How to Properly Care for a Tiger Salamander

A tiger salamander is not a usual pet in most cases, but what do you do if you see one crawl up on your porch and want to help it out a little? Read on!

Hello! I’m here to tell you how to properly care for a tiger salamander! I have come across many of these amphibious creatures… Most of the time, by the time they reach my home, they are dry and in great need of some assistance. With these steps, you will know how to care for a happy, healthy tiger salamander!

Safety and Handling

The first VERY IMPORTANT thing to know about tiger salamanders (and most amphibious creatures in general…) is the fact that they absorb most everything through their skin. This means that it is also VERY IMPORTANT not to touch or hold tiger salamanders with hands that have been exposed to soap, chemicals, or practically anything else. Before touching these little guys, wash your hands with water very thoroughly and make sure to have your hands clear of any harmful substances.

Water and Moisture

The next key step of caring for tiger salamanders is to keep them wet with clean, clear water. This does not mean that you should force them under or submerge them in water, but keep a good amount of clean water available for them. When you hold them, make sure to wet your hands and do not keep them from water for very long.

“Bedding” and Tank Set-Up

If you are planning on keeping a tiger salamander long-term, (beside checking to see if it is legal in your state,) it is important to know the habits and needs of such a salamander. First of all, a ten-gallon aquarium is a good start. If it must be washed out, do not use soap or cleaning products if possible. If need be, wash with a cleaning product and let the tank sit, then rinse it with water. Tiger salamanders are known for their burrowing and digging, as they live deep under the earth (maybe not 20,000 leagues, but certainly deep enough…)  It is crucial to provide a captive tiger salamander with three or more inches of clean soil. The soil must be “clean” in the aspect of additives or chemicals; an organic soil found at a gardening store usually suffices, but there are also safer soils to be found at pet shops and pet supply stores.  The importance of a chemical-free environment cannot be stressed enough (if you haven’t picked that up by my constant mentioning of this… :) ). The soil should be kept very moist, as these salamanders are river-dwelling and their habitat should be similar to that of a wet river bank. Be wary not to over-water, however, as this will prevent the salamander from dwelling under the earth, consequently causing it to dry. There should be, at most, an inch of settled water at the bottom of the tank. Apart from the soil, a simple deep-ish dish of clean water large enough to at least partially submerge the salamander should be provided (make sure that there is a way in and a way out of this dish). Rocks, sticks, and other natural items can be placed in the tank, as well as plastic decorations (if need be…). Do not expect these creatures to play or climb on these decoration items, as a leopard gecko or a frog might.

Heating and Lighting

Anyone who has owned certain kinds of frogs and reptiles may know how difficult it is to maintain the exact warm temperature that is needed to ensure health and survival. A tiger salamander, however, is very low-maintenance and needs a cool temperature rather than a warm one (the temperature of the area and tank should not exceed 70 degrees F.) A UVB light could be very beneficial to the salamander if it is not placed in an area where direct sunlight is available. No heating pad or special heat light is usually necessary.


Tiger salamandersare widely known for their appetites, meaning that they will eat nearly anything that moves, including other tiger salamanders and frogs. Provide a healthy diet of feeder insects (gut-loaded insects are the best!!). I have found through my experience that most tiger salamanders will not eat insects or worms that do not move a lot, for example, wax worms. This is mainly because of the poor eye-sight of these creatures. Be sure to have plenty of vitamins and calcium available to your salamander.


Tiger salamanders can make great companions (really!!) for anyone who enjoys the company of scaly, slimy friends! The key things to remember when keeping these guys are water, cool temperatures, and a chemical free environment. As stated previously, do not expect a lot of energy-using output from a salamander and do not be worried if it burrows and is under soil for quite a while.

If you follow these steps, you should have a happy and healthy tiger salamander! Thanks for reading; I hope this has been helpful! Be sure to ask with any questions, comments, or concerns…!  


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User Comments
  1. danielle

    On May 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    In the process of them entering the water if the soil is stuck to their skin does that affect the cleaness of the water…what could I do about that?

  2. Eleanor Page

    On May 22, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Hey, Danielle!
    Actually, I have noticed that to be a problem too, especially with the salamaner that I have right now. Realistically, the water does not need to be kept completely free of dirt, just unnatural substances. Dirt is part of a tiger salamander’s natural environment, as they often time live in it all the time. With my salamanders, I keep a dish of water in their tanks that I clean out briefly every week or so. Otherwise, I just keep the soil moist, with at least a half-inch of water settled at the bottom. In all truth, salamanders will be fine with just this amount of water, but just in case, it’s good to keep some fresh water for them too. The only things that matter most concerning a dish of water are chemicals and algae, which can sometimes be a problem with pond-y creatures. I hope that helps!

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