Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink 101 – Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are popular exotic pets because of their shocking berry-blue tongues and docile natures. In recent decades, the number of US captive-bred Indonesian blue-tongued skinks has grown, making them more readily available.

Hailing from the islands of Indonesia, Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are diurnal, omnivorous, and terrestrial lizards. They require large enclosure areas that do not necessarily need to be tall, with substrates deep enough for burrowing. In captivity, they tend to live 18-20 years.

These lizards are relatively easy to care for if you properly set up their enclosure. If you want one, read on to learn all about them!

Overview of Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skinks

halmahera blue tongue skink

Blue-tongued skinks are an Australasian species fondly called blue-tongued lizards, blue-tongues, or blueys.

There are six recognized species of this reptile, all found in Australia, except for Tiliqua gigas. This blue-tongue is found in Indonesia and New Guinea, hence its common name, the Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink.

Skinks are diurnal lizards active during the day and asleep at night. They are also omnivores, happily feasting on anything from flowers, fruits, and berries to insects.

This lizard thrives in forests, scrublands, and deserts in the wild. They often seek refuge under logs, inside piles of foliage, in rock crevices, and in burrows. However, they will be happy anywhere with lots of ground cover and mulch, making them frequent visitors to farms, gardens, and lawns.

A blue-tongued skink’s body is built for burrowing: they have awkward-looking back legs perfect for crawling backward out of burrows, ear holes at the back of their heads, and tightly interlocked scales to keep dirt and debris from getting in.

Over the years, this reptile has become a popular pet. While no research suggests blueys are endangered, it’s always best to purchase captive-bred lizards instead of wild-caught ones!

Intrigued about this reptile and its berry-blue tongue? Read on to learn everything about it!

Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink Key Aspects

Scientific NameTiliqua gigas gigas
AppearanceStocky bodies, triangular-shaped heads, small legs. Grey or tan glossy-looking bodies with dark brown or black bands across their backs and tails.
Lifespan18-20 years in captivity
Size20 inches long
Enclosure size120 gallon tank (4 x 2 x 2 feet)
TemperatureA gradient of 70-90 °F
Humidity60% – 90%
DietOmnivorous. 50% Vegetables, 40% Protein, 10% Fruits
SheddingYoung skinks: Once every few weeksAdults: Once every 1-3 months
HandlingFrequent handling makes the lizard more relaxed and comfortable with its owner.

Indonesian Blue-Tongue Skink Basics

Let’s start from the very beginning. What do Indonesian blue-tongued skinks look like, how big are they, and how do they act?


Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink lying on the ground

These lizards typically grow to 20 inches long, nearly half of which is usually their tail which tapers toward the end. 

They have stocky bodies, triangular-shaped heads, and short legs, with males often slightly wider in all aspects than females.

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks have grey, pale brown, or tan glossy-looking bodies with dark brown or black bands (horizontal stripes) across their backs and tails. These bands are believed to be unique to each skink.

These stripes have a fascinating defensive purpose. When skinks perceive a nearby threat, they tuck in their limbs, lie flat on the ground, and pretend to be a snake! Their striped tails are a perfect finish to this slithery look.

Typically, the predator will back away, opting not to take their chance against a “snake.”

Lastly, of course, these lizards have bright, berry-blue tongues. Over millennia, these lizards evolved to have shocking blue tongues for defensive reasons, just like they did with their stripes.

Blue is an uncommon color in nature that usually signifies something poisonous or venomous. When confronted, skinks will stick out their blue tongues to convince the predator that they are venomous and, therefore, unsafe to eat.

(Blue skinks aren’t venomous, though.)

Editor’s Note
Like most other reptiles, blue-tongued skinks regularly flick out their tongues to “taste” the air and sense what’s around them. All chemical information their tongues gather gets sent to their Jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouths for interpretation.

Growth Rate: Size and Lifespan

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks live 18-20 years in captivity, reaching an average maximum length of twenty inches.

These lizards are typically born between 4-6 inches long. They grow extremely quickly in the first month of their lives, lengthening by about an inch per week.

Their growth will slow to about half an inch weekly for the next few months. When these reptiles are a year old, their growth will only be 0.1 – 0.2 inches a week, or half a centimeter.

