Common Mudpuppy

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Brian Gratwicke

Other common names: Waterdog

Scientific name: Necturus maculosus

The basics:
Large, flattened, entirely aquatic, and sporting a “dog-like” face and bushy red gills, the Common Mudpuppy sometimes terrifies folks when it appears at the end of a fishing line. But amphibian enthusiasts who are able to meet its unique needs can ask for no finer or more interesting aquarium inhabitant.

The Common Mudpuppy ranges from southeastern Manitoba and southern Quebec, Canada through the Mississippi River drainage to northern Georgia and Louisiana, USA.

Entirely aquatic, this bottom-dweller inhabits streams, lakes, canals, and rivers, from the shallows to depths of at least 27.5 meters (90 feet).

Appearance / health:
Occasionally reaching 49 cm (19 in) in length, this impressive salamander has feathery, red external gills and may be gray, near-black or rusty brown in color. Dark spots and blotches mark the skin, and the long tail is laterally-compressed.

Well-cared-for Mudpuppies may live to 30+ years of age. Pets will swallow rocks and gravel bits, resulting in intestinal blockages. If ammonia levels are not kept low, “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections will take hold.

Behavior / temperament:
Mudpuppies adjust well when given proper care, but generally remain shy in captivity. Secure shelters are a must, and they are ill-at-ease in brightly lit environments.

They should be handled only when necessary, and then by being urged into a water-filled container so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed.

A 30 gallon aquarium can house a single adult; larger groups will get-along in more spacious quarters. Gravel should be avoided due to the danger of ingestion, or be of a size that cannot be swallowed.

Mudpuppies will not thrive unless provided excellent water quality. A canister or submersible filter and weekly partial water changes will help ensure low ammonia levels. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water via liquid preparations available at pet stores. Rock caves, PVC pipes and other hiding places are essential. Large mats of floating live or artificial plants can be used to cut down on the amount of light that reaches the bottom of the aquarium. Common Mudpuppies fare best at a temperature range of 62-70 F. Most survive warmer temperatures, but are then more susceptible to illness.

A varied diet comprised of earthworms (a great favorite), small crayfish, blackworms, minnows, and shiners should be provided. Some individuals will accept trout chow and commercial newt diets as well.

Normal temperature fluctuations are sometimes sufficient to stimulate reproduction. The eggs, 25-150 in number, are deposited individually in a cavity below a rock, and take 6-10 weeks to develop. The female guards the eggs during the incubation period. The larvae will accept chopped blackworms and earthworms. They are highly cannibalistic and should be separated or kept in large tanks with ample cover and a constant supply of food.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


cool thing, fun pets


carnivores, shallow riverbeds, rescue, underwater dragon, normal room temperature

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