African Fire Skink Care Guide & FAQ

Many people have taken up the habit of caring for lizards. There are actually quite fun and easy.

It can be quite the adventure to embark on if done right. They are great to have around as pets and come in all sorts of species.

One of the popular ones is the African fire skink. I would consider them an easy to care for lizard, the handling process- feeding and caring for them, can be a walk in the park. 

Perhaps the biggest limiting factor is that their body length, which can go up to 15 inches (37cm), including the tail, which might be too much for some.

The first thing to notice on an African fire skink will be its appearance. A close look at this little guy and you will be able to notice its bright and vivid colors.

Fire skinks are aesthetically endowed, which makes them stand out. On the fire skink’s back, the scales’s texture is smooth. The female and the male African fire skink may actually have a small difference in color.

The scales are quite shiny and noticeable from a distance. The sides have a sliver line covered with red and black bars.

In terms of sexual dimorphism, it might be hard to identify the sex of the fire skink by looking. Both male and female African fire skinks actually seem to look the same. You will hardly find any difference with your bare eyes. It may actually take you sometime before you are fully conversant with their differences.

Normally you will identify their sex based on how bulky they are. Males will normally be much bulkier than females. Male fire skink head is flatter while the jaws are much wider.

The most noticeable aspect of African fire skinks is their striking color. This feature is across all types of skink. There are also skinks with much bigger body size. These types of skink have bright red color while their side is flecked with black and white bars. A close check to their back is either golden or bronze color.

The African fire skink has squarish bodies that are long. It’s easy to notice the thick tails and stout legs. This type of appearance equals all other species of the fire skinks. 

The African fire skink can be found in western countries in Africa. They are estimated to lie along West Africa in countries such as Guinea and Angola to the east side of the African continent in a country like Kenya. The African fire skinks normally live in forests, vegetated areas and woodlands. It is not as easy to locate fire skinks though they are said to inhabit in forests and woodlands. In case you want to keep a captive African fire skink you can easily get them from reptile expos. You can also check on small breeding programs. 

African fire skinks are easy to take care of. The best suggestion to keep for the skink is the captive-bred type of skink. They are among the best rated in terms of conservation purposes.

When taking care of skinks you need to consider their temperament and health condition. Your health is important and so are the skinks. Captive-bred skinks are regarded to be less temperament.

Whenever you intend to take care of reptiles such as lizards it’s quite important to consider the health condition. In case you take care of a dangerous species of the lizard you can easily get infected.

There is also the risk of getting bitten. You need to consider the fact that you are dealing with wild animals. They are also used in the wild environment. Captive-bred specimens are said to be healthier as well as calmer.

It will be much easy to handle and care for captive breed African fire skink. Other people may want to care for wild African fire skink. Though the choice lies in the person taking care of the skink this is not advisable at all. There is no proper documentation in terms of the Skinks status in the wild.

So far the impact that you can have in their capture is unknown. The pet trade impact is also not known. Captive-bred young African fire skinks can easily be found especially in the late summers. 

Caring for Your African Fire Skink

Fire Skink Humidity and Lighting

The condition set in the enclosure is very important as it determines the survival of the African fire skink. The African Fire skink is used to the wild environment and the same should be replicated in the enclosure.

Humidity is very important especially for reptiles. This is also a key condition for the African Fire Skink. There are conditions that must be met when you decide to take care of Fire skinks. Especially in the enclosure you choose. Among the most important is humidity. Humidity helps in hydration and shedding purpose. Among the most relevant type of humidity is the substrate. Fire skinks require humidity levels of 60-70% in the substrate.

However, in case the Fire skinks do not get the substrate humidity at the 60%-70% level it may require high surface humidity. In case the substrate humidity meets the required level you can lower the surface humidity to 40%.

However, ensure the substrate humidity reaches the 60%-70% recommended level. During the day fire skinks normally require high levels of temperature. It is essential to meet the horizontal gradient level. This is only possible by establishing three temperature zones.

Fire skinks are cold-blooded and require heat from the sun. You will need to establish a basking spot or hot spot for the skink. The temperature at the basking spot should range from 92 to 96 ° F. While taking care of the fire skink you will realize they do not normally go out to bask.

However, after feeding they may want to bask. The enclosure should maintain the temperature of between 84° to 86 ° between the cool end and the hot spot or basking area.

