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Best Beginner Pet Salamanders and Newts

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Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

Get advice on good salamander and newt options for first-time owners.

Get advice on good salamander and newt options for first-time owners.

Choosing a Pet Salamander or Newt

Salamanders and newts are the most popular pets in the world. They are also a very interesting pet. These guys typically do best with high humidity and both land and water enclosures (except for the axolotl, which is solely aquatic), or at least a large water bowl.

However, because these species aren't as popular as other species, not everyone knows how to care for them. So, before getting a salamander or newt, make sure to do the proper research. You want your new pet to live its full estimated life span, which can be at least 15 years or more with proper care.

Just remember that if you've never had a pet amphibian, you don't want to go out and buy the rarest one. Start off simple, even if you have experience with other reptiles or pets. Salamanders and snakes just aren't cared for in the same way.

Good Options for First-Time Owners of Newts and Salamanders

When choosing a pet salamander or newt, check out the following beginner amphibians.

  • Axolotl
  • Tiger Salamander
  • Fire Belly Newt
  • Eastern Newt


Axolotl (Mexican Salamander)

The Ambystoma mexicanum is one of the few species of salamanders that is found in the pet market. Because these salamanders are a hardy and heavily-bodied animal, they are pretty fun to watch in a home aquarium. This species is native to the cool-water lakes in southeast Mexico City, but they can also be found in large numbers in central Mexico.

Size and Life Span

This salamander will range from about 7 to 9 inches in length, and it can live up to 20 years in captivity.


When setting up an aquarium for this salamander species, you want to use at least a 10-gallon tank for one adult, although larger is always better. Keep the water temperatures around 56 to 72F to prevent internal problems and skin disease, and make sure to keep the pH around 7.2.


When it comes to feeding, axolotls will eat chopped earthworms, black worms, and other live food, such as brine shrimp and daphnia. You may find that some will eat trout chow, catfish chow, and koi pellets, but in general, they prefer live food. In some cases, if you're housing multiple axolotls in the same tank, you'll need to worry about larger individuals munching on their smaller cage mates; in some cases, you may have missing legs, gills, or tail tips.

Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamander

Tiger Salamander

The Ambystoma tigrinum, is a common pet salamander in the pet trade. They are attractive and appealing, as well as fairly easy to care for. In most cases, you will find the Eastern tiger salamander available, but there are several species that are native to various parts of the United States.

Size and Life Span

This species is a larger salamander that generally ranges up to 13 in length. They have an average lifespan of about 25 years or more with proper care and treatment.


Depending on what stage you get a tiger salamander, you may need to set up a semi-aquatic tank. The larval stage is entire aquatic, whereas as the salamander ages and grows gills, they will emerge from the water and will require a larger land area with a small water area, which you can accomplish by a large, shallow water dish.

When housing an adult, you want at least a 20 gallon long tank, and you want the enclosure to stay around 65 to 70F. Just make sure to keep it below 72F. You want to add plenty of bark, rocks, plants, and hides, but don't expect to leave anything permanent, as you'll have to clean the enclosure regularly, as this species is known to produce a lot of waste.


This species of salamander is a great feeder. Feed larva aquatic invertebrates, such as Daphnia, brine shrimp, insects, small fish, and worms. Feed adults crickets, earthworms, and other various insects.


These salamanders can be quite docile, but they have very sensitive skin, so it's best that you keep handling to a minimum.

Fire Belly Newt

Fire Belly Newt

Fire Belly Newt

The Cynops pyrrhogaster is a pretty newt that is actually one of the larger species of newt, ranging up to about 5 inches long as an adult. These guys are native to Japan, being found in quiet ponds, swamps, and slow-moving streams.

Life Span

This species of newts will live well over 20 years with proper captive care.


When setting up an enclosure for an adult fire belly newt, you want to have at least a 20 gallon long aquarium because you'll need to create a semi-aquatic enclosure. You'll need to create a sloping edge in and out of the water so that the newt doesn't have to struggle to get into the water or back onto the land.

You'll need to make sure to use a good filtration unit for the water area of the enclosure, and make sure to dechlorinate the water ever 1-2 weeks, making partial water changes at that time. Keep the temperatures below 75F. They generally do fine with room temperatures or temperatures around 68-70F, anything over 75F will stress out this species.


This species of newt will feed on frozen or live blood worms, chopped earthworms, brine shrimp, glass shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried tubifex cubes, and sometimes small guppies. You may also find that some newts will even eat the floating amphibian pellets, such as Repto-Min.


It's not ideal to handle these newts, as can secrete a toxic residue that can mildly to severely irritate your skin, eyes, and nose.

Eastern Newt

Eastern Newt

Eastern Newt

The Notophthalmus viridescens is a popular species of newt, as it is brightly colored. The species is native to a wide range, including southward from southern Quebec to southern Florida and southeastern Texas. Different subspecies will be found in different locations.

  • The red-spotted newt ranges southward from Quebec to central Georgia.
  • The central newt ranges from southern Ontario to northern Florida and central South Carolina.
  • The broken-striped newt ranges from southeastern North Carolina and northwestern South Carolina.
  • The peninsula newt is found in the southern 4/5 of the Florida Peninsula.

