4 More Awesome Amphibians You Can Keep As Pets (part 3)
Welcome back to another “4 More Amphibians You Can Keep As Pets”! This one’s the third in the list, if you haven’t read the other lists, you can check out part 1 here, and part 2 here. Amphibians make stunning pets that are sure to capture your attention as well as the attention of your guests, and many are easy to care for! Let’s dig straight into another 4 examples.
Okay for this list, we’re condensing it a bit. 6000 words is quite a lot to be reading in one sitting, so for our first 3 amphibians in the list, we’ve picked some frogs that have very similar care requirements.
First up is the Grey Tree Frog. The grey tree frog is a small arboreal amphibian native to the USA and the South of Canada. One of the best features about it is that it can change colour to a certain degree depending on the environment. For example when threatened, the frog will slowly become lighter or darker which helps it blend in with the environment. They can't change the hue of their colour but they can range from almost black to nearly pure white, although typically they’re usually Grey. They live between 5 and 10 years with proper care and coming in at 2 inches in length this makes them relatively small for an American frog.
Next up in the group is The Amazon milk frog, which goes by a few different names. It’s also known as the Brazilian milk frog as well as the golden eyed tree frog and is a large arboreal amphibian. It’s found in the amazon rainforest as well as regions in south america. It was first discovered in brazil, along the maracana river. Measuring out of the 4 inches in length this means that these frogs are quite large for an arboreal species. By the time they reach adulthood they will have developed brown or black bandings and will otherwise be grey. They can develop a slightly bumpy texture as they age and in captivity with proper care they can be expected to live for up to 10 years.
Lastly in the group is the Whites Tree Frog. The Whites tree frog is also commonly known as the Australian green tree frog and it too is an arboreal amphibian which is native to Australia and New Zealand. This frog species grows up to 4 inches in length like the Amazon Milk Frog, which is larger than most arboreal frogs. It's common to live up to 15 years in captivity and they're size and longevity make them great for first time keepers and children. Colour generally ranges from grayish brown to emerald green but their colour can change depending on the temperature and their environment. It's also not unusual to find small irregular white spots on their backs.
Frog Housing Requirements
These frogs like to stay relatively cool so a glass terrarium as their enclosure will be ideal. This is because the glass is great at allowing heat to escape, ensuring that the enclosure stays cool enough. Other styles such as wooden vivariums are unsuitable because they are far too efficient at retaining heat.
When you're picking out a vivarium for either your Grey Tree Frog, your Amazon Milk Frog or your Whites Tree Frog, you should be looking for at least 300 mm in length and 450 mm in height. This will give them plenty of space to hop around in but it will also be high enough so that they can climb through the branches and leaves. The fact that these frogs are all arboreal means that they'll spend a lot of their time off the ground.
Your frog will require a constant temperature 75 degrees F which is best achieved by adding a heat mat on one side of the enclosure. The heat mat will be regulated by using a thermostat to make sure the temperature stays constant and acceptable.
As you are heating the glass on one side this also creates a small temperature gradient within the enclosure, allowing the frog to heat itself up or move away to cool down. If you've got a large enclosure and it's not able to get up to temperature with the heat mat alone then you may use a small basking bulb in the canopy as long as the temperatures do not exceed 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lighting Set Ups
Each of these frogs are typically found in jungle environments where they do have some natural cover, but they still receive a fair amount of UV light. These frogs require UVB in order to synthesise vitamin D3 inside the skin so your UVB source should also reflect this. In this kind of enclosure the UV lights are generally held in a canopy above the mesh ceiling. In this canopy you can either use a 5% to 6% UV tube or the equivalent compact light.
The UVB light helps synthesise vitamin D3 inside of the skin which helps the frogs to absorb calcium, which is crucial for bone structure and Growth. This is why many reptiles can suffer from metabolic bone disease when they aren’t provided with adequate UVB. We recommend that T5 tubes are replaced every 9 months and compact lamps are replaced every six months.
