Amphibians were the first forms of life to successfully make the transition from water to land. Today they appear in a dazzling array of colors and shapes; they rank amongst nature’s most beautiful spectacles. Many species of frog, toad, salamander and newt can be kept in captivity with relative ease. Their needs for survival are simple and few, and most pet shops offer all the equipment necessary for us to construct appropriate habitats for them.
Most amphibians will need to be kept in an aqua-terrarium, which is something of a cross between an aquarium and the kind of dry terrarium used to house reptiles. A semi-aquatic version consists of a tank partitioned by glass and aquarium sealant: one side is filled with water and the other is a dry land mass created with pebbles. A fully outfitted aqua-terrarium should include the tank itself, a ventilated hood, a heater-stat below the water surface, a digital thermometer (also in the water) and a heating light above the dry portion. Typically, a large rock serves as a slope so that the amphibians can easily reach the land from the water and vice-versa.
A temperate woodland version of the aqua-terrarium will suffice for those species of amphibian that live primarily on land. So long as a water source is provided for hydration, an environment created with dirt and a moss covering – and wood chips to provide a sheltered retreat for our pets – will be adequate. The temperature within this kind of terrarium should be allowed to decrease a little during the winter months, to approximate the natural seasonal changes that these creatures are accustomed to in the wild.
All amphibians have sensitive skin, which can be easily damaged. The mucus on their bodies protects them from bacterial infections; they must be handled carefully (and only when absolutely necessary) lest our dry hands strip this coat and leave them vulnerable to diseases that could prove fatal. It’s also a good idea, for our own safety, to use latex gloves so that we don’t expose ourselves to any toxic chemicals that may lie upon their skin.
Generally speaking, their diet includes a wide variety of invertebrates, from crickets to mealworms to spiders. The staff at the pet store where you purchase your amphibians should be able to tell you about the food preferences of different kinds. Amphibians, as a rule, possess a visual sense that is adapted to recognizing prey by movement. They may, therefore, ignore inanimate food that is simply placed inside their tank. However, if we move it in front of them with forceps they’ll be more likely to strike out and grab the morsel.
Frogs, toads, salamanders and newts are all generally docile and reclusive creatures. They are pets to be admired and cared for but not interacted with much. However, their exotic beauty and grace more than compensates for whatever fun we may have to forgo by not handling or otherwise disturbing them.