Salamanders, anyone?

Bugmom

Arachnolord
Joined
May 28, 2012
Messages
650
I have Lucky, a barred tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium mavortium) that I saved from freezing to death a couple winters ago after she was washed out of her hibernation spot. Love this little girl (she looks more female than male, but I'm not 100% certain).

I'm wondering how you keep your salamanders, especially your mole salamanders? I'm reading a lot of conflicting info online and I've had conflicting info from people IRL as well. My main question/concern is that someone told me that if they are allowed to burrow (as mole salamanders love to do), they will defecate in their burrow and you have to frequently clean to avoid burns/infections from their waste. I can't find anything online to back this up. I'd like to make a care video on my YouTube channel (okay okay, it's mostly to show her off;)) but I don't want to give out any bad advice.

Now, I've had Lucky set up in two ways.
1: I gave her a pot full of soil to burrow in, so that when it came time to clean, I could empty the pot out and just refill it.
2. There's just about an inch of soil in her tank, but she has a hide to chill in.

Both ways, she had a water dish deep enough to soak in, and that's where she spends a lot of her time. I also wet the substrate either where her burrow was when she had the pot of soil, or where her hide is. She's currently set up in manner #2 but I'd like to redo her enclosure.

Does anyone know the validity of the claim that they will defecate in their burrow? Is that only if they have no access to a water dish to get in? That is where she defecates now, which makes clean up a breeze.

Here's a pic of her saying hello when I went to clean her water. She is just the cutest.
 

schmiggle

Arachnoprince
Active Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Messages
1,923
Everything I've read said their happiest when they have a deep substrate to burrow into, although caudata culture says they'll be ok if they have some kind of alternative hide.
http://www.caudata.org/cc/species/Ambystoma/A_tigrinum.shtml
(That website, by the way, has excellent care information on numerous species, and I have used it extensively)

I have fire salamanders, which only burrow very occasionally, and only when heat stressed. They mostly hide under the cork bark and another piece of bark I put in the enclosure.
 

Galapoheros

ArachnoGod
Old Timer
Joined
Jul 4, 2005
Messages
8,984
You found it in WA? I'm fascinated by salamanders but I don't have any atm. All I've seen around here are smallmouth salamanders and newts. When I was a kid, yeah they would get some kind of what looked like a bacterial infection. A friend of mine back then found a tiger salamander but as much as I looked for salamanders back then, I never found a tiger. I haven't kept a terrestrial salamander in a while. I'd keep it kind of cool, esp. since it's hibernation time there(?) and you might get some isopods to put in there, they eat the junk and will keep it cleaner.
 

Bugmom

Arachnolord
Joined
May 28, 2012
Messages
650
You found it in WA? I'm fascinated by salamanders but I don't have any atm. All I've seen around here are smallmouth salamanders and newts. When I was a kid, yeah they would get some kind of what looked like a bacterial infection. A friend of mine back then found a tiger salamander but as much as I looked for salamanders back then, I never found a tiger. I haven't kept a terrestrial salamander in a while. I'd keep it kind of cool, esp. since it's hibernation time there(?) and you might get some isopods to put in there, they eat the junk and will keep it cleaner.
No, Lucky was found in New Mexico, before I moved here. She is actually only the second salamander I've ever seen in the wild in my entire life!
 

cold blood

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Messages
11,872
I had one for many years that I also found near death. I started keeping it with soil and leaves and a pool, but it literally spent all its time in the water....eventually I just kept in water with a small area to haul out on, which it rarely did. Unbelievable appetite and the size mine got to before I finally released it was impressive.

Salamanders are the coolest.
 

sschind

Arachnobaron
Old Timer
Joined
May 27, 2005
Messages
344
I had one for many years that I also found near death. I started keeping it with soil and leaves and a pool, but it literally spent all its time in the water....eventually I just kept in water with a small area to haul out on, which it rarely did. Unbelievable appetite and the size mine got to before I finally released it was impressive.

