Lizards are often the first reptilian pet that a lot of people opt to go for. This could be attributed to the fascinating fact that they are the closest reptile that resembles a dinosaur, plus they don’t carry with them the innate fear that snakes bring to certain people. Read on for a look at the eastern blue-tongued lizard, one of the most common reptilian pet options.
The eastern blue-tongued lizard is a generally friendly and intelligent reptile pet. These lizards are sizeable to hold, and in my opinion, the cost of care and maintenance for them is relatively low, especially when you compare them to cats or dogs. They can also live for quite a while, making them suitable for those who are looking for long-term companions.
Although eastern blue-tongued lizards can become fascinating pets, they have unique needs when it comes to diet, handling, and care in general. As a result, it is important to do as much research as possible to ensure that you are in a good position to take care of one.
Are Blue Tongue Lizards Good Pets?
Getting a blue-tongued lizard as a pet can be quite daunting especially if you are a first-time owner, but with the correct handling and care, they can make great pets. Here are some reasons why these reptiles may just be the ideal pet for you:
- Eastern blue-tongued lizards are omnivores
These lizards can eat on a wide variety of food due to omnivorous nature. As a result, it is much easier to feed them as you have more options.
- They are hardy
With proper care, your blue-tongued lizard can live for many years, so you will have plenty of time to build a bond with your reptilian companion.
- They are relatively quiet
While dogs, cats, and birds tend to be vocal, lizards are typically very quiet, save for a few hisses here and there. You don’t have to worry about your blue-tongued lizard waking you up by barking, whining, or singing at an ungodly hour.
- They enjoy attention
While many reptiles don’t enjoy being handled at all, and a good number of them merely tolerate it, the eastern blue-tongued are quite personal and seem to enjoy attention from their owners.
- They are calm
These reptiles are known for their calm demeanor, which makes them one of the easier lizards to train and tame.
- They are not poisonous or venomous
One of the most off-putting things about having a lizard as a pet for most people is the fear that they may be venomous or poisonous. Fortunately, the blue-tongued lizard is neither of these things.
- They don’t need a companion
Blue-tongued lizards don’t require another blue-tongued companion. They are known for their solitary and territorial nature, which means that they enjoy living on their own.
- They don’t need much in terms of maintenance
They need little maintenance and you don’t have to worry about spending too much on them. As long as you provide the right food, cage, and take into account vet visits as needed, your lizard will live a long and healthy life.
- You don’t have to worry about fur shedding
Unlike with dogs and cats where you have to deal with fur shedding, blue-tongued lizards, like other reptiles, have no fur. This is especially convenient for those who have allergies that are triggered by fur.
How Long Do Eastern Blue Tongue Lizards Live for?
Although it is not easy to determine the lifespan of an eastern blue-tongued lizard in the wild, it is easier to keep track of their life expectancy in captivity. On average, an eastern blue-tongued in captivity can live for 15 to 20 years with proper care and maintenance. That said, it is not uncommon to find individuals that live for longer.
How Big Do Blue Tongue Skinks Grow?
Eastern blue-tongued skinks can grow up to an average length of 17 inches, with a maximum of 22 inches. About 13 inches of their length is the head and body, while the rest of it is the tail. A full-grown blue-tongued skink has an average weight of 10-18 ounces.
In general, make eastern blue-tongued skinks tend to have bulkier heads than their female counterparts, but when it comes to body size, males are not always the bigger sex or vice versa. Of course, if you have a very large female blue-tongued skink, she is likely to have a sizeable head as well.
In some cases, the head size of a blue-tongued skink is disproportionate to the rest of the body, and in cases where a male is underfed during his crucial first year, it is highly likely that his growth will be stunted. That said, there is no concrete rule when it comes to size versus sex.
Is Blue Tongue Lizard Dangerous?
When an eastern blue-tongued lizard feels threatened, it turns towards the source and opens its mouth wide to stick out its broad blue tongue that it is in sharp contrast with its pink mouth. This display, combined with its large head, may successfully frighten off potential predators.
