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New Fire Bellies Not Eating

This is a discussion on New Fire Bellies Not Eating within the Newt and Salamander Help forums, part of the Beginner Newt, Salamander, Axolotl & Help Topics category; Greetings! I am the recent owner of two young Chinese fire-belly newts. I joined this forum so I could learn ...

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Old 18th February 2014   #1 (permalink)
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Question New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

Greetings! I am the recent owner of two young Chinese fire-belly newts. I joined this forum so I could learn more about these awesome amphibians and so I could be a part of an active community in which I could seek help and get feedback.

On Wednesday, 2/12/14, I brought home two baby Chinese fire-belly newts. They have a large ten gallon tank, with an appropriate water depth and water-to-land ratio needed for babies, and plenty of aquatic plants for filtration and sheltering. Their light and temperature settings are also as should be. I have all the proper supplies and have done tons of research, reading books, articles, online forums, and speaking to several newt owners.

The problem I am having is getting them to go eat. They showed no interest in the frozen bloodworms recommended to me by the PetCo employee, as they do not show a desire to actively go swim into the water and acquire food. Since the bloodworms didn't do it for them, I have been trying tiny, bitty "worm nuggets" cut off of live earth worms and skewered onto a toothpick and put into the habitat. The encouragement of live food seemed to work a bit, but only a bit. One of them ate on both Thursday and on Friday, and one has only eaten on Friday.

After refusing to eat twice today, I called PetCo in tears and spoke to the clerk in their aquatic pets department. He suggested I put them in a smaller container directly with some unthawed bloodworms, to put them in close proximity with the nutrition to try and coax them to eat. So that's where they are now, and one is just resting on top of the other one as they both adamantly look away from the food and longingly at the tank instead.

The only other things I have been suggested I try are very small crickets and brine shrimp, neither of which I can obtain until the roads are better.

I'm really pretty upset right now. One seems to be doing a bit better than the other. He is more active, swims around more and explores the plants, while the other likes to stay on land more and not move as much. I'm concerned about both though, since neither of them have eaten since Friday and continue to refuse food. I know that adult fire-belly newts only need food every three days or so, sometimes even going up as much as a week, but as growing juveniles, it's crucial that they get adequate nutrition. I'm stressing really hard because I've tried a bunch of different things and done my best to optimize their habitat to maximum comfort and offered them many feeding opportunities throughout the day. I don't know if I'm a bad pet owner, if the pet store sold me sick newts, or if they're just stressed from moving.

If you took the time to read all of this, I really appreciate it. I'm really worried and looking for help.



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Old 18th February 2014   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

First off, don't worry. New newts are very shy and often don't eat for quite a while. In fact, they can go without eating for over a month, but it's certainly not recommended to wait that long. Upload a picture of your tank and overhead views of your newts, please.
I would suggest that you buy a bag of blackworms. Locate any fish stores in your area (Not chain stores like PetCo) and call to see if they carry blackworms. Just get about a hundred.
Caudata Culture Articles - Worms
Use the blackworm section of this page as a care sheet.
When I feed my newts blackworms, I pick up a small clump using a turkey baster or tongs and wiggle them around in the newts' faces. You can also set the newts in a small bowl with a few dozen worms. Good luck.

Oh, also, since you have a new tank.. PLEASE read this.
Caudata Culture Articles - Preventing Escape



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Old 18th February 2014   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

If the newts came from petco they are most likely mature adults, not babies. They are wild caught in china and shipped in awful conditions all over the world and are extremely stressed at best, or very ill at worst by the time they reach petstores, this often means they refuse to enter water and/or refuse food of any kind. The best chance of recovering and adapting to captivity you can give them is by providing optimal conditions which for H. orientalis is clean cold water stuffed with live plants, so many plants that they almost form a floating mat at the water surface. The plants are needed because once these newts decide to leave the water they loose their tail fins and are awkward swimmers so they will only willingly enter water where there is no risk of drowning. Once they return to being aquatic they re-grow their tails and become capable swimmers. The plants will also help water quality while the tank is cycling but you should test the water regularly at first and do partial water changes when required.
You should keep offering them food like chopped nightcrawlers or waxworms regularly but make sure it doesn't stay uneaten in the tank and foul the water, hopefully they will start feeding regularly on their own once they recover.
Hope this helps.




