FAQs About Eastern Newts (Notophthalmus
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(Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens). Commonly called a
Red-spotted newt, here pictured in the juvenile stage where it is
called a red eft.
red spotted newt; kept indoors for good...
sys., fdg. 11/23/11
My daughter found a red-spotted newt back in the summer and we kept him
- i didn't think at the time that this was a bad idea - lots of
wild animals are brought into captivity. so i bought a tank in a size
recommended (doing the math, though, I now know it's a 6 gallon
tank). that's smaller than what I'm reading is a good size,
<Correct. You want something at least three times as big. Save the
pennies if need be.>
although it seems to be big enough for him.
<For now, perhaps.>
1/2 is moss, plants to climb, and 2 rocks set up leaning against each
other to create a 'cave'. in the water section, i have used a
ramp filled with water and built the gravel up around the sides so that
he has land he can easily get to on that side, too. (he hates the
water. goes to it often to sit in it, with surface still under him so
that he's not underwater.
but will never swim by choice.
<Whereas most amphibians are aquatic as tadpoles but terrestrial as
adults, the Eastern Spotted Newt is odd in that adults head back *into*
the water once they reach a certain age. So, if your specimen is still
quite small (adults are about 12 cm/5 inches long) then it may be a
"teenager" in its terrestrial phase.>
if he does happen to reach a point where he has to swim, he scurries as
fast as he can to get back to where there's some land under him.)
set up the tank per instructions from a different store that had
someone very knowledgeable about reptiles. he's done great - i feed
him live earthworms, cut into small pieces. he used to eat it from
tweezers i was holding but lately he's been refusing to eat from
me, but will sometimes eat them when I set them near him. his eating
and movement slowed, which I've read is
normal this time of year. his water temp is about 60 degrees and the
room he's in ranges from 60-70. the room temp will go down as it
gets colder (i live in the mountains) I've read you should slowly
lower the temp in the tank to 40 degrees-I'm not sure how to do
that-there is no room in my house that would ever be that cold.
<All sounds good. Might vary the diet a bit though.>
now to the question! main concerns: 1st, as I said, his eating has
used to be between 1/2 to 1 earthworm every other day. now he sometimes
goes almost a week without eating, and hasn't eaten more than 1/2 a
worm when he does eat. but his movement hasn't slowed. it did for a
while, but now he actually seems to be more active, but not eating
more-eating still staying at about once, maybe twice a week. and he
doesn't 'go after' the worm as enthusiastically as
before-he looks at it for a long time but takes forever to attempt to
<Lay off the food for a few days. Then offer something new, e.g.,
wet-frozen bloodworms or even a tiny piece of chopped fish. See what
happens. Boredom will set in if you keep feeding the same thing
indefinitely, and who knows, perhaps his body is "telling"
him he needs something with different nutrients.>
2nd (and the biggest) is he has always climbed the walls every now and
then, but lately it seems almost constant, obviously with periods of
rest/sleep, but much more waking hours and climbing than before (my
tank has a mesh lid, so no danger of escaping), but i worry about him
hurting himself. he climbs almost to the top and then of course falls
at some point when he can't hold on anymore, and i cringe when he
falls! lands on his side or back sometimes - sometimes on his rock,
sometimes on the air filter, sometimes in the water, but there's
gravel just below the surface.
can he harm himself doing this, and if so, is there anything I can do
to keep him from being able to climb that high up the wall?
<My guess here would be his home is too small, and he's feeling
the need to escape, if only to find a place with potential mates. Get a
bigger aquarium, and get another newt (of a different sex!) so this
chap has a
reason to stay.>
thanks for any help, Julie
<Do Google "Notophthalmus viridescens" and
"care" and you'll come up with much useful information.
Re: red spotted newt (= Eastern Spotted Newt, Notophthalmus
thanks for the reply. I bought a bigger tank but have not set it
up yet. The store was out of bloodworms, so instead I got some
'newt and salamander bites', which I would wet to soften them
and offer that to him, but he wouldn't eat them. The store
also gave me some small crickets to try, but he won't eat those
either. I tried an earthworm today, but he still won't
eat. It has been probably 2 weeks or more since he's eaten.
