Fire salamander, its housing conditions and peculiarities of rearing
Fire salamander is rarely seen as a pet, but those people who take care of these wonderful creatures speak about them with a genuine enthusiasm.
As a species the fire salamander (it is also called spotted salamander and salamandra ordinary) was described by a Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 and it got the Latin name Salamandra salamandra.
Natural habitat of these amphibians is restricted by European countries, the fire salamander is included into International Red Book.
Reserved way of life of these amphibians gave rise to many legends, in most cases very gloomy legends. The salamanders were thought of as messengers of hell, malicious monsters capable to destroy human with one look. They were attributed the ability of putting out fire, people usually saw that fired up wooden bonfire suddenly was put out and among the smoking coals there appeared a yellowish-black salamander. People explained that by extra sense abilities of amphibian, though in reality everything was much easier. Mainly salamanders look for a shelter in old stumps, logs, deposits of wind-fallen trees, where even in summer there remains enough humidity and the forage is always present — like different slugs, beetle larvae, woodlouses etc. If log with peacefully sleeping salamander under its bark fell in a bonfire, than obviously the wet tree put out the fire. Escaping salamander leapt out on the surface and amazed and frightened people saw the shiny black amphibian among the extinct fire and the steaming coals.
For many centuries the fire salamander had been a faithful companion of alchemists and wizards – the amphibian were dried, grinded, added to various medical potions and poisons to strengthen their effect.
Nowadays the attitude towards these animals has changed. Though not all answers are received as for salamander’s way of life and reproduction, people have begun treating them with sympathy and respect.
Grown salamanders may reach the length of 23cm, but more often we meet exemplars with body length of about 20cm (with tail). Special attention deserves the coloration of salamander – their intense black body is covered with bright-yellow and orange spots of wrong shape. Generally, the spots on the head and feet are symmetrically arranged and as for the body they are arranged in disunity. Such contrast bright coloration alerts potential enemies that their prey is uneatable and poisonous. The spots arrangement on the body is very peculiar, investigators of salamander state that spots as well as human fingerprints allow to distinguish the creatures.
There are parotids on the head – parotid glands, producing the poison that serves as protection from attacking predators. The poison is secreted reflexively, that is if you suddenly grip the salamander, or compress, or hit, or drop it etc. For people the poison of these amphibians has no danger, and if you carefully and attentively bring up salamanders no poison is secreted.
In spite of the warning coloration and the ability to protect oneself with the help of poisonous glands, salamanders have many enemies in nature, these are water snakes (the dice snake and the grass snake), birds, and predatory fish. But most of all the amphibians suffer from people – the territories suitable for their natural habitat are reducing, the forests are cut down, adult salamanders are caught for further sell.
Long life period is one of the features of these creatures. In nature salamanders usually live for 12-14 years. Living as pets there were cases when they reached the age of fifty years.
Cobby body, short strong little feet, big expressive eyes, bright coloring all this gives salamander a special cuteness. Besides, they have a mild character, trustfulness, lack of aggression to people, slow and measured movements. After touching fire salamanders it’s impossible not to fall in love with these creatures!
In wild nature amphibians have very gloomy way of life, leaving their shelters in the evening and go hunting. At home they easily get used to any time of feeding and with the same appetite take their insects in the morning, afternoon or evening. Salamanders also quickly get used to take the forage from tweezers. Some even like such way of feeding more. By taming amphibians to feeding from the pair of tweezers you may introduce fish or lean meat, cut in thin stripes to their ration. This will allow to vary their feeding and not to keep animals on starving diet in case of lack of feeding insects.
In wild nature fire salamanders hibernate for winter gathering in groups of more than hundred specimens. At home as pets they are active throughout the year and perfectly feel in a room’s temperature, don’t demand heating as the majority of exotic amphibians and reptiles. Even on the contrary, the increased temperature and direct sunrays are destructive for them. The optimal temperature is 59-68DF, the decreasing of temperature salamanders tolerate much easier than the heat. In summer the terrarium with them should better be kept closer to the floor in the coldest room (for example on title in bathroom).
