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How to Care for an Aquatic Newt

Aquatic newts are remarkably amusing and very easy to maintain. They are relatively active for an ectotherm, long-lived, very personable, eagerly accept pelleted foods, and can be kept in something as simple as a critter keeper with a few inches of dechlorinated water and a place to hide. For many, they are the ideal pet.


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    Make sure you have your newt's enclosure all set up before you head out to purchase one. A ten gallon tank is a good choice; your newt will fit perfectly in it as an adult. The species usually found in pet stores, Cynops pyrrhogaster, will max out at about 4–5 inches (10.2–12.7 cm) so you will not need to upgrade to a larger size enclosure. ,
    • The ideal ratio of water to land is three to one. Your newt will need enough land area to completely come out onto. You can slope rocks up towards one edge to create an island or place a large rock in. you need to make sure it is not so slippery as newts sometimes have trouble climbing.
    • You do not need a heater- most newts prefer cooler water (50-70F)but do not keep them close to a window (especially in the winter) or in a drafty place.
    • You do not need a filter, but you can use one if you like. If you decide to use a filter, try to find one that can be fully submerged and try to get the smallest size you can so the current won't be too strong. Keep it turned on for 24 hours before you introduce the newt so you can make sure it is functioning properly. If you use a filter that pours water out the top and hangs on the side of the aquarium, you'll need to put some sort of water-break underneath it so the water will trickle onto your newt rather than cascade. A plant or tall rock will work well. You don't need to run it 24-7; a few hours a day will suffice to keep the water clear. Even with a filter, you will still need to do water changes. Try somewhere between every 2 to 3 weeks. Keep adjusting it until you find what works best for your situation.
    • If you do not use a filter, change 25% of the water every week. Siphon out water from the bottom of the tank. If the surface of the water ever looks cloudy or filmy, just the surface, this is nothing at all to worry about. If you have to take your newt out of the aquarium, make sure you place him in a container with a secure lid (so he doesn't escape). Replace the same amount of water that you took out with dechlorinated water.
    • You will need a lid for your aquarium. Newts are escape artists and will crawl out of any crack they can find.
    • The most important decoration you can give your newt is a secure place to hide. The neon fish houses that large variety stores sell for two dollars or so work perfectly for a newt to curl up in. The shape that works best kind of looks like a lowercase m. It doesn't really matter what you use, but you'll want to use a small cave or rock or piece of wood that your newt can hide in or underneath to feel safe. Never use anything you found outdoors; always use something that is safe for aquariums. Most newts also enjoy having either fake or live plants to climb on (they are totally carnivorous so if you choose live plants, they will be perfectly safe), rocks or gravel to dig in. Make sure everything you put in the tank is stable enough so if your newt decides to dig, nothing will topple over and crush it to death.
    • A thermometer also isn't necessary but is always a good idea.
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    Buy your newt.
    • Make sure you are buying from a reputable place and of course do not ever purchase a newt from a cage where one or more lay dead.
    • Pick one that is alert and exhibits no wounds or obvious signs of disease. When it walks or swims, it should move smoothly and with grace.
    • Check for two clear eyes, four digits on each foot, and a smooth back and tail with no nips out of it. Watch tanks to ensure getting a healthy animal.
    • A newt should be eating well and plump. You can ask the person selling the newt if it is eating well.
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    Take your newt straight home. Don't add the water from the pet store into your tank. Use a net or your hands (if you use your hands, make sure to wash them well with soap first and rinse them extremely well. Also, never grab a newt by the tail; try to lift it underneath its belly with a cupped hand instead.) to scoop your newt out of the bag and into his new home.
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    Know how to handle your newt. Most people will tell you that you should never handle a newt with your hands. It is not without risk, but it can be accomplished safely. Newts do produce toxins in their skin that could harm you and the simplest way to avoid this is to wash your hands well with soap before you handle them. Rinse your hands until all traces of soap are gone. Keep your hands slightly wet when your newt is on them and when your friend's skin feels sticky to the touch (normally after 5 minutes or so), return him to his tank and wash your hands again well. Never eat food from your hands or touch your face after handling any salamander/newt without washing your hands and insist on others you allow the privilege of handling your salamander/newt do the same. This will ensure that you do not get sick from your newt and in turn, it will remain healthy. Amphibians have very porous skin and any harmful chemicals on your skin will be transmitted to your pet. Additionally, it is not normally a good idea to handle your newt while standing, unless your hands are over its tank. Sometimes newts will jump or wiggle unexpectedly and a fall to the ground can be disastrous.
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    Feeding your newt. In their natural surroundings, newts are attracted to things that move (other living things). It is usually easy to obtain worms from a pet store, which should form the basis of your newt's diet. You may even be able to raise worms yourself (bloodworms/Tubifex are ideal for this). Several kinds of worm are used as food for newts and salamanders, such as: white worms, black worms, bloodworms/Tubifex worms, bloodworms, phoenix worms, mealworms, crickets, and occasionally wax worms, leaf worms, red wigglers/pan worms, or nightcrawlers. Daphnias, flightless fruit flies, and pinhead crickets, can be purchased online if the newt or salamander is very small. If you choose to use pellets, they can be stuffed in a chopped nightcrawler section. Larger prey may be given if it is a large salamander. Your newt may enjoy the occasional pinch of freeze dried bloodworms. They might even enjoy crickets.
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    Vary the amounts at first to see what works best. If this proves problematic, err on the side of keeping it a bit underfed rather than overfed. Sometimes newts will go off food for a week or two. This may occurs if they molt. You probably will not notice your newt molting at first because the shed skin is only as thick as the width of a single skin cell, is rather transparent, and most newts will eat their skin right after it comes off- this is perfectly normal .


