Blue Tailed Skink 101 – Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

The captivating blue-tailed skinks have fascinated lizard enthusiasts and researchers for generations. While multiple species share the same name, it’s crucial to differentiate them for clarity. This article gives a complete care guide for the American blue-tailed skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) found in the Eastern United States and parts of South-Eastern Canada.

American Blue Tailed Skinks, often referred to as Common Five-Lined Skinks, are highly sought after as reptile companions among beginner reptile owners. Whether you’re planning a new scaly baby or seeking guidance on their care and well-being, this article is your comprehensive resource. Discover everything you need to know about keeping American Blue Tailed Skinks as pets, including their habitat, health requirements, maintenance, and much more.

Overview | Know your reptile baby’s roots 

blue tailed skink

It’s good to know where your pet comes from. Dive right in to unravel the heritage that ‘maybe-magical’ blue tail carries. 

Origin | Where do they come from?

The American Blue Tailed Skink is called ‘common’ for a reason. It is distributed across the Eastern United States, ranging from Northern regions like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia in the South. 

It is frequently mistaken for the Pacific Blue Tailed Skink, which is indigenous to Christmas Island in Australia but has since spread to various regions including Indonesia, New Guinea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Natural Habitat | What natural habitat do they thrive in?

blue tailed skink on wooded area

Blue Tailed Skink adapts to a wide range of habitats but displays a preference for wooded areas abundant in trees, brush piles, and fallen vegetation. Blue tails are partially arboreal, using trees as a refuge from predators, and they also enjoy basking on logs on a bright sunny day.

Their habitat preference reflects their shy nature and the need to hide when threatened. Dense wooded areas and landscapes with rocky crevices provide cover and security they can retreat into when required. 

The American five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) belongs to the Scincidae family and is one of the most prevalent lizard species in the Eastern United States. It is also one of the seven native lizard species found in Canada.

Know everything about Blue Tailed Skinks at one glance!

Scientific Name Plestiodon fasciatus
Common Name Common Five-Lined Skink, Blue Tailed Skink
Suitability as petPopular pet species 
OriginEastern American and South-Eastern Canada 
Appearance Dark brown to black hue, adorned with five prominent white to yellowish stripes spanning the body, accompanied by a vivid blue tail.
Adult SizeUp to 8 inches
Life spanUp to 10 years 
Temperament Friendly and intelligent
Maintenance Low maintenance 
Eating habits Omnivorous 
Adult Shedding frequencyOnce in six months 
Biting riskLess tendency to bite, non-venomous
Common health issuesObesity, Metabolic Bone Disease
Owner experience Beginner/Intermediate 

Unveiling the Unique Characteristics of a Blue Tailed Skink

Interesting fact: Blue Tailed Skinks don’t have scales like other reptiles!

Striking features | What is their most recognizable trait?

blue tailed skink with beautiful blue tail

The most striking feature of Blue Tailed Skinks is the captivating blue tail. Another eye-catching feature would be the five light-colored stripes that run from their neck to the tip of the tail. 

General appearance | What do they look like? 

baby blue tailed skink on log

American Blue Tailed Skinks are a small lizard species that grow up to 8 inches in length. Most of their body length is made up of their very long and striking tail. 

The tails of baby Blue Tailed Skinks are a more bright and vivid blue as compared to adults. The color fades as the lizard grows up, sometimes turning to a uniform gray or brown. The five light-colored stripes also sometimes fade as the lizard matures.

Why do they have a blue tail?

Have you ever wondered if the blue tail has some significance? Almost everything happens for a reason. In the case of American Blue Tailed Skinks, that reason is defense and security

Blue Tailed Skinks use the attractive tail as armor. The bright blue coloration ensures that a predator attacks them tail-first. When attacked, threatened, or caught by the tail, the lizard can leave the tail behind and escape.

All magicians have their tricks!

Size | How big are they?

juvenile blue tailed skink on log

In the wild, American Blue Tailed Skinks are known to reach quite long lengths, up to 8.5 inches!(quite smaller as compared to Fire Skink which measure 12-14 inches) Although they are a short lizard species, this length is remarkable because half of it is only because of their windy blue tail. Sometimes, their tail makes up 60% of their body length

Pet Blue Tailed Skinks generally range between 4 inches and 8 inches. However, some might grow up to 8.5 inches!

Growth rate | How fast do they grow?

Blue Tailed Skinks change drastically in appearance as they grow up. The juvenile and younger skinks have brighter blue tails that become grayish in appearance as they mature. However, some females retain their blue color with age. 

Similarly, the five light-colored bands that run from the snout to the tail in these skinks start disappearing in most members of this species. The broadband on the sides usually remains a discerning feature in older skinks. 

