Bluetongue Skinks

(note: these are photos of our breeders and are not for sale)

 

Northerns  (Tiliqua  scincoides intermedia)

"Portals" (unsexed)   "GlowWorm"  (unsexed)

"Halloween" (unsexed)   "Stepping Stones"  (unsexed)

 

Merauke (Tiliqua gigas evanescens) & Kei Island (Tiliqua gigas keyensis)

Silver Morph of Merauke   "Stairs"  (male Kei)

 

Irian Jayas (Tiliqua sp)

(we are not currently breeding IJ's but occasionally have some available)

Thin Banded Irian Jaya Wide Banded Irian Jaya

 

Bluetongue Skinks are well know in the pet trade. There are numerous species and subspecies (several not fully studied as to their species status) inhabiting Australia, Irian Jaya and the surrounding Indonesian Islands. While Australia closed export of all wildlife many decades ago, Irian Jaya and the various Indonesian islands have remained sporadically open. Each island seems to have an isolated and thus slightly different subpopulation of  Bluetongues, allowing for a subtle but interesting diversity of patterns and colors. Importation from any one island seems to be very limited, allowing a moderate group to be initially imported then maybe never seen again in the pet trade unless someone sets aside a group for a captive breeding project.

Many Bluetongue species tame well and are well adapted to live in captivity. They do fine in relatively small cages relative to their size, are large enough to be impressive (most average around 19" as adults) but not so large as to need overly large housing. Their care needs are amazingly simple and easy to meet. Add to that a long lifespan (with 15 to 20 years not being uncommon) and a personality that takes well to gentle handling and you have the makings of a great companion lizard. 

General Care:  Bluetongues do well with people but normally do not play well with others of their own kind. So we strongly recommend housing each individual in it's own private tank. They seem comfortable in moderate sized housing with a 4' x 18" x 18" tall "Critter Keeper" style tank working well for most individuals. They are not jumpers and are poor climbers, so shoot for ample floor space rather than height. They prefer moderate cage temperatures (mid to upper 80's throughout most of the tank floor with a hotter basking area in the mid to upper 90's), with night time lows in the mid 70'sF.  Some species experience hotter temperatures in the wild but we've found they do much better if you avoid those in captivity - at least in indoor settings. If you wish them just for pets, they do best with a 12 hour on, 12 hour off daylight cycle.  If you wish to breed them they will need an annual 2 month cool down period and shorter days, but this is not essential to their wellbeing and is not something the typical pet keeper needs to worry about.

Northern bluetongues do best in relatively low humidity environments, preferring a basically dry cage with only the water bowl as a source of humidity.  Higher humidity is not a problem for them but they do not do well in damp cages. Keep all the bedding dry. Most the Island species need a little more moderate humidity to do well - especially the babies and juveniles. For them still keep a generally dry cage but lightly mist the bedding once a week. You should also keep one corner of their habitat very slightly damp even between misting's. All the bluetongues need daily access to a large shallow water bowl in which to soak and drink.  Failure to supply this can lead to shed skin failing to come off the toes, eventually pinching off the blood supply and resulting in the loss of the toe(s) involved.  This is rare in Northern's but more common in the Island species. If you see your bluey is starting to shed off loose skin, you can always take him/her out to soak in a large tub of shallow warm water for 15 minutes or so. Their shedding skin seems to almost dissolve in warm water and the whole shed breaks apart into individual scales.  Juvies can shed fairly often, adults only a few times a year.  

We cover the floor of their habitats with either chunky Core' (coconut husk fiber) for the island species (it's more absorbent and great at keeping a tank more humid but still not soggy) or aspen shavings for the Northerns. We place a low shelter off to one side of the pen for a sleeping hide but otherwise keep the cages clear of ornamentation. Bluetongues are omnivores and do well on a variety of diets. While they will take mice and insects, we follow the practice of most breeders and rear ours on a base diet of a vegetable rich canned dog food (Purina ONE Tender Cuts Chicken and Rice; and Pedigree Chucky Style Chicken or Beef) and add a light dusting of Repashy Calcium Plus Hy-D mineral supplement to each meal. To that we add the occasional insect, slugs/snails, and soft fruit/veggies (grated squash, peas, carrots, etc.).  Babies really want the protein but the adults have a more varied food interest. The goal is to offer a high protein, low fat diet and offer a variety. We offer food to babies and juvies once every 3 days and allow them to eat as much as they wish in one sitting.  Adults get offered food once or at most twice a week.  If you keep their heat lamps on timers, you can see how these guys really need minimal attention to be healthy and happy.  

