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First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

This is a discussion on First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic? within the Newt and Salamander Help forums, part of the Beginner Newt, Salamander, Axolotl & Help Topics category; I've never owned or kept a salamander before so I've been spending a lot of time here at caudata studying ...

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Old 22nd February 2011   #1 (permalink)
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Default First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

I've never owned or kept a salamander before so I've been spending a lot of time here at caudata studying so I don't kill the little guy because of improper care.

I want to make sure I have everything planned out before I start shopping for my new friend, and I'm trying to decide between terrestrial or aquatic. If I could get some advice on:

which species are maybe a little easier to take care of
lest strict environmental conditions
hardier species
which species is maybe easier to purchase based on locale, I live in central Missouri, USA.
Your personal preferred species!

Right now I'm thinking of a cynops orientalis, simply because its seems they are a common favorite.

Thanks!
Adam



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Old 22nd February 2011   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Itīs wonderful that you are doing reserch before acquiring any animal. Thatīs definitely the way to go.
Terrestrial or aquatic is basically a personal preference. There are easy species in both sides. Mind you, the majority of easy species in the trade are aquatic.

Aquatic whise, iīd recommend Pleurodeles waltl wholeheartedly. They are very hardy, very easy to care for and are eating machines. Ambystoma mexicanum may also be an option for you. Triturus dobrogicus, T.karelini, T.carnifex, T.cristatusand T.macedonicus are all very good options too, as is Tylototriton verrucosus.

A very important thing about those species is that they are available as captive bred.

As for terrestrial animals, Ambystoma mavortium/tigrinum are good choices (all WC, though), and if you can find captive bred Salamandra salamandra, they are good too.


Cynops (Hypselotriton) orientalis is not the best choice. All animals of this species available at shops are wild caught. They are captured massively and imported in bad conditions. Those that survive then have to endure the generally neglectful care they are given at the shops. By the time they arrive to the hobbyist, they are very stressed and vulnerable, and many are already ill or dying. Definitely not the best choice for a beginner that may not be able to react to those problems that may arise (infections are particularly common).
It is a fascinating and rewarding species, but even captive bred ones are not the best choice since they are generally sold as juveniles and those are tiny and more complicated to raise.

I strongly recommend acquiring captive bred animal. That way you donīt contribute to the mass collections and therefore have no impact on wild populations. You also get healthy, already accostumed to captivity animals.



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Old 22nd February 2011   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Thanks! That was exactly what i was looking for.

I was already a little wary of obtaining one from a pet shop. I've been in the ones around my town and they just give me a bad vibe. Mostly college kids and not all that knowledgeable.

How come aquatics are generally easier to take care of? I would have thought it would be terrestrials because of maintaining the water environment of an aquatic.

I'm also wondering about buying from a breeder, mostly because I wouldn't want to the animal to be mailed. I'm not sure how well its container would be treated on its way to me.

Anyways, Thanks!



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Old 22nd February 2011   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Itīs sd, but itīs true that petshops generally provide bad care for their caudates and the information they have is pretty terrible.

Aquatic ones are usually considered easier mainly because feeding them tends to be. Also, an stablished tank is very low maintenance, while a terrestrial terrarium may require a bit more attention (it all depends on the design, etc).

Shipping caudates is quite safe, although itīs not without its risks. Personally, i wouldnīt be afraid of getting some animals shipped from a careful breeder. If done properly, the risks are minimal.



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Old 23rd February 2011   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

The choice of aquatic or terrestrial really comes down to personal preference. I posted a poll once, and people were evenly split regarding which they think is easier. If you think terrestrial is easier, then you should go with that!



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Old 23rd February 2011   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

I think i'm leaning towards a terrestrial, maybe an ambystoma opacum or tigrinum, or another terrestrial ambystoma.

Do you know of any opacum breeders? I thought about maybe going out to the Ozarks and taking a look around for some eggs, but i really don't think i should start with eggs, and I'd kind of feel like a thief or something, stealing eggs and what-not.



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Old 23rd February 2011   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Have a look round for captive-bred Salamandra salamandra, as Azhael suggested, if you decide to go down the terrestrial route.
They look similar-ish to the ambystoma you mentioned, but have the advantage of being available captive-bred, and may be less 'secretive' in their behaviour.

Let us know how you get on, and we'd like to see photos of your new friend



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Old 23rd February 2011   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Firefly1859 View Post
I think i'm leaning towards a terrestrial, maybe an ambystoma opacum or tigrinum, or another terrestrial ambystoma.

Do you know of any opacum breeders? I thought about maybe going out to the Ozarks and taking a look around for some eggs, but i really don't think i should start with eggs, and I'd kind of feel like a thief or something, stealing eggs and what-not.
Looking at it from the viewpoint of impact on the wild population, taking a few eggs has much less impact than taking an adult. An adult has been through years of natural selection and is the "cream of the crop" breeding stock, while the eggs (as individuals) have very little chance of ever making it to adulthood anyway.

