Blue-Tongue Skinks Heating and Lighting Requirements

To set up the perfect enclosure for a blue-tongue skink, knowing the bluey’s right temperature and lighting requirements are crucial before bringing one home. For this reason, a topic widely researched by reptile pet enthusiasts is the blue-tongue skink’s heating and lighting requirements. These cold-blooded blue-tongued lizards have their origin from Australia’s hot and humid lands and need a temperature around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you are a reptile pet lover and want to know your bluey’s exact temperature and lighting requirements, this is the right spot. We’ll take you through the skinks’ complete heating and lighting requirements.

Why are lighting and heating important in a blue tongue skink’s tank?

The blue-tongue skinks rely on external heating sources to warm up and regulate body function as cold-blooded reptiles. Without appropriate warmth, the skinks can get lethargic and face digestion issues. 

In addition to this, UVB lighting has vitamin D3, which is crucial for calcium absorption in the skink’s body, or it’ll go through Metabolic Bones Disease, which is caused by deficiency of calcium in the skinks and may worsen with time. 

Blue-tongue skink lighting and heating requirements

The blue-tongue skink needs external heat and warmth to regulate body functions, and for this reason, a temperature gradient must be maintained within the enclosure to fulfill the needs of this reptile. Overall you need to maintain a suitable temperature gradient during the daytime, as mentioned. 

1. The basking surface of the blue-tongue skink must be 100-105°F (37-40°C), which is slightly different for Tiliqua scincoides; 105-115°F.

2. The basking air temperature for the blue-tongue skink is 30-35°C (85-95°F)

3. Cooling temperature for the bluey is 21-27°C.

4. At nighttime, the tank’s temperature should be no less than 18°C.

To achieve these temperatures inside the tank, you must use high-wattage UVB bulbs. You need heating and lighting bulbs for the daytime and one bulb for heating and lighting at night time. 

Blue Tongue skink UVB lighting

The blue-tongue skinks are cold-blooded reptiles who love to bask under the sun to get sufficient warmth and vitamin D3. This vitamin is crucial for calcium absorption in the skink’s body, or it’ll go through the Metabolic Bones Disease, which makes the bones of the bluey weaker and fragile. The intensity of the UVB bulb that you’re installing in the tank must be around 10-12% to provide the required amount of warmth and Vitamin D3. 

In addition to this, prefer using a tube light over a bulb, as the tube’s light will spread evenly in the whole tank and run up to 50-70% of the entire tank. Some best options of UVB lights that you can get for your bluey are mentioned below:

1. High output HO T5 ReptiSun UVB tube.

2. T5 10.0 UVB light.

3. T8 UVB light with a reflector

4. Arcadia 10.0-12.0 UVB tube.

5. For heating, you can install Mercury Vapor Lamps, which also produce UVB light.

The UVB light must be turned on in the tank for at least 12-18 hours to give the effect of the day. 

Bad UVB light choices:

Just like the best, there are certain UVB light choices that you must avoid while searching for the best one. Do not use Compact and coiled UVB bulbs as they’ll fail to spread the UVB light evenly in the tank. In addition, do not use full-spectrum lights, as they are not intended for reptiles.

Installing UVB tube light in a blue tongue’s tank

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. 

Type of bulbDistance from the skink
T5 10.0-12.0 Tube Light without reflector in the hood12-14 inches 
T5 10.0-12.0 Tube Light with reflector in the hood15-17 inches
T5 10.0-12.0 with a hood containing a reflector, attached to the screen cover9-10 inches
T8 light with a reflector, inside the tank6-8 inches

Blue-tongue skink heating and 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. Following is a detail of heating and lighting that you must maintain for the captive reptile. 

Light bulbs for blue tongue skink tank

For blueys, you need to have lights turned on for 8-12 hours of the day, whereas at night, the lights must be turned off, and the heating lamps must be slowed down so as not to disturb the skink’s sleep cycle. Finding the best lighting and heating options for your reptile’s tank can be challenging at times; here, we have listed some of the most recommended lights that you can install in your reptile’s tank.

Best light bulbs to use during the day for blue-tongue skink are:

1. Halogen floodlights

2. Household bulbs

3. Reptile basking bulbs

4. Incandescent or white light bulbs.

You must turn on white lights during the daytime to stimulate the appetite of the skink and improve its digestion and overall health. However, at night, the white light must be turned off to avoid disturbing the sleep cycle of the skink. 

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. 

Housing light bulbs in a blue tongue skink tank

Now that you know about the ideal temperature that must be maintained inside the tank, the next thing you need to do is house the bulb in fixtures. You need to get dome fixtures like Exo Terra Mirror Dome Light to fix your bulb in the bluey’s tank. These fixtures will help install the bulbs safely in the tank with fewer chances of the bulb breaking or collapsing. 

