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Eastern Newt

Ashley Bates

If you’re looking to expand your aquarium, you may have stumbled across eastern newts on your search. These adorable amphibians are a popular pick among aquarists. If you think they could be interesting pets, keep reading to find out why you’re right.

A word of caution: keep in mind that newts are mildly toxic and don’t make the best tank mates for certain other life forms. We will discuss the details about newt keeping, so you know what to expect—and if they’re compatible with your setup.

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Quick Facts about Eastern Newt

Species Name: Notophthalmus viridescens
Family: Salamandridae
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperature: 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Docile
Color Form: Yellow, brown, red, black
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Size: 5 inches
Diet: Carnivorous
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Aquarium/enclosure
Compatibility: Experienced owners

Eastern Newt Overview

In the salamander family, the eastern newt is a small amphibian that inhabits ponds, streams, and lakes throughout most of North America. These interesting creatures undergo three phases in their lifetime: larvae, juvenile or ‘eft’, and adult.

It’s fascinating to note that these amphibians are aquatic during the larvae and adult phases, but during the eft stage, they have a terrestrial period of 2-3 years where they live on land.

Once the eft stage completes, they go back to the water for good. It’s good to mention that even in their eft state, you shouldn’t handle them. Eastern newts have a toxin in their system that triggers when they’re stressed—which can make you very ill.

For this reason, they are also incompatible tank mates for other amphibians.

eastern newt
Image Credit: Pixabay

How Much Do Eastern Newts Cost?

Eastern newts are relatively cheap in comparison to some other aquarium life. Depending on the subspecies, you can pay anywhere from $12 to $100 per newt.

Depending on where you live, you might even be able to find one in the wild. However, we recommend buying from a breeder to get healthy, long-lasting specimens with no detrimental health conditions.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Don’t let their cute and cuddly looks fool you—you shouldn’t handle your newt unless it is vital. They may look innocent, but they actually carry toxins that could make you very sick (as we mentioned earlier).

Aside from their toxicity, they also dehydrate very fast because of the salt on your skin. Consider it a mutually beneficial thing that there is minimal handling involved when you own this species.

Essentially, these amphibians are strictly look-but-don’t-touch pets. You can admire their antics, swimming in perfectly timed, even flows. They add beauty and character to any aquarium, though you must be careful pairing them with what aquatic life you already have.

Keep in mind that newts are slower to feed than some potential tankmates, so allow them first dibs to make sure they get proper nutrition.

eastern newt
Image Credit: Brandon Alms, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

Though newts carry a specific size and structure, there are subspecies of eastern newts that you can choose from.

These include:

  • Red-Spotted Newt—bright red spots with black outlines
  • Central Newt—shimmery, solid colors, some variation possible
  • Broken-Striped Newt—broken stripes, prominent red stripes
  • Peninsular Newt—olive-colored, no red spots

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How to Take Care of Eastern Newts

Newts live in swampy, wet areas in booming ecosystems. In captivity, you need to mirror exactly what sort of life they would have in the wild.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Newts require the right environment to thrive, so you have to make sure you can accommodate. Once their eft stage passes after the first few years, they need to transfer from land to water without issue.

Enclosure

The necessary enclosure changes depending on the life stage of your newt. Newts still in the eft stage need adequate resources on land, but once they reach adulthood, they need an aquarium.

An adult newt needs at least a 10-gallon aquarium. Eft newts require a semi-aquatic enclosure with access to water, but they will need land while their lungs are in full development stages.

After a couple of years in their eft stage, they will begin developing gills again and return to the water.

The water in the aquarium can be pure spring water as the most preferred type. You can use tap water, but you must add dechlorinating tablets first.

male eastern newt underwater
Image Credit: Michael Benard, Shutterstock

Substrate

They need bedding of organic potting soil or coconut fiber that retains adequate moisture during the eft stage. Always offer large leaves for shelter.

As babies or adults, you can have bare or gravel bottoms in your aquarium.

Hides

During their terrestrial phase, newts require safe places to hide in the enclosure. They prefer to be out of sight and safe. You can get logs, ceramic pots, and plants to keep them protected.

Temperature

Eastern newts are cold-hardy, so they thrive in room temperature water conditions with no heating required. They can stand water temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Lighting

Eastern newts need lighting that mimics natural daytime/nighttime cycles. If they are near a window, this will suffice to promote adequate sunlight during the day.

However, be careful of drafty areas during cold months that can lower the water temperature too much.

eastern newt red spotted
Image Credit: Melinda Fawver, Shutterstock

Do Eastern Newts Get Along with Other Pets?

Newts do well with most tankmates of their kind. They are docile and agreeable with one another.

However, they are toxic to other amphibians, so they should never live together. Some fish are compatible with newts, but they must be cold-hardy and must not be voracious eaters.

Newts eat slowly, so if there is an ongoing competition for food—they might not get the adequate nutrition they need.

Some compatible mates in aquariums with newts include:

  • Topminnows
  • Rainwater killifish
  • Snails
  • Guppies

Avoid other amphibians at all costs.

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What to Feed Your Eastern Newts

Diet is one of the key elements to ensure growth and development. Adult newts are carnivorous and eat insects primarily, but sometimes they will eat fish eggs.

In captivity, you can feed your newt:

  • Earthworms
  • Commercial foods
  • Brine shrimp
  • Red worms

Note: Never feed your eastern newt wild-caught insects, as they can harbor disease and bacteria.

eastern newt
Image Credit: Brandon Alms, Shutterstock

Keeping Your Eastern Newt Healthy

Before you own an eastern newt, it’s best to locate an aquarist or professional that can help you with anything related. If your newt is sick or something of concern develops, you need that extra layer of protection to keep them safe. But generally speaking, these are hardy creatures, as we mentioned. 

Breeding

Eastern newts both breed and lay their eggs in water. The breeding process happens in adulthood when the eft stage has passed. They breed during late winter to early spring.

Fertilized eggs hatch within 3-5 weeks.

In the late summer months, baby newts begin to absorb gills and develop lungs for their eft stage. If you breed newts, you will need a separate enclosure at this time to allow them to live on land.

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Are Eastern Newts Suitable For You?

If you think an eastern newt sounds like a prize-winning pick for your aquarium, you can find them at local aquarists near you. Remember that newts can be toxic to other amphibians, making sure that you house them with compatible mates.

Remember not to handle your newt unless it is necessary. These little guys get very stressed and might release a toxin through their porous skin, so keep handling to a minimum.


Featured Image Credit: Merlin Halteman, Shutterstock

Ashley Bates

Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.