preparation beforehand. Here are some of the tips that can help you breed your reptile successfully:
Before thinking of breeding, it is very important to ensure that your lizard is in good shape and is actually ready for mating and reproducing. Double-check the mate that you are introducing for any kind of viral or bacterial disease including mites, mouth rot or other parasitic diseases.
The female should be at least two years of age for successful breeding while the male lizard can be around one year old.
It is very important that you are completely sure about the sex of your lizard because if you introduce two males or two females together, they will end up fighting and hurting each other.
Makes sure that your lizard goes under the period of burmation, this helps prepare the skink for capsulation and develops the organs in the body necessary for reproduction.
During burmation so not touch, handle or move your blue skink lizard, the movements can cause the lizard to become active again, which can reduce the chances of successful breeding.
Right amount of temperature and little or no quantities of food should be given to the lizard during the hibernation period so that all the energy is focused on keeping the body warm and in making the internal body mechanism strong.
Remove the substrate before introducing the female in the enclosure; this is important because not only the substrate hinders the process but it can also get stuck inside the female which can be very painful.
The blue tongue skink usually get very rough and aggressive during mating; therefore, it is very important to keep an eye on them as soon as they are introduced in the same cage. Small amount of injuries to the female is a normal thing but if there aggressiveness is causing too much bleeding or deep injuries, it is best to separate them and try a different mating partner instead.
The copulation process does not take more than 30 seconds to almost a minute. During this time, the female will keep on twitching its tail while the male grabs her around the neck.
Weight your female lizard before and one month after the mating to see if she is actually pregnant. After the mating, take good care of the female’s diet to ensure good health of the mother and healthy babies.
3- Detailed Blue Tongued Skink Caresheet
courtesy to : bluetongueskinks.net/care.htm
Long ago when I first became captivated by these creatures, I had no guide or standard of which to follow. Blue tongued skinks were certainly not well-known by any means, and there was little to nothing written about them. I plunged in headfirst...studying, observing, gaining experience, and learning from my own mistakes. After several years, blue tongued skinks started becoming more popular as a household pet, and I noticed that there was still nothing accurately written about them. There were, of course, a handful of websites with caresheets...none of which were thorough or 100% accurate however, or even contained consistent information. That's when I decided that these animals deserved a website completely dedicated to them. An interactive information source where somebody could learn everything they needed right from the getgo, and ask questions if something didn't make sense. After a few months, I began to realize that there was a sort of secret esoteric group of people who have loved and kept these animals for years. They are what make up our forum today and are an incredible source of knowledge, and a perfect blend of young enthusiasts, the newly interested, and veteran keepers. I'd like to thank Edward, Danny, Johan and Kylie for being some of the original visitors and helping me develop this site into what it is.
The following caresheet is written from my results of working with nothing but blue tongued skinks for many years. It is put together in a unique collaboration of people from all over the world who have sent in their photographs; almost all of which are not seen anywhere else. This site would be useless without the people who generously offer use of their photographs, and of course, the people who volunteer their advice every day on the forum. We hope you enjoy it!
Download entire sheet in .doc format(useful in case of internet outages and/or for quick reference — 2.40MB)
This sheet is 100% devoted to the beginner BTS owner, and its contents are intended for the care of captive bred BTS kept in indoor terraria
Note: BTS = Blue Tongued Skink
Considering a Blue Tongue for a Pet
Let's start off by saying if you're considering a reptile as a pet, the blue tongue skink is a terrific choice. I've heard many people say, and I agree, that blue tongues are among the most intelligent species of lizard out there. For example, they can recognize sounds, recognize people, and we've actually almost completely house broken our male Irian Jaya. He never defecates in his terrarium ever. We take him outside for about 5 minutes before we take him in the car or let him on the carpet, and he goes every time. Part of this goes to getting him on a feeding schedule we've developed, and it's been highly effective. They're also large and smart enough to interact with, yet require very little maintenance. They live longer than most lizards, usually outliving even dogs and cats. Their average life span is about 20 years with reports of them living up to 30 years in captivity. They're fun to interact with, fun to hold, fun to take places, and if you take them in public, people act as though it's the most amazing thing they've ever seen. One likely reason you're searching for a lizard is for a pet for your children. You hit the jackpot in terms of reptiles. Blue tongues are great for kids and can be handled and played with...the kids of course should be supervised, and taught proper handling techniques, because these are still delicate creatures, and like any animal need to be handled with care. Another great reason is that they're slow. The kids can keep up with them. Bearded dragons are quick! You can let your blue tongue roam around, and he won't go anywhere fast (unless he's seriously spooked or just a baby). And lastly, blue tongues have no fur or feathers so if you're kid(s) have allergies, you won't have a thing to worry about. They are also diurnal so if you keep your animal in a bedroom, nobody will lose any sleep!
When considering a blue tongued skink as a pet, it's important to be aware of a few things. First of all, we DO NOT advise purchasing wild caught animals. Beside the fact that it's possibly illegal, they're often full of mites and internal parasites, and by NO MEANS ready to be a favorable pet. If you obtain a wild caught animal, it's important to get it "de-wormed" and checked out right away. Most (not all) Indonesian blue tongue skinks you see in a pet store are wild caught imports. They are often very unfriendly because they're WILD, and not used to human contact making them undesirable and unhappy. There are plenty of blue tongues for sale that are born captive, and ready to be great pets. If you see a Northern in a pet shop (which is unlikely), it is most assuredly a CaptiveBred as exporting from Australia is highly illegal. It is NOT illegal to export reptiles from Indonesia, and that's why almost all pet shop blue tongues are Indonesians. What you want to get instead, is a CB (captive bred) animal. Captive Bred of course means born in captivity. Quality captive bred blue tongues can be found on internet classifieds, your local newspapers, or if you're lucky, in pet shops. I've been to a lot of pet stores, and rarely have I seen blue tongue skinks (I'm referring to the U.S only, and disincluding any store that would specialize in them of course). The reason for this rarity is simple: It's just not cost efficient enough to breed them. Reptile hobbyists simply cannot produce enough offspring each year to make it worth their while. Take bearded dragons for example. They're an immensly popular lizard pet, VERY easy to reproduce, and very easy to sell quickly. Bearded dragons have about 3 clutches of eggs PER YEAR with about 15 or more offspring PER CLUTCH. That's a lot of babies in a single year to sell! Sell each baby at $30 each to a pet store, and that's a pretty nice chunk of change. This is why you see copious amounts of beardies in pet stores. Now take blue tongued skinks. Being viviparous, they give birth to live young so there are no eggs. That particularly doesn't matter, but they only give birth ONCE per year. And that's only if you're lucky, because sometimes it can even be every other year. Babies can number anywhere from 5 to 15, and up to 25 on rare occasions and only with certain species. So, you see...breeding blue tongue skinks is very uncommon (compared to bearded dragons for example), and seeing them in stores is even more uncommon. This is also one of the reasons that makes them so special though, and also why you see so many wild caughts for sale. It's a lot easier for an importer/exporter to snatch an animal out of the wild and sell it for a quick buck, rather than finding pairs to breed and waiting years on end for their offspring.
