Newts and salamanders bring one of the most original forms of nature into your home. Nevertheless, keeping these animals as pets is very challenging.
Newts and salamanders belong to the order Caudata, and are amphibians. This means that most of them spend part of their time on land and part of their time in water as they develop. The colourful warty newts, “axolotl”, “tylotriton” and the Japanese fire-bellied newt are species that are frequently kept as pets. They are kept in a “paludarium”, an enclosure which makes both habitats available to them.
The paludarium as a habitat
A paludarium consists of both water and land environments. The respective parts and the optimal size of the tank depend on the kind of newt or salamander. For example, Asian newts, which grow to be up to 17 cm long, need a tank that is at least 60 x 30 x 30 cm. AG Urodela, a working group of the German Society for Herpetology and Herpetoculture (DGHT) recommends calculating using the following rule of thumb: The total length of the animal in cm x 0.01 = the area of the tank for two animals in square metres. In addition, the height of the tank should be one third to one half the length of the tank. Larvae and young animals should be kept in smaller tanks, otherwise they run the risk of using up too much energy looking for food, thus stunting their development.
Whether in water or on land, make sure to have a variety of plants in both environments, as newts and salamanders love dense vegetation that gives them many places to hide and a bed of plants which provides a place to rest. It is also important that the animals always have a way to easily exit the water, such as stone steps that lead to the land area.
Most species of newts and salamanders prefer moderate temperatures up to 20° Celsius and high humidity, however, they do not tolerate heat well. Furthermore, owners need to ensure there is a sufficient supply of fresh air, especially if the animals are kept in a converted aquarium.
Hygiene is especially important
Owners will also need to change the water regularly or to use a water filter. Because the water area encourages the development of germs, it makes sense to install a drain, making it easier to clean the tank. The water generally needs to be low in carbon dioxide, rich in oxygen, and as low in nitrogen compounds as possible (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate). These levels should be checked by performing routine water tests. Some species will react to fresh tap water. Therefore, owners should only use stagnant, aerated tap water or uncontaminated rain water when changing the water. A filter should also always be available, but only with a light water flow.
For the lighting, you can mount a florescent lamp above your paludarium. These lights are especially good for supporting the growth of plants. Just make sure not to use any lamps that give off too much heat.
The diet of newts and salamanders ought to be varied and adapted to how they eat in the wild so that all their needs are met. Good sources of food include most available species of worms, mollusc meat and small insects as well as insect larvae. Live brine shrimp and freshwater shrimp are also a welcome treat every now and again. Vitamins, minerals and trace elements must not be excluded from their diet and can be sprinkled over the food in powder form or administered by mixing it in with little pieces of food.
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