A salamander - a myth character or a common pet?
The salamander is an amphibious animal similar to the lizard, but with markedly different care and environmental needs that set them apart. The salamander species has lived on earth for over 160 million years, and there are over 550 different types of them on different continents. Salamanders of different types can vary in size from just an inch or so long, up to nearly five feet! The average size of salamanders within the pet trade that make suitable pets tend to be between 4-8 inches long.
In the wild, salamander populations are currently much smaller than they have been in the past, due to changes to the environment and the erosion of their natural habitats. It is vitally important to protect salamanders in the wild, so ensure that you only buy captivity-bred specimens and not wild-caught salamanders.
In this article, we will look at the basic care requirements of the salamander, and how to keep them happy, healthy and well.
Don’t handle your salamander
If you are looking for a pet that you can pick up, hold and play with, the salamander would be a poor choice. The skin of the salamander is semi-absorbent due to their wet living environments, which also means that they will also absorb salt, chemical residue and oils from your own skin if picked up, all of which are potentially harmful.
Salamanders should be viewed as a look but don’t touch type of pet, and if you do need to handle your salamander and this cannot be avoided, rinse your hands of in clean bottled water first (not tap water, as this contains additives) and do not use soap.
Your salamander’s tank
In order to keep your salamander happy and comfortable, their tank should mimic as much as possible the natural environment that salamanders live in in the wild, in order to fulfil all of their requirements.
The tank should be moist and cool, with a well-fitting and secured hood that also provides ventilation. The ideal temperature for the salamander enclosure should be between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You will also need to provide plenty of cover and hiding places within the tank, as salamanders are timid, shy little animals that like to feel secure within their homes.
Damp potting soil makes for an excellent tank substrate, while pieces of broken ceramic flowerpots, moss and bark can be used to provide cover. It is important to check the moisture levels of the soil on daily basis, and mist it if it becomes too dry. You should also include a basking dish within the tank, so that your salamander can take a dip! The water used to mist the tank and provide a bathing pool should be fresh and non-chlorinated.
Feeding your salamander
Salamanders are carnivorous, and will eat a wide range of small meat based meals. Small insects and worms of the types that you can easily buy for feeding to small reptiles are the perfect choice, and a combination of earthworms, wax worms, flies, roaches and slugs will provide a balanced diet. You should also buy a calcium supplement to lightly dust your salamander’s meals with before offering them to him.
When adult, salamanders will generally need to be fed twice to three times per week, but some species will need feeding daily. Remove any uneaten food from the tank within a day of leaving it there. Salamanders are by choice nocturnal animals, which will become more active at night; so this is the ideal time to feed your salamander, removing uneaten food in the morning.
Protecting your salamander’s environment
Salamanders are very delicate, and susceptible to environmental changes and additives such as chlorinated water. It is vital to ensure that you have access to a source of fresh, non tap water before you bring your pet home, which might mean buying bottled water or using a reverse osmosis machine to filter the water. You can also by ready made reverse osmosis water from larger aquatic retailers, specifically those that sell supplies for marine fish.
On a daily basis, you should remove uneaten food from your salamander’s tank, and clear waste from the substrate and tank sides in order to prevent bacteria build up and potential infections. Every two to three months, you will need to remove everything from the tank to clean it thoroughly, replacing the substrate, moss and bark for fresh. As with everything else relating to water that comes into contact with salamanders, use un-chlorinated water at all times. Even very small quantities of chlorine or other deposits can be harmful to your pet, so take great pains to avoid introducing these into the tank.
Keep the substrate damp at all times, and keep a lookout for mould colonies, which can indicate that the substrate is too wet, or the tank is too humid.