Tiger Salamander

One of the most popular pet amphibians in the United States, the Tiger Salamander is beautiful to look at, easy to care for and maintain, and easy to tame. They are native to the forests and prairies of North America, where they live in small underground burrows near bodies of water.

Tiger Salamanders get their name from the yellow patches, spots, or stripes on their black bodies, giving them a tiger-like pattern. They have large distinct eyes on a small head with a small muzzle, with muscular legs and a long tail. These amphibians make excellent pets for both beginners and experts and are even known to recognize and interact with their owners.

If you’re looking to bring home a Tiger Salamander, you’ve come to the right place! While you should always do additional research, in this article, we provide a basic overview of caring for these beautiful animals.

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Fast Facts About Tiger Salamander

Species Name: Ambystoma tigrinum
Family: Ambystomatidae
Treatment Level: Easy
Temperature: Average room temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit)
Temperament: Brave, friendly, smart
Color Shape: Olive green to yellow with spots or stripes
Lifetime: 15-20 years in captivity
Size: 6-13 inches snout to tail
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Setting: Aquarium or plastic tank with ventilated lid and substrate
Suitability: Ideal for beginners

Salamander Tiger Overview

The Tiger Salamander is one of the most common salamanders found in the United States, with the widest range and distribution of all North American salamanders. They are found throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico and are even said to be more common and widespread than the American Bullfrog. Tiger Salamanders spend most of their time underground in their burrows, so you’ll never see them in the wild.

The Tiger Salamander was once thought to be a single species, but recently, scientists have discovered that they are actually made up of several closely related species and various subspecies. Although named and known for the distinctive tiger stripe markings, they have a wide variety of colors and markings, even within the same species, which can vary greatly between individuals. They are one of the largest salamanders, usually reaching up to 13 inches as adults, but some have been recorded to reach 15 inches or more.

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Tiger Salamanders are great pets because they are tough and are among the most interactive and well-adapted amphibians in captivity. They can be tamed quickly and easily and will accept food from the hands of their guards and even recognize them! They usually live for about 10 years but have occasionally been known to live up to 14 years.

How much does a tiger salamander cost?

Captive Tiger Salamanders are difficult to find because they are difficult to breed. Also, finding and catching wild Tiger Salamanders is even illegal in most places, so the best route is a reputable rescue organization or breeder. Usually, you can expect to pay around $50, depending on where you buy your salamander, but they often fetch a higher price as well.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Most species of salamanders make great pets to watch, but tiger salamanders are different in that they are easy to tame and quickly overcome their fear of humans. They have been known to follow their owners’ movements from inside their cages and readily take food out of their hands, but they should not be handled due to their very sensitive skin which can be easily damaged.

They are usually non-aggressive animals and can live happily with other salamanders, but they don’t have to.

Appearance & Variety

The Tiger Salamander is one of the largest salamander species, often reaching over 13 inches in length. They have a stocky body with black to olive green coloration, usually with darker black spots or stripes or lighter stripes on the darker body. They usually have a lighter colored belly, but coloration within species can vary widely.


How to Take Care of a Tiger Salamander


Because they are highly adaptable and easy to care for, adult Tiger Salamanders can be housed in a variety of enclosures, and even a large plastic container will suffice. It is best to have a glass aquarium with a secure mesh cover, as this allows for easy viewing. Either way, you’ll want a cage of at least 10 gallons per salamander, with ample space for substrate and hiding places.

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No matter which substrate you choose, it should be moist and soft to allow your salamander to burrow. Organic soil free from chemicals or fertilizers is the best choice because it can break down dirt or uneaten food, but coconut fiber is a great alternative. The substrate should be soft so as not to damage your salamander’s skin, with no jagged edges, and the substrate should be large enough that they won’t swallow it while eating. You should avoid small pebbles, wood chips, or sharp pieces of bark.

Temperature and lighting

Usually, additional heating is not required for the Tiger Salamander as a general room temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. They do not tolerate the higher temperatures of these wells, although slightly lower temperatures are fine. Some Tiger enthusiasts use UV lighting, although this isn’t necessary, and too much of it can even harm your salamander’s skin. Regular night/day cycles of about 12 hours each are ideal.

Are Tiger Salamanders Friendly With Other Pets?

The Tiger Salamander is not very territorial and is generally a solitary creature, rarely interacting except when breeding or foraging. They are usually fine living with other salamanders as long as they have enough space, but they are not lonely on their own and company is not necessary for their happiness. Male tigers are sometimes known to be aggressive, especially if there is not enough space in their tank, and they may bite each other’s tails. Larger tigers have even been known to eat smaller varieties.

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What Feeds Your Tiger Salamander?

Tiger Salamanders are carnivores and will eat almost anything they can put in their mouths. Live prey is ideal because they will usually ignore dead food or pellets, so worms, crickets, cockroaches, and various other insects are all ideal. Little rats can also be fed occasionally, but only if your tiger is big enough to eat them.

It is important to note that these salamanders can easily become overweight, and foods with a high fat content, such as pinkies and certain worms, should be given sparingly. They need to be fed two to three times a week, depending on their age and size. A good rule of thumb is to feed them as much as they will eat in an hour or so and take the rest out.

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Keeping Your Tiger Salamander Healthy

If all of your salamander’s nutritional and housing needs are met, they are healthy animals that can live for a long time. One important factor is to handle them as little as possible to avoid damaging their sensitive skin. The oil and salt on your hands can potentially harm your salamander, but if you need to handle it, make sure your hands are clean and wet to prevent injury.

Tigers are also susceptible to respiratory infections if their habitat is not maintained. If they show symptoms of wheezing or excessive mucus, they should go to an exotic vet.


In the wild, tigers migrate to captive ponds in early spring. The female can lay up to 100 eggs, which usually hatch after about 4 weeks. These larvae will stay in the breeding pond until they are adults, anywhere between 2 and 5 months.

Breeding Tiger Salamanders in captivity is notoriously difficult, as it is a challenge to reproduce the natural environment and stimuli from the wild. Most breeders will keep their salamanders outside most of the year to get them to breed, but in an indoor environment, they will often use hormone injections.


Is the Tiger Salamander Right for You?

The Tiger Salamander is an excellent pet that is easy to care for. Unlike many other salamander species, this animal is easy to tame and quickly loses its fear of humans. The fact that they are easy to care for makes them ideal for beginners, but also great for experienced reptile and amphibian keepers. They are interesting creatures to watch and make good pets for responsible children.

Whether you are a seasoned amphibian owner or just looking to dip your toe into this fascinating world, the Tiger Salamander is a great choice.

Featured Image Credit: Matt Jeppson, Shutterstock

Tiger Salamander
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