Marbled Salamander

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Other common names: Banded Salamander

Scientific name: Ambystoma opacum

The basics: One of North America’s handsomest amphibians, the Marbled Salamander spends most of its life below-ground, and is often overlooked by pet-keepers. However, captives soon give up their secretive ways and, with proper care, have reached age 15+.

The Marbled Salamander is found over much of the eastern and central USA, from southern New Hampshire south to Texas and northern Florida.

Marbled salamanders spend most of their lives in self-excavated burrows or those dug by small mammals, and are most commonly found in deciduous or mixed pine forests on sandy soil.

Appearance / health:
The Marbled Salamander varies in length from 9-10.7 cm (3.5-4.2 in). It is stoutly built, with a black body marked by broad, bold bands of white or silvery gray.

Well-cared-for pets may reach 15+ years of age. If the terrarium’s substrate or water becomes fouled with ammonia from waste products, “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections will take hold.

Behavior / temperament:
Well-adjusted pets often forsake their burrowing habits and often learn to accept food offered by feeding tongs.

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

A pair of Marbled Salamanders can be kept in a 10 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.

Marbled Salamanders do best at 55-70 F, and are stressed by sustained temperatures over 76 F. Humidity should be maintained at 75-85%.

Small roaches, earthworms, sow bugs, crickets, blackworms, butterworms, calciworms and other commercially-available insects will be readily accepted. 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 from males by their larger size and gray or silver, as opposed to white, body bands. A cooling-off period of 6 weeks at 45 F may spark breeding activity. Marbled Salamanders mate on land, after which the female curls about her 30-100 eggs for 3-4 months (in the wild, captive breeding is rare) until spring rains wash the eggs into temporary ponds. The larvae may be raised on live brine shrimp, chopped blackworms, and frozen bloodworms.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


starter, room temp, teenager


crickets, old aquarium, fairly long life

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