These changes become gradually apparent as your skink matures. You wouldn’t notice any sudden changes because their growth rate is normal

Lifespan | How long do they live?

Blue Tailed Skinks live for more than 10 years in the wild. In captivity, they generally live for 6 to 8 years. However, they sometimes live for more than 10 years even as pets

There is no dependable reason that influences their lifespan as pets other than diet, habitat environment, activity, hygiene, and special attention to healthcare needs. 

Temperament | How is their behavior as pets?

As pets, American Blue Tailed Skinks are known to be friendly, docile, peaceful, and even playful. They make amazing pets and offer great opportunities for your children to learn about animals. They are not known to be unpredictable or aggressive. However, they are capable of biting. Like all pet animals, it is important to treat them with respect. 

In their enclosure, they spend time climbing on plants, basking to feel warm, or hiding out of habit. They are shy, leisurely animals who know how to relax!

General Behavior | How do they behave in the wild? 

A wild Blue Tailed Skink might not be as predictable and docile as a pet. It is not suggested that you attempt to go near a wild skink in the hope of becoming friends. Wild skinks are expected to be aggressive and can deliver a painful bite if agitated. 

If you spot a Blue Tailed Skink on a trail, it is best to leave them alone. In no case should you try to capture them.

Setting up an enclosure for your new Blue Tailed Skink 

blue tailed skink enclosure setup

Enclosure size and requirements | Create an ideal space for your new reptile baby

Since Blue Tailed Skinks are quite small, they don’t need a big enclosure like many other exotic reptiles. However, if you have more than one skink as a pet, the size of the enclosure should grow accordingly. 

A 20 gallons capacity glass terrarium would suffice for one Blue Tailed Skink. If you have 3 or more such lizard pets, you can go up to 50 gallons capacity. 

These lizards are semi-arboreal, which means they dwell both on land and on top of trees. These little lizards love to climb, hop, and move around in their enclosure. It is recommended that the minimum height of the enclosure should be 20 inches

This would give you sufficient space to house tall and sturdy plants that’ll serve your little friend well. 

Lighting needs | Lighten up their space

Just like the circadian rhythm of human beings, Blue Tailed Skinks remain healthy when their daily routine is aligned with their natural environment. These skinks need around 12 hours of continuous lighting every day so that their body can function according to their day and night pattern. 

In their natural habitat, Blue Tailed Skinks bask in the sun for long hours in the daytime. This has two reasons:

  • Reptiles are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. They need external sources of heat to warm their body.
  • UVB light is essential for Blue Tailed Skinks to synthesize Vitamin D which helps them in the absorption of calcium.

Setting up UVB lighting above the basking zone is essential for Blue Tailed Skinks. The basking area is a raised area where the lizard can lie when it wants more heat. It should be a flat surface close to the most heated area of their enclosure. 

The ideal UV index for these skinks is 3-4. Make sure that your UVB bulb is covered so that your skink doesn’t accidentally touch it. 

Ideal temperature and humidity | Create the perfect weather 

The enclosure for your Blue Tailed Skink should have a temperature gradient. Some parts should get the maximum heat and others should be cooler. This is important because lizards depend on external sources to regulate their body temperature. 

Pet owners accomplish this by building a basking spot that is directly under the UVB lamp for maximum heating. The temperature of the basking spot should be maintained between 90F to 95F. In contrast, the coolest spots of the enclosure are behind the hiding places. 

The ideal temperature for the rest of the enclosure is 77F to 82F during the day. The ideal temperature for the nighttime is 75F. While there are several heating methods available, the most commonly used ones are heating mats and ceramic bulbs. 

Heating mats can be placed behind the tank or underneath the tank and are more suitable for small enclosures. Ceramic bulbs can be placed anywhere in the tank because they don’t emit light. Your ceramic bulb must be protected with a light guard.

The enclosure for your Blue Tailed Skink must also have a thermostat so that you can check whether the ideal temperature is being maintained. The perfect humidity of 60% to 80% can be attained with the help of a tray filled with water kept near the base of the tank. Just ensure that it is filled with water at all times. 


Blue Tailed Skinks have the instinct to dig and sometimes borrow themselves in the ground. To enable their natural habits, the ground of their enclosure should be covered with a substrate. 

The substrate is also the layer that collects your lizard’s poo. It is important that the soiled substrate is cleared every day and that the entire substrate layer is replaced once a week. 

Substrates that retain moisture are ideal for these lizards. You could have 4 inches of coconut fiber or humus in the tank to give the ultimate digging experience to your reptile friend. 