In the case the gap between meets the required temperature you can allow the cool end to go to a temperature of up to 75°. However before allowing this fall in temperature ensures the ambient temperature between the two sides lies between 84° to 86°.

African fire skinks can be good pets if the condition in temperature remains suitable. At all times ensure the gradient of temperature on the ground and above remains suitable. During the night ensure the temperature levels are maintained at 70° to 75°F. Sometimes temperatures at night can between go as low as 65°.

Since the lizards are kept in an enclosure there is a need to improvise. The main aim of this is to ensure the lizards get the same benefits as ones in the wild. The sun is an important part especially because lizards are cold-blooded.

They do not have a way to store their own heat. The material used in making the enclosure is also important. A vivarium is the most recommended material as it is able to maintain heat. Since the lizard can store heat you will be needed to provide a heat source.

Normally you will be required to use lamps with a thermostat. A thermostat is very useful as it is able to control the level of temperature. In such situations, the temperature remains conducive at all times.

 Lamps will act as heat sources for the Skink.  The lamps can be placed on the top side of the enclosure. The recommended bulbs are the 40- 60 watt. These types of bulbs are easily able to meet the required gradient levels. Another great suggestion is the use of heaters.

You can mount the heaters on the sides and at least one to be placed below the tank. The main aim of the heaters is to provide the required temperatures. 

 Do not put any heater inside the enclosure. The heat should not be in excess. Sometimes the lamps may have excessive heat that will actually burn the lizard. In the wild when the heat is excessive the lizard will normally hide in shade.

In this enclosure, they might lack an ideal shade spot. If possible keep an eye on the temperature. In fact, it’s always recommended to have the proper reading of the temperatures on the enclosure from time to time.

Among the suggested way is by using a thermometer. The other option could be the use of a lamp thermostat. The thermostat is quite a good idea. However, it’s advisable to manually check the temperature with a thermometer. For purposes of confirming the humidity levels, you can use a hygrometer.

It’s always important to manually check on the temperature and humidity levels. A thermostat can be very useful but may at times be faulty. The temperature is very critical and having an excess of minimum temperature could cause the death of lizard.

The other need of the Skink is UVB. They will get this from lighting. However, this is not a compulsory requirement, although it is important. The Skink can get the UVA/UVB exposure from a 40-watt bulb.

In terms of the benefits of UVB exposure, there is no much conclusive benefit. In fact, the fire skinks can survive well without the UVB. The main important thing is ensuring the skink gets the required humidity and temperature levels. Also, ensure the food has sufficient nutrients like calcium. Although the UVB exposure is not that necessary it can really come in handy especially during summer and spring season.

Substrate

The substrate is very critical to a Fire skink. Actually, the substrate will be able to provide the required humidity level. There are different substrate recommendations and they may seem to work well. It is always important to get the right substrate and not any option available. 

The best-recommended substrate mixture will comprise of Sphagnum moss, cypress Zoo Med mulch, Exo Terra Coconut husk, and soil. You can choose to add the moss or leaf that’s quite helpful. There are a variety of choices for a substrate. The most important thing is to ensure the substrate is moist.  There is a variety of substrate mixes that could apply but you need to be sure about the performance. The wrong or dry substrate could lead to serious health issues. The fire skinks may experience respiratory infections, poor sheds or ingestion.

Water

Water is very essential for all animals. As they say, “Water is life”. The same case applies to fire skink. The African fire skink is used to getting water from its habitat.

From the woodland and forest, it can easily get water from drops that fall- especially from rainwater. They have also adapted to getting water from their prey. In the wild African fire skink can easily get water since they are used to such surroundings. 

Moving the fire skink to an enclosure also means changing its environment. The enclosure is much more limiting even in terms of access to food and water. At the enclosure, it might be hard to get water although the fire skink may try.

It may be recommended to add plants that make the enclosure seem more like the natural environment. It’s also recommended to have a water dish for the fire skink. Most of the times this may not seem effective as the fire skink rarely drinks the water.

However it’s always important to keep a shallow water dish just in case. In most cases, you will hardly find the water reduce in level.

Most times the fire skink will pass through the water to bathe. This will help to hydrate their bodies hence increasing the humidity levels. The African fire skink is used to the forest environment and will meet its needs from the environment and prey.

This also includes getting water. Apart from the water dish ensure the enclosure is kept in a mist condition twice a day. Actually the misty condition will work better to provide water for the African fire skink as compared to the water dish.

