Choosing Inhabitants for a Vivarium

When we visited Shenk Park a few weeks ago we found a terrestrial salamander–a Redback Salamander in its leadback color phase.  Excitedly we placed him in our portable terrarium along with one measly brown leaf.  By the time we arrived home, he was dead.

I felt terrible.

On Friday we went to Shenk Park again.  This time I was more prepared.  I filled the portable terrarium with soil and added an ice cube.  As we hiked the ice cube melted resulting in cool, moist soil.  When we discovered another salamander–a Redback Salamander in its most common color phase.  She was brilliant!  Red-copper!  Upon returning home we placed our salamander in our vivarium and she immediately scurried off and hid amongst the rocks.  When night fell, she emerged.

Scurrying around the perimeter of the vivarium she looked happy as can be…slipping in and out of rocks, under and around obstacles.  “Goodnight Smyrtle,” we called.  We named her Smyrtle–Smyrtle Salamander.

This morning I found Smyrtle on the carpet.  Dead.  She had escaped the screen on top of the vivarium…

I imagine she died almost immediately.  As a lungless amphibian, the Redback Salamander is unable to survive in dry conditions.  The moment she hit the pile of the carpet I am sure she was tangled–in fact, she had carpet fibers stuck to her little body.  As a result, I am swearing off salamanders.  No more salamanders will be taken from their natural habitat only to die in our company.

Please consider choosing appropriate animals when building a vivarium–and definitely make sure your enclosure is secure.  We considered Smyrtle’s size and neither Michael nor I believed she could fit through the screen.  Well, she did.


3 responses to this post.

  1. This is fantastic, Jessica!! I think we should follow your example and set one up for our boys. The majority of my posts are nature based and what we have discovered! We have a little newt too. And our terrarium with snails and millipedes!! I wish we could hang out – I think our boys would have so much fun together. Pity we are thousands of miles away.


    • Thank you, Kelly! I’m hoping more and more of my readers (at least the ones interested in our nature studies & explorations) will find me here! And, I couldn’t agree more…I believe our boys would get along so well!

      BTW…I still plan to keep posting at Foursquare Schoolhouse! 🙂


  2. Jessica,
    I meant to add that I am sorry about the sad end to your salamander. I hope Benjamin was okay about it. It is a difficult aspect about keeping creatures in tanks. We had two newts we collected from a park – and one died – the other seems well and happy and we have had that one for around a month now. I think keeping these small creatures is okay especially if they have been bred in captivity in the first instance although it can certainly be a learning curve getting their home set up appropriately. For children who really, really love these small friends, so much can be learnt from keeping them, and keeping them well and respectfully. We often capture various insects, identify them, study them and feed and care for them as appropriately as we can and then release them back where we found them safely after three or so days. Our boys have loved this and learnt so much in many ways from doing this.


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