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Pet Newts: Spanish Ribbed Newt Care and Breeding

Spanish Ribbed Newts

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Peter Halasz

Newts of all kinds are very popular with amphibian keepers. Although most in the trade are quite small, one of the hardiest and most personable is a true newt giant. The attractive Spanish Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl) can reach 12 inches in length, and is stoutly-built. They are easy to breed – an important consideration as wild populations are threatened – and quickly learn to feed from the hand. And, as you’ll see below, they employ on of the animal world’s most unique defensive strategies (pets, however, become so tame that they never feel the need to defend themselves!).

 

Newts and salamanders have always held a special fascination for me. Beginning in childhood, I sought to breed as many species as possible, and I focused on their husbandry and conservation when I entered the zoo field. In time, I wrote a book summarizing my experiences. The passage of so many years has not dulled my enthusiasm for any of these fascinating amphibians, but the Ribbed Newt has always been a personal favorite.

 

A Note on the term “Newt”

The term “newt” is usually applied to small, semi-aquatic salamanders in the family Salamandridae. The group’s 80+ species range throughout North America, Asia, Europe and parts of North Africa. The Ribbed Newt may reach 12 inches in length, but most newts top out at 4-6 inches.

 

Ribbed Newt

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Peter Halasz

Description

Spanish Ribbed Newts are generally grayish-brown in color, but some exhibit yellow or green hues, while others are nearly black. Rows of yellow to orange “warts” (poison glands) line the upper edge of the body. Amazingly, distressed individuals will contract their bodies and force the ribs right through the back’s skin, directly over these glands. The toxins contained therein are thus in a position to thwart most predators.

 

Neotenic adults (bearing gills and totally aquatic, but able to reproduce) have been found in the wild and reported by hobbyists and lab caretakers. A strain of leucistic (white in color) Ribbed Newts has been developed by private breeders.

 

The largest Ribbed Newt I’ve encountered was built like a well-fed Tiger Salamander, and measured just over 12 inches in length. Most adults top out at 8-9 inches.

 

Two related species, rarely if ever seen in the pet trade, are classified in the genus Pleurodeles.

 

Habitat type

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Óðinn

Range and Habitat

The Spanish Ribbed Newt is limited in range to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, and is generally found in arid habitats. Highly aquatic, it favors temporary and permanent ponds, swamps, canals, and other stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water. In Morocco, Ribbed Newts have been found living in cave waterways 100 feet below-ground.

 

Behavior

Ribbed Newts are always nosing about for food, exploring, and interacting with tank-mates. They see well and may swim to the aquarium’s side when you enter the room, in anticipation of a meal.

 

Handle newts only when necessary, and with wet hands, so that the skin’s protective mucus covering is not removed.

 

Housing

Ribbed Newts are almost entirely aquatic, but do need a place to haul out and rest. The water in their aquarium can be deep, provided that egress is simple…cork bark, turtle platforms, and floating live or plastic plants all serve well as resting spots.

 

Newts are perfectly suited to aquariums stocked with live plants, and spectacular displays can be easily arranged. Plants help maintain water quality, and the complex environments they create make life more interesting for both newt and newt-owner alike.

 

Substrate

Smooth, rounded gravel of a size that cannot be swallowed is ideal; rough stones will injure the delicate skin.  Bare-bottomed tanks, which are easily kept clean, may also be used.

 

Water Quality

In common with other amphibians, Ribbed Newts have porous skin that allows for the absorption of harmful chemicals. Careful attention to water quality is essential.

 

An aquarium pH test kit  should always be on hand. Ribbed Newts fare well at a pH of 6.5 to 7.5, with 7.0 being ideal.

 

Ammonia, excreted as a waste product and produced via organic decomposition, is colorless, odorless and extremely lethal to all amphibians; a test kit should be used to monitor its levels.

 

Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used for any amphibian. Liquid preparations  are highly effective and work instantly.

 

Copper may be leached by old water pipes; a test kit should be used if you suspect its presence.

 

Filtration

Undergravelsponge,  and most other filters designed for use with fish, reptiles and amphibians can all be used in Ribbed Newt aquariums. Even with filtration, regular partial water changes are essential in keeping ammonia levels in check.

 

As Ribbed Newts are not strong swimmers, water outflow from the filter should be mild; plants, rocks and movable outflow attachments can be used to reduce current strength.

 

Light and Heat

Newts do not require UVB exposure. UVA light is not essential, but may encourage natural behaviors.

 

Ribbed Newts fare best when kept fairly cool, i.e. 60-68 F., although temperatures to 72 F are usually well-tolerated. Temperatures consistently above 75 F may weaken the immune system or cause other health problems. Temperature tolerance seems to vary among populations, and may be linked to the portion of the range from which the animals originated.

 

t246151Feeding

Zoo Med Aquatic Newt Food and Reptomin Food Sticks can be used as the basis of the diet. Freeze-dried shrimp, “gelled insects”, and frozen fish foods (i.e. mosquito larvae) should be offered regularly.

 

A variety of live foods will help ensure a balanced diet. Blackworms, bloodworms, earthworms, guppies, small crickets and similar foods will be eagerly accepted. Stocking the aquarium with live blackworms and guppies will keep your pets active and occupied.