Another indicator that your lizard is preparing to bite is when it hisses and flattens out its body to make itself appear bigger. If you ignore this warning sign and pick it up anyway. The lizard may go ahead and bite you.
The bite from an adult eastern blue-tongued lizard can cause quite a bit of pain, break the skin and even leave a bruise, but because it is neither venomous nor dangerous, you don’t have to worry about long-term ill-effect. That said, you should clean the bite site using a mild disinfectant, just as with any other animal bite, to reduce the risk of infections.
Can Blue Tongue Skinks Drop Their Tails?
If you handle them roughly by their tail, Eastern blue-tongued lizards, especially young ones, can drop their tails. In the wild, if a predator bites or grabs a skink’s tail, it can break or pull off. These lizards also drop their tails as a way to evade being gripped.
Even after a skink drops off its tail, the tail will continue moving and wiggling around, an ability that is especially useful in the wild when the lizard wants to confuse its predator to be able to get away. The tail stump that remains then rapidly heals for a shorter regenerated tail to grow back in its place after a while.
While the tail-dropping ability of an eastern blue-tongued skink might seem out of the ordinary, this is a capability that almost all lizards have as they have a “fracture plane” situated where their tail and body connect. When they are hit, bitten, or struck on the fracture plane, the muscles found there will spasm reflexively before disconnecting from each other.
This trait has evolved over millions of years to the point where no blood spurts out when the tail falls out. Instead, it is blocked off, and the new tail that is expected to regrow will be replaced by new muscle and cartilage.
While it is no common for an eastern blue-tongued skink in captivity to drop its tail, it is important to know what to do in case it happens with your pet. If you notice a missing tail, the first thing you will want to do is check the wound to see if there is any dirt, gunk, or substrate stuck to the wound.
If you find anything, wash the end of the tail of your pet under a sink by allowing a steady stream of warm water to flow over the area and wash away the dirt.
If there is a significant amount of dirt or there is noticeable swelling or abnormal discharge from the wound, you might want to apply some dilute povidone-iodine solution. This will significantly reduce the risk of infection.
A new tail will regrow in anywhere from six months to a year, and even then, it will not be as long, colorful, or large as it previously was.
How Long Does it Take for a Blue Tongue Skink to Reach Full Size?
Eastern blue-tongued lizards are generally approximately 4 inches long when they are born, and as they grow and increase in size, they can reach up to 22 inches in size. It can take 1-3 years before these lizards attain their full size.
Your blue-tongued skink will do most of the growth in the first year, and in some cases, a few of them have been known to grow up to 2 inches per month. How fast your lizard grows will depend on a variety of factors, including genetics and diet.
What Happens if a Blue Tongue Lizard Bites you?
When a blue tongue lizard bites you, one of the first things that you might notice is that your skin will break. You might also be left with a bruise, but because they are not venomous/poisonous you don’t have to worry about any long-term ill effects.
That said, blue-tongued lizards (especially those in captivity) are highly unlikely to bite unless they are trapped or cornered. If your skink happens to bite you, it might latch onto you for a bit. However, because they have dull, small teeth their bite tends to be rather powerful. However, they rarely draw blood, and the bite is not particularly painful.
How Many Babies Do Blue Tongue Skinks Have?
The eastern blue-tongued skink is ovoviviparous, which simply means that its babies develop in eggs which remain within the body of the female during development instead of getting laid. At the end of the gestation period, the female will give birth to live young.
A female gives birth to a litter consisting of an average of 10 babies at a time, although individuals have been known to give birth to up to 25 babies at a time. Babies can measure anywhere from 90-130 mm in total length and weigh 10-20 g.
Babies are not provided with parental care, and soon after birth, young skinks will usually be on their own. They grow quite quickly, and some have even been known to reach adult size in less than a year.
How Long is a Blue Tongue Lizard Pregnant for?
Female blue-tongued lizards will give birth 3-5 months after mating, anywhere between December and April. Eastern blue-tongues tend to give birth between December and January. This species, unlike other blue-tongues, can breed every year as long as it is provided with sufficient food.
