Sudden Long Toed Salamander Death

Jsal

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Hello, everyone - I regret to announce that a long toed salamander that I recently inherited passed away this evening. My main question, however, is "Why"? I wanted to get some of your input to get some peace of mind as to whether or not I was (Unintentionally) responsible. The salamander was a little over 8 years old, but I was told they could live up to 30. Needless to say, I'm a little surprised.

First off, the salamander hadn't eaten for a little less than a week. I offered earthworms and dusted crickets (which he normally gobbles up), but he kept walking away from them, even when I offered food on tongs.

A few days ago, I noticed that the salamander's substrate ( coir, organic topsoil, and some sand)was getting a little dry. I sprayed it with lots of water. Afterwards, he came out to sit in his little water dish, which is only an inch deep. I happened to be walking by later, and he was floating (and swimming) upside down. I lifted him out of the dish and took it out, fearing he might drown next time. The next two days were fine, as he was walking around and digging like usual.

Today, the substrate began to get dry patches again, so I decided to put the salamander in the small plastic tub I brought him home in, while I stirred up the substrate and added dechlorinated water to it. I found him digging under some dirt, put him in the tub, and sprayed him a tiny amount to stay moist during the renovation. He waddled around the tub while I was working, but when I was ready to put him back, he was dead. He was probably out of the tank for about 25 minutes.

I just feel really guilty because I think that if I hadn't come in and started messing with things, he'd still be alive and playing in the dirt. Does anybody have any ideas? Was it my fault?
 

sde

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I am not really sure why he died, maybe a parasitic problem? I had a newt die once over night with no visible problems, just a red cloaca. Before that she was acting completely normal.
I am, however, wondering why you were trying to keep the substrate so wet? The substrate shouldn't be soggy, just moist. You don't need to add water to a substrate other than occasionally misting it. Too much stagnant water can lead to fungus in a terrestrial environment. I believe fungus is usually visible to the naked eye, so unless you didn't see any unusual things on him it probably wasn't fungus that killed him. But if there was fungus on him that you didn't see than it is possible that it could have killed him. -Seth
 

Jsal

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Thanks for your post, Seth. Certain portions of the substrate were getting too dry, even leaving the "moist zone", but most of that was in an area that he didn't normally use. While the area I found him in was reasonably moist, it was to the point where it wasn't holding the burrows' shape very well. I also added too much sand when I started out, so I was concerned about water draining out too rapidly. In retrospect, though, I suppose this was an unnecessary concern since I do have a drainage layer, but have never seen water come through it.

I did frequently mist the substrate (especially with the house heater coming on due to the winter cold). I made a habit of stirring up the substrate as I did so to a) spread moisture to more than just the surface, and b) to encourage bio-activation.
 

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Thanks for your post, Seth. Certain portions of the substrate were getting too dry, even leaving the "moist zone", but most of that was in an area that he didn't normally use. While the area I found him in was reasonably moist, it was to the point where it wasn't holding the burrows' shape very well. I also added too much sand when I started out, so I was concerned about water draining out too rapidly. In retrospect, though, I suppose this was an unnecessary concern since I do have a drainage layer, but have never seen water come through it.

I did frequently mist the substrate (especially with the house heater coming on due to the winter cold). I made a habit of stirring up the substrate as I did so to a) spread moisture to more than just the surface, and b) to encourage bio-activation.

Instead of keeping the substrate very wet to allow burrowing, I would suggest using a mix of coir, leaf litter, and soil compacted a bit, this is said to work very well. To test how well your mixture holds shape put it in a plastic container, compress it, let is sit over night, and then the next day flip it over. If it holds its shape but still allows easy penetration with a pencil it is a good burrowing substrate ( Information from Johnny O. Farnen ).
You can also use PVC pipes to create tunnels, and then you don't have to worry about the substrates burrowing condition. -Seth
 

Jsal

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I don't have very many caudate-friendly trees for leaf litter around my locale (they're all chemical-treated), but the pencil test is a great idea. (Although the salamander is dead, so I guess it wouldn't help to adjust the substrate now...)

Another contributing factor could be the way it was kept for the previous eight years. The first owner never really took him out of an aquatic environment. The tank was essentially two mounds of mud protruding out of a layer of water covering the tank bottom. I may have just been too paranoid about making a smooth transition between constant water exposure v. a completely terrestrial lifestyle. That's why I wanted it a little on the wet side.
 

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I don't have very many caudate-friendly trees for leaf litter around my locale (they're all chemical-treated), but the pencil test is a great idea. (Although the salamander is dead, so I guess it wouldn't help to adjust the substrate now...)

