Blue tongue skinks are easy to handle and care for, making them the perfect reptile pets for beginners. However, even if you have some experience taking care of reptiles, it’s perfectly normal to occasionally wonder whether your blue tongue skink is happy or not. We’ll list 8 signs that will help you tell if your blue tongue skink is happy and healthy.
A healthy blue tongue skink eats well, has a healthy size, and has normal stools. It also sheds regularly and is in a good shape. There should be no secretion from the eyes, mouth, or nose. A happy blue tongue skink is active and alert, calm when handled, and has normal hiding and basking behavior.
These are just some of the key points to keep in mind, but we’ve provided more details that will help you determine whether your skink is healthy and happy in its enclosure.
We’ve also provided a list of signs that will let you know your skink is not happy and healthy, since sometimes it’s easier to tell. However, not all blue tongue skinks are the same, so it’s important that you learn how to understand your skink and its needs.
Table of Contents
8 Signs Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Happy And Healthy
So let’s start with the positive signs, the signs that all is well with your blue tongue skink.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Eating Well
As with many other animals, one of the easiest ways to tell if your skink is happy and healthy is to check its eating habits. Skinks are omnivorous, so they’ll feed on meat (insects) and vegetables.
What’s considered to be a normal eating habit for your skink will depend on the species, age, weight, and growth.
Generally, you can give your skink 1-2 tablespoons of wet dog food (yes, dog food as we explain in this article) with some fresh diced greens and veggies and your skink should eat that enthusiastically.
If your blue tongue skink isn’t interested in eating, it could mean that it’s sick, overfed, gravid, or stressed out.
You should also put a water bowl on the cool side of the enclosure (if put in the basking area, it could raise the humidity in the tank).
Choose a bowl that can’t be easily turned over by your skink. Also, make sure you often check if the bowl is clean and food is fresh with no substrate in it.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Growing As It Should
How big a blue tongue skink gets will depend on the species (and subspecies). When it comes to sexual dimorphism, there’s not much difference between male and female skinks.
Male skinks are usually heavier but female skinks have slightly longer bodies. Malnutrition, parasites, and infections could stunt your skink’s growth. However, keep in mind that obesity is also a common problem with blue tongue skinks, so you shouldn’t feed your skink too often.
If you’re feeding your skink with lots of fatty foods and not enough vegetables, and if it doesn’t get enough physical activity, it could easily become overweight (and even obese).
Below, you’ll see a handy table with length (in inches and centimeters), as well as maximum weight (in ounces and grams) for some of the blue tongue skink species.
|Skink Species||Length (in / cm)||Maximum Weight (oz / g)|
|Western blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua occipitalis)||about 19.5 in (50 cm)||17.9 oz (510 g)|
|Pygmy blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua adelaidensis)||4 in (10 cm)||unknown|
|Blotched blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua nigrolutea)||up to 23.5 in (60 cm)||15.8 oz (450 g)|
|Tanimbar Island skink (Tiliqua scincoides chimaera)||from 15 to 17 in (38 to 43 cm)||unknown|
|Northern blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia)||the average size of 24 in (61 cm)||21.1 oz (600 g)|
|Eastern blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides)||the average length of 19 in (48 cm)||21.1 oz (600 g)|
|Centralian blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua multifasciata)||between 15.5 and 17.5 in (40 to 45 cm)||17.9 oz (510 g)|
|Merauke blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua gigas evanescens)||from 25 to 30 in (63.5 to 76 cm)||35.2 oz (1000 g)|
|Kei Island and Indonesian blue-tongued skink (Tiliqua gigas keyensis)||around 19.75 in (50 cm)||24.6 oz (700 g)|
If you want to know more about how big your BTS gets or what could stunt its growth, have a look at our article here.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Having Normal And Regular Stools
Since pooping is one of the most important body functions, you can tell a lot about your skink’s health by examining its stools.
In general, you can expect your BTS to poop from once a day up to once a week, depending on the temperature in the tank, activity, diet, general well-being and a few other factors. A well-hydrated skink may even urinate a little bit, as well.
A constipated skink will be unwilling to eat and will drink more. It will have a hard belly and you may even notice it rubbing its belly against the ground.
Normal stools are:
- solid (but not too hard)
- pasty or sticky
- round or elongated
- with a brownish part (digested matter) and a white part (urate)
Sometimes, you may even see some undigested matter in it (vegetable or fruit peel, bug shells or legs, and more).
An unhealthy stool can be a sign of illness, infection, dehydration or an inadequate diet.
Signs of an unhealthy stool are:
- urate part is too big
- urate part is chalky and hard
- urate part is mushy or fluffy
- runny poop
- green or yellow colour
- all white excretes
- blood in poop
- strong smell
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Shedding Regularly (And All At Once)
How often will your BTS shed will depend on its age. Skinks under one year of age might shed once in 2-3 weeks, while skinks between 12-18 months should shed once a month. Adult skinks (older than 18 months) will shed every 2-3 months.
Your skink won’t need your help when shedding but you should still check if there’s any stuck shed after a few days, especially around the toes, tail, ears, and limbs. A stuck or piled-up shed could cause rot or constrict the blood flow, causing the toes or even tail to eventually fall off.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Active And Alert
Blue tongue skinks are diurnal animals, meaning they are active during the day. A healthy skink will be active and alert, and will react to the surroundings. When awake, it’ll move around the tank.
Skinks usually respond to movements with their tongue or head. Your skink will use its tongue to “smell” the surroundings. If your skink suddenly stops moving and becomes lethargic, it may be sick.
