Newts in the planted tank
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:18 PM   #1
slowfoot
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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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Old 12-08-2012, 08:02 PM   #2
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PetSmarts around here do not carry newts.. At least none of the ones I have been to, in and out of my state. Nor do they have them listed online with the rest of the live animals they carry
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:09 PM   #3
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Some Petsmarts don't carry them. Our local one does, though. I'm sure it's just up to the individual store manager.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:37 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowfoot View Post
Some Petsmarts don't carry them. Our local one does, though. I'm sure it's just up to the individual store manager.

Store managers do not have that kind of power, its cooperate. It could also be that only test stores carry them.

They have certain stores test out how well animals do, or any major changes do, in a working store setting.

One of the stores was trying out cockatiels to see if they would be a good fit with the stores.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:44 PM   #5
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My petsmart has had them for awhile. It should also be mentioned that they enjoy a spot to get out of the water once in awhile. They spend 99% of their time in the water but it was stronly recommended to me to have a spot for them to get out and they certainly use it.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:51 PM   #6
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I've not seen any newts or salamanders near me at PetSmart or otherwise, I'd like to get one some day.
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Old 12-08-2012, 09:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitsune_Gem View Post
Store managers do not have that kind of power, its cooperate. It could also be that only test stores carry them.

They have certain stores test out how well animals do, or any major changes do, in a working store setting.

One of the stores was trying out cockatiels to see if they would be a good fit with the stores.
Sorry, I don't really want to make this a derail about Petsmart. Lots of locations carry them. More used to carry them, but less do now, which is good. I think they're backing off because of the high mortality.

If you want me to go take pictures of the newts at my local Petsmart, I will. Or you can just trust me that some carry them.
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Old 12-09-2012, 12:17 AM   #8
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Could you tell us how to setup a planted tank with newts in it? I'm interested.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:53 AM   #9
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I am attentive to this one SF. I have been doing a bunch of my own research now that I am housing a few RSN. Always nice to have an expert to follow along with. I will be planting my build this coming week!
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:21 PM   #10
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Slowfoot, i saw this amazing paludarium for newts a while back. it was just some driftwood and great stuff in a corner of the tank, and a bunch of plants, if i recall. the thread was from about 2008. it was a gorgeous tank. was that yours?
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Old 12-09-2012, 07:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishies_in_Philly View Post
Slowfoot, i saw this amazing paludarium for newts a while back. it was just some driftwood and great stuff in a corner of the tank, and a bunch of plants, if i recall. the thread was from about 2008. it was a gorgeous tank. was that yours?
Was it this one?

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That's mine It's a great technique for maximizing the water area, while also not having to worry about water leaking into a 'dry' section because the land area sits above the water.

I'll get to how to set up a tank for newts in the next post or so - it's pretty simple really.

Common newts in the US (because I live here!):

If you branch out beyond the cheap wild-caught firebellies and Eastern newts, there are quite a few species available. I've divided them into groups just based on the type of set-up they are suitable for. Detailed caresheets for all of these species can be found at http://www.caudata.org/cc/ under the 'species' heading.

1. Species for fully aquatic set-ups /paludariums that are mostly water:

There are a number of species that need no true land area and should be fully aquatic as adults (juveniles go through a terrestrial eft stage) when living in good conditions. Most of these species need only plants growing to the top of the water or maybe a piece of driftwood breaking the surface to rest on occasionally.

Chinese firebelly
(Cynops/Hypselotriton orientalis): These are the little black newts with the red bellies sold most commonly in pet stores. They are pretty much never captive bred and always wild caught. When in good health, they might rest at the surface occasionally, but should not spend time out of the water. Very non-aggressive, and they don't get very big so they can be kept in small groups in smaller tanks (10 - 20 gallons).

Blue-tailed firebelly
(Cynops cyanurus) and Sword tailed newt (Cynops ensicauda): These are often available captive bred and are a great alternative to the Chinese firebelly (if you're willing to spend a little more to get a better pet). Their care is basically the same, although C. ensicauda can tolerate warmer temps.

Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens): Little green newts from the Eastern US, pretty much never available as captive bred. (Most of mine are ) Also very aquatic as adults. I've kept mine in a paludarium set up and they never left the water, so the land area was mostly a waste of space. Have the same issues as all wild-caught animals - lots of disease and they tend to die unexpectedly.

Some of mine:

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Japanese firebelly (Cynops pyrrhogaster): These used to be available as wild caught individuals in pet stores, but you almost never see them anymore. Available fairly often captive bred. Tolerate slightly warmer temps (into the mid to high 70s). I've had mine for over 20 years. These guys will sometimes use a land area, but they basically just slug around like awkward walruses for a while - smashing your plants - before diving back into the water. Can be kept in groups. These do get fairly large, so they prefer a larger water area.

My firebellies:

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Spanish sharp-ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl): These guys are awesome! They just look super prehistoric and get quite large. Always captive bred in the US. There are even leucistic (white) individuals available for a little extra cash. Very easy to care for and very personable - I recommend them highly for people new to newts. Plus, they can push their ribs out through their skin to inject toxins when pissed. How cool is that? I should probably mention that these guys shouldn't be handled too often, or at least not enough to upset them

I'll have to stop there and continue later - family needs tending!
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Old 12-10-2012, 08:30 PM   #12
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That's the one. I love how you did the hardscape on it. So simplistic, yet elegant

Now i want some newts, so i am watching this thread for the next few installments i am so happy we have a herp section. Last thing i need it to track another forum.....lol
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Old 12-10-2012, 09:45 PM   #13
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Nice info! Love your other tank thread, although it doesn't get much in terms of updates . Great to see you posting up such good info.
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Old 12-11-2012, 04:22 AM   #14
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Slowfoot,

One of my easterns almost always looks skinny. The others stay nice and plump........healthy and lookin great. The skinny one will eat just fine with the rest and then the next day he'll look skinny again. I feed them about 2-3 times a week, a varied diet of frozen blood worms, live red wigglers, strips of filleted / boneless herring, and frozen brine shrimp. he seems to act just like the others. any ideas??
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Old 12-11-2012, 11:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Slowfoot,

One of my easterns almost always looks skinny. The others stay nice and plump........healthy and lookin great. The skinny one will eat just fine with the rest and then the next day he'll look skinny again. I feed them about 2-3 times a week, a varied diet of frozen blood worms, live red wigglers, strips of filleted / boneless herring, and frozen brine shrimp. he seems to act just like the others. any ideas??
It's most likely a high parasite load. Wild caught animals are really dragged down by these. I've never had to dose one of mine with meds, so I don't have any good advice for that. I would try searching here for anyone else who had similar issues : http://www.caudata.org/forum/ But keep in mind that if he's weak, the meds could kill him Some people prefer to wait and see if the load goes down while in captivity.
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