If you intend to breed your eastern blue-tongued lizard, the first thing you should do is weigh the female to get an estimation of weight gain in case of pregnancy. During mating, the female may be overly aggressive and end up hurting the male.
In most cases, this happens because the female is not ready. In such a situation, the most effective solution is to remove the female and allow her to get ready.
Once the mating successfully occurs, babies will start to grow inside the female, and as they get bigger, they tend to press against her lung. This makes her breathing slow and heavy, one of the most telltale signs that the female is about to give birth.
Do Blue Tongue Skinks Like to be Handled?
Just like with any other reptiles, it is of utmost importance to allow a newly acquired blue-tongued skink to acclimate for a few days. During this time, avoid handling your new pet until it settles in and becomes comfortable in its new surroundings. Once your skink starts to feed regularly, you can then begin handling it.
As you start to handle your blue-tongued skink, limit these initial sessions to 10 minutes or less so as not to tire out your pet. You can do this a couple of times every day during the acclimation process. Make sure to hold your lizard over a bed, sofa, or close floor in case it accidentally slips out of your hand. You also want to ensure that you support its entire body to give your pet skink a sense of security in your hands.
While some reptiles prefer not to be handled at all, and some barely tolerate it, the eastern blue-tongued lizard is very personable, and they seem to like being scratched on the chin or head. They also seem to revel in the attention of their owners.
Care of Eastern Blue Tongue Lizards
Temperament of eastern blue tongue lizards
Eastern blue-tongued lizards are known to be friendly especially if they are well-socialized. They are also very curious, so they will appreciate an environment where they can explore and discover new things. Unlike other lizards, blue-tongued lizards enjoy attention from their owners, which makes them great companions.
Ensure that you house baby blue-tongued lizards separately in plastic enclosures, terrariums, or aquariums (ideally 20 gallons) that have full screen tops. An adult can be housed in an enclosure that measures 36 inches long by 18 inches by 10 inches. It should also feature a full screen top.
Keep in mind that blue-tongued skinks are terrestrial, so they will be more comfortable with floor space rather than climbing areas. If you have several blue-tongued skinks, whether they are adults or juveniles, it is highly recommended that you keep them separately as they are very territorial.
Food & Water (what to eat, how much to feed, how often to feed)
Eastern blue-tongued lizards are very hardy, which means that they can thrive on almost any diet, but to ensure that they are active and healthy, it is important to provide a well-balanced diet that consists of proteins, fruits, and vegetables/greens.
Aim to provide a ratio of 50% vegetables, 40% protein, and 10% fruit for the best results in terms of growth and health. Adult blue-tongued lizards have to be fed every two or three days, whereas young ones can be fed every other day. Feed your lizard as much as it can eat in one sitting. Once it stops eating, remove the uneaten food immediately.
Some of the foods you can offer your blue-tongued skinks include worms, crickets, canned super premium cat/dog food, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, collard greens, mustard greens, Brussel sprouts dandelions, peas, mango, and cantaloupe, among others.
Heating & Humidity
Blue-tongued skinks, like other reptiles, can control their body temperature through thermoregulation. Therefore, when setting up an enclosure for your pet, you will want to ensure that they have a cooler end and a warmer end. To achieve this, place all the lighting and heating at one end of the cage so that if your lizard gets too warm, it can go to the cooler end, and vice versa.
Ensure that the enclosure of your blue-tongued skink has ambient temperatures ranging from 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit. The warm end of the enclosure should have a basking area of 90-100 degrees. You can accomplish this using an under-tank heating device like a heat tape or mask. Eastern blue-tongued skinks prefer high humidity levels, so keep a hygrometer at hand to monitor humidity in the enclosure.
Although there are proven cases where blue-tongued have been successfully raised without requiring full-spectrum lighting, consider providing UVB lighting in your pet’s enclosure for around 8-12 hours a day. Any type of UVB bulb is a great source of UVB, which is highly beneficial to these reptiles.