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Breeding the Great Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus – Part 2

Male Great Crested Newts undergo an amazing change in appearance during the breeding season.  In Part I of this article I introduced the natural history of this most beautiful newt, and discussed how to bring it into breeding condition.  I’ll cover breeding details and raising the larvae here.

Courtship and Egg Deposition

Breeding male newts tend to fight and, although severe damage is rarely inflicted, less dominant animals may become stressed and cease feeding. Courting males position themselves near females and appear to direct pheromones towards them with their tails. Females thus stimulated follow the males, push against their tails, and eventually pick up the spermatophore that the male has dropped.

Several hundred eggs are laid, each being individually attached to an aquatic plant. Females use their rear legs to bend a plant leaf around each egg – quite an ordeal, and well-worth watching!

Adults may consume eggs and so should be removed from the aquarium after egg-laying has been completed.  If prevented from returning to land after breeding, adult crested newts usually become quite stressed, thrashing about wildly.  Some subspecies, however, can be habituated to a more-or-less permanent aquatic existence.

Raising the Larvae

Larval Crested NewtCrested Newt larvae generally hatch within a month and transform into the terrestrial phase within 3 months, at which point they average 2.4 inches in length.

The larvae can be raised on chopped live blackworms, brine shrimp, daphnia and similar foods; new metamorphs can be offered 10 day old crickets, blackworms, termites and tiny sow bugs.  Sexual maturity occurs in approximately two years, at which time they will re-enter water to breed.

An Even More Flamboyant Relative

A close relative, Triturus vittatus ophryticus develops an incredibly high crest that starts at the nose area and ends at the tail. This species is now showing up in the pet trade, and can be bred in a similar manner to the Crested Newt.

Further Reading

Please see a book I’ve written, Newts and Salamanders, for more on the care and natural history of Crested Newts and their relatives.

You can learn more about the natural history of each newt in the genus Triturus here.


Larval Crested Newt image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Piet Spaans

Breeding the Great Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus – Part 1

Few amphibians exhibit a more dramatic change in appearance than male Crested Newts in breeding condition.  It really is something to see and, fortunately, breeding this species is actually quite feasible.  Breeding the crested newt in captivity also has great conservation value, as this species is in decline throughout Europe.  Furthermore, any information garnered is applicable to other species of concern, including the Alpine Newt, Triturus alpestris and the Swiss Newt, T. helveticus.

Natural History

The Crested Newt, which may reach 6.4 inches in length, is grayish to black above and orange with round black spots below.   Male Crested Newt

Living a largely terrestrial existence for most of the year, both sexes enter breeding ponds in late winter or early spring.  At this point, the males’ colors intensify and a large, comb-like dorsal crest develops. In both sexes the tail also becomes more paddle-like to facilitate swimming. Males also usually develop a white line along the sides of the tail, while reproductively active females sport a white line down the back.

Bringing Newts into Breeding Condition

While breeding may occur spontaneously in captivity, the most consistent results will be obtained if the newts are over-wintered at 36-42 F.  An increase in water depth may stimulate breeding outside of the normal cycle, but fewer viable eggs will be produced).

Upon emergence from hibernation, the newts should be housed in aquarium, or their terrestrial terrarium should be modified to provide a large water area. Resting sites such as cork bark slabs or basking platforms should be provided.

Due to their unique egg-laying behavior (females fold a plant leaf around each egg), crested newts slated for breeding are best housed in well-lit aquariums stocked with live plants.  The water should, if possible, be maintained at 54-65 F (a cool basement or garage often proves ideal).

We’ll take a look at raising the larvae next week

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