What do Salamanders eat?

Salamanders are a family of amphibians that look like lizards but are actually completely unrelated to them. They can be distinguished from lizards by their smooth, wet skin and tendency to live in the water. Salamanders are most famous for their ability to regrow limbs that they have lost, including their tails, legs and arms, in just a few days! Thanks to their bright colors and cute appearance, many salamanders are kept as pets, causing many new owners to ask: What do salamanders eat? In order to come up with a suitable diet for your pet, you must first understand what these fascinating creatures eat in their natural environment.

What do Salamanders Eat in the Wild?

A salamander's diet largely depends on its environment, as some species spend their whole lives underwater while some live on the land. In fact, salamanders are one of the few animal families to have species with and without lungs, or even both. Salamanders that live on land are carnivores with long, sticky tongues like their relatives, frogs. They creep up on prey until they are in striking distance and then lunge forward, shooting their tongue out to catch it. These salamanders eat a wide variety of prey, including spiders, worms, dragonflies, slugs, centipedes, insect eggs, frog eggs and other small invertebrates.

Salamanders that live in the water have gills like a fish and are quick, agile swimmers. A few of them have special bones that allow them to shoot out their tongues like cannons, but most aquatic species hunt by out-swimming their targets and catching them in their wide mouths. An aquatic salamander eats small fish, tadpoles, frogs, leeches, mosquito eggs and anything else that has the misfortune to fall into the water.

What do Baby Salamanders Eat?

Baby salamanders, or nymphs, go through a process of metamorphosis much like frogs. A freshly-hatched nymph is tiny and shaped like a tadpole. Even at a young age, the nymph has a row of sharp little teeth and is never a vegetarian. It eats its own eggshell and lives off of those nutrients for as much as a week while it grows and avoids predators. Once it is big enough to hunt on its own, the nymph begins to catch small aquatic animals like brine shrimp and plankton. As it grows, it moves on to bigger prey such as mosquito eggs, insect larvae and tadpoles. After about two months, the nymph is nearly full-grown and able to eat the same foods as an adult.

What do Pet Salamanders Eat?

It's all well and good to know the diet of wild salamanders, but what do salamanders eat in captivity? The good news is that salamanders are notoriously easy to feed. They are not very picky, and if an object is moving and small enough to fit into a salamander's mouth, it will be consumed with great relish in less than a second. You do, however, need to keep a salamander's nutritional needs in mind when feeding it. For land-dwelling salamanders, worms and other bugs available at most pet stores are the preferred diet. This includes crickets, earthworms, meal worms, maggots, buffalo worms and mosquito larvae. Aquatic salamanders require slightly different foods, with brine shrimp being the most common item on the menu. Other meals for these salamanders are worms such as earthworms or black worms; small fish like minnows; and larger shrimp such as ghost shrimp or crayfish.

When in doubt, stick to prey that can be found in a salamander's natural habitat. Red meats and poultry, for example, should not be fed to a pet salamander as their bodies have a hard time digesting them. Any sort of bug or small invertebrate, however, is typically fair game. Salamanders are great pets for kids and adults alike thanks to their relative ease of care and exotic appearance. Once you have set up a habitat and figured out what salamanders eat, you should be ready for years with your beautiful new companion.