Other common names: Redbelly Newt
Scientific name: Taricha rivularis
Were the Red-bellied Newt not limited to such a tiny natural range, and not capable of causing human fatalities if ingested (see below), it might make a fine pet. However, it is best left to zoos and similar organizations seeking to bolster wild populations.
The natural range is limited to a small section of northwestern California, USA. Red-bellied Newts dwell within and on the outskirts of Redwood forests, often in the vicinity of cold, fast-moving streams.
Appearance / health:
The brownish-black back is unmarked, while the ventral surface is bright red. Adults reach 5.5-7.6 inches in length.
Captive longevities of 15+ years have been recorded. Heat stress, and the resulting bacterial and fungal infections, is the most commonly-encountered health concern.
Behavior / temperament:
Red-bellied Newts are somewhat more secretive than related species, although zoo specimens lose much of their shyness after a time.
In common with all members of the genus Taricha, Red-bellied Newts produce a powerful toxin known as Tetrodotoxin. They have been responsible for human fatalities when accidentally (water from a stream, containing an unseen newt, boiled and used to make coffee) or purposely swallowed. 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 15 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.
Red-bellied Newts do best at 48-52 F, and will remain active at lower temperatures. They are stressed and eventually killed by sustained warm temperatures.
Earthworms are ideal as the bulk of a Red-bellied 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, which develops a white stripe during the breeding season. A cooling-off period of 4-6 weeks at 36 F may spark breeding activity. Females attach flat egg masses containing 5-12 eggs to submerged plants and rocks. The larvae may be raised on live blackworms and frozen bloodworms. Metamorphosis is attained in 3-4 months.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
elementary science, bright bellied surprise, newt behavior, easy pet, young children
weekly cleanings, ecologically fragile creature
bloodworms, shallow water, small aquarium, small pet
"Red-Belly (also called Fire-Belly) Newts are attractive, interesting, easy pets. They don't need much to live happily: clean water to swim in, some dry land in their enclosure to climb up on when they feel like it; a few flakes of fish-food every day, maybe a mealworm every now and then as an extra treat. You might be surprised by just how long-lived they are, especially for such a small pet. I few friends and family-members of mine have also kept Red-Bellies, and the newts all lived for over ten years.<br><br>My own newt lived happily for eleven years in a small aquarium with shallow water, a substrate of gravel, a smooth rock to climb on, and a little castle to hide in. I never needed to worry about maintaining temperature or humidity in the aquarium—as long as it didn't get too hot (and he was never, ever left in full sun) he was fine with the little temperature fluctuations in the room where he lived. I cleaned his cage and replaced his water a couple times each month—not too often, to avoid unnecessary stress for him, and also because he liked it when a little algae grew on the glass. It gave him extra places to hide. <br><br>Newts are fairly reclusive. Mine spent a good deal of time out of sight. Sometimes I wouldn't see him at all during the day. I would sprinkle in a few flakes of fish-food, and come back later to see it was all gone. No sign of the newt—the meal would just disappear when I wasn't looking. Other days he would be more sociable and swim around for everybody to see. He never got particularly comfortable being held, though—the only times I handled him were when I cleaned his cage; and going by the experience of other people I've known who kept newts, that is typical. They aren't the pet for you if you want to carry your friend around or visit with him outside of his enclosure. <br><br>But all-around, they're easy and interesting to keep, if you don't expect too much interaction.."
From silasdraguns Jul 16 2014 3:23PM
"Newts normally don’t pop into people’s minds when referring to pets, but they can add a unique addition to the home and create quite the conversation for guests! If you've already got a fish tank with a filter a newt habitat can be easily added.<br><br>I housed my newts in a ten gallon tank with about 3 parts water to 1 part land. There was plenty of gravel, larger rocks, plants, and even sticks of varying sizes (since newts like to climb). Speaking of climbing, make sure to have a tight wire lid on your tank or another way to keep the tank covered very securely. Newts are notorious for escaping by climbing out of tanks, even climbing right up the sides of the glass! I can’t stress this enough!<br><br>I never noticed any smells from the newts. Their water was changed about every other week and food was easily available from the pet store. My newts loved blood worms! Don’t keep your tank near a window and don’t let it get too cold and the newts will be happy.<br><br>I owned my newts for a few years. Unfortunately, through my error, the lid of the tank was not put on properly and the newts escaped. I frantically searched the house for them, but never found them. A few months later, when we were moving, I did find the newts. However, they were long gone, having dried out since they need to live in a wet environment. <br><br>Image credit: Pete (originally posted to Flickr as red bellied newt) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons."
From growlwriting Oct 16 2014 9:47PM
"I got a really cool birthday present when I turned 15. I had been asking my parents to get me a lizard or a snake for years. Birthdays, Christmas time, whenever we passed the pet store at the mall, I asked and asked and asked until I wore them down. Finally, I got my mom to cave in and actually allow a lizard into our house. Well, it was sort of a lizard. It was a small, leathery little guy with big eyes and long tale. He was a newt, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It might as well have been a Komodo Dragon with the way I showed him off to my friends. He ate cubes that were made up of flies and bugs. He had a tank called a terrarium, rocks to climb, and a diver guy holding a treasure chest at the bottom of the water area. I was in heaven.<br><br>For two weeks.<br><br>You see, that cool food full of flies and bugs, well, it goes through him eventually and settles in the bottom of the tank. Those rocks? They were covered with slime and grime, and they fell over a lot when he walked on top of them outside of the water level. And that cool terrarium? After two weeks of being filled with slime, excrement and sludge, it started to stink like the bottom of the dumpster behind the elementary school in June. Needless to say my mother made me clean every inch of that set-up, every week, until there was absolutely no smell coming from it whatsoever. <br><br>In addition to the weekly cleanings, the novelty of the bug-eyed little guy soon wore off with my friends. He moved around a lot, but after a few weeks he was just a small lizard in a box. I loved the little rascal, regardless of all of that, and I kept cleaning the tank and feeding him flies. It was an insane amount of work, but I was determined to prove to my parents that I hadn't made a mistake by taking on that responsibility. For two years, I fed him, cleaned his tank, and kept him safe. <br><br>One day, I was teasing him out loud about standing at attention on top of his rocks as I was leaving for school. He seemed so stiff, it was like he was getting ready to salute the members of the Newt army corps. When I came home, he hadn't moved. He looked pale, almost translucent. His eyes were sunken in, and his little fingers were dry and brittle. Slick had passed away. <br><br>As I look back on my time with him, I remember the good times. I had a lot of fun talking to him and imagining what he might have been saying back. But the overwhelming emotions of those years are centered around the horrible look of his eyes and skin when he died, the smell that was always present at some level, and the unbelievable amount of work that was required to maintain the tank. As a pet, I don't recommend bringing a newt into the family, unless you really, really need a quiet and accepting friend...<br><br>...and you really, really love cleaning his tank.."
From Rordog34 Jul 17 2014 9:56PM