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African Fire Skink

Nicole Cosgrove

Have you ever gone into the pet store to pick up supplies for your dog or cat, only to come out with a more exotic animal in tow? That’s how many pet owners end up with a unique creature like the African Fire Skink.

African Fire Skinks are unique and gorgeous reptiles that make great pets for experienced and inexperienced pet owners alike. If you’re considering adopting an African Fire Skink or already have, read on below for a few facts, info, and care tips to get you started.

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Quick Facts About African Fire Skinks

Species Name: Lepidothyris fernandi
Common Name: African Fire Skink
Care Level: Low maintenance
Lifespan: 15-20 Years
Adult Size: 15 inches
Diet: Crickets, mealworms, butterworts, silkworms, waxworms
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Temperature & Humidity: 80º to 84º F during the day
65º to 70º degrees F at night
Basking spot needs to be 90º to 100º F

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Do African Fire Skinks Make Good Pets?

African Fire Skinks make excellent pets for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they’re great for beginners, intermediate, or experienced pet owners. They are mellow creatures and have gorgeous colors that make them a favorite among reptile owners everywhere.

Though they don’t like to be held often, they are mellow enough to allow it. Myths abound that this reptile is shy, but they are actually pretty active in the right housing and when cared for properly. Another thing that makes them good pets is they’re safe to have around children. They are of hardy stock and full of personality as well.

Appearance

If you’re looking for a pet that has stunningly gorgeous colors, then the African Fire Skink is going to steal your heart. The colors on the body of the Fire Skink are usually anywhere from black to white to silver. However, the scales on this gorgeous reptile are bright red, which is how it gets its name.

It is important to note that your African Fire Skink can exhibit color changes according to their mood, so this is nothing to worry about.new gecko divider

How to Take Care of African Fire Skinks

Taking care of your African Fire Skink is simple when compared to other lizards. With that being said, they still have to have their basic needs met to be healthy and happy.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank

As previously stated, you’ll need at least a 20-gallon tank to keep your African Fire Skink in. You want the tank to be taller than it is wide because your lizard loves to climb and bask in high-up branches in their enclosure. If your Fire Skink ever goes missing, you will find them there.

To protect the health of your Fire Skink, make sure to keep their cage immaculate. Wipe the cage regularly, scoop out any messes, and make sure to change his substrate often to ensure there’s no mold or mildew buildup.

Lighting

A 40-watt reptile bulb is recommended so that your pet can get enough UVA exposure and avoid metabolic bone disease.

Heating (Temperature & Humidity)

Just as with all reptiles, this lizard isn’t able to regulate its own body temperature, so you need to have a type of gradient heating for them. The best way to do this is by having a cooler side of the cage and a warmer side of the cage; that way, your Fire Skink can be cool and warm when needed.

If you mist your pet’s enclosure two to three times a day, you should be able to maintain the correct humidity levels of between 60% and 70%.

Substrate

Substrate options for your pet include cypress mulch, litter from a garden, soil that hasn’t been fertilized, 4 inches of moss, and sphagnum moss. You need to change your reptile’s bedding often. If it becomes too dry, they can get sick.

Tank Recommendations

Tank Type 20-gallon tank, tall instead of wide
Lighting 40-watt reptile bulb
Heating Heating gradient
Best Substrate Cypress mulch

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Feeding Your African Fire Skink

These reptiles don’t have a lot of fancy food requirements. They’re happy with waxworms, crickets, and the sort is perfectly fine with them. You can throw in a couple of pinkie mice every now and then, but it’s not required. Three to 5 insects every three days is what’s recommended.

It’s important to dust your reptile with calcium and vitamin powder right before you feed them. This prevents metabolic bone disease and gives your reptile extra nutrition.

Diet Summary

Insects: 100% of diet
Supplements Required: Calcium and vitamin dusting powder
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Keeping Your African Fire Skink Healthy

Keeping your Fire Skink healthy is a combination of taking care of their cage, feeding them the right food, and dusting them with calcium and vitamin powder before every feeding. There are some health conditions to watch out for, however.

Common Health Issues

  • Bacterial infections
  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Metabolic bone diseas

Fire Skinks aren’t delicate creatures, but they are prone to getting bacterial infections, ticks, and mites, so you need to be careful and observant when it comes to those. They are also at risk for metabolic bone disease if the lighting in their cage isn’t right. If you keep the lighting right, clean their cage regularly and feed them properly, you should be fine.

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Lifespan

The average lifespan of an African Fire Skink is between 15 to 20 years. This makes them an excellent choice for a reptile owner who is looking to bond with their pet. The lifespan can be influenced by how the reptile is taken care of, so take care of your little friend properly.

Breeding

If you’re considering breeding your Fire Skink, then the best time is when the temperature is above 75 degrees, and daylight lasts for at least 12 hours. It’s not recommended to keep two male Fire Skinks in the same cage, as they will fight to the death. Females are fine to be kept together, however.

Are African Fire Skinks Friendly? Our Handling Advice

Note that Fire Skinks aren’t crazy about being handled, but they aren’t aggressive about it either. If you’re consistent and patient, you can get them used to being handled, however. Take note that they are squirmy and can slip out of your hands easily, so be careful. Teach children how to handle them properly, and never pick your reptile up by the tail.

Shedding: What to Expect

Your Fire Skinks color will go completely dull when he sheds, so don’t be alarmed. Once the shed is complete, he’ll be back to his vibrant, gorgeous colors as before. He will also completely disappear into his substrate and come back out after his shed is complete.

How Much Do African Fire Skinks Cost?

An African Fire Skink will cost you from $40 to $50 to purchase with prices varying between different pet stores. You have to add in the cost of the enclosure, food, substrate, and any medical treatment your reptile might need as well.

African Fire Skink
Image Credit: Vince Adam, Shutterstock

Care Guide Summary

Pros
  • Docile nature
  • Easy to care for
  • Simple diet
Cons
  • Doesn’t like to be handled much
  • Potential to develop metabolic bone disease
  • Moves a lot during handling
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Conclusion

Even if you’re just beginning as a reptile pet owner, the ease of care required to own an African Fire Skink is something you can handle. Just remember, keep the cage clean, feed them properly, and try not to handle them more than they want to be handled, and you’ll have a great reptile pet for many years to come.

 

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Featured Image Credit: reptiles4all, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.