Home | Amphibians | The Eastern Newt – the Many Subspecies and Hybrids of a Popular Pet – Part 2

The Eastern Newt – the Many Subspecies and Hybrids of a Popular Pet – Part 2

Quite a few subspecies of the Eastern Newt (Notopthalmus viridescens) have made their way into the pet trade.  All are hardy, interesting and possible to breed in captivity.  Please see Part 1 of this article for information on their care and feeding.  The following descriptions and habitat information should help in identifying your newt.  However, natural and captive-generated hybrids can complicate the process – please write in if you need assistance.

Eastern Newt Subspecies

The Red-Spotted Newt (Notopthalmus v. viridescens) is the widest ranging and most commonly kept of the group.  It often fits the type description one finds in pet care guides, and may be found from Canada’s Maritime Provinces west to the Great Lakes and south to central Georgia.

The Central Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis), bears tiny red spots that lack black outlines; some individuals are unspotted. It ranges from Eastern Texas to Lake Superior, and the Eft stage is generally skipped.

Along the Coastal Plain, populations may be neotenic, retaining gills and an aquatic lifestyle throughout their lives (basically reproducing as “adult larvae”, please see photo).

The Peninsula Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens piaropicola) is limited to quiet canals, ponds, and ditches in peninsular Florida.  It is much darker than most Eastern Newt subspecies, with some individuals being nearly black. The eft stage is rare and neoteny is common.  I have seen some very attractive hybrids that resulted from pairings of this animal and lighter subspecies.

The Broken-Striped Newt (Notopthalmus viridescens dorsalis) can be found only along the coastal plain in North and South Carolina.  It is unique among the eastern Newts in having a red dorso-lateral stripe that is broken in one or two places along the head and body. It usually passes through the terrestrial Eft stage (please see photo).

Related Species

Red spotted newtThe Striped Newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) is closely related to but of a different species than the Eastern Newt.  It bears a red dorsal stripe that is continuous along the body and breaks near the head and tail. The black border of the red stripe is not as dark as that of the Broken-Striped Newt.  It occupies a small range that extends from southern Georgia to northern Florida.

The Black-Spotted Newt (Notopthalmus meridionalis), also a distinct species, has large black spots in place of the Eastern Newt’s red ones.  It occurs from south Texas into Mexico and is limited to the moist areas around ponds and swamps. As the general area overall is fairly dry, this newt’s actual range is spotty and discontinuous; it is classified as Endangered by the IUCN.

Further Reading

Please see this IUCN report for information on the Black-Spotted Newt’s natural history and conservation needs.

Video of a captive Broken-Striped Newt.


Smooth Newt Larva image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Aka


  1. avatar

    thanks -my efts are in a 20 gal long w-coconut bedding and live moss -leaves -misted 2 xs aday-kept moist not soggy-room temp-have fed fruit flys and crickets -that were dusted-i was wondering with 8 efts -how many and often do you rec feeding—–thank you very much —–john panzica

    • avatar

      Thanks for your post John; They are quite adaptable…able to adjust metabolisms to food availability. They become susceptible to fungal infections above 72-75F (in summer they remain in cool retreats to escape heat) so watch temps. No way to set an amount…some will eat more than others, etc. Introduce food 3x week if possible. Crickets alone will not keep them healthy long term; the foods suggested here for poison frogs can be used, along with finely chopped earthworms and blackworms confined in a jar lid. Powder all meals with a Calcium supplement, and use vitamins 2x weekly. Variety in the diet is key to health, as we know little about actual requirements; crickets and fruit flies can be used as the basis, but try to add others. Watch for signs of color change, indicating that they are entering the adult aquatic phase…they are easier to feed at that point, accepting dry foods, etc. Best to provide a shallow bowl of de-chlorinated water now; also , add de-chlor drops to water used for misting terrarium. Provide plenty of hiding spots…if they bunch up under 1 shelter, skin problems (fungal ) become more likely. Enjoy, let me know if you need more info, Frank

  2. avatar

    Hi–I have two efts I found in the woods behind my house, and I added them to a terrarium I already had with mosses and plants I’ve collected there as well. Is it a bad idea to use “live” soil collected from the area where I found them (it is “my” property–in quotation marks because it’s also the efts’ property) in the long term, or should I change their setup? Is it possible to feed them by bringing leaf litter and fresh soil from there and rotating it in? I’d like to keep things as easy and natural as possible, but I don’t want to set them up for failure. I have access to plenty of earthworms, pillbugs, and other woodsy critters and plan to start an earthworm colony for the winter months. Sounds like I should also get vitamins, etc., to dust them with. I’m curious–I’ve put snails in from my freshwater aquarium–how do efts eat snails? Do they rip them apart with their “hands”? I’ve smashed the snails in my fish tank so the fish could eat them, and I wonder if I should do that for the efts.

