This is a comprehensive guide to keeping the Pacific Blue Tailed Skink (Emoia caeruleocauda) as a pet. I’m going to cover everything you need to keep Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks in captivity, including housing, heating, lighting, substrate and decor, breeding and more.
There are lots of different species that are called a blue tailed skink. This care sheet specifically refers to the Pacific Blue Tailed Skink, Emoia caeruleocauda. In looks this is very similar to the Five Lined Skink, also often referred to as the Blue Tailed Skink, which comes from North America and is Plestiodon fasciatus. There is also an Australia Blue Tailed Skink, Cryptoblepharus egeriae and even an African species that is sometimes called the Blue Tailed Skink, or Western Skink. Although these lizards look very similar, they are not closely related and come from different climates. This is a good reason to always make sure you know the scientific name of the species you’re buying as well as the region it comes from to ensure there are no mixups.
Here’s a quick visual identifier of the three “Blue Tailed Skinks” if you need to identify yours:
Pacific Blue Tailed Skink (whose care we will continue to cover in this care guide) have stripes that follow uniformly down from the head.
American Blue Tailed Skink – also known as the five lined skink. You can identify this one as it has 5 distinct lines down the body. Two of these will converge together on the head. Otherwise you can see they look extremely similar to our Pacific Blue Tailed Skink whilst being a completely separate species.
Australian Blue Tailed Skink – This species is critically endangered so it’s very unlikely you would see this in captivity, but whilst the stripes on this one look very similar to our Pacific Blue Tailed Skink, you’ll notice that the blue on the tail is a very central scale pattern bordered by black. In the other two species, the blue is all the scales on the tail and not a stripe. The side scales are also raised outwards as you go down the body to the tail, giving it a jagged and spiky look compared to the other two which are smooth.
Three different species! If you’re definitely looking for care on Emoia caeruleocauda, then read on!
Meet the Pacific Blue Tail Skink
|Common Name||Pacific Blue Tail Skink, Blue Tail Skink|
|Scientific Name||Emoia caeruleocauda|
|Origin||Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia, New Guinea, Pacific Islands|
|Size||Up to 6″ total length|
|Housing||Terrestrial or Semi Arboreal|
|Diet||Live insects and occasionally fruit|
The Pacific Blue Tailed Skink is widespread across areas of Indonesia, the Phillipines, Malaysia, New Guinea and many Pacific islands. It’s not endangered and is usually imported wild caught, although individuals have been bred in captivity. This is a small skink, adults grow up to 6 inches, but 60% of this is tail length, so the body is usually only 1-2 inches in length with males being slightly larger than females.
As you’ve probably noticed from the name and their appearance, they have a vivid bright blue tail. The body is black or brown, usually with cream stripes. The underside is usually beige or brown, although males can develop orange chins as a breeding display.
The Pacific Blue Tailed Skink is a skittish lizard, often a snack for larger predators in the wild. People will often say that this is not a lizard that can be tamed, but it’s more that it’s a lot of work to tame it, and even more so with wild caught individuals who have survived by having heightened instincts. Captive bred individuals, when you can find them, are much more docile and calm. Even if you have individuals who are not keen on being handled, this is a lovely little active display lizard with a big appetite and an active hunting regime considering their size, so fun to watch.
Pacific Blue Tailed Lizard Housing
Pacific Blue Tailed Lizards are either terrestrial or semi arboreal and will spend time both on the floor and in the lower levels of trees. In the wild they will rummage and dig to find spiders, worms and insects in the forest floor, but they’re not averse to hunting and climbing in the trees too.
Because they are so small, you do not need a large enclosure – although the larger you go, the more natural behaviours you may see, and the more you can keep in a group (one male to multiple females). You can be flexible with your housing type, as long as you’re prepared to fit in your lighting and correct heating.
A minimum recommendation would be something like a 45 x 45 x 60cm Exo Terra or Habistat Glass Terrarium for a group of 3-4, or you could use a 24 x 18 x 18″ wooden enclosure or larger. They do need quite a hot basking area (See Heating section) and because of this my preference is a wooden vivarium, but it is possible to obtain hot basking areas in a glass tank with a dome reflector and basking bulb as well.
Heating for Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks
|Basking Spot||90 – 95F||32 – 35C|
|Daytime Ambient||77 – 82F||25 – 28C|
Your Pacific Blue Tailed Skink will need a basking spot that reaches temperatures of around 90 – 95F (32 – 35C), whilst the daytime ambient is lower at 77 – 82F (25 – 28C). At night you can let your temperatures drop to 75F (23C).
You will need a ceramic bulb or a heat mat heating your tank 24/7 to provide your night time temperatures and ambient, and then a basking bulb in the hot side of the tank to create your basking temperature.
Ceramic Bulb or Heat Mat – Heat Mats are a low wattage mat that would be placed underneath the substrate/tank or at the back of the tank. They are only suitable for small enclosures and light bodied animals. Ceramic bulbs are non light emitting bulbs that are now available from 40w up to 250w. Both can be left on 24 hours a day and can be used with an on/off mat stat or a pulse thermostat (more accurate). You would need to have a light guard on a ceramic bulb.