Note that this information is typical, but of course not exclusive to all pet stores and/or shows.
As we now know, pet stores usually do not carry blue tongues on a regular basis; especially compared to other popular lizards. And unfortunately, the few times you do see one, it is a wild caught animal in poor health. Pet stores will usually tell you what you want to here, and telling you that the blue tongue is captive bred (when they really have no idea) is usually not above them. If an employee (usually an unexperienced teen) has a chance of selling you an animal, and getting their cut of the sale, they'll do it. Many employees won't even know what wild caught vs. captive bred is all about. So to put it plainly, DO NOT RELY ON PET STORE ADVICE. Recognizing wild caught animals can be difficult because very often stores get in young animals that never got the chance to be exposed to harsh natural conditions. Adult wild caught animals can look rough. Scars, missing/broken toes, corroding lips, parasites, you name it. If they look beat up, they're most assuredly a wild caught. It's not a 100% indication however, as you can never know for sure if the guy across the street didn't drop off a recently bred female that he didn't have luck with (breeding consists of biting, and the females can sometimes sustain permanent scarring), but it's very unlikely. Afterall, who would sell a female that was possibly gravid (pregnant). Animals can also be in poor shape if the pet store keeps them in poor conditions. Blue tongues kept together (which is a risky and ignorant thing to do, but done all too often at pet stores) will often fight resulting in massive scars, bitten off feet, and severed tails. Here is an example of what a wild caught or neglected animal might look like upon careful inspection.
So, just remember to carefully look over the animal's condition, and ask as many questions as possible. Be frank, and be persistent. Don't let the pet store get the best of you. They will likely do whatever it takes to sell the animal to you. Remember, pet store employees are not experts on BTS. They are hired hands to sell animals for the company and collect a paycheck. A truly knowledgeable staff is rare. And knowledge of BTS is even more rare because the animals are so rarely sold. Be sure to do your research. If you have to ask THEM questions, you're not ready to own your reptile. Thoroughly learn everything you can, and have all your supplies up and running before purchasing your animal. When you've learned everything you can by reading and talking to experienced keepers (not teenagers working at the pet store), and YOU begin noticing that they are giving you wrong advice, and you start getting that angry bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, you are ready! Here are some tips to avoid fraud and misunderstandings. Be sure to ask each and every one of these questions below. If a seller cannot or does not answer clearly and in a timely manner, I would not make the purchase. Again, these types of sellers will not be there to help you when you need it. These questions can be used for both pet store and online purchases.
• Wild caught? (Is the animal wild caught or captive bred? Obviously avoid wild caught animals)
• Date born? (You'll be amazed how few sellers know this—if they don't know, the animal is likely wild caught as it's obviously impossible to determine the date of birth of an animal taken from the wild—if it's an older animal that has been changed hands over the years, then the date of birth would likely be lost—it's incredible how so few people keep track of this simple stat, as it's important for knowing the exact age of the animal! Remember, any animal under a year old could be considered a baby. Babies can appear nearly FULL GROWN in one year depending on how much they're fed, so if you buy a "baby" and expect a little 6 inch long lizard, don't be too surprised. That's why it's imperative to see EXACT pictures of the animal you are buying, and preferably pictures of the animal juxtaposed with a ruler if you're being told or expecting a certain size)
• Current diet? (What is he currently being fed? Always be sure a seller or pet store is providing a healthy diet before you buy—you don't want to end up with a neglected, sick, or MBD stricken animal—be sure a diet of freshly (and finely) chopped collard greens, fruits, and everything else you will read about further on down is being fed—don't let them tell you that their diet is "crickets")
• Current housing sizes and substrate? (Small tanks are a good sign that the seller has too many animals. The more the animals, the less care each individual one receives. Is the animal being housed on slipshod substrates? Read about them later on)
• Pictures of exact animal? (Be sure you know exactly what you're getting, and request EXACT pictures of the animal you are considering—an exorbitant amount of sellers just post a random picture of a BTS in an ad that's supposed to represent everything they have, so who knows what you'll actually get if you buy from them)
• Mites (Ask the seller to check carefully as they can be very difficult to see—ask about lifted scales, white specks, and tiny black dots walking around on the animal—tell them to look very closely and carefully as they're difficult to see if you don't have a trained eye)
• Exact species? (Be sure they actually know what they're selling—many sellers and pet stores don't even know that there are different BTS species—you will often hear "Eastern for sale" when it is actually an Irian Jaya. This is another reason why requesting EXACT pictures is important)
• Being housed separately? (BTS should be housed separately, especially if you are purchasing an adult. Expect cuts, missing toes, and severed tails from animals that have been housed together)
• Where skink originally came from? (Over half of all sellers will claim to have no idea where their skink came from. Don't be fooled. Animals don't mysteriously show up on people's doorsteps)
• Guarantees and warranties? (What are the company's or indvidual's health guarantees and warranties? Guaranteed live arrival? If so, one day? One week? Will they offer customer service after you get the animal? Are you free to call them on the phone if you have a question? Remember, people who are hard to get a hold of, or don't answer questions thoroughly will NOT be there when you need help)
AVOID SELLERS WHO RESPOND WITH ONE-LINER EMAILS
Additionally, here is Kelly McKinney's 10 Red Flags to watch for when buying a bluey—
• They can't identify the species correctly
• They don't post pics in an ad
• An ad with little to no information (particularly about age, cb/wc/ltc, diet, species, etc)
• They don't answer all your questions when you email them the first time (and the more times you have to ask the same questions the more flags)
• They take a long time to reply to your emails (and to me if you're trying to sell an animal you'd be watching your email and responding fairly quickly)
• They don't specialize in blueys, but rather sell many different species
• They don't have or won't post pics
• They won't let you see individual pics of the blueys they have for sale, but rather only show one pic that is supposed to be representative of what they have
• They don't feed a proper diet or provide even the minimal care required (no temp gradient, housing with other animals, etc). It sickens me how many ads you see that say "eating well on crickets and dog food", "eating well on fruit cocktail and worms", etc. They may be eating - but not well!
• They won't give you their phone number for future help
HINT: When buying at a reptile show or pet store, take notice if the animal is being kept with a heat lamp. If the animal is cold to the touch, he is likely in an inactive state and therefore may seem tame when in actuality, the animal could be aggressive when active. BTS are most active when they are warm. They are inactive when they are cold and would therefore just sit there seemingly calm in your hand. This is a trick that some dirty dealers use at reptile shows. Keep it in mind if you are in the market for a bluey, particularly if the bluey is for a youngster..
