These lizard-like amphibians can be found throughout the world, are easy to care for, and are long-lived, making them ideal additions to a mixed species vivarium or simply kept on their own.
Newt and Salamander
Aquarium / Vivarium conditions
Newts and some species of salamander are happy to stay in water whilst other ‘land’ salamanders prefer damp land areas.
The ideal captive environment if space allows is a shallow water area (but deep enough to allow the use of a filter) with an easily accessible raised area filled with soil and plants, and plenty of pieces of wood, rocks, and leaves to hide amongst.
For smaller vivariums, a base of a few inches of damp sphagnum moss, regularly misted or sprayed along with plenty of hiding spots will suffice.
Most salamanders prefer cooler temperatures than many tropical species and are quite happy at 18-23C (64-73F) As with other amphibians, a balance needs to be created between temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
Open or mesh topped vivariums are best whilst a heat-mat under the glass base should be sufficient if heating is required.
An ultrasonic mister is ideal for creating the right humidity along with occasional misting/spraying of the vivarium plants and decor.
Size and compatibility
Virtually all salamanders for sale in the pet trade grow to around 10-15cm (4-6 inches) which is a manageable size,
unlike the Chinese Giant Salamander which can reach 180cm (6ft) and is the world’s biggest amphibian.
If you do mix species make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for each individual and feed at different locations at the same time to reduce conflicts.
Occasionally, limbs can become damaged or even bitten off during accidental squabbles but quite amazingly, salamanders can grow back any lost limbs.
Aquatic salamanders can be fed on dried fish foods, which they will find by scent, or on live fish foods like bloodworm or daphnia.
Salamanders are nocturnal so the best time to feed them is in the evening when they can be encouraged out. Always make sure to remove any uneaten food to prevent rotting.
All newts and salamanders have very permeable skin, so anything they come into contact with can be absorbed into the body.
It is therefore always best to give your hands a good clean in nothing but water before doing any maintenance and avoiding direct handling as much as possible.
Salamanders produce a mucus coating that prevents drying out, aids in movement and salt retention when in water, and also produces toxins in some species to prevent being eaten.
It is normal for a salamander to occasionally shed its outer skin layer and then eat it
Waterdog / Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum
Sometimes seen for sale, the ‘waterdog’ is actually the larval stage of the tiger salamander and does not take long before it starts to change into its adult form.
Tiger salamanders are a large and bulky species, reaching up to 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) and potentially living for 15-20 years.
Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra
It is said that the name comes from specimens that would run out of burning logs, causing the belief that they were born from or lived in fire.
Whilst they are a land-based salamander, they may also appreciate a water area. Several can be kept together and they are hardy and long-lived, normally growing to 15cm (6 inches) but specimens up to 25cm (10 inches) have been known.
Spotted Salamander Ambystoma maculatum
From above, these salamanders look jet black with two rows of yellow spots and are similar in appearance to the Eastern Tiger Salamander.
The Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum
Axolotls are unusual creatures and unique in the animal world. An Axolotl is a close relative of the Mexican Tiger Salamander, but instead of metamorphosing into its adult form, it continues to grow, reproduce, and live out its life in the fully aquatic larval stage.
The large, feathery gills are quite a prominent feature along with well developed legs and a large tadpole-like tail fin.
Fire-bellied Newt Cynops pyrrhogaster
The bright red markings on the belly and underside of this otherwise blotchy-brown newt reflect its name, and there are a number of different species with varying degrees of color intensity.