Salamanders and newts are some of the most popular amphibian pet species in the world for several good reasons. They are generally easy to care for, have basic housing requirements, and are incredibly interesting animals. There are over 650 different species of salamanders and newts, and like almost all amphibians, they spend most, if not all, of their lives in water.
Salamanders and newts have much in common, but there are important distinctions. All newts are salamanders but not all salamanders are newts! All newts are a type of salamander, but they typically have webbed feet and paddle-like tails that are ideal for living in water. Salamanders are most adapted to living on land, with longer, rounded tails and developed toes that are evolved for efficiently digging in the soil. In general, salamanders that spend most of their time in water are referred to as newts.
Both newts and salamanders make great pets, and if you’d like to know more about these unique animals, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for eight of the best newts and salamanders to keep as pets.
Do Newts and Salamanders Make Good Pets?
While newts and salamanders make great pets from an observatory point of view, they are not partial to being handled and can be described as “hands-off pets.” They have extremely delicate skin that can easily be damaged with handling, which can cause potential infections from bacteria.
They are generally easy animals to care for but have specific requirements. Because they spend most of their time in water, they need to have clean water in their tank that is free from any pollutants, and their water temperature cannot be too warm, or it can result in a weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to infections. It’s also important to note that they are mostly nocturnal, so you’ll only see them active at night.
If you want an interactive or cuddly type of pet, these amphibians are not the ideal choices for you, unfortunately. But if you’re looking for an interesting pet to observe going about their regular routine, newts and salamanders make wonderful pets.
Top 8 Salamander & Newt Species:
|Species name:||Ambystoma mexicanum|
|Lifespan:||10 – 15 years|
|Average size:||15 – 17 inches|
The Axolotl, or Mexican Salamander, as it’s commonly known, is one of the largest salamander species, reaching lengths of up to 17 inches in adulthood. They are unique salamanders in that they retain some of their larval features into adulthood, including their gills and fins, making them one of the most sought-after amphibians as pets.
These salamanders never leave the water and live a wholly aquatic life, and as such, they require aquatic housing. They need a water depth of at least 6 inches, with large plants, substrate, and rocks that are larger than the Axolotl’s head to ensure that they are not swallowed. These amphibians are stressed by flowing water, so they need a gentle filtration system, although no lights are required.
2. California Newt
|Species name:||Taricha torosa|
|Lifespan:||Up to 20 years|
|Average size:||6 – 8 inches|
The California Newt can reach lengths of up to 8 inches in adulthood, making them a relatively large species of newt. They are commonly kept as pets, although are illegal to keep as pets in California, where they originate. They are ideal for beginners because they are easy to care for and have a distinctly non-aggressive nature, although they contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin, and it’s vital to wash hands and utensils thoroughly after coming into contact with these newts.
California newts require semi-aquatic or terrestrial housing, depending on their life stage, and in adulthood, they remain mostly terrestrial except for during mating. They are easy to house because they do not require high humidity; daily misting of their terrarium is all that’s needed.
3. Dunn’s Salamander
|Species name:||Plethodon dunni|
|Lifespan:||10 – 12 years|
|Average size:||5 – 6 inches|
Originating in Japan, the Dunn’s Salamander is slowly growing in popularity as a pet due to its hardiness and relative ease of care. They are small salamanders, reaching about 6 inches in adulthood and typically have a grey-green base color with round black spots. Some salamanders will not have any spots, however, and they may also have an iridescent blue coloration over their entire bodies.
Proper housing for these salamanders should have both aquatic and terrestrial sections, as they spend most of their time on land but often go into the water in search of food or during breeding. They are reclusive animals that spend most of their time hidden away.
4. Eastern Newt
|Species name:||Notophthalmus viridescens|
|Lifespan:||12 – 15 years|
|Average size:||4 – 5 inches|
The Eastern Newt is somewhat of a challenge to look after because they have three distinct life stages that each have different housing requirements. The larvae are aquatic, juveniles are terrestrial, and adults are primarily aquatic. There are four regional varieties of Eastern Newt that have distinctly different colors and markings, but according to DNA studies, they are not a true subspecies because they have little genetic variance.
Their housing requirements will naturally depend on which life stage they are in, but even adults will need terrestrial space with rocks or wood. Water depth is not a huge consideration because these newts have been found inhabiting both shallow and deep bodies of water, but they prefer still water.
5. Fire Belly Newt
|Species name:||Cynops pyrrhogaster|
|Lifespan:||Up to 25 years|
|Average size:||4 – 5 inches|
Originating in Japan, the Fire Belly Newt is a fairly large newt species reaching around 5 inches in adulthood. They are often confused with the similar-looking Chinese Fire Belly, but Japanese varieties are much larger and more robust and have a different skin texture.
When housing a Japanese Fire Belly, you’ll need a fairly large tank because they need semi-aquatic conditions. These newts have been observed living almost entirely aquatic lives in some areas to semi-aquatic in others, and in captivity, you’ll want to give them both options. These newts prefer thick, dense aquatic plants and prefer cooler water temperatures.
6. Fire Salamander
|Species name:||Salamandra salamandra|
|Lifespan:||6 – 14 years on average, up to 30 years in some cases|
|Average size:||6 – 12 inches|
Fire Salamanders are a fairly complex species and subspecies, with at least six different varieties available. They are large amphibians, ranging between 6-12 inches in adulthood, and they typically have a brown or glossy black coloration with lighter spots.
In their natural habitat, these salamanders have a large range, so they’ll be most comfortable in as large a tank as you can provide them. They’ll need a substrate of moss, bark, and leaf litter, and if you intend to breed them, they’ll need a small body of water too. They are largely terrestrial animals, though, and other than breeding, they will not make much use of water.
7. Marbled Salamander
|Species name:||Ambystoma opacum|
|Lifespan:||4 – 10 years|
|Average size:||4 – 5 inches|
The medium-sized yet chunky Marbled Salamander reaches up to 5 inches in adulthood but is thick-set and bulky for its size. They are typically black with white bars running horizontally down their bodies and on their heads. These salamanders spend most of their time underground in burrows, leading to their nickname, “mole salamanders.”
A deep enough substrate of loose soil is preferable for these salamanders, but of course, this will largely prevent easy viewing. Moistened paper towels can be used as a replacement, with crumpled sections to allow them shelter. They should also have rock or bark shelters when using paper to provide them a few hiding places.
8. Tiger Salamander
|Species name:||Ambystoma tigrinum|
|Lifespan:||10 – 20 years|
|Average size:||8 – 13 inches|
The Tiger Salamander is one of the most widespread and popular species kept as pets, mostly due to their beautiful, unique coloring and their easy-going nature. They are bold animals and are known to recognize their owners and may even beg for food! They can reach up to 13 inches in length in adulthood and can live up to 20 years in captivity.
Another reason for the popularity of these salamanders is their ease of care. They can be housed in a variety of different enclosures and live a terrestrial life. Organic topsoil free from chemicals or pesticides is ideal because they love to burrow, and pieces of driftwood, rocks, or bark make great hiding places. If you are new to keeping salamanders and newts, the Tiger Salamander is by far the easiest to care for and the easiest to acquire.
Featured Image Credit: Matt Jeppson, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.