Salamanders are the coolest.
Salamanders are the coolest? Not in your T room. I'm not surprised it spent all its time in the water. :D:D
 

cold blood

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jan 19, 2014
Messages
11,872
Salamanders are the coolest? Not in your T room. I'm not surprised it spent all its time in the water. :D:D
Ha, this was some 30 years ago...long before I had a single t, much less a heated t room:)
 

Pipa

Arachnoknight
Joined
Feb 7, 2012
Messages
212
Tiger Sallys are so much fun to keep ... you'll enjoy yours !
 

z32upgrader

Arachnobaron
Joined
Mar 13, 2012
Messages
365
I'm in love with my tiger salamander, I've named "Morty". He's the best! Always trying to kill and eat me! I usually include him at the end of my feeding videos sucking down a dubia roach. morty eye.JPG
"I wonder if this camera will fit in my mouth."
 

Entomancer

Arachnobaron
Joined
Oct 29, 2010
Messages
351
Ambystomatids are perfectly happy in a box of dirt, with or without water.

I've kept long-toed salamanders (A. macrodactylum) on and off for years, and I recently was given a tiger salamander. The tiger sally lives in a storage tub full of dirt, with pieces of cork bark as hides, and a bunch of dead oak leaves. The soil is made of coconut fiber, some "jungle soil" substrate, and some clay soil from outside. I'd say it's about 60:40 clay to everything else. I use the clay soil because it makes a big difference as far as allowing burrowing; the coco fiber mixture just crumbles like bread crumbs unless it's very wet, while the clay will hold its shape even when dry.

The cork pieces were placed on top of some of the soil mix and then covered with the rest of it, to form permanent burrows if they are desired. The dead leaves are there to introduce beneficial microbes; amphibians in general benefit immensely from bioactive substrates in captivity. I collected the soil and leaves from locations that know to be safe; dead leaves can be rinsed and dried, but any clay soil you collect really needs to be free of chemical contaminants.

So long as everything is moist, you really don't need a water dish, and a terrestrial salamander spending a lot of time in a water dish actually means that it's too warm most of the time. Salamanders absolutely need to be kept cool. Unless you have the central/south american Bolitoglossa, etc. this rule must be adhered to. Tiger salamanders happen to be more resilient to overheating than probably any other salamander from north America, but keeping salamanders too warm is always going to be harder on them and increase the chances of them coming down with a disease. I keep my tiger salamander below 70 F at all times, and use mayonnaise jars of ice water to regulare the temperate in the tub if things are getting too hot in the summer (no AC here).

Based on your video, I would say two things:

1)You need to remove the perlite and the moss from the substrate, because they represent a significant impaction risk. The only times I used moss like that in amphibian enclosures all resulted in death by impaction, eventually.

2) It also looks like the substrate is a little too dry (I can't quite tell how wet it is in the video). The substrate should be at least as moist as a fresh cake or a fresh pan of brownies. The reason tiger salamander can survive in drier places like NM is because they burrow down until they find moist, cool spaces underground.

That's all I'd say I would change. Please note that none of this was meant to sound elitist or demeaning, this is just pretty much everything I know and have learned about keeping salamanders, which I have been doing for over twenty years now. Have fun; salamanders are pretty unique and absolutely hilarious most of the time.
 

Arachnomaniac19

Arachnolord
Joined
Aug 23, 2014
Messages
654
I'm on the look out for a tiger salamander. I currently have an axolotl and an Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles walti). I used to keep tiger salamanders as a kid. They'd always surface under the dog house.
 

tAngents

Arachnopeon
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
7
I had two tiger salamanders throughout my late teens to mid 20s. I kept them in a terrarium with moistened Bed-A-Beast substrate, a couple wood hides, and a large water dish. I doted on them and they were pretty tame and fat. They would come out and beg whenever I was in the room like little dogs. I fed them by hand with tweezers just like I feed my leopard geckos now.

The problem I had was keeping their substrate moist enough, especially in the winter. I live in Michigan and indoors tends to get very dry unless you can afford a good humidifier. It was a constant battle. Misting the tank every day (or even a few times a day) didn't seem to do the trick. In the summer, Michigan can get pretty humid so I would run into the opposite problem which would lead to moldiness. Thus, I ended up switching to animals (leopard geckos) that are not so moisture-dependent when I got back into exotics several years later.

