A-z - Animals

Salamanders as Pets: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Newt

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key point

  • Axolotl pets can make great pets, but they are not ideal for novice pet owners who have no experience with amphibians.
  • Due to the rarity and unusual biology of pet salamanders, many veterinarians simply don't have enough knowledge or experience to take the time to treat them professionally.
  • Like many amphibians, salamander pets have the ability to regenerate, but they are still vulnerable to a variety of infections and diseases that often result from poor care.

Salamanders are very unique amphibians native to a small area of Mexico City. Thankfully, their population has increased through conservation and their popularity in the pet trade! In recent years, salamanders have become popular pets for herpetology enthusiasts.

But how do you care for these exotic animals, and are they suitable for beginners and experts?

Let's explore how to keep salamanders in captivity below, from the cost of their care to everything you'll need like their enclosures, water filters, substrate, and more.

We'll also discuss what your salamander pet should eat to stay healthy and happy.

Are Salamanders Good Pets?

pink salamander quot smilequot
While they can be challenging pets for some, salamanders are becoming very common in the pet trade.

©iStock.com/izanbar

Axolotl pets can make great pets, but they are not ideal for novice pet owners who have no experience with amphibians. They cannot be treated or removed from the water, they must be housed in a 20+ gallon tank with treated filtered water in order to survive. While they can tolerate slight changes in temperature and water quality from time to time, their skin is extremely sensitive.

Of course, that's not to say beginners can't keep salamanders as pets. Note that they are far from the easiest amphibians to keep in captivity! In addition to having sensitive skin, their bodies are made of soft cartilage rather than bone. This makes them vulnerable to injury and illness.

Another important thing to note is that it can be difficult to find exotic pet veterinarians willing to treat pet newts. Due to the rarity and unusual biology of pet salamanders, many veterinarians simply don't have enough knowledge or experience to take the time to treat them professionally.

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Although salamander pets, like many amphibians, are capable of regeneration, they are still vulnerable to a variety of infections and diseases, often caused by improper care.

newt, animal, horizontal, no people, pacific northwest
Salamanders are susceptible to infection and disease.

©iStock.com/Gerardo Martinez Cons

Their water must be kept at a certain temperature and filtered constantly. You should also be able to handle brine shrimp and worms with ease, as ideally they will make up the majority of the salamander's diet.

Finally, be sure to check the legality of keeping salamanders as pets in your state or country. California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia all expressly prohibit their possession. Also, they are legal in New Mexico, but it is illegal to import them from other states.

Some places also require a permit to own salamanders. And make sure you adopt your newt pet from a reputable amphibian/reptile/exotic pet breeder, not a pet store!

In general, breeders tend to be more knowledgeable and practice more ethical practices than chain pet stores.

How much does a pet salamander cost?

white salamander
You can buy salamanders very cheaply from most reputable breeders.

© Meggyn Pomerleau/Shutterstock.com

A pet salamander can cost between $20 and $70. It depends a lot on which color and morph or variation you buy, as some are rarer and harder to breed than others. Certain rare or unusual varieties such as albino, lavender or piebald newts can cost over $100.

Remember, this is only part of the total cost of salamander care. Other possible costs include enclosures, water filters, substrates, veterinary exams, and food.

Overall, salamander pets are fairly inexpensive to buy due to their recent popularity in the pet trade. They're often sold by amphibian and reptile breeders for low prices, usually less than $100 each, unless the pet newt is a particularly rare variety.

blue salamander
blue salamander

©iStock.com/NORRIE3699

However, the salamanders themselves represent only a small fraction of the total cost of caring for and housing one of these animals. They can live for over 10 years in captivity, making them fairly long-term exotic pets. Their initial enclosure setup typically costs $200 to $400 for the tank, water filter, base plate, and potential tank trim.

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It's also important to keep in mind the recurring costs of caring for salamanders. This includes food, substrates, veterinary examinations, and potential treatments for illness or injury. Over time, you may need to replace your water filter.

If it leaks or you accidentally damage it, you'll also need to repair or replace or seal it off. It's a good idea to have a "pet fund" for your newt ready for any emergencies.