To increase the humidity inside the vivarium, these frogs should be kept on a slightly moist substrate. Bare in mind that any loose substrate has the potential to be accidentally swallowed. We found this not to be a problem with coarse orchid bark. It's also really easy to clean and if the humidity is not high enough with just this substrate then we recommend adding a small amount of moss to the enclosure, make sure you dampen this daily.
These three species of frogs do like to climb on top of things to survey their surroundings. Because of this, the vivarium should be decorated with various pieces of wood, such as thick sticks and branches, which will enable them to do this. They're enclosure can be decorated with artificial plants to make it look more natural or you can use live plants if you’re up to the challenge. You can also use wood ornaments that tend to look very effective when trying to mimic their natural habitat, and they also provide further places for the frogs to sit on. You're bound to have electrical wires and equipment, and trailing plants are very good at disguising these - they also provide a safe space for young amphibians.
Frog Feeding Guides
The three of these frogs are carnivorous, which means they have a diet consisting mainly of livefoods, the core of which should be high in protein and relatively easy to digest. You can use foods such as brown crickets, black crickets or locusts and occasionally to give variation you can offer other bugs such as mealworms, wax worms or calci worms.
To provide hydration you should mist your vivarium every morning with water from a spray bottle. A water bowl may also be introduced as a source of Freshwater and give your frogs a place to splash about if they want to.
Supplementation in the form of calcium, vitamins and minerals should be given to create an optimal nutritional diet for your frog. You can buy these mainly as powders and simply dust off their food before feeding them. If you’re giving them any live food make sure it's gut loaded with insect food. Basically this means that the live food is fed a nutrient rich diet before they’re fed to the frog.
Lastly on this list, we didn’t want a post all about frogs because there’s more to amphibians than just frogs. Our last pick for this article is the Tiger Salamander!
The tiger salamander is the largest land dwelling salamander in the world and is endemic to North America. On average an adult will grow up to between 6 and 8 inches whereas some recorded individuals have reached 14 inches in length. They're usually a blotchy grey, green or black colour and they have yellow bands or blotches on their back. Typically they are voracious predators emerging at night to feast on worms, insects, frogs and other salamanders. In captivity they typically live for 10 to 15 years.
Salamanders are seen as delicate, secretive and more challenging than keeping frogs and not very good pets in general which means they usually aren't at the top of the list for most reptile and amphibian enthusiasts. These are valid concerns in the case of many salamander species particularly the ones on the smaller side. However the tiger salamander is none of the above and it makes an excellent hardy captive pet. It is probably the most interactive species of amphibian that you can keep as a pet.
At one point in time the tiger salamander was considered a single species, however over the past couple of decades scientists have recognised that it is actually several closely related species. These include the California tiger, the Eastern tiger and the Mexican tiger. There is also the black tiger and the barred tiger salamander which are subspecies of the barred tiger species complex.
The colours that tiger salamanders come in vary from bright yellow stripes on a dark brown or black background to pure blue grey and black with orange spots. Even within individual races the variety of colours and markings can be surprising on an individual basis. Some races are either made up of populations of aquatic adults that look very similar to their close relative, the axolotl.
Tiger salamanders are found from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast of the continental United States as well as in southern Canada and as far south as into Mexico. In fact tiger salamanders are arguably more widespread than the American bullfrog, but while almost everyone has seen a bullfrog, the tiger salamander makes barely any noise and spends a lot of time underground so many people don't even realise that they're there.
Tiger salamanders are a part of the group known as mole salamanders. They use their strong legs and feet for digging, have relatively small eyes and a heavy build which are all good adaptations if you spend much of your life digging in the dirt.
Housing tiger salamanders is very straightforward, however if you are buying tiger salamanders that haven't metamorphosed yet then the technique for keeping them is very different and they’re more similar to keeping an axolotl. You can read our guide on that here.
For an adult tiger salamander we recommend keeping them in a terrarium of at least 20 gallons in volume for two individuals. Make sure you opt for a long aquarium over a high one because the salamanders will not use the vertical space provided by most display aquariums. Being mole salamanders, tigers like to burrow which means when you first acquire them they tend to spend most of the time being buried in the substrate until feeding time. When you choose a salamander substrate you should opt for a commercial topsoil mix like the ones that you can purchase from a hardware store. Be sure to purchase one that's free from fertilizers and artificial ingredients. This is because like all amphibians, salamanders have permeable skin and can absorb toxins readily from their surroundings.