 

Breeding

Ribbed Newts reproduce quite regularly in captivity, and provide an excellent introduction to amphibian breeding. Breeding sometimes occurs spontaneously but results will be improved if you manipulate water temperatures and day length somewhat. Unlike many amphibians, Ribbed Newts may even breed following a 1-day change in water temperature. Please post below for detailed information on inducing reproduction and rearing the young.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

Please check out Newts and Salamanders, a book I’ve written on their care and conservation.

 

Newt Toxins: personal observations

 

Amphibians as Pets – Common Frogs, Toads and Salamanders of the USA

Spottted Salamander

Downloaded to Wikipedia by Camazine

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  This article covers the care of several native amphibians that live in close proximity to people.  As a result, they sometimes wind up in yards, basements, window wells and other such places.  Most are also seen in pet stores.  While they can make interesting, long-lived pets, all have specific needs that must be met if they are to thrive.  The following information will give you an idea of what is involved caring for amphibians as pets; please see the articles linked below for more detailed information, and post any questions you may have.  If you find an injured animal, or wish to learn how to become a wildlife rehabilitator, please see this article.

It is important to bear in mind that captive-born specimens make far better pets than wild individuals, and that many species are protected by law. Read More »

Best Tadpole Foods (Based on my Experiences) – Seeking Additional Suggestions

tadpoleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Breeding frogs and rearing tadpoles is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our hobby, and becoming ever more important to the survival of many species.  In the course of working with numerous species at home and in zoos, I’ve compiled a list of commercial foods that have proven especially useful as tadpole foods.  The variety of new food items that have appeared and the many frog species that have been recently bred by hobbyists have convinced me that it’s time to reach out see what new “wonder products” or ideas folks have tried. I have, therefore, highlighted some of the foods I’ve come to rely on, and would greatly appreciate hearing of your experiences with them and others. Thank you.  

The Amazing Specialists

While the tadpoles of many commonly bred frogs (i.e. White’s Treefrog, Litoria caerulea) are omnivorous and take a variety of foods, others are specialists and will not survive unless their exacting requirements are met.  The tadpoles of African Clawed Frogs, Xenopus laevis and Malayan Leaf Frogs, Megophrys nasuta, for example, are filter feeders, while those of the African Bullfrog, Pyxicephalus adspersus, are as carnivorous as their pugnacious parents.  Poison Frog tadpoles of several species feed upon unfertilized eggs deposited by their mother, Goliath Frog, Conraua goliath, tadpoles consume a single species of algae, Fringe-Limbed Treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) tadpoles eat their father’s skin,  Brown Leaping Frog (Indirana semipalmata) tadpoles gnaw on wood (high up in trees!) …the list is fascinating.  Please post below if you would like information on these or other species. Read More »

The Best Filters for Axolotls, Clawed Frogs, Newts and Other Amphibians

BullfrogHello, Frank Indiviglio here. With their highly-permeable skins, amphibians absorb ammonia and other pollutants over a greater surface area than do fishes.  Surinam Toads, Axolotls, tadpoles and other aquatic amphibians are most at risk from poor water quality, but even terrestrial species such as toads and Fire Salamanders can quickly succumb to water-borne toxins while soaking in terrarium pools. Keeping their water clean, both visibly and chemically, can be quite a challenge. 

General Considerations

Natural History

Your pet’s natural history will determine the type of filter that should be used.  For example, newts and Dwarf Clawed Frogs will be stressed by fast currents, Hellbenders are extra-sensitive to water quality, many species are prone to bacterial attack in highly-oxygenated waters, and so on.  Please post below if you need help in selecting a filter. 

Types of Filtration

Biological filtration, wherein aerobic bacteria convert ammonia to less harmful compounds (nitrites and nitrates), is the most important of the three basic filtration processes. Ammonia enters the water via dead animals and plants, uneaten food and the occupants’ waste products. The organisms involved in the process, Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter bacteria, live on substrates that are bathed with oxygenated water (i.e. gravel, filter pads). Read More »

Amphibian Care during Power Outages – Bacteria, Disease and Oxygen

Albino FrogsHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeastern USA in October of 2012, caused losses to both private herp keepers and zoos.  My own collection, home to a 32+ year-old Red Salamander and several others aged 20+, thankfully fared very well.  The zoos and aquariums for which I consult are working to limit losses; I’ll provide updates via Twitter.

Reptile care during power outages is well-understood by most, so today I’ll focus on amphibians, as their unique needs can be easily over-looked.  Most of the points mentioned below also apply to semi-aquatic species.    

Filter Care and Bacteria Die-offs

When power fails, submersible, corner, and other internal filters should be removed from the aquarium.  When oxygenated water is flowing through a filter, ammonia is converted to less toxic nitrites and nitrates by beneficial aerobic bacteria.  Once the flow of water stops, the resident beneficial bacteria perish and your filter becomes a source of decomposing organic material, poisoning the already-stressed aquarium inhabitants.  Fish keepers are well aware of these processes, which are part of the nitrogen cycle.  An understanding of the nitrogen cycle will enhance your ability to keep and breed amphibians; (please see this article). Read More »

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