Hey guys! Today I’m going over 8 components to my blue tongue skink feeding plan that multiple generations of fantastically healthy blue tongues like this little one here have been raised and thrive on! Yes part of the diet includes dog food but not all so don’t miss out on this info!
Welcome to ReptileMountain.TV a channel dedicated to evidence based reptile keeping where opinion is not fact. I’m TC Houston a former professional AZA zookeeper and current skink breeder. Let’s dive straight in to this skink feeding program.
The first component is foundational. I have two staple elements. If you’ve watched my other videos this will be no surprise. They are…..drum roll please…. High quality grain free wet dog food for adults and high quality grain free wet cat food for babies.
Now I know that some folks are literally in full on freak out mode right now because dog food is for dogs and cat food is for cats. Neither is “fresh” and neither is natural! Ahhhhhh. Breathe…. Breathe…..
So let me start with the fact yes fact that NOTHING in captivity is NATURAL. Period. Everything has been affected by captivity, from birth to death and everything in between including behavior, physiology, genetics, psychology, fecundity, fertility, nutrition, yes all of it...has been…. and is influenced by captivity to some extent.
Some things more than others but all of it in some fashion. And yes yes yes we can and should try to do our best to recreate an as natural as possible experience within reason. And as far as freshness goes they eat carrion and other animals turds. So the idea that in nature they somehow live at Whole Foods munching on crickets and meal worms in back room and the snack their way through the produce isles is a bit misguided to say the least. Now I’ve already published a video on why dog food is superior to homemade mixes I call “homebrew” so please go check that out right now...but be sure to come back for the good stuff ahead in this video!
Bottom line, dog food is formulated with whole prey items for an omnivorous like vertebrate. Our blue tongues happen to be omnivorous vertebrates. Dog food is the result of actual research aimed at providing a balanced diet for the animals. Dog foods have specified amounts of calcium, fiber, plant material, amino acids, minerals, and proteins that are far more exact than the loosy goosy 50:40:10 percentages with a little sprinkle of calcium here and there hoping everything balances out that has been promoted in the past.
So, here is the evidence based truth. Animals fed dog food (high quality grain free that is) are overall healthier, more active, and generally live longer. That is actually a fact not an opinion. We as keepers must overcome our anthropomorphic default and get past the idea that “fresh equals nutritional and crickets is somehow natural.” As some of you may already know science says we look at the results and form an objective conclusion not a conclusion that is molded by our expectations. Therefore, we look at what works best not just what feels best to us. If something else new comes along great! we can certainly experiment and give that a try.
Why grain free? Simply put, the theory here is that grain provides little or no nutritional value to blue tongues and if you have 13 oz of food per can, a grain free option will have more nutritional components than one filled with grain in the same 13 oz.
What is high-quality? Well that’s a flexible term really. I view high quality as dog foods that have a good track record aka few or no recalls, quality reviews, and the ingredients appear to align well with the skinks needs rather than full of starches and filler items such as potatoes, rice etc.
Opps I almost forgot why cat food? I feed young omnivores (aka our blue tongues) cat food as opposed to dog foods because of it’s higher concentration of animal proteins. Plant and animal proteins are different and affect growth, development, and hormone levels in different ways. Young skinks are usually born during a season where more animal based proteins are available and some evey say those food items abundant during baby season. I raise all my animals on cat foods until they are 6-12 months old depending on individual growth and development. I do not power feed and keep a close eye on weight to ensure they stay lean yet nutritionally cared for.
One last thing about cat food. There are folks that worry about taurine in cat food. Taruine is a sulfur based amino acid that is found 100% naturally in animal muscles especially in the heart. It also happens to be water soluble meaning that during cat food production the natural taruine in the meats is washed away and the cat food companies add it back into the food once processing is complete because it is critical to cat eye and mental health among other things. There is zero evidence anywhere, not in vet journals, vet manuals, anywhere that states taruine is bad for skinks other than an uncited mention on an internet care sheet. All my animals and the animals of many other breeders are thriving from being fed cat foods their first year.