Enclosure

Enclosures determine the survival rate of the fire skink. You need to get it right especially in regards to the material you choose to use. Although you may have the options of different materials consider the conditions needed. Such conditions include the temperatures and humidity levels.

A vivarium is the recommended material that works best. Glass has also been suggested as a good material. The most important thing is to ensure you provide a comfortable place for the fire skinks.

African fire skinks are easy to accommodate in any space provided. However, it’s important to have adequate space for proper survival. Among recommended enclosure suggestion is a 40-50 gallon size. The gallon should have the terrarium material. The material comes in handy especially in terms of meeting the required temperatures. It’s also possible to house a pair of African fire skinks in one enclosure.

The design of the enclosure should cater both for horizontal and vertical needs. African fire skinks will normally be spotted climbing up. This is among the reasons the horizontal side is considered to be of more importance.

However, both horizontal and vertical spaces are of equal importance. An adult African fire skink can perfectly fit in a 20-gallon tank. The size should at least meet 30″ ×12″ ×12″ in dimensions. Glass is among the best suggestions for enclosures.

African fire skinks can be kept together as a pair. Even the male and female African fire skink can stay together. When males and females are kept in one enclosure you will notice signs that they have mated. However, at times they may want to act territorial. This will mostly happen when it is a matter of food.

In such a situation of territorial fights, there is no major cause for alarm unless injuries are caused. Although housing two African fire skinks are recommended, gender determines how suitable the habitat will be. It is not recommended to have the same gender of Skinks in one enclosure.

This means male and male or female and female. The best match is a male and female African fire skink. It’s important to adjust the enclosure to feel and look likes the wild environment. Consider the African fire skink is used to the forest and woodland areas. You can adjust the enclosure by adding logs, hides, and plants. Use any lizard habitat product that will make the enclosure friendlier to the African fire skink.

Handling

The African fire skink is regarded as a shy lizard. It is not regarded to be dangerous. It’s not even known for being confrontational. In essence, any lizard can act calm when handled in the right manner. It’s also true that all lizards have their own defensive mechanisms. Even the African firs skink when wrongly handled it could turn aggressive.

Although they seem calmer this may not be the case at all times. It’s always important to be careful with African fire skink as wrong handling could cause you a bite. The most important thing is to ensure the African fire skink feels secure in its environment. Normally in a secure environment, the skink will have lots of activity on the surface of the enclosure.

African fire skinks are not hard to handle and will usually act tolerable. Although they can tolerate your handling they are very fast. Be careful as you handle them as they may turn squirmy. Be careful whenever you handle the African fire skink in your hand as it could easily escape. When handling ensure the location is safe as the African fire skink might try to escape. 

Behavior

The behavior of African fire skink varies depending on species.  Different species of fire skink normally have different behaviors even in terms of aggressiveness. Some lizards are normally very aggressive and will try to attack anyone who comes too close.

However, the fire skink is more of a secretive kind. Most times whenever you approach the enclosure they will tend to hide. This is also another type of defensive mechanism.

Although there are very many species of fire skinks you can easily tame them. The most important thing is ensuring the enclosure feels the same as the lizard’s wild environment. When the fire skink is comfortable in their closure they will be very active and easy to handle. The fire skink will also jump to your hand.

When you are handling the African fire skink ensure you do this gently. It is not advisable to grip the skink tightly as it tends to frighten them. Whenever the African fire skink feels threatened and scared them will bite. The other bad method is gripping their tail. Normally when you have a grip of their tail the tail will fall off. However, the tail will continue to swindle. The process of swindling acts as a protective measure as it distracts the predators.

 You can pick the fire skink gently and hold it loosely on your palm. Allow the skink to crawl over your hand so that it feels comfortable and understands there is no threat. When they feel comfortable they will be responsive to your actions. Whenever you show their palm they will be able to jump on. 

It’s also important to get more information on the origin of your pet. Different surroundings may have different handling methods. Skinks are located in Africa and will be exported to other countries. You should get more information when purchasing a captive bred specimen. In terms of the years, you will know based on their weight. 1-year-old skinks normally weigh 30g range while 2 years old weighs 50-60 g. 

Food

African fire skinks are regarded as voracious feeders. They will normally eat moving creatures. Actually, most lizards sit on top of rocks and hunt moving insects. This is among their best way to wait for their prey. Now that you have moved them to an enclosure you may have to provide food.

