Originally Answered: Blue tongue skink or other reptiles?
I have a blue tongue skink myself, and have had him for a year (we're guessing that he's around 2 to 2.5 years old). He's the first reptile that I've ever owned, and I'm super happy with him. I prefer skinks to other reptiles because they grow larger than geckos, are very smart, have smooth scales ( as opposed to beaded dragons, who have very dry, rough skin), trainable, and easy to feed. The only downside is that it may be difficult to find one, as not many people breed them since they are not as profitable as egg-laying reptiles are. Also, depending on your geographical location, their preferred humidity is easy to maintain. The only time I have to pay attention to it is when I have the heat on during wintertime.
They are also very versatile when it comes to food (as well as anything else). I feed my skink high quality canned cat food, mixed with a reptile calcium supplement, along with a variety of vegetables and fruit. Feeding live food (in the form of bug larva or crickets/roaches) is also good, but I find the convenience of the canned food much preferred. That way I'm not running out to buy bugs three or four times a week. Also, my skink has a funny love for salmon.
Always make sure the animal you are buying is captive bred. Exporting native species out of Australia is illegal, though is is legal in Indonesia where BTS also roam. You don't want to support the business of catching a wild and potentially ill animal.
Keep in mind that BTS can live as long as twenty years, so make sure that you can keep him long term. I'm 21, and my skink is around two years old. My boyfriend has resigned that where I go, my skink goes, and he's okay with that. ;D
If you have experience in caring for other animals like small pets or cats, you'll find that once you settle in, the BTS is sometimes even easier to care for. They can be moody when the seasons change or when they're about to shed, often eating less then normal and hiding. Just let them be, eventually they'll come around.
Shedding is pretty easy. It doesn't take long for them to shed at all, and it's usually done in just a few hours at most (other reptiles' shed periods can last several days and can be life threatening). Just keep an eye on their toes to make sure no dead skin is stuck, and have decorations in the tank of varying textures for them to rub on. Unlike snakes, they don't leave behind a perfectly formed shed. The best way I can describe a skink's shedding is to that of a person with really bad sunburn. The skin comes off in pieces or strips. Sounds gross, I know. It's not so bad when it's a lizard's skin though, haha! (My own skink just shed this morning!)
As far as gender goes, you have a 50/50 chance of guessing correctly, unless you have a blood test done. So pick a gender neutral name and just hope you're correct.
They have quite the personality and are a lot of fun, but always keep on eye on them when they are outside a secure terrarium or enclosure. The can be surprisingly quick for their size and disappear inside your couch, behind a refrigerator, or anyplace where their head can fit. They love to explore and hide! This is normal behavior, since they are burrowing animals. Their only defense in the wilds of Australia is the shock factor. Their blue tongue startles would-be predators just long enough for the skink to run off and hide under a rock or leaf litter. They can bite pretty hard when they want to, even though they lack proper teeth (the bumps in their mouth are a modified cartilage). I've only been bitten once, and it was no more painful then when a cat nips you or you smack your hand really hard on a wall. They don't have any venom, but like every living thing they do carry bacteria in their mouths. Just was your hand with soap and warm water to be safe.
Leopard geckos will drop their tail if you pick them up by it, as it is a defensive reaction to escape birds and other animals that would eat them. Better to lose your tail (which will grow back in time) than your life!
Skinks can also lose their tails in the same manner, so just don't pick them up (or pull them) by their tails at all to be safe. Like the gecko, the skink's tail will grow back, but it's not as pretty as the original. Regrown tails are oddly chubby-looking.
Have the terrarium all set up with the heat lamp/UVA and UVB bulbs before bring the skink home. This lessens the stress of the move, because they won't be in the transport container for a few hours while you set up their house.
Make sure you have a wide terrarium. Since they are diggers, the amount of height in the tank doesn't concern them too much. I have a Zilla brand 40 gallon Terrarium with a sliding screen lid. I'm not sure is this is too large for a juvenile though since mine was already adult size when I took him home.