Component number two: Its all about the ingredients. Not just any dog food will do. Well at least for my animals that is. I look for brands and flavors that have good calcium to phosphorus ratio (for more on that check out my calcium and supplements video here) I look for foods that have a variety of animal protein sources and also have identifiable vegetation in the ingredients. I mean they actually list things a lay person would recognize as real veggies... for example here are some ingredients in one of the foods I feed:
Turkey, Turkey Liver, Egg, Apple, Apricot, Alfalfa Meal, Artichoke, Blueberry,, Carrot, Chicory Root, Cranberry, Kelp, Parsley, Pumpkin, and Rosemary
This is just an example of course. And there are other ingredients as well these are just what i wanted to highlight. As I mentioned a minute ago You will want to avoid starchy items such as potatoes which can affect the phosphorus levels in the food as well as seafoods because some fish have high levels of mercury your skink might not do well with. However fish oils have proven to be a non issue.
Component number 3. Added vegetation. I don’t not feed wet dog food exclusively its a foundation yes but not the only thing. I do incorporate vegetation and vegetables into their dog food. As far as vegetation goes I typically feed, turnip greens, dandelion greens, summer squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, green beans, and sometimes zucchini.
Most blue tongues aren’t avid veggie eaters on their own. Thus I have two methods for adding these components to the food. The first method is organic baby food. Some of the veggies I just listed are available in pure organic baby food form, specifically the squashes. I will simply add 25% baby food to the dog food and stir it in depending on the consistency of the dog food I’m using. I will use it as a topper on already mushy dog foods and I’ll stir in in well for more thick foods.
The other method is to finely dice the greens and stir them in to the dog foods, again mixed at a 25% veg to 75% dog food ratio.
Why add more vegetation if dog food already has some? Well, dog foods are rich in so much good stuff and that is wonderful…..but too much of a good thing can also be bad. Many captive reptiles develop fatty liver issues when fed too much rich foods over long periods of time. So to ensure the leanness of their overall nutritional program I basically dilute the rich food with a bit of lean vegetation.
Component number 4. Commercially available omnivore diets. The bursting growth in the blue tongue skink community has birthed two commercially available omnivore/blue tongue diets that I certainly use in my nutrition program. The first one and one of my favorites is Omni Gold Earth Pro Gold by Arcadia. I’ve done an entire review video on this product here so go check that out later if you’d like. This product has a great variety of items that are sourced naturally and provide a cocktail of nutrition to your skinks. At this very point in time due to some USDA licensing issues it is only available through Canada. The link will be in the description. The other diet is Repashy Superfoods’ Bluey Buffet. This is a insect based omnivore food that does well to entice picky eaters and aids well in hydration. I use this product for animals looking a bit dry as a good portion of this food when fed as directed is actually water which is a good thing.
Component number 5. Dry foods. On occasion I will feed super rich dry cat food or freeze dried raw dog food for animals that need an additional boost of protein or sustenance. Many times this can be animals that lost more weight that expected during brumation, pregnant females, or postpartum females who didn’t eat much during gestation. I will provide a bowl with this kibble for them the first 3 days of the week and then take it away for 3 days before wet food feeding day so ensure they hadn’t just eaten before wet food feeding time.
Component number 6. Variety is the spice of life and the key to success with opportunistic omnivore generalists like our blue tongues. Therefore, I rotate the type of vegetation, brand, and type of dog food on a weekly basis. Those veg items I listed off above I do not feed all at once but rather maybe turnip greens and dog food brand A one week and then spaghetti squash and dog food brand b the next week. Then I might add frozen thawed apple snails mixed in with a commercial diet the next week and then just dog food Brand C the last week and then mix it up again. The key work here is variety. Mix it up y’all. I know it might feel simpler to feed the everything medley every time and check that variety block but the animals might get bored with it.
I recommend having at least two or three brands and types of foods to rotate through as well as (once your animal is grown) having two or three or more vegetation types to incorporate.
Also, Its a good idea to sign up for the dog food advisor’s email list just in case a brand you chose has an issue. I will put the link in the description as well. You can always check my website for what brands I use or check the kit.com link again in the description below.
Component number 7. Amount and frequency. My general rule of thumb is to feed a portion 1 to 2 times the size of the individual animals head. Therefore, smaller animals have smaller heads so smaller portions. Bigger animals have bigger heads so bigger portions. Adults are fed weekly, juveniles vary from every other day to twice a week depending on weight and growth. Newborns get fed everyday for their first month of age.
For a generalized idea on frequency based on age check out my care sheet (there is a link in the description below). Also i should note that I do not add vegetation to cat foods or to food fed to animals under 1 year of age because they do better on high animal protein as I mentioned earlier.
Well that was long! Before you go please watch another one of my videos or hit that subscribe button and thank you patrons for being the best supporters around! Im TC Houston and remember opinion is not fact!