Pet Articles

Pet Amphibians

Did you know that the Japanese giant salamander can grow to be up to 1.8 meters long? This would not be an ideal pet, however other species of salamander, along with frogs, newts, and toads are just a few examples of amphibians that are kept as pets. There is a huge variation in the size of these animals, the smallest being the poison dart frog at 1.3 centimetres. There is also a large variation in the environmental conditions and care they require in order to thrive. Although all very unique, they do have certain traits in common that make them amphibians.

Adults have the amazing ability to breath through their skin. They need to remain near a water source so they do not dry out. Their skin is covered by a mucus layer that acts to facilitate oxygen exchange. Amphibians are definitely not a pet for beginners, or for those who want to cuddle and touch their pet as they should be handled as little as possible. This will not only act as prevention for damaging their important and delicate skin, but may also protect you in some cases! Many amphibians excrete irritating or poisonous toxins from their skin that can harm you, so it is always a good idea to wear disposable gloves when handling an amphibian.

The environment of an amphibian is probably the single most important factor in maintaining its health. What does a proper environment look like? This will all vary depending on the individual amphibian that is your pet; ones that come from more tropical environments will require much hotter temperatures and more humidity than other amphibians. It is up to you to do the research before you purchase your amphibian to determine what the proper environment is for the new addition. A general estimate is a temperature of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius with a humidity of 75-80% for the average amphibian. This would be a devastating environment for tropical amphibians however, as they need temperatures closer to 24 to 27 degrees Celsius and humidity of 85-90%. You may not think that a couple degrees would make a difference, but think of how small an amphibian is and how they breathe through their skin – this makes them extremely sensitive to their environmental conditions.

The ability to breathe through their skin also means that toxic substances from the environment can easily seep through their skin and kill an amphibian. Chlorine is an important toxin usually found in tap water that can be deadly to your pet amphibian. It must, under all circumstances, be removed or an alternate water source used to provide moisture for your pet. Other additions to an amphibian’s environment that will keep it more comfortable include gravel or some substance to cover the floor, ventilation, proper lighting (UV-B light to prevent metabolic bone disease), food, water, and cleanliness.

If you are squeamish or disgusted by bugs or small creatures that squirm about, perhaps you should re-consider the owning of an amphibian. To keep an amphibian truly healthy and have a proper lifespan, they usually require live food. The majority of amphibians will eat invertebrates such as fruit flies, crickets, earthworms and meal worms. If that did not gross you out, keep in mind that some amphibians actually require a diet of vertebrates like small fish or newborn mice or rats. Actually, even if you feed these food sources, your pet amphibian may still develop nutritional problems, in fact they actually have a good chance of doing so. Most of the invertebrates that are raised as food seem to lack some of the nutrients necessary for amphibians to thrive (except earthworms). Gut loading is a way to remedy this problem. This procedure entails feeding your pet a diet of high calcium 48 hours before feeding the live animals to it. Dusting is a second method, in which insects can be coated with powered preparations of vitamins (include vitamin D3 and calcium). Make note again, that the needs of each individual amphibian will vary depending on the species, so it is crucial to have a knowledgeable veterinarian or amphibian expert assist you in determining the proper supplementation guidelines.

Amphibians can be entertaining pets to watch, and very satisfying for the pet owner if this is the kind of pet you are looking for. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into, and are able to properly care for an amphibian. More often than not it will be management issues (diet, housing, etc) that result in the early demise of pet amphibians.

By Laura Platt – writer

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