Newts are a member of the salamander family, and as a result have the ability to regrow lost limbs, tails and even parts of their internal anatomy. Like other amphibians, their metamorphism from larva to adults is incredible to watch making a great pet for inquisitive children. Newts are either fully- or semi- aquatic, so require specialist care and attention, especially those from tropical climates. Once you have set up the tanks, they are incredibly cheap and easy pets to keep.
Even if you find a newt in the wild, never try to domesticate them. These are wild creatures who live in a carefully balanced environment. Some breeds are also protected by law, so must not be taken without a license. If you see any wild, native amphibians for sale, it is illegal, and it should be reported.
Newts can be found at pet shops, specialist exotic breeders and dealers. It is legal to buy exotic and captive bred newts, so make sure that is detailed in the advertisement. Newts differ in prices, with the most exotic being around £75 – the more common, easier breeds will be around £5-10. You will need to research the breeds of newt to discover which you would like, based on their look and care requirements. European newts prefer a cooler environment, whereas tropical newts will need water kept at a set temperature to produce a humid atmosphere.
Newts have a long lifespan, so it is wise to keep a pair for company – and also to breed from. Watching the life cycle of a newt is an amazing part of owning these creatures. When you have found the type of newt you would like to own, make sure you see them before you buy. Are their eyes clear and bright? Do they look bloated or have protruding bones? Are there any scars or scratches?
Don’t introduce newts to your pond. There are already wild newts in the UK, and introducing a new breed could cause a number of problems with the natural population. If a newt has not already made its way to your pond, it is probably not the right environment.
Newts should not share a tank with any other aquatic animals such as turtles or frogs. This can spread disease, and can end with one eating the other! There are two types of newt, fully- and semi- aquatic, and both require a specific tank set up. Both will need a large, waterproof aquarium.
Aquatic tanks – place two inches of washed aquarium gravel at the bottom of the tank. At the back, build the gravel level up to 3 inches so the floor becomes a slope. Plant a number of aquatic plants to help create a pleasing environment. A minimum of 8 inches of water above the gravel should be added – with fully aquatic newts you can however make it up to 19 inches deep.
Semi-aquatic tanks – these are for newts who live both on land and in water. Around breeding periods, the newts will predominantly live in the water. Divide your tank into two – glue (with waterproof cement) a piece of glass or plastic across the middle. Decide which side will have the water, and fill with 0.5 inches of aquarium gravel. Rather than create a slope to be hidden with water, create a gentle slope that builds up to the land side, so your newt can crawl out of the water easily. On the land side, make sure you have put at least 2 inches of gravel at the bottom of the tank before you add soil. This will help with drainage. Add peat moss or potting soil, topping with turf or moss. With the basics done you can now dress the tank with aquatic plants, rocks, bark and places for the newts to hide.
Only tropical breeds need special heating. This can be done with aquarium water heaters and lighting. As a nocturnal breed, you will need to turn the light off at night and reduce the heating so it is like their natural climate. With European breeds, think carefully about where the tank will be, so sunlight does not overheat the tank.
Make sure your tank has a lid, as they can escape – remember the salamander family are known to climb walls! The water must also be filtrated as it will get dirty quickly. Base your choice of unit on how much water you are using.
Newts are carnivores and unlike your domesticated cat or dog they need their food to move. Things you can feed your newt include: mealworms; insects; earthworms; crickets; fruit flies; moths; water fleas; and, brine shrimp. Some of these you can find in your garden, many owners prefer to either buy them mail order or raise them themselves from larvae. You can also buy frozen newt food, which is a lot easier to store. It is best to feed your newt a mixture of prey to give them a balanced diet. Never feed a newt plants – their digestive system cannot process them, and it will rot in his stomach killing him.
Only feed your newt what they can consume – you do not want your tank to fill up with worm corpses. If any of the prey is still alive but left, do not feed them anymore until it is eaten. Feed them every 2-3 days at the same time every week. If you like weekends away, make sure you have a routine that includes this from the start.
It is not recommended to handle newts often. They secrete toxins from their skin, which in the wild protects them from predators. If ingested by humans, it can cause stomach problems. If you have to pick up your newt, then make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, or wear medical gloves.
Newts are also very delicate creatures. Any soaps or chemical substances on your hands can cause skin aggravation or illness. Unlike many domestic pets, they don’t need handling, grooming or hugs to keep them happy. As a result they are a relatively easy pet to keep, watching and learning how they live.