Breeding Newts in Captivity

Inducing breeding. There are several things you can do to encourage newts to breed in captivity. Unfortunately, you cannot "make" them breed with absolute certainty. It may take several years to succeed.

  • Water quality. Keep absolutely excellent water quality. Read Water Quality and Water Quality FAQ.
  • Feeding. Keep the animals well fed. Don't be afraid of feeding foods that are high in fat, especially worms.
  • Light cycles. Expose the animals to a natural light cycle. If an artificial light is used, it may help to keep it synchronized with the natural light cycle (shorter in winter, and not extending beyond natural daylight hours).
  • Habitat. Keep the animals in a habitat that is as large and natural as possible. For some newts, this may mean providing lots of live plants. For some terrestrial species, it may even mean providing simulated rainfall. It is also a good idea to disturb the newts as little as possible, not handling them or removing them from the tank unless absolutely necessary.
  • Temperature/hibernation. Keep the animals cooler during the winter months. Some breeders create an actual hibernation period, in which the newts are kept outdoors, in a garage, or refrigerated. Others rely on the natural fluctuation of temperature in their home, keeping the newts in a basement or the coolest room possible. Obviously, it is essential not to risk freezing. Also, an artificial hibernation (such as in the refrigerator) can be very stressful and even lead to death. So unless you know what you are doing, it is better to rely on natural temperature fluctuation. Hibernation can be accomplished either by moving the entire tank to the cooler location, or by placing the newts in a small container of damp sphagnum moss or paper toweling. Be sure that the substrate stays damp. They do not need much oxygen during hibernation, but make sure that a bit of air can get into the container. In their own tank, newts can hibernate for two months or the entire winter. If placed in a container of damp moss or towels, newts are typically hibernated for about about 6 weeks.
  • Water level. Some species breed in response to higher water levels.
  • Species-specific requirements. For details on the mating requirements of some specific species, there are books and caresheets that might help.

Sexing. In most cases, males have a larger cloaca. In eastern newts, the male has wider back legs. In some species, such as Hong Kong warty newts, it is almost impossible to distinguish the sexes except during the breeding season.

Seasonal dress. Most newts change in appearance as their bodies become ready for breeding. Females often become more plump. Males often have some change in color, and may have a larger cloaca than usual. In some species, both sexes may develop a broader tail fin.

 

A male crested newt (T. karelinii) develops a striking crest and high tail fin during breeding season. In front of him are two spermatophores attached to the tank bottom. The spermatophores are usually attached to the substrate by a transparent stalk. Because they are small and quickly deteriorate, spermatophores are usually not seen by the newt keeper.

Mating rituals. These vary among species, but you will probably know it when you see it. The male will usually fan his tail towards the female and may clasp her in some manner. Although you probably won't see it, the male deposits a spermatophore on the substrate, then the female picks it up with her cloaca. Eggs are fertilized internally, then the female lays the eggs, usually on plants.

Eggs. Eggs hatch in 2-4 weeks. See the article Raising Newts from Eggs.


Last edited January 12, 2002

2002 Jennifer Macke