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There are all sorts of salamanders available on the pet market and each species has a completely different set of care requirements.
The most common species at the moment is the axolotl, which is often seen in aquarium shops. As I have not owned this species I will not go into great detail, but in short, the axolotl remains in the juvenile form or tadpole stage for it's entire life, and so remains fully aquatic. It is an absolutely incredible looking creature and I would urge you to do a search on Google images just to see what it looks like if you have not seen one before. Apparently this is a naturally occurring variety of these with a gene causing them to give off a mild green fluorescent light in a back lit tank, but to the best of my knowledge these are not available in the UK - and if anyone knows otherwise, please contact me! I would advise anyone interested to look up care specifics carefully before purchase as I am not familiar with how to care for these properly.
FIRE BELLIED NEWT (CHINESE JAPANESE OR ORIENTAL)
These species are closely related and very similar. This animal will metamorphosis to it's adult form, which means it looses the lovely gill fringe it uses to extract oxygen from the water and breathes air, but it remains semi aquatic. It does however still spend a great deal of time in the water and requires a largely aquatic tank with a large rock or other surface area to climb out on. A river tank, or tank which is built with a divider to separate land from water is idea - but also terribly hard to build correctly without leaks. Alternatively, you can use a terrarium with a large water container for swims. The entire environment should be kept moist and the use of a mister bottle is recommended. This animal does not need a separate heat source in a heated house. Its primary diet is bloodworms and most of these sold in pet shops will be accustomed to frozen bloodworms. It will also usually eat brine shrimp, and as it becomes more terrestrial will eat a variety of insects such as crickets.
My Mom bought my brother and I one as children, but unfortunately the women who sold it told my mom it could not climb and did not need a lid for the tank. It could and did. I captured it in my Mom's room and tried to make my own lid which did not succeed in keeping it contained. It was however a lovely pet and interesting to watch. It is a dark brownish maroon colour with extremely bright red markings on the belly. It does make an easy pet to care for providing you can supply a correctly fitted tank.
This is what we own now, although it was primarily my husband who wanted them. He likes them because they look somewhat like a lizard. he would have preferred a lizard or snake, but only wanted a small tank in the living room. I do not mind reptiles but will not have anything kept in my house in a tiny and cramped cage. My husband can look at pets as ornaments. I can not. So, he settled on these rather than buy something larger and me rush out and buy a much larger tank :)
Tiger salamanders are extensively bred in the USA, but not as pets - as fish bait. They are reputed to live for hours thrashing and struggling once hooked which is meant to be great for catching fish :(. They are used in their aquatic form for this and also known as water dogs. A few have been imported to the UK and entered the pet trade, and others have been bred from the original imports , which is where mine came in. They can mate and reproduce in the aquatic form, and it is much easier and requires less space to breed them in this form. Mine were used as a breeding pair until morphing into adults at which point they were sold to a local pet shop.
The tiger salamander has a very large natural range stretching from Canada to Mexico, which has allowed it to adapt to a large variety of temperature ranges. Kept in a home, it does not require any additional heat source, although heat does improve digestion and I have found mine seem to enjoy basking under a heat lamp in the coldest spells of winter. In the wild they would hibernate, but living indoors they stay awake all year.
Theoretically they will take a wide range of foods. While they would enjoy frogs and fish, I do not feed these items. They are meant to eat crickets, earthworms, pill bugs, grub worms, flies, and even slugs. Baby mice can also be fed, but this is another food Ia m not comfortable using, and I doubt mine would eat dead ones. I would avoid feeding slugs as they are likely to carry disease. Mine do not read the care instructions sheets and do not eat anything except for crickets and flies, both of which must be fed alive. We feed the crickets a variety of healthy foods such as oranges, cabbage even fish flaked in a process known as "gut loading" filling the bug up with nutrients before it is eaten.
These salamanders are sold as fully terrestrial, but this is not true. I have a terrarium with a large water dish, in which they spend most of their time, and they do still very much enjoy water. There substrate must be kept damp as well. If the salamanders skin should dry out it will die. They only defecate in water which means it must be changed constantly.
We have had our salamanders for about three years now. I do not know their age when we bought them but they often live 12 or more years so hopefully we will have them for some time. they are not very active except when being fed, so not the most exciting creature, but they are different from most pets. This is an easy pet to care for, and I would recommend them as a beginner's amphibian.
NATIVE SALAMANDERS OR NEWTS
These are not pets. All forms of British amphibians are protected by law and should not be collected as pets. Newts in particular are becoming less and less common. If you can provide a garden pond, please do look up ways to attract these wonderful creatures ( just expect a reduction in frog spawn - as they eat them. But these animals should never be captured and kept as pets. Likewise do not ever release non native species. If grow tired of keeping them your only options are to find a new home or destroy them, preferably the former.
SALAMANDERS AND CHILDREN
Salamanders do not like to be handled. Frequent handling causes unnecessary stress and possibly death. Salamanders may also harbour very dangerous bacteria on their skin which can make children seriously ill, as well as secreting mild toxins from their skin. Children should really not touch the salamanders at all. If kept as a child's pet, it should be only to look at with an adult doing any necessary handling. If they must be picked up wash your hands carefully with water only, move them as quickly as possible and wash very well with hot water and antibacterial soap afterwards. They can bite, and understand it is rather painful, but not poisonous, and bites are rare. All the same I let my husband do any required handling to avoid the possibility of being bitten!
