Blue-Tongue Skinks-Habitat-Setup

Blue Tongue Skink Enclosure Setup (6 Easy Steps)

Setting up an enclosure for a Blue Tongue Skink isn’t just about placing them in a tank with a few pieces of decor. It’s about creating a mini habitat that mirrors their natural environment and meets their biological needs, contributing to their health and happiness.

In this article, we will go through seven easy steps to set up an ideal enclosure for your Blue Tongue Skink. We’ll talk about choosing the right terrarium, the best substrates, the importance of lighting and heating, and how to automate these using some nifty devices.

Step 1: Choose the Right Terrarium

A terrarium, in simple terms, is our skink’s castle – it’s where they’ll eat, sleep, explore, and, quite simply, live their best life. The importance of picking the right terrarium can’t be overstated. It’s not just about providing our skinks a place to live; it’s about creating an environment where they can thrive.

Size is one of the most important factors to look for when choosing an enclosure for a blue tongue skink. Remember, these fellows love to roam and burrow. As a rule of thumb, I always recommend a minimum of 55-gallon tank size for an adult. But let me tell you, they’ll love you even more if you can manage a bigger one!

Based on my experience, the Zen Habitat Reptile Enclosure is a top-notch choice. With its patented front window ventilation, it ensures optimal heat and humidity regulation. The full screen top allows UVB and infrared penetration, making it perfect for our sun-loving skinks. Plus, the raised bottom frame provides space for a substrate heater. It’s spacious, easy to clean, and with its natural background, it’s like a slice of the outback right in your living room!

Products we recommend:

4’x2’x2′ Original PVC Reptile Enclosure

Step 2: Choose the Right Substrate

A substrate is the bedding or material we use to line the bottom of our skinks’ terrariums. Picking the right substrate is crucial because it impacts our skinks’ health and comfort in significant ways.

The substrate serves multiple purposes. It maintains humidity, absorbs waste, and can even help with our skinks’ natural digging behavior.

Some substrates can be risky, though, causing impaction if ingested. No worries, I’m here to guide you through the options, detailing the pros and cons, so you can make the best choice for your blue tongue buddy.

1. Cypress Mulch: Cypress mulch is one of my personal favorites. It’s excellent at retaining humidity and it’s safe for our skinks. It’s also a great texture for burrowing. The downside? It can be a bit messy, and you may find bits of it escaping the enclosure when your skink digs. An excellent option for cypress mulch is Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding. It’s 100% natural cypress mulch and it’s available on Amazon.

2. Aspen Shavings: Aspen shavings are another good option. They’re highly absorbent and relatively dust-free. However, they don’t hold humidity as well as cypress mulch and are more prone to mold if they get too wet. I recommend Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding as a high-quality aspen substrate.

3. Coconut Fiber: Coconut fiber, such as Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate, is a sustainable choice that retains humidity well. It’s soft, so it’s gentle on our skinks’ bellies. But be careful not to let it get too damp, as it can get a bit muddy.

4. Newspaper or Paper Towel: Finally, newspaper or paper towels are a cheap and clean option, but they don’t hold humidity and don’t allow for natural burrowing behavior. This option might work best for skinks who have had impaction issues in the past.

Remember, whatever substrate you choose, make sure it’s at least 2-3 inches deep to accommodate your blue tongue skink’s burrowing needs. Switch it out regularly to keep the enclosure clean and your skink healthy.

Step 3: Set Up Lighting

One aspect of blue tongue skink care that stirs a lot of debate is lighting, specifically UVB lighting. UVB is a type of radiation naturally emitted by the sun, and it’s super important for our pets to synthesize Vitamin D3.

Why is Vitamin D3 important, you ask? It’s key to building and maintaining strong bones in our blue tongue friends. A deficiency can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease, something we all want to avoid.

While it’s true that blue tongue skinks can survive without UVB, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that we should help our pets thrive, not just survive. Studies show that skinks exposed to appropriate amounts of UVB have healthier levels of vitamin D in their blood compared to those supplemented only. Plus, UVB offers more benefits than just vitamin D.

Now, onto the practical part – setting up UVB lighting. I’ve found that the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO UVB and Arcadia Desert 12% fluorescent tubes are top-notch. They’re perfect for use on top or inside 18-24″ tall enclosures and should cover half the enclosure’s total length.

Remember, these bulbs need to be replaced every 12 months to ensure optimal UVB output.

A quick pro tip: Make sure the fixture doesn’t have a piece of glass or plastic covering the bulb. UVB rays are blocked by glass and plastic, so uncovered UVB bulbs are the way to go.