Last edited by Chinadog; 18th February 2014 at 08:41. Reason: missed a word!
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Old 18th February 2014   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

If you bought them at PetCo then they are most certainly wild-caught adults. Even if they seem small to you they are adults if they are 2 inches or larger.
You can find the caresheet for this species in the links in mysignature as well as many articles about water quality, feeding, etc.
Also, please do your own research through the forums either using the search function or just browsing the "salamander & newt help" or "Cynops/Hypselotriton" sections, they are FULL to the brim with information.



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Old 18th February 2014   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

That is all great advice. I just want to stress if you are putting them in a container with food to get them to eat, don't leave them there too long or the water will foul. You should be heartened that they at least ate one bite each. Keep persisting and I think you could do just fine.



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Old 19th February 2014   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

In reply to Daniel, (AfroNewtkeeper)

Thank you SO MUCH for the helpful advice on live black worms. I picked up a portion at the local aquarium shop, live, fresh, and healthy, and my newts absolutely loved them. I put them in a container and watched them, and the one that hadn't been eating much at all just pounced on them. The other one took awhile, but soon enough he was grabbing them by the mouthfull from the tweezers.

I also want to thank you for the article on preventing escapes. I knew that they could climb, but it made me really look at how my lid was set up and make adjustments to prevent any mishaps.

I did upload an album of the tank's current set up as well as the newts (prior to eating) if you are interested: http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...18th-2014.html



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Old 19th February 2014   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

In reply to Rodrigo (Azhael),

Thank you so much for the helpful links on your signature. I found a lot of really great information and have them bookmarked for quick and easy referral.

Would you mind taking a look at my newts and letting me know what stage of life they are in? http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...18th-2014.html I realize that my word choice of "babies" was a poor one, I should have said "juvenile," and they do rather look like the newts in the juvenile section of the Cynops orentalis article: Caudata Culture Species Entry - Cynops orientalis - Chinese firebelly I was at the local aquarium shop today to purchase live blackworms, and they sold full-grown adult Chinese fire-bellies who were much larger than my newts. My newts were sold to me as juveniles, and there was a warning sign on the tank that specifically stated "We are not adults! We need both land and water." Did they just mis-market the newts?



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Old 19th February 2014   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

In reply to Chinadog,

Thank you so much for your helpful advice on the plants and feeding. I have purchased many live plants after your post, and plan on purchasing more once the aquarium stock gets live fresh ones (I cleaned them out!) As far as feeding, I have never put food directly into their tank and let it sit there for that reason. I have been feeding them bits of chopped nightcrawler on a toothpick or live blackworms with a tweezers and they take what they eat from there. Or I put them in a separate, smaller container for food.

Would you mind taking a look at my newts and letting me know what stage of life they are in? http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...18th-2014.html I realize that my word choice of "babies" was a poor one, I should have said "juvenile," and they do rather look like the newts in the juvenile section of the Cynops orentalis article: Caudata Culture Species Entry - Cynops orientalis - Chinese firebelly I was at the local aquarium shop today to purchase live blackworms, and they sold full-grown adult Chinese fire-bellies who were much larger than my newts. My newts were sold to me as juveniles, and there was a warning sign on the tank that specifically stated "We are not adults! We need both land and water." Did they just mis-market the newts?



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Old 19th February 2014   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

In reply to Otterwoman (otterwoman),

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words! It was really encouraging to hear that as long as I persist, they'll do fine, especially since I was so stressed out. They responded very heartily to live black worms and seemed to really enjoy those. And don't worry...when I've been putting them in a separate container to eat, I never have left them in there for over an hour at most and I do not leave them unattended. I keep a close eye on them.



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Old 19th February 2014   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

Glad the blackworms worked so well- your newts do look a bit skinny. Now, I realize you're not going to like hearing this, but you're going to need to drastically change your setup. First off, while the pebbles are pretty large, they still pose as a risk of impaction. You should change your substrate to either play sand or nothing. Secondly, you really don't have much water in there. You should have at-least ten gallons of water in there, so that you have proper water balance.
Caudata Culture Articles - Water Quality
Caudata Culture Articles - Cycling
For land, you should use a piece of cork bark, or a floating turtle dock. You also need to purchase TONS of floating plants. Fire bellies usually won't enter the water if they're afraid that they could drown. This means that you need as many plants as you can get. The java ferns are great, but I would also buy some java moss, hornwort, and elodea.