Cleaning tips for them and enclosure 

Daily hygiene maintenance for your pet is necessary. You must look out for soiled substrate or dirt on the glass walls of the enclosure and clean them immediately or once each day. The water bowl needs to be washed and replaced for the best health of your skink. A wholehearted deep clean is also recommended once a month

While cleaning the enclosure, remember to shift your Blue Tailed Skink to a smaller enclosure. Leaving them open at home is not recommended as they could get lost. 

Caring for your marvelous Blue Tailed Skink

Food and Water | What do Blue Tailed Skinks eat?

Blue Tailed Skinks are omnivorous. In the wild, they eat small insects like earthworms, spiders, crustaceans like snails, and even small rodents or other lizards. Like most other beautiful reptiles, they are also known to feed on fruits, flowers, leaves, and buds. Although, insects form a major chunk of their diet in the wild. 

As pets, Blue Tailed Skinks eat a mixed diet composed of vegetables, fruits, and insects like fruit flies, mealworms, locusts, crickets, and roaches. The diet of baby lizards should always be protein-rich (more insects). Insects like fruit flies and cricket have more protein than locusts and mealworms. 

They can also eat some vegetables and fruits out of your fridge. Scroll down to this diet chart that’ll give you an idea of what to feed and what not to feed your adult Blue Tailed Skink. 

Fruits and vegetables 70% of each meal for adult Blue Tailed Skinks.30% of each meal for adult Blue Tailed Skinks.
Kale Yes
Collard GreenYes
Apple slicesYes
Insects 70% of each meal for baby Blue Tailed Skinks. 30% of each meal for adult Blue Tailed Skinks.
Silkworms Yes
Centipede Yes
Mealworms Yes 
Ants Yes 
Beetles Yes 
Spiders Yes 

Ideally, your pet reptile should be fed two times a day. As loving parents, we tend to overfeed our pets. It is quite normal but can be dangerous in the case of reptiles. Make sure that you only feed them the quantity that they can finish under ten minutes of meal time. Any excessive quantity could rot inside their enclosure and cause unwanted bacteria buildup. This could lead to digestive problems or infections. 

It is also important to supplement your lizard’s diet with calcium and protein-rich supplements. You’ll find many great options for Blue Tailed Skinks. Rather than feeding them the supplements separately, it is recommended that you sprinkle them on top of their insectivorous diet. 

How much water do Blue Tailed Skinks need?

blue tailed skink drinking water

Blue Tailed Skinks need plenty of water every day. They reside in humid environments measuring around 60% – 80%. It is recommended that they have access to at least 20 gallons of water in their enclosure. This will ensure that they always have enough to drink and their enclosure will always have the ideal humidity because of evaporation. 

Make sure that the water bowl is stable and a little heavy so that your jumpy lizard cannot tip it over. Ensure that it is shallow so that your skinks can easily get out in case it falls inside.

How much do Blue Tailed Skinks shed?

Like all reptiles, Blue Tailed Skinks shed their skin. Shedding is a process in which reptiles lose their old skin and build a new one to match their growing body. This occurs because the skin of reptiles doesn’t grow along with them like us mammals. Shedding also helps in eliminating any parasites that may develop on the skin. 

Baby reptiles shed every two weeks because they grow faster. Adult Blue Tailed Skinks don’t shed as much. Their skin is shed once every six months. The time it takes for the shedding process to complete varies. It may take only a few hours but it could also take up to three days. If you’re concerned that it’s taking too long for your reptile’s skin to shed, it is suggested that you consult an exotic veterinarian. 

How to sex a Blue Tailed Skink?

It is not easy to differentiate between male and female Blue Tailed Skinks. There aren’t many disparities in features and appearance. However, males are generally larger than females. Their head size is bigger and the hind legs are longer as compared to females

The differences between the two sexes are more recognizable during the mating season. Males sometimes develop orange coloration on the sides of their faces. 

There is no evident difference in the pattern of skin coloration, stripes, or the blue tail color between the males and females of this species.

How to handle a Blue Tailed Skink?

owner holding small blue tailed skink

Since Blue Tailed Skinks are quite small and feisty, it is not recommended that you hold them in your hands outside their enclosure. In the snap of an eye, they could sprint and disappear. Moreover, Skinks don’t like being held. 

They are friendly, docile, peaceful, and whatnot, unlike many other members of their species. But Blue Tailed Skinks need their boundaries and space to be happy. Too much handling could stress them out and even provoke them to bite

To build a strong bond with your reptile pet, you must interact with them through the glass walls of their enclosure (without banging or knocking on them to get their attention). 

Experts suggest that to build trust, you should feed them out of your hand. They will slowly understand that you care for them and will begin to trust you

Common health issues in Blue Tailed Skinks 

sick blue tailed skink on carpet

Metabolic Bone Disease

Pet Blue Tailed Skinks tend to develop metabolic disorders because of a lack of sufficient Vitamin D3. This vitamin is necessary for Blue Tailed Skinks to digest and absorb calcium.

