Scientific name: Salamandra salamandra
The gorgeous Fire Salamander has much to recommend it as a pet. In addition to being among the world’s largest terrestrial salamanders, it is perhaps the most brilliantly-colored, alert, and responsive of all. It also produces live young and has reached age 50+ in captivity – what more could an amphibian fan ask for?!
The huge natural range extends across much of Europe, from Sweden and Germany to the continent’s southern boundaries, and also includes northern Africa and Iran. Six subspecies, several of which are considered distinct species by some authorities, have been described.
Fire Salamanders inhabit hillside and montane deciduous and coniferous forests.
Appearance / health:
The thick, black body is strikingly-marked with yellow or orange blotches, spots, lines or stripes. Adults reach 7 to nearly 12 inches in length.
Captive longevities of 30+ years are not uncommon, and several individuals have set salamander lifespan records of 50-51 years. Heat stress, and the resulting bacterial and fungal infections, is the most commonly-encountered health concern.
Behavior / temperament:
Fire Salamanders are perhaps most responsive of all amphibians, sometimes being described as “more like turtles than salamanders” by their owners. Pets become active by day and clamber over one-another in hopes of a meal when anyone enters the room.
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 wounds, eyes, or the mouth. Fire Salamanders are unique in being able to project toxins at enemies, although pets rarely if ever do so.
A single adult or pair of Fire Salamanders 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.
Fire Salamanders do best at 52-65 F, and will remain active at 45 F or lower. They are stressed by sustained temperatures over 72 F. In many locales, they are best housed in cool basements or air-conditioned rooms.
Earthworms and night-crawlers are ideal as the bulk of a Fire Salamander’s diet. Roaches, sow bugs, crickets, locusts, butterworms, horn worms, and other commercially-available 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 males may be distinguished from females by their smaller size and the swollen area about the cloaca. A cooling-off period of 4-6 weeks at 45 F may spark breeding activity. Females deposit live larvae or, in 2 subspecies, fully-formed little salamanders, in water. The larvae may be raised on live blackworms, chopped earthworms, and frozen bloodworms. Metamorphosis is attained in 2.5-14 months.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
observation, Hearty appetite, interesting pet, cute little creatures, colour changes
captivity, wash hands, aquarium lid, fresh bugs, interaction level
humidity moss, water shallow container, wood logs
I've always loved things that slither and crawl. From a very early age I can remember going hunting for frog spawn around my birthday (February), and watching the tadpoles transform into frogs in a fish tank in our garden.
Snakes and newts followed, though less successfully, but I'm always drawn to the reptile tent at our local country fairs.
The idea of owning a couple of Salamanders came to me when I saw a well known politician (Ken Livingstone) being interviewed on TV about his colourful pets. They seemed so striking and placid, and must surely have been easy to look after. It took little time for me to persuade my wife that the empty fish tank in the lounge would be an ideal environment for them, and within a month or so, Sam and Dave, a pair if Fire Salamanders, had taken up residence.
Back then, there was no Internet to provide information on how to care for them, so the local library was visited and eventually I found a book that offered some advice.
The first few months were great, mainly because of the novelty of owning such exotic creatures, and both of my children were fascinated by them, but soon the novelty wore off and it just became a case of feeding and cleaning. The thing is, they aren't the most active creatures, especially in a relatively small tank, and the fact that they feed mainly after dark meant that, for the most part, they were invisible.
I persevered for a year with them and, to be fair, the feeding and environment was pretty easy to maintain. They eat most small insects found in the garden, so there was a constant supply, but I felt that I wasn't really giving them a suitable environment to live in so, eventually, I contacted a local, small zoo that had a reptile house and they took them off me.
Nowadays, the amount of information on how to care for them is so profuse on the net, I'm tempted to try again. Our local World of Water has a fine selection of Axolotls, a species I've always found fascinating. Now, I wonder...."
From KeithJ Mar 12 2015 4:42AM
"Fire Belly Newt
Newts enjoy a shallow water land, with 70% land, 30% water. Newts are pretty easy to own, fairly active, and will always attract attention :) They like bloodworms, and other food as well (this more depends on the newt itself). They can, however, be poisonous, so make sure to wash your hands before and after you handle a newt, and the can and will eat each other if there is a big size difference!."
From San_Diego_Boy Oct 22 2014 12:34AM
"The most boring pet ever?
Well, one day in 2013 my mother bought herself a salamander. No one understood why, not even herself. Two years later and we haven't become much wiser.
I guess this is a kind of pet you have to be really interested in to get some joy from having one. My mother loves to set up the aquarium and change the look of it, but we seldom see our sal in there. I guess this is not the best pet keeping, but our family has a lot of experience with all sorts of pets, and even though this might be the most boring "pet" ever, we wanted to try it. He gets everything he needs and it's important for us to take good care of him. We tried to give him away to someone who would appreciate him more than we do, but living in Northen Norway, this became a difficult task.
He's almost entirely black with spots and some yellow here and there, so it's not a very pretty reptile. He is shy and likes to hide. We don't see him often except when feeding him. He don't enjoy being held at all, and he's very difficult to catch.
I don't quite know what to say about this salamander. I don't really recommend getting one unless you actually are very interested in salamanders or reptiles in general. I will not get one ever again.."
From mikajosefine Apr 13 2015 5:20PM