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Old 05-04-2016, 01:29 PM
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Default 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Hey All,

Over the course of the last couple of years, I've had one of my classes involved in putting together a 40B Turtle tank to build an ideal home for some native Tiger salamanders.



We did a lot of initial research, which turned up the following info;
Tiger salamanders are a large, robust salamander that is a member of the mole salamander family. Adults average 6 to 8 inches in length, although individuals up to 12 inches have been found. Distrubuted nearly coast to coast in North America, it is the only salamander native to the state of Wyoming. There are currently 6 recognized subspecies found throughout its range. Adults have distinct bars or splotches on a black, brown, or olive green background (although all black individuals also occur), while the larva lack the yellow bars and are a brown, grey or olive color. The larval form which is gilled is sometimes referred to as a waterdog or mudpuppy.

Habitat: Tiger salamanders require a moist environment in order to prevent desiccation. The adult form is primarily terrestrial and are found in forests, grasslands or marshes. They typically inhabit burrows or reside under leaf litter, but are also good swimmers. During the breeding season (late May to August), they return to shallow water to breed. Eggs adhere to submerged vegetation singly or in clusers up to 20. Larva are aquatic and have gills on their head which appear feathery in the water. Transformation from larva to adult can take anywhere from two months to two years.

Niche: Strict carnivores, the adults feeds primarily on insects and worms, although they may also occassionally consume small frogs or baby mice. the larve form feeds on aquatic invertebrates when small, but can become predacious and sometimes even cannibalistic when larger.

Breeding: Breeding occurs in the water in late May to August, with the male nudging a willing female to initiate mating. Females deposite an egg or egg sack during a mating dance, and the male then deposites a spermatophore. The female picks up the fertilized pack and adheres it to the underside of submerged vegetation.

Disease: Tiger salamanders typically carry both the Ambystoma tigrinum and the Regina ranavirus viruses, and both have been implicated in large scale die-offs of these animals. Batrachochytrium dendrobatides infections can also occur, but are typically not lethal. They can also carry salmonella bacteria, so care should be exercised after handling these animals.

Here's a link to a great care sheet write-up if anyone is interested; Caudata Culture Articles - Tiger Salamander 101

and a great video series here on identifying, buying, keeping, sexing, and building habitats for tiger salamanders for anyone who is interested; Video: Types of Salamanders

I'm pretty good with the aquatic side, but not so much with the terrarium side. I've spent some time browsing through the boards here over the past few years to get a few ideas, but thought I would get a thread going to ask some more specific questions and maybe get some better answers.
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Last edited by Wy Renegade; 05-04-2016 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 05-04-2016, 01:50 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Based on the fact that our research showed that Tiger salamanders are a variety of mole salamander, and as such spend far more time terrestrially then in the aquatic zone, the tank ended up being about 2/3 terrestrial habitat and 1/3 aquatic. To accomplish that, we divided the tank into approximate thirds using a glass pane and silicon.



The front third of the tank, the portion in front of the glass divider, is a mix of aquatic, separated from the remainder behind a wall consisting of egg crate, river rock and Great Stuff black pond foam, and a bog type environment. The substrate in the aquatic portion is gravel, so if the salamanders go fishing (which they do), we don’t have to worry about them swallowing sand. The bog portion has a bottom layer of about 1 1/2" of large gravel covered with landscaping fabric, and the substrate on top is a mixture of peat moss and sand, which is consistently water-logged.



To create the rock wall, we did a backdrop of egg crate zip tied in sections so we could create the curve we wanted, then we siliconed and foamed the river rock into position.



Knowing that we eventually wanted to create a water feature in the terrestrial portion, we created a cave to hide our return pump.







We also figured on stream return from the water feature back into the aquatic portion, so we built the rock wall to provide a little waterfall feature as well.



It took a lot of looking, but we did eventually manage to find just the right piece of driftwood for the tank.



Even though our research indicated that the adult salamanders rarely enter water, but instead spend the majority of the day burrowed down into the soil, we wanted to ensure that if they did enter the water they could get out. So we sloped and stepped the stones on the side away from the waterfall feature.



That feature has proven to be fortunate, as we've had the salamanders "fishing" in the aquatic portion a number of times.



Prior to finishing the rock wall, we went ahead and drilled the dividing plate to provide a spot for our pump line.







We used a bulkhead to seal the hole, and then finished up the rock wall.



