Food

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Blue tongue skinks are omnivorous, meaning that they need to eat both plant and animal matter to get the right nutrition. In this section we’ll discuss options for protein, vegetables, and fruit that are safe to feed your pet.


Just like humans, skinks’ nutritional needs change as they grow. And since they’re omnivorous, the key to success with skinks is feeding them as large a variety of foods as possible. But here’s a general guideline, with 1-2 Tbsp. as a serving size (about the same size as their head).

  • Feed babies (up to 3 months) daily.
  • Feed juveniles (3-8 months) 3 times weekly.
  • Feed adults (8+ months) 1-2 times weekly.*

*Adult shingleback skinks should be fed 2x/week due to a low protein diet.

Protein

Young skinks (under 2 years) need 70-80% of their diet as protein. Adults should get roughly 50-60%. When young BTS don’t get enough protein in their diet, their scales can become deformed — known as “pyramiding.” When adults get too much protein, they can become overweight and their kidneys can even start to shut down (although the latter is only in extreme cases, and obesity is much more common).

  • NOTE: Shingleback skinks (T. rugosa) are more herbivorous than other species of blue tongue skink! Although in the wild they occasionally scavenge and eat insects, the vast majority of their diet is flowers and leafy greens. An adult shingleback’s diet should be only 20-30% protein.

Insects:

Insects can be fed live or from a can, but letting a skink hunt is good for exercise and mental stimulation (enrichment).

Note: All feeder insects should be gutloaded for at least 24 hours before feeding. Ideally, they should come pre-gutloaded from the breeder. If they weren’t, or you buy your feeder insects in bulk, the easiest way to keep them fed and gut-loaded is with a rotation of Lugarti Dubia Diet and Repashy Grassland Grazer. Note that if you give your insects a dry gutload, they will need a source of water. Gel water crystals work perfectly for this purpose.

Meat:

  • Eggs (raw, boiled, or scrambled)
  • Ground turkey, chicken, duck, rabbit, lean beef, venison, lamb, etc.
  • Organ meats: heart, liver, gizzard, etc.
  • Live or frozen/thawed pinky rats and fuzzy mice (treat only)
  • Whole fish, small or in bite-size chunks (treat only) 

Frozen whole prey items must be prepared correctly before feeding. Thaw it out in the fridge the night before feeding day, then about 15-30 minutes before feeding, stick the prey in a BPA-free plastic bag like a Ziploc and submerge in warm, almost hot, water. The body temperature of a mouse is similar to a human’s, so you’ll want the prey to be about 98-100°F before offering it to your skink. You can check the temperature with your temp gun.

Vegetables

Vegetables should comprise 20-30% of a young skink’s diet, and 40-50% for adults. Adult shingleback skinks should have a diet of 70-80% plant matter, or 3 out of 4 meals.

  • Squash, bell pepper, parsnip, carrot
  • Greens: Turnip greens, collard greens, dandelion greens, grape leaves, mulberry leaves, cilantro, mustard greens, carrot greens, escarole
  • Flowers: Dandelion, rose, hibiscus
  • Do not feed: Avocado, onion, eggplant, buttercup flowers, azalea flowers/leaves, daffodil flowers, lily of the valley, marijuana or hemp leaves, tulips

Bookmark Beautiful Dragons’ Nutrition chart for reference next time you’re at the grocery store.

Fruits

Fruits should comprise no more than 10% of a skink’s diet.

  • Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Peaches, cherries, pears, apples, bananas, nectarines
  • Do not feed: Citrus, rhubarb, seeds, pits

Information about other fruits can be found in the abovementioned nutrition chart.

Prepared Diets

Canned Cat/Dog Food

Most blue tongue skink keepers swear by cat and dog food, and many skinks enjoy eating it. It makes a good diet when mixed with vegetables. Make sure to use canned food rather than kibble, and avoid formulas containing grain, artificial colors/flavors, or fish.

Cat food is best for juvenile skinks because of its high protein content, but when your skink reaches ~1 year old, it’s time to switch to dog food. Dog food contains more vegetables and is less likely to cause obesity. Personally, I still find the protein/vegetable ratio in dog food to be a little too high for my taste, so I add mix-ins of fresh vegetables, fruits, Repashy powders, etc. This provides a variety of flavor and nutrition for my skinks, while still adhering to the right nutrient ratios.

