Tiger salamanders are strikingly beautiful salamanders, and are very popular as pets. They are a species of mole salamander, and the scientific name of this species is Ambystoma tigrinum. Tiger salamanders are large in size, and are about 6 to 8 inches long. In some cases, they can reach up to 14 inches in length. Adult salamanders are normally blotchy in appearance. Their eyes are large and lidded. The snouts of the salamanders are short, and they have thick necks, sturdy legs, and long tails. They are the largest land-dwelling salamanders on earth.
Facts About the Eastern Tiger Salamander
Tiger salamanders get their name because of the stripped pattern on their skin. They are often brownish in color, and have black and yellow spots. They can, however, sometimes also be greenish or gray in color, and have yellow or brown dots and splotches. Some may not have any markings at all. They are prominently found all over the United States, as well as in southern parts of Canada, and in Mexico. Tiger salamanders live in deep burrows that extend up to two feet below the surface, close to ponds, lakes or slow-moving streams. They are, as a matter of fact, one of the few species of salamanders that are able to survive in the arid climate of the interior regions of North America.
Tiger salamanders are voracious predators, and emerge from their burrows at night to catch their prey. They feed on worms, insects, frogs, and even other salamanders. They also feed on snails, insect larvae, etc.
The reproduction of salamanders starts in March or April in wet areas, like ponds, pools or lakes. A female salamander lays the eggs at night. This is the most critical point in the life cycle of the salamanders. They have to protect their eggs from other predators. The other threat the salamander larvae face is the risk of the water bodies drying up. The eggs hatch after about 4 weeks. The life expectancy of salamanders ranges anywhere from 15 to 25 years.
Tiger Salamanders as Pets
When in the larva stage, the salamanders are entirely aquatic. Hence, an aquarium with about 6 inches (depth) of water should be provided to them. The aquarium should also have some rocks, where the larvae can hide. Particular attention needs to be paid to water quality, and it should be regularly checked for ammonia buildup and for pH balance. When the larvae lose their gills, they emerge out of water and take on adult form. Once this happens, you will have to reduce the water level in the aquarium, and provide some land for the salamander. Along with it, a substrate suitable for burrowing will also have to be provided. Peat, potting soil (no vermiculite), bark chips or sphagnum moss can be used. It is also important to keep the substrate moist all the time. Since they produce a lot of waste, you will have to clean the enclosure regularly.
Now that you know these facts, are you contemplating about keeping them as pets? If you do so, you will have to ensure you handle them delicately, as they have a very sensitive and delicate skin. Hence, as far as possible, they should not be handled. If they have to be handled, make sure you wash your hands well with soap. To handle them, gently scoop them up and fully support their weight. Although they are naturally shy creatures, they can overcome it and become responsive, so far as to come to the sides of their cage in anticipation of a meal.