Spotted salamanders are among the larger types of salamanders, reaching an average of 6 to 7 inches in length -- but some grow as long as 10 inches. They have life spans of approximately 25 years, which you should take into account if you're considering whether to keep one in captivity. Spotted salamanders are generally black with two lines of yellow spots down each side of the back, but some have a blue tint or have gray or brown skin.
Do not handle salamanders unless absolutely necessary, since their skin is very easily damaged. If you must handle yours, wash your hands thoroughly first, and rinse them with cold water. Leave your hands damp to protect the skin, and keep handling time as short as possible to keep the salamander from becoming overheated by your body heat.
Spotted salamanders do not require a large habitat since they stay in a very small range out in the wild. A 10-gallon aquarium is sufficient for one or two. The most important part of the habitat is providing plenty of places for him to burrow and hide. A thick layer of substrate that is chemical free and easy to keep moist is a must. Some good choices include potting soil, ground pine bark, sphagnum moss and coconut fiber. Place enough in the container to make it several inches deep. Include small logs, pieces of driftwood, large pieces of tree bark or live plants to allow plenty of places to hide. Lightly mist the substrate with water daily to ensure it is always moist, as this is the source of the salamanders' water intake and is also necessary to protect their delicate skin.
Keep the habitat in a room that is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is vital to avoid temperatures over 75 degrees to keep from drying out the substrate and the salamanders' skin.
A spotted salamander needs to eat only three times per week and will enjoy a diet made up of crickets, earthworms and an occasionally baby mouse. Obtain food from a reputable pet food supplier to steer clear of unwanted chemicals or diseases. Since the salamander absorbs water through the skin from the substrate, use only distilled water. Tap water may contain harmful chemicals.
Salamanders breed once per year in the wild. The male is involved only in fertilization and provides no care after that. Females deposit eggs, which are encased in a jellylike substance, on an object that is underwater. On average, they lay 100 to 300 eggs per year. The eggs hatch between four and seven weeks later. It is highly unlikely that a spotted salamander kept in captivity will lay eggs.
Many veterinarians are not educated on spotted salamander care, therefore it is important to find a veterinarian with exotic pet experience. Symptoms that may signify illness in a spotted salamander include:
- Decreased appetite
- Labored breathing
- Skin lesions
- Dull eyes
If your spotted salamander exhibits any of these symptoms or just does not seem well, schedule an appointment with a qualified veterinarian right away.