Thanks for all the valuable input! Thought it might be better to start a new thread in a new forum as the topic has shifted somewhat from C. ensicauda morphs to sphagnum...

Pending a trip to the countryside to gather more suitable substrate (leaf litter. etc.), this is how my new, first-ever Fire is being temporarily kept now by this well-meaning amateur enthusiast


The sal tends to spend most of its time inside the cave, where it is dry and there is no substrate, but also ventures out onto the sphagnum and even burrows into it.

I'm considering removing the sphagnum, but wonder if it's really an absolute no-no, or if it might be OK to have SOME in there and let the sal "choose" where it wants to hang out.

Suppose it'd naturally move away from the sphagnum once the acidity becomes mildly irritating? Or might this be asking a bit much of it?

Sure, removing the sphagnum entirely would be the surest way to avoid trouble, but seems that would make life "duller" for the sal, i.e. no burrowing. The natural soil in there now is patted down to avoid mess, but I suppose a thicker, less-compressed layer of soil might be suitable for burrowing purposes...though messy!

TKS John for the nicely concise 3 golden rules. I had been breaking the 'not too wet'' rule
and possibly the 'decent ventilation' rule. The 3rd, "not to warm", is not a prob with winter setting in but the jury's still out on the (4th?) rule: no sphagnum

Kai, I would be very interested in sometime seeing a pic of terrestrial juveniles being raised on small pieces of plastic foam to get a better idea of that!



Hi Tim,

I don't think that you should rely on a caudate to choose the correct substrate (there may be other variables which may override acidity) - some leaves are IMHO definitely better for crawling in between than Sphagnum. Moreover, I haven't found any Salamandra on Sphagnum in nature and tend to be on the cautious side until something has been proven to be save.

BTW, Ed, do you have a veterinary paper or somesuch on the ion imbalance thing (as a result of an too acid substrate like Sphagnum)? It sounds pretty likely but I'd like to add it to my library if there's something published already.

Best wishes,


Hi Kai,
Try the following article. I think there was something in Wright and Spencer's book but that is currently packed for moving.

Bille, Thomas; 2000, Microhabitat utilization of the Mexican salamander, Pseudoeurycea leprosa, Journal of Herpetology, 34(4): 588-590
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