Blue-Tongue Skinks are in my opinion the absolute best pet lizards for beginners. Here are 11 helpful tips when buying one.
However, a lot of people make some rather HUGE mistakes both before, during and after purchasing them.
Here are 11 tips, or things you’ve really got to know, when buying a bluey.
Only Use a Reputable Breeder
The best way to cause yourself untold misery, frustration and confusion with your skink is to just go out and purchase the first bluey you see. Or, from your local pet store.
One of the easiest ways to save yourself tons of hair-pulling is to simply buy your skink from a reputable breeder.
What is a reputable breeder?
It’s someone who has been in the BTS community for a long-time, can be vouched for by others in the community, who knows his or her stuff and most importantly, has an excellent track record.
There are 2 online, well-respected places to get into contact with a reputable breeder near you:
I would also recommend contacting one of the breeders from Captive Bred Excellence. They are also an excellent source to buy good, healthy captive-bred born blueys.
Know What Species You Want BEFORE Buying
Oh boy is this a big one.
Before you even put on your shoes, or hit “confirm” to pay for an online-bought blue-tongue, you need to know EXACTLY what species you want.
There are quite a few reasons for this:
- different species have different overall temperaments (Australian are generally more “chill”)
- different species are priced differently (Shinglebacks for instance are more expensive)
- different species have different temperature and humidity requirements
- different species have different substrate requirements
If you want a captive-bred and born Australian Northern, but purchase a wild Indonesian, you are going to have quite a difficult time adjusting to what you thought you were getting and expecting.
The more you know going into buying your first bluey, the more prepared you will be.
You wouldn’t want to buy a brand Apple Macbook Pro, and then get online and buy an HP desktop because it caught your eye and you were lured by the fancy marketing, would you?
You would almost certainly regret it.
Know what you want to buy, and be certain.
Only Buy Captive Born-Bred
This is right up there with “only buying from a reputable breeder” as one of the absolute best tips I can give you.
You only want to buy a captive-born and bred bluey.
What does this mean?
It means that a baby blue-tongue skink’s parents were born and raised in captivity, and gave birth in captivity. Captivity is all the skink has ever known.
There is quite a big difference in temperament and behavior between captive-born and bred blueys and wild-caught blue-tongues.
Basically, wild-born and/or caught are more liable to be:
- skittish and “on edge” often
- not as receptive to human contact and interaction
Captive-born and breds are basically the total reverse; less aggressive, more “relaxed” and more receptive towards humans and human contact.
This is a big reason why you want to avoid your local pet store. They are more likely to have gotten their blue-tongues from a supplier who captures them illegally, or in the wild.
Pet store employees are quite likely to have absolutely no idea where the blue-tongue is from, what its parents’ history is, or even what species it is. They are generally just looking to make a sale.
Check for Signs of Ill Health
Most of the time, if you buy from a reputable breeder, you are unlikely to be sold a blue-tongue that is in poor health. Nevertheless, there are a few things you should always check for before making your first purchase.
The first thing you should do is to physically check as much as you can:
- Does their skin look to be in good condition? No sores, swelling or bad-looking spots?
- Do their eyes and mouth look ok? No swelling or redness in and around the mouth and/or eyes?
- Do they seem lethargic or lackadaisical in your presence?
- Are there any signs of mites or any other disease?
If you are buying online, this obviously isn’t possible, which is why it would be a good idea to ask for as many photos of the animal as possible.
Secondly, you should ask as many questions as possible regarding the particular skink you wish to buy (or the batch that he or she is from):
- When was he/she born?
- Is it a male or female?
- Who are the parents, and what was their temperament like?
- How many were born in the batch? Were they all healthy?
With a reputable breeder, he or she will likely know all the answers to these questions, or be able to answer them as best as possible.
Try Not to Buy Online (if it’s your First)
For most people, this isn’t likely to be very practical, but I would still recommend at least looking around just a tad to see if there are any good breeders physically close to you.
The reason for this is very simple:
- You want to be able to get an up close and personal look at the bluey that you are potentially buying
- You want to be able to inspect and check the conditions of his/her living environment
- You want to be able to see any evidence that they are in good care, by a knowledgeable breeder
A big reason why people like myself and others recommend new blue-tongue skink enthusiasts to only purchase from reputable breeders, is due to innumerable instances of maltreatment, ignorance and outright deception by some pet sellers.
Some pet sellers have no qualms with photoshopping a skink to make it look healthier, or a different color, just to get a sale.
You want to avoid them as much as possible.
This Skink May Live Up to 30 Years, Are You Ready for That?
Ok, so 30 years may be a slight exaggeration BUT, most well-cared for blue-tongues can easily live to at least 20 years. Often more.
Are you prepared for that?
Your blue-tongue is likely to outlive your dog and your cat. In fact, it will probably outlive quite a bit of your relationships (both romantic and friendly) as well!