Although I dont know much about salamanders in general I do own 2 axolotls which are unevolved salamanders so these are what im going to talk about.
As I mentioned above axolotls are salamanders which have not evolved. They are purely aquatic creatures unlike salamanders which live most of their time on dry land.
I first heard of axolotls on a tv programme called QI and as a family we became fascinated by these beautiful creatures.
Originally from a lake in mexico the only domestic ones are born and bred in captivity. As their natural habitat in the wild is literally one lake these are now classed as an edangered species in the wild.
Axolotls are fascinating creatures, they grow up to a foot in length and the most common colours are wildtype, golden and white. Their main diet in captivity is worms with the odd treat of things like snails, prawn etc thrown in for a little variety. Worms however are the best food nutritionally for them.
They dont have massive appetites and as they reach maturity (usually around 18 months) they will only need feeding every 3 days or so, depending on how much the eat at each feed obviously. You can also feed them up before going on holiday safe in the knowledge that you can leave them a week or slightly longer without food.
We got our axolotls last summer and had no end of problems keeping the water cool enough for them, their ideal temp is around 17 degrees, we ended up using the frozen bottle method. I did get fed up of this however and invested in a chiller for them as I like my heating on in winter.
As axolotls have no eyelids they dont like bright light so require plenty of hideing places such as caves and plants. There is some debate regarding wether they prefer sand or bare bottom tanks, however I believe this is more a persons conception rather than the axolotls.
There are many fascinating facts aout axolotls and I could talk about them for paragraphs and paragraphs but then people would be bored.
I will say though that it is worth doing some reading on these creatures as they truly are remarkable creatures. Sadly they are tested on in labs due to the fact they can regenerate limbs etc, but thats a whole different issue altogether and one I prefer not to get into as I can see both sides of an argument on this.
One last fascinating fact about axolotls is that if they are ill with something like stress a good remedy is to put them in the fridge, for them it's like having a mini spa. Obviously treat any other issues in the meantime which may be causing stress and if you think their condition is severe then you must take them to a vet.
We love our axolots and I would recommend people look these gorgeous creatures up (they also are known as Ambystoma mexicanum) . One thing I would say though before ending this review, if you ever plan on buying one please check that the person your buying from understands axolots needs and can give you the right information on their care. Unfortunately too many times have I read about petshops stocking them with no clue as to their requirements.
We have two different types of salamander although they look quite similar.
Firstly we have a tiger salamander who is about 8 inches long, has a black body with pale yellow splodges and a great big wide mouth that looks like it is smiling at you.
He needs a temperature of 18'c in the day and 5'c at night so if kept in a warm place inside the house doesnt require a heat sorce.
He has a glass tank with about 6 inches of soil in the bottom as they like to burrow and some moss on top.
They need a bowl big enough to swim in but also need to be able to get out and i have found a paint roller tray to be the best for this as it slopes to allow easier access.
There favorite food is crickets and meal worms although mine wont eat in the day, only at night.
We also have a fire salamander who looks very similar except he is brighter yellow and slightly bigger, he is about 11 inches.
He doesnt burrow so doesnt need as much soil in his tank but i have given him a hide box to sleep in which he loves.
crickets are his favorite food and he devours them as soon as he sees them.
salamanders are very easy to look after, change there water daily and there substrate once month but remember chlorine burns them so you will have to leave there water out over night to allow the chlorine to disperse before changing there water.
I have had in my care for over two years now two tiger salamanders. I had seen them in a pet shop, and was taken by their interesting appearance, some of my friends have told me that they look like ET. After seeing them I went home and found as much material as I could about them. These are North American salamanders which are quite secretive in the wild, belonging to the family of mole salamanders, ambystoma species. After reading the books I decided that I could give them a good home with me, which I felt was better than the way they were being looked after in the shop, in a gravel based tank with a piece of bark to hide under. I bought a three foot tank and created a land area in a plastic box, which sits on a brick, around this is water and the two areas are connected by a moss covered branch. In this way the salamanders can climb up into the land area, mainly garden compost and bark chips with a piece of bark for cover, or can stay in the water as they choose. In fact they like sprawling about all over the place. They have turned out to be very interesting creatures indeed. They sleep together for much of the winter, squashed in beside each other under the bark. They are more or less dormant for some 3 months ofthis time. But in the earlier part of the year they can eat almost every day. They eat most things, crickets, worms, food tablets, pinkies etc, and seem to stock up in preparation for the winter rest from eating. They are in an unheated tank, which has to be kept moist, though with all the water this is not a problem. The two I have are very different in preferences, one prefers the water and the other the land. One is almost tame and the other is almost timid. They shed their skins regularly in the water as they grow, they are enquiring creatures, the tame one will watch you during the summer expecting you to feed it at every opportunity. They love squeezing into tight corners, where you think they are trapped, but it seems to be part of their
security behaviour. I change some of compost from time to time, and in the summer make sure that it is kept moist. A partial water change every three weeks or so, and they have kept in great health throughout this time. Their bite is for holding and so if they catch your finger they do not hurt you, mind you it still gives you a fright. You cannot really hold them, their skin is delicate, you should always have wet hands if you do so, and you will see that they do not appreciate this. Though you can stroke them under their chin or on top of their head. They have to keep moist soyou cannot take them for a walk in the park. They are fascinating creatures with a slow life style, but are intriguing in their looks and behaviours.