A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO CAECILIANS

Order Apoda



Caecilians are amphibians that resemble large earthworms in shape, but are a different colour (yellow or even purple) and of course possess a bony internal skeleton. There are no external ears, and the eyes are usually reduced or covered by bone or the outer skin. Their mouths, however, are large, and they are predacious upon various small fish or invertebrates. They tend to burrow in both the wild and in captivity.

Quite simply put, caecilians are relatively unknown. The ordinary layman who knows frogs or newts will never have heard of caecilians, and even herpetologists are probably by and large ignorant of these unusual creatures. I have never seen one in this country, either in the pet trade or zoos. Most books on herpetology give them a passing mention, if at all. Coupled with the dearth of knowledge is the obvious fact that, as burrowing creatures, they are hardly likely to be seen much by any prospective keeper.

Yet here is perhaps one of the greatest challenges to herpetologists, amateurs included (and I'm an amateur). A lot could still be learnt about these creatures and their requirements simply by keeping one aquarium containing one or more. As even the basics seem very basic where knowledge of caecilian-keeping is concerned, real pioneering work could be made by a few dedicated people.

Caecilians roughly fall into two camps, the terrestrial and the aquatic, though both obviously need moisture. The aquatic are apparently more often seen since some get shipped, probably accidentally, with consignments of tropical fish. Both types need tropical temperatures, about 25 C. For food, Eric M Rundquist recommends earthworms (with a caution about the possibility of parasites), or alternatively lean raw beef strips, beef heart strips, gray crickets and pinkies or fuzzies for terrestial caecilians, and brine shrimp and chopped earthworms, with intermittent crickets, guppies and minnows for aquatics.

It is true that little interaction may be expected from a caecilian. However, if you treat your captive as a dignified object of research, rather than looking for an owner-pet relationship, you may find it rewarding.

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