Bluetongues make ideal pets as they readily adapt to captivity, do not mind regular handling, are easy to feed and have fairly straightforward living requirements (for reptiles). However, like all reptiles, the cost of purchase of the animal is small compared to the cost of proper housing, lighting and heating and should be considered thoughtfully before proceeding.
Bluetongues have a preferred body temperature (PBT) of 28ºC and their enclosure should provide a temperature range of 2-3ºC either side of this PBT. Use a ceramic or infra-red heat-lamp at one end of the enclosure. Provision of logs or rocks placed under and around the heat source, allows your lizard to choose the right distance when basking and a hollow log or upturned flowerpot provides a cool retreat.
Accurate thermometers and thermostats are essential. We recommend using dual probe digital thermometers to monitor the warm part and the cool part of the tank.
A source of ultraviolet light, either through exposure to unfiltered, natural sunlight, or an artificial UVB light will help prevent metabolic bone disease. Remember to replace the light regularly (every 6-12 months) as it will lose UV strength, even though it still emits visible light.
The enclosure should be large enough for your bluetongue to move around freely and a clean, good quality substrate, replaced regularly, will encourage it to burrow. Be careful of woodchips, coarse sand, kitty litter and tanbark as they often get eaten by mistake and cause impactions. We recommend newspaper or butchers paper as a safer option.
Humidity should be maintained between 35-75% to provide as natural as possible an environment for your bluetongue — this can be achieved by placing a shallow dish of water in the enclosure.
Feed your adult bluetongue every two days in warm weather, in colder weather every three days. Remember — if the enclosure temperature is not right your bluetongue may refuse to eat.
Bluetongues are omnivores and should be offered a variety of foods such as insects e.g. crickets, worms, snails and slugs. They will eat a range of chopped fruits and vegetables including dandelion, milk thistle, watercress, banana, apple, pawpaw, pear, green beans, carrots, alfafa sprouts, parsley and tomato. In addition, small amounts of moistened dog kibble and canned dog food may be given occasionally. Add a calcium supplement to the food once a week.
Health Care – reasons to take Blue tongue lizards to the veterinarian
- Post purchase health checks – should be done within seven days of purchase
- Advice about feeding and husbandry
- Regular worming
- Regular (at least annual) health checks
- Parasite control
- Nutritional guidelines and obesity check
- Skin check
This is only a brief overview of keeping Bluetongues. For more detailed information on caring for Bluetongues there is concise guide called Keeping Blue Tongue Lizards, published by Australian Reptile Keeper, readily available in petshops and bookshops.