Oriental Fire-belly Newt
Japanese Fire-belly Newt
Chinese Fire-belly Newt
There are many species of newts commonly referred to as fire-bellies, but only a few of them are regularly available in the pet industry. The two most commonly sold as such are the Chinese or Oriental fire-belly newt, Cynops orientalis; and the Japanese fire-belly newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster. Chinese fire-belly newts are small (2 to 4 inches/5-10 centimeters) black or dark brown newts, with bright orange aposematic coloration on the ventral side. Japanese fire-bellied newts are also black or dark brown and exhibit the bright orange aposematic coloration on their ventral side characteristic of fire-bellies, but are larger (3.5-5 inches/8.5-12.5 centimeters) have more granular skin and more squared tails than their Chinese relatives. Several internet sources suggest that both of these species can live many decades (up to 60 years!), but we know of no authenticated life spans of more than 25 years.
Chinese fire-bellied newts are found, not surprisingly, in China. More specifically, they are found in eastern China at the lower region of the Yangtze River in the provinces of Anhui, Fujian, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang. They are locally common and within this range they are found in stagnant water in ditches, rice fields, ponds and other standing waters. They most often inhabit areas with muddy substrates and dense aquatic foliage. They are found in from about 1000-3200 feet (300-975 meters) above sea level.
Japanese fire-bellied newts are found, also not surprisingly, in Japan; They are found on the islands of Hondo, Shikoku and Kyushu, as well as some of the smaller outlying islands. They are also locally common and can be found in streams, ponds, reservoirs and virtually anywhere where there is clear, stagnant water with heavy plant growth. They can be found up to elevations of 5,000 feet (1520 meters).
Both of these species of newts thrive in a heavily planted, cool, primarily aquatic environment. An land area, floating buoy, driftwood or emergent vegetation should be provided to allow the newts to periodically leave the water. A 10-gallon (38 liter) aquarium is large enough for half a dozen to a dozen animals provided that gentle and consistent filtration is provided. They do not like temperatures in excess of 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with an optimum range being between 60-70 degrees. If possible, a seasonal drop in temperature of 10-15 degrees will help to approximate natural conditions. Newts can climb glass relatively easily so a covered enclosure is a must. UV lighting can benefit both the newts and the aquatic plants, but care should be taken to provide adequate shelter from the light. Submersible aquarium decor, logs or pieces of PVC piping or couplings can be used. Substrate can be bare or large-pebbled gravel. Avoid smaller gravel as it can be inadvertently ingested.
In spite of their docile appearance, fire-belly newts are aggressive and ravenous eaters. In their native habitat they eat large quantities of aquatic invertebrates and small terrestrial insects. This diet can easily be replicated in the captive environment with live or frozen bloodworms and tubifex worms, glassworms, red worms, chopped-up nightcrawlers, mosquito larvae, ghost shrimp, and small (also known as pinhead—1 to 2 week old) crickets. Many will also eat commercially available newt pellets. They have also been known to eat small fish such as baby guppies or mosquito fish, but they are usually not particularly adept at catching them.
Fire-bellied newts are often found in large groups, but can also be somewhat aggressive, although this seems highly individualized. Some large groups live in harmony while others seem to have “bullies”. Plan to provide about a gallon of water per newt. Water vegetation and/or driftwood is/are also very important as it provides the newts with both security and perching areas. Given these provisions coupled with clean, cool water, and a regular food supply, they are very trouble free and long-lived animals.