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Old 05-04-2016, 02:13 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

My brother had a Tiger Salamander growing up. Really loved that guy. His name was Toe. Toe was an adult when my brother got him, so we don't know how old he was, but he lived for another 11 years.

Loved, loved, loved worms. Would do a little dance when you'd bring a worm to feed him by hand.

Build is looking great. Really excited to follow the progress.
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Old 05-04-2016, 02:14 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Once the foam was dry, we added a mixture of Coco Husk fiber and wood glue over the top of the driftwood, foam and rock. It was a messy job, but looked pretty good once we finished.





For the terrestrial portion, we used Miracle Gro Organic Choice soil, dampening it as we laid it, and my thoughts are to eventually cover it in a mixture of Coco fiber husk, dried leaves, moss, and some plants. To date, I'm looking at some bonsai trees which would emulate our native cottonwood trees to a degree, some moss, a native Forget-Me_Not that has done will in both terrestrial and bog type environments for me, and a native fern that has done well for me in another paludarium type tank. I'm looking for some additional suggestions, maybe some orchid suggestions if anyone has had good luck with any particular species in this type of environment? What invertebrates should I consider including?



Should I run the tank with a glass cover to maintain a higher humidity?

For lighting I've got a Aqueon Optibright freshwater LED, which I think should provide sufficient lighting. Thoughts on that?

Now the hard part - how to build the waterfall/stream? To date, we've been working with 3D printing, but I'm becoming more and more hesitant, because I'm really not sure I like the look, also, it is taking forever to design and print the pieces. Anybody have any other suggestions?





We've not planted the tank yet, because I've been waiting to see the exact placement of the stream, and I don't really want to add a light without having some plant cover in place for the salamanders.

I'm also looking for suggestions on the bog portion, I'd like to have it look more native, so would love to have a moss that does well in that bog type environment, as well as maybe a sedge of some sort if anyone has any suggestions of some shorter sedges that don't need a dormancy period.

The aquatic portion is so small, I'll probably just do some moss and maybe some bladderwort if I can find some. I've got a population of White Cloud minnows in there now, that are doing well.

The salamanders are in as well, and are enjoying their new home.







Despite what our research said, we also occasionally find them hanging out in the water.









And sometimes they even do a little "fishing".




And thanks to the landscape they are able to get in and out.

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Old 05-04-2016, 02:15 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

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Originally Posted by Steuss View Post
My brother had a Tiger Salamander growing up. Really loved that guy. His name was Toe. Toe was an adult when my brother got him, so we don't know how old he was, but he lived for another 11 years.

Loved, loved, loved worms. Would do a little dance when you'd bring a worm to feed him by hand.

Build is looking great. Really excited to follow the progress.
That is pretty cool, I've seen Tiger salamanders get both very old and very large, so we are hoping. We've been feeding ours a combination diet of crickets and worms, and they seem to being doing pretty well. Thanks for tagging along.
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Old 05-04-2016, 04:07 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

We've got one tiger sally that we've had for close to 5 years now, he was just a little newly metamorphosed cutie when we got him. He's been totally terrestrial the whole time and is doing very well in his 40b, but he does enjoy the occasional swim in the couple inch deep water dish we give him. I like your setup! A lot of people try to make them wholly aquatic, which they completely aren't. So kudos for doing the research. Now you just need some plants! That's the next fun adventure. They really do have the best personalities though, ours comes out to see us anytime he senses we're in the room, runs right up to the edge of the tank and stares at us until we feed him. They're super good fun.
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Old 05-04-2016, 04:49 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

The waterfall is really cool, but I'm with you on not really liking the look of it... at least in that tank. I'd definitely keep it, and maybe find another home for it, but it doesn't really jive aesthetically with the nice natural look of the rest of the setup.

My $.02
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Old 05-04-2016, 05:00 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

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We've got one tiger sally that we've had for close to 5 years now, he was just a little newly metamorphosed cutie when we got him. He's been totally terrestrial the whole time and is doing very well in his 40b, but he does enjoy the occasional swim in the couple inch deep water dish we give him. I like your setup! A lot of people try to make them wholly aquatic, which they completely aren't. So kudos for doing the research. Now you just need some plants! That's the next fun adventure. They really do have the best personalities though, ours comes out to see us anytime he senses we're in the room, runs right up to the edge of the tank and stares at us until we feed him. They're super good fun.
Very cool and thanks. Yep, plants and ground cover is the next step, once we figure out the stream location.