Size and Life Span

This newt ranges to about 3 inches as an adult but there are some that can reach up to 5 inches, so it's a slightly small species, but it can live up to 20 years in captivity with proper care.


You can house up to three eastern newts in a 10 gallon aquarium, but remember the larger the better. You can leave the enclosure unheated, as this species is able to thrive in cooler temperatures, but they thrive in the mid 70sF.

You want to create a swimming area, as well as a nice, muddy land area. Some people will just use large water bowls, and a mostly land area to the enclosure, whereas others may set up semi-aquatic enclosures with about 75% land and 25% water.


This species will eat frog eggs, tadpoles, earthworms, small guppies, snails, slugs, craw fish, other small fish, crickets, and even dried flies.


You do not want to handle these newts, as the can secrete toxins that will irritate the skin, eyes, and nose.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 Whitney


Cloudiiskies21 (on roblox) on September 01, 2020:

I really love salamanders, I’m planning on getting one in a few years :3

Mati Hug on August 04, 2020:

I am thinking of getting an eastern newt and was wondering if you could have 3 different subspecies of eastern newt in the same enclosure or would it be better to buy the same type?

Billy Bob Joe on June 30, 2020:

I got a smallmouth salamander

Sally the salamander on June 06, 2020:

I recently adopted a spotted salamander that wont eat anything. Im scared she will starve herself to death. Do they do that? Or when she gets hungry will she eat? I give her live food because she is wild caught.

OH GOD NO ROBERT! on May 03, 2020:

Under no circumstances release pets into your local environment.

This is how many invasive species are introduced. They can wreak havoc on the environment and biodiversity, threatening native species.

Please, don't.

SeattleMike on January 30, 2020:

What a great informative website! I especially appreciated the details about environmental needs and suggeted aquarium sizes. Thanks for taking the time to share such helpful information.

Might you have any recommendations for responsible online sellers for the pets themselves? I haven't had any luck finding sellers locally in et stores, etc. I want to be sure I'm dealing with someone that sources from animals bred in captivity though. I know how devastating wild capture for the pet industry has been to other species, and don't want to assist in destroying an animal I find so amazing.

Hi on December 14, 2019:

are chinese fire bellied newts good pets for children beginners?

I love newts / salamanders on July 22, 2019:

I really liked how you told us about them and I think it's good that your doing this but I wish you could do more than 2 newts

Froggy on May 20, 2019:

Newts 1 Pledges 0

Damon on May 08, 2019:

This the best website

Tom RadCazz on October 16, 2018:

There was college frat house nearby me. One of the pledges had to swallow Eastern Red Spotted Newts in water! He later died from the toxins found in the newts' skin. My understanding when it comes to almost any animal found in nature is this: Any vibrant skin coloring (red, yellow green) is a warning - "I'm not good to eat! Stay away!"

I don't handle my salamanders/newts. I carefully use a net when cleaning their habitat/home. Likewise, our own skin secretions/oils can just as easily make the animal very sick as well!

ben on September 26, 2018:

really like the comment about liking newts

newt fan#26 on August 30, 2018:

I like newts.

Oof on August 18, 2018:

Do fire belly newts swim alot? Or do they just stay under water and come up to breath or go to land? What do they eat? Do they eat fish? If so then what fish can they eat?(fish that give no bactaria, virusus, and have nutrition,) can you pick them up safley? Do thwy bit?

person on December 13, 2017:

you know where we are we get the eastern newt and they are very common where we are almost more common than insects

Mystery on September 24, 2017:

Where do you get a salamader

YoungHerps on August 22, 2017:

i want a Red Spotted newt but they are a lot of money so where should i get one from?

John suarez on June 29, 2017:

Hi i cant find much info on salamanders i have some orange and black california newts, semi aquatic im trying to find out if i can put them in a tank with fully aquatic salamanders or would they fight the ones i have are the most peaceful things ive ever seen.

Ruby Miles on March 28, 2017:

What to feed a wild caught newt?

Random on January 10, 2017:

Hey,i be heard that you only need a ten gallon tank for a tiger salamander,I don't know if this is wrong or right.if not,would it be okay if I used two serperate tanks,one mostly filled with water,the other filled with mostly land?(all together being over 20 gallons)

k on January 04, 2017:

cool FAQ

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 29, 2016:

They are neither poisonous nor toxic to humans.

emma blue on December 22, 2016:

the eastern newt is poisonous why would it make a good pet!

Zaton-Taran from California on November 27, 2012:

Fantastic hub on salamanders and other reptile critters. All I would need to do is come here once I'm ready to set up a vivarium for my nephews. Excellent!

raisingme from Fraser Valley, British Columbia on August 06, 2010:

My daughter had a fire belly newt and she adored it - never figured out how someone could love a newt but she did. Great pet for a child.

belliott on August 06, 2010:

Interesting info that I will pass on to my daughter. Sounds like something my grandson would be interested in. Great information.