The Best Tanks for Salamanders and Newts as Pets

Axolotls in a tank

Salamanders and newts have fragile and porous skin, making them extremely vulnerable to environmental changes. When constructing a tank for these animals, aim to replicate the natural environment of the or newt in question. Once created, make sure the environment's quality is continuously checked and maintained.

For salamanders and newts, there are three types of tanks: terrestrial, semi-aquatic, and aquatic. Individual species may have unique tank requirements; consult a veterinarian or an expert to choose the appropriate tank for your pet.

Terrestrial (Land) Tank

Land tanks are built up to simulate the environment that land salamanders like. This type of terrarium should include bright and dark sections, a moist substrate with leaves and maybe moss, and rock or tiny wood shelters. Sufficient humidity, as well as damp retreats, must be maintained. Moss can usually hold enough water to meet the moisture/humidity requirements of terrestrial salamanders. Water in a shallow container can also be used as a water supply and to help maintain humidity. Because terrestrial animals cannot swim well, the water must be shallow. Placing rocks or sticks in the water will aid the salamander's escape (and will also prevent any prey insects such as crickets from drowning). A secure cover is recommended; a screened cover aids ventilation, although the top may need to be partially covered to maintain the required humidity.

The substrate might be a mix of soil and moss, or only peat and sphagnum moss. The tank's bottom can be lined with a layer of gravel. Some species will burrow through the earth. Mixing peat moss into the soil prevents the soil from compacting and improves its moisture retention. When building the terrarium setting, keep in mind that the substrate will need to be replaced as it becomes filthy. The more complicated the arrangement, the more difficult it is to clean. Cleaning the cages more regularly is required for bigger species or groups of salamanders.

Rocks (to construct tiny caves), clay pots, and wood or bark can all be used to make shelters. Terrestrial salamanders are shy and spend a lot of time beneath cover. Place shelters around the tank's perimeter so that you can see them through the glass. Black paper affixed to the window will give the essential privacy for particularly reclusive species and may be removed quickly to watch the salamander.

Semi-Aquatic Tanks

This sort of setup includes both terrestrial and aquatic aspects, such as a land area where the newt may bask and a transition to a deep aquatic region. The land section may be created simply by piling gravel and moss above the water level, but separating the land and water portions with a piece of plastic or plexiglass placed across the aquarium and sealed with aquarium grade silicone sealant is easier in the long run.

To allow the newt to crawl out, make sure there is a smooth transition from the water to the ground. To provide the transition, a thick piece of wood (such as ironwood, coralwood, or monkey wood) can be put partially in the water and partially on land. This is also an excellent area for sunbathing. Alternatively, gravel on the aquatic side can be slanted to give a ramp out of the water. The pebbles in the aquatic section should be big enough not to be ingested and rounded and smooth to avoid skin irritation. Because salamanders and newts can climb fairly effectively, this tank requires a solid cover.

Aquatic Tanks

Because of the amount of waste salamanders create and their sensitivity to changes in their environment, aquariums are employed for aquatic species (such as the axolotl). Salamanders' excrement contains a significant amount of ammonia. This excrement is immediately diluted and washed away from the salamander's skin in the wild. The salamander is effectively imprisoned with its feces in an aquarium. Keeping the water clean enough to keep the salamander healthy might be tough.

The first step is to place the salamander in the biggest tank available, which will allow for dilution. With bigger aquatic species, a good power filter should be employed; most aquatic salamanders can survive moderately strong currents, but make sure the current is not too high. Although gravel can be utilized, a tank with a bare bottom is easier to keep clean and safer to use. Small gravel can be swallowed, while big gravel can cause food to vanish between the stones. Frequent (partial) water changes, in addition to filtration, are the best strategy to preserve water quality.

What Kind of Water?