If you have access to a garden that is free from insecticides or herbicides, another option is to gather your own soil. If you don't have access to either of these options then a third option is to use coconut fibre which is sometimes sold as coir. However real topsoil and commercial topsoil mixes offer a more chemically and biologically stable environment than coconut fibre and require much less frequent changing.
These large amphibians will often ingest particles accidentally as they lunge for their food and as such, small fragments of bark and coconut fibre could potentially lead to compaction and the death of your salamander. If the substrate used contains large particles consider passing it through some fine wire mesh prior to use in the terrarium.
You'll need at least 4 inches of substrate to allow for their digging. Deeper is better from the tigers point of view and wild tigers have been uncovered as far as 5 feet under the ground. The substrate should be spot cleaned of waste food and faeces wherever possible and should be changed completely every three to 4 months or more regularly if you use coconut fibre.
If you've got a planted terrarium this will require much less frequent substrate maintenance but tigers tend to uproot and damage most of the usual terrarium plants in the course of their daily digging. If you do want to use plants, consider opting for harder to uproot plants such as devil's ivy or consider artificial silk plants.
As well as burying themselves under the substrate, they also excavate semi-permanent tunnels and just sit inside with their heads poking out, waiting for food. To help retain moisture in the substrate a good option is placing sphagnum moss over a lot of the substrate which will stop the moisture evaporating from it.
Misting the tank is unnecessary as tiger salamanders do well in a wide range of humidity. as a general guideline the substrate should be moist but when squeezing in your hands it shouldn't drip. You can also add a large water bowl if desired, just be sure that it can easily be entered and exited.
In terms of temperatures the tiger salamander will be active and thriving when kept between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can maintain the temperature by using a heat mat under one side of the tank which will create a heat gradient meaning that the salamander can heat itself up if it wants to, but can also retreat to a cooler place if it wants to cool down.
Because tiger salamanders are usually nocturnal this means that terrarium lighting is not required. You can use a light though, so that you can see your pet. A new salamander will tend to be wary when being subjected to bright light for long periods of time but they do tend to overcome this rather quickly. Lighting is also a benefit for any live plants you have in your enclosure as well as being for your viewing pleasure. Bulbs that emit large amounts of heat are best avoided, if you are keeping plants make sure to use a plant friendly bulb in the range of 4000 to 10000 Kelvin. LED lighting systems are a great solution.
When it comes to feeding time, new tiger salamanders will tend to spend much of their time buried within the substrate so you may find that you have to dig your salamander out in order to feed it. As they become more tame they will spend more time on the surface and you won't have to do this as often. However one feeding trick is to gently tap on the Terrarium wall a few times before you take the salamander out for feeding time. Over time they will learn that the tapping indicates that it's feeding time and buried salamanders will usually emerge after a moment.
Tiger salamanders don't need any extra vitamins and minerals so dusting that food isn't needed. They feed in the wild on things such as beetles, earthworms and crickets where as in captivity nightcrawlers are an excellent staple food as are the crickets sold as live reptile food. If you're going with crickets make sure that they have got loaded with vegetables or a commercial cricket diet in order to improve the nutrient content.
Tiger salamanders often become obese so it's important to limit food such as wax worms to occasional treats. Waxworms are easily the favourite food of tiger salamanders and even the most reluctant salamander will find it hard to refuse them. It often helps to gently hold waxworms with forceps and rub it near the nose and the mouth of the Tiger salamander. This is an especially useful trick for newly captive tigers that are overly shy or skinny.
Tiger salamanders have insatiable appetites but only give as much as can be consumed by each tiger in 15 minutes. For adults this usually means 2 nightcrawlers and adults should be fed two to three times per week during the warmer parts of the year. During winter months you can reduce this to once every 1 or 2 weeks if temperatures in the terrarium fall into the 50s. Juvenile tigers should be fed more regularly as often as every other day, because they are less likely to become obese as they devote the nutrients to growth.