Congratulations on welcoming a new salamander or newt to your family. We here at Four Seasons Animal Hospital want to help you with your new friend, starting with the basics..
Salamanders and newts are found only in the Americas and in the temperate zones of Northern Africa, Asia and Europe. There is little distinction between the amphibians known as “newt” and “salamander.” What is called a salamander in the Americas may well be called a newt in Europe.
Size & Life Span
Depending on species:
average adult size: 3 to 13 inches long,
average life span: 6-10+ years
Salamanders & newts are nocturnal so it is best to feed your salamander at night when they are most active. They are also carnivores and thus they like to hunt their prey. Because of this, you will need to feed live prey. They love live earthworms, nightcrawlers (from a bait shop), bloodworms and crickets (which can be purchased at pet stores), live waxworms, and live slugs. They will also eat frozen bloodworms, though you may have to move the bloodworm around to catch your pet’s attention. Make sure your prey has been gut-loaded (recently fed) before offering it to your salamander. Aquatic salamanders and newts can also eat brine shrimp, Daphnia and water fleas.
Feed your adult salamander two to three times a week. Juvenile salamanders should be fed daily until they stop growing and mature into an adult. Feed juvenile newts daily and adults every other day. Keep in mind that your new pet might not eat during the first few days that he is in his new home. Most salamanders & newts tend to take a few days to adjust to their new surroundings however some will cozy right up to their new home and eat heartily on day one.
Monitor the amount your salamander or newt eats. In general, they will simply stop eating when they are full. During the first couple of days that you feed him, provide him with a set amount of prey (you choose the number) and then check back on him in the next couple of hours. If there are any worms or crickets left, you will know that your salamander or newt doesn’t need that much food. This does not hold true for fire salamanders and tiger salamanders that can become obese if overfed so monitor their weight carefully.
Cage Size & Design
Use an aquarium or tank to house your salamander or newt. You should use a 10-gallon tank, as this will provide enough room for your pet to hide, dig, and sleep. Aquariums tanks are best used for aquatic and semi-aquatic salamanders and newts as they can hold enough water to accommodate their life-style. Atop your tank make sure you have a tight-fitting lid. Salamanders and newts are excellent climbers and can reach the top of a10-gallon tank in no time. Screen lids are best, as they also provide your pet with excellent ventilation. Different salamanders and newts need different environments so be sure you know what type of salamander you have or are going to purchase before you set up the tank.
● Aquatic salamanders and newts spend their whole lives in the water. Thus, the ideal ratio of water to land is three to one. Layer the bottom of the tank with two inches of washed aquarium gravel. Gradually slope the tank so that the layered gravel goes from two inches to three inches deep. Plant some aquatic plants but know that you will have to replace them every so often because salamanders can be rough on aquatic plants.
● Semi-aquatic salamanders and newts should have a tank that is half water, half land. Divide your tank with a half sheet of plexiglass so that one side is aquatic, and one side is terrestrial. Lay two inches of aquarium gravel on the aquatic side, along with some aquatic plants. Create a sloping gradient with the gravel so that the salamander can walk from the water to the land. On the land side, place two inches of aquarium gravel, then top it with substrate (ground covering). This substrate should be mulch-like soil like shredded bark or coconut fiber. Top this with sterile potting soil or garden loam.
● Terrestrial salamanders only should not have a water area in their tank. Do the same as the land side of the semi-aquatic tank, only throughout the whole tank. Add plants and moss. All newts are aquatic or semi-aquatic so all newt require water.
Substrate for both salamanders and newts should consist of dampened moss and pieces of bark, or a mulch-type soil such as coconut fiber. Newts prefer a water substrate of slate, or large smooth gravel with decorative plants. Gravel and artificial turf should be avoided as it is too harsh for amphibian skin.
No matter what type of salamander you have, you should provide him with some good hiding places as they cab get stressed out, so it is good for them to have some locations to relax in. Rock caves, large shards of pottery, large pieces of bark, and store-bought ‘hiding spots’ will make your salamander happy.
Water & Humidity
Maintain 70% humidity by misting as needed every day. Provide your terrestrial salamander with a water bowl. This dish should be relatively small and shallow, as terrestrial salamanders tend to not be very good swimmers, and could drown in a deep water bowl. It is very important that the water you use to fill the pool is dechlorinated.
Potential dechlorinated water sources include:
● Aged water: Allow chlorinated water to sit in an open container for 24-48 hours so chlorine can dissipate.
● Bottled spring water
● Filtered tap water: run through a sediment and activated charcoal filter
Newts require lighting for 10-12 hours a day using a UVB light with full spectrum. Salamanders require a 10-12 hour day light cycle using an incandescent light with low levels of UVB lighting recommended. Never put your tank in direct sunlight, as the sunlight can heat the tank up too much. Give your salamander or newt the temperature he wants. The temperature you set up will depend on the species of salamander or newt but should be between 60-75°F. Salamanders from temperate climates will not need any form of heating. Those from tropical and semi-tropical locales will need heat. Always provide a temperature gradient where one side of the tank is warmer than the other side. To achieve this temperature, use one of the following:
Aquarium water heater: These are submersible heaters that will warm the temperature of the water and increase the humidity in the tank.
Heating pad: Can be placed under one side of the tank.
Heat lamp: This may kill some of your plants and has to be closely monitored as to how hot it makes the tank.
Note: Allow your salamander or newt to hibernate. Those from cooler climates bury themselves underground for the winter months. Allowing them to complete this process, as they would in nature, increases their life span so it is recommended that you do not discourage this action.
Clean your salamander or newt’s enclosure at least weekly.
Like most lizards, growing salamanders do shed. When this is about to happen the salamander’s body colors will get duller and the skin will begin to separate from the body. Salamanders tend to eat their skin in the process of shedding so not seeing skin shavings is normal. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, the act of shedding takes a lot of energy, so much in fact that that energy needs to be replaced fast and the old skin is readily available. Secondly, the eating of their skin also occurs because in the wild it is smart not to leave a trail and eating that trail is the solution.
Amphibian skin is very sensitive so handle salamanders as little as possible. Always wear gloves when handling your frog as oils or residue on your skin can harm your salamander.