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How to Care for Your Marbled Salamander

How to Care for Your Marbled Salamander

Marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) are small, nocturnal, terrestrial amphibians. They are native to the general southeast quadrant of the United States, excluding peninsular Florida. They prefer damp woodlands for habitat, where they often take refuge under rocks, fallen logs, and various other debris

Marbled salamanders are generally 3.5-4.3” long. They have a fairly typical salamander body, with a large rounded head, bulging dark eyes, robust body, short limbs, and a thick, tapered tail. They have a distinctive appearance with a black base color and broad, silver or white markings across the width of their body.

Marbled salamanders are fairly easy to care for, and make fairly good beginner-level amphibians. With good care, they can be expected to live for at least 8 years.

Note: Marbled salamanders may be very common in the US, but you should never take them from the wild to keep as pets! If you want a pet marbled salamander, please purchase one from a breeder.

How much space do marbled salamanders need?

Marbled salamanders are terrestrial, so they don’t need an aquatic area in their enclosure. The minimum size for housing a marbled salamander is 20”L x 10”W x 10”H, or a standard 10 gallon tank. However, larger is preferred, as their territories in the wild are much larger. 

Multiple marbled salamanders should not be housed together, as they are a fairly solitary species.

Do marbled salamanders need UVB?

They seem to be able to survive without it, but it’s still best practice to provide UVB lighting for optimal health and wellbeing. Providing UVB lighting to your marbled salamander gives them all of the vitamin D that their body needs, stimulates better appetite and activity, and generally allows them to be healthier than they would be without.

The best UVB bulb for marbled salamanders in a 10-12” tall enclosure is likely to be the Zoo Med Mini Compact Fluorescent Reptisun 5.0, 13w. This bulb should be housed in a reflective fixture like the 12” Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Hood, and placed on top of the mesh lid. UVB bulbs decay over time, so don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months to maintain good performance.

UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your frog UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window. This is also likely to heat the terrarium up to dangerous levels via the greenhouse effect. 

Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter to simulate natural seasonal cycles.

What temperatures do marbled salamanders need?

Marbled salamanders are ectotherms, which means that they rely on the temperature of their environment to help regulate their metabolism and stay healthy.

The enclosure temperature should be maintained between 65-75°F, and never warmer than 86°F, as this is likely to cause heatstroke. Measure temperature with a digital probe thermometers, with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure.

Because this temperature is generally around room temperature, heating equipment is not likely to be necessary.

What humidity levels do marbled salamanders need?

As amphibians, marbled salamanders are very dependent on water. However, they are poor swimmers and should not have a pool of water in their environment. Average air humidity should stay around 50-80%, as measured by a digital probe hygrometer

It’s best practice to mist your salamander’s enclosure daily with a sprayer to create the right humidity levels. Only use dechlorinated water.

What substrate is good for marbled salamanders?

Marbled salamanders require a thick layer of moisture-retentive substrate to cushion their bodies, facilitate burrowing, and help maintain healthy humidity levels. As an added perk, it also tends to make the enclosure more attractive.

This substrate should have small particles and hold moisture well. It should also be able to support plant life if you are using live plants: 

Remove waste daily. If you are not using a bioactive paludarium setup, substrate should be replaced every 2 months to maintain good hygiene.

What décor can you use in a marbled salamander terrarium?

It’s terribly boring for a salamander to be stuck in an enclosure with nothing in it except substrate. It doesn’t matter how big the enclosure is if you don’t put things in it for your pet to use and interact with.

Décor options for marbled salamanders include:

Whatever you choose to use, make sure that your pet has cover to hide in so they can feel secure in their environment.

What do marbled salamanders eat?

Marbled salamanders are insectivores, which means that they need to eat live insect prey in order to get the nutrition that they need. Your salamander should be fed 2x/week, as much as it will eat in roughly 5 minutes. Feeders should be smaller than the salamander’s head.

Food options for marbled salamanders:


Marbled salamanders need vitamin and mineral supplements to enjoy optimal health. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on their prey at each feeding. Occasionally skipping a dusting is fine.

Do marbled salamanders like to be handled?

Very few amphibians actually “like” to be held, and marbled salamanders are not one of them. Handling should be kept to an absolute minimum, but when you have to grab your salamander, wear a pair of nitrile gloves, use an aquarium net, and gently coax them into a plastic container. Always wash your hands after working with your salamander or its enclosure!

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please do further research with high-quality sources to obtain additional information on caring for this species.

"Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)" by Greg Schechter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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