Barred Tiger Salamander

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Other common names: Arizona Tiger Salamander; Gray Tiger Salamander; Blotched Tiger Salamander; Sonoran Tiger Salamander; Mexican Coco Salamander Salamander

Scientific name: Ambystoma mavortium

The basics:
One of the world’s largest terrestrial salamanders, and among the most beautiful, the Barred Tiger Salamander does well in captivity, and becomes so responsive that some have dubbed it the “dog of the salamander world”!

The natural range covers much of western North America, from southern Canada through Washington and Oklahoma to southern Texas, USA. A feral population, derived from larvae intended as fishing bait, is established in Arizona, USA.

A variety of habitats are occupied, including deciduous and coniferous forests, grasslands, alpine meadows, and desert fringes. Barred Tiger Salamanders spend most of their lives in self-excavated burrows or those dug by small mammals.

Appearance / health:
This attractively-marked amphibian is one of the world’s largest terrestrial salamanders, sometimes approaching 33 cm (average 13 in). The head is very broad, and the thickly-built, light to dark gray body is boldly marked by blotches of yellow, which are often quite brilliant.

Captive longevities of 25+ years are known. “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections, caused by poor terrarium hygiene, are the most commonly-encountered health concerns.

Behavior / temperament:
Well-adjusted Barred Tiger Salamanders are among the boldest of all amphibian pets. They quickly learn to associate people with meals, and feed readily from tongs.

They should be handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. Salamander skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth.

A single adult can be kept in a 20 gallon aquarium; larger tanks can support small groups.

Moist sphagnum, carpet moss, or terrarium liners make good substrates, and cork bark rolls or plastic caves serve well as retreats. They will establish permanent burrows if provided a deep mix of topsoil and sphagnum moss. Live plants will lessen the need for substrate changes. A shallow bowl of chlorine/chloramine free water should always be available. Barred Tiger Salamanders do best at 55-70 F, and are stressed by sustained temperatures over 76 F.

Earthworms and night-crawlers are ideal as the bulk of a Barred Tiger Salamander’s diet. Roaches, sow bugs, crickets, locusts, small crayfish butterworms, horn worms, and other invertebrates should also be offered. Mealworms have been implicated in digestive system disorders, and should be avoided. Most meals should be coated with a powdered Calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement. A vitamin/mineral supplement should be used 2-3x weekly.

Mature females may be distinguished by their larger size; breeding males exhibit cloacal swelling. A cooling-off period of 6 weeks at 45-50 F may spark breeding activity, but is not always necessary. The female’s 350-5,000+ eggs are deposited in jelly-covered masses attached to plants or sunken branches.

The larvae hatch in 10-50 days and may be raised on live blackworms, chopped earthworms, and frozen bloodworms. Metamorphosis is attained in 2.5-14 months, depending upon temperature and the origin of the adults.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


12 inches, greenish yellow spots, signature grin


fat salamander


little feeder insects, wax worms, little swimming pool, nice substrate

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