Most Indonesian blue-tongued skinks reach full size between 18-24 months of age. At full maturity, most of these lizards weigh one pound.

Growth Rate Chart

Size at birth4-6 inches long
1 month oldGrows 1 inch a week
2 – 11 monthsHalf an inch a week
12 – 18 or 24 months0.1-0.2 inches per week
Full-grown size20 inches long and weighing 1 pound


According to the dictionary, “docile” means tame, submissive, and deferential. Therefore, most reptile pets described as “docile” are willing to tolerate and accept handling from their human owners.

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are one step beyond that–they don’t merely quietly accept handling; they like it!

The more these lizards are handled, the friendlier they become toward their owners. They are curious and playful and enjoy exploring and learning new things.

Because of these traits, these reptiles are considered excellent choices for beginners and kid owners.

Still, these lizards will bite if they feel threatened, aggravated, or startled. Though they have dull teeth, they have strong jaws that can deliver a painful bite.

If you see your skink hiding, hissing, or sticking its tongue at you, it’s best to leave it alone until it calms down.

Enclosure Setup

Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink Enclosure

Reptiles are great pets, but even those labeled as “low-maintenance” have very particular needs. Before purchasing any reptile, ensure you completely understand all its care requirements!

Enclosure Size

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks need a large enclosure. They will be happiest in a 120-gallon tank measuring 4 x 2 x 2 feet.

The good news is that, unlike other pets, skinks do not develop agoraphobia or the fear of open spaces. This means your bluey can live in the same tank from birth until adulthood. Young blue-tongued skinks will enjoy the large tank they can explore!

Aside from size, note that skink tanks must be made of materials able to withstand the hot, humid conditions of a tropical environment. Some ideal skink enclosure materials include

  • A heavily sealed wooden vivarium, 
  • A glass terrarium with limited ventilation to retain humidity,
  • Closed-top aquarium or a 
  • Plastic or acrylic enclosure sturdy enough to support overhead heating and UV equipment/


blue tongue skink enclosure substrate

Skinks are a tropical species that like to burrow. Your tank substrate should be a minimum of six inches deep.

Ideal substrate materials are

  • Peat,
  • Sterilized topsoil,
  • Coco fiber,
  • Orchid bark, and
  • Sphagnum Moss.

Never use dry substrates like paper, aspen, or hay. These will absorb the humidity your Indonesian blue-tongued skink needs and affect their natural behaviors, making them grumpy and susceptible to diseases such as dysecdysis or abnormal shedding.


Red-eyed Crocodile Skink Enclosure Accessories

Your skink needs more than just an empty tank. Here are some things you can fill it with that are aesthetic and functional.

Hide boxes

Reptiles need an enclosed space to escape to when they want to be alone, avoid light, or get a little cooler. Aside from hide boxes, you can also place rocks, fake plants, or any items that offer cover and shade. For a hiding spot to be effective, it must be able to enclose your skink’s entire body.

Water bowl

Skinks love to drink water from bowls but also like to soak occasionally. 

It’s best if your water bowl is wider rather than deep to prevent your lizard from drowning. The water should never be more than 2-3 inches deep.

Also, ensure the water bowl is stable and won’t easily topple over. 

Editor’s Note
Skinks urinate and defecate in their water bowl. Ensure you change the water regularly.

Food bowls

These lizards eat various food, some moving and others not.

Experts suggest having at least two bowls for your blue-tongued skink: a dish for vegetables and slow-moving bugs and a bowl with taller sides or an escape-proof rim for faster bugs.

Basking rock or platform

Like all cold-blooded reptiles, skinks must bask in a warm spot to stay healthy. 

A basking rock or platform will not allow your lizard to get closer to the heat lamp but will also warm its tummy, assuming the stone can absorb heat.

Heat and UVB lamps

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks have specific heating and UVB needs. Read on to the next section for more details.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Blue-tongued skinks need a big range of temperature and humidity levels that mimic their tropical natural habitat.

The enclosure must have a basking area with a heat lamp to maintain a temperature of 86-90 °F. The temperature should gradually shift to the opposite end of the tank, which stays a cooler 70-78 °F.

Meanwhile, these skinks need humidity levels between 60-90%. Spraying its enclosure daily can help keep the humidity high.

