Best Beginner Pet Salamanders and Newts

Choosing a Salamander or Newt

Salamanders and newts are the most popular pet in the world, but they are an 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. 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 lifespan, 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 most rare one. Start off simple, even if you have experience with other reptiles or pets. Salamanders and snakes just aren't cared for the same way.

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


R.D. Bartlett
R.D. Bartlett


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.

This salamander will range from about 7 to 9 inches in length, and 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

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.

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 adutls 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

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.

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

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.

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.

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Comments 3 comments

zaton profile image

zaton 3 years ago from California

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 profile image

raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

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 profile image

belliott 6 years ago

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

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