  • Observe your newt for as long as you can in the pet store before purchasing it. Make sure it has Clear alert eyes:Eats normally:and breathes easily
  • Take out any uneaten "dead" food. Live worms may be able to live in your newt's tank and provide an ongoing food source. Water changes will keep the environment in good shape (always let water sit out for at least 48 hours prior to using, to allow chemicals like chlorine to evaporate).
  • Don't keep wild newts in your tank as this is not their habitat and will get extremely stressed and can die within a week.


  • Don't just pluck a newt or salamander out of the wild yourself to keep as a pet without at least checking with your local DNR first. You could end up with a hefty fine if the one you caught was an endangered species in your area.
  • Make sure you know species-specific information for the pet you are considering buying BEFORE you buy it. Some pet stores don't really know very much about what they sell and have the newts and salamanders housed in poor conditions like too high a temperature, or with other species they should not be with. It is best to buy a captive bred one if you can find one. They are usually in a lot better condition since they are already used to being with people and did not have to go through the ordeal of being captured, shipped overseas, and suddenly competing for food in a small area with a weakened immune system due to stress.
  • You cannot use water directly from the tap - the chemicals in it will kill your newt. You must let the water sit out, in an open container, for at least 48 hours or longer so that the chemicals can evaporate out of the tap water before adding it to your newt's tank.*Don't mix different species together. They can intimidate or eat each other, or bring diseases from other areas of the world together into a small area, causing undo stress and lead to death.
  • A planted aquarium (live plants) act as a natural filter and help with algae and other issues if done well enough. Make sure you do your research or you might end up with mislabeled bog plants that are labeled as aquatic or semi-aquatic plants. A good site to go to is to get started. If you use the wrong plants, they can cause problems such as rotting and contribute to poor water quality.
  • If you don't have your own water testing kit, bring a sample of your tank water in to the pet store every couple weeks for free testing to make sure that everything is balanced so that your pet is not stressed.
  • DO NOT release a pet into the wild! It is dependent on you for it's care and it would not make it on it's own now that it is a pet. More importantly, if it did not come from here, you would be introducing a foreign species that could end up wiping out the native ones with competing for food, or most likely, foreign pathogens that would wipe out a local population. So even if you caught your pet locally, don't release it. Give it to a friend, sell it, or have the vet humanely euthanize it.
  • Wash your hands well before and after handling a newt. Many newts have toxic secretions that are dangerous. And make sure other pets, small children or drunks don't lick or eat your newt.

Things You'll Need

  • newt
  • water
  • food
  • filter (optional-however a good idea)
  • hiding place
  • enclosure
  • dechlorinator
  • gravel
  • Decoration (optional)
  • plants (live or fake works fine)
  • lighting

Article Info

Categories: Newts and Salamanders