If you’ve never made skink chow before, I recommend using Arctic Exotics’ recipe. She’s been keeping and breeding skinks for 6 years on it with great success.

Recommended dog and cat food brands include:

  • Carnivora*
  • Primal*
  • Raw Bistro*
  • TruDog*
  • Castor & Pollux
  • Darwin’s
  • Halo (avoid their vegan formula)
  • Zignature
  • Whole Earth Farms
  • Evolution Naturally
  • Nature’s Variety
  • Instinct
  • Merrick
  • Wellness CORE

The key is to choose a food that has a (relatively) short ingredient list, animal meal/byproduct and is GRAIN FREE. Ideally the food should contain as much of the whole animal as possible (meat, bones, and organs), which is why I love raw dog food diets. If you have a question about the safety of a certain brand/formula, check these sources:

  • If you are in the US, a full list of recommended raw dog food brands can be found on this page of Dog Food Advisor.
  • If you are in Canada, a full list of recommended raw dog food brands available in your area can be found here at PrimalPooch.com. You can also see a list of brands approved by the Pet Food Association of Canada here.

Not sold on dog food? I wasn’t either, at first. In fact, I used to have a recipe posted on here for homemade blue tongue skink chow because I believed dog food was inferior. However, listen to Reptile Mountain explain how it works:

Reptile Formulas

If you’re looking for a more reptile-specific prepared food, Repashy’s Grub Pie, Meat Pie, Veggie Burger, and fruit powders make great mix-ins to add to dog food for variety. They even have a blue tongue skink-specific formula: Bluey Buffet.

Arcadia’s Omni Gold blue tongue skink diet is also really good if you can get your hands on it, and Herpavet Lizard Food by Vetafarm is popular in Australia.

Reptilinks offers a 50/50 Omnivore Blend made with whole rabbit, green beans, collard greens, dandelion greens, and endive. Because they’re made with whole rabbit rather than just the muscle meat, this is an especially valuable addition to your skink’s diet.

Note: Powdered and ready-made reptile diets already have the correct calcium to phosphorous ratio, meaning that you do not have to add calcium powder to these formulas. Most also contain vitamin D3, but it’s worth checking the ingredients label just in case.

Supplements

Keep your skink’s bones nice and strong with a pinch of calcium powder: 1x/week for adults, 2x/week for anything younger. If you’re not using UVB lighting, be sure to use a supplement that includes particularly high quantities of vitamin D3. 

Best calcium for blue tongue skinks with UVB:

Best calcium for BTS without UVB:

Best multivitamins for blue tongue skinks:

Use each supplement as directed by the label, but keep in mind that dog food, cat food, and other prepared diets are already fortified with vitamins and do not need the addition of a multivitamin. Adding multivitamin to a prepared diet can potentially cause vitamin overdose!

Bee pollen powder or granules (I use the Stakich brand) are also a beneficial addition to your skink’s diet, especially for shingleback skinks. Use no more than a pinch every other meal.

Water

The best water to use for your blue tongue skink is tap water (assuming that the water in your area is safe for humans). Not distilled, softened, or even filtered. Here’s why.

A large water bowl no more than 3” deep should be provided — 9″ x 13″ baking dishes work great. Aside from being a source of hydration, this also helps maintain humidity and provides a place to soak while in shed.

Water should be changed every 2-3 days, or whenever it gets dirty. And since skinks have the endearing habit of also using their water bowl as a toilet, be sure to disinfect it weekly with a solution of hot water and bleach or vinegar. Rinse thoroughly.

Do not use Reptisafe or other “water conditioners” that claim to remove chlorine from your pet’s drinking water. The tiny amount of chlorine in your tap water is negligible, and the conditioner is arguably more dangerous to your reptile’s health.

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Keep reading:

  1. Introduction to Blue Tongue Skinks
  2. Shopping List
  3. Tiliqua Species & Subspecies
  4. Terrarium: Size Requirements
  5. Terrarium: Temperatures & Humidity
  6. Terrarium: Substrate
  7. Terrarium: Decorating
  8. Feeding Your Skink
  9. Handling Tips
  10. Diseases & General Health Information
  11. Additional Resource