Keeping a tiger as a pet is not legal, and adopting an ordinary salamander does not sound that alluring. In this state of affairs, what is it that you can or should do?
Now, I do have a wonderful plan: what you can do is keep a tiger salamander! They are strikingly handsome creatures, and are very much in demand as pets. With their yellow blotches, spots or bars against a black background, and slithery but taut and beautiful skin and those dewy eyes, they are absolutely delectable and are even imported from North America, where they are usually found in the while. Now it is imperative to know that it is illegal to take them out of their natural habitat, and so I do not really recommend you to go out and catch one for yourself. Even captive bred ones are quite difficult to get nowadays as breeding them is quite challenging.
Tiger salamanders can really peculiar and their habits and way of life. In fact, some of the subspecies even have the tendency to show neotency, which in simple words, means that they breed in the larval stage and never undergo metamorphosis into the adult terrestrial form. These resemble the axolotl, another salamander cousin, and is often sold by the popular name of “water dogs”.
Now you will have to decide on the kind of tiger salamander you want for yourself, and more importantly, at which age you want to adopt it. If you are more keen on watching it grow, then you should opt for one or more salamander at the larval stage. Now, the larval stage is aquatic in its entirety, and an aquarium is necessary. However, since it is so small at that stage, you can make do will a small aquarium with just about five to six inches of water, and if you want to add a special touch, some coloured rock for the aquarium to look good and for the salamanders to hide in. You will also need a good filter and an airstone for aeration. The temperature should be adjusted so that it stays around 65 to 70 F. This, however, is not enough. Tiger salamanders, despite their outer appearance and of course their curious nomenclatures, are very vulnerable creatures. That is why you should pay adequate attention to the quality of water in the tank, the pH of water and most important of all, the ammonia buildup.
Now, and this is the tricky part, you must need to know that they may anything from a few months to a year or more to lose its gills and come out of the water in its adult form. Patience, my dear, is the key to keeping a salamander as a pet!
Now you need to be ready, and of course, desperately waiting. After this blossoming occurs, you must reduce the amount of water in the tank to provide a terrestrial area till it fully matures into an adult and does not require an aquatic setup. You must also provide a substrate apposite for burrowing. Now you may use anything from plotting soil without vermiculite, peat, bark chips or even sphagnum moss. Whatever you use, do remember to avoid gravel. Another thing to keep in mind is that salamanders have very healthy appetites, and produce quite a bit of waste. This means that their cages will require frequent cleaning. So, whatever you do, do not get a permanent or elaborate setup. A makeshift arrangement will work just fine, and regular changes will also make your pet curious about its surroundings, which trust me, is a good thing.
Water is essential. Although they do not need an aquarium now that they are adults, they still do need a steady supply of water. You should provide a shallow dish of water. It should be large, so that you can store a commendable amount, but shouldn’t be deep, so as to let your pet drown or anything. The best thing to do is to acquire a large but shallow bowl, no more than two inches deep for your pets to soak themselves in. This dish should be cleaned on a regular basis. Remember that tiger salamanders are vulnerable, and the last thing you need is to let your pet salamander catch some infection through the murky water.
There is actually a plethora of things that you should do to keep your pet in a proper condition. As said earlier, they are delicate creature, and need taking care of. First things first, we should try to regulate the temperature of the room in which they are kept. They do not need external heating as such, but you need to take care that they are not exposed to extremes of temperature. You should also take care that the enclosure is not wet, but the substrate needs to be sufficiently damp. When you are cleaning the tank, I would advise you not to use any kind of detergents. Hot water should suffice, in my opinion, if you clean the enclosure at least twice or thrice a week. You do not need to provide UV lighting, but a regular lighting, preferably an incandescent one, should be introduced, on a timer, so that your pets get the feel of daytime in their original habitat.
What we have not talked about, and is very important is feeding your tiger salamander. They are, in this context, very much like goldfishes actually. What I intend to mean by that is that they tend to get obese if overfed. Do whatever you do, do not fall for those gooey eyes, and give them all the food you have!
The food for the larva and the adult is very different, and you need to keep that in mind. You need to feed the larva aquatic invertebrates like brine shrimp and daphnia. You can also feed them tiny fishes, worms and insects. An adult tiger salamander can be fed an assortment of feeder insects like waxworms, crickets, earthworms.
The trick in handling as well as housing a Tiger Salamander is a skill worth learning. Actually, since they have extremely sensitive and delicate skin, they should not be handled unless unquestionably necessary. Believe it or not, there are salts and oils in our skin that can harm them, so, if at all you need to touch them, do not forget to wash your hands with soap and rinse till the last bit of soap is scraped out before you touch your pet.
I understand that not getting to touch your pet can be abrading but, trust me, you will soon experience an altogether different experience that will be rewarding, to say the least. After a while of initial shyness, they normally overcome their typical shyness and become quite a bit responsive. They come to the sides of the tank when you approach their enclosure, in the anticipation of food usually, but also because they trust that you mean no harm. Tiger salamanders are beautiful outlandish creatures, and if you manage to provide for them, they turn out to be amazing company.