What Do Pet Salamanders Need?

Coolest Animal: Salamander
Salamander enclosures are very simple to set up and maintain, but require frequent cleaning.

© Spok83/Shutterstock.com

You will need to keep your salamanders in an aquarium enclosure with water slightly below room temperature, a water filter, substrate, and very minimal tank decor. They do best in pens above 20 gallons and should be left alone as they are territorial.

Salamander pet enclosures are fairly small compared to most other common pet amphibians. They don't require much furniture other than a substrate and a hiding spot or two. In fact, their skin is so sensitive that their enclosures should not contain anything with sharp surfaces or textured objects.

The most important part of a salamander pet tank is the temperature and condition of the water. Salamanders are fairly cold water animals and do best in water between 60F and 65F. Also, you'll need a water conditioner to treat the water in its enclosure. This will remove harmful substances like chlorine, making it safe for sensitive gills and skin. The pH of the water should always be between 6.5 and 7.5.

newt, fish, pet, newt, albino
Salamanders need a tank filled with very fine, aquarium-safe sand or large, smooth river rocks.

©iStock.com/Vitaliy Halenov

Your salamander's tank will also benefit from a slow-moving water filter. Complete water changes can stress them out, so it's best to do partial water changes weekly. Make sure to spot clean the tank daily to remove trash and uneaten food.

The bottom of the salamander tank should have a thin layer of substrate, preferably very fine, aquarium-safe sand or large, smooth river rocks. Your salamander may accidentally eat substrates like gravel and pebbles.

If you choose tank decorations, be very careful and selective! Likewise, anything with sharp edges or rough surfaces can be dangerous, and you should also avoid anything small enough for your salamander to accidentally swallow.

What do salamanders eat?

what salamanders eat
Salamanders can eat a variety of small aquatic worms and insects.

© AZ-Animals.com

Salamanders are carnivores. In captivity, brine shrimp, water fleas, night crawlers, black worms and other worms are the main food, and a small amount of raw beef and liver. Pet stores and online retailers also offer commercial pellets.

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When it comes to your pet newt's feeding schedule, aim for 2 to 3 feedings per week for 5 to 10 minutes each, as often as possible. Babies and teens can eat slightly more, or about every other day. Salamanders need several "rest days" after eating to digest their food, so daily feedings are not necessary.

The best way to feed salamanders is to place small pieces of food directly into the tank. Keep the width of any food smaller than the width of the space between the salamander's eyes to prevent choking or digestive problems. To avoid handling their food directly, use tweezers or tweezers.

You can get the salamander's attention by tapping the side of the tank or waving food near their face to let them know it's time to eat.

Fun Facts About Salamanders

  1. They will always look like babies. Salamanders are new generation organisms. Many amphibians grow lungs and live on land, but they retain external gills and remain aquatic throughout.
  2. Their body parts regenerate. While some amphibians are able to regenerate limbs and tails, salamanders can regenerate spinal cords, ovaries, lung tissue, jaws and skin. They're even able to do it with parts of their brain and heart, and continue to do it for life.
  3. Salamanders are endangered in the wild. Their habits are declining due to pollution, invasive species and overexploitation. Scientists estimate their numbers have declined by 90%, and they are believed to have become extinct in the wild in 2015.

Next:

  • 10 largest frogs in the world
  • Salamanders as Pets: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Newt
  • Salamander Colors: 10 Salamander Morphs

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featured image

Pink Pet Salamander
Salamanders have been known to engage in cannibalistic behaviors.

© iStock.com/izanbar


about the author


Hailey Pruett is a non-binary content writer, editor, and lifelong animal lover living in East Tennessee. They grew up on a hobby farm and owned and cared for a variety of animals, from the mundane (dogs, cats) to the more exotic and unusual (lizards, frogs, goats, llamas, chickens, and more!). When they're not busy writing about how awesome reptiles and amphibians are, they're usually playing arcane indie video games, collecting Squishmallows, or hanging out with their cat, Hugo. Their favorite animals are bearded dragons, salamanders and marine iguanas.

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