Mostly fire skinks will feed on insects. However, you can vary the diet so as to feed the African fire skinks with enough nutrients. Crickets, worms, and roaches act as their best staple food. It’s important to have the diet varying from time to time. Do not feed the fire skink the same food for a long period of time.

The method of feeding the skinks also varies. While others eat from tongs others eat from a dish. African fire skinks like to be secretive as most skinks do. Most of the time you will hardly notice the skink eat as they will be in hiding. The recommended way to monitor the fire skink eating habit is weighing them. The food-grade weigh can help do this as it measures in grams.

Cleaning

The cleaning process is easy and does not require special skills. It’s advisable to do the cleaning every day. You can start by removing feces that may be lying around the enclosure.

However, ensure you do not collect the feces with your bare hands. Sometimes you may notice dead or leftover crickets. Remove any leftover or dead feed. Also, remember to replace the water. The substrate should also be part of the cleaning process. You can change the substrate after 2 to 4 months. The most important thing is to ensure the African fire skink space is clean enough. Clean environments also facilitate better growth chances.

Breeding

The breeding process is quite easy as long as you have the right environment and suitable conditions. Ensure the female and male have been fed well before starting the breeding process. When breeding the African fire skink ensure you also consider the season. Normally the African fire skink will breed from April to May. After the mating has happened you will be required to separate the male fire skink from the female fire skink. You should avoid the female being egg-bound by having separate tanks for each.

At this point, you can create a nesting box. The nesting box should be filled with perlite or sphagnum moss. This does not mean the African fire skink will lay its eggs on the nestling box. The African fire skink will normally hatch at any place in the enclosure.

During the season the female African fire skink can lay 6 to 8 eggs. When the female fire skink lays eggs you should be able to place them in an incubator. The incubator should be functional so as to maintain a temperature of 85°f for a period of 40 to 50 days.

The process of hatching and mating is not difficult as long as the required conditions are met. When breeding, the most important thing is to ensure the African fire skink is well fed a month before breeding.  Remember to check the eating pattern by weighing the African fire skink.

Hatchling care

Hatchlings can easily be kept in one enclosure as long as they remain peaceful. Ensure they won’t feel cramped. In case they do you might have to separate them. Sometimes bullying may occur among hatchlings that will require you to separate them. Although you can at first keep them together you may be required to separate them as they grow. In terms of feeding hatchlings dusted crickets is among the best recommendation. The first time to feed them should be a week after their first shed.

Both the hatchlings and adult African fire skink require the same conditions in the enclosure. However, you may be required to adjust the temperature and humidity levels. The adult fire skink will actually require a higher temperature level as opposed to hatchlings.

FAQ

How do I handle an African fire skink?

Handling the African fire skink is quite simple as it’s not aggressive. Although it is regarded as shy it has its own defensive mechanisms. Most lizards will actually alert the intruder before attacking.

However, some lizards will simply act aggressively when you’re some distance away. The African fire skink will actually be on the run whenever they sense the presence of an intruder. The best way for easy handling of the African fire skink is to give it the confidence of a secure environment. When you choose to pick it up do it gently.

However, as the African fire skink stays under your care it should jump on your hand easily. The first few times may require you to pick it up. When doing this be careful and avoid gripping the African fire skink tightly. A secure and comfortable African fire skink will have a lot of activity on the surface of the enclosure.  You should hold the African fire skink loosely so it gets to understand you mean no harm.

Pressing or gripping the fire skink tightly may turn it to be aggressive. In such an incidence it may bite you as a defensive measure. You should probably allow the fire skink to travel around your hand just to make it feel comfortable.

Can African fire Skink live together?

Yes, it is possible to have African fire Skinks live together however there are reservations. In case you are dealing with hatchlings you can keep them together with no major problem. However, you should ensure they are peaceful and not bullying each other.

When dealing with adult African fire skink the handling is different. It is not recommended to have African fire skinks of the same gender together. This means male and male or female and female cannot stay in one enclosure. The best pairing method is male and female. There is also a special exception, especially during breeding. During this season ensure no fights are witnessed.

Are African Fire Skink bites poisonous?

Most people are not sure whether they are poisonous or not. However, it’s always important to be careful when handling the fire skinks. If possible avoid any possibility of being bitten. Children may be bitten if they wrongly handle the African fire skink. Based on reports and findings African fire skinks bites are not venomous.