Some experts advise keeping amphibians in commercially bottled spring (not distilled) water. Before introducing tap water to an aquarium, it should always be treated with de-chlorinating tablets or solution or allowed to stand for at least 24 hours. This causes the chlorine to be released. Rainfall may be used as long as the pH level is monitored, as rainwater is frequently excessively acidic. Pond water should be avoided since it may contain contaminants or parasites that are harmful to captive amphibians.


Because they encourage helpful bacteria that convert ammonia to harmless nitrites, under gravel filters perform well in setups that incorporate gravel. Even in terrestrial terrariums, this sort of filter may be employed in relatively shallow ponds. They also have the benefit of not generating powerful currents, which can be harmful to tiny species. Because this system pulls trash down into the gravel, it will need to be cleaned on a regular basis (e.g. using a gravel washer).

There are a multitude of additional that may be used. Smaller salamanders should use inside corner filters with external air pumps since they do not generate high currents and also establish helpful ammonia converting bacteria. When changing filters, add some used filter material to the new one to help the healthy bacteria colonize faster. Larger species that will not be affected by strong water currents should probably use some of the stronger filters.


Ammonia is a waste product generated by frogs (and other animals, especially aquatic species) that may be harmful if allowed to build up in their habitat. Using proper filtration and replacing the water is the best strategy to prevent ammonia buildup. Every week or every other week, around 20 to 25% of the water should be replenished (you may want to get an ammonia test kit to see how fast ammonia levels accumulate). Even if switching from unclean to clean water, do it gradually because the shock of altering water chemistry can be detrimental, and never undertake a complete water change.

pH and Water Quality

In general, salamanders thrive in water and soil with a pH (a measure of acidity) of 6.5 to 7.5. If you're collecting salamanders in the wild, try to replicate the pH of the soil and water in the location in captivity. pH strips make measuring pH simple and rapid. Because the pH of the environment changes over time due to waste products and other variables, it should be monitored on a regular basis. It's best to introduce an amphibian to a new habitat with a changing pH gradually. When a salamander is disturbed by an improper pH, it becomes restless, moves around in places it normally does not, and finally becomes sluggish and loses muscular tone.


Most salamanders from temperate areas thrive at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A basement is frequently a suitable habitat for salamanders. Cooling may be required for some species. Long-term cooling can be tricky (some people rig up means of flowing cool water through the tank), therefore it's generally preferable to put up tanks where the ambient temperature is cool enough to keep the tanks cool. If necessary, air conditioning can be employed. You may undertake periodic 20 to 25% water changes with slightly cooler water, float tiny bottles of ice water in the tank, or even produce ice cubes out of treated (dechlorinated) water to add to the tank as needed in hot weather for short-term cooling.

A submersible heater can be placed in the aquatic tanks if additional heat is required. Other heating techniques, such as incandescent lights, under-tank heaters, or other industrial heaters, should be used with caution because they might dry out frogs.


If tanks are housed in the basement, they should be positioned near a window to ensure natural seasonal light cycles. For most animals, this level of light is sufficient. If live plants are employed in the tank, they will require a full spectrum light source. For that specific salamander, it's ideal to imitate the natural light cycles. If a light is required, a low-wattage fluorescent bulb is recommended. Most salamanders and newts prefer darker environments (with lights on for little more than 10 to 12 hours per day), and lights can be drying.

Cleaning Tips

Cleaning is crucial, but keep in mind that salamanders (and other amphibians) are sensitive to contaminants in the environment. Hot water can be used to clean aquariums and aquarium goods unless there is a health risk. Allowing tanks and furniture to air dry is also beneficial. Before introducing new things to the cage, they should be thoroughly examined for bugs or rotting material, cleaned, and dried. Rocks and other non-porous objects can be soaked in bleach and washed thoroughly. Commercial disinfectants should be avoided wherever possible. It can be difficult to remove all of the residue, and it only takes a small amount of chemical exposure to injure or kill a salamander. This is especially true for porous materials such as wood, where any residues might leak out and kill the salamander over time.