Tiger salamanders or eastern tiger salamanders are large, burrowing amphibians of North America. Their scientific name, Ambystoma tigrinum is derived from Latin words, Ambystoma meaning 'blunt mouth' and tigrinum meaning 'like a tiger'.
The popularity of this species in pet trade can be attributed to four things: (i) they don't require specific and complex care, (ii) they are available in vibrant colors, (iii) they have a long lifespan, and (iv) they can survive in a variety of conditions.
On an average, an adult tiger salamander reaches about 9 to 14 inches in length. Its size makes it the largest land-dwelling salamander in the United States. The species has a stocky build, flat head with blunt nose, small eyes, and a thick tail. Its front legs have four unwebbed toes, and hind legs have five unwebbed toes.
The basic color pattern of a tiger salamanders is yellow blotches, spots, or bars on a black background. The males and females of this species have no color differences. However, the males are larger, with a compressed tail and relatively long, stocky hind legs.
Geographical Range and Habitat
The geographical range of this species spans the United States, northern Mexico, and southern Canada. In the wild, they are found near water bodies, like ponds, marshes, slow streams, etc. They are very secretive in nature, and hide under leaf litter or burrow in the ground.
They are also found in the prairies, fields, and forest areas, where there is no dearth of places to hide. They prefer burrowing, as they get to live in a cool, moist environment. Many tiger salamanders also make abandoned animal holes their home. They are classified under a group called 'mole salamanders', as they prefer to live underground.
Tiger Salamander Care
Owing to their delicate skin, tiger salamanders don't like being handled by humans; that should be only done if it's a necessity. If you have to handle it, make sure that you wash your hands well, as the salts and oils on your skin can be harmful for their sensitive skin.
A 15-gallon aquarium that is about 24-inches long, 12-inches wide, and has a height of about 12-inches will be ideal for an adult salamander. You should secure the tank with a lid to prevent it from escaping.
Additionally, you should cover three sides of the aquarium with an aquarium background or a black poster. This will help keep the salamander feel secure and thus, less stressful.
You can use mixture of soil and coconut husk as a substrate for your pet's captive habitat. If coconut husk fiber is not readily available, cypress mulch will also work. Do not use soil that is mixed with perlite, vermiculite, small bark pieces, or gravel. You can use commercially available substrates, leaf litter, top soil, etc.
The substrate should not be kept too soggy or waterlogged for long. It is a good idea to keep the tank slightly raised at one angle. This will help develop a moisture gradient, as the raised end will be drier than the lower end.
You will have to provide hiding spots and shelters, like cork bark tubes, small logs, fake plants, rocks, etc., in the tank. Salamanders like to burrow in the substrate provided below the hiding spots. The temperature of the tank should be maintained at about 60°F to 70°F. Do not let the temperature rise above 78°F, or drop to 50°F or less.
Tiger salamanders feed on crickets, earthworms, night crawlers, wax worms, super worms, silkworms, and cockroaches. Crickets and worms form a major chunk of their diet. In captivity, you will have to feed them twice a week. Make sure that you don't overfeed them, as that will cause them to become obese.
Make it a point to provide your pet salamander clean water at all times. The water container should not be too deep as they are not very good swimmers. You can use tap water free of chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. This water should be changed daily or whenever you see that it has become dirty.
If you subject it to proper attention, your pet tiger salamander will become responsive and gradually overcome its reserved nature. As you approach the tank, you will find it coming near the wall of the tank and asking for a quick bite.