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Spotted salamander not eating

This is a discussion on Spotted salamander not eating within the Newt and Salamander Help forums, part of the Beginner Newt, Salamander, Axolotl & Help Topics category; Hi, we're new to the forum and new salamander owners. We've had our yellow spotted salamander for a couple of ...

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Old 11th December 2012   #1 (permalink)
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Question Spotted salamander not eating

Hi, we're new to the forum and new salamander owners. We've had our yellow spotted salamander for a couple of months now, and it doesn't eat. We found it in the backyard a couple of months ago, took it to the vet (who told us it was very small and that its chances of survival were not very good, but that they were better with us than in the wild at this time of year, so we decided to keep it) and he told us to hand feed it "carnivorous powder" with an oral syringe. We also bought mealworms and during the first week he ate two (we gave them to him with tweezers). He hasn't wanted to eat them since. We keep hand feeding him, but I think his mouth is starting to get hurt from our opening it (we carefully do it with our pinky nail, but still).

We've kept our salamander alive for about two months this way, and want to do everything we can to give it a long life. Any ideas on what to give him and how? The first week we had him (before going to the vet) we gave him baby crickets, but he didn't eat any. The vet told us he's too small to eat crickets.

He lives in a 10 lb tank at about 68F, we keep the substrate (sphangum moss) humid and he has a pool, a rock, a cork, and a fake plant.

Thanks!
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Old 11th December 2012   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

Where are you located?

Is that the substrate in your tank in the picture? It's not sphagnum, but coco fiber. Is that true? If you are using sphagnum, you should switch to either just plain topsoil or a mix of top soil and coco fiber. Sphagnum is too acidic for salamanders.

Spotted sals are burrowers, so they appreciate having deep enough substrate to burrow in. Having cork to hide under is good too.

Try using earthworms. They're much more nutritious and easier to eat, plus they're a more natural food for spotted sals. You may have to cut them into small pieces. The smell of cut earthworms may help encourage feeding too.



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Old 11th December 2012   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

Thanks, we'll try the earthworms. Should we put them on a dish? Or directly on different places in the tank?

No, the substrate there is old. The vet told us it was too thick and recommended a kind of moss that we couldn't find so we got sphangum (we're in MA).

He does spend the day hiding under the substrate. Doesn't care much for the cork or any of the other things we put in the tank. Since we have to touch him every day to feed him and we've read that handling salamanders is actually not very good for them, we usually put him in his pool afterwards so he gets cleaned up. We use distilled water.



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Old 12th December 2012   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

There is no such thing as too thick of substrate for Ambystomatid salamanders. They're burrowers, after all. In my tiger tanks (same genus), they have at least 6 inches. Really, you could fill the tank all the way to the top with substrate and they'd be happy as clams. Swap out the sphagnum for coco fiber or dirt. Personally, I mix mine 50/50, coco fiber and a brand of organic topsoil called Earth Gro (you can find it at WalMart).

Distilled water isn't very good for salamanders. This could be a big contributing factor to why it isn't eating. If you have good reason not to use tap water (most tap water is fine, as long as it's dechlorinated), you should use spring water. Here's an article on appropriate water to use for salamanders.

Since your salamander is used to your presence, I would try hand-feeding worms with tweezers or tongs. Dangle a chopped up worm-chunk in front of his face, but try not to let it touch his nose. If he doesn't eat after a couple of minutes, try again tomorrow. You'll have best luck feeding in dim light, in the evenings, as they are nocturnal.

Most vets really have no clue when it comes to salamanders. They either have no idea, or they give completely wrong advice.



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Old 12th December 2012   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

Try spraying him down from time to time to simulate rain, which stimulates them to eat. Try placing a piece of worm in front of him, or outside his hide or burrow. If the worms wiggles away, replace back in front of him. You can try dangling it in front of him as the previous poster suggested. You can try placing him in an empty enclosure with the worm section.for an hour of two. I do this occasionally with tigers that go off food, but Spotteds are more shy and may be reluctant to eat in an empty cage or container, but try it. You can also try appropriate sized crickets which are fast moving and may interest him more. Worms are a better diet than crickets, but once you get him eating, you can then condition him to accept worms. They do eat less during the winter months. I used to catch my own supply of worms which would last till late December and not gather more till March, and they would survive a few months without eating, as long as they were properly nourished beforehand
I too live in Mass., and maintained A. maculatum (spotted salamanders) for two and a half decades using soil from my backyard. Make sure it is from an area that is pesticide and chemical free, and best if from a forested area rather than an open lot. With only one salamander, you could change it out about every three months. One individual of mine lived for 22 years. I only have tigers now, but still use dirt.



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Old 12th December 2012   #6 (permalink)
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He is likely not eating because he is stressed from you force-feeding him. Give him plenty of places to hide (pieces of bark, leaves, ect) and feed him earth worms as others have said. Spotted salamanders are shy and might not eat around you. I feed mine by lifting up the bark they live under and drop the worms in front of them, then I put the bark back down and leave them alone. When I check back in five or ten minutes they have usually eaten. Your vet doesn't know what he's talking about.



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Old 12th December 2012   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

Thank you all very much for your suggestions! I'm going to try a few different things and see how it goes.



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Old 13th December 2012   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

How'd it go?



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Old 13th December 2012   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

Haven't done it yet. I want to get the new substrate and I'm also trying to find the earthworms. They don't sell them in our local Walmarts and we can't find any in our backyard. Planning on doing everything on the weekend, tough, and will post an update as soon as there are some changes.



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Old 18th December 2012   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

On Sunday we tried leaving a couple of worms for him at night. This morning he was dead. We are really, really sad. Thank you all so very much for your help. I am really devastated that we couldn't keep him alive, we truly tried hard.



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Old 18th December 2012   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

I'm sorry for your loss.



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Old 18th December 2012   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Spotted salamander not eating

That's a real bummer. I'm sorry.



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