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Old 12-08-2012, 08:18 PM   #1
slowfoot
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Default Newts in the planted tank

I thought I would make this thread because I see a lot of people keeping newts in their aquaria, but not always in appropriate conditions for the newts. They can make fun, interesting, and very long-lived aquarium inhabitants when cared for properly. I've kept them for over 20 years and I love them I really don't want anything else in my planted tanks.

First, newts are primarily aquatic and salamanders are terrestrial. I'm not even going to talk about salamanders because they really don't need a water section outside of the breeding season, so are not something you'd want for an aquarium or paludarium. Axolotls, though they are salamanders that are aquatic, pose some different challenges than newts, so I won't talk about them here.

(I'm actually going to divide this up into a few posts because it's kind of long!)

Basic newt care:

Most newts are actually easy to keep alive once their needs are met. They have some quirks that make their care very different than that for most aquarium fish.

1. Cool/cold water - Most newts prefer a range in the low to mid 60s to mid 70s, cooler if you want to induce breeding. Very few species can tolerate temps into the high 70s, and water kept at the normal range for tropical fish is not healthy for any species. These are cold water animals. An aquarium heater is never necessary unless you're trying to stop ice from forming (like in my basement). Many internal filters and strong lights will also raise water temps past newt comfort levels.

2. A secure lid on the tank - They don't look it, but newts are excellent climbers and escape artists. They will absolutely leave the water if conditions aren't perfect, or they're hungry, or they just feel like it, and can squeeze through tiny holes. A glass or screen lid (with any escape holes or edges taped up) works well.

3. Little to no water movement - There are one or two exceptions, but newts are primarily inhabitants of still waters. Any strong current will stress them out as they are not particularly strong swimmers. That doesn't mean you have to go filterless: sponge filters work really well in newt tanks, as do some smaller, adjustable flow internal filters and canisters.

4. No fish - Most newts come from fishless ponds. Fish will either stress the newts out or quickly become a tasty snack. There are some exceptions, of course - I keep white cloud minnows in some tanks - but all tropical fish and larger cool water fish, like goldfish, are not appropriate newt companions. If you must keep something with your newts, people have great success with cherry shrimp... if you don't mind a few disappearing every once in a while

A little note about "petstore" newts: I'm sure you've seen them and maybe been tempted by them - the little black firebellies or green Eastern newts at Petco or Petsmart. They're cheap and cute and Petsmart is keeping them just like any of their tropical fish, so they must be great for a community tank, right?

Wrong! I wish I could convince everyone here not to buy these newts. They are imported from the wild in horrible conditions. Most won't live to see the petstore. Those that do are often already horribly sick with flesh-eating bacteria or fungus. Once you take them home, most will die from these diseases, especially if they are kept in bad conditions.

The alternative is to buy captive-bred animals. There are a number of great species available and they will be healthier and better adjusted to aquarium life. Of course, I realize that I'm not going to be able to convince everyone that this is the way to go - the price, alone, would be prohibitive for most people, and most newts are bought on impulse at the petstore.

Anyway, I'll touch on all these things in more detail in later posts, including how to set up a planted tank that works for newts, but I just wanted to start with some basic information.
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