Purchasing and caring for a bluey isn’t just a temporary thing, or something to do because it’s “fun”. It takes a bit of work, and brings a ridiculous amount of joy in return, but it will also last a while.
Thus, I would recommend that you really think hard and twice before getting your first blue-tongue. Is this an animal that you could care for, for DECADES?
Think about it.
Be Prepared to SPEND (Some) Money
I get that not many people enjoying spending a TON of money on their pets (and neither do I), but it’s something entirely different to not even purchase the bare essentials.
To do this, in my opinion, is quite negligent and selfish on the part of the pet owner.
Now, owning a BTS doesn’t have to EXPENSIVE. It’s definitely not going to break your bank account (well it could, but doesn’t have to).
But, there are definitely some things that you will need to buy. And if not buy, then get a hold of them through hand-me-downs or being lent from a friend until you have the funds yourself.
These are things like:
- a large enough terrarium (this will be the most expensive thing you buy)
- a UV light (generally less than $50)
- a heating light (less than $50)
- a temperature (less than $20)
- food (less than $50 a month)
- substrate (less than $50)
The most expensive thing that you will need to buy is the tank to put your little guy in. Ideally, you should buy the largest tank you can afford. Height is not so much as important as floor space when it comes to tanks.
You definitely don’t want to skimp on the other things as well, as not having a UV light that actually emits UV-B light (which are quite a few models) can lead to potentially harmful health consequences down the road.
Leaving out or getting the wrong substrate can lead to severe mental and physical deficiencies and problems.
As long as you have the basics covered, you won’t need to go overboard to ensure that your bluey will have a long, healthy, fun and rewarding life.
Buy All Necessary Equipment BEFORE Buying
This works in tandem with making sure you are able to at least spend a little money bit of money on the necessities, but basically, you want everything set-up BEFORE your first bluey arrives back home.
Now, there will be adjustments made as you and your bluey learn what works and doesn’t work, but you want to have your terrarium set-up before he or she comes home for the first time.
There’s a few reasons for this:
- you will need a temperature gradient in your terrarium, and it will take a little bit of experimentation to get it up and set
- you’ll need to get the substrate ready, as you the wrong substrate can potentially cause skinks to lose their thin fingers, as well as be a huge stress creator
- you’ll need to figure out the best place to place your terrarium, in what kind of nearby environment, what potential dangers are close by, etc.
If you’ve already got everything up and running before your little guy comes home, he or she will be A LOT more comfortable, and the easing process will likely go A LOT smoother.
Know What & How Often to Feed
Baby blueys and adult blueys have very similar diets, but there is a difference in meal frequency.
Essentially, you want to have a good general idea of what to feed them, why and how often. This will save you a lot of headache and stress when your bluey rejects this or that, or has a bad experience with something that you gave them.
The overall best staple food to give a blue-tongue skink is premium wet dog food.
For baby blue-tongues, it’s advisable to switch this for good wet cat food.
The reason for this is because cat food has a bit more protein, and babies will need that extra protein to ensure good, healthy development.
How much should you feed them?
A good way to estimate is to give them a scoop of wet cat food that is slightly larger than the size of their head.
You can replace the wet cat food for wet dog food after several months.
In addition to wet dog food as their staple, it’s also a good idea to add a bit of variety to their diet. This can be things such as:
- human meats such as chicken and beef
- eggs (raw or cooked)
- bugs and worms (slow-moving or dead is better or else they will NEVER catch them!)
- snails (a favorite of almost every blue-tongue)
- pinkie mice
- chopped up vegetables and fruit (should be rather small and easy to eat), such as squash, bananas, dandelion greens and collards
And in terms of how often to feed them, a good guideline to follow:
- daily for newborns up to a month
- every other day for blue-tongues from 1 to 6 months
- once or twice a week from then on out
This pertains mostly to handling your new bluey.
Basically, you want to be and act confident.
If you are skittish or afraid, or jump when you touch or try to hold your new bluey, your little guy is likely to respond by trying to run away from you, even when you are holding him or her in the air.
If you act confident, your skink is a lot more liable to be relaxed as well.
And since we are on the topic of handling, here a few extra tips:
- don’t grab your bluey with one hand, use two, on either side of it
- make sure all four of his or her legs are supported, this will let her feel safe and secure
- don’t make sudden, rushed movements
Lastly, be patient.
There will times when your bluey will likely test your patience and your temper.
- He or she may take a little longer to get used to your or others’ presence
- He or she may not want to eat what you put give him or her
- He or she may not want to be handled at certain times
- He or she may not attention or to be around others at certain times
Keep in mind that all of these are common among the blue-tongue enthusiast community. There really isn’t anything you are going to experience that someone else hasn’t!
Make sure you have all the basics and necessities covered, be patient and you will be rewarded for years to come, all from the joys of owning what I consider to be the BEST lizard in the world.