A Helpful Guide to Tiger Salamander Care and Their Larvae

If you’re someone who is into caring for some pretty unique pets, chances are the Tiger Salamander has come to mind. They’re quite the amphibian, and they can make for pretty good pets.

This is due to the fact that they look great, aren’t too difficult to care for, and will definitely impress anyone who lays eyes on it. Still, if you are big into this community, you’ll notice that they can be hard to come by at times. Don’t panic, though, because we’ll have more on that for you later.

That’s why, today, we want to give you an in-depth look into how to care for a Tiger Salamander. We’ll be hitting you with some great fun facts throughout the post, but we’ll also dive into some of the more in-depth care tips -like breeding.

Caring for a Tiger Salamander

So, here is a quick guide to what we’ll be going over today:

  • A brief overview of the Tiger Salamander
  • How to handle their habit needs
  • Breeding
  • Fun facts
  • A brief recap

Please feel free to skip around if you need to, but we definitely recommend that you pay close attention to each and every section.

Now that you know what’s coming, let’s dive into the facts.

A tiger salamander
A tiger salamander.

A brief overview of the Tiger Salamander

The Tiger Salamander is an aquatic amphibian, almost like a frog, which means that their habit needs almost resemble that of a frog. You’ll notice a few key differences of course, but diving into this post knowing that information will benefit you greatly. So in this section, we’ll take a quick look at the Tiger Salamander from baby to adult. If you’re not familiar with the Tiger Salamander, trust us on this one, you’re in for quite the surprise today.

As a baby (Water Dog)

The first thing we’ll mention is that Tiger Salamanders start off as entirely aquatic amphibians. This means that their offspring require 100% water immersion to survive. So let’s take a look at the development of baby Tiger Salamanders. Plus, before we dive in if you ever hear us refer to a Water Dog, we’re just referring to a baby Tiger Salamander. We just wanted to throw that out there before we go any further.


Tiger Salamander larvae will actually be born with gills. This means that they need to be submerged in water to survive, which means that you’ll need a different habitat for a baby Tiger Salamander. Eventually, they will lose their gills, but this can actually take quite a bit of time. Once they hatch from their eggs, Water Dogs will actually begin to swim around their enclosure for quite sometime before losing the gills. Kind of like frogs so far, right?

How long is the process of metamorphosis?

The process in which a baby Tiger Salamander goes from being a larva to an adult takes quite a bit of time. Unlike a lot of other amphibians, this can take anywhere between 3 months and a year and a half. This means that you’ll need to be very patient, and if it seems like it’s taking too long for them to grow, keep in mind that this process takes a whole lot of time.

As an adult

Adult Tiger Salamanders come from North America, which means that they’re not as rare as you may have thought (in the good old USA at least). They tend to live in areas where there is a lot of moisture and water, which means ponds and streams. So let’s take a look at the qualities adult Tiger Salamanders tend to have.

The water dog is the larvae stage of the tiger salamander.
The water dog.


Adult Tiger Salamanders tend to have a couple of different colors. They’re similar in shade but tend to be a bit on the blotchy side. For example, most adult Tiger Salamanders will typically be green, black, or even gray. Now, while they may be frog-like, they actually have features that look quite different. This is due to the fact that most Tiger Salamanders tend to have a very thick (girthy) neck, big eyes, and a shorter nose area. So trust us on this one, at a glance you’ll be able to notice the differences almost instantly.


Once the Tiger Salamander has become an adult, lifespan is something you’ll definitely want to consider. Think about it… if you have a pet, don’t you want it to be around for a while? Well, if you do, you’ll be surprised by how long these Tiger Salamanders can actually last. While the average lifespan of a Tiger Salamander will be about 10 years, but some may last well longer. There is no definitive answer here, but some Tiger Salamanders can last up to 25 years.


Finally, we want to talk about the size of the Tiger Salamander. This is due to the fact that the numbers may shock you because sometimes these little guys can be over 1 foot long. Now, obviously, this isn’t always the case, and the average size will typically be about 8 inches.

