Blue-Tongue Skinks Heating and Lighting Requirements

Blue-Tongue Skinks Heating and Lighting Requirements

The ideal lighting and heating setup for a blue tongued skink can depend on a few things, such as the type of enclosure you’re using, the ambient temperature in your home, and, of course, the specific breed of your scaly friend.

Do you have an Australian Blue-Tongue Skink, or is your little buddy from Indonesia? This is key to understanding their specific lighting and heating needs. We are going to discuss this in detail in this post.

For your blue tongue skink lighting setup, you will need the following bulbs:

  • UVB Bulb
  • Fluorescent Bulb
  • Basking Bulb

Blue Tongued Skink Lighting

The sun provides enough warmth for the blue-tongue skink to benefit from in the wild. However, in captivity, you must install light bulbs to give the effect of light and provide enough warmth with appropriate basking and heating lamps.

1. UVB Light

UVB light plays a vital role in the health of blue tongued skinks. UVB is a type of ultraviolet light that’s invisible to the human eye but has profound effects on our scaly friends.

Let’s get a little science-y here, but don’t worry, I’ll keep it light and digestible. UVB light plays a key role in the synthesis of Vitamin D3 in reptiles. Now, you might ask, “Why is Vitamin D3 so important?” Well, it’s quite simple. This vitamin is crucial for the proper absorption of calcium, a mineral that’s paramount for healthy bone formation and maintenance in reptiles, including our Blue-Tongued buddies.

Research in herpetology consistently shows that the proper use of UVB lighting can significantly benefit the health of reptiles, leading to more active, vibrant, and healthier pets. It’s particularly crucial for diurnal lizards like Blue-Tongued Skinks, who, in their natural habitat, are exposed to UVB during their daytime activities.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But I’ve heard that Blue-Tongued Skinks have survived without UVB lighting in captivity.” Yes, that’s true. They can indeed survive without UVB lighting, thanks to dietary supplements providing necessary Vitamin D3. But isn’t thriving better than merely surviving?

Providing a UVB source allows these unique reptiles to regulate their Vitamin D3 synthesis naturally, mimicking their wild conditions. It’s the difference between giving a fish a bath and letting it swim in the ocean.

Here are some of the best UVB lights for blue-tongued skinks that I’ve come across in my journey as a skink-keeper:

  1. Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO UVB
  2. Arcadia Desert 12% Fluorescent Tubes

These lights are suitable for use on top of or inside 18-24″ tall enclosures, spanning at least half the enclosure’s length.

It’s important to replace these bulbs annually as UVB output declines over time, even if the visible light output doesn’t seem to change.

Installing UVB Tube Light in a Blue Tongue’s Tank

Proper installation of these lights is crucial. Ensure there is no glass or plastic shielding the bulb, as UVB rays are blocked by such materials. Also, your skink should be able to get no closer than 10″ to the bulb for its safety.

To cover most of your bluey’s lighting and heating requirements, getting a UVB tube with 50-70% of the tank length is suggested. It’ll help disperse the light evenly inside the tank. In addition to this, you need to get hoods for the UVB lights as you cannot hang a bare tube with the tank top. Get a hood which has the same size as the tube, or you’ll have problems fixing the tube in the tank.

Remove the packaging and stickers of the UVB tube to provide uninterrupted light without blocking any bit of it. 

Hoods with reflectors

These are most efficient in distributing lights and improving the efficiency of existing lights. Reflectors help in improving the quality of low-wattage lights. So, a more suggested approach is to get hoods with reflectors to go with your UVB lights for overall improved light efficiency.

The Distance from UVB Light to a Blue Tongue Skink

Placing the lights too close to your reptile’s blue-tongue skink can damage the eyes of the reptile and may cause burn on the skin too. For this reason, you must place the UVB lights and heating lamps at a safe distance from the bluey. If the UVB bulb is powerful, it’s suggested to fix it at a safe distance from the bluey and its basking stone. In the other case, place the bulb close to the reptile for providing the required warmth.