Basking Light Bulbs – Basking light bulbs (light emitting) can provide intense basking heat but must be turned off at night and controlled with a dimming thermostat. If you are creating a hot spot in a glass tank you will want a reflector dome (clamp lamp) as the bulb will be outside the tank.
Whatever your method of heating, ensure that it is controlled by a thermostat and that you have a good way of reading it to make sure the tank is at the right temperature – I’d recommend a digital thermometer for the best accuracy.
Pacific Blue Tail Skinks are diurnal and UVB lighting is essential. We suggest a UV Index of 3-4 in the basking zone. The basking zone is the area in which your lizard most often basks – since this is a semi arboreal species, this is likely to be the branches or raised area on the hot side, and not the ground of the tank.
If your basking area is 12-15″ away from your UVB bulb you will need a T5 6% UVB or a T8 12% UVB. If it is 15-24″ then it will need to be a T5 12% UVB.
Due to the fact that these Skinks are excellent climbers and jumpers, you UVB bulb will need to be guarded to avoid them knocking it, burning themselves or getting injured.
Your UVB bulb should be on 12 hours a day, and always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for when to change the bulb. It is usually every 9 – 12 months.
Substrate and Decor
To help facilitate humidity and also natural digging behaviours, a deep substrate of something that holds moisture well is best. We recommend either Orchid Bark or EarthMix, although you can include some Coir in to mix it up. Going as natural as possible will benefit these Skinks, especially if you have wild caught individuals, so they do well with bioactive enclosures, even feeding off woodlice and springtails. If going bioactive you will want a substrate layer of clay balls beneath your main substrate, and a plant light such as the Jungle Dawn LED and to plant it as thick as possible with live plants to create a dense forest floor.
You will want natural hiding places. with multiple hides as well as natural hiding places with dense foliage and plants, branches and cork bark to create areas where they will feel secure. Provide lots of horizontal and vertical branches for climbing as well.
This species isn’t known to spend time in the water, although they can swim if forced to like most lizards. A small to medium water bowl to help create humidity and allow them to soak should be provided. It’s very important to keep this clean, so change it out daily.
Humidity needs to be 60-80%. This will require daily or twice daily spraying. Having your water bowl on the hot side of the tank will help increase humidity. You could also consider having a small running water area in the tank.
You will need a humidity reader to check the humidity.
Social Needs and Housing Together
Males are territorial and fight, although unfortunately it is quite challenging to sex these. If buying a group you will need to monitor their behaviour during breeding season and you may need to separate out males if you end up with more than one. Females get on well together, and one male is very happy to live with a harem of females.
If you decide to keep just one Pacific Blue Tailed Skink, that’s fine, they don’t need company for social reasons.
Pacific Blue Tailed Skink Diet
The Pacific Blue Tail Skink eats primarily small insects in the wild, but occasionally will eat ripe fruit as well, so is known as omnivorous, although live insects will make up the majority of the diet. In the wild they would eat a lot of spiders, earthworms, snails and flies, but in captivity they will take any livefood that’s available – primarily crickets, locusts, mini mealworms, dubia roaches and so on. They live small livefood and may not be up for a fight with larger insects, so I’d recommend sizing down.
They will eat some fruits and nectar in the wild, so it might be possible to encourage them to eat brightly coloured fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches. They may also lap small amounts of nectar or powdered diet such as Repashy’s gecko range, but 90% of their diet should be livefood.
Handling Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks
Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks are a small and very fast lizard. We would generally not recommend handling them outside the tank unless in a very secure location. They generally don’t enjoy being handled, though captive bred individuals can be quite docile and will be less stressed. Wild caught individuals may always be stressed by being picked up, as they will perceive you as a predator and be afraid. You can get them used to you by interacting inside the tank, and a keen hunter, these will eventually trust you enough to potentially take food out of your hand. We’d describe these as more of a display lizard and not for people who are specifically looking for something to handle regularly.
Sexing Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks
Sexing Pacific Blue Tail Skinks can be tricky, and usually requires maturity. Males are slightly larger than females and have a wider and larger head as well as longer back legs. During mating season, males may show orange on their chin and sides of their face. If you end up with two males you will have to house them separately or rehome one.
Breeding Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks in Captivity
This is not something that I’m aware of people doing in any great numbers; Pacific Blue Tailed Skinks are abundant in the wild and imported cheaply, but it would be amazing to see more being captive bred. Taking animals out of the wild is problematic for their health even if it’s not a conservation concern, and one day these animals may not be available anymore, so establishing colonies of captive bred animals offers protection.
There’s little specific advice I can give you here, whilst I have kept and worked with the Pacific Blue Tailed Skink, I haven’t bred them. We know that the females will lay two eggs at a time, usually in hollows or tree stumps, or under rotten wood to keep them damp and warm. You could incubate them in the vivarium, but they could get damaged by the parents who will not take good care of these eggs. I’d recommend removing them to an incubator and incubating at your tanks ambient temperature. Good luck!