Lighting Needs

Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink enclosure with lighting

Skinks need exposure to UVB light to get enough vitamin D3, which helps them absorb calcium.

Install a T5 UVB bulb in your lizard’s basking area next to its heat lamp. Optionally, a T8 UVB bulb will also suffice, but it is less efficient than the T5.

Cleaning Tips For Skinks And Their Enclosure

Reptile tanks should be spot-cleaned daily or every other day, which involves removing feces, uneaten bugs, shed skin, and other debris.

It should also be thoroughly cleaned every 1-2 months to ensure a hygienic environment for your skink.

As for your skink, they typically take care of themselves. They regularly soak in their water bowls to stay clean and keep themselves hydrated, and rely heavily on their tank’s high humidity levels for similar reasons.

You should not need to bathe your skink.

Indonesian Blue-Tongue Skink Care

Food & Water 

Blue-tongued skinks are omnivores who eat a varied diet. 

Indonesian blue-tongued skink diet chart

Vegetables40% of the diet
Protein (insects, etc.)10% of the diet
Fruit10% of diet

What does Indonesian blue tongue skink eat?

Vegetables are essential to keep your lizard strong and healthy. Leafy vegetables such as spring greens, bok choy, kale, collard greens, and mustard greens should comprise 50% of their diet. These are best served finely chopped to your pet.

Next comes protein, which should comprise approximately 40% of their diet. Blue-tongued skinks mainly get their protein from insects, including flies, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, worms, and snails.

Some skinks may eat smaller lizards (than themselves) or even small rodents, such as mice. However, this isn’t very common.

Lastly, skinks will benefit from occasionally having fruits. These reptiles can have berries, apples, and bananas, among others, but do not feed your skink citrus items.

Citrus fruits can upset your skink’s digestive system and give it diarrhea.

How much water do Indonesian blue-tongued skinks need?

Blue-tongued skinks like licking droplets off plants in their enclosure, so ensure you have enough plants and that you mist regularly!

Aside from licking droplets, keep your skink’s bowl full with 1-1.5 inches of water. They may occasionally drink from the bowl or have a soak. They also tend to like urinating and defecating in their water bowls, so ensure you replace the water daily!


All reptiles shed since their skin does not expand and contract to fit their bodies as mammals do.

Baby skinks shed about once every few weeks. However, once they become fully grown adults, they will only shed once every one to three months.

Unlike snakes, skinks do not shed their skin in one big piece. Instead, they shed in patches by rubbing against decor.

While skinks rarely need help shedding, experts recommend checking your lizard afterward to ensure the shed has fully come off. In particular, check its toes, legs, head, and tail. 

If pieces of retained shed remain, increase the enclosure humidity for a few days or mist it a few extra times daily to help your pet.

Editor’s Note
Keep a shedding journal or log for your pet to spot any problematic changes in its pattern! 

How To Sex An Indonesian blue-tongued skink

There are four differences between male and female blue-tongued skinks. Observing them will give you clues about their gender. The first three are

  • Size – Male skinks, particularly their heads, are larger than females. 
  • Tail shape – Males have a broader, thicker tail than females.
  • Behavior – Females are more docile than males, who tend to be aggressive and display dominant behavior.

The last and most definite way to determine your skink’s gender is to check its cloaca. Males have a round-shaped cloaca with a wider opening than females, which tend to look like slits.

Unfortunately, checking your lizard’s cloaca can be a tricky affair! Reptiles’ cloacas are found at the base of their tails. You must gently restrain your lizard to turn it over for a clear view. Alternatively, you can take it to a vet or specialist for help.

Handling Indonesian Blue-Tongue Skinks 

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are relatively friendly. While we can’t be sure they enjoy time with their owners, they learn to recognize and trust their owners over time and become more relaxed in their presence.

As with all new pet reptiles, give it a few days to adjust to its new home before attempting to handle it. Lizards take a while to become comfortable in new surroundings; touching them too early can add stress.

Never startle your skink. Always gain its attention before picking it up, and always approach it at its eye level (instead of above it).

Additionally, always support all four legs. They can flail around and accidentally scratch you if they do not feel secure.

Common Health Issues 

Sick Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink

Pet Indonesian blue-tongued skinks typically face four common health issues.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Metabolic bone disease is common among reptiles and is caused by calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency. 

