Fire Bellied Newt Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Dec. 20, 2023
Fire bellied newt

In This Article

Species Overview

Fire Bellied Newt Species Overview

Newts are a subfamily of salamanders that mainly live in water. Despite their appearance, newts are amphibians, not reptiles. However, like reptiles, amphibians are ectothermic (or “cold-blooded”) animals that rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. 

Fire bellied newts are native to China and Japan, where they live in or around bodies of water. These newts enjoy swimming in slow-moving water with gentle currents. 

They have a vibrant, red-orange pattern on their bellies, which gives them their name. 

Females average 4 to 5” in length, and males average 3 to 4” in length. 

When newts dive, they breathe in oxygen and hold their breath. 

Fire Bellied Newt Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan 

Up to 15–25 years with proper care, depending on species 

Average Adult Size 

3–5 inches long



Minimum Habitat Size 

15-gallon tank for one adult 


Fire Bellied Newt Handling

Amphibians should only be handled when necessary. Human skin has bacteria and oils that amphibians can absorb through their skin, leading to irritation and illness. 

Note: If a newt must be handled, they should only be touched by gloved hands (wearing disposable, non-powdered gloves) moistened with dechlorinated water. 

Fire Bellied Newt Supply Checklist

To keep a fire bellied newt happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

Fire Bellied Newt Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

The minimum recommended habitat size for a newt varies, depending on species and the number of animals in the enclosure: 

  • A newt needs at least a 15-gallon glass tank. Newts need a semi-aquatic habitat with access to water and a dry area. 

  • If choosing to house two newts, you’ll need at least a 20-gallon tank. 

All habitats should be well-ventilated and secured with a screened lid to prevent the animal from escaping. They should also be longer than they are tall to give amphibians enough room to explore.   

With proper care, newts reach their adult size within a year. Always provide the largest habitat possible. Be sure to increase the enclosure’s size as the animal grows. 

Habitat Mates 

Several newts can be housed together in the same habitat if the enclosure is large enough and the animals are not territorial.  

Newts must be monitored for aggressive behavior. If two animals fight, separate them. Never keep different species of amphibians in the same habitat (i.e., do not keep tiger salamanders in the same habitat as fire bellied newts). 

Temperature and Heat 

Fire bellied newts need a tank temperature from 60 F to 75 F. Do not allow the enclosure’s temperature to go above 78 F—higher temperatures can lead to stress and illness.  

Most newts will not need a supplemental heat source if the habitat’s temperature is kept above 60 F. Keep the habitat out of direct sunlight, which can cause temperature fluctuations and encourage algae growth. 

Use a thermometer to monitor the habitat’s temperature. In semi-aquatic habitats, both an air thermometer and a submersible aquatic thermometer are needed. 


Newts should get 10–12 hours of light exposure daily with the help of a low-watt incandescent bulb. This will imitate natural sunlight and help the animal establish a day/night cycle. Make sure that the bulb does not produce a lot of heat and raise the habitat’s temperature outside of the ideal range (60–75 F). 

Some light bulbs provide not only light to the tank but also heat and/or ultraviolet (UV) light. Pet parents should check the light sources to be clear of their function in the tank. 

Remember: Newts must have access to lots of hiding places so they can escape the light or heat when needed. 

UV Light 

Pet newts need exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light to produce vitamin D in their skin so they can absorb dietary calcium, which is essential to bone health. Without adequate UV exposure, they can develop metabolic bone disease. 

Pet parents should use a low-level (2.0 or 5.0) UVB bulb to provide their newt with 10 to 12 hours of UVB light daily. 

Avoid bulbs that emit higher levels of UVB light; they can damage amphibians' eyes and skin. 

Replace bulbs every six months (even if they still emit light) as their potency wanes over time. 

A day/night timer can make it easier to maintain a consistent day and night cycle. 


Humidity levels should be maintained at 70% and monitored with a hygrometer (humidity gauge). To maintain humidity levels, pet parents should mist the habitat’s substrate with dechlorinated water every day. The substrate should be moist but not soggy. If the substrate becomes too wet, increase ventilation in the habitat. 

At all times, newts should have a shallow bowl of dechlorinated water in their habitat that’s wide enough for them to soak in. Water bowls should be cleaned, disinfected, and refilled daily. 

Substrate and Tank Set-Up 

Newts need a semi-aquatic terrarium with access to water and a dry area. 

To create a semi-aquatic terrarium, pet parents can: 

  • Bury a bowl of water in the habitat’s substrate.

  • Add gravel that’s too large for the newt to swallow to one end of the habitat. The gravel should be sloped at an angle so that the newt can easily enter and exit the water as needed. 

  • Provide a platform that newts can use to exit the water. Store-bought decor, cork bark, or driftwood can all be used as platforms. 

  • Water Depth: The water in the habitat should be at least 1.5 times as deep as the body length of the longest newt. 

  • Filtration: Use proper filtration to keep the water as clean as possible. Look for a filter that provides slow to moderate water circulation. Newts can't swim well in turbulent water, so water movement in the tank shouldn't be too fast. 

  • Water Parameters: Newts need stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and temperatures to stay happy and healthy. An aquarium test kit can be used to measure key water parameters quickly and accurately. 
  • Substrate: Large, smooth pieces of gravel or slate can be used as substrate in the water. Make sure the substrate material is too large for newts to swallow. 

Newts need a substrate that holds moisture well on the dry end of their tank. Dampened sphagnum moss or a mulch-like substrate, like coconut husk fiber or cypress mulch, are all suitable choices. The dry substrate can be decorated with live or artificial plants.  

Avoid gravel or small pieces of bark that are small enough to be swallowed by a newt, because they can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction if ingested. Reptile carpet and other artificial turf should also be avoided, as they’re too abrasive for newts’ skin. 