In the wild, these lizards bask for a long time and maintain optimum quantities of necessary vitamins. Although UVB light helps, sometimes a deficiency is unpreventable. 


  • Swollen legs
  • Curved spine 
  • Softening of jaw

This disease can be treated with calcium supplements and an adequate UVB light source.


Blue Tailed Skinks that aren’t fed enough protein slowly become obese. That is why it is important to maintain an omnivorous diet rich in insects. Especially when they are growing. 

Lack of opportunities to climb or move in the enclosure could also be the reason for obesity. Make sure that your Blue Tailed Skink isn’t bored and has as fascinating things to look up to as he is. 

Bite injuries 

If you have more than one skink in a single enclosure, there is a chance that they fight, bite, and injure one another. This could easily happen if both the skinks are males. Serious injuries should not be neglected and be tended to with the help of a specialist veterinarian.

Breeding a Blue Tailed Skink 

Breeding of Blue Tailed Skinks is not a common practice among pet owners. This is because they are commonly available as pets in captivity. Their numbers are also flourishing in the wild. However, if you’re still interested in breeding your pet Blue Tailed Skinks, keep a few things in mind: 

  • The breeding attempt is more likely to be successful if one male is left in the enclosure with three of four females during the mating season 
  • One definite sign of successful breeding is nest-making. A pregnant female starts building a nest to lay her eggs in. Female Blue Tailed Skinks lay up to thirteen eggs.
  • This may sound weird, but reptiles sometimes damage their eggs. To prevent that from happening, transfer the eggs to an incubator where they can stay and evolve soundly. 
  • The new baby hatchlings should be kept in a separate enclosure away from their parents until adolescence. This is again because most reptiles are unpredictable with their babies.
  • Hatchlings should be fed a diet rich in protein for optimum growth and nourishment. 70% of their diet should be composed of live insects like fruit flies and crickets.

How much does an average Blue Tailed Skink cost?

blue tailed skink enclosure

A captive-bred Blue Tailed Skink can cost you anywhere between 15 to 100 bucks. Many reputable breeders sell these skinks online. You could also look for options to adopt in your area or on eBay.

It is recommended that you examine your new pet in person before bringing them home:

  • See that they have all the distinctive physical traits of a Blue Tailed Skink: A bright blue tail, and a set of five stripes that run from the snout to the tip of their tail. 
  • Ensure that they look healthy, and are not too slim (this could signal that they’re underweight or sick)
  • Make sure that their movements are normal and that they seem active 
  • Try to ensure that their eating habits are fine. A skink that is unwell wouldn’t be interested in food during their feeding time

There are some signs of sickness in Blue Tailed Skinks that you can look out for:

  • Discharge from the mouth 
  • Excessive bubbling from the mouth
  • Limpness in one or more limbs 
  • Drowsy eyes
  • Swelling in the legs 
  • Arched spine 
  • Severe injury or open wound

Are Blue Tailed Skinks dangerous?

baby blue tailed skink on owner's hand

Blue Tailed Skinks are not poisonous. In fact, captive-bred Blue Tailed Skinks are some of the friendliest lizards you’ll ever come across. They are very docile and playful. Once you’ve won their trust, they’d happily respond to your activities outside their enclosure. Most skink parents feed them out of their own hands! 

However, Blue Tailed Skinks don’t enjoy being handled. They are not naturally aggressive, so they wouldn’t react or bite. But making them uncomfortable could provoke a shallow bite that shouldn’t be encouraged. 

Do Blue Tailed Skinks bite?

Blue Tailed Skinks do not bite unless they are provoked. While their bites are essentially harmless, they can still inflict small injuries. These little reptiles bite quickly and retreat because it is not in their adorable nature. 

While there may be no physical harm, Blue Tailed Skinks can transmit a parasite that causes Lyme disease. This is why it is suggested that you treat them like a specimen pet in the enclosure and avoid touching or handling them.


Is American Blue Tailed Skink and Pacific Blue Tailed Skink the same?

Although quite similar in appearance, Pacific Blue Tailed Skink is a different species native to Australia. American Blue Tailed Skink is generally 2 inches longer than its Australian cousin. 

Are Blue Tailed Skinks poisonous?

Blue Tailed Skinks are not poisonous and make very docile pets.

Note for the herpers:

Blue Tailed Skinks make splendid and extraordinary pets. They don’t require serious maintenance and thrive well if their basic criteria are met right. We hope this comprehensive article gives you all the information you need about your adorable little skinky. We hope you enjoy watching the climbs of your new hero and unravel new heights of joy you didn’t know existed! 

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