The Eastern newt (Notophthalamus viridescens) is a 3.5-5” long, semi-aquatic amphibian. They are native to southeast Canada and the eastern United States, found in muddy, forested habitats with consistent access to water.
Eastern newts look different depending on their stage of life. As “red eft” juveniles, they are orange with a pattern of dark rings, and look very much like small salamanders. As adults, however, their tail flattens into a vertical fin and their color shifts to tan or green-brown with black and orange spots. A stripe through the middle of the eye gives the impression of a horizontal pupil.
Eastern newts are fairly straightforward to care for, but they’re sensitive to heat, don’t tolerate regular handling, and secrete toxin. This makes them intermediate-level pet amphibians. However, when cared for well, they can live 15+ years.
Even if Eastern newts are native to your area, never bring home a wild animal as a pet.
Minimum enclosure size for Eastern newts
The absolute minimum enclosure size for a group of one to three Eastern newts is 20”L x 10”W x 10”H (10 gallons). Of course, larger is always better if you can provide it! Larger enclosures give you more room to decorate it and provides extra space for the newts to exercise and explore.
Do Eastern newts need UVB?
We recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting as part of any Eastern newt setup. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and provides other benefits. Plus, it’s quite likely that they are regularly exposed to sunlight in the wild, as adult Eastern newts are known to be active during the day.
The best UVB bulb for Eastern newts in a tank up to 18” tall is the 26w Zoo Med Compact Fluorescent Reptisun 5.0. For best results, house the bulb in a horizontal fixture such as Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Hood, placed on top of a screen lid. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the tank in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your enclosure too hot due to the greenhouse effect!
Lights should be on for 14.5 hours/day during summer and 9.5 hours/day during winter to help promote healthy hormonal rhythms. Make sure to replace the UVB bulb every 6 months to maintain optimum output.
Best temperature for Eastern newts
Like other amphibians, newts are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. These creatures prefer cool environments and heat stress easily, so they do best with water temps between 60-70°F and air temps between 65-70°F.
Best humidity levels for Eastern newts
As efts, Eastern newts are primarily terrestrial, so if you are caring for a red eft, you will need to pay attention to the humidity levels in the terrarium. Aim for average air humidity around 80% during the day, maintained by misting with a spray bottle 1-2x/daily. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Water maintenance for Eastern newts
Adult Eastern newts are primarily aquatic. If the water that they are swimming in is dirty, then they are likely to get sick. You can completely replace the water every week, but it’s easier to use a high-quality aquarium filter.
In addition to the filter, you will need to perform 20-30% water changes every week to further maintain good water quality. Any water added to the aquarium should be treated with dechlorinator like Zoo Med Reptisafe to prevent harmful chemicals from being introduced to your pet’s habitat.
Scrub any algae buildup off the glass with a magnetic glass scrubber.
Best substrate for Eastern newts
In a red eft terrarium, providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels. We recommend the following substrates for red efts, replaced monthly:
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Sphagnum moss
Substrate is optional in an adult Eastern newt aquarium, but it does do a lot for making the enclosure attractive. If you want substrate, aquarium gravel, fluorite, and Exo Terra Riverbed Sand generally work well. This should be cleaned with a siphon at every water change.
How to decorate an Eastern newt enclosure
A bare-bones enclosure makes for a bored newt, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
Décor options for Eastern newts include:
- mopani wood
- cork flats/rounds
- large rocks
- live or artificial plants
- pre-made hides/caves
- artificial ornaments
Make sure your newt has access to covered areas for when it wants privacy.
What to feed to an Eastern newts
Eastern newts are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Over food every other day, as much food as they will eat within ~10 minutes. Clean up any excess at the end to help maintain good water quality.
Food options for Eastern newts:
- Brine shrimp
- Earthworms (chopped)
- Tubifex worms
- Salamander pellets
Regularly offer appropriate commercial diets like Omega One Newt & Salamander Pellets and Hikari Sinking Carnivore Pellets as part of the rotation. This helps ensure that your newt gets enough vitamins and minerals.
Although red efts are terrestrial during this phase of their lives, they still need access to a shallow bowl of drinking water. Always keep the water clean, and scrub the bowl out with animal-safe disinfectant once a week. The new water must be treated with dechlorinator before replacing.
How to handle your Eastern newt
Don’t. Amphibians generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and Eastern newts in particular are a hands-off pet. If you have to remove the newt from its enclosure for some reason, be gentle and use a fish net to coax it into a temporary container.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!
"Notophthalmus viridescens: Eastern Newt" by Todd W Pierson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0