He looks very skinny and now it almost seems as if his eyes are
'disappearing' - kind of half-closed. And he jumps if I
touch him with the food - seems like he doesn't even see it so then
is startled by it when it touches him. He's still mobile,
though, and still climbing occasionally. I'm real worried about him
not eating. When the store gets some bloodworms in, I can try
them, but it just seems like he's not going to eat anything.
Is there anything else I can do to save this poor guy? I just
don't understand - he's been perfectly fine for 6 months and
now so different.
<I wish I could be more positive here, Julie, but really, I
can't. It's possible that this animal might perk up with good
care and a bit of extra warmth to get its immune system into gear. But
my gut feeling is that this Newt needs intervention from a vet if
it's to have any chance of recovery.
Lack of vitamins, for example, can cause lethargy and half-blindness,
and you need to inject the reptile or amphibian with those vitamins to
turn things around. If nothing else, a vet will be able to tell you if
there's any chance of this animal getting better again. Failing
that, you might be able to get extra help from an animal rescue place
that specialises in wild animals, or through a herpetology
club/association in your city. Sorry not to be able to offer better
Re: red spotted newt (= Eastern Spotted Newt, Notophthalmus
viridescens) -- 12/5/11
I took my newt to a vet that works with newt (had to drive an hour and
<Crikey! Good karma though, doing such a thing for a
and as you suspected, he gave him an injection of vitamins.
He said that the newt looked healthy, though, and had a reasonable
amount of 'fat' on him.
He still would not eat anything last week, but he ate one piece of a
worm last night! Not much, but better than nothing. I asked
him, morally, what the right thing to do was, and I'd like your
opinion on this, too. I just have always wondered if the newt
knows that he is 'confined' and when he's crawling up the
tank it's because he knows there's an outside and he wants out
- in which case, it's cruel to keep him.
<Quite possibly, but the intellectual abilities of the newt are
pretty low, so I wouldn't be too concerned.>
Or am I providing him with a safe home which resembles a natural
environment - in which case there is nothing wrong with keeping a newt
that we found outside and kept.
<Indeed, and given the high mortality rate of small animals like
these, he could easily be eaten or dried up someplace by now anyway.
Releasing him may not even be an option this time of year.>
He said that while he is not placing judgment, in his opinion, it is
absolutely NOT 'ok' morally to keep him, and that I should
<I can see where the vet is coming from. Removing a wild animal,
even if legal to do so, does mean you're choosing to put your
pleasure above the natural instincts and activities of the animal in
question. That may be justifiable in some cases, if, for example,
you're learning about the newt and you're going to use what
you're learning to understand the ecology of your local wilderness.
People have be doing that for centuries. But if an animal is removed
without any care being made to provide for its welfare, and the animal
is merely a glorified keepsake that dies prematurely, then that's
not defensible. It sounds like you're doing the best you can, and
frankly, the animal is safe and secure.>
He felt it was a good idea to see if I could get him to eat some,
first, but then release him.
<An option, provided of course the newt hasn't been in contact
with any other pet amphibians, reptiles or fish. That would be a
problem because newts could carry diseases into the wild from pet
I live in the mountains, so I worry about releasing him to a below 30
degree environment after being at a comfortable 60-70 degrees every
day. He said he thought he'd be fine - that'd he'd
know what to do to survive, but I just still worry!
<I can see both sides here. With the weather turning so cold, and
without you really knowing how well equipped this animal is to survive
the winter and/or claim a suitable hibernating spot, I'd be leery
of doing this. But if, in spring, he's fattened up and doing well,
you might choose to release him. I'd contact your local Fish &
Wildlife or park ranger before doing anything else.>
Do you agree that it's best for him to be released, and if so,
would you recommend waiting until Spring, or even after being
'domesticated' for over 6 months that it's safe to just go
ahead and release him??