    Thanks for this service–I want to do the best by Fred and Ethel.

    • avatar

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Collected soil is fine assuming no pesticides etc.; “forest floor” beddings and sphagnum moss can also be used; these retain water very well.

      Collecting food/adding leaf litter is a good idea…just be sure the inverts you introduce are small enough, and weed out larger spiders (do not touch any..many can pierce the skin), ants et. Here’s a related article. Once they mature and move to water, they will accept reptomin and similar foods.

      Chlorine will evaporate from water left in an open container for 24 hrs; if your supply contains chloromines, use an instant conditioner, as amphibs are rather sensitive.

      They take small slugs, perhaps tiny snails but crushed may not stimulate them to feed…sharp edges of shells could also be a problem, blockages, etc; best to avoid. They do not use hands in feeding.

      Please let me know if you need more info, enjoy, Frank

  3. avatar

    PS I also put in a shallow watery area and keep the vivarium misted, all with water that’s been sitting around for a while to get the chlorine out. I’m willing to start a new home for them if this set-up is going to be bad for them. thanks.

  4. avatar

    Thanks for the fast response! Much appreciated. There are plenty of orangish slugs in my woods (I don’t use pesticides in my yard, and the woods are beyond that) that are fairly small, but the efts’ mouths don’t seem big enough to handle them. I’ll try one soon, though, and see how that goes. good thought about the shells of slugs–I won’t try that.

    One other question–we do not have air conditioning, and I worry about their home getting too warm. It’s a 20-gallon tank lined with gravel and quite a bit of forest soil with moss. Can they get cool in the soil if the air temperature gets very warm? Any ideas for keeping the tank cool when temps go up?

    Thanks again, and I’ll read your link now.


    • avatar

      They can become heat stressed, and prone to bacterial and fungal infections when too warm. In a small enclosure, the temperature would not likely be much cooler below the surface.
      Gel-type freezer packs can be useful if a cool basement is not available; in severe conditions, the animals can be moved to smaller tanks or plastic storage containers, and these can be placed within a cooler.
      Best, Frank

  5. avatar

    Hi–Thanks again! I actually went looking for a freezer pack on a warm day and threw some ice in a baggie instead. I’m going to buy a couple of those for future. My efts are staying very well hidden–in fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen one of them in a while, but I do see the other, smaller one–so I’m thinking the other is in there somewhere–I sure hope so. I’m going to get a thermometer and take measures if things get too warm even with the ice packs–will have to move the tank if necessary.

    I read for hours last night on your site and learned so much. I’ve always loved amphibians and reptiles, and now I’m hoping to really get into the hobby more. I have a basement that stays cool that I could really use as a herp habitat – I’ve often thought of making a big turtle run down there. The basement isn’t good for much else due to dampness, but it doesn’t have mold. I’ll do more research first, though.

    And one LAST question, I promise–I saw in the American toads info that you recommend removing an inch of soil regularly to clean it. Is this necessary with two red-spotted newt efts in a 20-gallon tank with about 3 inches of soil, an inch or so of charcoal, and a couple of inches of gravel below that? I do plan to rotate soil in and out, but I didn’t know if I needed to do that extensive a change. The soil is covered with mosses that grow in the woods where I found my guys. I’m also going to add some leaf litter next time I go over to the house to gather some.

    Thanks again!

    • avatar

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the kind words,. I’d move the efts to the basement…you can add a small fluorescent light for viewing when needed,,,they always do better in cooler surroundings…aestivate or stay far below soil in the wild.

      No need to breakdown tank, just remove a bit of the surface material on occasion. With moss, few animals and so much space, can leave as is for years.