There is no cause for alarm when bitten by the fire skink. You will occasionally be bitten whenever you wrongly handle them. However, it’s important to consider gentleness when handling the African fire skink. Avoid grabbing the fire skink by the tail. Just as other lizards react grabbing the fire skink by the tail might break off.

The tail will continue to wiggle even after breaking off. This is also a defensive measure to keep the predator distracted. The African fire skink may turn out to be a meal for the cat. It’s important to know the fire skinks may be poisonous when eaten.

How do you determine the Gender of an African fire skink?

It’s not easy to identify the gender by just a simple look. You will have to concentrate on clues such as colors. Colors may at times not give the right gender. An example is due to the fact that most skinks have the same range of colors. You will notice checkered black, red and white flanks with yellow backs on both the males and females.

The colored scales will rarely provide you with enough information on gender. If you observe the African fire skink for a while you may be able to do this however it may not be as easy. The best method to know is during breeding.

However, in case you only have a single African fire skink the size should help you. Mature African fire skinks can be differentiated based on their sizes. The male fire skink is actually larger as compared to females. In case you only have one skink you may be required to measure their length.

A male African Fire skink is normally longer than 13 inches. Ensure you measure from the tip of the head to the tail. In case the length appears to be less than 11 inches that must be a female African fire skink. It could also be a young one.  However, this does not fully assure you the African fire skink is either male or female.

The other method is to check on the size and weight of their heads. Male African fire skink normally has larger and heavier heads. There is a slight difference so observe this carefully. The behavior can also be something to observe.

Based on behavior male are usually more aggressive. If you spot a fire skink being aggressive it is probably a male. In such a case you can put them in separate tanks. You will also notice male African fire skink have brighter color as compared to females.

Do African fire skinks eat Fruits?

The African fire skinks are just like any other lizards. They are regarded as insectivores as they will most hunt for insects. You may at times be required to provide feeder insects such as King Worms, crickets, wax worms and mealworms.

These types of feeds are regarded to be more nutritious to the Fire skink. In terms of eating fruits, only the adults are allowed to. Recommended fruits include; strawberries, blueberries, and dandelion greens. Pinkie mice are also a good choice. However, the fruits are to be eaten occasionally and not daily. These types of food have high-fat content hence should only be provided as a treat or during the breeding season.

Although fruits are useful the best food is live food. A good example is a cricket. Ensure the live food is also dusted in calcium supplements. These supplements enable their bones to remain strong. The calcium supplement should be dusted daily on the young African fire skink. For adult fire skink you can do it once in a while.

Do African fire skinks eat earthworms?

Yes, actually earthworms are among their favorite meals. They will normally eat on any type of insect or worms they come across. This is including mealworms, crickets, and earthworms. It’s advisable to feed them with insects that are available on commercial as opposed to wild insects. Also, remember to ensure the insects are dusted with calcium and vitamin powder.

However, it’s important to consider the worms to be very fatty. They are good during the growth process of hatchlings. However, an adult African fire skink should not feed earthworms daily. It’s advisable to feed them once or twice every two weeks.

Do African Fire skinks lay eggs?

This will actually seem different as compared to how lizards give birth. Most lizards normally reproduce to live lizards although small in size. However different animals and species have different methods of doing things.

Among them is the way of reproduction. While most Lizards give birth to live young ones, the African Fire skink reproduces in a different manner. The African fire skink falls under the oviparous type of the skink species. This type of species will reproduce by way of laying eggs. A female African fire skink normally lays five to nine eggs. This is after the matting processing is over.

Also, remember there is a specific mating season. The African fire skink female eggs normally take a period of about forty to fifty days for hatching to take place. It’s always recommended to put the eggs in an incubator for the forty to fifty days.

When carrying out the incubation process it’s always important to consider the required temperature levels. The incubator should maintain 85°F for the whole period of forty to fifty days. This is approximately 29°C. The condition present during the incubation process will determine the success rate of the breeding process. Although the African Fire skink lays eggs the process of feeding the young ones is not much different.

Conclusion

Taking care of African Fire skink is worthwhile and fulfilling. Before venturing into this practice it’s always important to consider every aspect. The most important of all is to know how to meet its basic maintenance needs, to keep it nourished and learn its behavioral patterns. You need to create a good relationship with it. The next is to care about the habitat. You should actually look into creating a habitat long before purchasing the African fire skink. Also, ensure you have additional equipment such as lamps.

You can view more articles on caring for lizards here.

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