Blue Tongue Lizards make excellent pets. They don???t require much maintenance and can live for up to 30 years in captivity. They are very intelligent and can learn to recognise sounds as well as people and can even be house trained with persistent lessons. When handled frequently they become very gentle pets and are quite happy to lounge around with you and your family watching the tele. They are also great with children being very placid and easy to hold onto. They are generally a pretty lazy lizard but they do like to explore so be sure to keep an eye on them while they are out of their enclosure.
The larger the better when it comes to enclosures for blue tongue lizards. Juveniles can be housed in as small as a 1ft enclosure, but a minimum size for an adult is a 3ft tank. Enclosures should typically be longer than they are high as blue tongues aren???t great climbers and cannot utilize tall spaces. The enclosure should be fitted with screen tops or slits to provide airing and also protection from things falling, or climbing, into the tank. Keep in mind that while blue tongues don???t climb very much they can stand on their back legs and pull themselves up and out of a tank if they really want to. Glass is a great choice for the display of adult lizards, allowing for optimum vision and brightness ??? they like to be able to look out at you just as much as you like to be able to watch them.
Lighting & Heating
The key to heating your enclosure is providing a temperature gradient from a hot basking zone, to a cooler area. Basking temps should reach 32??C and the cooler zone should be around 29??C. It is generally good practice to have a thermometer at each end of the tank to monitor these temperatures, however you can also judge if the tank is too cool or too hot by the behaviour of your lizard - i.e. if he is always on the warm side of the tank it may be too cold and vice versa.
Generally, the brighter the light, the better - lizards thrive under a good full spectrum UV source and the colours and health of your lizard depend on good heat, bright light and UV. But make sure that your light isn't making your tank too hot, especially if you have other heat sources in the tank such as heat rocks or heat pads. Your bluey will also benefit from natural sunlight and we recommend bringing your lizard outside in an outdoor basking enclosure. However the more natural sunlight you expose them to, the less supplements you should give, especially vitamin D3. Younger lizards may become stressed when taken outside so hold off on outdoor excursions until your blue tongue is older.
Substrate & D??cor
Newspaper or paper towel should be used for young blue tongues for hygiene reasons. For adult blueys, Herpabed is a suitable substrate - this is a fine bark material that is odour and bacteria controlling. Blue tongues like to dig and hide so be sure to provide them with areas to do so, otherwise they may stress from being so exposed - hiding rocks are ideal. Leave the heated side of their tank unadorned (with the exception of flat basking rocks) so that they can get maximum access to lighting. Decorative rocks and fake plants may also help to liven up the enclosure. Wood pieces also provide your lizard with something to scratch up against, which assists them during their shedding periods. Live plants may also be used ??? you will need to do research into non-toxic options.
Enclosures should be spot cleaned daily with any faecal matter cleaned up or removed. Any uneaten material should be removed each night as this attracts ants to your terrarium and you don???t want your lizard eating food once it has spoilt ??? especially meat products! A complete clean out of the terrarium and replacement of substratum should be done on a monthly basis. Use hot water and an antibacterial soap to wipe down all surfaces and then a water/bleach mix. Be sure that all fumes have left the tank before putting your lizard back in its freshly cleaned tank.
Blue tongues are very greedy eaters, so be sure not to over feed them! They usually prefer meat products, but they are actually omnivorous, meaning they eat meat and plant matter, and their diet should contain about 50% vegetables, 40% meat and 10% fruit. You will find that most blue tongues really love their meat and it can sometimes be difficult to get them to eat their veggies, but it is essential for their health and well being that they do so. The best way to overcome this is to make meat & veggie balls for them so that they have to eat their veggies to get to their meat.
Meats should include:
- Lean chicken, turkey and beef - there is controversy over wether meat should be fed cooked or raw but, while cooked meat is safer, this ultimately comes down to personal choice.
- Snails can also be given as treats - these can be purchased from the pet store when in season
- Mealworms - the heads of the mealworm must be chopped off or you risk the worm surviving after being swallowed and burrowing its way out of your lizard!
- The occasional mouse - these can also be purchased frozen from your pet store. Do not feed live mice as they are very likely to scratch and bite your lizard.
Fruits and vegetables should be soft as blue tongues cannot chew through very hard material. Vegetables should include mostly leafy greens and fruits can include strawberries, mangoes, grapes, bananas etc.
Avoid feeding fish products, including cat biscuits, and NEVER FEED Avocado, Bran, Wheat or Rhubarb as these are highly toxic!
Blue tongues are quite prone to getting calcium deficiencies which can lead to growth deformities so be sure to sprinkle some calcium powder on their foods at least once a week. It is also essential to have sufficient UVB lighting for them as this assists in the production of vitamin D3 which is necessary for calcium metabolism.
There are many different and often contradictory opinions/views on supplementation. Calcium, D3, and vitamin supplementation are all necessary for your blue tongues. However, supplementation will depend on what you feed your lizard, the bulbs you use, and how much natural sun they receive. Many sources recommend supplementing baby lizards daily and decreasing to once or twice per week for adult lizards. But both too little and too much supplementation can lead to problems. Therefore, we recommend going over this with your vet to find a schedule that suits the specific needs of your dragon.
Avoiding Health Problems
Blue tongue lizards are very hardy reptiles, yet they still can succumb to numerous diseases and problems. The best way to avoid some of the more common problems are:
- To follow all housing, heating/lighting, and feeding/supplementation requirements for your lizard.
- Quarantine all new reptiles.
- Never house your blue tongue with any other species of reptile! Different reptiles come from many different environments requiring different needs in captivity. Even animals that come from similar environments can cause stress and pass parasites onto your bluey, costing the life of your lizard.
- Do not house blue tongues of different sizes together--this is a sure problem for the smaller lizard???s health. We recommend housing males separately. You may even need to prevent males from seeing each other across cages.
- Keep your cages and food CLEAN! Clean and sift poop often and remove all uneaten food.
- Wash your hands before and after handling your lizard. Be sure to sanitize hands in between handling different reptile species.
- Blue tongues are generally pretty lazy lizards but they do like to explore, so be sure to keep an eye on them while they are out of their enclosure as they may get themselves into trouble ??? make sure that there are no poisons around the house that they might get into!
- Take care not to drop your lizard or hold them upside down. Also make sure to support their backside or they will feel insecure and fling their tail around. Get children to sit down while holding them.
There are numerous parasites that can become a problem for a blue tongue. Many lizards live with these parasites without problems, but symptoms can often be triggered by stress (such as contact with another lizards or animal, change of enclosures, hibernation, breeding, etc.) Parasites often come from insects, greens, and/or unclean cage conditions so that it is imperative to keep proper hygiene in these areas. Even fresh greens and fruit can harbour parasites, so wash them well. If you feed your blue tongue live insects it is probable that your lizard carries some level of coccidia and maybe pinworms. The idea is to keep the levels low.
Symptoms of a problematic parasite infestation include consistently runny and smelly stool (more foul smelling than normal), an inability to retain weight, loss of appetite, loss of weight. Do not hesitate to bring your lizard to a vet if you see these signs. Treatments are relatively easy to administer and successful, especially if the parasite is caught early.
Because of the high probability of your blue tongue carrying parasites, we recommend de-worming your lizard every 3 months as a preventative measure. Mites are also a common problem so having a mite spray on hand is always handy.
- Caging/ terrarium
- Lighting & Heating
- Hiding holes
- Wood pieces to rub against
- Feed & water dishes
- Supplements - especially calcium
- Cage cleaner
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