Caring for Your Lesser Siren
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Lesser Siren Factoids

Origin

Southern U.S.

Maximum Size

24 inches (maybe)

Description

Aquatic amphibian.  Looks like an eel with front legs and external gills.

Lighting

Prefers to work the night shift.  Adjusts to your feeding schedule.

Temperature

Room temp fine
Reproduction Breeds in the spring.  Males bite a lot.
Newly Hatched Sirens Baby sirens emerge from their eggs at 0.4 inch
Foods Worms, snails, crustaceans, tadpoles, and eggs
Sexing Males have a larger head
Maturity Three to four years
Longevity 14 years

Substrate

Likes to bury itself in the substrate -- especially mud.
Water Preference Prefers shallow water in the wild.  Also likes to hide.
Threats in Nature Bass, turtles, raccoons, water snakes, alligators, wading birds
Threats in Aquaria Poor water quality and larger sirens.
Survival Technique Secretes a protective mucous shell during dry periods.
Disadvantage Must be kept covered.  Effective predator.

Intro:  We used to see sirens a long time ago.  Not so much lately.  Anyway, they showed up on a supplier's list a few weeks ago.  So we ordered a dozen smalls.  They came in a variety of sizes -- four to eight inches long.  The ones we saw years ago, came in at much larger sizes.  No matter.  These guys will fit in small tanks (covered small tanks).

LA
Lesser siren, a southern U.S. water-dwelling amphibian.  Haven't seen them around for a while.

LA
In your tank, they cruise like this.

LA
They like to loaf on the bottom.

LA
Or loaf like this.

Not Normal Salamanders:  Most salamanders (our local tigers, for instance) live on land and breed in the water.  Tigers start as waterdogs.  When they lose their external gills as they mature, they crawl out of the water and head for land --sometimes in sizeable migrations.  Lesser sirens keep their external gills and stay in the water.  It's called neotony.  Axolotls are a version of the tiger salamander that also remain at this stage. 

LA
8-inch lesser siren that bailed out of his shipping container while I was photographing the top one in a shallow dish.

Not Helpless on Land:  Lesser sirens wriggle around on land almost like a fish out of water.  They have tiny front legs that aren't much for walking on land.  Lesser sirens cruise around in the water like an eel which they closely resemble.  In some locations they're known as mud eels.  They love to burrow around in the mud on the bottom.  They typically "disappear" during the day and come out to prowl at night.

LA

LA

LA

LA

LA

Lesser Siren Foods:  Normal foods for lesser sirens include worms (red wigglers, black worms, white worms, and tubifex worms), snails, crustaceans, daphnia, tadpoles, mosquito larvae, slow fish, and eggs of various underwater residents.  Most of mine turned up their noses at bite-size chunks of night crawlers at first.  But they like thawed Hikari bloodworms (which closely resemble mosquito larvae).  They ignore flake foods.  They'll get some California blackworms when our new shipment arrives.

LA
Looking for snacks on the substrate.

LA
Just "sniffing around" for snacks.

LA
Sirens like frozen blood worms.  One will grab this chunk and shake it to bits.

LA
Like so ...

LA
Then they all grab part of the booty.

LA
"Sniffing" around for bloodworms.

LA
Bloodworms manage to draw a crowd.

LA

LA
Lots of thinking goes into their worm-eating process.  Their mouths open like a giant trapdoor.

LA
Most of them took longer but eventually came around.

LA
This guy figured out that small piece of night crawler was for him.

LA
Three dismembered night crawlers for lunch.

LA
Guy on the left has a small piece.

LA
Guy on the left still swallowing.  Guy on the right chose a much larger piece.

LA
So we provided several 4-inch baby night crawlers.

LA
Which caused lots of arguments among the population.

LA
Some got their own.

LA
And went on their way.

LA
Others had to share ala "Lady and the Tramp."  The worms didn't like either course of action.

Sirens Communicate Vocally:  Lesser sirens communicate with a series of clicks when they encounter other sirens.  You can hear them at night, well, you could if you lived in the south.  They get louder during the spring breeding season.

LA

LA

LA
External gills and front forelegs are visible here.

LA
Ditto.

LA
In spite of their external gills, lesser sirens breathe air.

LA

LA

Lesser Sirens Possess External Gills:  Most salamanders lose their gills when they mature.  Lesser sirens keep theirs (neotony).  They also breathe air.  You can see them coming to the surface frequently.  Sometime they rare up a couple inches above the surface when they gulp air.  At this point you realize that you need a cover on their tank.

LA
Lesser sirens  preparing to burrow under their substrate.

LA
Best not to use a rough-edged gravel because they like to burrow in it.

LA

Dry Season Ace in the Hole:  Lesser sirens prefer shallow water.  Sometimes their ponds dry up.  Like some of the frogs, lesser sirens secrete a protective mucous coating that protects them until the rains return -- very similar to the lung fishes of Africa -- sometimes for periods as long as a year.

Clean their Home Carefully:  Since I experimented to determine their food preferences, I had to remove the foods they turned up their noses at.  Use one of those Python gravel cleaners very carefully.  Lesser sirens like to lurk below the surface of their substrate.  You can easily injure them by cleaning too vigorously.  And, speaking from personal experience, the little dummies will try to swim up the cleaner tube.

LA
Lurking below the substrate (mostly).

LA
They're more likely to eat this worm chunk at night.

Substrate Comments:  Lesser sirens inhabit mud bottomed shallow ponds in the wild.  They like to burrow -- looking for food or just to hide from predators (like larger sirens or turtles).  Mud bottoms just don't work if you want to observe these intriguing little guys.  Sand might work if you use a non-under gravel filter.  Use B-B size gravel, the type that plants prefer to root in.  However, your plants won't like the way your sirens root around in the gravel.   Large gravels and gravels with rough edges don't work well for obvious reasons.

LA

Last Words:  If you enjoy the amphibians, you'll like the lesser sirens.


© 2013  LA Productions
aqualandpetsplus.com

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