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The waterfall is really cool, but I'm with you on not really liking the look of it... at least in that tank. I'd definitely keep it, and maybe find another home for it, but it doesn't really jive aesthetically with the nice natural look of the rest of the setup.

My $.02
Thanks, I keep trying to convince myself that it I cover it with the coco fiber and woodglue, with a little silicon and sand in the bottom it won't look so bad, but not quite sure that I've convinced myself at this point.
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Old 05-04-2016, 06:16 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

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Thanks, I keep trying to convince myself that it I cover it with the coco fiber and woodglue, with a little silicon and sand in the bottom it won't look so bad, but not quite sure that I've convinced myself at this point.
Well... don't give up all hope of convincing yourself... you may have just partially convinced me.

If you went this route, and put some of the same river rock on the sides (stacked up a bit) that you used in the pond portion, and then planted something like pothos around it, to cover some of the hardscape features of the waterfall, it might blend in really well with the overall look.

At least in my head. Sort of.
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:10 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

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Well... don't give up all hope of convincing yourself... you may have just partially convinced me.

If you went this route, and put some of the same river rock on the sides (stacked up a bit) that you used in the pond portion, and then planted something like pothos around it, to cover some of the hardscape features of the waterfall, it might blend in really well with the overall look.

At least in my head. Sort of.
Yeah, we will see, I definitely don't want to ruin the aesthetics on this with a crappy looking waterfall/stream set-up. I've been checking out some of the concrete/foam ones, might have to try my hand at that.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:28 AM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

I would recommend against the waterfall! You have separated the land and water sections nicely but in my experience running water on the land side of the tank will inevitably spray/leak and soak into the substrate making it soggy. Even with a good drainage layer. The sals will also probably kick a lot of soil into the stream which would make your water really dirty and/or cause wicking into the surrounding soil.

If you want a running water feature you would be better off keeping the waterfall on the water side of the tank.

This is a great project, I like the inclusion of a Bog portion and you have done a good job of making it look nice and having the sal's needs met.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:35 AM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

I missed the part where this was a class project, what a cool and engaging idea! I like that you're trying to go with native plants too, though I think you'll run into dormancy problems with a lot of them. It's hard to recommend specific species of sedge etc. since tigers have such a wide range and what is "local" here (Saskatchewan) may not be "local" where you are. Class trip out to a nearby wetland, dig up a variety of stuff, and see what thrives? Bonus if you bring some plant ID books out and try to ID them in the field

How big is the water portion/how many gallons? It may be too small to support a fish population even with small fish such as WCMM. It's a good species choice as they don't need heated water but there may just not be enough water volume. Maybe some dwarf shrimp would do well in there?

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Old 05-06-2016, 02:59 AM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Ahhhh ok I can't help it I'm getting really excited about this. How about, for the aquatic/Bog section (many of these will grow in water or emersed) :

Horsetail/Equisetum spp.
Arrowhead/Sagittaria spp.
Spike-rush/Eleocharis spp.
Baltic rush/Juncus balticus or arcticus
Various Polygonum spp.
Beggar-ticks (Bidens cernua)
Ranunculus spp.

For the land portion:
Horsetail/Equisetum spp.
Any local ericaceous shrubs (Labrador tea/Ledum groenlandicum, Wild cranberry/blueberry/Vaccinium spp., Bearberry /Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Golden bean (Thermopsis rhombifolia)
Potentilla spp.
Ranunculus spp.
Local bunchgrasses
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Old 05-06-2016, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

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I would recommend against the waterfall! You have separated the land and water sections nicely but in my experience running water on the land side of the tank will inevitably spray/leak and soak into the substrate making it soggy. Even with a good drainage layer. The sals will also probably kick a lot of soil into the stream which would make your water really dirty and/or cause wicking into the surrounding soil.

If you want a running water feature you would be better off keeping the waterfall on the water side of the tank.

This is a great project, I like the inclusion of a Bog portion and you have done a good job of making it look nice and having the sal's needs met.
Thanks, that has been my experience as well, but students are totally fascinated by water features, so we are going to give it a try. If it fails, I can always unplug the pump and go with a dry stream bed effect.

