Last updated 27 January 2001 with thumbnail images.
One of the visually most striking salamanders in Europe, if not the world, and also very adaptable to captivity, as long as two things are remembered: (a) Fire Salamanders like it cool and (b) Fire Salamanders cannot swim. In other words, don't leave a large pool of water in with them and make sure they can be kept cool during the summer - temperatures over 70 deg. F can kill them. Apart from these two basic requirements Fire Salamanders are pretty hardy. Incidentally, if a breeding pair is kept then a shallow area of water is normally needed for the larvae, although a few subspecies do apparently give birth to fully-formed terrestrial young.
The North American Tiger Salamander has a lot going for it: size (about 12"), stripes, what looks like a permanent grin, and a surprising amount of intelligence. Many keepers report that their tigers often follow them along the side of the tank expecting food, and Ellen Chernoff in Reptile Hobbyist related an interesting method of communicating with them by stroking their heads. Tiger Salamanders are another terrestrial species but have less of an aversion to water than Fire Salamanders.
Indiviglio suggests the Eastern Newt as a "first species" due to their hardiness in captivity, ready availability and interesting life cycle, which has three stages instead of the usual two. Eastern Newts start off life as conventional larvae, then metamorphose into a terrestrial form known as the 'red eft' (the bright red colour of this stage indicates the creature's high toxicity if eaten!). They remain like this for a period of anything between one and year before becoming aquatic upon reaching sexual maturity, when they return to the water to breed and remain in this stage thereafter. They rarely grow larger than 4" long and so can be housed in a reasonably modest aquarium and not disturb any naturalistic setup. Even in the terrestrial stage, however, these creatures should have a moist environment. Setups for the aquatic phase should be fairly well planted.
A hardy member of the Family Salamandridae that spends most of its life in the water. Being usually only 4-5" long, a small group of these newts can be accommodated in a modest-sized aquarium. The aquarium should hold mostly water with either a small land area or floating areas for the newts to climb onto: they are not particularly terrestrial and do not require much in the way of dry land. The water area, however, should be well-planted as the natural habitat of Cynops pyrrhogaster tends to be quiet water areas with a fair amount of plant growth. For the same reason filtration can and should be fairly low-powered (Indiviglio, see Bibliography).
Strictly speaking this creature from Asia is a salamander rather than a newt since it is rarely aquatic, although it will enter shallow water to eat (Indiviglio). While very hardy, they should be kept on the cool side (not more than 70 deg F if possible) and it should be noted that most of them on arrival in the country of import are in poor condition from their journey. They are an attractive bright orange colour and grow to 7-8". As they are somewhat inactive compared to other salamanders they should not be overfed.
Members of the Ambystoma family of North America can be kept in captivity, and two in particular are reported to make attractive and fairly hardy pets. The Spotted Salamander Amystoma maculatum occurs in the east of North America from southern Ontario as far south as Texas and is a creature of cool climates, some apparently actually crossing snow-covered ground on their way to their breeding ponds (Inviglio). Care is similar to that of the Tiger Salamander, although the Spotted Salamander is smaller (5-7") and less forward in coming out of its shelter. The Marbled Salamander Ambystoma opacum has a similar range, is slightly smaller (3½-4½") and more secretive. Inviglio suggests a fairly deep terrarium with a good depth of substrate to allow burrowing.