So as you can see, the Tiger Salamander is a very unique animal. They make great pets, but you’ll want to stay focused as we take a look at their habit needs through a closer lens.

How to handle their habitat needs

Now that you know the facts, we can start to look into the habitat needs of the Tiger Salamander. We’ll be taking a look at how to handle their eggs, baby Tiger Salamanders (Water Dogs), and finally adults. So if you’ll be going through this process from start to finish, you’ll definitely want to pay close attention to this section.

The enclosure

The first thing you’ll need to consider is their enclosure. This is due to the fact that you’ll need to set the enclosure and habitat in a way that provides them with plenty of cover and places to hide. This is due to the fact that they actually enjoy burying themselves up to 2 feet underground. So make sure that you use a substrate that is both safe and good for digging.

Here are some solid examples:

  • Bark chips
  • Soil (potting)
  • Moss (sphagnum)
  • Peat

So before you build the entire enclosure, please be sure to find a substrate that allows your Tiger Salamander to dig if they need to.

This tiger salamander enjoys soft damp moss.
This tiger salamander enjoys soft damp moss.

The heat and humidity

The next thing you’ll need to consider is heat and humidity. This is due to the fact that this needs to be regulated in order for them to survive. In order to do this, you’ll want to utilize some heat lamps to allow the heat to hang out around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be set a bit lower in the winter months, but be sure to never let it dip below that 55 degrees Fahrenheit mark. Plus, and this is some good news, is that you don’t actually need any special UV light or anything like that.

Now, for humidity, you’ll want to make sure that your Tiger Salamander has plenty of moisture to survive. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the humidity should be set to around 65-75 percent. Anymore can be a bit much, and going lower can end up drying the Tiger Salamander out. If you’re having trouble keeping the humidity level around this percentage, you can always add live plant life to the habitat (this will usually keep an enclosure in the moisture range you need).


The next thing we’ll take a look at is their diet. The good news here is that they have quite an appetite, and it’s actually very similar to that of a frog. This means that you’ll be able to feed an adult Tiger Salamander an array of insects such as:

  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms
  • Cockroaches
  • If you want to go the extra mile, try and get versions of these insects that are covered in vitamins or minerals

Now, when it comes to how often to actually feed them, you want to be careful not to overfeed them. Therefore, a good rule of thumb to follow is once or twice a week. If you feed them more, Tiger Salamanders tend to overeat, so regulating their food intake is crucial.


The next thing we’ll talk about is water intake, because a creature that loves water may seem easy to manage when it comes to water. While this may be true, you should always consider utilizing a small water dish that’s shallow. This will keep the Tiger Salamander from drowning, and allow it to soak whenever it needs to. Also, before just leaving the water alone, you should always be filtering for cleanliness and PH levels as well. If any of this is off, your baby Tiger Salamander can end up passing away.


Tiger Salamanders are not all that clean, which means their habitat and enclosure needs to be cleaned quite often. They will create a surprising amount of waste, which means that after you feed them you’ll want to monitor the enclosure. The second you notice excessive waste, be sure to clean the enclosure. While you may be compelled to save resources, it’s always best to start fresh after each clean. This is due to the fact that an unsanitary enclosure can lead to infection, and we’ll have a bit more for you on that in our fun facts section as well.

Eggs (baby), larvae

When it comes to taking care of baby Tiger Salamanders, you’ll want to consider starting off with a second enclosure. This is due to the fact that they need a habitat that is entirely submerged, which is caused by their use of gills as a baby. So a good recommendation for the baby Tiger Salamander is to utilize an aquarium based enclosure that is filled with at least 6 inches of water. As for the size of the enclosure itself, a 10-gallon tank is always a wonderful idea.

Once you have the basics down, to be blunt, the Tiger Salamander really won’t give you too much trouble. So if you find yourself overwhelmed at first, don’t panic, and just give yourself a bit of time to get used to things.


