What are Newts?
They're cute little amphibians, much like a frog but with a more elongated body, and a tail that's nearly half it's total body length.
What kind of newt is easy to care for?
#1. The Japanese Firebelly by far, the most hardy newts I've ever kept. They are also relatively happy in a community with other types of newts. These are the most peaceful and passive newts I have ever had.
#2. Eastern or Red Spotted Newts, easy to care for but they slowly climb their way out of the tank if given the chance(make sure to get a lid with little or no holes). They have more delicate skin so you really can't handle these as much as the other various firebellies.
#3. Chinese firebellies, easy to care for but they some tend to pick on one another(even if they are well-fed and fat) and if you have 2 or more you'll probably notice missing fingers and toes(they do grow back slowly). Also a Chinese firebelly may nibble at other aquatic newts, even ones nearly twice it's own size.
Where can I buy them?
Local pet stores as well as 1 Biological Supply place that sometimes has them I found online here, they have the cute eastern variety(the yellowish green ones). Don't buy what are "red efts" which is the more adolescent version of easterns as there is extra care for these because the Eastern newt life cycle goes from tadpole in the water to almost completely dry land "red eft" for upto 1.5 years before returning to the water in their adult green/yellow color. Feeding these "red eft" can be quite the challenge and only really should be tried by semi-experts that can dedicate a couple minutes a day(everyday) feeding each one. Keeping newts is generally ALOT easier to care for than fish, except when it comes to feeding their tadpole/adolescent phase.
What are the different kinds of newts I can buy?
As far as i know you can really only buy the Japanese Firebelly, Chinese Firebelly, Eastern(Red Spotted), Californian(or Midwestern), Paddletail(which are cannibals -watch out) and Mandarian Newts(Which is a land species) in the western states. I have seen something called a "dragon" newt before is aquatic, and has a head like crocodile but with a body shape and dark coloring like a japanese firebelly.
(If any of you find a place to get newts online or through the mail let me know here.) As far as different kinds in the wild, I have seen/owned what some locals(around Seattle) refer to as the "toad" newt, a little black newt with a yellow strip down it's back like a skunk. He was incredibly active in my newt tank but disappeared 2 days after I stuck him in there. My neighbor found it in her laundry room.
What and how much do I feed them?
For everyday feeding you should use frozen(not live) blood worms usually a single frozen cube for 1 or 2 small 3 inch newts is ok (feed a little more if it's swallowed up quickly, pretty much newts eat until they get full so don't let food pile up in the tank). Along with the plant debris in the tank that they munch on that should be sufficent. You can also give them frozen brine once-in-a-while and live brineshrimp are fun to watch the newts swim around and eat them(but don't make brineshrimp your newt's only food.) Once you have had your newt in his tank for more than 1 week, and he's eating every ok, don't worry if you forget to feed him everyday, but at least 3-4 times a week. A FAT NEWT IS A HEALTHY NEWT!
Fresh Water Shrimp, also known as "Ghost Shrimp" run about $0.99 in the local fish stores (but $0.25 at walmart). The smaller the better, although if u get some larger ones, these do readily breed in aquariums, providing lots of baby shrimp.
Earthworms, while I don't recommend to use them because of soil bacterias(which I've never encountered), MY NEWTS LOVE THEM! If you do want to use them anyway, clean them off with water, cut them in half and drop the wiggling portions in the tank near a newt in the water. Make sure it can easily fit in your newts mouth, and don't feed them earthworms more than once a month because you will see your newt with a fat stomach for 1-2 weeks afterward so lightly feed(if needed at all) bloodworms them the next week after you feed them worms.
How big do they get?
From 3-7 inches full grown depending on the which variety of newts you get.
How long do they live in captivity (home aquarium)?
Well if they get the perfect environment, around 5-10 years for the various firebellies, a little less for smaller varieties, a little more for larger ones. Some of the big ones in the wild live 30+ years!
Should I have live plants?
Yes, lots of soft, large leave plants that go right up to the water line, lots of short-medium grass, and aquatic Banana plants if you can find them -they're pretty cool. Remember the more plants you have the better the water quality will be, plants produce lots of oxygen and get rid of harmful Nitrites/Nitrates and Carbon Dioxide while keeping water ph in check.
Please visit my aquatic plant page for more newt friendly plants here.