The fire belly newt is a 3.5-5” long, semi-aquatic, nocturnal amphibian. They are native to the islands of Japan, and can be found in just about any body of still, clear water.
The fire belly newt has a large head, robust body, non-webbed feet, a flat tapered tail, and an arched back. Their coloring and pattern looks slightly different depending on its locality, but generally speaking, they have a black-brown dorsum and a red to orange ventral surface with a dark pattern.
Fire belly newts are fairly straightforward to care for, and are considered beginner-level amphibians. When cared for well, they can live up to 45 years.
Minimum aquarium size for fire belly newts
The absolute minimum enclosure size for a group of up to four fire belly newts is 30”L x 12”W x 12”H (20 gallons). Of course, larger is always better if you can provide it! Larger enclosures give you more room to decorate and provides extra space for the newts to exercise and explore.
Do fire belly newts need UVB?
We recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting as part of any fire belly 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.
The best UVB bulb for fire belly 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!
If you want to cultivate live plants in your newt’s aquarium, you will also need a 6500K fluorescent or LED grow light to nourish them.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for fire belly 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 60-73°F.
If your room is consistently warmer than that range, you can keep your newt’s tank cool by maintaining a cool room temperature via air conditioner, or you can use a water chiller. Use an aquarium thermometer to keep tabs on your aquarium temps.
Water management for fire belly newts
Dirty water will make your newt sick. To keep the water clean, use a low-flow aquarium filter. Also perform 20-30% water changes every week to further maintain 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 newt’s habitat.
Scrub any algae buildup off the glass with a magnetic glass scrubber.
Best substrate for fire belly newts
Although substrate isn’t necessary to a fire belly newt aquarium, it’s good for making the enclosure more attractive. However, because ingestion is a potential hazard, the best substrate for fire belly newts is going to be fine-particled, clean sand, like Exo Terra Riverbed Sand or fluorite sand. Use a siphon regularly to keep the substrate clean.
How to decorate a fire belly newt aquarium
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.
Most important is the haul-out area. Since fire belly newts are semi-aquatic, that means they need a land area where they can climb out of the water. This can be done with a turtle basking platform or by building an artificial shoreline. The land area should be roughly 30% of the tank’s total footprint.
Other décor options for fire belly 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 a fire belly newt
Fire belly newts are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Offer 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 fire belly newts:
- Brine shrimp
- Earthworms (chopped)
- Ghost shrimp
- 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.
Can you handle your fire belly newt?
Don’t. Amphibians generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and 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!