Question: Red-spotted newt and Ridge salamander cagemates...

kdh1212

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While working over the last few weeks, I've accidentally disturbed the hibernation of two newts/salamanders.

The first was the "Ridge and Valley salamander" (Plethodon hoffmani). Pretty small, about 15cm below ground surface, up on a ridge.

The second was the "Eastern Newt" (Notophthalmus viridescens). Also about 15cm below surface... in a hilly/sink hole area.

Both appear to be young (Ridge possibly hadn't even emerged from ground for the first time yet). The Eastern is in the "red eft" stage.

Same basic length, though Eastern has longer legs, and is a bit rounder in the middle than the Ridge. Their current life stages appear to require similar captive habitats, and the two species (Ridge in general plus red eft stage of the newt) have been recorded as occupying the same close area (aka, found within close proximity during scientific sampling).

So for now, I'm setting up an aquarium with soil from where they're each from, leaves, mosses, rocks, etc. It's still a work in progress.

I'm relatively new to newts and salamanders. Closest I've had to a pet salamander is one that used to slip into the house and just chill out on the sofas until we'd catch him and put him outside (only to discover him again a week or two later... sneaky little thing)... and he was far from either of these species.

My question, as a new owner already taking a bit of risk with housing two different species, is what advice can you offer? The vet says the species are fine to house together, but that there is always some risk involved. I'm wondering if anyone here knows anything about the aggression level of these critters, especially the Eastern, who is after all a bit taller and rumoredly more toxic than the Ridge. Can the toxicity of the red eft harm the Ridge? Dietary requirements are about the same, but I'd love any advice there... currently I'm collecting suitable insects/larvae that I dig up while working.

Otherwise, my biggest problem is a lack of specific information about the Ridge Salamander. I've found a lot of general information, but nothing as detailed as what I've found on the Eastern Newt.

Sorry this first post is so long. Thanks in advance for any advice/help/instructions you can offer!
 

Dendro Dave

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First of all its fine to listen to a Vet about health issues, especially if they are actually experienced with those types of animals....I however would not rely on a Vets advice for setting up enclosures and mixing species etc..etc... Its kind of the same deal as listening to pet store employees and even vendors at reptiles shows sometimes. People who don't actually know will often just assume things are find and say its ok, or they are trying to make a sale and don't wanna tell you anything that is going to disappoint you. Of course there are more ethical and reasonable people that will be straight with you and up front enough to say "hey man i really don't know, you'll have to research that yourself". Regardless of how much you trust your source you should always verify the info if you can, which you seem to be doing here, so kudos to you for that ;)

Lots of Newts and Salamanders are fairly aggressive towards their own kind or others. I'm kinda new to this board and I'm not sure what the general stance is on mixing species and/or morphs but it is pretty much a bad idea for most animals from a risk/care perspective. I have no problem with highly experienced keepers doing a little responsible mixing or experimentation but It isn't something that I think is wise for most beginners. The risk is greatly increased to both animals....when new people mix they will inevitably loose more animals over time then if they had kept single species enclosures, unless they are extremely lucky in which case they can come with me to the casino on my next trip :)

Anyways there are also issues of cross contamination if one of them happens to be sick. You should probably quarantine them separately for 30 day regardless of what you decided to do. Thats pretty much standard practice with responsible keepers in the reptile and dart frog hobbies.

For feeding earthworms are good, as well as mealworms, waxworms, and pheonix worms. I've even seen terrestrial newts gobble up fruit flies eagerly which is a food source you can culture yourself.

If you can't find more detailed info for ridge and assuming it is from the same climate I would just set it up in a similar fashion as the other with similar food sources. Maybe give it a 50/50 tank with half land/half water so it has a choice of where to spend its time that way you aren't forcing it to be somewhere it isn't comfortable.
 

kdh1212

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Thanks for your advice. I dig up lots of bugs at work (and I'm still currently in their habitat area), so if I see ones small enough I toss 'em into a little bug container. Most of them are certainly acceptable food, although one thing I keep finding is very, very small centipede/millipedes. So small I usually mistake them for earthworms until I look more closely. I've thrown them in the food container, too, but haven't actually offered them to the salamanders yet. I can't find a definitive answer on whether or not they're a food source. It would probably be fine to put them in the aquariums, since they're absolutely everywhere (most plentiful small insect I find) in the habitat area, but I don't need aquariums teeming with centipedes/millipedes if their population can't be controlled.

Right now I'm just wetting the aquarium well every day. Ridge salamanders are terrestrial and poor swimmers, so putting containers of water in their aquariums is frowned upon (unless very, very shallow).
 

Kaysie

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Centipedes are predatory, and millipedes can produce cyanide as a defense mechanism, so I wouldn't use either as a food source.
 

kdh1212

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Thank you, Kaysie. I didn't try them, and now I definitely won't!

-Kayce
 
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