Australian Blue Tongue Skink Starter Buying Guide
Prepared by Frank Payne
Everything you need for a basic Aussie BTS habitat! This guide works for Northern, Eastern, Centralian, Shingleback, and most other species of Australian blue tongue skinks.
Our Starter Guides are focused on the baseline necessities to care for your pet, making them more affordable and ideal for first-time keepers. We also offer a Deluxe Guide if you want to go the extra mile. Be sure to check out our Blue Tongue Skink Care Guide for more information on how to set up your enclosure and keep your skink happy and healthy!
A blue tongue skink enclosure should be large enough to allow for a proper thermoregulatory gradient and have opaque or covered sides to reduce stress and retain heat. For a starter setup, we recommend a minimum 6’x2’x2’ PVC enclosure.
Australian blue tongue skink substrate should replicate the soil found in their native regions, usually a combination of soil, clay, crushed rock, and sand, and should be at least 4-6” deep to facilitate digging and burrowing. You can achieve this with a mixture of 60% ReptiSoil + 40% ReptiSand. For a 6’x2’ footprint, you'll need at least 70 quarts of soil and around 60 pounds of sand.
Heat & Lighting
A blue tongue enclosure should have overhead heat, UVB, a daylight lamp, and tools to monitor and control these elements.
You'll need a cluster of at least 2-4 heat bulbs to create an appropriate basking area. 75 watt halogen flood bulbs are an ideal source of IR-A and IR-B radiation needed for healthy thermoregulation, best paired with a reflective dome fixture to project the heat evenly and naturally.
Your blue tongue will need a T5 HO linear fluorescent UVB bulb in a reflective fixture, spanning roughly half the length of the enclosure. The lamp can be placed directly on top of the screen or mounted inside. We recommend either 6% or 12% UVB, depending on your setup. Be sure to check our basking distance chart to determine which bulb you'll need and the optimal height of your basking area, where the UVI should be at its strongest.
All diurnal skinks should have a 6400-6500K daylight lamp to stimulate natural behaviors and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. A full spectrum LED lamp is the strongest, brightest, and most efficient option.
Monitoring & Regulation
- 2 Gauges: Place each thermometer/hygrometer on opposite sides of the enclosure to monitor the necessary warm-to-cool temperature gradient.
- Outlet timer: All reptiles should have a healthy circadian schedule: heat and UVB turned on during the day, then everything turned off at night to allow for total darkness and a natural temperature drop (~12hrs/day). This can be best achieved using a simple outlet timer.
- Rheostat: A manual plug-in dimmer for your heat lamp allows you to make small adjustments to find the “sweet spot” on your skink's basking area, reduces risk of overheating, and prolongs bulb life. (To automatically maintain your temps, you can plug your heat lamp into a dimming thermostat)
Decor & Enrichment
Blue tongue skinks require a variety of specific decor items that are vital for security, enrichment, and health.
Blue tongues are burrowers! They need at least 2 dedicated hides: a warm humid hide under the heat lamps, stuffed with sphagnum moss and regularly misted, and a cool dry hide on the opposite end. Hides with a large, flat top can also double as a basking area!
A starter habitat should have at least 2 large cork flats for your skink to climb on, burrow under, and bask. You can also add tubes and branches as you build out your habitat! (tubes should be large enough for the skink to easily fit inside and branches should be kept low and closer to the ground)
Artificial plants add more shade for heat regulation, coverage for security and enrichment, and they enhance the appearance of a naturalistic habitat. We recommend choosing at least 3 plants for your starter enclosure.
Tools & Feeding
A complete blue tongue skink setup should have:
- Large, stable water dish
- Shallow feeding dish for salad / prepared diet
- Pump mister for substrate and humidity
- Durable tongs for hand feeding live insects
- Calcium and vitamin supplement with low D3 content
Australian Blue Tongue Skink Setup Examples
Contributed by Mariah Healey