Acquired: Pet store
Posted Nov 08, 2014
Owning newts for pets is something different, fish are fun and calming to watch but you can’t really interact with them – other than feeding them. I kept an African Pygmy (or sometimes referred to as Dwarf) frog which was also very cute, it was more interesting to watch than fish can be, but like the fish the only real interaction was at feeding time (although my frog lived for about 8 years). He was small, cute as far as frogs go, and easy to keep. But you couldn’t really handle him unlike other larger varieties of frogs.
Newts you can touch pick up and hold, even pet them very gently, or watch them walk on your palm for a short time. I think there’s a certain level of the natural world you reach out to when you hold a fire bellied newt. They don’t really fall under the title of domestication, in some areas you can actually find them in the wild but they’re not feral or incredibly fearful. While mine stayed small, I have seen some very big fire bellied newts. The bigger the tank, the bigger the newts can grow, and every newt has a different pattern on its belly – a little like a finger print.
If you set the tank up well, with varying water levels and several objects and places for the newts to swim under and around and climb out of the water on, you get to see a lot more than just an amphibian mulling around. When I watched them eat, I felt like I could be watching a prehistoric animal. I fed them a frozen-packed cube of blood-worm every day, which would float for some time – the newts would either wait until it sank to crawl up to it, or they would sneak up on it from underneath while it was still suspended in the water.
Something I learned early on was that you can lose a newt. I don’t mean to old age or illness, I literally mean lose. Originally, I kept my first newt in my fish tank with my fish, they co-existed well. Except my big fish tank had a home-built top with a light in side and sat a few inches above the water. My newt climbed off his driftwood, up the glass wall and out of the tank. It was a complete mystery where he had gone to at first, he wasn’t in the tank and it wasn’t like three tetras and four guppies could have eaten him – he was just gone. We did wonder if he had made a prison break and worried one of our cats or our dog may have eaten him and inadvertently been poisoned. But nothing really came of it. We got a new fish-free tank, a new lid and three more newts that lived good escape-free lives. Over five years later, my mom got a new stove and, while moving the old one, we found a very flat, very dead fire bellied newt.
Newts are quite gentle pets, very calm and quiet and as such they prefer a quieter room to live in so a high traffic room like your living room probably isn’t the best spot. They like the darkness of night, and some daylight time too. I think they’d make good pets for kids with allergies, or other reasons for not owning a mammal or a bird, or someone with less time or room for bigger pets. They don’t reach ancient ages like turtles, so you don’t have to write them into your will, your kids can still interact with them, they can’t really hop away like a frog while they are holding them, they won’t be terribly bothered by other pets (so long as your cat doesn’t go fishing), like with fish you can buy types of food that will feed them for a week or so if you have a trip planned, they don’t really bite or go to the bathroom in your hand, and they don’t have an overpowering or even obvious smell when they die.
They bring a little bit of nature into your house!
Just make sure they have a proper lid.