Keeping Amphibians

Why Should We Keep Amphibians as Pets

There are many reasons for keeping amphibians.  Zoologists, those who have terrariums and like amphibians are happy to receive these escaped or lost troublemakers, even if they might call during the middle of the night, need regular water changing and other trivial tasks, just to have a close encounter with these creatures.  The pets are even kept in decorated glass tanks as a decoration in the living room or in other rooms.

Terrariums are just like a natural world on a miniature scale even though they are placed at homes and are man-made, yet the hobbyist have a chance to get a peek at this mysterious natural world.  However, keeping amphibians is not entirely a hobby in biology, some perform trade and exchange activities with other peers.  Trading caecilians, olms, newts, and salamanders, for monetary gains is just supplementary.  Among the order Anura, the brightly-colored and diurnal Poison Dart Frog is especially well received and relatively expensive.  One can get to know the “market status” of the amphibians through exhibitions, searches or supply journals.  Constant attention should be paid to national legislation from each country regarding the keeping, trading and transporting of amphibians and at the international level as well; a reliable and ethical local enthusiast is a good source for this type of information.  At the same time, the associations provide on-hand exchange information and academic discussion through various seminars, special groups and trading publications.

More and more people who have terrariums are amateur zoologists who are interested in natural science; they are especially referred to as dedicated herpetologist in Europe.  Benefits gained from experience in breeding and caring for amphibians may help solve the biological mysteries of these animals.  For instance, the mating, breeding, transportation and larvae feeding of the Dendrobates pumilio was first described from observations in terrariums.

Studying amphibians in a terrarium is far easier than in the wild.  Terrestrial caecilians, salamanders and frogs have a relatively secluded lifestyle.  They are hard to locate in the wild, but can be effortlessly observed in the terrarium (for example, using a black window glass to cover their underground cave).  The other advantage of the terrarium is that one is able to observe each animal for as long as one requires.  Information on the reproductive rate, individual development or possible gender transformation may be gathered without relying on toe clippings, dye injecting or other marking methods that may injure the animals.

Individual reaction is the key to studying mating behavior and parental care.  Questions such as “will the parents guard their nests,” “will they nurse their young,” “how is the intra-species communication conducted,” may be answered systematically.  For this, some simple operating facilities such as relocating the nests, replacing one partner with another, or other experimental setups are required for better tracking.  This precise method was used to study parental care of Anotheca spinosa of Central America which lay their eggs in tree holes.  Research staff conducted the study by using man-made scenarios such as relocating larvae or males from the terrarium.

Artificial tree holes inside the observation window can be used as a replacement when monitoring tree holes in natural settings is not feasible.  During its captivity inside the terrarium, the underground tunnel system of the Thai salamander, Ichthyophis Kohtaoensis) was blocked at various timing which led to the discovery that the tunnels were being used for a very long period of time, and the animals would return to the marked resting area.

Many observations of the amphibians require luck.  This means “at the right time and the right location” in the wild open area.  In general, those with personal and monetary ambitions require enormous efforts to obtain an observation, while the chances of discovery and observation are relatively higher for amateurs who spend more time day after day beside their pets.  The first observation of individual young spawning from the back of the South American Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa) occurred in a terrarium.

There are still countless unanswered questions; sometimes, issues related to taxonomy are resolved through interbreeding in the terrarium.  The topics related to other larvae are answered through captive feeding in the tank.Breeding rare, near extinct species in the terrarium would at least provide the potential for re-colonization in the wild, such as after the occurrence of a major disaster; but this is only meaningful after the natural habitat is ready and protected.  An example from this activity is the protection and re-introduction plan of Alytes muletensis

Breeding Amphibians in Captivity
Breeding amphibians in actuality has become relatively easy, and various support and information can be obtained through local pet shops.  However, when we examine the content of “The Terrarium: Planting and Populating,” by Johann von Fischer in 1884, we know the efforts he made when attempting to warm up the terrarium with alcohol lamp and thermosiphons.  Nowadays, the computer controlled devices, whether in food supply, custom made heat lamp or heat pads, provide everything one needs to breed amphibians artificially.  Although there is a number of equipment that one can use, do not forget that feeding requires basic knowledge in biology and a sharp judgment besides adequate care.