<The thing is, after 6 months, he'll be totally adapted to
captive life. I'd be looking at getting him a mate, breeding him,
and then maybe releasing the offspring into the wild.>
And I worry that I won't release him in the best 'spot' to
ensure it has everything he needs. I have a creek in my back
yard, so the vet said just take him there.
<Possibly. But do look up Notophthalmus viridescens online, and find
out the sort of habitats it prefers. Adults are primarily aquatic, so a
pond or ditch would be about right.>
But should I look for a place that has anything in particular?
Hollow logs? Sand? Brush?? And it's a
fast-flowing creek. If he goes down to the creek for water,
won't he just get swept away??
<Could well be. Still or slow-moving water is best, ideally without
fish. Ponds and lakes with lots of vegetation around the margins are
I know you probably think I'm being obnoxious worrying this much
about him, but I'm just that way!
<Not a bad thing at all.>
Once I take an animal in, I have emotions attached to it and want to do
everything I can to keep it safe!
<Yes, natural and I'd say a positive thing.>
Any final help/advice you could provide would be great appreciated - I
feel your advice about going to the vet for an injection of vitamins
definitely saved him.
<Glad to have helped.>
<Don't worry too much. In the big scheme of things, one newt
either way isn't going to affect the wild populations. Learn what
you can about this species, read up on how others keep Notophthalmus
viridescens in captivity, and use what you learn to provide him with a
better home and through that, for you to better appreciate your local
wildlife. That's an age-old approach to natural history that surely
goes back to Aristotle. Cheers, Neale.>
Eastern Newts, hlth. 3/6/10
First of all great website, I've been dying to find out what's
wrong with my pet newt.
I've had this eastern newt since she was a red eft about 15 yrs and
her eyes are disappearing, first it was one and yrs later the other is
slowly going away, what is causing this, I started giving her pellets
years back could it be that? it says they can grow limbs back but so
far nothing, is it old age? she's a fighter, she almost died
several times but fought hard and is a survivor.
Can anyone please help
<Robert, 15 years is a good age for Notophthalmus viridescens, so
old age may be part of the problem. As animals age, their immune
systems do tend to worsen, and they become more sensitive to
environmental problems. So far as things to check go, as always, a good
place to start is a review of water quality. When both eyes become
infected, that's usually a sign of poor water quality, with the
cornea becoming cloudy and eventually the eye swelling outwards as
fluid collects behind the eyeball. Because Notophthalmus viridescens
spends so much time in the water, it is particularly sensitive to
non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels. Eyes won't grow back,
unfortunately. Good quality pellets should provide an adequate diet,
though I'm someone who does recommend a varied died, admittedly
with pellets as the core, but with suitable live foods as well.
Earthworms, small crickets, waxworms and so on are good for this
species. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Eastern Newts 3/7/10
Thank you for your help
Her eyes didn't get cloudy or swollen or infected, but actually got
smaller and smaller over time until they were gone
<That's odd. Could indeed be either metabolic (i.e., a dietary
thing) or an infection of some type.>
I use always bottled water, she has never been in tap water, so I was
thinking maybe she is missing a mineral or something in her diet
<I'm not sure salamanders get anything directly from the water
in terms of calcium or whatever, though that's a branch of their
biology I'm sure we're generally ignorant about. Bottled hard,
basic water (i.e., mineral water rather than distilled water) is
generally fine, though expensive, and if that means you scrimp on water
changes, I'd always recommend going with tap water (not softened
tap water) rather than anything else. Salamanders will adapt to hard,
basic tap water just fine, though you do of course need to add suitable
And I give her frozen bloodworms once in a while, with the pellets as
the staple It must be the water somehow, maybe I should clean it more
than once a week
<Bloodworms are always popular, but they aren't especially
Earthworms are better because they contain soil, and the soil is
(obviously!) mineral rich. Failing that, running two or three different
blister packs of wet frozen foods at a time is a good workaround,
perhaps bloodworms, krill and fortified brine shrimp. Between them,
these would make a good supplement to good quality pellet
Thank you for your help and if you ever hear of anything please let me
You guys do a great service
<Glad to help, and thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>