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Old 19th February 2014   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

It's difficult to guess the size from the pictures but I still say they're wild caught adults, They will certainly be wild caught from petco so chances are they're mature. The thing is collecting terrestrial juveniles for export in china is not economical, pet store newts are collected in huge numbers from water bodies, so they are all adults or possibly sub adults in their aquatic phase.
The only time you will see juveniles for sale is if they are captive bred, but the time and effort required to rear a species like H. orientalis to a saleable size means that it can't be done cheaply enough to make it worth while, not when wild caught adults are always available for next to nothing at fish wholesalers.
I don't know about petco specifically, but it's quite common for pet stores to lie about where their newts come from to ease peoples conscience. I've heard them say they're captive bred or captive farmed in large numbers but neither could really be true when you consider the low prices they sell them for, It takes at least a year, often much longer for them to reach the size of yours, it just cant be done for the few dollars they sell for.
The other thing is your newts are extremely thin, so much so that it's obvious they have been through extended periods without food, something else that points to them being imported from china, if they were a reasonable weight they would appear bigger, I'm sure.

I should add that the much larger Chinese fire bellies you've seen could well be a different species altogether, both Paramesotriton and Pachytriton are much larger, come from China and are sometimes wrongly sold as fire bellies.




Last edited by Chinadog; 19th February 2014 at 17:48. Reason: added text.
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Old 19th February 2014   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

Daniel,

Actually, I do like hearing that...as much advice I get to make this the best habitat for them, the better! I kind of figured that was coming, actually, as I was browsing the forums and other user's setups on my own, and I all noticed they were vastly different than mine (sand, more water, more plants, etc.) but successful ones.

I will go out and purchase some play sand, plants, and a floating dock, and hopefully be able to post updated photos and hopefully it will be better.



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Old 19th February 2014   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

Quote:
Originally Posted by HoundOfIbiza View Post
In reply to Rodrigo (Azhael),

Thank you so much for the helpful links on your signature. I found a lot of really great information and have them bookmarked for quick and easy referral.

Would you mind taking a look at my newts and letting me know what stage of life they are in? http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...18th-2014.html I realize that my word choice of "babies" was a poor one, I should have said "juvenile," and they do rather look like the newts in the juvenile section of the Cynops orentalis article: Caudata Culture Species Entry - Cynops orientalis - Chinese firebelly I was at the local aquarium shop today to purchase live blackworms, and they sold full-grown adult Chinese fire-bellies who were much larger than my newts. My newts were sold to me as juveniles, and there was a warning sign on the tank that specifically stated "We are not adults! We need both land and water." Did they just mis-market the newts?
Thatīs quite bizarre. Having looked at your pictures i would still say that if they are 5cm or larger, they are most likely adults. Even if they arenīt fully mature, at that size or larger they can be fully aquatic.
It may be my cynical nature but i would suspect that the shop simply labeled them that way because they were smaller and refused to go in the water.
In recent years quite small adults have popped up at shops, but they were still adults and most certainly WC just as the others.

I have to say your two newts are in poor condition. Iīm glad they are eating blackworms but you should try to get them to eat earthworms as soon as possible and you migth want to give them waxworms too to get them to gain some weight.
Your current set-up is not very apropriate iīm afraid. You have less than 5gallons of water in there which is going to make maintaining adequate water conditions a nightmare. The gravel is very bad idea, particularly since you have so much creating an area where the water could become anoxic even. The water looks dirty and iīm guessing you didnīt cycle the tank before hand.
Here is what i would do. I would get rid of all the gravel and i would get lots of plants likea Elodea, Hydrocotile, java moss, etc. When i say lots i mean LOTS, picture a great green mess with some water in between. You want to have VERY thick vegetation and a few inches of water initially. Then you can slowly and progresively raise the level until you end up filling the tank. Water quality is an absolutely crucial factor and you need the plants to provide you with biological filtration until bacteria can take over the job. With any luck you could get conditions to be decent enough that the newts will go aquatic which will make feeding much easier plus it would go a long way in reducing stress and giving the newts a better chance to recover from the horrible ordeal they have gone through.