Recap on pet store advice
Pet store advice is one of the leading causes in the United States for reptilian neglect and death. Not only do a large majority of stores not take care of animals IN the stores, but a baffling amount do NOT give advice that is accurate, and trusting people believe it and won't listen to anyone else because "the pet store must be right". A pet store (in most cases) is a business. They care about making a reasonable profit on the animals sold. They hire teenagers who love animals, but are NOT experts on individual species. DO NOT assume that just because "the pet store guy" told you anything that the care recommended to you is legitimate. Always seek a second opinion. Note: small family owned pet shops are typically much better since chains are in it for the money and family business usually are not. In other words, a family owned pet store isn't a fast way to get rich.
We had a woman on here long ago who was housing three BTS together. She insisted that they loved each other, and that it was ok because the guy at the pet store said it was just fine. Despite our advice (and almost pleading emails) she said: "I think they know what they're talking about". A month later this woman emails me terribly upset saying one of her blue tongues bit her other blue tongue in the face breaking its jaw. This is just one example. We have also had many users post pictures concerned with "lumps" on their animal's back. We ask them: "What's his diet like?" They usually tell us "crickets". When we tell them that crickets have very little nutritional value, they respond: "Well, that's what the guy at the pet store told us to use..." The stories go on. All in all, you really have to ask yourself this question: Would you wager your pet store guy is an expert on blue tongued skinks? He's done hours and hours of research to learn what REALLY is right, and what isn't? Keep in mind that selling BTS in your shop for even years does not necessarily gain experience. Learn from this caresheet, then compare it with what your pet store tells you about diet, housing, etc. I bet you will be shocked! If not, be thankful that you have one of the few pet stores that really research their animal's proper husbandry. Remember, there are many bogus caresheets on the internet about blue tongued skinks (essentially all reptiles). A pet store—if they actually research—could stumble upon any one of them. The PETsMART blue tongue caresheet recommends heat rocks for goodness sake (we talk about heat rocks later). Dangerous advice is rampant. Remember that people don't intentionally try to spread bad advice, it's just that there are so few people out there with true BTS experience.
A note on rescues and adoptions
True animal shelters and rescue/adoption establishments are terrific. They take in neglected animals, fix them up, and adopt them out to qualified people. The small fee involved is normally only meant to cover any supplies/electricity/etc that was used for the duration of the animal's stay. Unfortunately, an ever-increasing number of people are *claiming* to be rescue establishments when they are in fact not. Perhaps they even started out as a rescue establishment, but many have turned this non-profit sytem into a sometimes lucrative business. Just keep an eye out on prices. There is a website known as petfinder.org which is exclusive ONLY for animals in need. There are people taking advantage of this site, and we recently experienced just such an incident. There is a bluey on the website for "adoption" in Utah. Matt (from our forum) contacted the person and agreed to meet to adopt the animal. When he arrived, it was nothing but a pet shop and none of the employees knew anything about an adoption. They pointed Matt to the back where the reptile section was. The price? $154.99. That is retail. Not an adoption. Pet adoption fees are typically $10-50, and that's for cats and dogs. The price of keeping a small reptile is infinitely cheaper. Here is a good quote from Oregon which is written in the linked thread:
- Unfortunately, some people run "adoptions" and "rescues" and make a business out of it. It makes those of us who take in animals and provide vet care and rehab at our own cost and adopt back out for free, bristle.
- I have been involved in animal adoptions and shelter work for many years. It is very easy to spot those who operate under the guise of adopting, but are running a business. As Edward says, it really boils down to $$$
- Many shelters hold onto pure breed animals and charge high fees for them, while euthanizing mixed breed puppies and kittens. There will always be those who are willing to pay higher fees to have a pure bred animal or "something different" for their money (in their mind). It is a sad fact of the animal trade.
- Some shelters will charge higher fees for an animal that is highly desirable simply because the money can be used to offset the cost of housing so many that aren't placed quickly and for upkeep.
- But it sounded to me as though the skink you wanted was not truly for adoption, but was "for sale" under the guise of an adoption. That is wrong.
UVA & UVB
UVA (ultraviolet-A): Long wavelengths of 320-400nm (nanometers = billionths of a meter). UVA is visible to the human eye, and supposedly induces instinctive behavior such as mating, eating, etc. Also said to be beneficial for psychological reasons, and the general or mental well-being of the animal.
UVB (ultraviolet-B): Short wavelengths of 290-320nm. Much more powerful, and invisible to the human eye. Allows for the formation of vitamin D3, which is important for calcium metabolism. Glass will also block virtually all UV rays, so keeping your terrarium by a window is useless. Even if the window is open, your terrarium is probably made of glass as well. One more thing to mention is 'full spectrum'. It's supposed to mean 'having BOTH UVA & UVB output', but products these days advertise basically whatever they want, and get away with it. NO incandescent bulbs can emit any UVB even if it says it does. Taking your animals outside is the best source for UV. There are varying opinions, but it's said that one hour of real sunlight is equal to about one week of UV bulb exposure.
The following juxtaposed images display how an animal can look altered in different lighting, angles, shed, photoshop manipulation, a camera flash, etc. A seller could use any one of them. The left-hand side is the animal's true color.
Written by Zach at bluetongueskinks.net
Social Interaction and Handling :
As I mentioned above, blue tongued skinks make great reptile pets for kids because they are so easily handleable. They have smooth, shiny scales and hard bodies (unlike bearded dragons, iguanas, uyromastyx, etc), and that to me makes them a bit easier to hold. They're also fairly stiff in the sense that when you hold them, it doesn't feel like you're squishing them. Whenever I handle say a Uyromastyx, their body and skin is so delicate that I always feel like I'm crushing them. Blue tongues have hard, tough bodies and can handle the firm grip of a child.
Blue tongues have tiny little legs and feet, so they don't go anywhere fast (although they are capable of surprising speeds when in pursuit of live prey), and they have very personable, almost human eyes. When you approach them, you can actually see them looking at you. You cannot make eye contact with any snake or gecko. You can make actual eye contact with a blue tongued skink, and that to me can develop a bond between a skink and its owner. I honestly believe that a blue tongued skink can develop a certain recognition for their owners. All in all, the best way to get to know your skink is to hold it often, let it wander around outside its cage, hand-feed it, lay it on your chest and let it watch T.V with you...anything you want! Have fun! The keyword is interaction. If you do this, you will soon have a very lazy, tame, and friendly skink. They generally are pretty lazy, so they really do just sort of hang out—more so as adults. If you're looking to race your skinks, then this is probably not the lizard for you. They are however, VERY curious. If they're in the right mood, they love to explore. Set up some newspapers, blankets, empty cereal boxes, etc. They will search in and out, and in every nook and cranny with their big blue tongue going ever faster. It's a blast too watch! After a while, you'll just find him asleep.
