Fire Skink 101 – Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Fire skinks are known for their vibrant colors and fascinating behavior, making them popular pets in the reptile community. Before deciding to house one, you should know about the specific care requirements and housing needs. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on fire skinks; we will also talk about their enclosure requirements and if they are suitable pets for you.

Fire skinks are also known as African fire skinks or Togo fire skinks. They are magnificent creatures with unique appearance. Fire skinks are native to western Africa and are bright red or orange. They also have a golden dorsal with black and white spots on the side of their body. Fire skinks are known for their calm temperament and are easy to handle, making them a perfect pet for novice reptile owners.


Fire skinks or Riopa fernandi are native to West Africa, specifically from Ghana, Tongo, and Benin. These species of skinks are medium-sized and can grow up to 12-14 inches in length. Fire skinks have a unique body structure comprising short yet sturdy legs with a cylindrical body. 

The most magnificent feature of fire skinks is their appearance. They have vibrant orange, red, and black bands on their body, which resembles a flickering flame. The abdominal side of their body is usually a lighter shade of orange or reddish-brown.

Fire skinks inhabit tropical forests with dense vegetation in their natural habitat. They thrive in a humid environment and will choose a place near a water source. You can find them hiding in leaf litter as they get the essential humidity from the microenvironment around them.

Make a note to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels while hosting a fire skink. In captivity, fire skinks require a temperature gradient of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit on the cooler side and 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking area. It is important to maintain the optimal temperature inside the tank as fire skinks rely on it for thermoregulation. You should also ensure there is enough humidity inside the tank. Fire skinks require a humidity level of 60-80 percent inside the enclosure. 

Editor’s Note
You can achieve optimal temperature and humidity levels by buying a heat lamp and misting the tank regularly. Moist substrates like coconut fiber and cypress mulch can also be used to maintain moisture inside the enclosure.

Key AspectsInformation
Common NameFire Skink or Togo fire skink
Scientific NameRiopa fernandi
HabitatNear tropical forests, dense vegetation, and close to water sources
Size12 to 14 inches
Lifespan15 years in captivity
DietOmnivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, fruits, and vegetables
ReproductionFemales lay 4-12 eggs in a suitable environment, while babies hatch after around 3 months
BehaviorDocile and easy to care for, active during the day
ThreatsHabitat loss, over-collection, and other human-related activities
HousingAverage-sized enclosure with ample space to move around
TemperatureThe basking area ranges from 85-90°F, and a cooler area ranges from 75-80°F
Diet in CaptivitySmall insects and occasionally eat fruits and vegetables
HandlingCan be handled, but should not be picked up by the tail
Health ConcernsRespiratory infections, parasitic infections, and obesity
Care LevelIntermediate

What Does a Fire Skink Look Like?

fire skink

Fire skinks have several unique characteristics which make them stand out from other skinks. Its appearance contains vibrant colors and distinctive physical features as compared to other reptiles. Fire skinks have smooth scales and shiny bodies. They can grow up to 12-14 inches in captivity and have short legs with sharp claws. Fire skinks also have deep-red, orange, and black bands on their back, giving them their name fire skinks.

Fire skinks also have a lighter belly as compared to the rest of their body and are light orange or reddish-brown. They also have a long and tapered tail with a pointed snout. Fire skinks also have peripheral vision as their eyes are placed wide apart on the sides of their head. This allows them to observe the world from a wide angle and increases their field of vision.

These creatures also display sexual dimorphism, meaning that the male and females have a different appearance from one another. Adult fire skinks have larger and more robust heads as compared to females. Male fire skinks also develop small bumps on their scales during the mating season.

Size and Growth Rate of Fire Skinks

huge fire skink on owners hand

Fire skinks exhibit a fascinating growth rate. You should be aware of their size and growth rate to provide proper care and enclosure for your pet skink. Young fire skinks measure merely 3-4 inches when they hatch from their eggs. Juvenile fire skinks are more rapid when it comes to growing their body and increasing their size. Within the first year, a juvenile skink can reach lengths of 6-8 inches, becoming almost double in size.

