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
 

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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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    I have pictures. Tried looking through other peoples questions, but couldnt find the same white goop.
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    @Kailynom My cousin (who i got my baby axies from) had the same problem. She developed an allergy to the bloodworms she was feeding them and it got really bad. To the point where her throat would close up just being around the bloodworms. Happened within a few months. Be safe :)
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    @MadamePirateOwl Fridging is best left to life-or-death situations, and salt baths are unnecessarily harsh, stressful, and abrasive. I'd suggest doing tea baths instead (using caffeinated black tea, where the only ingredient is black tea).
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    so no idea what the goop is?
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    It definitely came from the axolotl. Looked to be mixed into poo the first time. Can I post the photos here?
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    Im not actually sure how i would post it. It seems to want a link
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    Its fairly thick and chunky
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    (Also thanks for your patience and help!)
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    You could always upload the photo to imgur and link it back here
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    The second image was how it looked the first time, it was mixed with some other poop like stuff. after that its been small and without the poopy stuff
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    The second photo looks reminiscent of partially-digested worms, though I've never seen anything like that. Have you checked your parameters lately?
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    Right now theyre in smaller tubs that i do daily water changes in
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    I'll admit Ive bought test strips but they havent come in yet
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    I use Prime to dechlorinate the water, which was recommend by the girl I got them from
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