Now, let’s talk distance. For the safety of your skink, it should be no closer than 10″ to the bulb. Depending on the brand of the bulb and whether there’s a mesh obstruction, the distance will vary. Here’s a quick guideline for your reference:

With mesh obstruction:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6% — 6-9″
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 — 6-9″
  • Arcadia T5 HO Desert 12% — 12-15″
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 — 12-15″

Without mesh obstruction:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6% — 11-12″
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 — 11-12″
  • Arcadia T5 HO Desert 12% — 17-18″
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 — 17-18″

Lastly, since our blue tongue buddies are active during the day, they need plenty of “sunlight”. This can be achieved by using a 6400K LED or fluorescent light. These lights are easy to source and make a big difference in your setup.

Products we recommend:

Remember, friends, the journey to creating the perfect blue tongue skink enclosure is all about learning and improving. And hey, if you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re in this together!

Step 4: Set Up Heating

As cold-blooded creatures, blue tongue skinks rely on their environment to provide the heat they need to thrive. So, sit back and relax as we explore the fascinating world of skink heating.

Understanding the ideal temperature gradient for our skinks is vital. Remember, we’re trying to recreate their natural habitat, where they have the freedom to bask in the sun or retreat into the cooler shade. To replicate this, you’ll need a basking surface with a temperature of 100-105°F (37-40°C) for most species, but for T. scincoides, a higher range of 105-115°F (40-46°C) is ideal.

Cooler areas should be between 70-85°F (21°-29°C) for Australian species, while Indonesian species prefer it slightly warmer at 75-85°F (24-29°C). At night, allow the temperature to drop to between 65-75°F (18°-24°C) for Australian species and 70-75°F (21-24°C) for Indonesian species.

But how do we achieve these temperatures? Here’s where halogen flood bulbs come in. These babies last longer and burn hotter than your average house bulb. Although pricier, I promise they’re worth it.

I personally recommend the Philips PAR38 90w Halogen Flood Heat Bulb, which has served me well. For larger enclosures, say 48″ x 24″ x 24″, a 100-150w bulb should do the trick.

And if it gets too hot? No worries! I’ve found a plug-in lamp dimmer can work wonders in dialing down the heat to an ideal range. And if your basking area’s temperature still isn’t right, try bringing it closer to the heat bulb or switch to a 90w halogen floodlight.

Now, here’s something important. Nighttime heating isn’t typically necessary for Blue Tongue Skinks. They naturally experience a dip in temperature at night. However, if your room gets too cold, consider using a non-light emitting heat source like a ceramic heat emitter or radiant heat panel. Remember, we’re aiming for an appropriate air temperature, not basking temperature, at night.

And now, my favorite pro tip: use a basking stone! I can’t tell you how much my skinks’ activity and behavior improved after I installed a piece of slate tile under the heat lamp. It absorbs heat from the lamp, providing warmth from both above and below, just like skinks prefer in the wild.

One crucial thing to avoid is a heat rock. It’s not the same as a basking stone. Heated from inside with electrical wiring, heat rocks are notorious for burning reptiles. So, long story short, stay clear of them.

Remember, folks, setting up the right heating isn’t just about providing warmth. It’s about recreating a natural habitat that our skinks can thrive in. And as always, don’t hesitate to ask if you’re in doubt. We’re in this together! Happy heating!

Step 5: Humidity

Let’s tackle another essential element for our Blue Tongue Skink buddies – humidity. Getting the humidity right in your skink’s enclosure is crucial to their health and happiness, and yes, it’s a bit tricky but absolutely doable.

First things first, why does humidity matter? Well, maintaining the right humidity helps your skink shed easily and keeps illnesses like respiratory infections at bay. Depending on your skink’s species, the ideal humidity level varies. For instance, Australian species usually thrive around 40% humidity, while Indonesian species require between 60-80% humidity. Don’t worry, I’ll list down the specific humidity requirements for various species in a moment.

Humidity requirements for different skink species:

  1. T. gigas evanescens (Merauke) — 60-80%
  2. T. gigas gigas (Classic Indonesian) — 60-80%
  3. T. gigas gigas (Halmahera) — 70-100%
  4. And so on, listing all the species from the provided text.

One handy tool I’ve been using to keep track of the ambient humidity and air temperature is the Zoo Med’s Digital Thermometer and Humidity Gauge Combo. Trust me, it’s a lifesaver! Just put the probe on the cool end of the enclosure and target the higher end of your skink’s humidity range.

Now, here’s a trick that I’ve picked up from my own experience: take a peek at your skink’s belly scales. If they’re rough, you need more moisture. If they’re silky smooth and your skink is shedding well, you’re in the green zone.

