Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum), are a species of salamander native to North America, and the United States in particular. They’re one of the most common types of salamander found in the wild and also the most popular species of pet salamander.
There exist over 600 different species of salamander, and lifespan varies significantly among them. If you’re wondering how long tiger salamanders live, you’re in the right place! Here’s what I discovered:
Tiger salamanders tend to live anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Their life expectancy is shorter in the wild than in captivity. The lifespan of tiger salamanders is relatively long compared to other salamander species such as the slimy salamander (4 to 8 years), long-tailed salamander (5 to 10 years), or marbled salamander (8 to 10 years). However, they don’t live as long as species such as the Hellbender salamander (15 to 25 years) or Chinese & Japanese salamanders, which frequently live up to 50 and beyond.
In the article below I’ll take a closer look at how long tiger salamanders live in the wild and in captivity.
Table of Contents
- How Long Do Tiger Salamanders Live?
- How Long Do Wild Tiger Salamanders Live?
- Wild Tiger Salamander Longevity vs. Other Salamander Species
- How Long Do Tiger Salamanders Live in Captivity?
How Long Do Tiger Salamanders Live?
The life expectancy of an individual of a given species can vary depending on many factors.
Genetics, for example, will have a huge say in how long a given salamander will live.
Another factor is the salamander’s habitat. In particular, whether or not the salamander in question lives in the wild or captivity. The difference in life expectancy can vary greatly between both situations.
Indeed, things such as environmental factors (water quality, air temperature & humidity, precipitation levels, presence of pesticides or herbicides, etc.); competition for resources from individuals of the same species; the presence and number of predators; or the availability and quantity of food can all have a bearing on a salamander’s lifespan.
First, we’ll look at how long tiger salamanders live in the wild.
How Long Do Wild Tiger Salamanders Live?
In the wild, most tiger salamanders tend to live 12 to 15 years.
Tiger salamanders tend to live shorter lives in the wild than in captivity (on average, across a statistically significant population of individuals).
Putting the influence of genetics to one side, it’s easy to understand why. It’s simply harder to survive in the wild. Living in the wild is tough. And, to make things worse, it’s getting even harder…
Deteriorating Living Conditions
Amphibians, in general, and tiger salamanders, in particular, are considered to be very good indicators of the health of the environment and their particular ecosystems.
Deteriorating Water & Air Quality
First of all, the permeability of the tiger salamander’s skin and eggs makes them very sensitive to water and air quality issues. In particular, the presence of contaminants in the water, such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, microplastics, or even antibiotics, can cause salamanders to become ill and die. Industrialization, consumerism, and inconsiderate human behavior are all to blame.
Secondly, tiger salamanders tend to live close to the top of their food chain in the wild and, as predators, are heavily affected by significant changes to the ecosystem, such as declining biodiversity. Indeed, plants and insects (to name a few) are susceptible to becoming victims of the same deteriorating water and air quality as salamanders.
Climate change is causing increased variability and extreme weather events that devastate the habitats of wild species.
Whilst life in general, and tiger salamanders in particular, have evolved to adapt to the natural change in weather that accompanies the change in seasons, nobody is prepared for the rapid and drastic changes that climate change is bringing to our lives.
Habitat Destruction & Deforestation
The destruction of the tiger salamander’s natural habitat through urbanization and deforestation is undoubtedly having a negative effect on their population age and size.
In the wild, tiger salamanders have to feed themselves.
They eat a range of invertebrates (snails, shrimp, etc.), insects (worms, beetles, crickets, etc.), small fish, and small rodents such as baby mice. They get this food either by scavenging for it, ambushing it, or hunting it. It doesn’t just simply fall into their mouths. And, if they can’t find any or don’t have any luck hunting, then they don’t eat…
Moreover, the deteriorating environmental conditions highlighted above are also causing certain food sources to dry up. Certain species of plants and insects are becoming more scarce or even going extinct. In turn, this has a knock-on effect all the way up the food chain – including on tiger salamanders.
In the wild, tiger salamanders are hunted by other species, such as badgers, owls, snakes, or even bobcats. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a tiger salamander’s time can be up!