One question we get a lot is: "Do BTS like to be handled"? There is a large range of views on this subject. Some keepers believe that handling should be kept to a minimum as reptiles only "tolerate" handling rather than actually enjoying or benefitting from it—at the same time however, most still believe that the skink will enjoy an occasional romp outdoors in the sun. Remember that blue tongued skinks are not domesticated like a dog or cat. They are wild animals, BUT if a reptile does benefit from being out and about, I'm not sure that that differs from anything else whether it be walking in the grass, walking on your lap, walking on the floor, or doing anything else outside its regular cage. I know they don't, in a sense, "want" certain things, so when I place my hand in the baby's cage and they immediately run to it and crawl up, do they *want* to be held, or do they *want* to explore elsewhere besides in their cage? I think that they just live their life and take things as it comes, and a captive bred bluey's curiosity often gets the best of them (sudden captivity would essentially be a culture shock for a wild caught pet). When they don't feel threatened, and are used to a life in captivity, I think they are curious about everything; the sky, the grass, different foods, various sounds, and yes, you and me as well. That curiosity is satisfied which is evident in their often obvious change in behavior when interacted with, and whether that be enjoying the sun outdoors, or being petted on the head, it's stimulation and interaction that is beneficial in my book.
For most, handling is a big part of enjoying your BTS. I know that's a broad statement and not true for everyone, but for the most part, handling and interaction can be one of the best aspects of owning these creatures.
Can people really bond with BTS? :
Absolutely! Something that many people don't realize (and likely never will) is that lizards are not the creepy crawly scary animals that society has made them out to be. If you are reading this, you likely know exactly what I'm talking about. The redundant yet obligatory reactions of disgust and even pure terror. This is commonplace, and a true shame. It's difficult to explain to someone who is hard in their ways, but each one of these animals has its own unique personality and own funny characteristics. They even show intelligence such as recognition of their owner, recognition for sound (shaking bags, their name being said, opening of the tank lid) memory of locations, recognition of gestures such as lowering a bowl into the cage, recognition of color (foods, etc) and objects, likes and dislikes of food, and an incredible inquisitive nature and curiosity of their surroundings. Many will never experience this or understand it because they simply won't give reptiles a chance. They see them as "icky slimy creatures" and very few people could even tell you exactly why they don't like them. Every person I know who was nervous around these animals at first immediately warmed up to them once seeing the personality in their eyes, their curious nature, and calm disposition. The usual reponse: "Wow, I had no idea". Once some of these people form bonds of their own with the BTS, it completely changes their entire perspective on reptiles. Of course, there are always those adverse individuals who will shriek and act as if they're about to die. I'm not sure there's much hope for them!
Every blue tongue literally has his own individual personality, and you will quickly learn his favorite food preferences, his likes and dislikes, etc. Blue tongues are also fast learners, and adapt quickly to their environment. There are lots of stories out there about blue tongues doing funny/amazing things, but many people attribute it to anthropomorphization (giving human characteristics to an animal), however I've seen some remarkable stories that are true. Many swear that their lizards will react differently to sounds, certain words, and so on. Personally, one of my skinks does react to different sounds. Check out the video section for videos demonstrating voice recognition, and the shaking of a bag. My big male Irian Jaya has a funny characteristic—we let him bask out in the grass during the hot summers. We put him pretty far out and leave our patio screen door open about two inches while we relax in lawn chairs. He lays there and basks usually motionless for about 20 minutes, then starts exploring. When he's done (and this is literally every day we take him outside) he climbs up the patio, heads for the door, and goes straight inside! If the door is closed, he paces back and forth until let in. If we leave the screen open half an inch—he will stick his nose in and wedge the sliding screen open. Now, telling anyone that my skink comes in the house everyday on his own might sound far fetched. But, what can I say—he does it every single day. None of my other skinks do it, they wander off, and we have to retrieve them. It's really taught me to be more open minded, and to not jump on people immediately saying: "No way". More experienced reptile owners attribute most of these personalities to coincidences and an active imagination. I'm sure not all stories are true, but I'm sure many are. You'll hear a lot of them if you join a reptile forum/community!
All in all, there's nothing wrong with a fancy imagination in my opinion—stories are fun to read and quite humorous—even if they are a little far fetched. I'd much rather owners take notice and be excited enough about their reptile to even share a story—no matter how ridiculous it may sound. It shows that the person really cares, and is excited about what they are doing which usually results in good care. "Lizard leashes" are looked down upon by some, but used as a tool by others. If you can actually get one to work (which is hard because they streamline their legs with their bodies, and it's like trying to put a snake on a leash) then it can be used to keep your skink from wandering off. Tie one end to the leg of your lawn chair, a tree or fence post and try your luck. Don't get too comfortable lying in the sun with him however because he'll likely wiggle his way out in no time.
Can BTS make noise?:
Aside from quiet grunting and/or funny little squeeks, BTS are completely silent. If your BTS begins struggling while you have a firm grip, once in a while he'll let out little squeeks or grunts almost like a person would while trying to reach something far away. My male Merauke (Sunny) grunts pretty loudly while being held, but I haven't heard it from any of my others. A lot of times the grunts almost sound like a whimper.
Getting Peed On :
If a bluey starts to go to the bathroom on you—which usually results from an excessively strong grip or a body that is not fully supported—DO NOT PANIC! Many people get very startled, and throw the animal off their lap in a panic. A blue tongue's urine is just water, and has no scent or color. Excrement however, is obviously more odorous, but it's nothing that will stain or hurt you. Remember, it is possible to get your bluey on a feeding schedule, which essentially gets them on a "waste cycle". They normally defecate once per day (unless they have loose stool), and it's probably not a good idea to let them wander around outside their cage until they've done their business. A word of advice: Blue tongues tend to defecate/urinate once they become active. They often hide or sleep in their cages, so once you take them out, excreting their bodily fluids is often the first thing that happens. Just be sure to take them out in the grass for a few minutes, and they usually go right away. If you see waste in their cage upon returning home, you're good to go! Keep in mind that if your BTS has the runs, he could go a number of times during the day, and at any time.
Proper Handling Techniques :
There are many ways to hold a blue tongue skink, but the most important thing to remember is to keep the animal's ENTIRE body supported. Especially their hindquarters. Proper handling is also important to teach your children, otherwise when held, you will have a very finicky and panicked blue tongued skink. If their backside is not supported, they will fling their tails around wildly because they don't feel secure and feel as though they're going to fall. If you've ever heard of blue tongues peeing on you, this is the time they'll do it. However, when handled in a correct and responsible manner, you will have no problems. The following three pictures show the best methods for handling. The first is probably our favorite. Simply lay your blue tongue across your underarm, just so his nose touches your bicep, then support his backside with your palm. This creates complete security and support for his entire body. You can use your right or left arm, whichever you are most comfortable with. The second pic is basically the same idea except his head and tail are switched. The third picture shows a method that is easy for moving your blue tongue short distances. Simply lift him from behind, and prop him up on your free hand.
