Caring for Mud Puppy Salamanders

By Jen Gehring

Mudpuppy salamanders, named for the doglike barking sound they make, live exclusively in water and can be found on the bottoms of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams from southern Canada to Mississippi. While mudpuppies in the wild live on average 11 years, mudpuppies kept in captivity can live upwards of 30 years. Knowing how to properly care for a pet mudpuppy can help ensure he lives a long and healthy life.

Room to Grow

When fully grown, mudpuppy salamanders will measure anywhere between 8 and 13 inches long. Provide a habitat large enough to accommodate such sizes. According to Ward's Science, a 20-gallon aquarium should be large enough to house three mudpuppy salamanders. Line your tank with several centimeters of aquarium gravel and fill with at least 20 centimeters of water. Mudpuppies naturally live among rocks, logs and other vegetation, so re-create this environment by providing features in which the mudpuppy can take cover and hide, such as commercial aquarium logs, plants and rocks. Because mudpuppies can leap out of water, be sure your aquarium also has a lid.

Dark and Cool

Part of re-creating a mudpuppy’s natural environment includes regulating the lighting and temperature in your aquarium. Mudpuppies prefer relatively cooler temperatures and low lighting. The average water temperature should be around 68 degree Fahrenheit. If you're adjusting for the seasons, keep your tank water between 44 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 68 and 72 degrees in the summer. Water temperatures over 77 degrees might be fatal. Because mudpuppies are nocturnal, adjust the light in your aquarium to provide day and night. Mudpuppies are particularly active in low light, so creating a dimly lit environment will increase your mudpuppy’s movements around the tank.

Feeding Time

Mudpuppy salamanders are carnivores; they will dine a variety of creatures including insects, fish, snails and earthworms. When selecting fish to feed your mudpuppy, steer clear of those high in saturated fats, such as goldfish, and select fish with healthier polyunsaturated fats, such as flat head minnows. Fish can carry parasitic worms harmful to mudpuppies, so experts recommend freezing your mudpuppy’s food for two weeks prior to consumption to decrease the chances a live worm will infected your salamander. Feeding schedules can vary, but an average-size mudpuppy will eat three large minnows two or three times a week.

Look but Don't Touch

If you want a social and friendly pet, think twice before acquiring a mudpuppy salamander. Because mudpuppies have extremely absorbent skin, avoid handling them so you don't expose them to substances on your hands such as salts, soap residue or sunblock. When feeling threatened, mudpuppies secrete a toxin as a defense mechanism; it can harm you if it comes in contact with your eyes. Mudpuppies are known to bite; handle them only when absolutely necessary.