There are a few people having success breeding A. opacum, but it's still a rare occurrence. You can try posting a "wanted" ad, but I also think there is nothing wrong with taking a couple of eggs from the wild.



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Old 23rd February 2011   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jennewt View Post
Looking at it from the viewpoint of impact on the wild population, taking a few eggs has much less impact than taking an adult. An adult has been through years of natural selection and is the "cream of the crop" breeding stock, while the eggs (as individuals) have very little chance of ever making it to adulthood anyway.

There are a few people having success breeding A. opacum, but it's still a rare occurrence. You can try posting a "wanted" ad, but I also think there is nothing wrong with taking a couple of eggs from the wild.
I hadn't thought of it from that perspective. If i can't find a CB opacum i might go that route.

Ken, are Salamandra salamandra easy to find CB? They look pretty cool, and i guess they're more outgoing than A. opacum is.

I'm definitely leaning towards terrestrial, so if a marbled salamander is too hard to find, i'll probably "settle" for a more common CB species, but really, it wouldn't be settling because they are all SO COOL!

Thanks!



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Old 23rd February 2011   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

I don't actually own any S salamandra myself, but there are several forum members here in the UK that seem to have achieved that perfect 'mutually-beneficial' relationship with their yellow-spotted friends.

I can't really comment on the availability of captive-bred Ss in the States, as what may be common here in the UK will be different, however, keep your eyes on the 'For Sale' part of the forum, but I believe that whatever animal you choose, if it is via another forum members' recommendation, then that's a bonus
Sometimes waiting for the right 'little friend' to become available has its merits.

All the best, KW



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Old 24th February 2011   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Very cool. I'll keep that in mind.
Thanks KW



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Old 24th February 2011   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Jennewt

If i do decide to search for wild salamander eggs, how many should i take? I don't want to end up with more than i can care for. Quite honestly, i'd like to raise just one, for now at least, until i feel more confident in my ability to care for it.

Thanks!



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Old 24th February 2011   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Adam, if you do find an opacum nest, there's likely only going to be about 20 eggs in it. You could take half of them, and could get around 5 adults (or more) from it.



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Old 24th February 2011   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

From what I've been able to put together, opacum generally breed in the fall and the eggs hatch sometime before spring, don't they? I figured if I did go out looking in my area, I'd most likely find A. maculatum eggs. And I'd be looking in vernal pools, is that right?

Unfortunately it just started snowing here, so it'll probably be a few weeks before I'm able to go out.

Thanks Kaysie!



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Old 24th February 2011   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

The eggs of opacum hatch when their little depression fills with water and becomes a vernal pool. If you go out now, you'll likely find newly hatched opacum, and maculatum egg masses.

Not sure how much north of me you are, but it's been raining here ALL day. I expect the salamanders will be moving shortly, especially since this weekend our low temps will be in the high 40's and they're forecasting rain for the beginning of next week.



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Old 25th February 2011   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

I'm trying to find some information on water quality for larvae/juvenile terrestrial salamanders. What is the best method for housing them before they morph into terrestrial adults and what conditions should I keep the water in?



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Old 25th February 2011   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Basically, water quality for a sal is the same as water quality for any aquatic animal. They are unlikely to be fussy about pH and hardness. I would say the "best" method is a heavily planted tank that has aged for a month before any eggs or larvae are put in. I go for "ecosystem" tanks where there are snails, plants, and some algae is tolerated. But realistically it isn't always possible to have a pre-aged tank. The alternative is a clean container. Live plants are still a good idea, if possible.



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Old 25th February 2011   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

SO if I keep the eggs in a clean container I should change the water about every day. I suppose I should treat the water for chloramine before I put them in it?

Honestly, I'd rather have a pre-aged aquarium, but I'm not going to raise any aquatic sals, at least not yet, so i'd rather just keep them as comfortable as possible until they are adults and can be in a terrarium.



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Old 25th February 2011   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

Yes, you should do frequent water changes, and treat for chloramines.

Setting up a realistic aquarium is nice because without environmental pressure to undergo metamorphosis, your sals are likely to stay in their larval state for longer. This means they'll grow larger before they metamorph, and are likely to be healthier and have more weight stored up for the transformation.



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Default Re: First time salamander keeper. Terrestrial or Aquatic?

It's sounding more and more like I should get a CB adult sal rather than eggs. The problem is that i don't have a tank already set up and cycled and i don't know if it would be better to just put off getting eggs until i can give them the best environment possible.

Setting up a terrestrial environment seems less difficult. I'm planning on about a 10 or 20 gallon tank with either an organic soil mixed with a little sand and a moss on top, or i read about some plantation soil, coconut based, and a moss on top.


Thanks so much for all the info you're giving me, both Jennewt and Kaysie. I really do appreciate it. I am doing research on my own but its hard to tell what info is accurate and which isn't. I much prefer to hear from experienced people who know what they are talking about. So again, thanks!



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