If you are using a T8 or T5 with a hood, it comes with reflectors and has enough light for the bluey. It should be mounted from above the tank ceiling or on the air screen. Furthermore, the UVB light must be placed behind the basking bulb to prevent the light from hitting directly into the eyes of the reptile. 

Finally, be sure to place the UVB light near the basking bulb so that the reptile can benefit from the UVB lights while enjoying its time basking. A list of different UVB lights is provided below, along with their suggested distance from the reptile. 

Here is a rough estimate of how far away your skink’s back should be from the UVB bulb during basking:

With mesh obstruction:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6% — 6-9″ / 16-23cm
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 — 6-9″ / 16-23cm
  • Arcadia T5 HO Desert 12% — 12-15″ / 31-38cm
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 — 12-15″ / 31-38cm

Without mesh obstruction:

  • Arcadia T5 HO Forest 6% — 11-12″ / 28-30cm
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 — 11-12″ / 28-30cm
  • Arcadia T5 HO Desert 12% — 17-18″ / 43-45cm
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 — 17-18″ / 43-45cm

2. Fluorescent Light

Apart from UVB, providing a 6400K LED or fluorescent light to your blue-tongued skink is also beneficial. This type of light simulates natural daylight, promoting healthy activity levels and eating habits. It also helps to highlight their vibrant coloration.

I’d recommend the following lights:

  1. Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp
  2. Zilla Desert Series 50 Fluorescent Bulb

Regarding fixtures, I found the Zoo Med ReptiSun Terrarium Hood and Arcadia ProT5 to be top-notch. Remember, different fixtures may yield different results, so you might have to adjust the distance between the bulb and your skink accordingly.

Installing these lights is similar to the UVB ones. Always ensure your skink can’t come too close to the bulb to prevent overheating.

Blue Tongued Skink Heating

Just like a sunny afternoon picnic in the park, our cold-blooded friends, the Blue-Tongued Skinks, rely heavily on their environment for heating. They’ve got this cool trick up their sleeve where they can self-regulate their body temperature according to their needs. Cool, right? But how can we, as dedicated skink caregivers, support them in this process? Here’s where the concept of a temperature gradient comes into play.

A temperature gradient in your skink’s enclosure essentially means you’re providing a range of temperatures—cooler at one end and warmer at the other. Our skinky pals can then choose where they feel most comfortable. It’s like giving them their personal thermostat!

Here’s a cheat sheet on the temperature ranges for your skink’s enclosure:

Basking surface:

  • General: 100-105°F (37-40°C)
  • T. scincoides (a common blue-tongue species): 105-115°F (40-46°C)

Cool end:

  • Australian species: 70-85°F (21°-29°C)
  • Indonesian species: 75-85°F (24-29°C)


  • Australian species: 65-75°F (18°-24°C)
  • Indonesian species: 70-75°F (21-24°C)

To monitor these temperatures, I can’t recommend the Etekcity Lasergrip 774 enough. It’s like having an instant weather forecast right in your hands. Trust me, it’s a game-changer!

But, how do we create this ideal heating environment? Let’s start with the basking area—the skink’s personal sunbathing spot. Use a cluster of at least two high-wattage halogen flood bulbs in a dome heat lamp with a ceramic socket. Halogen bulbs, like the Philips PAR38 90w Halogen Flood Heat Bulb or the Arcadia Halogen Heat Lamp, are my go-to options because they last longer and burn hotter. They may be a bit pricier, but consider them a worthwhile investment for your skink’s comfort.

What if your basking spot becomes a little too much like a desert at noon? Simple, use a plug-in lamp dimmer to dial down the heat. Also, if the basking area’s surface temperature isn’t quite warm enough, try lifting it closer to the heat bulb, or switch to a 90w halogen floodlight. These little tweaks can make a world of difference!

Do Blue-Tongued Skinks Need Heat At Night?