Always remember that these are not little geckos or anoles, so it's important that you do not drop your animal. You could likely get away with an accidental drop with a tiny lizard or even a long snake, but a BTS would fall like a brick. I would start children off by holding them in their laps, and petting them on the ground. Also, never attempt to hold your BTS upside down. He will struggle to his maximum strength and bones can pop out of place and even break.
Hand washing :
As a good rule of thumb, it's smart to wash your hands before and after handling your skink or any reptile (hand sanitizer works well in a pinch) both to protect your animal from foreign bacteria, and also yourself. Zoonosis is extremely rare however, but hand washing is still recommended. We discuss salmonella later on.
Skinks versus other household pets :
Is it ok to let my skink be around my dog or cat? Plainly put, it is a risk. I like to use an example asking: Would you put your newborn baby on the floor with a dog? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't, but either way it would probably make you a little uneasy, because you can never tell what the dog might actually be thinking. The way a dog or cat perceives you is completely different than how they may perceive a skink. They will likely see it as a fun toy, or even food. He may act totally scared, he may not do anything. Either way, no matter how predictable and lovable you think your animals are, they are still 'wild' and instinctual at heart. Also, never leave your skink alone in a room with another animal, and beware of loose cats that may tip your heat lamp.
Adult Care :
Written by Zach at bluetongueskinks.net
Size, cleanliness, creative hides and so on, are all very important factors to consider as this is the permanent home where your animal will live its life. Since you've probably paid a pretty good penny for your blue tongue, create something for him that you can be proud of. Always keep blue tongues separate, and always be sure to keep a clean terrarium. Keeping a clean terrarium is far easier than paying expensive vet bills that would result from uncleanliness. Don't get caught up in the blue tongue bug! Once you have acquired one bluey, it's very likely that you will end up with more down the road. Do not begin condensing cage sizes in order to squeeze more in, and do not house animals together even temporarily. Plan on providing single adult skinks with at least a 40-60 gallon terrarium. Basically, the more space, the better. Smaller tanks are ok for smaller animals such as babies and juveniles, but remember that they grow incredibly fast so you may as well just start with a permanent tank rather than upgrading a few months later. The absolute minimum sized tank would be a three foot long by eighteen inch wide terrarium. Remember, the bigger the better.
Lids and screen tops :
A screen top is very important for proper air flow, maintaining the correct temperature, regulating humidity, and protecting your animal if the heat lamp were to fall, or the bulb explode. It also provides a barrier so the animal cannot touch the bulb. They could easily put an eye out, and are capable of lifting themselves straight into the air. A screen top also keeps the animal from climbing out (we get into escapes later) and even will keep unwanted animals out including cats, mice, and even spiders and various other insects. Also, if a vase or anything else were to tip or something were to be thrown (kids playing and so on) the lid provides protection in these instances as well.
Basking spots and terraria decor :
Your terrarium should include a flat basking rock at one end for basking, and a cool spot on the other end. We get into lighting and proper temperatures a little later on. Include plenty of hiding places and fake plants (on the cooler end and middle areas only—it's important to keep the basking end purely for basking. Large half-logs work well, or shoeboxes placed upside down with a hole cut out on either end, or both. Shoeboxes are fun, because your kids can decorate it. Bottom line, they love to dig, burrow and hide, so be creative! Check out this page for pictures of terrarium setups as well as some neat outdoor setups. If you have any questions about these outdoor enclosures, feel free to ask on the forum. We usually recommend outdoor enclosures for experienced keepers only. Otherwise, you may end up with a lost or dead animal. We also do not recommend the 'netted' screen mesh Reptariums. They cannot hold the proper heat because they are completely open air, and are generally meant for chameleons. You would literally have to keep your room in the 80 degree range just to satisfy the proper cool end gradient, and your heat lamp would burn straight through the mesh (unless you had it on the inside, but then your animal has no protection against a shattering bulb). Hint: kitchen tile works great as a basking rock; particularly dark colored tile that would absorb heat. You can cut or break it into any shape, and they only cost a couple of bucks. You can even get really neat naturalistic rock tile. Avoid tile with a glossy finish. Slate is also excellent. Remember, your animal needs a FLAT and SMOOTH rock that is large enough for his entire body, and it should be placed directly below your heat lamp. Also don't forget that a lush, well-thought out terrarium design makes all the difference in both your enjoyment, and your animal's enjoyment.
Proper Cage Dimensions
Inch/centimeter conversion tables can be found in the Cobalt Vault
The crucial fact to remember when choosing a terrarium is that FLOOR space is the most important aspect, not height. Blue tongues are not climbers, but burrowers thusly they need plenty of ground room to maneuver. Also, if your cage is too high, there will be too much distance between your basking rock and heat lamp, which could result in insufficient temperatures. Here are two examples. The first picture is a standard 50 gallon aquarium that is TWO feet high. It looks great at a first glance, but the floor space is very minimal, and the majority of its size consists of height (wasted space the BTS will never use). The 2nd picture shows a tighter more compact tank, but it also is a bit tall. Same scenario as the first picture, only even less floor space. As a good rule of thumb, 'gallons' are not a good measurement to use when deciding on a tank. If someone is telling you about a fifty or sixty gallon tank they have for sale, it is most likely a tall fish aquarium. There are a lot more fish aquariums out there compared to reptile terrariums. Once again, floor space is the key, not height, and the more floor space the better. You could never have an enclosure that was too big. Also remember that we are not ruling out tall tanks—as long as you can keep your temperatures correct, there are no worries.
Here are a couple terrariums that would be ideal for your blue tongued skink. The first is a perfectly square terrarium providing ample floor space, and only one foot of height. Your animal will have a good three feet to move in all directions, instead of the usual confined, narrow terrarium. You can place a heat lamp in one corner, and since the tank is only a foot tall, your bulb will not require a high wattage, saving you electricity. These terrariums are highly recommended, and usually come with a convenient sliding screen top. I believe most are even equipped with a lock and key so you can keep certain obnoxious young one's from getting into trouble. Note: If you have a low tank, BE SURE you have a lid that can latch shut. An overly curious blue tongue could very well push the lid up and climb out.
36"L x 36"W x 12"H
This next one is probably my favorite, and probably the most practical. These pictures show a relatively good sized tank, but this brand (Critter Cage) comes in many different sizes. These terrariums are very low to the ground, but still very wide. This particular one is three feet long, almost two feet wide, and only one foot tall. You wouldn't want to get any smaller than this cage, but ask your local pet store about this brand, and see what you can get. The point is that these tanks can be bought with plenty of floor space and minimal height. The more space provided, the better. Now that you've seen this tank, scroll back up to that very first aquarium picture for a 2nd look. Doesn't look so good now, does it. Please keep in mind that I am not ruling out tall tanks in general; any 'big tank' will work as long as you can keep the correct temperatures consistent. By the way, these tanks are meant for 'critters', so they cannot hold water. Hint: Look for tanks at garage sales. Kids are always outgrowing their pets, people move, the animal dies, and people always just want the tank GONE. This is your chance to get an excellent tank for next to nothing! All of our tanks are from garage sales, are in perfect condition, and were bought for pennies on the dollar. Goodwill and other secondhand stores are also a good place to look. Maybe even try aquarium shops or exotic fish stores. They often have old tanks lying around that are slightly cracked or leak. Useless for them because they can't hold water, but perfect for you and your lizard. Look around! They'll likely just give them away!