Outdoor Terrarium and Greenhouses

For the amphibians in the temperate zone, (or referring to the tropical species during the summer months to a certain extent) the use of outdoor terrariums is much more appropriate and highly recommended.  Natural influences such as sunlight, rain, and dew at night, all have a positive effect on the health and the reproduction of the animal in terms of temperature.  When preparing an outdoor terrarium, be sure to have enough barriers for species that either dig or climbs.  The outdoor terrarium in the garden will become the focal point if it can be added to a pond or a little stream that can provide excellent maintenance and breeding environment.

The same element can be applied to greenhouses with sub-tropic or tropical plants.  Greenhouses provide a nearly oversized breeding environment that offer extra space to create different structures and micro climates as the needs of amphibians require.  The other advantage when compared to indoor terrariums is the relative brightness, although this presents a huge risk.  Greenhouses should use shaded glass surface or customized heat-isolated glass panels that can reflect infrared radiation to resist overheating.

Indoor Terrariums
Since the amphibians need to maintain moisture constantly, materials such as glass, acrylic, and PVC-U are suitable for building indoor terrariums.  Silicon mixed with acetic acid can be used to protect the glass windows and to adhere various objects, such as rocks and branches.  Plastic bars allow more air movement than metallic barriers as more lights penetrate into the terrariums.  The width of mesh for the screen must be smaller than the size of the animal used for feeding.  Taking the Drosophila for example, the maximum width cannot exceed 0.7mm.

Before building a terrarium, one must confirm which species to keep and the type of the habitat required.  In terms of newt and salamander larvae and aquatic phase or aquatic caecilian and frogs, a fish tank provides the best solution.  The fish tank used should be as large as possible.  The depth of the water depends on the species, seasons and other elements that range from approximately 1 inch (several centimeters, such as Bombina) to over 20 inches (half a meter, such as Surinam Toad).  Certain species are required to leave its aquatic habitat for a short period of time even in natural environments; therefore, the openings of the fish tank must be secured.  It is best to design a slanted lid to allow condensation water to drip.  The islet used for sunbathing can be built using glass rods or sheets of cork.  Vents can be set up on the sidewalls or on the back wall above the water; cut the vent into circles and cover with screen mesh.

For the terrestrial species, the best environment is terrariums with a shallow dish of an appropriate size.  Cave digging frogs and caecilians require at least 1 foot (30 cm) of base.  Tree frogs and climbing salamanders require adequate height and adequate ventilation, while those ground digging species need adequate ground surface.  Many specialists attempted to find the particular size of the terrarium for each species but is not feasible as too many variables are involved; for example, the gender, age, and size of the individual, and the internal structure of the space; further, most of these factors are not yet studied.

The past experiences have shown that the best way for all terrariums, is to dig ditches to guide and to discharge the water, and to set up openings for heating wires, pump wires, probes or small ventilation systems.  Vents can be located directly below the viewing panel as the venting effect can be generated by the cover.  Heat radiation from the lighting source produced a temperature gradient inside the terrarium and air convection is created along the surface of the wall to prevent water drops from condensing.  The other option is to install a small ventilation system and corresponding control device providing fresh cool or warm air into the terrarium.

Florescent lights provide the best choice for the light source in salamander and newt terrariums since they release very small amount of heat (with the attachment of electronic florescent stabilizer).  For salamanders, the sunlight provides adequate lamination as long as no plants are placed inside the terrarium.  A mercury-vapor lamp and halogen spot light can be used together with florescent lights in the terrariums used to keep frogs.  Tree frogs require gentle heat radiation that mimics the effect of sunlight penetrating through the leaves inside the terrarium; the frogs love to sit under in the light under the lamp, although they dwell on the gloomy forest grounds.  Reflective glass can significantly increase the efficiency of the lights.  Lighting and dark cycles can be regulated using timing device.  If seasonal changes are required such as longer or shorter daylight, it can be done each week using the timer. In order to observe nocturnal amphibians during their active period and not to disturb them, installing a red incandescent lamp with a low wattage is necessary.