When the sun sets and night descends, your skink doesn’t need much heating or lighting. A cool, dark night gives them a break from the heat of the day, a little like their natural habitats. However, if your enclosure drops too cool, use a non-light emitting heat source, like a ceramic heat emitter or radiant heat panel, to maintain an appropriate air temperature. Remember, the goal is to recreate their natural environment as closely as we can.

What Are The Ideal Temperature Ranges In A Blue Tongue Skink Tank?

The ideal temperature that you must maintain for your reptile inside the enclosure changes day and night. You need to maintain a temperature gradient in the tank, where one side of the tank should be warm, and the other end should be a bit cooler to cool down the reptile whenever required. Further, the temperature details necessary for the bluey are mentioned below.

  1. The temperature of the bluey’s hot spot to enjoy basking must be 35-40°C. During the daytime, the temperature inside the tank must be no lower than 29.5°C and should be in the temperature range of 29.5-35°C. 
  2. There should be a cool side of the tank where the bluey can cool down and take a break from overheating. The temperature on the cool side should be between 21.1-26.6°C. 
  3. At night, the temperature should be no less than 18°C, and the temperature should be between 21-24°C. 
  4. The substrate temperature should be 35°C during the daytime and 29.5°C in the cool spot.

In addition to this, adding a mini heating bulb to maintain a suitable temperature at night time for your reptile pet is suggested. 

Bluetongue skink – how many hours of light vs. night (photoperiod)?

Photoperiod is the time for which you should keep the lights on in your pet blue-tongue skink’s tank. The ideal photoperiod for your bluey is 11-12 hours which imitates the daytime, and 12-13 hours of no lights to imitate darkness and night. The daytime can be reduced in winters to 10 hours. 

The schedule of turning lights on and off is something like 12 pm-12 am on and 12 am-12 pm off. The schedule can be changed depending on the needs of the skink.

How to regulate and automate lighting and heating in a blue tongue skink tank?

Changing the tank’s temperature and maintaining a stable temperature can sometimes get challenging as per the above-mentioned schedule. For this reason, it is suggested to use a temperature regulating automatic system, which can turn the heat and light on and off according to the requirements of the day. 

The temperature and lighting can be automated in the tank with the help of a thermostat and power center/timer. With a power center/timer, you can set the schedule, and the lights turn on and off automatically according to the requirement and set schedule. Similarly, you can change the temperature of heating devices remotely to prevent the tank from overheating with a thermostat. 

A good recommendation power center/ timer is the Zilla 24/7 Digital timer, which gives you an accurate temperature reading and turns the heating device on and off according to the set schedule. Alongside the timer, you need to get an excellent thermostat to control the temperature and prevent the tank from overheating. A good recommendation for a thermostat that you can use is BN-LINK Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller. You can turn the heating devices off when the thermostat probe detects a higher temperature inside the tank.

Measuring temperatures in a blue tongue skink tank

Monitoring the temperature inside the tank of the bluey is essential to prevent the skink from cooking alive out of overheating. It can be done by adding temperature measuring devices in the tank that can provide you with the precise temperature of the tank. You need to install two digital thermometers at each end of the tank. One of the thermometers will give a temperature reading at the warm end of the tank, whereas the other will provide the temperature of the cooler end. 

You can also get a handheld digital thermometer to easily measure the temperature of any area of the tank. A recommended option for a temperature gun is Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer, which provides an accurate temperature reading inside the tank. 

Final thoughts

Maintaining temperature, light, and humidity inside the tank of a blue-tongue skink is crucial for the health and well-being of the reptile. Since the skink is a cold-blooded reptile, it relies on external warmth to be active and stimulate its body function. In addition to heat, you must provide an efficient supply of UVB light to fulfill the need for vitamin D3 and calcium in the skink’s body.

You must maintain a temperature gradient in the tank that allows the skink to switch between warming up and cooling down as per the requirements. Along with the temperature, light, and heat, maintaining the humidity in the tank is also essential and differs for different species. 

Finally, having a pet reptile at home is no different than bringing up a kid; therefore, be patient with the process as only patience would land you to the suitable parameters of the skink’s tank for its health and well-being.

Filled under: Lizards

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