Blue tongue skinks (BTS') are amazing animals that we would consider being at an advanced beginner to intermediate care level. It is important to note at the beginning that most of the care information you will find online is for Northern BTS' that originate from Australia. Merauke, IJs, Tanimbar, Indonesian and Kei Island BTS come from Indonesia and their care needs are significantly different.
Meraukes are large reptiles measuring up to 30 inches in length and have been seen to live 20-25 years in captivity. They can be very social and very tame.
The best thing for your new BTS (no matter the age) is to leave them alone to settle in their new home for 10-14 days. Put the BTS in it's enclosure, and only open the tank to feed, change the water and spot clean messes. The BTS needs this time to get used to you, as well as the new smells and sounds of your home. It will be hard not to pick it up and take it out of the enclosure but you will be rewarded with a calmer happier reptile than if you had handled it from the beginning.
Your new BTS may not eat for the first 7-10 days (10-14 for adults) and that's OK. It is getting used to it's new environment and making sure it is safe first.
Meraukes need a large enclosure, a heat source, a basking ledge, a place to hide, substrate to burrow in, something rough to shed against and a humidity level of 60-90% (only periodically dipping down to 60%, aim for 70-85%)
Enclosure: The minimum tank requirement is 36” wide x 18” deep x 12” tall. A baby sink does not need a smaller tank, your best bet is to purchase big at the beginning and you won't need to upgrade. Upgraded tanks: Our BTS' each enjoy a 48” x 24” home and they use every inch of it! Please use plastic or glass enclosures. Wood will rot in the humidity and a full screen enclosures will not keep in the moisture. Each BTS needs it's own enclosure.
Heat: A heat lamp that will get the basking area to around 38c – 43c is essential. A 50 watt flood bulb should be a good place to start. keep an eye on the temperature to see if you need to increase or decrease the watts, because the temperature in your house and the distance the bulb is from the basking area makes a big difference. Keep the heat only on one end so there is a cooler side too. You want this cool side to be about 26c.
Basking Ledge: A piece of slate, tile, or a rock that is 12”-18” long and will hold heat is needed for the BTS to digest it's food. The temperature on this basking ledge needs to be around 38c.
Thermometer: You will need a good digital thermometer to keep aware of the temperature in the habitat. Dial and stick on ones are very inaccurate. A Digital Infrared Thermometer is a wonderful tool to have, and one that we consider essential to good reptile keeping, it will give you the exact temperature at a specific spot and is great for checking basking ledge temperatures regularly.
Hygrometer: Most Merauke health problems come from a tank that is too dry, a good digital hygrometer is a must.
Hide: Big enough for you skink to curl up in. This can be anything from a manufactured one to a plastic tub turned upside down with a hole cut in the side for a door.
Substrate: We use coco husk in each of our habitats. We find it holds moisture very well, but isn't really fine and dusty. You want it to be at least 4” deep so your skink has lots of room to dig and burrow. We completely change the substrate every 3-4 months, spot cleaning it on a daily basis and mixing the substrate every week to keep it loose and aired out.
Shed Aid: Your BTS will shed every 4-8 weeks and will need something to rub against. We find that a sturdy, thick, low plant, or rock is the perfect thing.
Mister: These BTS' require a lot of humidity and you may find that a pressure sprayer or timed mister is the way to go.
Water: Your BTS will need a water bowl in their habitat at all times. You will want something that can't be easily tipped over and that is big enough for them to walk through.
We follow the example of many long term breeders when feeding our skinks: We top every other meal with a dusting of calcium and a good reptile multivitamin.
They enjoy the occasional treat.
Treats: spaghetti squash, butternut squash, zucchini, banana, blueberries, watermelon, hornworms, silkworms, snails, egg.
A great list of acceptable foods can be found at: bluetongueskinks.net/foodchart.html
Up to 3 months old, feed 1-2 teaspoons of cat food daily.
3-6 months old, feed 1-2 tablespoons of cat food every 2- 3 days.
6-12 months old, feed 1-2 tablespoons of cat food two times a week.
Over 12 months old, feed 2 tablespoons of dog food once a week.