PS: I merged both of your threads because it was pointless to have two separate ones in the same section containing virtually identical responses. Now you can enjoy Chinadogīs and my almost verbatim responses together xDD



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Old 20th February 2014   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

Daniel,

I followed your advice and made the major adjustments to the tank. Instead of the large gravel I now have sand. I included a turtle floating dock for their land piece. I went and purchased tons of aquatic plants and plan on going back for more later this week for additional clumps of hornwort and such when they're restocked. The local aquarium shop had tons of hornwort and I wasn't sure how much to get, but they were all out of java moss for the time being. I also increased the amount of water, and there's now ten gallons in the tank as you suggested.

I uploaded another album with several pictures (sorry about the poor quality!) of the hopefully improved tank.

http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...19th-2014.html

Additionally, I would like to say I really appreciate all the time you're taking to look at my photos, read my posts, and respond to me. Its incredibly helpful and it means more than you know.



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Old 20th February 2014   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Newt Owner and Seeking Help!

Chinadog,

That breaks my heart, but I really appreciate you giving me the straight facts and telling me the truth. It's a lesson about chain retail pet stores I should have learned 7 years ago when I purchased my tortoise, but old habits die hard. I'm glad I am now better informed about the nature of this pet trade, as well as the rough conditions my newts were sold to me in. You mentioned that they appeared to be very thin...this is why I joined the forum to post about how nervous I was in regards to them not eating to begin with. They have been eating black worms with the occasional bite of night crawler chunks, so hopefully they will regain a healthy amount of weight.

I was able to get a (hopefully) better photo of them today as I was making some major modifications to their tank set up.Click the image to open in full size.



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Old 20th February 2014   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

Rodrigo,

Though its hard to hear that my newts are in poor condition, I appreciate your honesty on the matter. I had my worries and doubts, hence the original post in worry over them not eating to begin with. I have a friend who owns fire bellies, and when I showed her photos of them and described their refusal of food, she told me that the behavior/appearance was similar to what one of her former newts was like before it died. They have responded very well to the live black worms, and on occasion they will eat small bites of chopped night crawler as well.

Another user also told me that my tank set up was very inappropriate, and I had assumed that was coming and had braced myself for change. I did some digging and went through the forums more, reading posts from other new newt owners and looking through photo albums, and discovered through reading and looking that my current set up was VERY wrong.

I have made the following changes to the tank:

-Complete removal of gravel, addition of sand instead
-Lots of aquatic plants
-Floating turtle dock
-Larger tank to accommodate 10+ gallons of water to maintain quality

http://www.caudata.org/forum/members...19th-2014.html

I realize there is still a lot of room for improvement, but I hope this proves to be a step in the right direction. The aquarium shop is currently all out of java moss until they can get more to grow, but I plan on stopping back to pick up more clumps of hornwort and see if I can't find those other plants you mentioned as well.

Rereading your post, I see that you mentioned very gradually adding water over time. I missed that when filling up the tank, and currently have about 10 gallons in there. Would you recommend I remove that water and start off small and slow from the bottom up again, or leave the water levels were they are at?

And no worries about the post merging! I appreciate it very much for you to have done that for me, now all the responses are in one easy to find spot instead of across two.



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Old 20th February 2014   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

I too learned the tortoise lesson many years ago.
I'll be brief because i'm late for work, but as Otterwoman said earlier you should be heartened by the fact that they are eating regularly. If they carry on eating they have a good chance of recovery given the right living conditions.



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Old 22nd February 2014   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

How are the newts doing? Your tank looks a lot better now it'f full of plants! :)



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Old 23rd February 2014   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

I hate to say it, but unfortunately, not a whole lot better :c Ever since I changed the tank up, they have been unresponsive to food. They actively turn their heads away from, move away from, and back pedal away from all food offerings. It's been three days since they've last eaten, and one of them is looking painfully skinny. They're not accepting the small, live nightcrawler bits or even the live, wriggling blackworms that they ate by the mouthful before. Sometimes they venture into the water, but for the most part, they sit on the floating turtle dock and lay there all day.



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Old 24th February 2014   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: New Fire Bellies Not Eating

They're probably just stressed because of the change in environment. Give them time, and try setting them in bowls with their food again.

Edit: Oh, and make sure you have a light for those plants. Leave it on all day and off at night.



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