Let’s talk about maintaining that precious humidity. Even with the right substrate, achieving high humidity levels can be a bit challenging, but not impossible. Here are some tactics that worked wonders for me:

  1. Use a thick layer of substrate — at least 4″. The more substrate you have, the more moisture it can hold.
  2. Another trick is to mix water into the substrate until it’s damp, but not wet. This will stabilize humidity for longer periods than mere surface misting.
  3. Daily misting works great, especially with a pressure sprayer like the Exo Terra Pressure Sprayer. This tool saved me from the nightmare of hand cramps!
  4. Install a humid hideout somewhere in the middle to cool end of the enclosure, so your skink has a humid retreat. Just line a reptile hide or cave with moistened sphagnum moss to encourage humidity levels near 100%.

And for those of you with a Halmahera, like me, I recommend investing in an automatic misting system like the MistKing Starter system. Yes, it’s a bit of an investment, but the lasting humidity effects are worth it for your skink’s long-term health.

If you opt for a reptile fogger, make sure to:

  1. Clean the entire unit at least once a week with a veterinary disinfectant like F10SC, Clean Break, or Rescue to prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Run the fogger only at night to mimic natural conditions and prevent messing with your enclosure’s temperature gradient.
  3. Always use distilled water, never tap.

Step 6: Enrichment Accessories & Decorations

Alright! Let’s dive into the fun part of setting up your blue tongue skink enclosure – the enrichment accessories and decorations. This is where your skink’s habitat can really start to feel like a slice of the wild right in your living room!

1. Hides

First up, hides! They’re a must-have in any skink enclosure. Skinks are naturally secretive creatures who like to burrow and hide when they’re feeling shy or just want a nap. It makes them feel safe and secure. I’m particularly fond of the Exo Terra Reptile Cave, as it’s spacious, easy to clean, and resembles a natural rock cave that a skink would use in the wild.

2. Food and Water Bowls

Next, let’s talk about food and water bowls. Skinks aren’t fussy eaters, but they do need sturdy, easy-to-clean bowls for their food and water. I’ve found the Fluker’s Repta-Bowls to be an excellent choice. They’re made of non-porous resin, so they’re simple to clean, and their sturdy design prevents skinks from tipping them over during their enthusiastic eating sessions.

3. Hammock

Now, a hammock might seem like an unusual choice for a blue tongue skink, given they’re ground dwellers. But you’d be surprised how much they enjoy lounging on a comfy surface after a good meal! A product like the Penn-Plax Lizard Lounger provides an interesting vertical element in their enclosure. Plus, it’s always a hit with my own skinks!

4. Climbing

Although blue tongues aren’t avid climbers like some of their reptile cousins, they do enjoy a bit of gentle climbing. This can help them exercise and keep fit. Simple items like large, sturdy branches or a Zoo Med Reptile Ramp can give your skink the gentle climbing opportunities they’ll enjoy.

5. Plants

Plants, be they live or artificial, are a great way to give your skink’s enclosure that lush, natural look. They can also provide additional hiding spots, making your skink feel more secure. I like using the Exo Terra Plastic Terrarium Plant – they’re realistic, easy to clean, and safe for skinks. If you prefer live plants, non-toxic options like snake plants or pothos are excellent choices.

6. Background

Lastly, the background might seem like just an aesthetic touch, but it can actually help your skink feel more at home by mimicking their natural environment. The Universal Rocks Ledge Background is a wonderful option with its realistic rock textures that your skink will appreciate.

There you have it, friends – your guide to creating an enriching and visually appealing habitat for your blue tongue skink. Remember, it’s not just about creating a display for you to look at, it’s about making a home your skink will thrive in. Happy decorating!

Final thoughts

If you are planning to bring a blue-tongue skink as a pet, you need to set up the environment beforehand so as not to disturb the skink. It would be best to consider several factors while setting up the cage, including the cage size, material, robustness, temperature inside the cage, humidity, basking and hiding spots, and other accessories. These are essential requirements of setting a cage for a blue tongue skink.

In addition, be considerate of the environmental factors, including humidity and temperature inside the cage, which must be maintained at all costs. A thermometer and hygrometer are excellent help to maintain these factors in the cage. You may also add accessories such as plants, a hammock, and hiding & climbing spots to keep your bluey active throughout the day.

Finally, do not just pick any cage or accessory that you find first. Take your time, research the best products in the market to select and set up the best cage for the well-being of your skink. After all, that’s all they want; love, patience, and your time, and this starts before you bring them home.

Filled under: Lizards

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