Other common names: Chinese Fire Belly Newt, Fire-bellied Salamander, Oriental Fire-bellied Newt
Scientific name: Cynops orientalis
This attractive newt has long been a favorite of both new and experienced keepers. Active by day and undemanding in its care requirements, the Chinese Fire-Bellied Newt is a near-perfect amphibian pet.
The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt is found along the drainage of the lower Yangtze River in central China, where it inhabits the still waters of ponds, swamps, ditches and rice fields.
Appearance / health:
The back is jet black in color while the abdomen is brilliant orange or red and marked with black blotches. Adults average 2.6-3.2 inches in length.
With proper care, Chinese Fire-bellied Newts may live to 18+ years of age. Pets will swallow small gravel bits, resulting in intestinal blockages. If ammonia levels are not kept low, “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections will take hold.
Behavior / temperament:
Chinese Fire-bellied Newts adapt well to captivity, rising to the surface and feeding readily from the hand. They are active both day and night, and untroubled by activity around their aquarium.
Newt skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to wounds, eyes, or the mouth. Toxins transferred to the eyes have caused temporary blindness. They should be handled only when necessary, and then by being urged into a water-filled container so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed.
A 10 gallon aquarium can house 4-6 adults; larger groups will get-along in more spacious quarters. Gravel should be avoided, or large types chosen, due to the danger of ingestion.
A submersible or other filter and weekly partial water changes will help ensure low ammonia levels. Strong currents from filter outflows should be avoided. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used in aquariums via liquid preparations available at pet stores.
Although these newts are highly-aquatic and take well to deep water, cork bark or turtle basking platforms should be provided as resting spots. Newts are well-suited to aquariums stocked with live aquatic plants. They can climb glass, so a secure cover is needed.
Chinese Fire-bellied Newts ideally should be kept in soft water with a pH of 6.9-7.2 and a temperature range of 65-74 F. Sustained temperatures above 78 F may render them susceptible to bacterial/fungal infections.
The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt’s appetite is quite easy to please. Commercial newt diets and frozen insect-based tropical fish foods serve well as a mainstay. Live blackworms, chopped earthworms, tiny crickets, and guppies provide excellent supplementary nutrition, or can be used as the main diet if preferred.
Females are stouter than males, which swell about the cloaca when in breeding condition. Normal room temperature fluctuations often stimulate reproduction, while a sudden increase of water volume and a drop in water temperature will do so at most any time of year.
Females attach 20-100 eggs, one at a time, to aquatic plants. The eggs hatch 12-25 days and the larvae transform by day 60-80. The larvae can be reared on chopped live blackworms, frozen bloodworms, and newt chow.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
good beginners pet, cute, good eaters, bright orangered bellies, interesting creatures
beginner amphibian owner, boring pet, hand washing, optimal habitat
wax worms, cold water species, adequate ventilation, frozen blood worms, newt pellets
The other hand of the spectrum
At first, when my friend ceded me my first newt because she did not have the time to look after it (a female) at all, I was pretty scared. Some years later, I bought the second one (a male) and – eventually – it has been really a strange experience.
The first time, it was almost winter and I did not know Pesce (my firs newt) was going to hibernate. I brought it home and I almost did not see it in months. When they hibernate, they almost never eat and they like to stay hidden most of the time. When the spring comes, they emerge from hibernation, so life begins.
When they are young, they really have a bubbly personality and I did not expect that, especially the first time I found Pesce on the ground at 7.00 a.m. exactly one millimetre from my slipper. It was full of dust so I think that time it visited almost the entire kitchen, falling down from the cupboard where I kept the aquarium. Growing up, it calmed itself down and it spent its day swimming, looking for food or hiding. In the aquarium shop, they told me to buy or build something for it to hide, so I bought a coconut, I boiled the shell and I put it into the water. From then, it always took advantage of it. It was shy, every time I changed the water of the aquarium it acted (it still does) martyr but then everything went back to normal. When I moved into my present home I enjoyed so much having it in my room that I decided to buy the second one, Chips.
This one was a completely different experience. It was a 4-year-old stark raving mad newt, really. It run off like the wind every time it could. I bought a net and I put it over the aquarium to make it stay in the water but he managed to escape a lot of time. The problem was I knew they liked to hide over the coconut, it was the end of autumn and they were going to hibernate as usual, so I did not want to disturb them. When I finally checked on them, I did not found Chips and I looked for it everywhere. He was on the opposite side of the house, dry and dead. I was so sad.
I always thought having an animal that lives in an aquarium would have been like considering a living creature like a decorative object, instead I loved them and I was sad when I had to give Pesce to my friend. It was a very instructive experience..
From GiuliaB Oct 13 2015 5:51AM
Fire Bellied Newts
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..
From Anomali_25 Nov 8 2014 5:04PM
I purchased my fire-bellied salamander from a pet store in the summer of 2013 expecting an easy-to-care-for pet that would be like a piece of living furniture. My expectations were sorely wrong.
Norton began his life in my home in a small terrarium with aquarium stones, distilled water and a large rock. I bought him aquatic frog and newt food in a small jar. He (I decided Norton was a boy because i liked the name Norton) spent all of his time hanging out on the rock and never went for a swim nor climbed up the sides of the tank. Food pellets would collect in the bottom of the tank making the water cloudy almost immediately.
After a week of almost no activity and his apparent anorexia, I bought a larger terrarium, an aquarium decoration with different levels, a carbon filter and bloodworms. Norton still spent all of his time hanging out on the top of the aquarium rock and refused to swim or eat the bloodworms. I am not really sure how he stayed alive not eating. I continued to change his water on a weekly basis and prayed for the best.
At one point, about three months after I had him, I checked in and he was all dehydrated: I could make out his skeleton through his dark skin. I picked him up (which i know is a faux-pas with newts) and forced him into the distilled water. He plumped right back up to normal size, but immediately scrambled back onto his perch out of the water.
All my research indicated that fire-bellied salamanders are primarily amphibious, but Norton absolutely refused to spend any time in the water. I spent a lot of time that year researching how to make him happier and came up with nothing. I don't think that I ever saw him eat a bloodworm, but he must have as he lived for over a year in our home. He was rather small and about the same size as a cricket, so it seemed foolhardy to put an animal that could bite him in the same tank. I expected my salamander to be a low-key animal, but had hoped to occasionally catch him climbing the walls and showing his belly or swimming. Instead, he stayed almost perfectly still. Perhaps he moved around at night while we were sleeping, but I never caught him at it and in the morning he was almost always where he had last been sighted the evening before.
About a year after I had acquired Norton, I had placed him in the smaller terrarium while i was cleaning out the main one and he escaped. His body was never found and I assume that he was eaten by one of my cats. I can't say that I was particularly upset at the loss of a pet that had become just one more item of household cleaning. I am inclined to think that his escape was actually an attempt at suicide as he never showed any inclination to live or enjoy his habitat.
I would not recommend a fire-bellied salamander to another person. He was quite a bit of work and no fun at all..
From hfeatherina Oct 13 2015 4:32PM