When Juvenile skinks are transforming into young adults, their growth spurt slows down. They will continue to grow till they have reached the age of maturity and have attained a remarkable length of 12-14 inches. Fire skinks are relatively small compared to other species of skinks. The growth and size of a fire skink depend on various factors, such as age, genetics, diet, and environmental conditions.

It is essential to provide your fire skink with a suitable and healthy environment to encourage consistent growth. An unhealthy skink will always be smaller and weaker, as compared to a healthy skink. You should also provide them with a diet rich in proteins and nutrients. Feed them with small insects such as roaches, crickets, mealworms, and other feeder insects. It is also essential to provide them with leafy greens and occasional fruits to provide them with all the vital nutrients.

Editor’s Note
Sprinkle the feeder insects with calcium powder and supplementary vitamins to ensure consistent growth of your fire skink. You can also gut-load the insects before feeding them to your pet. This will ensure that your pet skink gets all the vital nutrients and proteins in their body.

Temperament and General Behavior of a Fire Skink

fire skink hiding

Fire skinks show a unique and fascinating behavior that is fun to observe. It is important to know about the temperament and general behavior of a fire skink before keeping them as pets. Knowing about their unique traits will provide insight into providing adequate care for them.

Fire skinks are known for their docile nature and shy behavior. They spend most of their time hiding and exploring their natural environment rather than interacting with their owners. This behavior is a trait they have acquired from their natural habitat by hiding under leaves and logs.

While your pet skink might not seek direct interactions with you, they will notice your presence and feel safe around you. You can also build a strong bond with your fire skink through consistent care and gentle handling. Over time these creatures will learn to trust you and will not see you as a potential predator.

Like many reptiles, fire skinks can shed their tail when they feel a threat or under attack. This is a defense mechanism also known as autotomy and is exhibited by many lizards. If a predator attacks their tail, they can detach it and escape danger. Fire skinks will then slowly regenerate their tails over time, and is all part of a natural process.

Enclosure Requirements for a Fire Skink

fire skink in enclosure

Fire skinks require a healthy and safe environment to thrive in. You should know about their specific care requirements to prevent any disease or illnesses from occurring. By providing the right enclosure requirement, your fire skink will grow to their maximum potential and live a happy life. Here are some of the key enclosure requirements for a fire skink.

Size of the Enclosure

fire skink enclosure

Fire skinks are medium-sized and require a 20-gallon tank to thrive in. A medium-sized enclosure will be sufficient for your pet skink to live comfortably. However, you should opt for a bigger tank to provide them with extra mobility and environmental enrichment.

You should also make sure that the enclosure comes with a secure lid. Fire skinks are known for their escaping skills thus specific steps must be taken to prevent them from occurring. They can climb huge walls and squeeze through tiny spaces. Secure lids will keep your fire skink safe and prevent them from any accidental damage.

Editor’s Note
You should take cautionary steps to prevent your fire skink from escaping in case you have other pets or kids inside the house. Fire skinks are docile but might cause accidental bites if they are under threat.

Lighting Needs

fire skink enclosure with light

Like many reptiles, fire skinks require additional lighting for their physiological needs. You should equip the enclosure with UVB lighting, which helps your pet skink to thermoregulate. UVB lighting is also essential for producing Vitamin D in your pet skinks body. In case there is no lighting provided, they can develop severe illnesses such as metabolic bone disease.

Use a UVB bulb that is specifically designed for reptiles and can provide all of their needs.  You should keep the UVB bulb on for 10-12 hours and keep it at a safe distance from the pet. These bulbs also need to be replaced every 6-12 months depending on their quality.

Fire skinks also rely on artificial lighting for their day and night cycle. Make sure you switch the bulb off at night to provide proper care to your pet skink. Additional lighting will also help maintain a temperature gradient inside the tank.

Temperature and Humidity Requirement

fire skink enclosure with thermometer

It is essential to maintain the right temperature and humidity levels for the well-being of your pet skink. The tank should have a temperature gradient of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day followed by a slight drop during the night time. You should also maintain a basking temperature of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (less temperature compared to peter’s banded skink) inside the enclosure.