However, keep in mind that your skink can also be lethargic during natural processes such as shedding, brumation, and pregnancy.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Calm When Handled
Unlike some other pets, blue tongue skinks aren’t social animals and don’t need much snuggling from their owners (or other humans). Some individual skinks may enjoy human touch and interaction but others may experience distress.
If you’re not sure whether your skink likes being held, check its breathing, movements, and tongue flicks. A happy skink will breathe calmly and have smooth inquisitive movements.
If you notice heavy breathing or any rapid movements and tongue flicks, you should put the animal back in its enclosure. Leave it alone for at least one day.
Still, even if your blue tongue skink is stressed when being handled, it is possible to make your skink get used to you.
For that, you can simply spend more time in front of the enclosure. Put your hand into the tank from time to time so that your blue tongue skink gets used to your scent.
Handfeed your skink (with tweezers) and your skink will understand that you don’t mean any danger. This will make your skink way happier and calmer if you must (or want to) handle it.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Hiding As Usual
Just like other reptiles, blue tongue skinks need hiding places in order to maintain psychological wellness. When in the wild, skinks will spend their time hiding and burrowing. It’s a normal part of their daily routine and not a sign of stress or sickness.
However, you should look for any other signs or sickness if you think that your skink shows unusual hiding behavior. Sometimes your skink may hide if the light is too bright or the temperature in the cage is too hot.
If it’s housed with one or more skinks, it could be scared and stressed out, causing it to spend more time hidden.
In that case, you need to remove the other blue tongue skink from the enclosure.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Basking Every Day
Skinks are ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) so they need to regulate their body temperature using external sources. A BTS that is stressed or ill won’t be interested in basking on the rock or platform.
Instead, it’ll be lethargic and spend most of its day hiding. There are various factors that might cause stress, such as other cage mates (as well as other pets approaching the cage), use of colored bulbs, too exposed tank, etc.
Once you eliminate all of these factors and nothing changes (your BTS is still lethargic and not eating and/or pooping), you should contact the vet.
5 Signs Your Blue Tongue Skink Is NOT Happy And Healthy
So here are the signs that clearly show that something is wrong with your blue tongue skink and that you might need to bring it to a vet or make some changes to its diet or tank setup.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Has Secretion From Eyes, Mouth Or Nose
Secretion from eyes, mouth or nose, as well as wheezing (but not whistling), gasping, coughing, and heavy breathing are all symptoms of a respiratory infection. A mucus around the eyes can also be a sign of conjunctivitis.
However, keep in mind that sneezing is not a sign of an infection, as long as it’s not too excessive. Also, you may see your skink breathing heavily after a big meal. Frothing at the mouth is also normal.
Since skinks repeatedly shoot their tongue in and out, saliva collects at the corners of the mouth and bubbles out a little bit. If you suspect your skink may have a respiratory infection, you should take it to the vet since it may require veterinary medicines.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Throwing Up
Your skink can vomit if it hasn’t digested food well, the temperature is too cold or goes from hot to cold rapidly, or is disturbed (by humans and other stressors) too soon after eating.
However, vomiting can also be a sign of illnesses and infectious diseases caused by high levels of protozoans or parasites. If you notice any other signs of sickness and suspect that your skink might be infected, you should contact the vet immediately.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Has Problems With Its Mouth (Mouth Rot)
Mouth rot is a bacterial problem that can be caused by a mouth or rostrum injury or inadequate care of your skink’s face. You’ll notice that your skink has red swelling around the mouth, inflamed reddish lips, red bumps, and mucus in the mouth.
You should contact the exotic vet as soon as you notice any of the signs since mouth rot can be treated efficiently if diagnosed early enough. In the meantime, clean the tank and remove all substrate.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Has Lumps On The Back Or Tail And Its Bones Are Softening
Lumps on the back or tail and softening of the bones, as well as jerky walking motion, muscle spasms/twitches, shaking and stunted growth, are all some of the symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). MBD is usually caused by a poor and inadequate diet.
You should not only make sure your skink gets enough Calcium but that the Calcium: Phosphorus ratio is in balance, as well. Another factor could also be the lack of UV lighting.
MBD is a serious disease that needs to be treated as soon as the problem is recognized. If not treated, it could even affect the internal organs, cause bone fractures, and even lead to partial or full paralysis.
Your Blue Tongue Skink Has Lifted Scales (Mites or Ticks)
Mites and ticks aren’t that often seen on captive-bred blue tongue skinks in the USA, but wild-caught skinks can definitely have them. This is why it’s important to only buy captive-bred skinks and to quarantine all new reptiles for 2-3 months.
However, even a captive-bred BTS can get mites and ticks due to unsanitary conditions, wrong substrates, or contamination from an infected reptile. If your skink has mites, you’ll notice lifted scales as well as little black scales all over the animal, and on your hands after handling.
When it comes to ticks, you’ll most likely find them under the legs and behind the ears of the animal. They may not be easy to spot at first but when they engorge with blood, their body will grow in size.
If you take good care of your blue tongue skink, it can live 15 to 20 years on average. In some rare cases, skinks could even live up to 30 years.
Remember that you’re taking care of a living creature so it’s your responsibility to be well-informed, alert, and able to recognize the symptoms. Make sure you keep the tank clean, with proper temperatures on both cool and basking ends.
Provide a good and healthy diet to your reptile pet and make sure the water bowl is clean with fresh water in it. You should monitor your BTS to be sure that it’s healthy and happy, and if you do encounter any serious problems, make sure you contact an exotic animal veterinarian for help and advice.