Another contributing factor could be the way it was kept for the previous eight years. The first owner never really took him out of an aquatic environment. The tank was essentially two mounds of mud protruding out of a layer of water covering the tank bottom. I may have just been too paranoid about making a smooth transition between constant water exposure v. a completely terrestrial lifestyle. That's why I wanted it a little on the wet side.

The setup it was kept in for the previous eight years was a bit too aquatic, this species spends most of its life terrestrially except for during the breeding season.
Actually, you were good to try and make a smooth transition, but a large water bowl might have been better than keeping the substrate so wet. You made the right choice in switching him from a more aquatic setup to a more terrestrial one. Honestly, I don't think it was anything you did that killed him, he may have just had a parasitic problem, hard to say. Random and unexplained deaths do occur, for whatever reason.

I am sorry for your loss :(
 

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Thank you for your condolences, after reading some more about his previous diet (before he came to me), it seems that it may very well have been parasites. It turns out his first caretaker fed only slugs and (sometimes) caterpillars. These weren't captive-bred, but rather found crawling around the university's greenhouse.

I had considered a bigger water dish, but after seeing him floating upside down in just one inch of water, I became skeptical about it.
 

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The slugs very well could have transmitted a parasite, they do occasionally have them. Plus the things that the slugs fed on around the campus may have been fertilized etc., so when they were fed the to salamander it could have harmed him.

I would think that his floating upside down was due to his dying, instead of the water being too deep. It is quite possible that he has been unwell for a while.
 
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    The tank is still running, I am cycling it (for 2 weeks) with guppys
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    Probably too soon, I read it take 6-8 weeks to cycle
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    How can I upload a pic?
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    hey! Don’t blame it on yourself. It happens. Is this your first axie? I’m a newer owner as well if so (I’ve had mine since Oct). I know how scary it can be
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    He's my first yes...
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    if you have the API water test kit, check all the perimeters in the tank. We can check the cycling process with the perimeters. And I’m actually not sure how to upload a pic lololol I thought it would be easier but I tried it myself and now I’m confused! It says to attack a link, I’m not sure how that works
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    Dont beat yourself up over this, your little guy will be ok 😊
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    I will do that for sure this afternoon! I really hope he pulls through :( He's so freakin cute
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  • Josiane:
    Thanks for your help :)
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  • Paige1warren:
    You’re so welcome! Keep a close eye on him and try to offer food a couple times a day. Maybe try some pellets too for a different smell, might get him interested. Keep me updated!
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    Will do, thanks!
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  • Josiane:
    @Paige1warren, turns out my pH was spot on, the test strips I had used were no good. I bought an API kit and the levels are all fine. So not the issue :( I just posted in the forum
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    Hey @Josiane ! I just responded to your post. Your little guy actually looks fairly decent for his size despite not eating well. I think it is stress from the environment
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  • Paige1warren:
    Also I forgot to add to my response on ur thread, keep trying to feed him bloodworms and see if he will start to take them. If you get a turkey vaster you can suck up dethawed bloodworms and dangle them right infront of his nose, might get his interest.
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  • Josiane:
    I rotate between blood worms and brine shrimp. He's in my bedroom and will stay there for a while, I closed the light and just left a salt lamp on. I will bring him a hiding place right away! Isn't he the cutest thing! 😂
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    Thanks for the reassurance!!
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @Josiane An axolotl of your's size should be on a diet of chopped earthworms or live blackworms (if they're under 3"). Bloodworms and brine shrimp are not a sufficient diet.
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @Josiane Based on the photo, I believe there is a chance your axolotl may have become impacted from ingesting sand. Axolotls under 5" should not be kept on substrate for this reason.
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @Josiane The nearly diminished gill stalks are also indicative of poor water quality. You need to test your tap water's parameters using a liquid test kit (not strips! Those are inaccurate). The slime coat coming off may also be due to water quality or the water conditioner.
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    Hey guys! Could anyone tell me like the span earth worms are good for once cut? I’m wondering if I can prepare worms for days in advance or no? I normally will cut the worm the day I feed it to my axie, but I really hate the cutting and was just wondering if I can do a few at a time so I have them already prepared. Do they lose nutritional value once cut?
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  • Lauruven:
    Im not sure to b honest. Id think once dead they aren't good anymore. Also I think0
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    I'd avoid feeding dead earthworms.
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    Kk thank you I’ll just suck it up with cutting the worms :D
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    My Axolotl just laid eggs!!! I have had Axies for years, but this is the first time I got eggs. I know that I can not handle them all because I was not prepared. Is there anyone who would like to buy some? Mother is Golden, Father is Albino
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    My Axolotl just laid eggs!!! I have had Axies for years, but this is the first time I got eggs. I know that I can not handle them all because I was not prepared. Is there anyone who would like to buy some? Mother is Golden, Father is Albino
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