By Zoe Salvador

The Blue-Tongued Skink is one of the most unique looking animal companions out there. At first glance, you might not distinguish them from any other lizard. But once they open their mouth, their most unique feature greets you: that bright blue tongue!

(Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim/Animal Scene)

Fact and folklore

The Bluey as a species can be traced all the way back to Australia and parts of Indonesia, too! They are scientifically referred to as Tiliqua scincoides intermedia (try saying that five times fast).

In aboriginal folkore, there is a story that explains the Bluey’s key feature. There was once a sick old man who could only be cured by the ink of a squid. Only his animal companion could fetch it for him that animal companion being a lizard. He kept the ink in his mouth, making his tongue blue, and ran as fast as he could, making his legs short.

Family of Blueys

Aaron Escarez is a seasoned Skink parent who understands this unique creature. He, along with his family of Skinks, shares with us what it really means to care for a Bluey.

(Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim/Animal Scene)

The family is made up of Ser Davos the Dad, Amber the Mom, brothers Cassius and Clay, and finally, sister Calypso. Amber and Ser Davos have been around since 2016, while the kids were born in May of 2019.

The lifespan of a Bluey can be up to 20 years!

Adoption tips

Here are a few things to consider before adopting a Bluey, according to Escarez.

  1. Size matters
    Always consider the size of the lizard before adopting one. Blueys can max out at around 24 inches – that is nothing to scoff at. This is very important to consider so that you can adjust their aquarium precisely.
  2. They are restful reptilians
    Blueys are considered to be generally low-maintenance. Escarez says they are “deceptively docile.”
    Though they enjoy the company of their guardian, some days, all they want is food. They aren’t too picky on that, either. “I’ve even raised healthy Skinks on wet cat food alone,” Escarez says.
  3. Their bites are bigger than their barks
    Escarez shares that these little fellows actually have a bone-crushing bite! It’s a trait that proves useful in crushing nuts and snail shells in the wild.
  4. They’ve got that fighting spirit
    Though they aren’t the most active creatures personality-wise, they can be quite fierce! Escarez says, “I like to think of blue-tongued Skinks as the curmudgeonly old hermits of the reptile world. In the wild, blue-tongued Skinks prefer to have a territory all to themselves than share it with another of their kind. Most encounters would end in fights. The same goes in captivity. In fact, the only time when my Skinks aren’t at each other’s throats is during the [mating] season.”
    So, maybe it’s best to invest in multiple tanks if you’re looking to care for more than one!

Caring for your new blue friend

Here’s what you can do to keep your Blueys from feeling blue.

(Photo by Jeffrey C. Lim/Animal Scene)

1. Keep them inside.

Make sure that the Skink’s home is located inside of the house. This makes it easier for you as a guardina to monitor them. It also makes it easier for you to maintain the proper humidity levels. Though the Philippines is admittedly the best climate for the Skink, it doesn’t mean that you can simply let them be.

Escarez also warns any aspiring Blue Tongued Skink guardian about predators, such as street cats or rats. For everyone’s peace of mind, keep your Blueys inside.

2. Let them explore.

Though the creatures are quite restful, it doesn’t hurt to let them have a (supervised) roam every once in a while! They do, however, tend to go towards the smaller, more enclosed spaces rather than parade the floor.

3. Bigger is better.

When it comes to the Skink enclosure, larger is better! Though they don’t get around too much, it’s still better for them to be in a large space rather than be cooped up in a small aquarium. Aim for a tank that’s about 36 inches long by 18 inches wide.

As for other decor, all you really need is a simple fluorescent lamp to see the lizards. They do not need heating lamps of any sort, just to be mindful of the general climate and they’re good to go!

4. Provide the proper diet.

Skinks are not picky eaters, but that doesn’t mean they deserve any less than the best! Escarez says “I feed my Skinks a staple diet of wet cat food, supplemented with fruit and insects, and the occasional whole quail egg as a treat. Canned, powdered, and pelleted foods especially prepared for omnivorous lizards like blue-tongued Skinks are also available in most reptile stores, and I have never encountered a Skink [who] refused these.”

Other than their regular food, treats may also be given. “As for treats, my Blueys absolutely adore snails. I would go to the local farmer’s market and buy some kuhol, and I’d give these to them whole, shell and all. They love the crunch!”

5. Give them lots of love

Though these little buddies may seem so cool, calm, and laidback, they can also have individual quirks that may not always fit this typical profile. They need just as much love and care as any other animal companion.

Escarez says, “Their hardiness and non-picky nature makes them prone to neglect by inattentive guardians. I’d like to emphasize that if there’s any reptile worth going above and beyond (or in terms of care, it’s the Blue Tongued Skink. Your Skink would appreciate it, and there is nothing more lovable than a happy and healthy Bluey!”

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March-April 2021 issue.

You might want to read:
– Acclimating reptiles to a new environment
– Misunderstood as monsters: Reptiles get such a bad rap – here’s why they don’t deserve it
– Herbivores at higher risk of extinction among mammals, birds and reptiles