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Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

Introduction: Fire salamanders are one of the most popular species of salamander to keep because of their attractive coloration and hardy nature. Adults from the southern part of their range have been recorded growing to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, but most only mature a little more than half that size. In general, fire salamanders have a background color of dark black with a variable amount of yellow of orange spots, stripes or blotches. There are many different subspecies, each with a different appearance and distribution. Fire salamanders have two large glands at the back of their head that can secrete a poison. They are native to the cool, damp forest floors of southern and central Europe, and are rarely seen in the open during the day because of they are nocturnal. A few subspecies are protected in the wild, although there is still a small flow of wild-caught animals coming into the United States. Whenever possible purchase a captive-bred fire salamander.

Cage: Fire salamanders are secretive and are not particularly active. A standard 10 gallon aquarium that measures 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 12 inches high (50 cm by 25 cm by 30 cm) is large enough for one adult fire salamander, but more room is better. A screen cover should be used to prevent the salamander from escaping. An aquarium background or black paper can be taped to 3 sides of the aquarium to help reduce stress and make the salamander feel secure.

Components of the cage should include a substrate, hiding spots and decor. Use a substrate that holds moisture, is safe if swallowed, and allows the salamander to burrow. I use a soil mixture consisting mostly of coconut husk fiber (Bed-a-beast, Forest Bed, Eco Earth etc.) and cypress mulch. Other possible substrates include leaf litter, top soil, or a mixture of the above-mentioned components. Gravel and small bark chippings are not good substrates to user. The substrate should never be soggy or very dry for long periods of time. It can be beneficial to keep one end of the tank slightly elevated so that the entire aquarium is at a very small angle. This can help provide a moisture gradient throughout the substrate. Hiding spots and decor for the cage can consist of logs, driftwood, live or fake plants, flower pots, pieces of bark, and rocks. The addition of a clump of moist moss can also be added.

                      

Temperature: Fire salamanders do best with a daytime temperature that ranges between 60°F (16°C) and 68°F (20°C). During the night the cage can fall to 55°F (13°C) without problems. They are not tolerant of warm temperatures and stress easily when exposed to temperatures above 70°F (21°C) for extended periods of time. The best way to keep their habitat cool is to keep the cage in an air conditioned room or in a cool basement. During warmer days ice packs or ice cubes can be placed on top of the cage to reduce the temperature.

Water: A shallow, clean source of water should be available at all times. Although fire salamanders rarely soak in this, it's important that it's made available to them. Do not use water that has chlorine or chloramines in it. It may be necessary to treat tap water with tap water conditioner or to use bottled spring water.

Food: Fire salamanders feed on soft-bodied invertebrates. Crickets and small earth worms can make up the majority of their diet. Slugs, wax worms, silkworms, roaches, and small caterpillars can also be offered occasionally. A feeding schedule of three to five feeders every three or four days works well for adult animals. Juveniles should be fed more often. Earthworms, along with other feeders that are likely to burrow into the substrate, should be fed with tweezers or offered in a small dish. Adults should have their food coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings. Juveniles should have their food supplemented as often as every feeding.

Last updated 05.31.05

Online Resources
Caudate Culture Fire Salamander Info Sheet
Chris Jorden's Fire Salamander Care Sheet
Fire Salamander Care
Michigan University: Fire Salamanders
Petplace.com - Fire Salamander Care
Subspecies of the Fire Salamander