Tupperware Enclosures :
Tupperware bins are terrific for temporary use, but not as a permanent home. It's also been my experience that keeping your blue tongue in these bins will make them very irritable. They can't see out, and even if it's clear, you still can't see through the plastic. So, basically they just sit their all day with nothing to look at, and I honestly think it's a bit claustrophobic for them. Many breeders use them, so they wouldn't care what personality their skink had, but for pets, what's the point? They're cheap? C'mon. If you have a great pet like a blue tongued skink, give them a home you can be proud of and really enjoy! They're such an inquisitive and curious animal, and I just don't think tupperware bins are right for them. It also sort of makes them look like test subjects. They're great however for transporting, or even a place to sit your animals while you clean their cages. Rubbermaid and Sterilite are both good brands.
Cleaning Cages :
Spot cleaning is fine. When you clean daily, be sure to pick up the entire area of substrate along with the actual fecal matter. We just use simple toilet paper to spot clean. Generally, your terrarium should be completely cleaned out every month or so depending on how dirty it is, what type of substrate you have, etc. One good clean-up a month is a good guideline to follow. Using a shop-vac to clean out old substrate makes the job a cinch! After the old substrate is out, simply wipe everything down with an anti-bacterial soap and HOT water, rinse, then disinfect with a bleach/water solution. Just be sure the tank is completely free of fumes and strong bleach scent before placing the animal back. Soak the basking rock in boiling water as well, and scrub it with a brush (your animal has likely defecated on it once or twice, and the heat lamp often hardens it onto the rock). You can even run your basking rock through the dishwasher if it's slate or tile (do not put mudstone into a dishwasher as it will disintegrate). One other funny note, sometimes when a blue tongue is placed into a freshly cleaned or rearranged cage, he will flatten himself out, and wave his tail around frantically. It might surprise you, but there's nothing to worry about. Some believe it's a sign of dominance—showing he owns the place and/or marking his territory—or simply reacting to his fresh surroundings. They sometimes do this when placed outside as well. Here is some additional information written by Kelly Mckinney:
Disinfecting should be part of your maintenance routine. Of course we all do daily spot cleaning, but when you do a major cleaning you first clean (hot soapy water) and then you should disinfect. I love the Nolvasan/Virosan because there are no worries as with bleach/water. It is safe on reptiles, but not amphibians, etc. Read up on this link and it will explain it all for you.
I keep a mixed bottle of the Nolvasan/Virosan on hand to aid in daily spot cleaning and daily cleaning of water and food dishes. Once a week I do a full cleaning and disinfecting (soaking in the solution as opposed to the daily use of the solution in the spray bottle) of the dishes and any deco that came into contact with feces/urates. Then like about every 3 months I do a complete cage breakdown in which I clean and disinfect everything. For my snakes at this 3 month mark I also do a complete substrate change if they are on a loose substrate. For blueys I change substrate completely after each shed (about every 4-6 weeks) and of course spot clean daily.
I strongly believe it is very important to keep your skinks in separate terrariums. Some people do keep pairs together year around, but only those who are very experienced should do so. If you are new to blue tongues, this is NOT something you should do. I've had many people come to me insisting: "But my blue tongue skinks love each other!" They may look very friendly together, and you could possibly house them together successfully for months, but all it takes is one brief moment of irritability, and one could lash out at the other completely biting off the tail, severing an entire foot or even killing the animal. Remember that BTS live their lives in solitude in the wild. I feel I should stress this—it is NOT a rare thing for blue tongues to act violently toward one another. And that's just taking into account the possibility of injury—not to mention stress, disease transmission, difficulty of monitoring feces, competition for hides/heat, etc. (K. McKinney, 2005). If you have breeding pairs in a huge outdoor enclosure, that's one thing, but keeping them together in an indoor terrarium is extremely dangerous. Don't be fooled by pet stores housing blue tongues together advertising them as "breeding pairs". This only shows their ignorance. Also, do not compare BTS to other reptiles—their temperaments and personalities are different and you shouldn't assume they will be compatible just because another species of reptile can be housed together. There are three main reasons why one would consider housing BTS together indoors.
¹) The individual is not educated on the subject—no matter how long he or she has actually owned them. Length of time owning an animal does not necessarily show how experienced someone is. If an individual just buys a lizard, feeds it every day, and basically just keeps it in a terrarium while he plays with his kids and goes on vacation—he's not necessarily gaining any experience. So, for example someone saying: "I've got experience. I've housed my blueys together for a year with no problems". OR "I have two years experience with BTS and have never used heat lamps. They seem fine, and I think I know what I'm doing". It doesn't work like that. We occasionally get these types of emails or posts, and it goes to show that just because someone has owned blue tongues for even YEARS, it does not mean that they know what they're doing. Sometimes if you get bad advice from day one—from pet stores in most cases—then that's the advice the person sticks with, and he doesn't seek advice elsewhere. Genuine interest, eager attention, intense observation, regular interaction, and a true passion is what will gain you experience. Simply owning a pet that is probably for your children will not.
²) Irresponsible breeders. More space = more animals = more money. Simple as that.
³) Additional housing costs mucho dinero. It's understandable that reptile housing is pricey. Cramming blue tongues into small cages for the simple excuse: "I can't afford more housing" is ridiculous. Not to mention that the individual is endangering his or her own investment if all they care about is the money.
We have many members on our forum who have housed BTS together in the past—they no longer do because many learned the hard way, and they will be more than willing to share their experiences in order to save you the same experience. The following pictures display two BTS that lived together peacefully for three months. The owner came home and found that the animals had been fighting, seriously and permanently damaging a full one-third of all the toes on one of the animals. These pictures are also good examples of what can happen if leftover toe shed is not attended to. Click to enlarge.
