Chinese Fire Belly Newts
The 2 species found in New Zealand are the Japanese (Cynops pyrrhogaster) and the Chinese fire-bellied newt (Cynops orientalis).
Fire bellied newts are usually dark brown to black on top with red or orange undersides, hence the name fire-bellied. The Japanese species is larger than the Chinese species and tends to have a red speckled belly, rough skin, and grows to about 9-12 cm, whereas Chinese newts have smooth skin and a speckled orange or yellow underside and grow to 6-10 cm. Both types can live up to 30 years with good care but average at about 10-15 years in captivity.
In the wild fire-bellied newts live in slow moving streams and rivers but also venture into ponds, lakes and ditches. They are largely aquatic, so spend the majority of their time in cool, still waters.
An aquarium or glass terrarium will be needed to house your fire-bellied newts and as they are good escape artists care should be taken to ensure your tank has a tight fitting lid.
Fire-bellied newts are semi-aquatic and need a 70/30 split within their tank, with 30% being land based, while the other being a water area. Alternatively, you could have a fully aquatic set-up, with floating islands of cork bark or large rocks protruding out of the water to give your newts a place to rest and bask.
A rocky slope may be all that is necessary for the land area of your terrarium, but if you would like to divide your tank with a glass panel, then you can fill the land side with a burrowing substrate like sandy top soil or potting mix (without fertilisers), orchid bark chips, sphagnum moss or peat. Logs, live mosses and a selection of bog plants can be added to create a natural environment.
Gravel is a good under water substrate for the water side of your tank, which can also be decorated with aquatic plants.
Most of the terrarium should be dedicated to providing adequate water for your newts with the water at a depth of approximately 25cm. A small sponge filter or airstone is adequate to stop the water becoming stagnant.
Like most amphibians, newts are sensitive to various chemicals, as they can absorb them through their skin. They cannot handle water with chlorine and chloramines in it so letting tap water stand for a few days before using in their tanks helps.
It is necessary to ensure the humidity is kept up with regular misting with de-chlorinated water from a spray bottle but care should be taken to ensure that this soil area does not become water logged.
The ideal temperature for your fire-bellied newt is around 17-21°C. Never use heat lamps or basking lamps for amphibians, as these can cause them to dehydrate.
The terrarium should be kept out of direct sunlight, but with a 12 hours light to 12 hours dark cycle. Natural sunlight should suffice during the summer months, but a bulb may be required to keep this cycle during the winter. Newts do not need additional UV, so a normal energy saving light bulb should be fine at 6500k minimum, although you may find that any live plants in your terrarium may need a fluorescent UVB tube as it won’t give out any heat and will help the plants thrive.
Fire-bellied newts should be fed 2-3 times a week with a varied diet of appropriately sized prey items. Bloodworms, earthworms, maggots, white worms, etc. are suitable prey items for adult fire-bellied newts whereas young can be fed wingless fruit flies or white worms. Pre-morphed larvae are entirely aquatic and do well on mosquito wrigglers, daphnia and Artemia nauplii (brine shrimp).
Fire-bellied newts have delicate skin and like most amphibians can absorb chemicals that may be on your hands, such as washing up liquid, soap residue, hand cream, etc. so handling is not recommended, but if it is it is necessary wear gloves. This will protect both you and your newts as they can secrete a toxin from the poison glands on the side of their heads that can be an irritant to your skin.