Fire skinks rely on external heat sources for thermoregulation. Fire skinks also thrive in humid environments. In their natural habitat, they will inhabit moist leaves and damp places to live in. You should keep the humidity level between 60-80 percent to provide them with a comfortable and moist environment. Ensure there are enough hiding and climbing spaces inside the tank.

Editor’s Note
You can buy a humidifier and heat lamps to maintain optimal temperature and humidity inside the enclosure. Thermometers can also be placed inside the tank to monitor the living conditions of the tank.

Substrate Requirements

It is important to choose the right substrate for your fire skinks. Substrates help maintain humidity inside the enclosure and provide your pet skinks with a comfortable environment to live in. Some of the best options for a substrate for your fire skinks are coconut fiber and cypress mulch. These substrates help maintain the optimal humidity levels while also allowing burrowing opportunities for your fire skink.

You should avoid using sand, small pebbles, pine, and wood shavings as they can be harmful to your pet skink. Fire skinks can also accidentally ingest small pebbles and sand which can result in digestive issues such as impactions.

Cleaning Requirements

Maintaining cleanliness and proper hygiene is crucial for your pet skink’s health. You should clean any uneaten food and feces after every feeding session. Uneaten food can become home for harmful bacteria and can be ingested by your pet skink resulting in various health issues. You should also replace the substrate inside the tank every few months to maintain proper hygiene inside the tank.

It is also important to cleanse the enclosure with a reptile-safe disinfectant. Avoid using harmful or toxic products, as they can lead to illnesses and prove to be fatal for your pet. You should also provide your fire skinks with access to fresh water at all times. It is also recommended to use separate bowls for food and water. Use a shallow dish where your pet skink can drink and soak in.

Diet Plan For a Fire Skink

fire skink ready to eat a roach

Fire skinks need a well-balanced diet that is rich in protein and nutrients to thrive. To ensure that your fire skink stays healthy, it is crucial to provide them with a balanced diet plan and proper hydration. Fire skinks are omnivorous and eat a diet consisting of small insects and leafy greens. Feed your pet skink with a diet consisting of protein sourcess such as roaches, mealworms, crickets, and waxworms.

Make a note to provide your pet skink with a versatile diet so they can maintain their health and grow rapidly. You can also introduce supplements that are designed for omnivorous lizards to provide them with all the essential nutrients. When it comes to plant-based food, fire skinks will enjoy eating fruits such as bananas, apple cubes, berries, and mangoes. You should only feed fruits to your fire skinks on an occasional basis as it is high in sugar content. 

It is also essential to feed them leafy greens such as kale, collared greens, and dandelion greens. These vegetables will help provide all the nutrients to your pet and keep them healthy and active. Fire skinks also need access to clean drinking water at all times. Fire skinks do not absorb moisture from the air and thus need to stay hydrated. Provide them with a shallow container to drink and soak in.

Soaking in water also allows your pet to skink throughout the shedding process and maintain the optimal hydration level. The water and container should also be cleaned after every feeding session to ensure their safety. You should also have a feeding routine to maintain their health and avoid any lack of appetite. Food should be offered to your fire skink based on their age and size. You should also prevent them from overeating as it can lead to obesity.

Editor’s Note
Let your fire skink eat as much food in 15 minutes and remove any uneaten food inside the tank.

DayProtein SourcesPlant MatterTreats
MondayCricketsMixed leafy greens (collard greens, kale, dandelion greens)A small portion of banana or berries
TuesdayEarthwormsMango chunksA small portion of mealworms
WednesdayDubai RoachesCollard greens
ThursdayWaxwormsDandelion greensA small portion of sliced apple
SaturdayEarthwormsMixed leafy greens
SundayMealwormsCollard greensA small portion of strawberries

Shedding Process of a Fire Skink

fire skink shedding

Shedding is a natural process that every fire skink has to go through in their life. Like many other reptiles, fire skinks will shed their skin to make more space for their rapidly growing bodies. During this process, their old skin will wear out and be replaced with a fresh and vibrant one. The shedding process allows your fire skink to maintain healthy skin and get rid of any previously injured skin.

