Three Toed Amphiuma

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Other common names: Congo Eel

Scientific name: Amphiuma tridactylum

The basics:
The Three Toed Amphiuma is an eel-like amphibian found in the southeastern United States. It lives in semi-permanent or permanent bodies of water such as canals, ponds, rivers, and streams where they will make burrows into the mud or sandy bottoms.

Appearance / health:
The Three Toed Amphiumas are the second largest of the 3 Amphiuma species. They can reach up to 42 inches in length. They have small beady eyes with a single gill slit on each side of their heads. Although they have gill slits, they actually breath by using their lungs and will rise to the top of the water for air. The dorsal and ventral coloration of these Amphiumas are extremely noticeable, almost giving them a bicolor look. The upper part of the body (dorsal surface) can be black, gray, or a brownish color. The ventral (bottom) colors are lighter gray or almost white with a dark patch on the throat. They have 4 very tiny legs (about 2cm) each with 3 toes, much like the common name suggests. These toes are also how to tell them apart from the other Amphiuma species.

Behavior / temperament:
If started, the Three Toed Amphiuma will inflict a painful bite. Never try handling them without practicing extreme caution and only do it when necessary. They have been known to be aggressive with each other especially around feeding time.

A single adult specimen can safely live in a 55 gallon or more tank. Juveniles can live in smaller gallon tanks until ready for the permanent tank. A secure lid is a must as they are powerful and have been known to escape.
Water temperatures should never be allowed to go over 75F with the ideal temperature range staying between 60-65F. If room temperature is too warm, a chiller may be needed or ice/cold water can be added to the tank everyday. Substrate can be a mix of sand, mud, and large gravel, or these used singly. Adding fake plants is often a better choice because they tend to disturb them quite easily when they are active. Hides should also be used, and can be in the form of cut PVC pipe, aquarium décor made for fish, driftwood, and other items. Filtration is needed and should be a submersible or outside canister filter. Even with filtration, water changes should be done weekly - up to 20% of water. Monthly a larger portion of water should be changed - up to 50%. All water must be dechlorinated. To dechlorinated the water, leave in large wide open buckets or use chemicals found in pet stores to get rid of it. Spring water may also be used. All filter equipment, along with the lid of the tank, must be completely secure to avoid the Amphiuma from dislodging them.

A varied diet is best for nearly any animal, so offer your Amphiuma different foods including earthworms, black worms, recently molted crayfish, fish, insects (by tong feeding), and even the occasional pinkie mouse. Never try to feed them by hand as they have teeth and can bite.

Males will court females by swimming around her in agile spirals. Fertilization is complete through direct transfer of the male’s spermatophore. Females will lay up to 100 eggs in a burrow or under some type of object inside the tank near the edge of the water and will usually stayed coiled around them. Eggs will then hatch up to 5 months later. If captive breeding is to be attempted, they should go through a temperature drop, shortened photoperiods, and then an increase of these.

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