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What Do Eastern Newts Eat in the Wild and As Pets

Oliver Jones

The Eastern Newt is a type of Red Spotted Newt that is native to the eastern United States. This indigenous newt is a popular pet because it is easy to care for and can be kept in a large bowl, although it will thrive in something a little larger.

In the wild, these amphibians eat insects, small fish, crustaceans, and even frog eggs. As well as commercial food, in captivity, the Eastern Newt will enjoy a similar diet to its wild cousin, eating frozen brine shrimp, red worms, and more.

Read on to see what these aquatic amphibians would eat in the wild and how you can best replicate this diet for your pet.

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About Eastern Newts

The Eastern Newt is one of more than 650 breeds of salamander. Salamanders have short legs, long bodies, and they have a tail. Most species metamorphose from an aquatic youngster to a land-dwelling adult.  The Eastern Red-Spotted Newt undergoes a similar transformation but will grow to become an aquatic adult. As a newt, the Eastern Newt can adapt its life cycle to survive. If its water source dries up, the Eastern Newt can revert to an eft state and live on land.

Eastern Newts live in ponds and near water sources. They are hunted by large fish, some mammals, and birds, as well as other water-dwelling amphibians.

eastern newt red spotted
Image Credit: Melinda Fawver, Shutterstock

What They Eat in the Wild

They will eat small crustaceans as well as insects, fish and the eggs of frogs and worms. They are also known to eat mosquito larvae making them very beneficial to natural pest control.

Eastern Newts as Pets

Popular as a pet for beginners and experienced owners, Eastern Newts do not require a lot of space and are easy to care for. A 10-gallon tank is large enough to house up to three mature newts. If you do intend to keep two or more together, be aware that a male and female will reproduce quite easily so be prepared for any young.

Use bark, add platforms, and incorporate floating plants for variety and to offer somewhere to rest. If you want to add a substrate, although this isn’t necessary with a glass aquarium, use a stone that is large enough that it cannot be swallowed.

Water quality is very important because newts essentially ingest water through their skin. The water pH should be about neutral and you will need to test the levels regularly.

red spotted eastern newt
Image Credit: Merlin Halteman, Shutterstock

What They Eat in Captivity

Newts can thrive on a commercial diet. Pellets are convenient and they are readily available, which makes them popular with owners as well as their amphibian pets. They are especially popular with those owners that do not want to handle live insects. Freeze-dried shrimp are a good staple food source and you can incorporate bloodworms and some other frozen insects into their daily feed too. Live food options include earthworms, blackworms, and even some small crickets.

Eastern Newt Care Tips

You need to take care when handling newts. They have a protective layer on top of their skin and regular handling can strip this layer down, leaving them prone to injury and irritation. They also emit a toxin and while this should be safe if it gets on your hands, if you have cuts or you do not wash your hands properly after handling, it could get into the bloodstream. Eastern Newts are not known to be very toxic, however.

It is possible to tame Eastern Newts and food is the key. It will work especially well with live insects. Never withhold food if your newt refuses to take it from you, but encourage it to take food from your fingers using its favorite snack treat.

Enclosures need to contain two-thirds water and one-third land for adult Eastern Newts. The water can be kept at room temperature but your Eastern is likely to prefer it a little colder. 65°F is ideal with temperatures over 75°F potentially weakening the immune system, and temperatures below 50°F encouraging reproduction.

eastern newt
Image Credit: lakewooducc, Pixabay

What To Do If Your Newt Isn’t Eating?

Newts tend to be good eaters, and because Eastern Newts are happy eating commercial food pellets, they are considered one of the easiest species. However, several things could lower your newt’s appetite. The recent capture and captivity of a newt can cause a loss of appetite.

It’s worth noting that while the Eastern Newt is known to be good at easting commercial pellets, wild-caught newts will not necessarily recognize it as food so will not try eating it. Try feeding a frozen food like frozen shrimp. This is not live food but can be used as a step between live food and food pellets.

Try changing the food type that you offer. For example, if you are feeding a commercial pellet, try feeding an earthworm or blackworm. Similarly, change insect or natural food sources to see if it encourages your newt to eat.

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What Do Eastern Newts Eat in the Wild and As Pets

Eastern Newts are a popular newt, and many people keep them as pets, especially having caught them themselves. They are friendly little salamanders, look attractive, and they tend to eat well while being easy to care for.

In the wild, they would eat the crustaceans, small fish, and flies around their water source. In captivity, you should try to replicate this as far as practical. You can feed crickets and other live insects, frozen food like brawn shrimp, and once your newt accepts the frozen food, you can even try it on a commercial food pellet diet.


Featured Image Credit: Brandon Alms, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.