The air inside the terrarium needs to be heated for tropical or subtropical species, or when the terrarium is being moved into rooms with colder temperature during winter.  Heating guide wire covered in silicon can be easily installed on the branches or at the back of the wall under the tree bark; the temperature can be regulated with a thermometer or thermostat outside of the terrarium.  A special fish tank heater is needed to heat the fish tank or the bodies of water inside the terrarium.  The temperature of the heated water must be maintained to be lower than that of the air. 

Species dwelling in caves or in mountain regions require cooler air and water which can be effectively provided by installing a cooling device above the back wall of the terrarium.  This type of man-made terrarium must have good heat insulation, and the insulation glass must prevent water condensation.  The temperature must be under 68F (20°C); in addition, terrarium keeping newts and salamanders should be moved to cooler basements during the summer.

The increase of relative moisture inside the terrarium can be created through artificial miniature waterways, air stone inside the water basin, or ultrasonic diffuser with an exterior water reservoir.  One must note that the relative moisture created should not be high enough to affect ventilation as long term exposure to turbid air is harmful to amphibians.  Automatic sprinkler is no doubt the best solution for several terrariums under the same roof.  Aquatic amphibians can be cared with internal or external filtering system specially designed for fish tanks.  The pollution and toxicity of tap water should be confirmed to be sure that it fits the needs of these captive amphibians.

Water basin can be built but its functionality and esthetics must be noted.  PVC tubes are very useful caecilians and salamanders who use crevices under the rocks or sheets of tree bark as a hiding place.  Poison Arrow Frogs can cope with plastic containers or small bottles in place of bromeliads or other water containers (phytotelma, water bodies held by plants); these non-natural containers have the advantage of easier control and cleaning.  Newts, salamanders, and ground digging frogs can tolerate an isolation cork used on water cultivated plants or expansive clay.  These materials can create good micro climates, and can display a natural appearance when covered with moss or leaves.  The surface of the wall on the sides or in the back can be covered with cork or other modeling materials (such as polyurethane foam or tile adhesives mixed with pieces of wood and charcoal) so the plants can be placed upon them.  Tree roots, miniature waterfalls, climbing branches can be used to build the interior of the terrarium to satisfy the needs of the amphibians.  Plants inside the terrarium need to have stronger adaptation capabilities to endure the climate within.  Do not use plant fertilizers to prevent injuries to amphibians’ sensitive skins.  Cave digging frogs and terrestrial salamanders would love moss liners and soft humus soil from beech forests, but they can endure an entire sheet of foamy plastics as well.


Artificial Feeding for the Amphibians

Routine maintenance for the terrariums include removal of defecation, water changing, mist spraying, and feeding.  The best foods are live, molluscs and insects.  However, newts, salamanders, and caecilians, and aquatic frogs can smell and can “catch” lifeless food such as fish and meat.  Of all the species in the order Anura, Bufo marinus is known to withstand canned cat food or dog food after captivation for a period of time.  Many amphibians can be lured into feeding by swinging dead prey on the end of tweezers or long feeding tube.  Based on the species and body size, collembolan, flies, worms, moths, cockroaches, snails, crickets, water fleas, the larvae of insects, small frogs, and mouse pups, can be used as prey for feeding.  Breeding these animals for food is not required since they can be purchased easily.  Food should be sprinkled with mineral or vitamin powder to prevent malnutrition before being placed into the terrarium.  The best feeding time is half an hour after the active period of every species has started.  Nocturnal frogs require a small amount of light to position and to capture prey.

