Common Name : Japanese Fire Belly Newt, Japanese Fire Bellied Newt
Scientific Name : Cynops pyrrhogaster
Origin : Japan
Max size: 2" - 6"
Lifespan: 1 - 60 years, depending on care. Usually 20 - 25 years on the average.
Care: Relatively easy. The Japanese variety is a lot more hardy than its Chinese counterpart, with whom it is often confused. The optimal temperature is 58F - 68F, but temperatures in the low 70's are ok for short periods of time. Their habitat is to be misted with dechlorinated water twice a day or more, as the humidity should be at 70 - 80%. A hygrometer will help with maintaning these levels at a constant rate. The newts can and will try to get out by climbing the glass or plastic of the terrarium walls, so a tight fitting cover is a must! Cover even the smallest of gaps, because I'm going to paraphrase Jeff Goldbloom in Jurassic Park, "Newts will find a way."
Housing: 5 gallons is the bare minimum for one. They should have a small land area of some sort, or a floating dock. If the land alternative is chosen, the ratio should be 1/3 land and 2/3 water, or 1/2 land and 1/2 water. Either is good. The lid should be a tight fitting one. They are little Houdinis with tails. They'll get through gaps you don't think it's even possible for them to get through. The tank should either have a locking screen lid, or a modified aquarium hood. The aquarium hood should have 1/4 inch holes in it in a uniform pattern to allow for proper air and gas exchange, and should also have a self locking food door. We all know why. The substrate should either be rocks too big too eat, sand, or moss that's not peat moss. Peat moss lowers Ph because it's slightly acidic itself. In other words, it'll burn the little feetsies.
Feeding: These animals are carnivors. They will most likely refuse most pellets, or all of them for that matter. They will always take live foods. I recommend earthworms or nightcrawlers that have been cut up with a razor blade. The nightcrawler in question will survive until one inch of the clitellum (the head/thick end) is left. Keep them in the refrigerator or freezer for them to last longer. They will also eat crickets, wingless fruit flies, bloodworms, blackworms, tubifex worms, waxworms, and not to mention the insatiable love that they have for home cultured cockroaches of the German variety. It's risky as these are a pest species but your newt will love you forever.
Sexing and breeding: The males generally have a swollen cloaca and a v shape where the tail joins the body. Females tend to get bigger and sligtly fatter.
Comments: They are a good beginner amphibian. They also are adorable. If you are squeamish or afraid of bugs, I'd say you don't want this animal because that is what almost all of them eat.
Handling: If handling is desired, always let the animal crawl on your hand. Never lift it up from above, because this will stress the animal greatly. You MUST wash your hands before (for the newt's safety) and after (for your own safety) handling. The Japanese Fire Belly Newt has a high concentration of Tetradotoxin (TTX), one of the most toxic substances known to occur in nature. 1 drop of this stuff can kill 2500 mice. If ingested, or absorbed through any opening of the body (eyes, nose, mouth, ect.), the substance is highly toxic. It won't kill you, but you'll never forget to wash your hands ever again, and I'm speaking from experience. It can be washed off under cold water with anti-bacterial soap.
How to recognise a Japanese Fire Belly Newt: The Japanese fire belly newt has a point at the end of the tail. The Chinese variety's tail has a rounded end. The Japanese variety is also bigger and more robust. The JFB is usually a black to olive color, while the Chinese is usually a black to brown color.