Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
Adults from the southern part of their distribution have been recorded growing to 12 inches (30 cm) in length, but most only mature to a little more than half that size.
Black with a variable amount of yellow or orange spots, stripes, or blotches. All have distinct glands at the back of their head that have poisonous secretions. There are a number of different subspecies, each with a different appearance. The validity of the taxonomic status of some of these subspecies is debated in the scientific community and some may distinct species.
Distribution, Habitat and Behavior
Native to the cool, damp forest floors of southern and central Europe. They are generally secretive animals and remain hidden, but during the breeding season or after rain they may become more active. Males may even fight over females. Interestingly, rather than laying eggs like many salamanders, fire salamanders give birth to live young. Usually this involves birthing aquatic larvae, but in some subspecies and regions fire salamanders can birth fully formed and completely metamorphosed terrestrial young.
Widely kept and occasionally bred, fire salamanders are best located through local breeders. Formerly wild-caught individuals, most often from the Czech Republic, were commonly encountered in the North American pet trade but fortunately this has been put to a stop to help prevent the spread of a fungal disease that is decimating wild populations in Europe.
A standard 10 gallon aquarium that measures 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 12 inches high (50 cm by 25 cm by 30 cm) is large enough for one adult fire salamander. More room is better. A screen cover should be used to prevent the salamander from escaping.
Components of the cage should include a substrate and cover. Use a substrate that holds moisture, is safe if swallowed, and allows the salamander to burrow. A soil mixture consisting mostly of coconut husk fiber and cypress mulch can work well. Other possible substrates include leaf litter, top soil, or a mixture of all of these. Gravel and small bark chippings are not good substrates to use. It is important that the substrate is not allowed to become waterlogged for extended periods of time. Similarly, ensure that it does not dry out and that a moisture gradient is provided throughout. It can be beneficial to keep one end of the tank slightly elevated so that the entire aquarium is at a very small angle. This can help provide a moist and dryer side.
Hiding spots and cover can consist of logs, driftwood, live or fake plants, flower pots, pieces of bark, and rocks. The addition of a clump of moist moss can also be added to ensure there is always a moist and humid retreat available.
Fire salamanders do best with a daytime temperature that ranges between 60°F (16°C) and 68°F (20°C). During the night the temperature can fall to 55°F (13°C) or below without problems. They are not tolerant of warm temperatures and stress easily when exposed to those above 70°F (21°C) for extended days or weeks. The best way to keep their habitat cool is to keep the cage in an air conditioned room or in a cool basement. During warmer days ice packs or ice cubes can be placed on top of the cage to reduce the temperature.
A shallow, clean source of water should be available at all times, though salamanders may only occasional soak in this. Do not use water that has chlorine or chloramines in it. It may be necessary to treat tap water with tap water conditioner or to reconstitute reverse osmosis (RO) water with a aquarium products.
Fire salamanders feed on soft-bodied invertebrates. Crickets and small earth worms can make up the majority of their diet. Slugs, wax worms, silkworms, roaches, and small caterpillars can also be offered occasionally. A feeding schedule of three to five feeders every three or four days works well for adult animals. Juveniles should be fed more often. Earthworms, along with other feeders that are likely to burrow into the substrate, should be fed with forceps or offered in a small dish. Adults should have their food coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements once every two feedings or so. Juveniles should have their food supplemented as often as every feeding.