Wild tiger salamanders are forced to compete with each other for limited resources.
They must fend off rivals for shelter, food, and even mating partners. As a result, only the fittest tend to survive.
Wild tiger salamanders are all alone.
They need to find or even build their shelter (they’re actually one of the only salamander species to dig their burrows), find their food, and fight off potential predators alone.
Despite this, tiger salamanders are not an endangered species…yet. And they also tend to live relatively long lives compared to other salamanders.
Wild Tiger Salamander Longevity vs. Other Salamander Species
The table below provides information about the longevity of different salamander species in the wild.
|Longevity in the Wild
|4 – 8 years
|6 – 14 years
|8 – 10 years
|5 – 15 years
|10 – 16 years
|15 – 20 years
|15 – 20 years
|15 – 25 years
|Giant Japanese Salamander
|50 – 70 years
|Giant Chinese Salamander
|50 – 70 years
How Long Do Tiger Salamanders Live in Captivity?
In captivity, tiger salamanders tend to live 14 to 16 years (on average, across a statistically significant population of individuals). Certain tiger salamanders have been known to live up to 25 years!
Captive tiger salamanders tend to live longer than their cousins in the wild.
What can explain this difference in longevity between pet tiger salamanders and wild ones?
Optimal Living Conditions
Unlike their wild cousins, pet tiger salamanders benefit significantly from living in optimal conditions all year round.
Optimal Water Paramaters
Serious tiger salamander owners are obsessive regarding the water quality they make available to their pets to drink and bathe in.
The water is often filtered – sometimes even conditioned to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals.
Benefiting from optimal water throughout its life can significantly improve a tiger salamander’s health and, by extension, its lifespan.
Optimal Temperature, Humidity & Lighting
The temperature, humidity, and lighting inside terrariums are designed to be optimal. Moreover, these parameters are relatively stable and don’t vary much.
As a result, pet tiger salamanders live in the best possible conditions – all year round. These favorable conditions also promote peak health, mood, and longevity.
Balanced & Plentiful Diet
Tiger salamanders are voracious eaters. They have an almost insatiable appetite. In the wild, they need to work hard for their food. And, if food becomes scarce, tiger salamanders can get very hungry very rapidly.
Tiger salamanders can become distressed and even ill if they go unfed for long periods. Luckily, this is rarely the case when kept as pets. Indeed, most pet tiger salamanders are fed a plentiful, varied, and balanced diet.
Careful owners will also pay attention not to overfeeding tiger salamanders to prevent them from getting too fat. Obesity can cause a slew of health problems, so too much food is almost as bad as too little!
Needless to say, pet tiger salamanders can thank their diet in captivity for the role it plays in adding years to their lives.
Absence of Predators
Pet tiger salamanders are unlikely to run into predators in their terrariums.
Other than the live food they are fed, they’re unlikely to meet any other creatures, and certainly not the badgers, owls, snakes, or bobcats that hunt them in the wild.
That said, the odd cat or dog has been known to take their chances. Often at their own expense – tiger salamanders are poisonous and can inflict severe pain on potential attackers.
Absence of Competition
Other than a potential tank mate, captive tiger salamanders don’t have to worry about competing for resources.
Good pet owners will always make sure to provide shelter large enough for the number of individuals they are caring for, as well as sufficient food and water.
The abundance of resources also contributes to extended lifespans vs. their wild counterparts.
As highlighted several times above, pet tiger salamanders benefit from something no wild tiger salamander could even dream of: the love of their owners.
Caring owners are always looking out for their pets. They ensure they live in optimal conditions, are well fed and watered, protected from dangers, and taken to the vet whenever they show signs of illness.
All of these factors combine to help captive tiger salamanders live many years longer than wild tiger salamanders, on average.
Tiger salamanders live, on average, 12 to 15 years in the wild and 14 to 16 years in captivity. Certain pet tiger salamanders are recorded to have lived to the grand old age of 25 years!
Living in captivity is easier than living in the wild for several reasons, including habitat, food, competition, predation, and the attention given by a pet owner. These favorable living conditions are conducive to longer lifespans.
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