Being small, hardy and mostly terrestrial, long-toed salamanders aren’t the most demanding amphibians available in the pet trade. They are not, however, pets to be acquired on impulse. Although fairly tolerant, long-toed salamanders still have specific diet and habitat needs. Also, bear in mind that they will be a commitment for at least seven years, possibly longer. Because handling is a health risk to both them and the handler, they are not appropriate pets for small children, although some older children might find they make interesting pets.
Prepare a 20-gallon, which would be big enough for a couple of salamanders, or larger tank as a vivarium. Include a deep layer of substrate, such as chemical-free potting compost or mulch. Long-toed salamanders are a type of mole salamander, so called because they burrow. Also add a large piece of bark or a hollow log as a shelter.
Mist the tank with dechlorinated or spring water until the substrate is damp, but not soaking wet.
Add a shallow dish of the same water to enable your pets to rehydrate.
Feed your salamanders live invertebrate prey, such as slugs, crickets and earthworms, of a suitable size. Basically, any food item should be small enough for the salamander to swallow easily as is -- they can’t chew. Provide two or three items of food per salamander at a time, and all at once as this species is known to fight over food. How often to feed depends on the size and age of the salamanders -- usually two to four times a week. If they demolish all the food very quickly and go looking for more, feed them more or more frequently. If food is left over, feed fewer items or less often. Live invertebrates can be left in the tank until eaten, but remove any dead ones, or parts, immediately.
Dust the food with a calcium and vitamin supplement for salamanders a couple of times a week as per the instructions.
Remove feces from the tank and change the water daily.
Mist the substrate when it shows signs of drying out.
Clean the tank completely one to four times a month, depending on the size of the tank and the number of salamanders. The smaller the tank or the more salamanders you have, the more frequently you’ll need to clean. Transfer the salamanders to a holding container with some substrate and a piece of bark. Dispose of the substrate and rinse out the tank before adding fresh substrate and replacing the water dish, shelters and salamanders.
- Although this species is not endangered as a whole, some populations and subspecies are threatened, and in some cases are legally protected. For this reason, as well as animal welfare and health issues, ensure that you acquire captive-bred, not wild-caught, animals if you wish to keep long-toed salamanders as pets.
- Never use household cleaning chemicals to clean a salamander tank. Amphibians are extremely sensitive to toxins in their environment and these products could kill them. The strongest things you should ever use are an amphibian-safe disinfectant, dishwashing liquid or a vinegar spray, and even then rinse very thoroughly afterward.
- Reptile basking lamps can be hazardous to amphibians. Long-toed salamanders shouldn’t need an extra heat source in most homes, as they are adapted to a range of temperatures and should be OK at normal room temperature. However, if the room with the salamander tank is very cold, provide more heat with a heat mat positioned underneath one end of the tank, not a basking lamp.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.