To house salamanders the terrarium should be of horizontal type with firmly closing cover. There must be hideouts (pieces of bark, snags), a small pond in the terrarium. It is the most convenient to house these amphibians on the sphagnum – the moss perfectly holds back moisture and serves as an additional shelter. Fire salamanders are territorial animals, so two males in one terrarium won’t get along. To avoid conflicts between animals you ought to house them separately or in different-sex pairs (one male and two females is allowed to live together). Sexual activity of amphibians is stimulated by a short-time temperature decrease (imitation of hibernation) with gradual increase of it that follows.
The rearing of these amphibians is extremely interesting. Depending on the habitat or whether conditions females can lay eggs into ponds or give birth to alive larvae, which come out of eggs yet in mother’s body and live there for some time. The Zoo center, where fire salamanders have successfully been reared provided us with unique photos, by which one can follow the whole life cycle of bringing up these amphibians from larvae to mature creatures. Salamanders’ larvae are born in early spring. One female gives birth to 10-30 larvae in water, they are being born in 2-3 days and there may be larvae of different sizes in one brood. There are new-born larvae on the photo, and the length of their body is about 2cm. Big head, slim body, thin feet – they look so tiny and helpless.
But this is only at first sight. Larvae of fire salamander are very active and voracious, they fearlessly snatch at any moving prey that goes in their mouth. Young ones are distinguished by good appetite, after feeding their sides are noticeably rounded they are growing fast. The most important thing during this period is to house larvae in aquarium with cold and clear water and also feeding them regularly. Water polluted by biomasses of little salamanders and remains of forage is destructive for them. The larvae of salamanders may eat each other, so they should be separated forming groups of individuals of the same size. But even this is not the guarantee of piece as hungry larvae may attack against each other and tear off gills, so the feeding of young ones should be regular and plentiful.
Larvae of already 2 months age are on the photo. They have become several times bigger, yellow stains typical of grown salamanders are emerging on their bodies.
At this period you should provide larvae with access to dry land. Some of them start breathing air already at the age of 2 months, some stay in water till 4-5months. There is no definite age when young ones leave the pond and begin leading land-based way of life. The time of landing is affected by many reasons, these are: water temperature, whether conditions, feeding accessibility. Gradually big feathery gills are reduced and larvae start breathing free air. Creeping in the bottom, they regularly rise to the surface for a breath of oxygen. This process coincides with change of coloration – the body becomes dark and yellow stains appear there. On the photos there are two young ones from one brood – one is still gray with big gills. The gills of the second larva are distinctly smaller, its coloration is brighter, and it will leave the pond in a few days and will start its land-based life.
Firstly, under even smallest danger young salamanders dive into water and try to swim away. When growing they lose their connection with waters grown-up amphibians may even be drown if they couldn’t climb up of the pond onto land in time. High level of moisture and shallow pond are necessary in the terrarium with salamanders. But it’s also required that there is a convenient way of climbing out onto land. On the photos there are young ones of 3 month age, their body length is 4-5 cm, they actively hunt for small feeding cockroaches on land. Grown salamanders eat different insects, slugs, small frogs and tritons – all that appear on imprudence by their side. At first glance slow amphibians, having noticed insects by them with lightning speed attack the prey and grab it with their strong jaws. Just like frogs, salamanders gulp their prey as a whole.
At this age young salamanders are exact copies of their parents, being different only in size. They will need 3 years so to grow like this, like father and mother. Larvas’ rearing of fire salamander is very bothersome activity, requiring daily control of quality of water in the aquarium and permanent supply of forage (at first little moth or sludge worm, than small feeding cockroaches).
Demand for fire salamanders is growing steadily in the terrarium world, but mainly “naturals” – animals, caught from their natural habitat and included into the Red Book are bought. That is why rearing of these amphibians at home is extremely important – rearing the fire salamander in captivity will help to reduce catching of them in nature and save the population from extinction.
The moving fire salamander is on the video.
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