Blue tongued skinks require a wide ranged temperature gradient consisting of a hot side, a cool side, and a middle range in between. Regular daytime temperatures on the cool end can be anywhere from the low 70's to the low 80 degree range, and the basking end consistent at 95ŗ to 100ŗ. Some would say as high as 110ŗ on the basking end, but I think that's too high. You want to maintain a little bit of 'wiggle room'. If the sun shines through a window, or your in-laws turn the heat up, it could definitely fluctuate the temperature in a room. 100ŗ is ideal. If your temps are 110ŗ+, the slightest rise in heat could raise the temperature dangerously high. Proper temperatures can be achieved and regulated with the use of a heat lamp. They usually cost $10-15 at your local pet shops (or cheaper at Home Depot), and I would highly suggest purchasing a size no smaller than a 10 inch diameter. This widens your heat range, and prevents the lamp from tipping. Any smaller than 10 inches, and the lamps can tip very easily (if you're heat lamp is clamped, you don't need to worry about this). You will also need a bright incandescent bulb for the lamp. They will probably be for sale right next to the heat lamps, and a 100 watt will probably be fine. If you have a taller enclosure, a 150 -200 watt bulb may be necessary to maintain your basking temperature. You may use virtually any sort of bulb as long as your temperatures are correct. Simply place your lamp on the top of your screen lid, turn it on, and you're ready! Leave it on for a few hours, and do a few test runs before putting in the animal. You want to be sure that it's not too hot, or too cold. If your animal is always on the cool end, or laying in its water dish, it's likely too hot. Watch those temps, and be prepared! Do not buy on an impulse. You want everything tested and ready BEFORE buying your animal. You don't want to bring your animal home, and thenlearn of mistakes or problems. Do what it takes to achieve the correct temperatures. Usually, a heat lamp is all you need to achieve your 100ŗ basking area, but if not, you may need to supplement with a heat mat or a more powerful bulb. Hint: Buy your heat lamps (and bulbs such as spot/halogen/flood) at Home Depot, and save a ton of money! They're the exact same units in the pet store, except for the tripled price tag. Scroll down to the UV section for info on specific bulbs.
Please exercise extreme caution if you have cats loose in your home. There are many cases of cats knocking over reptile heat lamps and causing fires.
Be very mindful of where your heat lamp is at all times. For example, when removing your BTS, be careful not to set your heat lamp down on the bed or carpet.
It is a very good idea to keep an extra bulb handy in case your main one burns out. You may be surprised how long it takes you to get another.
Night time temperatures should drop no lower than 60ŗ (temperatures dropping below 60 will not hurt your BTS, but may induce a brumation [essentially a hibernation] state that typically results in long sleeps and a complete loss of appetite). Just turn your heat lamp off at night, and back on in the morning. We suggest a 12 hour cycle such as 9am-9pm, or 10-10, 11-11, etc. This is called the photoperiod. If you work late, it might be a good idea to set your timers from 12-12. This way, the lights come on at noon, and you will have until midnight to play with and handle your pet. Remember, if you have some insanely cold house...for example air conditioning in the summer, you might want to consider a small under-the-tank heater. You can also use a ceramic heat emitter. They put off plenty of heat, but no actual light. See picture below. Ceramic heat emitters are pretty expensive costing anywhere from 30 to 50 U.S dollars, but are very effective. Keep in mind however that you don't want 90 degree night time temperatures; keep the entire tank in the 60-70's at night. I believe that BTS benefit from a nighttime "cool down" period—the heat keeps their bodies active and their blood and organs pumping. A natural nightly cool down period rests their bodies and helps put them into a cool sleep. One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that BTS can take the cold—60's-70's during the night will not hurt them at all.
DO NOT use heat rocks. They can actually burn the belly of your skink. The reason we say no to heat rocks is that they're prone to malfunction, and it also puts an electrical hazard in your tank 24/7. Your animal will often be wet from soaking in his water...then imagine him running on top of the heat rock, or rubbing on the side of the hot and electrically powered rock device. Electricity and water are obviously not a good combination—I don't even understand how or why heat rocks were invented. You shouldn't have anything electrical in your terrarium; period. Some people still of course say they've used heat rocks successfully for years...blah, blah blah...but I will tell you this: It's an extreme danger, so why on earth risk it, when you don't even need it. And most people would have a change of heart of course once their animal was actually electrocuted and killed. Below is an under-the-tank heater or "heat mat", and a ceramic heat emitter.
Note: Heat mats are generally NOT needed and should only be used on hard surfaces and UNDER your tank (not inside). They can get insanely hot, and will very easily burn carpet. Also keep in mind that it IS possible that a heat mat could heat up the bottom of the glass to unsafe temperatures. Try it on low at first, and monitor it before leaving your BTS inside. Thermostats are recommended. DIGITAL TEMP GUNS are essential in these cases and we talk about them in the next section. Remember, never use any type of heat pad or heat rock inside your terraria. Human heating pads are acceptable when holding the bluey on your lap, the couch, etc.
Many people have asked me: "I have an under-tank-heater and a hot bedroom, so do I really need a heat lamp? Absolutely. The sole purpose of the heat lamp is to simulate the sun's direct rays shining down on your lizard's back. If your bluey is just sitting in a heated enclosure...well, just imagine the difference between sitting in a sauna and sitting outside in the sun. It's obviously a huge difference in the sense of basking. Plus, without the heat lamp it is near impossible to regulate the differing temperatures required for each end of the terrarium. Again, it is my opinion that without a basking light, they cannot bask. Imagine going into a sauna for a sun tan. It just doesn't work. I have also been asked: "Can I keep my tank next to the window during summer to save electricity?" NO!! Keeping a BTS in a hot room, or by a hot window is not efficient at all, and is extraordinarily dangerous. If your goal is to give them UV, they would need to have a UV light directly overhead or be taken outside for two reasons: (1) Most windows filter 95% of all UV and (2) Your actual cage glass will also filter any UV. If your goal is heat, keeping them by a window is especially dangerous because temperatures can fluctuate like crazy raising your temps to dangerous levels. Not to mention that the entire cage would heat up. They would have no variance in temperature, extreme heat everywhere, and no place to escape. Also, do not attempt to put your terraria "halfway" in the shade of your room. It doesn't work.
Remember, your basking rock should be located directly UNDER the heat lamp, and the area should be kept at 95ŗ-100ŗ. The goal is to keep that smooth flat rock HOT so they can warm their bellies. Place your hand flat on the rock...if it burns your hand, and you have to pull away, it's too hot. But if you can withstand it and keep your hand there, it's just right. Also, it's important to get a temperature gauge so you can see how hot it is during the day, and at night. You can find both quality items, and cheap items, at any pet or hardware store, and many come with humidity gauges. Also, eBay is a good place to buy some of these products—you can find a lot of unique things at great prices and have them shipped right to your doorstep!
These are ideal because you can check your hot end, cool end, and middle range all in a matter of seconds. They are also far superior to any needle style gauge or sticky strip. Digital thermometers with probes also work well. In my opinion, a digital tempgun is the only tool that will 100% accurately measure your temperatures. The cheapest one is $25, and will work great. One neat feature is that you can "sweep" your terraria. Simply push the button, hold, and slowly move your hand from the hot end to the cold end and back again. Gauges simply stick to the side, and measure nothing but the ambient air in that exact location. Pretty useless.