To compensate for the missing nutrients, the lizard’s body will draw calcium from the bones, causing a weak skeleton.

Reptiles with MBD will appear to be in a lot of pain, frequently break bones, and may even display malformation. 

If you suspect your lizard has MBD, bring it to a vet for treatment as soon as possible.


Reptiles can have two types of parasites: ectoparasites which live externally on their skin, and endoparasites which live inside their bodies.

Parasites typically enter your lizard’s tank through wild insects or branches brought from the outside. 

Only give your blue-tongued skink store-bought accessories and food for its safety.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections are caused by improper humidity or temperature levels in the tank. Symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, weepy eyes, and mucus in the mouth.

If you notice your pet with these symptoms, immediately bring it to the vet. Reptiles are very good at hiding symptoms, and the disease is often severe by the time their owners notice anything amiss.

Dysecdysis (Incomplete shedding)

Incomplete shedding is a problem for lizards since the leftover shed can constrict blood flow to the affected body part.

When this happens, your lizard can lose its toe, tail, or spine!

If you notice your reptile with some leftover shed hanging on it, increase its tank’s humidity as recommended earlier. You can also gently use a wet Q-tip to dislodge stuck scales.

If this happens frequently or you cannot remove the skin, take your pet to the vet.


Indonesian blue-tongued skinks don’t need too much coaxing from their owners to breed. Placing a male and a female together in one tank is enough.

Some owners mistake mating for fighting since the male can scratch or bite the female. This should be no cause for alarm, though–the male is simply trying to leverage himself into the proper position.

However, if the female appears injured or in pain, separate the skinks and try again, ideally with another mate.

If, after a few weeks, the female appears to be getting larger, they are pregnant and will be giving birth in a few months!

Editor’s Note
Blue-tongued skinks are typically pregnant for 3-4 months before giving birth to live young.

How much does an average Indonesian blue-tongued skink cost?

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are now widely bred in captivity and are relatively easy to find in the United States.

The average price of an Indonesian blue-tongued skink is between $150-$400.

However, there are many other costs to consider before purchasing this pet. Expect to shell out $500-$700 for the initial setup of its enclosure, which includes

  • Tank: $100-$500
  • Heat bulb: $15-$30
  • UVB bulb and fixture: $50-$75
  • Humidifier: $50
  • Thermometer/Hygrometer: $20
  • Substrate: $30
  • Food and water dishes: $30
  • Decorations and hide boxes: $70

After its expensive initial setup, the lizard’s monthly maintenance costs are less than the average pet dog or cat. 

Unlike these other pets, buying toys to entertain your lizard or bringing them for haircuts is unnecessary.

Blue-tongued skink owners only spend on their pet’s food and supplements, which cost about $40 a month. Beyond that are the occasional vet visits and tank maintenance expenses.

Do Indonesian blue-tongued skinks bite?

Indonesian Blue-tongued Skink with tongue out

Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are docile and friendly lizards and will never bite a human unprovoked. Generally, they are entirely safe pets to own.

However, if scared or threatened enough, blue-tongued skinks can bite to defend themselves.

These lizards have teeth and strong jaws that can deliver a painful bite! Despite their blue tongue, though, they are non-venomous and do not have any toxins to inject.

If a blue-tongued skink bites you, thoroughly clean and disinfect the wound to prevent infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Keep Several Blue-Tongued Skinks In One Tank?

Keeping multiple skinks in one tank together is possible, provided each has sufficient personal space.

It’s also important to note that male skinks are incredibly territorial. It’s strongly discouraged to keep more than one male per enclosure.

Is It Better To Own A Captive-Bred Or Wild Indonesian Blue-Tongued Skink?

Captive-bred lizards always do better as pets than wild ones. Wild pets often arrive stressed from their transport and with parasites.

They also tend to die quickly or never adjust to captive life, constantly remaining aggressive toward their owner.

Additionally, though Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are not endangered, support for the illegal pet trade might eventually reach that point. To protect these reptiles in the wild, only purchase captive-bred ones.


Indonesian blue-tongued skinks are fascinating pets to own and show off to your friends and family. They may be a little tricky to handle at almost two feet long, but enough practice can make you and your pet comfortable with them.

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