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Originally Posted by bicyclephysics View Post
I missed the part where this was a class project, what a cool and engaging idea! I like that you're trying to go with native plants too, though I think you'll run into dormancy problems with a lot of them. It's hard to recommend specific species of sedge etc. since tigers have such a wide range and what is "local" here (Saskatchewan) may not be "local" where you are. Class trip out to a nearby wetland, dig up a variety of stuff, and see what thrives? Bonus if you bring some plant ID books out and try to ID them in the field

How big is the water portion/how many gallons? It may be too small to support a fish population even with small fish such as WCMM. It's a good species choice as they don't need heated water but there may just not be enough water volume. Maybe some dwarf shrimp would do well in there?
Thank you, we have done that a bit, so far we've had good luck with Forget-Me-Nots, a local fern, and I currently have a single sedge species growing - most as you said, seem to rely on that dormancy period.

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Originally Posted by bicyclephysics View Post
Ahhhh ok I can't help it I'm getting really excited about this. How about, for the aquatic/Bog section (many of these will grow in water or emersed) :

Horsetail/Equisetum spp.
Arrowhead/Sagittaria spp.
Spike-rush/Eleocharis spp.
Baltic rush/Juncus balticus or arcticus
Various Polygonum spp.
Beggar-ticks (Bidens cernua)
Ranunculus spp.

For the land portion:
Horsetail/Equisetum spp.
Any local ericaceous shrubs (Labrador tea/Ledum groenlandicum, Wild cranberry/blueberry/Vaccinium spp., Bearberry /Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Golden bean (Thermopsis rhombifolia)
Potentilla spp.
Ranunculus spp.
Local bunchgrasses
LOL, thanks. Have you had any long term success with equisetum ssp.? I manage to keep those I've tried for about a year or so, then they just wilt away. It is one that I would love to find a variety that would grow. Potentilla is one I hadn't considered, might have to give that a try. The cranberry/blueberry need a more acidic environment I think and the salamanders prevent me from going that route. The others I will have to research.
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Old 05-08-2016, 01:32 AM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

I have never kept Equisetum indoors longer than a couple years (tank redesigns etc.). What you are describing sounds like the plant weakening from lack of a dormant period.

Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever put a whole tank, Sal and all, into dormancy. If one had a cold room or walk in cooler that might solve the plant dormancy issue and the Sal would just go into hibernation. Buuut that would mean it would be pretty boring for a lot of the school year!
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Old 05-09-2016, 01:29 PM
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I have never kept Equisetum indoors longer than a couple years (tank redesigns etc.). What you are describing sounds like the plant weakening from lack of a dormant period.

Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever put a whole tank, Sal and all, into dormancy. If one had a cold room or walk in cooler that might solve the plant dormancy issue and the Sal would just go into hibernation. Buuut that would mean it would be pretty boring for a lot of the school year!
Hhhhmmm . . . I wonder if it could be done by flipping seasons and how cold it would have to become? If a person could put the tank in dormancy during the summer season by moving it into a cold room, that might solved a few issues - tank care in the summer months and dormancy. Anybody know how long dormancy periods need to last?

Did some research, and for breeding purposes with the A. tigrinum it appears that the dormancy period should be around three months at a temperature of 3 to 5 degrees C (so around 38 to 40 degrees F). I wonder if that would be sufficient for the plant dormancy as well?

Last edited by Wy Renegade; 05-09-2016 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 05-09-2016, 03:56 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

While they have remained pretty active all winter, they seem to be becoming more active as of late. All three were out and about this morning, and one was swimming in the water, although I wasn't fast enough to catch a picture of it in the water this time.







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Old 05-13-2016, 06:09 PM
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I got some temperate plants ordered from hydrophyte, as well as a culture of springtails and isopods from a couple forum members which are scheduled to be in over the weekend or early next week, so I started messing around with the tank a bit in anticipation of getting it planted.

Collected some wood last night, and went through my stock of aquarium rock.

I'm pretty happy with how its turned out thus far . . .

I wanted a more "natural looking driftwood/cave piece. This one is a little larger than I was looking for, but I think it will fit the bill. Plan to raise the dirt level behind it a bit.


The salamanders started checking it out right away.










Added and watered down some additional dirt.




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Old 05-13-2016, 08:57 PM
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Man, I might have to pay you to collect some wood for me, and send it out here to the desert.

Tank is really coming along. You still researching plants, or have you decided on what you'll be adding as far as greenery goes?
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Old 05-13-2016, 09:35 PM
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Man, I might have to pay you to collect some wood for me, and send it out here to the desert.