Some visible signs of shedding are the dull appearance of your pet, a loss in appetite, and loose skin or patches hanging from your fire skink. As the shedding process begins, the outer layer of skin will detach itself from the body and will be replaced with a fresh one. You can also see your fire skink rubbing itself against rough surfaces.

Once the skin is loose the fire skink will shed it in small pieces. You should never try to physically remove hanging patches from your pet, no matter how stressed they look. Instead, try providing additional humidity inside the tank, as this will help your fire skink to complete its shedding process quickly. You should also avoid handling your pet skink during the shedding process, as they might be agitated or stressed.

How to Identify the Sex of Fire Skink?

male and female fire skinks

Identifying the sex of a fire skink can be a tedious task. You should look for visual cues such as size and physical attributes to make a distinction between a male and female fire skink. Male skinks are generally bigger as compared to female skinks. They also have robust heads with sharp claws, whereas a female skink has a smaller head that is oval. Male skinks also have bigger and thick tails that they use for attacking predators or prey when under threat.

Additionally, male fire skinks can display territorial behavior during the breeding season. While these indicators might help you identify the sex of your fire skink, it is always recommended to visit a vet for accurate results.

How to Handle a Fire Skink?

fire skink on owner's hand

You should always handle your fire skink in a gentle and cautionary manner. This will help ensure the safety of both the pet and the owner. The first thing to do before handling your fire skink is to gain their trust. Fire skinks are shy and might try to run and hide from their owners. This is because they might consider you a potential threat and not a safe keeper.

After gaining their trust, you must approach your fire skink slowly and avoid any sudden moments. Now the next step is to use both hands to hold the body and provide a sense of security. If your fire skink is trying to run away, you should respect its boundaries and avoid handling them for a few days.

You should never hold a fire skink by its tail or apply too much pressure, as it can lead to an accidental bite. After handling your pet skink, treat them with the food they enjoy and safely return them to their enclosure.

Common Health Issues in Fire Skinks

ill fire skink

Like any other pet, fire skinks can also cath disease and fall sick. One common health issue in fire skinks is a respiratory infection. This is usually caused by improper temperature and humidity levels inside the tank. Some signs of respiratory infection include lethargic behavior, loss of appetite, discharge, and wheezing.

Fire skinks are also prone to skin infections such as parasites and bacterial infestation. Parasites such as mites or ticks can infest your fire skink, causing them irritation, itchiness, and weight loss. Provide your fire skink with a clean and hygienic environment to avoid such health issues. If you notice any sign of health concern with your pet skink you should visit a veterinarian immediately.

Breeding in Fire Skinks

Breeding your fire skinks can be an exciting and rewarding experience for many reptile enthusiasts. To promote successful breeding, it is important to provide your pet skinks with an optimal environment. Ensure the temperature and humidity levels are at appropriate levels inside the tank. Now introduce a male and female fire skink inside the same tank and give them enough hiding space to mate. Female fire skinks will lay 3-9 eggs depending on their age, size, and health. The incubation period for fire skinks is 60-90 days till then they will need specific care requirements such as temperature and humidity levels.


How much does a fire skink cost?

A young fire skink can cost around $40-$50 which is much cheaper than blue tongued skink. Although, the price of a fire skink depends on various factors such as age, size, and health. Prices may also shift from one pet store to another.

Are fire skinks dangerous?

Fire skinks are not dangerous and have a calm temperament. They will not bite unless they are agitated or under stress. Fire skinks are easy to care for and are docile in nature.

Final Thoughts

Fire skinks have a calm temperament and have minimum care requirements making them a perfect choice for novice reptile owners. You should know about their enclosure needs and dietary requirements before deciding to house a fire skink at your home. Ensure you provide them with a clean and healthy environment to keep them happy and secure.

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