The last concept that we want to show you is breeding. This is due to the fact that Tiger Salamanders breed in a unique way, which means that this will require some additional attention. Tiger Salamanders are not always the best suited for captivity, so it is quite hard to get them to breed in some cases. So if you’re someone who plans on breeding Tiger Salamanders for fun, or even to distribute, you’ll want to give this section a read. Chances are it’s a bit trickier than you expect.

If possible, you’ll want to give them time outside

If you want your Tiger Salamander to follow normal breeding practices, it can be quite difficult. This is due to the fact that most Tiger Salamanders, even in captivity, tend to be wild in nature. This means that you’ll want to make sure that you provide your Tiger Salamander male and female with adequate time outdoors. You should also keep in mind that this should be done during the spring months because they actually hibernate during the winter.


If you will be breeding Tiger Salamanders in captivity, you’ll want to utilize hormones to help if you can. This will encourage males and females to mate and can give you some pretty positive results. Unfortunately, everyone has different breeding ideas, so be sure to focus on some well-reviewed tips and pointers for breeding. This is due to the fact that you don’t want to overdo the hormones, or you can end up harming the Tiger Salamander.

How many eggs or Larvae should be expected?

If you do happen to get the Tiger Salamanders to mate, the number of eggs that they can lay will definitely vary. The average will be around 3 to 5, but in some cases, they can lay as much as 25 eggs. Therefore, if you will be breeding, be sure to keep this in mind. Plus, if a few don’t make it past the larval stage, this is totally normal.

Breeding doesn’t have to be difficult. There is no need to go too crazy because we always recommend that you let nature take its course. With that being said, just be sure to keep an eye on things once the eggs are down and hatch.

Fun Facts

The last thing that we’ll go over today is some pretty fun facts. There is really a lot going on when it comes to Tiger Salamanders, so we want to make sure that you don’t miss anything. So in this section, we’ll be going over an array of certain things you might benefit from hearing. So are you ready for some fun facts? Let’s dive right in.


The first thing we want to address is the temperament and behavior of these amphibians. This is due to the fact that you probably won’t see them all that much, because they hibernate during the winter. Plus, aside from just hibernation, they also tend to hang out underground whenever the chance presents itself. This means that if you want a pet that you can look at, and or play with, the Tiger Salamander may not be right for you.


The interesting thing about Tiger Salamanders is that their defense mechanism is very unique. This is due to the fact that the primary form of defense is to simply excrete a chemical that makes them less appealing to predators. So instead of having any physical responses, like noises and such, they simply make themselves seem less appealing. Pretty interesting, right? So if you notice an odd smell, or tint to their skin, they’re definitely in defense mode.

Health risks

When caring for a Tiger Salamander, one of the most important things to understand is that there are quite a few health risks. Plus, and this is some pretty bad news if one aspect of a Tiger Salamander’s health becomes diminished, the rest of the Tiger Salamander’s health can fall victim to infection as well.

Now, with that being said, here are some of the common ailments you should look out for when dealing with Tiger Salamanders or Water Dogs:

  • Parasites
  • Viral infections
  • Viral infections that lead to parasites
  • Many more

If you do notice that your Tiger Salamander is suffering from any one of these conditions, unfortunately, their life expectancy after is the flip of a coin. Therefore, in order to preserve the lifespan of your Tiger Salamander, you should always take measures to keep their habitat very clean.

Some of these fun facts are more fun than others, but regardless, it’s definitely important that you know and understands all of them. As we’ve mentioned earlier, we want you to be as well informed as possible.


Now, we know that we went over a lot of information today. There is really so much to talk about, and we tried to condense it in a way that makes the most sense. Still, it’s still a lot to take in. That’s why we always recommend that you refer back to this post as a guide, and if you ever feel lost or confused, feel free to go back over a certain situation.

The Tiger Salamander is not too hard of a pet to take care of, but it does require some intricacies. Always make sure that you keep the enclosure and habitat setup for success, and make sure that you stay on top of their cleaning needs.

Now that you know the facts about Tiger Salamanders and Water Dogs, what will your next move be?

For more amphibian fun, check out our article on dart frogs.

Please leave comments below!

A Helpful Guide to Tiger Salamander Care and Their Larvae

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