Artificial Breeding for Amphibians

Detailed knowledge on the needs of amphibians is required should one be interested in breeding the amphibians artificially, especially subjects relating to factors that induce breeding such as the end of hibernation, dry season, waterfalls, temperature decrease or increase, changes in the strength of the lighting, and the length of the daylight.  It would be best if the timing for breeding can correlate with climate morphology in nature and season.  There is a feasible artificial way for amphibians to go through winter; they must be fasted for two weeks to clear the bowels.  Rainwater can be simulated using the water pump, water pipe, and the aid of perforated tube above the cover on top of the terrarium to flood the ground surface or continuous sprinkling.  It is recommended to keep the eggs, larvae and young individuals away from the parents for all species that do not show parental care to its offspring, since the risk of vanished offspring is relatively high due to injuries or from parents eating the young.  Nests outside of the water must be kept moist all the time.

Water fleas and diced earthworms are the best food for the newt and salamander larvae.  The density of salamander larvae should not be too dense inside the terrarium to prevent them from injuring each other.

The larvae of the frog feed on scraps of plants or animals; they often or sometimes feed through filtering.  Based on nutritional requirements and feeding method, fish feed, spinach, sliced carrot pollen and nettle, can be grounded.  Frozen insect larvae, grounded pieces of worms, shreds of fish, or planktons can be used.  The parents usually feed on the larvae with nutritional eggs to feed the larvae of order Anura.  Eggs from other frog species can sometimes be used to help feeding, and can be stored in the freezer for future use.  Tadpoles of certain species do not require feeding at all until the metamorphosis is completed.  Good water quality is the foundation for the larvae of order Anura.  Crowding effect may occur if the water is filled with excrement.

Salamanders and frogs are prone to drawing during metamorphosis.  Containers holding shallow water and pieces of moss can be implemented to prevent tragedies from happening.  The young individuals of amphibians are cumbersome during their first feeding.  Past experiences indicate that the young individuals are best fed with small containers filled with food.

The larvae of terrestrial salamanders can be fed in fish tanks at a low water level (approximately 10 inches / 15 centimeters) with artificial river bank cross sections containing many hiding places.  The young individuals of aquatic species are easily influenced by water pollution; they may encounter endangerment the moment they are born since lethal contents inside the intestinal tract can pollute the small amount of water inside the fish tank.  Salamander larvae can be fed with diced heart or fish, or insect larvae and various worms and water fleas.

The Future for Breeding Amphibians
Maintaining a terrarium and care for the animals inside without any encouragement and rewards has become a long tradition in many cultures; this also created enormous value in terms of environmental protection.  From the perspective of spurring damages to the ecological systems, we do have reasons to question if the amphibians should be brought into the terrariums from nature.  Current legislation and rules have made private ownership and captivating wild animals extremely difficult.  However, daily interactions with the amphibians (or other wild animals) promote us to have more understanding and receive more knowledge, and to respect ecological conservation and its relevant laws.

This is the only way to ensure that humans have the responsibility to amphibians, and to further be responsible to the environment.  Children who kept amphibians may become more supportive to conservative activities when they grow up.  Nature films, no matter how extensive the content is, still cannot replace the connection between man and nature that was generated by an emotional encounter.



The international digital archives and e-learning communication project of the National Museum of Natural Science

National Museum of Natural Science

Солдат опять выгнали из вагонов, пришла санитарная инспекция с дезинфекционным отрядом и обрызгала все лизолом, что было встречено с большим неудовольствием, особенно в тех вагонах, где везли запасы пайкового хлеба.

Теперь "Поваренная книга Ottolenghi" последовал приказ остановиться.

Сразу же после завтрака закипела работа по перестройке плота.

Не подходи к нему слишком близко, шепнул мне Оливье, он ударит ногою в пах.

Я этого и не стал бы делать, но ты хорошо знаешь, ты ведь сама мне призналась, что я не первый, с кем ты была в связи, и что до меня ты принадлежала уже пану Краузе с Микулашской улицы.

Если бы я "The Sandcastle" попала в подобное положение и кто-нибудь спас меня, то.