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Fun Facts About Popular Amphibians

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8 March, 2023

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Amphibians make great pets for a variety of reasons. They are relatively easy and inexpensive to keep, they require low maintenance, they can live long, they provide many educational opportunities for children to learn, they make great display animals, and they provide a cool factor, unlike any other pets. If you’re thinking of getting yourself an amphibian for a pet, here are a few fun facts about five of the most popular amphibians you might want to check out first. 

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Photo by Artem Lysenko

  • They do not completely metamorphose, unlike other amphibians. They look like babies their entire lives, retaining their larval features even after reaching sexual maturity – with their trademark feathery gills, and absence of lungs and teeth.
  • There is no direct interaction with them because they are exclusively aquatic. You can only watch them from outside their aquariums. 
  • They eat meat – fish, worms, shrimps, insects, and crustaceans – dead or alive. In captivity, you can give them fish pellets or other meat strips like beef. They are not very picky. When left with an inadequate food supply, they can even turn cannibalistic and chomp off an appendage or two from other individuals. Fortunately, they have great regenerative properties. Check out these tips on taking care of them.
  • They are now a focus of scientific study because of their amazing regenerative ability. So far, they are the only animals who can completely regenerate any lost part to its complete state – tail, limb, jaws, or any other body part. The replacement is so identical that you won’t even be able to tell which part of the animal is new or old any more after some time. 

Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

  • This land-dwelling salamander is characterized by its yellow and black stripes – the main characteristic that earned it its name, the Tiger Salamander. 
  • They grow to a length of 8 to 10 inches and are considered to be some of the biggest, at least among terrestrial salamanders. Their aquatic cousins are not recommended for pets because they can grow longer than 5 feet in length. Check out these giant salamander cousins here
  • Like the axolotl, they also feed on insects, crustaceans, and even small vertebrates like fish (if they catch some). 
  • They like hiding and burrowing underground. In conditions where there is not enough moisture above ground, they can reach maturity underwater while retaining their larval traits like the axolotl. 
  • Unlike axolotls though, when conditions are favorable, Tiger Salamanders can complete their transition to terrestrial forms. 

Pixie Frogs (Pyxicephalus)

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

  • They are more commonly known as the African Bull Frog. 
  • They may not be the most colorful or most exotic-looking pets, but they sure are one of the hardiest and easiest to take care of. You don’t need to worry about feeding them because they will eat anything that can fit inside their big mouth – insects, fish, mice, lizards, and even other frogs. 
  • Males grow larger than females, requiring about twice as much space. If you plan to get a male pixie frog, a 20-gallon aquarium will be ideal. Females, on the other hand, can live comfortably in 10-gallon ones. 
  • Pixie frogs love burrowing so provide them with a substrate to dig into. The ideal material should remain damp but not soppy. It should be easy to burrow into but not collapse immediately. 
  • If you plan to get more than one, house them separately because these frogs tend to be cannibalistic. Watch them eat just about anything here

Xenopus Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis)

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

  • This amphibian is perfect for people who want to take care of frogs but don’t want the hassles of touching them or replacing their substrates. They spend their whole life underwater, preferring to stay at the bottom, only swimming occasionally to the surface to breathe some air. 
  • Their name comes from the fact that their front limbs are not webbed, making their digits there appear like claws. They swim using their large webbed feet on their hind legs while they scoop food towards their mouth using their “clawed” front feet. 
  • They are also carnivorous and will happily prey on insects, spiders, and even small fish that they can swipe into their mouth. In captivity though, you can just feed them with worms. 
  • They are excellent swimmers. They can swim at incredible speeds forwards, backward, sideways, and even upside down. You might not be able to interact much with them because they rarely go out of the water, but they will certainly be entertaining to watch especially when they swim. 
  • With the proper conditions and sufficient resources available, these amphibians can grow old with you. In contrast to wild specimens that only live up to 15 years old, these frogs are known to live beyond 20 years of age in captivity. Some adult Xenopus Clawed Frogs have been recorded to reach 30 years old. 

Fire Belly Newt (Cynops orientalis or Cynops pyrrhogaster)

Photo by Quirltreiber

  • These colorful newts are some of the most popular amphibians sold in the market. They are vibrantly colored and awesome-looking, plus they are quite active once they get used to their enclosure, making them entertaining pets to look at. 
  • They are popular especially with newbie amphibian keepers since these cool-looking newts are quite hardy and easy to care for.  Read this short guide on caring for them. 
  • The biggest concern with them though is that they secrete a toxic chemical through their skin, so they are not advisable pets for young children. Furthermore, these secretions can cause irritation in the skin, or even dizziness and numbness if it enters through a cut or a scratch. 
  • They are carnivorous and will gladly consume worms. 
  • They prefer slightly colder temperatures (20 degrees Celsius or below), making them a poor fit for tropical areas. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why are amphibians considered to be inexpensive pets? 

They do not cost a lot individually. For example, you can buy an axolotl for as low as $30-$50 each. Even with the cost of the aquarium or terrarium, getting one will still be a lot less expensive than buying one Golden Retriever puppy. Furthermore, amphibian pets are a lot less expensive to feed. They require no vaccinations, no training, or even visits to the vet. The only maintenance they require is a periodic changing of substrate and water. 

What are the risks involved in taking amphibians as pets?

Unlike in the case of dogs, cats, or other pets, amphibians do not pose bite risks.  However, some amphibians like the Fire Belly Newt secrete toxic substances that might pose serious health issues when directly touched. Overall though, what you need to look out for when handling amphibians is a bacterial infection, specifically Salmonella. If you are planning to keep them as pets, make sure to regularly use gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after handling them or cleaning their enclosures. 

Are amphibians intelligent?

Amphibians will never compare to your other house pets. They will not even be able to recognize you because they have little to no self-awareness. They are, however, capable of learning, at least to the level they need to survive. If you’re expecting them to learn and perform tricks, or even come to you when you call, then you probably need to find a different animal for a pet. 

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