Tank is really coming along. You still researching plants, or have you decided on what you'll be adding as far as greenery goes?
Once in a while I get lucky and find a nice piece. Thanks, still looking a bit, but I ordered hydrophytes temperate plant package, picked up some bonsai trees, ferns, and what I think is a type of liverwort locally, and ordered in some Dwarf horsetail to try it.
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Old 05-13-2016, 09:39 PM
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They sure didn't like it when I added the leaf litter and sprayed it down, they headed off into the water to avoid me.






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Old 05-16-2016, 08:33 PM
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Started the planting process today. Because of the leaves, the salamanders were pretty hard to see, but once the light turned off they were out and about.



You can see one of the "trees" and a fern in the background here;


This guy was crawling through the debris;
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Old 05-17-2016, 09:51 PM
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Did a little more planting today, adding three of what I am pretty sure are liverworts that I obtained locally (anybody recognize them), as well as another fern and a second "tree."





With the addition of the trees, it is pretty obvious that the tank really isn't tall enough, which is causing an issue with the light, so I will have to either hang the light or extend the tank. I have a third tree that I was considering placing, but not sure about that now. Three would be better for ascetic appeal, but that third one might be too much. I have three more fern to place, but holding off until I'm sure of where I want them and waiting for the rest of the plants to come in, don't want to get too carried away at this point.





I'm really pleased with the cave area, as I think it looks pretty natural. I'm sure the addition of some mosses or small liverworts and some of the Dwarf horsetail will help as well.

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Old 05-17-2016, 10:00 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Aren't you worried that they can escape with no top on?
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Old 05-17-2016, 11:47 PM
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Aren't you worried that they can escape with no top on?
They can't reach the top anywhere, or climb the glass, and I've never seen them climbing trees, so not super concerned, but yes I will have to come up with something to make sure they aren't climbing out.
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Old 05-19-2016, 11:36 PM
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The first of the orders, the Dwarf horsetail (Equisetum scirpoides) arrived today.



The hardest part was getting it out of the container LOL, and breaking it up into suitable pieces;


Then it was time to determine placement. I placed some in both the dry terrestrial areas and the soggy bog border, so we will see which area supports better growth.





Getting harder to see that cave mouth.


A little along the riverbank in the shade of the tree.


And a bit more along the riverbank, not in the shade;


Now if I can just get that other order in and start filling in the bare spots with some emergent moss or liverwort growth. Also looking forward to the sedge that is coming in, that should look pretty cool along the bank and growing out of the water.


I saved enough of the Dwarf horsetail to pot and try and grow out in the greenhouse as well.

Last edited by Wy Renegade; 05-19-2016 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:22 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

Got the second of the plant orders. This came from hydrophyte here on the boards, as a group of native plants he has had luck growing in temperate terrariums, so we will see how they do in this paludarium. I'm still messing a bit with the exact placement.

There were several of these that I was really looking forward to, and one of those was the sedge (Dichromena sp.) , not sure of the exact species, but if it takes off it should be a very welcome addition to the tank. I had enough of it that I did a little bit up in the boggy part . . .


and a bit in the water itself.


The salamanders of course had to get in and check it out, they seem to be enjoying it.




Got a couple clippings each of swamp dewberry (Rubus hispidus),


and threeleaf goldthread (Coptis trifolia). The Coptis sp. has bright yellow rhizomes that should add a little bit of nice color. You can see it here, but not real well.


To the right of the goldthread in this one, you can see a cutting of partridgeberry (Mitchella repens).


I also got a couple downy rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera pubescens), which is a terrestrial orchid. They are not native to this area, but do occur within the salamanders geographical range, and who can resist an orchid?




More to come . . .

Last edited by Wy Renegade; 05-24-2016 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 05-24-2016, 09:59 PM
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Default Re: 40B Tiger Salamander Paludarium

I also got a couple of different ferns and several types of moss.

The rock cap fern (Polypodium virginianum) . . .


and the American walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum).


Several types of mosses as well, wishing I would have had bigger portions of a few of these, but its a start. In the picture above, to the right of the walking fern, you can see my favorite peaking out under the branch, which is the haircap moss (polytrichum sp). Here's another shot of it as well . . .


I also got a nice sized portion of rough-stalked feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) which you can see here through the horsetail . . .


and also here . . .


and some log moss (Thuidium sp.) which I'm hoping will grow up onto my old log.


And a final shot of the evolving landscape.


I've noticed some yellowing in the horsetail, which is hopefully just a transitional issue .
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