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Fire Salamander

Name Salamandra salamandra
Type Amphibian 2 phase water dweller and terrestrial as adults
Where am I from? Central and Southern Europe, into West Asia and Northern Africa
Handle-ability Can be held for short periods, but they are nocturnal
Length/size Ave 7-10 inches
Suitable for Beginners, hardy species
Life span Can live up to 30 years!

Housing

Adult Fire Salamanders are quite lively and require a larger terrarium than most ground dwelling amphibians. A 15-20 Gallon tank should be adequate for 2 adult salamanders. They are quite social and can be housed with other Fire salamanders. Fire salamanders do well in a savannah/woodland set-up. A coco husk substrate, sandy top soil or compost (without fertilisers), orchid bark chips, sphagnum moss, peat, live moss, leaf litter, sand and a selection of live plants can all be used in your set-up. Avoid using vermiculite and gravel as these are no good for burrowing. A simpler, but less attractive substrate is paper towels. These are cheap, fit for purpose and easy to clean if they become soiled, but be aware that your Fire salamander is a natural burrower, so is more likely to appreciate a substrate that allows it to burrow.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for your salamanders is around 15-20°C (60-68°F) with a slight temperature drop at night of 5°C degrees. It is useful to have a small thermometer on either end of the terrarium to check the temperature, as it is very important that low temperatures are maintained. Fire Salamanders are not heat tolerant and temperatures above 23-24°C (75°F) can cause your Fire Salamander to suffer from heat stress. Symptoms of heat stress included long periods spent in the water bowl, constantly trying to escape the terrarium, pacing, anxiousness and loss of appetite. If your Fire Salamanders have any of these symptoms, check the temperatures within the terrarium immediately to ensure that they have not risen dangerously high. To keep your Fire Salamanders at a cool temperature it is advised to place the terrarium in a room without central heating or where is can be guaranteed to be cooler like an unused bedroom or a garage. Some keepers build outdoor enclosures so they can keep their Fire Salamanders outside year round, to ensure that the temperatures do not get too high as they might within a house.

Humidity

Fire Salamanders do not require high humidity, but a little more than normal room humidity should be maintained. Misting the tank regularly with de-chlorinated or bottled spring water will ensure that the substrate does not dry out. It is important to ensure that the substrate remains damp, but not water logged.

Lighting

Fire salamanders do not need the edition of UV lighting if they have enough vitamins and variation in their diet. Although you may find the live plants in your terrarium will die without any light. A fluorescent UVB tube is ideal as it won’t give out any heat and will help the plants thrive. You should place the light at one side of the terrarium creating a light gradient so your salamanders can find a darker place out of the light if preferred. Ideally you should cycle the lighting to mimic the salamander’s natural habitat by having a 12/12 system - 12 hours of light and 12 of dark. Normal bulbs should be avoided within the terrarium, due to the amount of heat they would generate.

Feeding

Salamanders should be fed 2-3 times weekly with a varied diet of appropriately sized gut loaded insects, including meal worms, crickets, small grass hoppers, flour beetles, wax-worms, moths, caterpillars, earthworms, snails, spiders, roaches and woodlice. Feed 3 or 4 insects per salamander per feeding. The live food should be dusted with calcium supplements weekly, especially as they grow from Juvenile to adult. As adults your Salamander should be able to feed on the occasional pinkie mouse, but you should regard this as a treat item as regular feedings on mice can cause your Salamander to become obese. Fire salamanders will actively hunt their food, instead of waiting for it to come to them like some other frogs and salamanders. This makes them enjoyable to watch at feeding time. In the wild Fire Salamanders will occasionally take carrion (dead prey items), as they also use their sense of smell to hunt out food, rather than just being attracted to movement.

Breeding

The breeding season for Fire Salamanders is generally early autumn. Breeding at this time means that larvae should be expected in the early spring. Fire Salamanders reach sexual maturity at about 3-4 years of age and should be a good health and weight before they are allowed to breed. If you are planning to breed your Fire Salamanders, it is recommended that you allow them a period of hibernation beforehand. This is achieved by not feeding your Salamanders for approximately 2 weeks before slowly lowering the temperatures to around 5-7°C (41-45°F). Some breeders use a fridge to ensure that the temperatures remain low enough during this time. When your Salamanders are ready to come out of hibernation, bring the temperatures up slowly by just a few degrees a day. Mating takes place on land, with the male depositing his spermaphone for the female to pick up. She then carries it around for months, before the larvae are deposited in the water. A large water bowl should be placed in the terrarium to allow the female to give birth, but then removed to separate the mother from the larvae. Larvae are fully aquatic and can be housed in a suitable aquarium and fed on a variety of small prey items, including chopped earthworms, daphnia, fruit flies, white worms, bloodworms, black worms and insect larvae. Metamorphosis occurs in approximately 1 month, at which point they will become terrestrial, so a land area is needed to ensure that they can leave the water easily and continue their lives on land.

Varieties

There are two main sub-species that are commonly found in the pet trade. These are Salamandra salamandra salamandra and Salamandra salamandra terrestis. S.s terrestis is sometimes called the Barred Fire Salamander. This care sheet will focus on these two species, but here is a list of some other Salamanders in the Salamandra salamandra family:

  • Spotted Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra almanzoris
  • Yellow Striped Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra fastuosa
  • Bernadezi Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra bernadezi
  • Near Eastern Fire Salamander - Samandra salamandra inframmaculata
  • Portuguese Fire Salamander - Salamndra salamandra gallaica
  • Corsican Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra corsica
  • Los Barrios Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra longirostris