Husbandry and breeding of Taricha granulosa
by Uwe Gerlach
Taricha granulosa can be kept in an aquatic setup all year round starting from approximately one year of age. In nature, both T. granulosa and T. torosa torosa have been observed living in cisterns year round. The size of the aquarium should be chosen in accordance with the general guidelines for newts and salamanders of similar size and number. That means, for example, that four sub-adult animals approximately 12 cm (4.7 inches) in size could be kept in a 60x30 cm (24x12 inch) aquarium. The depth of water should be 20-30 cm (8-12 inches), but can be even deeper. Floating wood bark and cork islands must be offered to give the animals the option to climb out of the water. A dense planting with the usual aquatic plants (Canadian waterweed (Elodea), pondweed (Potamogeton) etc.) is necessary, at the least for oviposition, and also to serve as hiding places for the animals.
Compatibility: Good. There is no intraspecies aggression, even during feeding. Bite wounds have never been observed. Mutual poisoning has not been observed. Their poison is not delivered by the live animals in significant quantities in the water.
Temperatures: Depending on the time of year, the animals are kept at water temperatures of 5-24°C (41-75°F). At the higher temperatures, the animals may prefer the "islands". A cool hibernation (5-12°C, 41-54°F) is necessary for the reproductive activity of the animals. In order to accelerate growth, young animals may also be kept at ambient temperature during the first winter.
Food: They will accept the usual variety of aquatic foods, from live food to frozen food. However, relative to their size, only smaller feeder animals and/or small pieces of food are accepted. For example, a medium-sized earthworm that may be readily eaten by a Triturus cristatus of the same size is not eaten by the Tarichas. Therefore it is advisable to cut the worms into the accepted size or to offer smaller types of food, such as bloodworms (live or frozen). The animals accept frozen food readily, and it seems very likely that their feeding behavior is more directed by smell than by the movement of the food. Feeding with trout pellets is, in my opinion, the easiest method, and the animals produce many eggs when fed on this food. During terrestrial husbandry (e.g., after metamorphosis of the juveniles) one gives crickets, woodlice, and similar foods of appropriate size.
Reproduction: According to the literature, animals become adults after approximately 5 years. In the case of feeding in captivity, adulthood can probably be reached faster. Distinguishing between the sexes in T. granulosa is easiest during the breeding season. During this time the males possess a widened tail and a swollen cloaca, which is colored with a dark bar. Furthermore, the hind legs and toes of the males show nuptial pads, which are used for grasping the females. In addition, the males' ventral side is flattened, compared with the females. Mating takes place after warming the aquarium after the hibernation (and sometimes also occurs in the autumn). The male sits on the back of the female and stays there over a long period of time (hour/days), whereby the female is stimulated. After delivery of the spermatophore, oviposition occurs some weeks later. T. granulosa deposits its eggs in plants individually, to which the pointed cloaca of the female is well suited. The eggs are often deposited on the plants without protecting the eggs as the Triturus species do, and in addition, on other surfaces such as branches or stones. The eggs should be removed, together with their substrate, from the adults’ tank, as there is danger of them being eaten. Oviposition extends over some weeks and can be initiated by cooling of the water (by by water change or addition of ice). Destruction of the eggs by fungus is rare. After 3-6 weeks (depending on the temperature) the larvae hatch. They can be kept in small groups in containers with a water level of approximately 5 cm (2 inches), or in aquariums with aeration and a normal water level (taking care to avoid having too high an animal density). Larvae are raised first with the smallest foods (as for the small fishes), later with small live food (e.g., water fleas) and with red, white and black mosquito larvae. Frozen food can also be mentioned, but live food is recommended. After approximately 2-4 months the larvae undergo metamorphosis (at a size of approximately 5 cm (2 inches)) and climb onto land. To allow for this, one may simply incline/slant the containers, so that a ramp is created. Metamorphosis can be detected relatively clearly by the reduction of the gills and the obvious change in the skin texture. The young animals can be kept in sterile containers on household paper or in a terrarium with moss. They can be fed small feeder animals such as woodlice and crickets. After approximately one year, the juveniles can be put/forced into aquatic life (taking care to avoid the danger of drowning).
S.C. Bishop "Handbook of Salamanders", Comstock 1943, reprint 1994.
J.W. Petranka "Salamanders of the United States and Canada". Smithsonian Press 1998.
R.C. Stebbins "Western Reptiles and Amphibians", Petersons Field Guides 1985.
Posted January 2008. ©2007 Uwe Gerlach, email@example.com