You can install more than one bulb in the fixture, but be sure not to exceed the allowed wattage limit. You can get a dual dome fixture to add two bulbs if you want two bulbs in the tank. 

The bulbs can also be attached to a lamp fixture to place it closer to the skink. Zoo Med Reptile Lamp Stand is an excellent option to choose if you want to put the bulb closer to the ground and skink. The distance of the bulb from the skink varies greatly depending on the size of the tank, type, and wattage of the bulb. 

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. 

Replacing lights in a blue tongue skink’s tank

It’s essential to replace the lights inside the tank after some time, as the lights stop emitting the UVB rays after that. The time after which you must change the UVB lights in the tank is every 5-12 months for bigger bulbs, whereas you need to replace the smaller ones after 5-6 months. It’ll ensure a stable supply of UVB light to meet the requirements of the skink. Otherwise, the skink will have a deficiency of Vitamin D3 and Calcium leading to metabolic bone disease.

Enclosure: Temperatures & Humidity

Similar to the temperature, the tank’s humidity must be maintained for the blue-tongue skink as per the requirement of the species that you have. Keeping humidity levels inside the tank will help the skin shed skin easily. Some species may require higher humidity levels than others, so research well about the species you’re bringing home. Below is a list of different species and subspecies of the blue-tongue skink, along with their humidity requirement. 

Skink typeHumidity Requirement
T. gigas evanescens (Merauke)60-80%
T. gigas gigas (Classic Indonesian)60-80%
T. gigas gigas (Halmahera)70-100%
T. gigas keyensis (Kei Island)60-80%
T. nigrolutea (Blotched)40-50%
T. multifasciata (Centralian)20-40%
T. occipitalis (Western)20-40%
T. scincoides chimaera (Tanimbar)60-80%
T. scincoides intermedia (Northern)40-60%
T. scincoides scincoides (Eastern)40-60%
T. rugosa (Shingleback)20-40%
T. sp. (Irian Jaya)60-80%

For tracking the humidity level inside the tank, you must install a hygrometer at both ends of the tank. A recommended digital hygrometer by pet owners is Zoo Med’s Digital Thermometer and Humidity Gauge Combo. You can check the humidity and temperature inside the tank by putting the probe of the hygrometer in the targeted area for knowing the exact measurement. One way of checking whether the humidity level maintained is suitable for your reptile pet or not is to check its belly scales. If the scales are rough and hard, it means the humidity level is below the requirement of the skink. In a well-maintained humid environment, the skink’s skin will be silky smooth and easy to shed.

Tricks for maintaining humidity

Maintaining the proper humidity levels inside the tank can get tricky and challenging at times. Here are some tips and tricks to help you maintain the appropriate humidity inside the enclosure to keep your reptile skink healthy and happy.

Use a thick layer of substrate: 

Substrates lend a significant hand in maintaining the proper humidity level inside the tank. Adding a thick layer of substrate up to 4 inches will help hold more moisture and consequently produce better humidity in the tank. Another trick is to dampen the substrate with water before adding it to the cage. It’ll also bring a drastic change in the tank’s humidity.

Daily misting:

Having a misting system to mist the tank of your bluey regularly will help maintain the proper humidity level inside the tank. You can mist the tank with a traditional spray bottle or with another misting system such as Exo Terra Mister to make misting easier and fun.

Install a humid hideout 

Installing a humid hideout in the tank, where your skink can go to get the right humidity, is also beneficial. This hideout can be installed in the middle of the tank at the junction of the warm and cool ends. You can humid the hideout by coating it with Sphagnum moss that absorbs moisture and retains humidity.

If you have a Halmahera

This subspecies of the blue-tongue skink requires high humidity levels to sustain in captivity, for which you can get a humidifier such as Evergreen Reptile Fogger. However, if you want to save your time and energy, it’s recommended to go for an automatic misting system such as MistKing Starter System. If you don’t know how to use a fogging system, here are three basic rules to help you use the fogger successfully.

1. Clean the entire unit at least 1x/week:

Cleaning the entire unit and disinfecting it will prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.

2. Do not run the fogger while the heat lamp is on:

Using the fogger while the heat lamp is turned on will give way to bacterial and fungal growth in the tank, which can cause infection and other ailments in your reptile pet. It’s recommended to use the fogger at night to prevent unnecessary bacterial growth.

3. Always use distilled water:

Prefer distilled water to tap water; to prevent the harmful bacteria from reaching and growing 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.

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com, a site that is devoted to reptiles and the people who love them. I have been keeping and breeding many pet reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, etc. for over 10 years now.

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