In January 1998 I found one red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in a local aquarium shop. They are not as common in Finland as firebellies are, and finding a shop with them is very difficult. This cute little fellow was the only one left, so it took about 5 seconds for me to make the decision whether to buy it or not. Firebellies were not hostile towards the newcomer, and they seem to get along very well. Today I only have firebellies.
The newts live in a 100 l (~25 gal) tank. Actually, the tank has only about 60 litres of water in it, since there is a kind of a shelf in about the middle of the tank with some gravel on it, providing the newts with a possibility to spend some time on land too. This usually happens when it's dark, and the newts spend their days mostly in water. There are some plastic water plants and other stuff to make the newts feel at home, and offering them places to hide.
Note that even if firebellies and eastern newts seem to have no problems in sharing the tank, that's not always the case. Mixing any newts with other species (newts or other animals) is always more or less risky, and in general, not encouraged. The newt toxins are one thing to consider. Also, the needs (temperature, water/land ratio) and the size of the two newt species must be similar, and neither should be known to be aggressive. If you're unsure, only house one kind of newts in each tank.
My newts' favourite food is frozen bloodworms, yum yum! They sell it at the aquarium shops. It's fresh food and simple to use. Sometimes I feed the newts with live bloodworms I get from a bait shop. You can also try feeding your newts with freeze-dried bloodworms or tubifex cubes, but you may have to train your newts to eat from the surface (this food floats). They tend to look for food at the bottom of the tank. If your climate permits, you can also collect small harmless insects and worms from your garden.
The hobby of the firebellies appears to be breeding. Several times I have had some tiny newts swimming in their own 'nursery'. Many people have asked me what did I do to make them breed. The answer is: nothing special. When the female began to lay eggs, I simply provided her with some plants to lay eggs on and removed the plants with eggs before hatching. Otherwise they could've been eaten up by their parents. More about helping the tadpoles to survive on my Breeding Firebelly Newts page. I've read that some people, when trying to get their newts to breed, simulate spring by slowly changing the lighting conditions of the tank. Some more difficult species may require a period of hibernation before they breed.
Most of the newts are pretty easy to take care of and they are not noisy, hairy or anything else that could cause trouble for example in this smallish apartment of mine. However, there are some basic needs that have to be filled.
More newts and creatures of the same kind
Photos © Jouni Paakkinen, Jouko Huhtala & Juha Unkuri 1999-2001. Please do not distribute.