Want a Pet Reptile? Consider a Skink

3. They love to eat — and not just meat! Blue tongues are ground-dwelling omnivores that eat several different types of insects, fruits, berries and flowers. Pet blue tongues should consume about 60 percent plant matter (the majority of which should be salad of dark, leafy greens and fresh mixed vegetables, plus a smaller amount of fruits, berries and flowers) and 40 percent animal matter (mainly insects such as crickets, mealworms and earthworms, plus small amounts of hard-boiled egg, cooked chicken or beef and pinky mice for larger skinks). Young skinks may be offered food ad lib daily; as they become adults, they may eat only every other day. They need fresh drinking water available at all times and a vitamin/mineral supplement containing vitamin D3 (offered twice a week to adults and every other day to growing juveniles).

4. They are large lizards! As they can grow as long as 18 inches or more, snout to tail tip, pet blue tongues need a minimum 50-gallon tank but ideally should have a larger one to be able to roam. They also need logs and rocks over which they can climb for exercise, and their tank lid needs to be securely closed so that they can’t escape. Most are best housed alone, although sometimes females or opposite sex pairs can live together. They need dust-free bedding (either paper-based, such as recycled paper pellets, or cypress mulch), an un-tippable shallow water bowl into which they can crawl to soak and a humid hide box filled with damp sphagnum moss or a damp paper towel to help them shed. Wood chips and shavings aren’t recommended as they are dusty and indigestible if consumed by your skink. A hygrometer should be used to help monitor humidity levels, which ideally should range from 25 percent to 45 percent for blue tongues.

5. They love light!

Blue tongues require daily exposure to UVB light (either through direct sunlight unfiltered by a window or through a UVB bulb). Most love to bask. In addition to light in their tanks, they should have a daytime temperature gradient (provided by an over-the-tank heat bulb and/or an under-the-tank heating pad) from the low 70 degrees F on one side of the tank to the 90 degrees F range on the other side in the basking zone. Temperatures should not fall below the low 70s F at night. Additional heating elements may be required to maintain cage temperatures in cold climates during winter. (Your veterinarian can help advise you on tank set-up.)

There are so many reptile species that can make terrific pets and can live a long time with proper care and regular veterinary attention. If you’re looking for a different-looking, friendly, fairly easy-to-manage pet, then think about a skink! And as always, before getting any new pet, talk to a veterinarian familiar with reptiles to make sure you know how to care for your new friend properly and realize that, just like dogs and cats, exotic pets like skinks need regular veterinary care and attention as well.

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