Japanese Fire-bellied Newt
The coloration and markings of these popular Japanese newts are very
variable. Although it is said there are six different races, it is
difficult to distinguish between them with any certainty. Their
upperparts can range from dark brown to black, while their underparts
are often fiery red, with variable black patterning here. Sometimes,
this reddish coloration may be more orange in some cases. They grow to a
length of about 12.5cm (5in) overall.
Japanese fire-bellied newts (Cynops pyrrhogaster) are easy
to look after, thriving in an unheated, covered aquarium at room
temperature. Their quarters should incorporate a large area of water
full of aquatic plants, separated from dry land with a damp mossy floor
where there are plenty of hiding places present.
Although such tanks are not readily available, you can partition a
tank with a suitable barrier being stuck in place using a special
aquarium sealant. Do not be tempted to use an ordinary d.i.y. sealant
for this purpose, because this could contain harmful chemicals. Be sure
the newts can move easily in and out of the water, and they cannot
injure their delicate skin on the top of the barrier.
A floor covering of gravel, above an undergravel filter, will add to
the attractiveness of the aqua-terrarium. This can be augmented with a
small power filter, taking care not to create turbulent water. A
fluorescent light, which will not emit significant heat and mimics
daylight should help to encourage plant growth if left on for up to 10
hours per day. When ever adding fresh water, always treat it with a
water conditioner to remove chlorine and similar compounds.
These attractive newts can be bred quite easily in aquarium
surroundings. Lowering the temperature in their quarters for a couple of
months over the winter, when they often come on to land, will stimulate
breeding activity in the spring. This is the time they can be sexed
most easily, as the female swells with eggs. The males, with enlarged
cloacas at the base of the tail, will then fan their tails as part of
The female newt diligently lays each of her eggs separately on the
underside of water plants such as Canadian pondweed (Elodea
canadensis), folding the leaves over to conceal their presence. She
may produce as many as 200 eggs during this period.
It is safest to hatch these in a separate aquarium, with the tadpoles
emerging about three weeks later. Tiny water creatures will serve as a
first food, being augmented with powdered flake food sold for fish. This
is easily prepared by rolling it through your fingers. The young newts
will emerge on to land about 3-5 months later, with damp sphagnum moss being an ideal substrate for them. Ensure they can move easily between the land and water area of their enclosure. They will hunt small
invertebrates such as pinhead crickets, whiteworms, aphids and the small
form of the waxworm at first.
These newts start to become mature around 2 years old, and will then
spend much more of their time in the water. They may
live for over a decade, and adults can be fed easily on items such as
Tetra Fin Gold Colour food, which is actually a pelleted goldfish food.
This is more readily obtainable than special amphibian pellets and yet also helps to
maintain the vivid fiery coloration of their underparts. They need
feeding every two or three days.
Simply tip about 10 of these small pellets on the surface for a pair,
adjusting the amount of food offered to ensure none is wasted, to
prevent it from polluting the water. If you use amphibian pellets,
choose the right size, based on that of your newts, and if doubt, buy
the smaller size. These foods can be supplemented with Tetra Fresh
Bloodworms, which come in a vitamin enriched jelly, although you can
also offer fresh bloodworms if these are available. Adults need to be
fed two or three times a week, rather than daily like young newts.