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How do I care for these newts?

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MrYossu View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 11:57am
Hello,

My son came home from a trip out (River Irwell, Salford, NW England) with two newts in a jar. After a bit of research, we have concluded that one is a smooth newt, and one is a palmate newt.

We currently have them in a small tank, that is also home to another ex-Irwell resident, namely a 2" long minnow, brought home from a previous trip! Dontcha just love children eh?

We have filled the tank about 2/3 full with water, and put a large stone in the middle, so the newts can climb out of the water. The smoothie spends almost all of the time on it (or climbing up the glass), and the palmate is to be found anywhere, either in the water or on the rock.

What is the best way to care for these newts? The children (and their friends) love having them, so if we can keep them healthy, we would like to.

At the moment, they are being fed on blood worms every other day. I usually pick a few worms up on the end of a cocktail stick, and hand-feed the newts. I have found that if I leave the worms on the rock, the newts ignore them and they just dry out and go mushy. If I drop the worms in the water, the minnow goes into a feeding frenzy, and eats everything before the slow-witted newts have even noticed there was anything to eat! Truth is, hand-feeding them is fun, and provides endless entertainment for the children! The smoothie tends to get about two or three mouthsful, each of two or three blood worms, and the palmate (who is often in the water, and so harder to feed) gets one or two mouthsful, usually of one or two blood worms. If the palmate is on the rock, he/she gets about the same as the smoothie.

Is this a good enough diet to keep them healthy? If not, what else should I do? I tried them on mysis, but they didn't seem to like it, and it was very hard to pick up with the cocktail stick (blood worms are longer, and so easier to balance on the end). They have been in the tank for about six months now (I know, I should have asked all this before!), and seem healthy enough, but I thought I ought to check.

While I'm here, is there a way to tell if these are boys or girls, and assuming we had one of each, would they reproduce, or are smoothies and palmates non-compatible?

Sorry for the long post. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 3:12pm
Hi MrYossu

It's important to understand that newts have both an aquatic stage and a terrestrial stage. In effect they live in ponds during the spring when they breed and on land from late summer and over the winter.

This is why the smooth newt is spending all its time on the rock and trying to get out, it is now in its terrestrial stage and should be moved to a tank which is mostly land with a small shallow water dish. The best set-up would be a tank full of damp moss in my opinion providing moisture and lots of hiding places. Your son won't see much of the newts during the day but in the evenings they will come out to feed. I use to feed them white slugs, can be difficult to find them though. In general anything small and slow that wriggles will be taken.

As for breeding it is unlikely to occur in captivity. Newts need to hibernate in order to breed and this is unlikely to happen in a tank kept indoors during the winter. The newts will effectively remain in terrestrial stage if not hibernated whilst in captivity.

There are a few newt keepers here, so hopefully they will have more to add.

Can I suggest though that you convince your son to release the newts after a year? In this way they can go back to their natural life in the wild and breed again. There are several amphibian species more suited to captivity than our native newts which are now regularly captive bred. Perhaps suggesting releasing the newts and replacing with a pet salamander might go down well. Wink




Edited by GemmaJF - 08 Sep 2011 at 3:18pm
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MrYossu View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrYossu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 3:29pm
Hello Gemma,

Thanks for the reply, it was very helpful. I'll look into another tank, as the minnow won't take kindly to less water! I might just look at a longer one, and bank up some solid material on one side, so it can server for both dry and wet environments.

You mentioned feeding them white slugs. Are these like the regular garden slugs? I've never seen white ones, but given the size of our garden slugs, I can't imagine either of these newts being able to get their mouths around one!

Do you think they'll be OK on blood worms? I quite like hand-feeding them Smile

Thanks again
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 4:15pm
Yep the white slugs I use to collect in the garden, much smaller than the usual garden slug. I found them around compost heaps or vegetable plots.

Try to vary the diet a bit, it's never a good idea to feed them just one thing though mostly blood worms with some extra stuff collected from the garden should be fine.
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 4:55pm
I should add too that your idea of a split terrestrial/water habitat might be a problem. Newts are actually terrible swimmers whilst in terrestrial stage, there is a risk of them drowning in water that is above their heads so you might want to separate the newts and the minnow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrYossu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 5:00pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

I should add too that your idea of a split terrestrial/water habitat might be a problem. Newts are actually terrible swimmers whilst in terrestrial stage, there is a risk of them drowning in water that is above their heads so you might want to separate the newts and the minnow.

Ooh, I didn't know that! Mine both seem to swim perfectly well.

OK, maybe I'll get something else for the minnow (one little minnow doesn't need a tank of this size!) and modify the current one for the newts.

Thanks again
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mark_b Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 7:13pm
Originally posted by GemmaJF GemmaJF wrote:

There are several amphibian species more suited to captivity than our native newts which are now regularly captive bred. Perhaps suggesting releasing the newts and replacing with a pet salamander might go down well. Wink

I would have to agree with this point, maybe even an Axolotyl?
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MrYossu View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrYossu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Sep 2011 at 7:20pm
Hee hee, I used to have two of those when I was a boy. I kept them in a big tank with two terrapins. Now that brings back happy memories!

Thanks
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kit View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Sep 2011 at 9:28pm
I must ad mit i am one of those naughty people who has keeped newts befor e but they are difficult to keep and most of mine ended up being released in my garden ill post pics of my old terresrtrial tank soon
kit
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrYossu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Sep 2011 at 1:54pm
How long did you keep them for? Ours seem to be doing well enough. They are fairly active, but not enough that makes me think they're too confined. They eat very well (how many newts do you know that get hand-fed?), so aren't starving!

We've had ours for about six months. Caught them in the spring.
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