Some say to keep the substrate moist to maintain an even humidity level, and that is an absolute falsity. Be very cautious as if your terrarium is damp in any way, bacteria can grow FAST, and your skink could develop skin problems such as scale rot. Don't ever dump water into the tank, or just drench the substrate. Generally, a large water bowl will provide all the humidity they need, so don't even worry about using a mister. Humidity can range from 25-50%, but I feel 50 is a bit too high as just with the heat, I like to leave open a little wiggle room. If humidity were to fluctuate to a higher humidity, the terrarium may become too humid. We recommend anywhere between 25 & 40%. If it's too dry in your terrarium, your skink's scales will begin to look and feel very dry. This is your chance to raise the humidity before shedding becomes arduous. I would consider buying a large cigar humidifier. You can tape it directly on the inside of your terrarium, and they come in all different varieties and sizes. A cigar humidifier is basically a special sponge enclosed in a plastic housing. It is equipped with little holes (like a salt shaker) to let the moisture out into the air. Just pour water into the little holes, and the internal sponge soaks it up...then just stick it to the inside of your tank near the bottom on the COOL end. Any humidity being released on the hot end would evaporate much quicker. These humidifiers are of course meant to keep cigars from drying out, but really big one's (for large humidors) can be used for virtually anything. You can purchase one at a tobacco shop (smoke shop), and probably some greenhouses will sell similar items. Another idea would be to increase the size of your water bowl. Both of these methods are not too terribly expensive...otherwise you could just try purchasing an electric humidifier to be placed in the room, NOT inside the cage. (Note: Carefresh substrate is very absorbent, and therefore will absorb a lot of moisture in the air.)
One other note, digital hygrometers (same as digital thermometers) are much more accurate than anything else. I had an erroneous 'needle' style hygrometer that was about 20% off of my actual humidity. It caused a lot of confusion. You can purchase a handy hygrometer/thermometer combination unit for around $10-15 dollars at places like RadioShack & Home Depot. Again, don't fret about humidity. Just keep an eye on your gauge, and your big water bowl and hot heat lamp will keep everything in check. Hint: Are your lizard's belly scales crackly and rough? This is a good sign you need to bump up the humidity a bit.
UV Lighting (ultra violet):
This little rumor doesn't ever seem to go away, but it's been said that blue tongued skinks are one of the few reptiles that do not require UV lighting. It doesn't hurt however, and is still generally recommended. Like anything though, there are varying opinions about this. I'm not sure how the rumor actually got started that blue tongues don't need UV lighting, but I find it hard to believe that they are some magical reptile that is excluded from the benefits of UV. One reason I believe keeps this rumor alive is the fact that a lot of reptile breeders have not used UV for years and their BTS are still alive and healthy. I think this just goes back to the fact that BTS are incredibly hardy creatures. If you are unable to obtain UV lighting (all pet stores should carry the proper equipment), an ideal solution would be to obtain a UV Mercury Vapor bulb which emits great light intensity and supposed superior UVB/UVA output. One problem with the MV bulbs is that the actual globe is very large and will not fit in most standard lamps. They're also quite expensive, but do usually come with a year warranty. Taking your animals outside is also an excellent way for them to catch some UV rays. We highly recommend it.
Poor Average Best
Remember that reptile UV is an insane topic that every single expert seems to have their own opinion on. Some say that your bulb must be within 12 inches to be effective at all; others say six inches (beware as if it's too close and powerful, it can burn your skink's eyes!). Depending on the power of your bulb, that all can vary of course. It's another good reason to have a low cage because BTS are generally not climbers, and will not climb up a log to be near a UV light (they would climb to be near a hot lamp however). A beardie probably would as they die quickly without proper UV lighting. Just use a mercury vapor bulb, or a large tube (remember that tubes typically need to be replaced about every 6 months and need to be close to your animal) that isn't too far away, and you'll be fine. If you're really freaking out about it, you might want to purchase a solar meter; it will actually tell you exactly how much UV your BTS is getting! Purchase one from the second link below (site also contains a myriad of additional UV info). Also check out the first link; it shows you exactly how much UV different brands put out, then compares it to real sunlight at the end. All in all, sunlight is the most natural and efficient source, so take advantage of it when you can. Bulbs and tubes are only simulations. There are about a milion and one opinions and websites out there on this subject (way too much stuff to post here), so don't hesitate to do a little of your own research!
Basic bulb differences and meanings
• Regular reptile basking lights: These are often a bit expensive and sometimes advertised as "neodymium", or "neodymium coated". This basically just means that the bulb is colored to make your reptile look cool and different compared to a regular daytime bulb. No UV output.
• Common Incandescent: Probably the most common bulb. There is nothing special about it, and you could use it for practically anything around the house. No UV output. Incandescents are made with tungsten filament technology and do not (and cannot) produce UV. You can purchase them at a grocery/hardware store, or your pet store, and the only difference is a tripled price tag and possibly a colored bulb that has been designed to remove the yellow wavelengths (seen in typical household bulbs) which again, goes back to the neodymium coating.
• Infrared/Red bulbs: These bulbs are typically very hot but give off less light than typical spot lamps. They can be used as basking lights but because of the lack of actual light, it is recommended that you use an additional light source such as an overhead UV tube. Otherwise, your terraria will be awfully dim.
• Mercury Vapor (MV): A usually large bulb that emits both heat and UVB. Also fairly expensive although they typically do come with year warranties. These bulbs do not need to be as close to the animal as a tube/fluorescent bulb would. The mega-ray MV bulbs are said to be the best although I've never personally tried them. Some say these bulbs are actually unsafe in that they supposedly emit UVC rays which can be harmful; they are also said by some to be prone to shattering. I'm not sure how true that is as companies would not offer year warranties on fifty dollar bulbs if they were that prone to shatter. Who knows; add it to the list of a million opinions and arguments.
• Nite-glo: Obviously, these are bulbs created for nighttime viewing. Remember it's best to have a terrarium that is NOT heated up at night. You want your animal to go into a deep cool sleep each night and not remain active. A BTS will normally goto sleep when cold. If he stays hot, it can disrupt his cycle. Night bulbs are fun, and fine to use, but if it heats up your tank, maybe try turning it off when you go to bed.
• Floodlights: Again, these will work if you can maintain correct temps. Flood and other similar lights will spread the light instead of a narrow focused beam seen with typical reptile bulbs. Just remember that correct temperatures are your number one concern; not the type of bulb.
• Fluorescent tubes: Long tubes that hang above your terrarium. These tubes typically stop emitting the proper UV waves at about six months even though the light is still shining bright. One neat new item is the ReptiSun 10.0. It's what is known as a "Compact Fluorescent Lamp" and it looks just like those new energy saver bulbs. It's essentially the same thing as a long narrow fluorescent tube except it's molded into arches and screws into a standard light fixture! This is very convenient as you don't need the external ballast box to hang a long fluorescent tube. One tube brand that is recommended is the ReptoGlo 8.0. One negative however is that the UV would be focused to one spot instead of the long tube which would spread the UV across the entire tank. If the animal were buried on the opposite end all the time, the UV would be pretty useless.
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