How to Take Care of Tiger Salamanders

Three Parts:Providing a Good HabitatKeeping Your Salamander HealthyHandling Your Tiger Salamander

Tiger salamanders are a pleasure to keep as pets. They are beautiful to observe and they don't bark late at night. They are larger, hardier and generally more interactive than other salamanders, which can make them better pets. They are relatively straightforward to care for, but you must make sure you feed them the proper foods and provide them with an appropriate habitat.

Part 1
Providing a Good Habitat

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    Get a suitable enclosure. The best type of enclosure for adult tiger salamanders is a vivarium or aquarium tank. These glass enclosures allow you to observe your salamander closely as well as being very sturdy and reliable. The tank will need a secure wire mesh for the lid to allow a free circulation of air.[1]
    • One adult tiger salamander will need a 10-gallon tank. The dimensions of this will be approximately 50x25cm, or 20x30 inches.
    • Two salamanders require a 20-gallon tank (73x30cm/29x12 inches). Do not house two males together or they might fight.[2] Tigers are often best kept individually.[3]
    • The surface area of the tank, that is the length x width, is more important than the height.
    • A cheaper alternative to an aquarium tank is a plastic storage tub with a tightly fitted lid. If you opt for this you will have to drill plenty of small holes to enable the circulation of air.[4]
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    Provide good substrate. You should get a good substrate that will prevent desiccation and enable your salamander to do some burrowing. It should be at least 4 inches or 10cm deep. You should get a substrate that retains some moisture, but doesn't become muddy, or dry out. It should also be able to break down some organic matter, such as uneaten food and faeces.
    • Good substrates include organic top soil which is free from chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. Coco-fiber is another good choice. A mix of the two is recommended.
    • You should avoid peat moss, or soil mixtures that contain peat moss. These are often acidic and can lead to your salamander becoming ill.
    • Similarly, you should always avoid using gravel or pine or cedar chips.[5]
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    Create hiding spaces. Tiger salamanders will like to have places to hide in their habitat. You should provide two hides on each side of the tank. They should be dark and secure, and can be easily fashioned using pieces of cork bark. You can also buy commercially produced coconut halves which make excellent hides.[6] Alternatively, you can just turn an empty plant pot on its side.
    • You can introduce plants and stones to create a more varied and stimulating environment. Your tiger will want around and explore his surroundings.
    • If you introduce anything from outside, such as stones or branches, you need to sanitise them first. Soak them in chlorine/water solution, rinse thoroughly, soak in clean water, and then allow them to dry naturally.[7]
    • Fake plants available from pet stores are a more straightforward option.

Part 2
Keeping Your Salamander Healthy

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    Monitor the temperature and lighting. Compared to some other reptiles, it is relatively straightforward to provide the appropriate temperature and lighting for good health. Tigers will do well kept at a temperature of around 77 Fahrenheit, or 22 Celsius, or a little lower. In captivity they generally tolerate lower temperatures better than they do higher ones. Sustained exposure to temperatures over 78°F (25.5°C) can be stressful and harmful.[8]
    • Tiger salamanders don't need additional UV lighting like some other reptiles.[9]
    • As long as the salamander has exposure to ambient light during the day, and is in a dark environment during the night, you should not need to make any further provisions.[10]
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    Feed him appropriately. Salamanders are carnivores. They are attracted to prey by its movement. They will hunt for food and it can be interesting to watch them feed, and they will most often just ignore already dead prey and food pellets.[11] Because of this, you will need to feed your tiger with a varied diet of insects every day. Good food choices include meal worms, crickets, earthworms, flour beetles, caterpillars and moths. Try feeding your salamander 3 or 4 insects in one session each day.
    • Your salamander may get insufficient calcium and vitamins from the insects. You should guard against this by dusting the live food with calcium and vitamin supplements once a week.[12]
    • Crickets are a particularly poor source of calcium so don't rely on these too much.[13]
    • You can feed your salamander an occasional pinkie mouse, but keep this irregular as your salamander can easily become obese if he has regular mice.[14]
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    Provide clean fresh water daily. Your tiger salamander will need access to water in the air which he will absorb through his skin. You should provide a water dish that your salamander can climb into that is large enough for him move around in, but still shallow. The water should be changed daily and the bowl kept clean. If you are using a heat bulb, ensure the water bowl is on the opposite side of the enclosure.[15]
    • As well as a water bowl, you will need to mist the enclosure by spraying water into it. This will help maintain the environment and provide more water for your tiger.
    • There is no fixed amount amount that you should mist your enclosure, but monitor the substrate, and mist when it looks to be losing moisture.[16]
    • Misting a few times a week will often be enough.[17]
    • You can provide a variety of different levels of moisture in different parts of the enclosure and allow the salamander to seek out the environment it wants at that moment.[18]
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    Keep the enclosure clean. You should spot clean the enclosure every day to remove any uneaten food, shed skin, and faeces. You can do this when you change the water and check the moisture level of the substrate. Clean out and sterilise the tank completely every few weeks. Use a reptile friendly disinfectant which you can buy from your local pet store. Be sure to sterilise all the items in the tanks including plants, logs, and stones.[19]

Part 3
Handling Your Tiger Salamander

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    Avoid it as much as possible. Tiger salamanders have very sensitive skin so you should generally avoid handling them. These are not creatures which you can play with in the same way you would with a different kind of pet. The fun comes from observing them rather than handling them. There may, however, be occasions when you need to handle a tiger salamander, so it's important to know how to do this safely.[20]
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    Ensure your hands are clean. If you are going to handle your tiger salamander it's crucial that you make sure your hands are clean first. Salamander skin is very sensitive to oils, salts and any other residues on your hands. Because salamanders absorb liquid through their skin, exposure to the elements on your hands can cause health problems, and can cause the tiger to become dehydrated.[21]
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    Wet your hands with bottled water. After washing your hands be sure to thoroughly rinse them with purified water, such as bottled mineral water, before you handle the salamander. After washing and rinsing, wet your hands again with purified water before you handle the salamander. Wetting your hands like this will limit the chances of your tiger becoming dehydrated.[22]
    • Even after taking these precautions, you should only handle your salamander for short periods.
    • If you are moving your salamander to a separate container while you clean the main tank, ensure that you have wet the floor of this container with purified water before you put him in.[23]


  • You will not need a UV light or any light.
  • Your salamander can live for up to 20 years so be prepared to take care of it for a long time.


  • Be aware that evaporation will create water drop marks on the side of the tank and will require cleaning.
  • Generally you should avoid handling your salamander. If you do handle ensure your hands are clean, and keep it brief so he doesn't dehydrate.

Things You'll Need

  • 10–15 gallon (37.9–56.8 L) tank
  • thermometer
  • eco terra moss
  • eco terra soil
  • a hide
  • a big water bowl
  • decorations
  • bugs for food
  • a tiger salamander

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Newts and Salamanders