Salamanders and Newts as Pets: FAQ
Pet Profile: Japanese Fire-Bellied Newt
Portrait: Because of its color and size, the Japanese Fire-bellied Newt is sometimes confused with the Chinese Fire-bellied Newt. To tell them apart, look for the Japanese newt’s rough, pebbly skin, larger size, and distinct parotoid glands (the glands on his neck that secrete his predator-deterring poison). He is typically brown or black on top, with reddish spots underneath, and will grow to about 3.5 to 5 inches long.
Eating: Every-other-day feeding of chopped earthworms, bloodworms (frozen or live), or crickets will make the Japanese Fire-bellied Newt happy. He may also be open to a commercial product like Tetrafauna® ReptoMin® Floating Sticks.
Home: If you’re keeping a few newts, they will thrive in a tank of about 20 gallons or more. They need a nice swimming area, since they are largely aquatic, but must have a basking area, too, where they can climb completely out of the water. Rocks and bark will give them a nice land area with hiding places. The bottom of the tank should be lined with smooth gravel. The gravel needs to be large enough that your newt doesn’t think it’s a swallow-worthy snack. Decorate his home with lots of plants, live or fake. The live ones need light (which newts don’t), so be sure to use a fluorescent fixture with a plant bulb.
Japanese Fire-bellied Newts must have filtered water, but it’s best to avoid a filter that creates a strong current. Tetrafauna® ReptoFilter® and Decorative Reptofilters are an excellent option for low current, crystal clear water.
Heat/light: Fire-bellied Newts like cooler temperatures, around 68o F or even lower. Higher temperatures will stress out your newts, making them targets for infection. Consider keeping their tank in your basement where it’s cooler.
Fun fact: Fire-bellied Newts know how to say “No thank you.” They will generally eat just enough to satisfy and rarely become obese.
Pet Profile: The Crested Newt
Portrait: Also called the “warty newt,” or the “Great Crested Newt,” the Crested Newt has a grayish-brownish back with a pattern of darker spots that is unique to each individual newt. Only the male has the crest that runs along the back, and he has a sliver stripe along his tail. The female may be crestless, but she’s not colorless. She sports a yellow-orange stripe along her lower back and tail. The Crested Newt is a sturdy, robust fellow and is fairly easy to maintain.
Eating: The Crested Newt is easy to please because his tastes are broad. He does prefer live foods, so earthworms, freshwater shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia and whiteworms all work well. If he is willing to eat non-live foods, you may need to feed them to him with tweezers. Try frozen bloodworm, fish food pellets or reptile pellets like Tetrafauna® ReptoMin®. It’s important to know that Crested Newts are a bit territorial about their dinner and will snap at newts of a different size. If your newt has a roommate, it should be one of similar size.
Home: An agreeable sort, this newt spends part of its year aquatically and part terrestrially, though he’s perfectly fine with being aquatic all year long. For a foursome of Crested Newts, their tank should be 18 x 12 x 12 inches. And to satisfy their semi-aquatic nature, you can create a semi-aquatic environment, providing both water for swimming and land for basking. This type of set-up needs to be larger, however. A Tetrafauna® Viquarium® <link TBD> is a great choice, because it combines realistic land and water environments, along with a hidden 3-stage Whisper® filtration system.
Heat/light: Your Crested Newt’s environment should be lower than 75o F and have plenty of ventilation for his optimal health. He doesn’t need light since he’s mainly a nocturnal critter. Your plants may need light, however, if you opt for live plants. In this case, choose a fluorescent fixture with a plant bulb.
Fun fact: If the Crested Newt loses his toe in a fight, no problem! He, like all newts, can grow another one.
Pet Profile: Kaiseri Salamander
Portrait: This vibrant, black, white and orange salamander is a native of Iran where he enjoys an arid climate. His spots make him appear fun and outgoing, when in fact, he’s a bit skittish. He’ll hide beneath rocks during the day and come out at night to explore and look for food. He enjoys the company of other Kaiseri, and they’ll huddle together in a single hiding space.
Note that it’s important to purchase captive-bred Kaiseri Salamanders, as this breed is nearing extinction in the wild.
Eating: Kaiseri’s tastes run toward worm dishes, with a side of fruit flies and crickets. Earthworms, whole or chopped, maggots, woodlice, and bloodworms please the palate of the Kaiseri Salamander.
Home: First of all, in the wild, Kaiseri migrates seasonally between land and water, with mating season taking place in the water. You can choose to keep Kaiseri Salamanders as either aquatic or land creatures (“terrestrial”). If you prefer aquatic, then your Kaiseri will need eight to twelve inches of water with plenty of hiding places both above and below the water. For terrestrial housing, dry soil with stacked rocks and bark work well. There should be a shallow water bowl at one end, and you can moisten the soil around it so he has a choice of moisture options.
Heat/light: Kaiseri likes life on the cooler side, around 60o to 68o F. If you house him on land, he can tolerate up to about 86o F.
Fun fact: If you’re going to name your Kaiseri Salamander pets, perhaps unisex names would work best. It’s often impossible to distinguish the males from the females—except during breeding season.
Pet Profile: Gallaica Salamander
Portrait: Quite possibly the prettiest of all salamanders! Bright yellow stripes or spots jump off their bold, black background. As a “fire salamander,” Gallaica is mildly poisonous, and you could get irritation from handling him and touching your eyes or mouth.
This little beauty can reach a size of six to eight inches, or even larger. He’s no dummy—you can teach him to know you’re his food source and he may come to greet you when you show up.
Eating: The Gallaica likes to hunt down its prey, so live crickets are a staple of its diet. Chopped earthworms are another favorite, as well as wax worms and spiders. They need to eat only a couple of times a week, so give them as much as they want at a feeding. They’re kind of greedy, so be careful when you feed a group that they don’t need to fight for their dinner.
Home: Salamanders like to burrow, so you can mix potting soil with playground sand, cover it with moss, and include real or plastic plants. Salamanders look like better swimmers than they are, so be sure his water bowl is not too deep—just enough to “freshen up” in, with an easy-in, easy-out ramp. He will also use his water bowl as his restroom, so it’s important to change the water regularly.
Tap water is poisonous to salamanders unless you first treat it with a product like Tetrafauna® AquaSafe®, which neutralizes the harmful chemicals. Or, you can use spring water or rain water.
Heat/light: Your Gallaica Salamander likes to chill in a cool tank, so the temperature should be kept to about 60 to 68o F. You’ll know if he’s too hot, because he’ll start climbing the walls or circling the tank. Heat stress is not good for the Gallaica Salamander.
Fun fact: Skinny salamanders are not cool. Plump is where it’s at! (But not obese.)