The Italian fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is an intermediate reptile to keep. They are fun to watch, and have striking colors. These salamanders are found in Italy, hence the name, but there are many other species of fire salamanders with similar care from around the world.
Italian fire salamanders have random blotches of prominent orange or red against a pitch-black body. This coloration tells predators that they are poisonous, even though they are completely harmless in captivity. The poison they have comes from an insect they prey on. Without this food, they are harmless.
On average these salamanders stay about 6-7 inches long, and will live many years if the proper care is provided. About half of their length is made up of a fairly slender tail. They have triangular heads, and large eyes.
Handling and Aggression
Newts and salamanders can only be handled for a short period of time because they breathe through their skin. They are not able to breathe with dry skin, and may suffocate. Italian fire salamanders should only be handled when cleaning the cage to avoid excess stress. If you do have to handle it, be extremely gentle.
An adult will take chopped up earthworm segments, and appropriately sized crickets. About 3-4 crickets 3 times a week is enough for adults. Dust any food items with calcium supplement for every other feeding, and remove any extra prey items found in the tank.
Food items should be gut loaded 24 hours prior to feeding. Gut loading means filling them up with water and foods like lettuce, carrots, or commercially made food. What goes into your prey goes into your salamander.
A single adult salamander can live in a 10 or 20 gallon tank their whole lives. This tank should have a secure lid so there are no loose amphibians running around. A driftwood branch can be provided if they choose to climb.
Substrate is the item of choice that goes on the bottom of your tank. Since salamanders like it fairly humid, bed-a-beast, sphagnum moss, and orchid bark all work well. A combination of bed-a-beast and a little orchid bark works great. Some keepers also have a simple setup, and use paper towels. They are just as effective, but are not as eye catching.
A couple pieces of cork bark with a dark damp place to hide is adequate. There are also commercially made coconut halves that provide cover and shelter.
Temperature and Lighting
Ideal temperatures for the Italian fire salamander are 65-70F. Nighttime temperatures can drop to 60F. Try not to let the heat can over 70F or else they will overheat, and have a greater amount of stress leading to death. A 12 hour photoperiod needs to be provided with an incandescent or florescent bulb. Keep the wattage low so the tank does not become overheated.
Water and Humidity
A large water bowl needs to be found in the tank. The bowl should be shallow enough for a fire salamander to walk around in, and you can provide some flat rocks sticking out of the water. They will spend a majority of their time in this purified, dechlorinated water so it may need to be changed often. Lightly misting the enclosure can be done every few days, but be sure not to soak it.
Replace paper towels when soiled, and loose substrate every 6 months. Fresh water should always be available because they are amphibians. Remove feces or extra crickets and spot clean daily.
Breeding this species is not all that difficult as long as you care for them correctly. The male and the female can be introduced in March or April, after a decreased photoperiod over the winter. Amphibians have external fertilization, and the eggs will be fertilized in a group in the water. There will be about seventy eggs.
Remove the eggs once fertilized, and place them in a separate tank filled with an inch of water. The eggs will hatch, and tadpoles will emerge. They can be fed fish flakes, but make sure they are ground up well.
After three months, the metamorphism will be complete. As they change, continue to give them land to climb on because nymphs have a tendency to drown. Feed these immature adults fruit flies and crickets.
The Italian fire salamander is an amphibian that doesn't like it hot, and has striking colors. Maintenance is not overly difficult, but does require some discipline. Be sure to research any pet you buy before purchasing it so it too can live a long happy life.
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