Other common names: Yellow Spotted Salamander
Scientific name: Ambystoma maculatum
Although among the world’s most strikingly-marked amphibians, and quite hardy, the Spotted Salamander has been largely ignored by pet-keepers. However, these woodland beauties make long-lived, responsive pets, and are worth consideration by folks with a bit of experience under their belts.
The Spotted Salamander is found over much of eastern and central North America, from Nova Scotia and central Ontario, Canada south to Georgia and eastern Texas, USA.
Primary habitats include deciduous forests, meadows near forest edges and, in some locales, woodland patches within suburban areas. Spotted salamanders spend most of their lives in self-excavated burrows or those dug by moles and other mammals.
Appearance / health:
The Spotted Salamander varies in length from 4 ¾ to 9 ¾ inches. It is stoutly built, with a black or slate-colored body marked by irregular rows of pale to brilliant yellow (occasionally orange) spots.
Well-cared-for pets may reach 25+ 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 will use plastic caves or cork bark rolls as shelters. Many learn to accept food offered by feeding tongs.
Spotted 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 Spotted 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.
Spotted Salamanders do best at 55-70 F, and are stressed by sustained temperatures over 76 F. Humidity should be maintained at 75-85%.
Earthworms are ideal as the bulk of a Spotted Salamander’s diet. Small roaches, 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 thicker bodies. A cooling-off period of 6 weeks at 45 F may spark breeding activity. The female’s 50-160 eggs are deposited in jelly-covered masses attached to plants or sunken branches. The larvae hatch in 10-30 days and may be raised on live brine shrimp, chopped blackworms, and frozen bloodworms.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
big appetite, robust salamanders, summer pet, bright yellow spots
secretive, right habitat
bloodworms, unused fish tank, dead leaves, rotten log, small insects
"I remember the day I found Sally. I had only recently moved into a new home, being around 8 or 9 years old. This new home had had a partial basement up until that point, which was filled in with concrete when we arrived. A few days after the concrete was put in, I happened to be in the basement. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a little black head sticking out of the concrete hardened around a hole that lead down into a crawl space. Upon closer inspection, the head was connected to an upper torso. Closer still; the salamander was alive!<br><br>I made my way to my father's tools and began to gently chip away at the concrete around the nearly dead girl. Her skin was dry and her eyes were pale. I assumed she was going to die, but I had to try. When I finally managed to free her, I set up some moist dirt and a little spot of clean water to drink. I dug around under some rocks and found a few worms. And then I waited.<br><br>After only a few hours, the girl was on her feet, eating and drinking, her color coming back to show off vibrant yellow spots along a pitch black body. I considered releasing her, but she seemed to like being touched so I selfishly (now that I look back at the time) decided to domesticate her. It was easy enough, she was laid back and even a little lazy, seemingly to prefer being fed than to hunt. She was social, coming to me every time I came near. She was just the friend I needed to pick myself up after the move.<br><br>Sally stayed with me for six years before we were moving out of state and I decided to retrain her for the wild. She grudgingly started to catch her own prey when I stopped providing her with dead bugs. She was naturally timid with other humans and very afraid of dogs and cats. I am confident in her ability to survive when I released her (I did not take her with me because I feared that if something were to happen to me, she'd be released into the wrong environment). <br><br>All in all, though, Sally may have been the best companion I have had. She was very hardy, surviving days in that concrete tomb. Adaptable doesn't even begin to describe how she handled things. She easily went from wild to tame, back to wild again (though she seemed upset about that last part). She was affectionate and social, but also independent enough to be content on her own for busy schedules. I give spotted salamanders an 8 out of 10 for being companion material. They lose 2 points to try and deter people from stealing them from their habitats like I did. It is wrong and I know what I did was selfish, even if Sally seem content enough.."
From BhuvanaMcGoats May 27 2015 1:51PM
"Spotted salamanders are easy to find in the woods. They usually live under rocks or logs. Once you have a spotted salamander an unused fish tank provides the perfect home. They need something to hide under, a section of rotten log or some rotting leaves work well, some plants, ferns and moss and such, and a good degree of moisture. The moisture can be taken care of by misting the cage well every morning and evening. They eat worms and other small insects, a great summer job for the kids! They are not averse to being held though too much handling will result in skin damage through drying. I have successfully kept one for three months but I feel that that is long enough. When you wish to release your salamander, bring it back to where you found it and place it near some dead leaves. The leaves will provide immediate shelter and the salamander will eventually find its way back home.."
From MCEddyB Apr 16 2015 12:18PM
"My mom thought it would be a fun idea to give her son a reptile for a pet. So I got "Levi" the Spotted Salamander. He was leathery, active, and beautiful to observe. Though if I didn't change the habitat or clean it often, its odor could clear an entire floor of a building. Also, the lifespan didn't seem to be very long. I learned it best to leave it to its natural habitat...nature.."
From MrDLC Nov 4 2015 9:31PM