• Fire-Bellied Newts

    Fire-Bellied Newts

    Everything you need to know to raise Fire-Bellied Newts

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Fire-Bellied Newts

Raising Fire-Bellied Newts
What has four legs, a long tail, is jet black on top and fiery orange underneath? Take a good guess, because it might very well be your next pet! It's the Fire-bellied Newt (pronounced 'nyoot'), a fun little amphibian perfect for those who are newt - forgive the pun - to keeping pets.

A newt is a small aquatic salamander, and looks-wise it is a much cuter version of a miniature lizard. Among the most beautiful, in my opinion, are the fire-bellied kind, and because they're so popular, you should find them easily at any good pet store.

The bright orange (and sometimes reddish) markings on the newt's underside are a warning to predators to keep away, and these black beauties like to show their colours off when they prop themselves up against the glass wall of the aquarium.

Best of all, I can bet most of your friends have never even heard of such a thing as a pet newt, and you can proudly show yours off in school at show-and-tell or during a biology project.

A name for your newt

Think of names that reflect your new pet's unique features, such as its long tail, its fiery underside or its resemblance to lizzies. I once had a pair of fire-bellied newts, and I called them Pyro (from pur, the Greek word for fire) and Whiplash (because of his long tail).

Here are some names for boy newts:

  • Fiero
  • The Real Swim Shady
  • Newton (Newt-on, get it?)
  • Torpedo
  • Sluggy or Buggy (because they love slugs and bugs)

Some interesting names for girl newts:

  • Ms. Wiggles
  • Red Hiding Wood (because she's half red and hides under the driftwood)
  • Enya
  • Ebony (means 'black')
  • Scarlett O'Hara (Scarlet means 'red')

Before you buy

Because they're so cheap, you can expect to pay as little as 8 US dollars for a newt - ask your dad to convert this into your local currency. Looks like it's time to break open the piggy-bank!

Caring for your newt is quite easy, but it's a good idea, as I always say, to buy a book that tells you all about this fiery little four-legger. If you plan to get more than one, say three or four, a 20 gallon tank should do well, and you can create a 'land area' by sloping gravel against one side of the tank. You can also set up rocks, moss and pieces of driftwood or bark as hiding places, which can double as basking bays for your tail-wiggling trio or fiery foursome.

The bottom of your tank should be lined with smooth gravel, and the pebbles should be large enough so that your newts cannot swallow them. You might even want to give the tank a leafy touch by planting some aquatic plants, and if you do, don't forget to provide fluorescent lighting.

Prep the tank before the newts come home. Provide a filter that doesn't produce a strong current when it sucks in the water; better still, get an under-gravel filter. It is very important that you keep the tank's temperature low, between 58 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (between 14 and 20 degrees Centigrade). An aquarium thermometer should be used to tell the temperature, because sticking your finger in the water and saying, "Hmm, seems cool enough" doesn't quite do the trick!

Anything above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Centigrade) is terrible news for newts, and you should consider keeping the tank in a cool place, even a basement if you have one. Occasionally, you can float ice in the tank to bring the temperature down - just be sure not to use the tank to recreate the iceberg scene from the Titanic. Newts are terrible actors, you know.

If you're the type who likes to caress and play with your pet, a newt might not be such a good idea, unless you are OK with letting it walk over your hand only occasionally, so keep this in mind before you make your decision.

Choosing your pet

Pick out the largest and healthiest newts you can find (and ignore the people who flip them over and make big, glaring eyes at them as if they had X-ray vision). Observe them closely for at least a few minutes in order to choose a healthy pet properly, and remember that activeness does not always indicate good health. Most newts are not overly active in nature, and prefer instead to rest on plants or hide under logs. Yes, much like tired dogs on a hot day.

If the newts you see are thin or appear weak, it might mean that the poor fellows are not properly nourished or that they have a disease. If they have difficulty swimming and sumberging properly, this could point to diseases like bloat, which are very difficult to cure, so it's best not to choose these. Sorry, Bubba.

Also remember never to mix different species of newts together because they have different personalities. While it's not as bad as introducing the Terminator to Pee Wee Herman, let's just say that there could be 'issues'.

Care and feeding

I mentioned this earlier, but I'm going to say it again because it's so important. Newts needs to be in water that's between 58 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (14-20 degrees Centigrade). Anything higher, and they'll begin to feel like Inuit in a desert (just so you know, 'Inuit' is the collective term for 'Inuk', and an Inuk is what we're used to calling an 'Eskimo'. 'Eskimo' is a derogatory term, and they hate being called that).

The fun bit is feeding your newts, and their mouths water when you throw in live earthworms from a pesticide-free yard, nightcrawlers from a bait shop (chopped if necessary), live blackworms/bloodworms (sold at pet stores), frozen bloodworms, live crickets, live waxworms, live slugs, spiders and bugs from outdoors. Of course, you can't see their mouths watering because they're submerged, but they do water indeed - now, would I lie to you?

Newly purchased newts may refuse to eat for several days, and while this may be a sign of illness, it is also a common behavior of healthy newts who are brought to a new environment. The best thing to do is remain patient. You'll know soon enough if they're ill or just adjusting to their new home.

Remember to feed them only every three days. You can mark feeding days on a calendar, so that you don't over- or under-feed.

Newt Trivia

  • Fire-bellied newts seldom grow larger than 5 inches, and if they do, 6 inches is the maximum.
  • A newt is always a salamander, but a salamander is not always a newt!
  • Some mother newts keep their eggs safe by wrapping leaves around each one as they are laid-up to 400 eggs!
  • The ribbed newt has needle-like rib tips. It can squeeze its muscles to make the rib tips pierce through its skin and into its enemy!
© 2004 - 2020 Leonard Rego