California Newt

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Other common names: Orange-bellied Newt, Coastal Range Newt, Sierra Next

Scientific name: Taricha torosa

The Basics:
Although the California Newt does well in captivity, it is capable of causing human fatalities if ingested (see below), and declining in the wild. It is best left to zoos and well-experienced, adult keepers.

Two subspecies with distinct ranges are known. The Coastal Range Newt ranges from northern California, USA along the coastline to the vicinity of San Diego. The Sierra Newt occurs inland, from northern to southern California in and along the Sierra Nevada Mountains. California Newts dwell in mountainous coniferous forests, deciduous woodlands, and hilly grasslands.

Appearance / Health:
The upper surfaces are light to dark brown in color, while the ventral area is yellow or orange. Adults reach 5.5-7.6 inches in length.

Captive longevities of 20+ years have been recorded. Heat stress, and the resulting bacterial and fungal infections, is the most commonly-encountered health concern.

Behavior / Temperament:
California Newts adjust well to captivity if kept properly. Aquatic phase adults are easier to maintain than are terrestrial specimens.

In common with all members of the genus Taricha, California Newts produce a powerful toxin known as Tetrodotoxin. They have been responsible for human fatalities when ingested. Their skin secretions may also cause serious health concerns when transferred to wounds, eyes, or the mouth.

A single adult can be kept in a 10 gallon aquarium; larger tanks can support small groups.

Moist sphagnum or carpet moss makes a good substrate, and cork bark rolls or plastic caves serve well as retreats. Adults in the aquatic phase (captives may move into water even if not in breeding condition) should be kept in a filtered aquarium half-filled with cool, chlorine-free water and supplied with cork bark or floating plants as resting spots. Gravel, which may be swallowed, should not be used.

California Newts do best at 50 -70 F, and will remain active at lower temperatures. They are stressed and eventually rendered ill by sustained warm temperatures.

Earthworms are ideal as the bulk of a California Newt’s diet. Sow bugs, small crickets, butterworms, blackworms, and other commercially-available invertebrates should also be offered. Aquatic forms accept commercial newt chow.

Most meals should be coated with a powdered Calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement. A vitamin/mineral supplement should be used 2-3x weekly.

Mature males may be distinguished from females by the swollen area about the cloaca and the tail’s swimming fin. A cooling-off period of 4-6 weeks at 36-40 F may spark breeding activity. Females attach flat egg masses containing 5-20 eggs to submerged plants and rocks. The larvae may be raised on live blackworms and frozen bloodworms. Metamorphosis is attained in 2 weeks to 2.5 months, depending upon temperature.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


Interesting addition, simple small aquarium, older children, great pets


copperbased fish meds


haulingout areas, relatively drier skin, small crickets suffice, reptile pellets Tetra

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