      Please don’t hesitate to write…great questions, others benefit, and posts are useful to me in my work for the company that supports the blog, best, Frank

  6. avatar

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom. The basement is in a different house, but I see Fred and Ethel so rarely here (they ARE shy!) that it makes sense to move them there where they’ll be more comfortable anyway and just drop in to visit now and then. They may, indeed, be the first inhabitants of my dreamed-of herp habitat. Many thanks for your help and for assuring me the questions aren’t annoying. I will also purchase your book. I’ve had tropical fish for years but never branched out into amphibians but I’m hooked now. Fortunately, I’m not a fish. 🙂 But I do want to conserve and preserve these creatures and their habitats as well as keep them as a hobbyist–I believe learning to love anything from wildflowers to animals in the wild and collecting them (as long as they aren’t endangered and I’m sure other species are still around to multiply) is a way of growing that interest to friends and family and others, leading to greater overall conservation efforts. I do sometimes get smacked down for my wildcrafting by Very Serious Conservationist acquaintances, and while I do appreciate their point of view I like to think my approach is also informed by love for nature and a desire to preserve it–AND seriousness. Knowing others feel this way, too, and are making strides in understanding species that have not been studied much in the past is so encouraging–long live the herps!

    • avatar

      Thanks for the kind words…hard won “wisdom”…all those of my generation killed quite a few herps in our quest to keep them, but we learned alot that now proves useful on ocassion.

      All good zoo people, biologists, etc began as collectors and animal keepers…trendy to downplay this today, pay it no mind. Very few who condemn such outright (obviousy there are major problems with overcollection , etc) do not, in my experience, understand conservation…often of the “I’m a vegetarian so I’m helping wildlife set”..as if there are any endangered species running around on soybean farms! Captive breeding of pets (and the experiences of those who learn something useful), farming of wld species for food, leather etc has saved numerous species from extinction; we must be practical…someone’s “belief” that animals should not be captured, eaten or whatever is not relevant to real conservation,

      Tropical fish experience transfers well to amphibs…some of my best amphib keepers are former aquarists at public aquariums, etc. enjoy, Frank

  7. avatar

    hello —-sir a quick quest i found an american toad about 2 inches long -first week it stayed normal color it is now black—-what would cause this-toad is in garden of my home -along with others-watch them feed all are good eaters ——thank again for your services—john panzica

    • avatar

      Hello John,

      Thanks for posting here. American toads vary quite a bit…yellowish through reddish to near black; but the tadpoles are black, and when just out of the tadpole stage the toads tend to be very dark; most lighten up after a few days. Best, Frank

  8. avatar

    Hi, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. Very informative. Thanks to all for posting.

    I purchased 3 adult eastern newts online in Jan 2016. They came in bad condition, emaciated, missing a limb, bacterial infections of the skin. Through research and 2 vet visits, I nursed them back to health. For the bacterial infections on the skin I used salt baths. The vet used a “deworming” solution and they became much more active and started eating better, and I have since purchased fenbendazole and a 1mm dia galvage needle to administer.

    I keep them in a 10gal aquatic tank with filter, air stone, floating island, live plants hide/cave and rocks, but bare glass bottom, no substrate.
    Lighting:zoo med full spectrum flourescent for UV, strip LED for more visible light. Lights are timed to 10hrs daylight in summer, 8hrs in spring and fall, 6hrs in winter.
    Water: consistently about 69F. volume is about 6gal. Water change schedule is 1 gal every-other day + 75% on Fridays. I use Amquel to remove chlorine.
    Food: primarily chopped earthworms that I catch outside, supplemented with frozen blood worms and wax worms on occasion. I feed every other day.

    2 of the newts are very strong and have great appetites and put on weight nicely.
    The third newt was the one with the missing limb. Eventually he developed a good appetite and gained weight and his leg regenerated. about 3 months ago he stopped eating (eats a small section of worm maybe once a month). He has lost a lot of weight but is still active. Avoids water now during the day but is in it at night. Through much difficulty I administered fenbendazole and Metronidazol orally three times about 2 months ago but it had no effect.

    Do you have any suggestions as to what could be the problem, how to treat the sick newt, and how to treat the healthy ones to keep them healthy? Anything I could use to feed the newt through the galvage needle? Any signs of parasites to look for either in the stools or in the tank?

    Any help would be appreciated,

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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