Richardson, Texas, United States
Posted Feb 28, 2017
My review can be applied to most blue tongues in general, but I will be specifically talking about the Irian Jaya Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua sp.). I am by no means an expert, but I have kept several of this species for some years, so I do have a bit of experience with them. I currently own four IJs (Irian Jayas) and will hopefully have babies that I produced in a month or two.
The Irian Jaya Blue-Tongued Skink (Tiliqua sp.) does not currently have a species designation (I had to put this review under Tiliqua scincoides since there was no option for the Irian Jaya). They originate from the Irian Jaya province of Indonesia and come in a wide variety of patterns and colours.
Appearance: Irian Jayas are arguably one of the most variable blue tongue (at least outside of Australia) in terms of colour and pattern. Some are darker with browns and blacks, some have pinks and yellows, some are very orange; there is a huge amount of combinations. Pattern-wise, some IJs will look more like "gigas" (Indonesian blue tongues), and some will look more "scincoides" (such as Tanimbars, Northerns, and Eastern blue tongues).
Handling/Temperament: In general, blue tongues tame down fairly well. Out of my four IJs, one of them is very interactive and "social", one is less interactive but still curious and explorative, one tries to avoid humans but will investigate what someone is doing occasionally, and one is terrified of people. From my experiences and what I've seen with other people, IJs, and blue tongues in general, typically are very curious and will investigate what you are doing, but the levels of interactivity will depend on the individual. Your best bet on getting a blue tongue that is more likely to be friendly toward people is to buy captive bred from a reputable breeder. Most IJs in the pet trade will be wild caught or captive born (pregnant female was imported and gave birth in captivity). However, the amount of people breeding IJs is increasing. If you are outside of Australia, Northern blue tongues (Tiliqua scincoides intermedia) should always be captive bred since Australia does not allow export of their reptiles. When it comes to handling, some blue tongues will sit still, and some will always want to move.
Visibility/activity level: This can depend on the individual to some extent. Many blue tongues like to bury themselves in substrate and sometimes won't come out for a day or two. Some will cruise around their enclosure fairly often, whereas others are lazy lumps.
Habitat: The set up for these guys is simple. The standard for blue tongues may vary between continents/countries, so this is what is considered standard for the American blue tongue community. An enclosure with a floor space of at least 36"x18" (or a 40 gallon breeder tank) is considered the minimum size for one blue tongue. Methods of housing can be tanks (though they work better for species that don't require high humidity), sealed wood enclosures, pvc enclosures, and converted tubs.
Several inches of substrate is recommended to allow them to bury themselves if desired. For IJs, they require about 60-70% humidity for good health. Substrates such as cypress mulch, coco fibre, peat moss, sphagnum moss, and soil (without additive/chemicals) are good choices. Avoid substrates like care fresh, newspaper, and aspen for species that require high humidity. If using a tank with a screen top, it is good to cover it with something like plexiglass or foil; this way, the humidity won't escape very quickly. Provide a large waterbowl that they can soak in if needed and a hide on the cool end and warm end of the enclosure.
Different methods of heating can be used: undertank heating (with thermostat) using heat tape or an Under Tank Heater (UTH) or overhead heating using a heat bulb, Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE), or a Radiant Heat Panel (RHP). Basking surface temperatures (measured using a temperature gun or probe) around 95-100 are typical. A topic of controversy is the use or lack of UV lighting. Breeders in the US that have been keeping and breeding for decades have had hundreds of healthy skinks that were not provided with UVB light. Of course, this does not mean that UVB light isn't beneficial. This is a topic I would suggested researching and talking with a variety of experienced keepers and breeders about so that you can make an informed decision on how to keep your blue tongue. If you decide to go without UVB, supplementing their food with calcium WITH D3 is advised.
Cleaning is fairly simple as well. Spot clean for feces whenever found. Do a full substrate change every once in a while.
Feeding: This is another issue of controversy. Most breeders and keepers, at least in the US and Australia, feed high-quality, grain-free wet dog food (babies and juveniles are typically fed non-fish cat food). It may seem strange, but it has been used for decades with success. Some people mix in or rotate out dog food for other foods for a balanced diet. However, if you use a homemade diet, research is very important. I and others have seen many unhealthy blue tongues with MBD (metabolic bone disease) that were provided with UVB and homemade diets, yet there are thousands of healthy blue tongues being fed mainly dog food without UVB lighting. This, like the UVB controversy, is something that you should research yourself and talk with many experienced keepers about to make an informed decision. Since blue tongues are omnivores, they can eat a wide variety of foods. Some foods that I have offered are dubia roaches, hornworms, crickets, eggs, mealworms, superworms, chicken, shrimp, isopods, pinkie mice, chicks, green beans, carrots, butternut squash, celery, collared greens, cactus, bell pepper, Pangea crested gecko diet, banana, raspberries, grapes, apple, blackberries, and blueberries. There is also a new pre-made diet from Repashy called Bluey Buffet which seems to be working well for many people. I would also recommend supplementing food with calcium with D3 if not using a UVB light. Adults only need to be fed about once a week, and babies and juveniles are fed more frequently.
Health: Blue tongues are genrally extremely hardy reptiles. Some species/subspecies are more forgiving of husbandry errors than others; luckily, Irian Jayas are pretty forgiving. Since most IJs are either wild caught or captive born, internal parasites are one thing you need to watch out for. Getting a fecal exam done by a vet will help you determine if your bluey has parasites and can receive treatment if needed. Blue tongues that are imported can sometimes have mites. Mites are a pain to treat (as are internal parasites), so quarantining your new animal is essential. The main health issue I've seen that stems from husbandry is due to improper humidity. Low humidity for IJs can cause eye and respiratory issues as well as bad sheds which can lead constriction of the toes.
With thorough research, these skinks are very easy to care for and make wonderful pets that can easily live over 20 years old.
For further reading, I'd recommend a Facebook group called "Blue Tongue Skink Keepers"
If you like videos, I would highly recommend this Youtube channel for care (ReptileMountain.TV): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyaNLKT4ySg50Qc6tSzVLLg
And one more, a great forum with years of info to look through: http://www.bluetongueskinks.net/