Question: Plants, Substrate, and Drainage advice for a Non-Tropical Tank?

CosmicEscapist

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Hello! I have a wild-caught Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma Gracile) that I've had for about two weeks now in a temporary enclosure. He's been very receptive to handfeeding, doesn't show signs of aggression, and is active, a very pleasant lad. So, I've gotten him a new tank (12 inches wide, 30 inches long x 12 inches deep) and have been preparing some extra hiding spots, picking out soil, looking for a bigger dish for him to relax in... But I'm not sure what to do regarding plants.

Following what I've seen on Caudata he would need a setup similar to Tiger Salamanders, ~50-75 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning tropical plants, I imagine, are out of the question.

I'm definitely wanting grass, ferns and mosses of some kind but would love to add some variety for him. He can't climb plants as far as I can tell. He also has yet to try burrowing at all. I noticed he did seek shelter under a small plant and stick that were in his tank, he really likes this sideways mug with leaves and dirt in it, but no digging. Will this change, or do some salamanders simply... Not dig?

Lastly, I want to set up the tank to have a robust and healthy drainage setup for the plants so everything can be vivacious and natural for him, but I might not know what I'm talking about when it comes to plants... Do I need a gravel layer in the very bottom? Different types of layered soil? I'd love to know.

Thanks for reading.
 

Jennewt

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He may dig at some point. A drainage layer might be nice, but isn't absolutely essential. You just have to be careful not to overwater.

Most ferns don't do well in captivity, ditto for most mosses that you find outdoors. You might luck out and find one that does well, or not.

There are some houseplants that do well in that temp range, such as ivy, pothos, spider plant, wandering jew, etc. But don't buy new plants, they are often treated with pesticides. They can be started easily from cuttings from older plants.
 

CosmicEscapist

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Thank you for the tips! Since I posted, I did see him start to dig a little bit - he has a sideways mug with dirt that he did rearrange to make cozier. Absolute joy to watch! :D

And as for clippings to start plants, where should I go for those? I'm afraid I don't have plants at my apt currently and I don't know anyone who does, except for succulents. Do I get some off of store plants but grow them in my own safe soil? Pick them off of public gardens? If I find (safe) ivy when I'm out isopod hunting, I'm sure I could gather clippings off of those, but apart from that...
 
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