 

Our Breeders

We began our efforts with Bluetongues with a select group of newborn Northerns in the mid 2000's. We succeeded in producing a few Northern Bluetongues from this group in 2008 and '09, but various issues prompted us to let that project go and see what we could do with some of the Island species. We have since played around with many of the Island subspecies, from the those on the big island, Papua New Guinea/Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya's and Meraukes), to the next biggest island, Halmahera's, to the far island (Kei) as well as the lumped group know simply as "Indonesians" found on the islands in-between. While most are interesting in their own unique ways, they also tend to be problematic in their own ways as well. While we have decided to continue working with a couple of these, we also decided we missed the Northerns and vowed to try to find some of the rarer high contrast Northerns that got us interested in bluetongue skinks to begin with.

To that end, we have been slowly picking up exceptional Northern babies as we find them. Some of the best can be seen above, and with a little luck, we hope to be producing our own exceptional babies in the next few years. We greatly prefer the high contrast morphs, with deep jet black side bars and rich deep orange portals and gold and black backs. They tend to be few and far between. Now if they will only turn out to be in a good sex ratio!!  Likewise high blacks have turned up in Australian collections and we are hoping to steer a few of our breeders into that direction (solid black but hopefully keeping the orange portals).

Northerns' are the easiest to care for of the Bluetongues, are arguably the hardiest (although most are very good), and are the most voracious eaters. The babies are like little piranha. They see the food coming and go nuts to get to it! You have to watch your fingers at feeding time! They are a little hissy as babies but tame very well and make excellent pets

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The main island Bluetongues (Merauke and Irian Jaya's) are currently the most common in the pet trade due to their still being imported in small to moderate numbers. We've had some great males over the years however obtaining what we felt were exceptional females proved to be problematic. That and the females painfully short receptive period each spring lead me to relegate that project to mostly finding specimens for others rather than trying to set up an inhouse breeding program.   So we still periodically pick up a few Meraukies and IJ's to play with.  If obtained while relatively young, Irian Jayas and especially the Meraukes make excellent pets. They are both more laid back than the Northerns as babies. We often have to take the babies to the food dish to get them started eating each meal. The adults however finish out almost identical to Northerns in temperament. Wild collected adult Irian Jayas can be a handful and may or may not tame down to be pleasant pets. Meraukes almost always tame well but are generally a little harder to come by.

Halmaheras are the main outer island species commonly imported, most as ranched babies, less often as field collected adults. While an attractive species, we've found them to be the most problematic of the blue tongues to keep healthy long term in captivity.  They come from one of the rainiest islands in the chain and thus seem much more prone to shedding issues and skin problems in captivity. Their temperament is also a little more hit or miss, some being easy going but many being somewhat aggressive. We worked with a few for a few years but decided they were not one we wished to breed. While still readily available  elsewhere, we have chosen to no longer offer them.

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The Kei Island's are a unique BT in that they have a shiny, glassy, almost mirror like cast to their scales. The bold banded pattern found in many new borns usually fades as they mature, but the glass finish remains. No other BT looks like a Kei. We started out with 3 juveniles born of an imported gravid female. Unfortunately all three eventually proved to be males (story of my life with blue tongues!!!).  So we kept the best one and are now rearing some imported adolescents in hopes of getting some females. We're hoping to select for clearer adult patterns while keeping the glossy scales. Another long term project but they are a very interesting subspecies.

 

 We're still looking for more breeding stock and sometimes buy clutches, of which we'll sell the extras.  Let us know if you're looking for some and we'll see if we can help you. The going rate is around $175 each plus shipping for the island races and  $225 and up for Northerns, $245 and up for Kei's, but that can vary greatly.  Please let us know if you’re interested in any and if we’re sold out, we’ll put you on our waiting list. We keep a "Wanted" list and fill it as specimens become available so please e-mail or call us (360 435-2679) if you're looking to add a Bluetongue skink to your family.  

We are avid supporters of captive breeding  and are always looking to support fellow breeders by purchasing healthy captively produced clutches of the reptiles we work with.  Please let us know if you have an interest in wholesaling your clutches.  We hold all purchased specimens until well acclimated so we can verify their condition and to let them settle in before being offered to the public. So you can rest assured your hatchlings will be well cared for.  We occasionally buy exceptional adults as well.  E-mail us photos  if you wish us to consider your specimens.

   
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