But salamanders are sweet and I've often considered getting some more and looking into tank humidification systems. Way back in the day (I'm talking late 90s/early 00s), I used to visit a newt and salamander forum section on Kingsnake.com. They had a lot of knowledgeable people on there.
 

schmiggle

Arachnoprince
Active Member
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Messages
1,923
The problem I had was keeping their substrate moist enough, especially in the winter. I live in Michigan and indoors tends to get very dry unless you can afford a good humidifier. It was a constant battle. Misting the tank every day (or even a few times a day) didn't seem to do the trick. In the summer, Michigan can get pretty humid so I would run into the opposite problem which would lead to moldiness.
Instead of misting, I usually add water straight to the substrate and use a mold resistant substrate, but given that tiger salamanders like to burrow, that may not be an option (I often have a layer of water on the bottom of the tank)
 

Entomancer

Arachnobaron
Joined
Oct 29, 2010
Messages
351
The problem I had was keeping their substrate moist enough, especially in the winter. I live in Michigan and indoors tends to get very dry unless you can afford a good humidifier. It was a constant battle.
Dead leaves and clay.

It wouldn't completely halt evaporation, but I've found that adding some clay mud to coco fiber and then covering it with dead leaves really helps hold the water in. Feeding amphibians on (large) dead leaves also reduces impaction hazards, since it's a broad, flat surface. When it comes to leaves, any species of oak or maple will yield dead leaves that are safe to use; they have to be really dead though, like from the most recent autumn. Get the substrate a little wet and then lay the leaves down on top.

The other thing about coco fiber is that plain coco fiber will usually mold when it gets too wet; the mold has zero competition with other organisms and can grow to vast proportions. By introducing some (clean! no chemicals!) soil from outside, you introduce quite a bit of soil biota, which make an enormous difference in helping to eliminate mold and to break down fecal matter.

I don't have nearly as many herps as when I was last posting on AB frequently, but all of my amphibians and all of my moist-climate lizards and snakes had bioactive substrate, and it made my life easier because I didn't have to spot clean quite as often, I never had to worry about mold, and I didn't have to worry as much about mites.
 

Arachnomaniac19

Arachnolord
Joined
Aug 23, 2014
Messages
654
I had two tiger salamanders throughout my late teens to mid 20s. I kept them in a terrarium with moistened Bed-A-Beast substrate, a couple wood hides, and a large water dish. I doted on them and they were pretty tame and fat. They would come out and beg whenever I was in the room like little dogs. I fed them by hand with tweezers just like I feed my leopard geckos now.

The problem I had was keeping their substrate moist enough, especially in the winter. I live in Michigan and indoors tends to get very dry unless you can afford a good humidifier. It was a constant battle. Misting the tank every day (or even a few times a day) didn't seem to do the trick. In the summer, Michigan can get pretty humid so I would run into the opposite problem which would lead to moldiness. Thus, I ended up switching to animals (leopard geckos) that are not so moisture-dependent when I got back into exotics several years later.

But salamanders are sweet and I've often considered getting some more and looking into tank humidification systems. Way back in the day (I'm talking late 90s/early 00s), I used to visit a newt and salamander forum section on Kingsnake.com. They had a lot of knowledgeable people on there.
Try adding some wrapping to the lid if you try them again. I use that for my dart frog and mantella.
 

KevinsWither

Arachnolord
Joined
Jul 11, 2014
Messages
643
I'd love a salamander. Or a newt. Problem is that from when I was born (as me) to now, I barely had any awareness of them whatsoever. Within that, I only been in this hobby as a whole for 2-4 years, and the first 1.5 years was spent on hunting for local insects in my yard (I'm 15.85) and the last few months, I got interested in more and more. Now that the USFWS banned salamanders and newts, now thats another underground thing.

Anyways with the salamander defecating in tunnel, I was thinking of local isopods and springtails as cleaner crew. Do they need a large setup?
 

Stugy

Arachnolord
Joined
Apr 21, 2016
Messages
648
Whaaat so you can't have salamanders and newts as pets? I may be misunderstanding or something (and I hope so because I really want a marbled salamander lol).
 

KevinsWither

Arachnolord
Joined
Jul 11, 2014
Messages
643
Yup, except for axolotls. You can, it is just like with the plant eating exotics and native invertebrates (even natives are illegal to ship across state lines officially).
'
From the horse's mouth:
https://www.fws.gov/injuriouswildlife/salamanders.html

Also, you can, it would be harder/illegal. Now with marbled salamanders, it would be kind of easy because they are abundant in the US. Fortunately, from what posts have said, USA salamanders and newts are numerous. And if you do, be sure not to release it.
 
Top