Basic Care Tips
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions I've received over the years.
Food - I use wet dog food in a wide variety of brands and flavors (for example Nutro, Halo, Merrick, Canidae and Blue Wilderness and I usually get the poultry options), as long as it is a decent quality that isn't filled with a bunch of cheap fillers it's hard to go wrong because dog food is nutritionally the same as what a blue tongue skink needs. I use the dog food for my young skinks and my adults. I mostly give wet cat food to my babies but they also get wet dog food. I feed my adults about two heaping tablespoons of food once a week plus some treats in between but they aren't really treats (as in something that shouldn't be given often), things like snails and live bugs or crunchy dog food. I mix finely chopped mustard greens and collard greens into the wet dog food, it isn't totally necessary because if you are using a good quality dog food it will already have vegetables in it but adding to it doesn't hurt and the skinks tend to eat better when there is a variety in flavor and texture.
Supplements - sprinkle a little calcium with D3 on every meal, regardless of whether you provide uvb lights or not and add a sprinkle of multivitamins once a week.
Feeding schedule - About a tablespoon of wet cat or dog food with some of the calcium with D3 sprinkled on top every day for the first 2 months of their lives. If your skink isn't finishing their food within 15 to 20 minutes then it's a good indication that you can start skipping days in between meals. If your skink is gobbling their food so fast it looks like they inhaled it in less than a few minutes then make the serving size a little bigger. Or feed twice a day. Once you start feeding every other day, you'll switch to skipping 2 days in between meals around 4 to 5 months. Around 8 months you'll skip 3 days in between meals but you'll up the serving size to 2 tablespoons until they reach a year old where they only need to be fed 2 tablespoons once a week.
Picky skink - A picky skink isn't a hungry skink. Skinks are not picky unless they just aren't hungry or there's an underlying issue. Often times, the temperatures in the enclosure are too low, resulting in a skink with no appetite. You want a basking spot temp no lower than 115°F. (This is measuring the surface temperature under the basking light with an infrared thermometer) Adult skinks only need to be fed once a week, so that can also be a reason why your skink isnt wanting to eat, he just simply isn't hungry. So make sure your temps are right, that you're not over feeding and that you are offering a proper diet of high quality dog food.
Shedding - Without the right humidity your skink won't shed properly. Northerns don't need high humidity but they do well with 40-50%. If you notice your skink still is having trouble with shedding even with the humidity at 40-50%, then you can provide a humid hide in the enclosure. A Tupperware container with a hole cut in the side for an entrance and moist moss (or paper towels) inside makes a great humid hide that your skink will utilize to help with shedding. I don't recommend sticking your skink in a bath to try to help with shedding because it can be pretty stressful for them and it's not necessary.
Temperatures - The ambient air temps should be, high 80s on the warm side and low 70s on the cool side. Par38 halogen lights work great for lighting and heating, I usually do well with 75 to 100 watt. Ceramic heat emitters work well for heat too. The basking spot air temp should read around 105. The surface temperature of the basking spot should read around 115° to 120° *that is the surface temperature not the air temperature. It's best to use digitals gauges for measuring the ambient air temps, they are more accurate. (The analog kind are notorious for being off by up to 15 degrees). An infrared thermometer gun is a good way to measure the surface temperature of the basking spot, just point the laser to the surface of the area right under the basking light. For the ambient air temps it's great to use the thermometers that have probes. They don't need heat at night, it's actually an important part of their circadian rhythm to cool off at night. Unless the room you have your skink in is getting colder than 55° you will not need to provide any heat at night. If the room is getting that cold at night then a non light emitting heat bulb or an under tank heat mat on low to provide a spot of around 70° is what should be provided.
Substrate - I like to use a mix of eco earth and forest floor. You should provide at least 4 inches of substrate in the enclosure because they love to burrow and the substrate holds moisture that will help your skink shed.
Enclosure size - The recommended minimum floor space for an adult blue tongue skink is 48" by 18" by 18", for example- a 75 gallon tank. A 40 gallon breeder tank or front opening enclosure will work for smaller adults, if you add levels, for example, a large piece of slate set on some bricks can create a 2nd level increasing the floor space. The bigger the better, give your skink as much space as you possibly can, they will utilize all of it. I recommend checking craigslist for enclosures, often times you can find large enclosures for less than half of what you'd pay at a store. Or build your own, YouTube is full of DIY enclosure building videos, that way you can customize it however you like at an affordable price.
Enclosure decor - You'll want your enclosure to look cluttered. I like to use branches, rocks (big enough to where they can't swallow them) and fake plants/flowers/vines. The point is to help your skink feel more secure while they explore their new environment, by giving them lots of places to hide, it actually helps them become more brave which in turn leads to them trusting you.
Shipping - Shipping is an easy and safe way to receive your skink. We use over night express delivery so your new skink will be at his or her new home in less than 24 hours We usually ship Monday through Wednesday with overnight express delivery through FedEx, so that means you can receive your skink either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. (No shipping over the weekend) We can usually have the skink delivered directly to your home, but if the weather is too extreme for home delivery but still safe for shipping to a hub or if you can't be home for delivery, having the skink held for pick up at your FedEX Ship center is the best choice, that way you can pick up anytime that day during their (the FedEx hub) business hours. -the person picking up the skink needs to be the person who's name the package is addressed to and they need to have their ID
Brumation - When the weather starts to cool, you might notice that your skink is staying buried a lot, sleeping more, not basking as often if at all and losing their appetite, this is perfectly normal skink behavior, it's called brumation, pretty similar to hibernation. This can last anywhere from a week to a few months. It's not necessary to feed them during this time. Just check on them occasionally to make sure they aren't losing too much weight and that they're doing okay. Once you see them out and basking for a while, it's most likely that they are done with their brumation and can go back to regular eating.
UVB - For uvb I recommend the reptisun 10.0 T8 linear bulb. The light should cover most of the length of the enclosure and follow the guidelines on the box of how high up away from the ground the lights should be mounted. UVB does not have to be provided but it is beneficial for the skinks and recommended to use with regular vitamin supplementations in their diet as well.
Taming - Young blue tongue skinks tend to be flighty and scared making them seem aggressive when really it's just them acting defensively. It's helpful to remember that they aren't purposely being mean when they behave that way because thinking of your skink as aggressive and mean will make you less likely to want to work with them. And the best way to tame your skink is to handle them frequently. So try to remember that your skink is just a silly scared potato that is getting used to the big world and just needs some patience and persistence. With frequent interactions it won't take long at all for your skink to trust you and calm down. *Using treats while they are being held/handled really seems to help. They are suckers for snacks. I like to use crunchy little cat treats, blueberries, small pieces of banana, live bugs/dried bugs and grapes cut into quarters. They'll soon recognize you as the bringer of treats and being associated with food is a good thing with these guys (as long as it isn't them mistaking your finger as a treat )
Sneezing - You might notice your skink sneezing quite often. Don't worry, this is perfectly normal. Blue tongue skinks love to dig and burrow in their substrate, so because of that, they get dirt and other debris in their nasal passages, the sneezing is just to clear that out