About 600 species of salamanders live all over the world, on every continent except Antartica and Australia. They live in ponds, rivers, lakes and forests. They look similar to lizards, but they're not reptiles -- they're amphibians and they need a moist environment to survive. Most salamanders live in the wild, but some species are kept as pets.
Salamander Classification and Life Span
Salamanders belong to the order Caudata; you'll hear them referred to as caudates. Some species live up to 50 years, but most have an average life span of 10 years. Salamanders lay eggs, and lot of them -- up to 450. One species, the fire salamander, gives birth to 10 to 30 live babies. Most salamanders are very small -- about 2 to 6 inches long. They're fragile and should be handled carefully. The Japanese giant salamander is the largest species -- up to 6 feet long.
If you're thinking about getting a pet salamander, do some research first. Check with your state's Fish and Wildlife Department to find out if it's legal to own salamanders where you live. Some states don't allow certain species of salamanders to be owned or sold, especially if that species is native to the state.
The care for different species of salamanders varies. Some species like to live in water, others like to have access to water, but also live on land. Before you get a pet salamander, learn as much as you can about caring for them. The Caudata Culture website offers articles, tips, care sheets and salamander species information so you can find the right type of salamander for you. Salamanders live a long time, so make sure you're ready to commit to caring for your pet salamander before you bring it home.
Salamanders are Carnivores
A carnivore is an animal that only eats meat. Salamanders mostly snack on worms, crickets and many other insects. If you have a pet salamander you can find live food at the pet store, including:
- Blood worms
- Black worms
- Wax worms
You can also feed your salamander with prey from your own backyard. It will eat:
- Night crawlers
- Fruit flies
Pet stores also offer freeze-dried and pellet versions of salamander food items.
Salamanders and Salmonella
Salmonella is an infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It can be serious enough to send you to the hospital and if it’s severe, can cause death. Your salamander may have salmonella germs on its body; you can get the infection by playing with it or touching contaminated surfaces in its aquarium.
To avoid getting sick:
- Wash your hands when you’re done playing with your salamander.
- Wash your hands after you clean your salamander’s cage, or feed it.
- Don’t play with your salamander in the kitchen or anywhere that food is prepared or consumed; thoroughly disinfect any surface after you’re done playing.
- Don’t clean your salamander’s food and water dish, or the contents of its aquarium in the kitchen sink; wash them outside if possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that some families avoid keeping amphibians as pets. Children under the age of 5, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to salmonella infection.