How Do Tiger Salamanders Reproduce?

The tiger salamander is a cryptic animal that leads a secretive life. After hatching in a pond, it spends the larval stage of its life underwater. After metamorphosis, it moves onto land, where it lives in a burrow, from which it only emerges at night. As a result, little is known of its behavior.

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you’ll know that I try to share what I’ve learned about amphibians and reptiles in general – and axolotls and tiger salamanders in particular. In this article, I’ll focus on answering the question: “How Do Tiger Salamanders Reproduce?”.

Here’s what my research unearthed:

Adult tiger salamanders migrate to nearby vernal pools, ponds, or slow-moving streams from mid-winter to early spring. The male tiger salamander will court female tiger salamanders until a female responds positively. The male will then lead the interested female away from other salamanders to avoid interruption by competing males. The courtship ritual continues as both salamanders face each other and touch snouts. The female tiger salamander then moves behind the male and nudges him along with her snout. As he moves along, he deposits little sacs of sperm called spermatophores. These spermatophores are taken up by the female through her cloaca, where the sperm fertilizes her eggs. 24 to 48 hours later, the female will lay between 100 to 1000 fertilized eggs (also known as spawn), either individually or in small clumps, onto plants, roots, submerged wood, or rocks. The eggs will hatch approximately 14 to 50 days later – depending on the temperature of the water.

If you’d like to learn more about tiger salamanders’ reproductive habits, check out the frequently asked questions below. And, as always, please consider sharing this article on social media. Thank you.

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Please note: these answers approach the tiger salamander from a species complex point of view rather than from the perspective of individual species and subspecies within the species complex. Based on my research and understanding, the behaviors outlined below are either identical or very similar across the range (Eastern, Barred, or California). If you have any additional information which could improve this content, please don’t hesitate to share it with me!

When Do Tiger Salamanders Reach Sexual Maturity?

Tiger salamanders tend to reach sexual maturity between the ages of 2 to 5. They can then continue to reproduce throughout their adult lives. Before reaching sexual maturity, tiger salamanders must become adults. This generally involves going through a metamorphosis. However, in rare cases, tiger salamanders are neotenic, meaning that they retain their juvenile features into adulthood. This is the case for certain populations of tiger salamanders living in high-altitude lakes. These pedogenic salamanders reach sexual maturity and can procreate without undergoing metamorphosis and without becoming land-dwelling creatures.

When is Tiger Salamander Breeding Season?

The breeding season for wild tiger salamanders ranges from mid-Winter to early Spring (February to May). One of the main stimulating factors for tiger salamanders is rain and, in particular, the warmer rains of Spring. These rains kick off the migration to nearby breeding sites.

Where Do Tiger Salamanders Reproduce?

Tiger salamanders tend to reproduce in nearby bodies of water, such as vernal pools, ponds, or even slow-moving streams. Vernal pools are temporarily flooded wetlands, mainly found in woods and forests, that are generally dry for most of the year but become inundated in winter and spring. Vernal pools in particular, make great breeding grounds for tiger salamanders, as they are mostly free of predators and other species.

Do Tiger Salamaders Hibernate?

Tiger salamanders hibernate in their burrows during the cold winter months. Tiger salamanders will begin to leave their burrows from mid-minter to early spring, as temperatures rise and the spring rains soften up the ground.

When Do Tiger Salamanders Lay Their Eggs?

The female tiger salamander lays her eggs 24 to 48 hours after fertilization. 

How Many Eggs Do Tiger Salamanders Lay?

Female tiger salamanders lay, on average, 100 to 1000 fertilized eggs every time they mate.

How Many Babies Do Tiger Salamanders Have?

Female tiger salamanders lay between 100 to 1000 fertilized eggs (on average) per mating episode. It’s estimated that tiger salamanders mate twice per mating season (on average). Only a fraction of the fertilized eggs hatch into larvae, and only a fraction of these larvae make it to the juvenile stage. According to the EPA, it’s estimated that only 5% of juveniles make it to adulthood. Other estimates say that during the entire life of a female California tiger salamander, a mere 11 tiger salamander offspring reach adulthood.

How Often Do Tiger Salamanders Mate?

Tiger salamanders are known to mate up to two times per mating season. So, in total, a female tiger salamander can lay anywhere from 200 to 2000 fertilized eggs each year.

When Do Tiger Salamanders Hatch?

Fertilized tiger salamander eggs will incubate for 14 to 50 days. The female deposits her spawn onto aquatic plants, roots, submerged wood, or rocks – where they attach until the larvae hatch.

Do Tiger Salamanders Raise Their Offsring?

Tiger salamanders do not raise their offspring. Once the mating ritual is over, the male will tiger salamander returns to his burrow. Once the female tiger salamander has laid her eggs, she also returns to her burrow. The fertilized eggs develop on their own and hatch. The newly born tiger salamander larvae fend for themselves from day one and learn what and how to eat without the involvement of their parents.

Are Tiger Salamanders Monogamous or Polygamous?

Tiger salamanders are monogamous. Once the mating ritual is over, the male and female tiger salamander will leave the water and return to their respective burrows.

Can You Breed Tiger Salamanders?

Tiger salamanders can be bred in captivity. To breed tiger salamanders, you will need two sexually mature individuals of the opposite gender, i.e., an adult male and an adult female. To encourage breeding, experts recommend lowering the ambient air temperature of their enclosures to 60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 18 degrees Celsius), and feeding them less (some even recommend stopping feeding them altogether). Maintaining these conditions for a prolonged period (several weeks to a few months) will help recreate similar conditions to those of their hibernation in the wild. Then, to trigger mating, experts recommend gradually raising temperatures (up to a maximum of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees Celsius) and mimicking the spring rain by either spraying or misting their enclosure regularly. If the conditions are right, and your tiger salamanders are in the mood, they may then begin the mating ritual outlined in the introduction paragraph above.

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Hello and welcome to Pets From Afar. I'm Glen. My daughter Siri and I are mad about axolotls. I created this website to document our findings and experiences, as we learn more about these amazing amphibians. Follow along and enjoy the fun!

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