Newts as Pets
There are many different types of newts and salamanders. The most common newts used as pets are the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt (cynops orientalis) and the Japanese Fire Bellied Newt (cynops pyrrhogaster). Both the Japanese Fire Bellied Newt and the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt have the amazing ability to re-grow their limbs as well as some organs.
The difference between the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt and the Japanese Fire Bellied Newt is mostly size but, the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt has a slightly darker brown tone and smooth skin. The Chinese Fire Bellied Newt has a rich reddish/orange design on its stomach. The Chinese Fire Bellied Newt will grow to approximately 3-4 inches (7-10 cm.).
The Japanese Fire Bellied Newt has a slightly lighter brown tone than the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt and also has small bumps on its skin. The Japanese Fire Bellied Newt also has a reddish/brown tone, but is slightly lighter with a more speckled pattern than the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt. The Japanese Fire Bellied Newt may also have a reddish/orange stripe on its back and occasionally have small speckles of reddish/orange on the side. The Japanese Fire Bellied Newt will grow on average approximately 3.4-5.5 inches long (9-13 cm.) and may rarely grow up to 6 inches (15cm.).
The eating habits of the Chinese and Japanese Fire Bellied Newts are the same however; the Japanese Fire Bellied Newt will eat larger invertebrates than the Chinese Fire Bellied Newt. If a newt is properly cared for, they can have a life span of 30 years.
A newt’s skin can dry out fast if you handle them with dry hands, so always remember to wet your hands before handling them. This will create less stress for the newt. It is important to remember that the Fire Bellied Newt has a poisonous toxin in their skin that may be released through glands by their neck, if they feel threatened. This doesn’t normally pose much of a problem when it comes to handling them; just remember to have wet or damp hands. Needless to say - you should never eat them.
Handling your Newt
As mentioned in the general information, newts do have poisonous skin and can release poison from glands by their necks when they feel threatened. This doesn’t pose problems normally for humans. If or when you need to handle a Fire Bellied Newt, you should wet your hands. This helps keep their skin moist. The newt’s skin can help with the respiration process where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is released. This process doesn’t work properly if the skin is dry. They need to at least be in a humid environment. Healthy newts are fun to watch and can provide great entertainment, but aren’t meant to be handled like lizards.
Housing Your Newt
When housing your newt, it is very important to remember that it is an amphibian. This means it needs access to water and land. This can be achieved through one of two methods. The first method is to have your aquarium filled half way with water and then to stack up one side of the aquarium with rocks and gravel. This is called a vivarium. The problem with this method is keeping the water clean, as most filters work with only full aquariums. It is also hard to keep the water level consistent, due to evaporation, and you can’t enjoy have an aquarium full of fish. The second method is to place an Under Water Island at the bottom of your full aquarium. The advantages of this are you are able to have a full aquarium with fish, there are no filter problems, and no evaporation marks on the sides of your aquarium. The Under Water Islands also have a Feeder Tube that allows you to place blood worms, crickets, shrimp pellets or other food into the biosphere without even getting your hands wet. Whatever method you use, it is important to always tape any holes in the top of the aquarium and to remember to have plenty of rocks, plants, etc. for your newt to hide and play in.
Setting Up a New Tank or Habitat
Make sure the habitat will be large enough. It is much easier to start with a larger home and not worry about setting up a whole new place later. Rinse off the new plants, rocks, and any accessories, especially the gravel. (Make sure water is clear as it runs through the new gravel.) If using city tap water, make sure you de-chlorinate the water using water conditioner sold at pet stores. Also beneficial, but not absolutely necessary, is to put a conditioner in the water that will help speed up the good bacteria process, thus, cleaner water and healthier aquarium life. After everything is set up, it is a good idea to let the filter run in the aquarium for about a day before adding living things. This will give time for the elimination of any gases that might be in the water.
Be careful not to introduce too much life to the aquarium too fast. This will create ammonia build up and can kill your aquatic life. Put a couple of inexpensive fish in the water for a week or two and let the beneficial bacteria grow and condition the water. If you purchase water conditioner that has the good bacteria, you will help eliminate some of the time it takes for the aquarium to have this proper balance on its own.
If you feel like the water may be building up with ammonia, you can buy filter media that will help eliminate ammonia. Most reputable pet stores will test your water for free if you bring in a small sample for analysis. You can also change out 25-30% of your water (don’t forget to de-chlorinate the new water).
Newts are not like lizards that want to bask in the warm sun. They like the temperature around 68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water gets too warm (80 – 85 degrees) it will stress the newt, making it sick and possibly leading to its death.
Newts are carnivorous. This means they do not eat plants, only invertebrates. Since the newt can’t go hunting for various invertebrates in the aquarium. It is important to find food that it will eat. Some of the newts favorites include: live crickets, tubiflex worms, blood worms (live or frozen), and shrimp pellets.