Acquired: Pet store
Posted Oct 13, 2015
I purchased my fire-bellied salamander from a pet store in the summer of 2013 expecting an easy-to-care-for pet that would be like a piece of living furniture. My expectations were sorely wrong.
Norton began his life in my home in a small terrarium with aquarium stones, distilled water and a large rock. I bought him aquatic frog and newt food in a small jar. He (I decided Norton was a boy because i liked the name Norton) spent all of his time hanging out on the rock and never went for a swim nor climbed up the sides of the tank. Food pellets would collect in the bottom of the tank making the water cloudy almost immediately.
After a week of almost no activity and his apparent anorexia, I bought a larger terrarium, an aquarium decoration with different levels, a carbon filter and bloodworms. Norton still spent all of his time hanging out on the top of the aquarium rock and refused to swim or eat the bloodworms. I am not really sure how he stayed alive not eating. I continued to change his water on a weekly basis and prayed for the best.
At one point, about three months after I had him, I checked in and he was all dehydrated: I could make out his skeleton through his dark skin. I picked him up (which i know is a faux-pas with newts) and forced him into the distilled water. He plumped right back up to normal size, but immediately scrambled back onto his perch out of the water.
All my research indicated that fire-bellied salamanders are primarily amphibious, but Norton absolutely refused to spend any time in the water. I spent a lot of time that year researching how to make him happier and came up with nothing. I don't think that I ever saw him eat a bloodworm, but he must have as he lived for over a year in our home. He was rather small and about the same size as a cricket, so it seemed foolhardy to put an animal that could bite him in the same tank. I expected my salamander to be a low-key animal, but had hoped to occasionally catch him climbing the walls and showing his belly or swimming. Instead, he stayed almost perfectly still. Perhaps he moved around at night while we were sleeping, but I never caught him at it and in the morning he was almost always where he had last been sighted the evening before.
About a year after I had acquired Norton, I had placed him in the smaller terrarium while i was cleaning out the main one and he escaped. His body was never found and I assume that he was eaten by one of my cats. I can't say that I was particularly upset at the loss of a pet that had become just one more item of household cleaning. I am inclined to think that his escape was actually an attempt at suicide as he never showed any inclination to live or enjoy his habitat.
I would not recommend a fire-bellied salamander to another person. He was quite a bit of work and no fun at all.