Halmahera skinks (Tiliqua gigas gigas Halmahera) are a species of blue-tongued skink that hail from the large island of Halmahera in the North Maluku province of Indonesia. Halmahera skinks are identifiable from other blue-tongue skinks by their reddish-gray coloring, thin, black marking on their heads and patterned black and white or pink bellies.
Large and slow, once blue-tongue skinks become accustomed to you, they are docile and easy to handle. Full of personality, especially when they show off their iconic bright blue tongue (which skins use to communicate with one another), Halmahera skinks make engaging pets.
Size and Lifespan
The various species of the blue-tongue skink can live anywhere from 15 to 20 years. However, as care standards improve, skinks have been known to live up to 35 years.
Indonesian skinks are more available than their Australian cousins due to strict Australian export laws. Most adult Indonesian skinks are wild-caught.
Adult blue-tongue skinks range in size from 15 to 24 inches from nose to tail tip.
Blue-Tongue Skink Caging
The highly active Halmahera skink needs a large living space with high levels of humidity (60 to 80% or more). Blue-tongue skinks live happily in a rack system or glass terrarium. A 40-gallon breeder tank is best for mature blue-tongue skinks, while babies should be housed in a 10 to 20-gallon terrarium. Adults required a minimum of eight square feet of floor space.
If you opt for a wooden enclosure, avoid pine or cedar. Blue-tongue skinks are strong and clever, so make sure your front or top-opening tanks are securely locked.
The substrate should be moist with high humidity, but if water starts pooling, decrease the humidity by increasing ventilation. Humidity may be brought back up by misting the tank.
Include a large, flat stone or piece of tile for a basking surface. Climbing toys give the skink room to exercise. Terrarium backgrounds add an aesthetic sense, and they help your reptile friend feel more secure.
Give the skink a few different hiding spots in both the hot and cool side of the tank so they can retreat if they ever feel stressed. Make sure the hiding spot is large enough so the whole skink can fit inside or underneath and that there is moss inside to ensure the humidity levels are correct.
Lighting and Temperature
Blue-tongue skinks are diurnal, meaning they need UVB lighting to optimize their health. Keep the skink’s lighting on a 12-hour on-and-off cycle. Replace the UVB light on a yearly basis.
Halmahera skinks also need a basking area that reaches between 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Create the basking area by using a white or clear halogen flood bulb.
The cool end of the habitat should be between 70 to 80 degrees. Nighttime temperatures may drop to 65 degrees but no lower. Use a digital probe thermometer or infrared temperature gun to manage the temperature.
Blue-tongue skinks are burrowers, so they need four to six inches of deep, soft substrate. It needs to retain moisture well, which helps maintain healthy humidity levels. Popular options include coconut husk, cypress mulch, reptile soil or bioactive bedding. Leaf litter and moistened sphagnum moss are useful to layer on top of the base substrate to encourage humidity retention.
Avoid sand, wood-based products and care-fresh rodent bedding.
Bioactive substrate is a miniature ecosystem dependent on bugs that act as a cleanup crew. This substrate is beneficial for skinks since it helps maintain humidity, and the skinks enjoy the composting bugs for a snack. Bioactive setups are initially expensive to begin but are a cost-saver in the long run.
Blue-Tongue Skink Food
Like many reptiles, blue-tongue skinks are omnivorous. The ratio for plant to animal materials changes as they mature. Juveniles under two years need 70 to 80% meat and 20 to 30% plants. Skinks older than two years need 50 to 60% meat and 40 to 50% plants; too much protein for adults can result in kidney problems.
Baby blue-tongue skinks (up to three months old) need daily feeding. Juveniles (three months to eight months) need to be fed three times a week. Adults only need food once or twice a week.
A single portion of food should be the same size as the skink’s head. Meat products include eggs, small rodents, high-quality dog or cat food or insects. Frozen meat needs to be fully thawed, and then 15 to 30 minutes before mealtime, enclose the meat in a BPA-free plastic bag and submerge it in hot water to raise the temperature to 98 degrees.
Plant materials can include squash, carrots, bell peppers, turnip greens, dandelion greens and flowers, grape leaves, carrot greens and rose and hibiscus flowers.
Use live insects so your skink can exercise its natural hunting abilities. Feeder insects need to be lightly dusted with a calcium supplement. Sprinkle the other food with a multivitamin powder one or two times a month. Don’t use supplement powers that contain vitamin D.
Avoid giving your skink scorpions, lightning bugs and any wild-caught insect.
Blue-tongue skinks need ready access to clean drinking water. Use a shallow, large, heavy bowl so the skink doesn’t tip it over but is big and shallow enough for the skink to soak in and not drown.
Clean the water bowl whenever it gets soiled. Disinfect it on a regular basis.
Blue-Tongue Skink Handling and Temperament
Blue-tongue skinks are highly territorial and should be housed individually.
Once you bring home your skink, don’t immediately cuddle with it; skinks need time to get used to you and their new home. Give the skink at least two weeks before handling them. Once they are regularly eating, you can assume it has settled in comfortably.
Place an old shirt in the terrarium to help the skink get used to your scent. Once the skink is comfortable with your hand, you can begin to hold it. Short, daily sessions will help the skink develop trust and friendship with you. Many skinks enjoy head scratches and attention.
Support the skink’s whole body, but avoid moving quickly so you don’t frighten it. Don’t forcibly restrain your skink, but let it calm down in your hand before returning it to the enclosure.