Tiger salamanders are renowned for their voracious appetite. Food is always at the forefront of their minds and they love to hunt and ambush prey. They will rarely decline the opportunity to devour nearby prey.
Whether you’ve just started keeping a tiger salamander as a pet, or have owned one for a while and are looking to mix up its diet, you might be wondering what they eat.
Look no further! I’ve done the research for you and summarized my findings in this guide. Bon appétit!
Table of Contents
- What Do Tiger Salamanders Eat?
- Do Tiger Salamanders Need Food Supplements?
- How Often Do You Feed a Tiger Salamander?
- How Much Should You Feed a Tiger Salamander?
- How Do You Feed A Tiger Salamander?
- How Long Can Tiger Salamanders Go without Food?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Tiger Salamanders Eat?
The diet of a tiger salamander will vary depending on whether it lives in the wild or in captivity. Let’s take a look at what they eat in both situations.
What Do Tiger Salamanders Eat In The Wild?
In the wild, the diet of a tiger salamander is varied.
As larvae, they will mainly feed on plankton, other species of larvae, and aquatic invertebrates such as shrimp. As they mature into adults and reach the 2-month mark, tiger salamanders will also begin to eat larger prey such as worms, slugs, snails, insects such as beetles and crickets, small fish, small rodents, and even other salamanders.
If there isn’t enough food available to them, tiger salamanders have even been known to become cannibalistic and eat other members of their own species. That says a lot about the importance they give to food!
What Do You Feed Tiger Salamanders (Diet in Captivity)?
Ideally, a pet tiger salamander’s diet should mimic its wild diet. This diet revolves around the same staple foods, regardless of the species or subspecies of tiger salamander you own. In the wild, their diet is varied, and they eat a lot and frequently. Their organisms have evolved to require all the minerals, salts, sugars, fats, and proteins they derive from this rich diet.
Here’s a list of potential menu items for your pet tiger salamander:
Crustaceans (brine shrimp)
Rodents (pinkie mice)
It’s also worth noting tiger salamanders can be fed wild-caught prey such as insects or mice. However, try to ensure they’re from areas free of herbicides, pesticides, and/or parasites, as these might make your pet ill or even kill it.
For example, earthworms from the garden can be infected with parasites called nematodes, but thankfully most tiger salamanders seem to have grown immune to them.
Finally, food should not be larger than the largest part of the tiger salamander’s mouth, as it may get stuck and/or cause difficulty digesting. A tiger salamander’s eyes are bigger than its stomach, and it will have no qualms about trying to swallow a bottle or roach the size of its head.
Do Tiger Salamanders Need Food Supplements?
Tiger salamanders may need specialized food supplements, especially if their diet is predominantly insect-based. When feeding a pet reptile or amphibian an insect-based diet, one must consider the need for “dusting.” Dusting is the term used to describe the coating of feeder insects with a powdered food supplement (generally calcium and/or multi-vitamins) to increase their nutritional value.
Indeed, the exoskeletons of insects make up a large part of their body weight but are very low in nutrition. Therefore, tiger salamanders that are fed mainly insects are at risk of nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can be offset by the dusting technique described above.
An alternative to dusting is “gut-loading”. Gut loading is the practice of putting the feeder insects on a nutrient-rich diet a day or two before feeding them to your pet salamander. Gut-loading can significantly increase the nutritional value of the insects and cancel out the need for dusting. A range of gut-loading feeds are available at selected exotic pet stores, though many experienced pet owners and breeders like to make their own.
How Often Do You Feed a Tiger Salamander?
Your tiger salamander’s age, size, and weight will influence how often and how much they should be fed. Ambient air temperature can also influence your tiger’s metabolism and by extension its appetite. A veterinarian will be able to advise you based on the particular characteristics of your pet and its habitat.
As juveniles, tiger salamanders can be fed as often as once every other day as their bodies are growing and need a lot of energy. At this young age, they are less at risk of obesity.
However, adult tiger salamanders should be fed less often. Overfeeding can cause obesity and ill health. If your salamander lives in warmer climates, it can be fed one to three times per week. If the air in your home tends to be on the cooler side (60 degrees Fahrenheit / 16 degrees Celsius), your tiger may only require feeding once every other week.
How Much Should You Feed a Tiger Salamander?
As explained above, age, size, weight, and ambient air temperature will have an influence on how often and indeed how much they should be fed.
Tiger salamanders should be fed as much as they manage to eat during a 15-minute to 2-3 hour eating session. Different experts have different opinions on the topic. For adults, this can be enough time to devour 2 to 3 large worms, such as earthworms or nightcrawlers.
How Do You Feed A Tiger Salamander?
There are different ways to feed your tiger salamander. Some owners like to use forceps to dangle food in front of the tiger salamander’s mouth. Others like to disperse food at random spots in the tank for their pet to find or perhaps even hunt down if the prey is alive. Finally, certain owners position little bowls or containers in a given spot in the tank, which their salamander gets used to visiting when hungry.
If your tiger salamander is new, then it will likely spend a lot of its time hiding under its substrate or behind the features in its tank. You might need to dig it out in order to feed it.
Once your tiger salamander gets used to its new habitat and owner, it won’t be as timid. It will spend more time above the substrate and be more active overall. As a result, it’s more likely to notice any food you present to it.
Note: Always wash your hands before and after handling a tiger salamander or its terrarium, as they have the ability to secrete toxins through their skin and may also carry salmonella in their digestive tracts, which can be harmful to humans and pets.
How Long Can Tiger Salamanders Go without Food?
Anecdotal evidence shows that a tiger salamander can go close to two weeks without food, especially if ambient air temperatures are low and the days are short (they naturally tend to eat less and less often during the darker months). However, two weeks is probably at the extreme end of the scale, and your tiger would likely be pretty distressed and weak if not fed for this long.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tiger Salamanders Herbivores?
Tiger salamanders are not herbivores and do not feed on plants. Instead, they are carnivores, meaning that they eat other animals. The tiger salamander is a voracious predator that leaves its burrow at night to scavenge, ambush, and hunt a wide range of worms, insects, crustaceans, fish, and even small rodents.
Do Tiger Salamanders Need a Water Dish?
Tiger salamanders need a water dish filled with dechlorinated water. However, it’s recommended that the dish be no more than 2 inches deep as they like to bathe in them and may defecate and/or contaminate the water.
Can Tiger Salamanders Be Overfed?
Tiger salamanders have a voracious appetite and will rarely refuse a meal. If you keep feeding them, they will likely keep eating. They are, therefore, at risk of overfeeding, which itself can cause obesity and ill health. If your tiger salamander is overfed, it may suffer from regurgitation, constipation, impaction, or even paralysis.
Why Won’t My Tiger Salamander Eat?
If your tiger salamander is not eating, it may be a warning sign that it is ill. When they feel sick and/or stressed, tiger salamanders may exhibit a reduced appetite and eat less than usual or even nothing at all. Tiger salamanders will tend to stop eating if previously overfed or suffering from constipation, impaction, or bacterial or parasitic infection. If in any doubt, please seek immediate veterinary advice.
Can Tiger Salamanders Eat Fish?
Tiger salamanders can eat fish. In the wild, they may eat small fry they catch in streams or ponds. In captivity, they can also be fed small frozen or fresh fish.
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