Decor and Accessories 

Newts enjoy exploring and climbing on live or artificial plants, driftwood, or artificial stones purchased from a store. Real stones should not be used because they could topple over and severely injure a delicate newt. 

Pet Newt Cleaning and Maintenance

If the habitat has a bowl of water buried in the substrate, the bowl should be removed daily and scrubbed thoroughly with an amphibian-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. Replace the water (dechlorinated and at the proper temperature for the particular newt species) before returning it to the habitat. 

If the habitat is filled with water and has rocks or decor as dry land, change 10–25% of the total volume of water every two to four weeks (or more often if needed). Change the filter media every month. 

Only use water that’s been dechlorinated with a water conditioner. 

Fire Bellied Newt Diet and Nutrition

Newts should be offered a variety of gut-loaded insects and worms as a base diet. These amphibians can also be fed live or frozen/thawed bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms, plus supplemental amounts of dry food formulated for newts.  

Feeding Guidelines 

  • Juvenile newts need to be fed daily, and adult newts need to be fed every other day. 

  • Remove all uneaten food from semi-aquatic tanks within 10–15 minutes after feeding. If left in the tank, the food will degrade the water quality and promote health issues. 

A well-balanced and nutritious diet for a newt consists of a base diet of gut-loaded (recently fed) insects and worms, including:

  • Crickets

  • Earthworms

  • Beetles

  • Roaches

  • Superworms

  • Waxworms

  • Silkworms

  • Hornworms

  • Phoenix worms

  • White worms

Feed a variety of insects rather than the same ones every day. As with humans, feeding amphibians the same food every day can cause malnutrition. 

Avoid feeding mealworms, as they have a hard exoskeleton that’s difficult to digest. 

For small newts, chop worms into bite-sized pieces. 

Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms (frozen/thawed or live) may be offered in the water.  

Commercially available dry food formulated for newts should also be used. This dry food should only be used to supplement a newt/salamander’s diet. 

Clean, dechlorinated water should always be available and replaced daily. Food and water dishes should be cleaned and disinfected daily. 

Since newts absorb water through their skin to stay hydrated, their water dishes should be large and shallow enough to allow them to soak in them.  

Do not use distilled water, which doesn’t include any of the vitamins, salts, or minerals that amphibians need to stay hydrated. 

Newt Supplements 

Before feeding, pet parents should dust their newt’s insects with a powdered vitamin supplement. Newts need a calcium supplement with vitamin D and a multivitamin/mineral powder designed for amphibians. 

To dust insects, place them in a bag or disposable plastic container along with a powdered supplement. Then, shake the bag lightly until the insects are coated evenly in powder. 

How to Gut-load Insects 

Gut-loaded diets are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help provide optimal nutrition to the amphibians that feed on them. To gut-load prey, pet parents need to place insects in a container with a gut-loading diet that the bugs can gorge on. Insects should be gut-loaded for at least 24–72 hours before being dusted with a vitamin supplement and fed to a newt. 

Newt Grooming and Care

For semi-aquatic habitats, be sure to take care of the water inside the tank to keep amphibians happy and healthy: 

  • Maintain good water quality through frequent water changes and proper filtration.  

  • Once daily, check the habitat’s filter, water temperature, and other equipment to ensure everything is working properly. 

  • Once a week, test the water’s parameters with the help of an aquarium test kit

  • Once every two to four weeks, change 10–25% of the tank’s total volume of water. 

  • Do not overcrowd the habitat, as this will lead to disease and stress in amphibians. 


Pet newts should only be handled when necessary. Pet parents should always use powder-free latex gloves moistened with dechlorinated water when handling an amphibian. Human skin has bacteria and oils that amphibians can absorb through their sensitive and porous skin, leading to infection and illness. 

All amphibians have glands in their skin that can secrete toxins. Never let a newt’s secretions contact your eyes, mouth, or open wounds. 

A fine-mesh net can be used to move or block amphibians during routine habitat maintenance. 

Fire Bellied Newt Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Newts should be seen by a veterinarian once annually. They can be transported using an appropriately sized Tupperware® container with airholes and a moistened surface such as wet papers towels on the bottom. It is recommended to take pictures of their enclosure, diet, heaters, lights (including exact specifications from the packaging), so your veterinarian can assess their care as part of the exam.

Signs of a Healthy Newt

  • Clean, clear eyes

  • Intact skin with no ulcerations or stuck shed

  • Clean, clear nostrils

  • Good appetite and willingness to hunt

  • Bright, alert personality

  • Clean vent

  • No swellings or bumps

  • Appropriate basking behavior (newts)

  • Good body condition score/weight

When to Call a Vet

  • Eyes are swollen, sunken, stuck shut, or have discharge

  • Pink ulcerations or other lesions are seen on the skin, especially the nose

  • Refusing food

  • Failing to bask (newts)

  • Lethargy

  • Discharge around vent

  • Lumps or bumps

  • Cannot ambulate or posture appropriately

  • Belly appears sunken

  • Shed is stuck, especially around the toes, particularly if any are swollen

Common Illnesses in Newts

  • Metabolic bone disease

  • Hypovitaminosis A

  • Gas bubble disease

  • Dysecdysis—stuck shed, especially on the toes

  • Intestinal parasites

  • Skin Infections

  • Trauma

Newt FAQs

Can a newt be a pet?

Yes they can! They’re especially great pets for people who do not have the time to commit to a more hands-on pet.

Is it OK to touch a newt?

Touch a newt as little as possible, preferably with medical gloves when you do. They don’t particularly enjoy being handled, you can harm them if your hands aren’t perfectly clean, and many species can be poisonous and aren’t safe to touch with bare hands.

Featured Image: Wirestock/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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