Aquatic Newt Build and Journal

minorhero

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Hello folks!

This is going to be a bit of a long series of posts that document my build and then my keeping of a pair of newts.

I have been interested in newts since I was a kid and discovered some eastern newts in a small pond on my parents property. I can still remember finding my first one and being blown away that there were 'lizards' that live in the water. Of course I didn't know the things I know today.

I have been keeping freshwater aquariums off and on most of my life. The last few years I have been having a very good time with planted tanks. About 8 months ago I started keeping Dart Frogs. Once I started keeping the froggies it made me remember how much I enjoyed discovering amphibians as a kid. And so I am now in a place where I want to keep some newts.

As per agreement with The Wife, all tanks really need to look good pretty much all of the time. It was with that in mind I set out to make/adapt a stand for this tank.

I started with a 40 gallon Brooklyn Metal stand from Petco. To this I added 4 metal 2x4 brackets drilled, tapped, and screwed into the bottom supports. These will be what holds up a shelf of plywood.

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I then drilled and tapped one hole each in the middle of the short sides to attach some plywood. This plywood has no structural component, its simply there to aesthetically enclose the stand.

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I also added some wooden blocks glued to the plywood sides. These blocks had small rare earth magnets embedded in them. These magnets line up with magnets on my door panel.

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The door panel is made from plywood and has 2 cabinet door handles attached.

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Then it was time to consider the top. The stand is designed to hold a standard 40 gallon rimmed tank. I knew from the start that I wanted something smaller. A top would be needed to hold anything I put on the tank and preferably a top that was structurally sound enough to make up for the deficit in support in the middle of the stand. I chose to build a poured concrete top. The first step is to make a form. My form is made from 3/4" melamine and has silicone in the corners to make it 'water tight'.

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Into this I poured one 55 lb bag of rapidset mortar mix and a bag of plastizer (flow control) plus a little black concrete tint. The top came out looking pretty good.

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I needed to put some very small wooden shims on the frame of the stand to make all the contact points even (the quality of the original stand not being great), but when done it came out looking pretty good:

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Then it was time to consider the light. In this case I wanted to use a light that was cheap but would have a lot of bells and whistles. It also needed to be strong enough to grow plants in the tank as well. I decided to go with a smart bulb and to partially make the fixture.

I already had some pendant lights left over from another project. To use one of them I needed a means of hanging it over the tank. Using some scrap mehagony I had, I constructed a little arm that could be bolted to the frame of the stand:

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Using an 18w Feit LED smart bulb I got 27 ppfd directly under the light at 20". This 'should' be good enough for lowish to mediumish light plants I am hoping to use in this tank.

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This all brings me to the tank itself.

Due to some shortage in tanks plus my own aesthetic desires, I ended up getting Waterbox CLEAR MINI 30. The tank arrived a couple of weeks ago. I had been playing with hardscape for a while before it came but I will spare you guys the many many many iterations the hardscape went through. Suffice it to say, I kept changing it up to and including after the hardscape was in the tank. Only yesterday did I finally settle on a chosen design. Here is how it looked flooded:

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And just a few minutes ago I started the planting process. All the plants are coming from an existing Walstad fish bowl I will be taking down (per agreement with the Wife, the number of tanks filled with water I can keep is 3...not 4 ;P ) Anyway its going to be a few days as I transfer things over.

Here is how the tanks looks now:

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Water temperature is 68 degrees and as you can see I don't have a very big 'land' area. That second big rock is just below the surface so it could be a rest spot as well if the newts didn't want to get completely out of the water. Thanks to having some cycled media this tank only took a few days to properly cycle. The substrate is gardenpro general purpose sand capping Denerle Scapersoil. Depending on what species of newt I get I can/will buy a chiller as well.

Actually the next thing I really need to do is build a top. I am planning to make a rim out of wood and cut holes for my filter intakes (one of which is being used as a return due to the low water level) and use that as my top. Speaking of filter intakes.. I don't like the ones I'm currently using ;P

I wanted stainless steel returns but couldn't find someone willing to sell me 2 intakes (as opposed to a set of one intake and one return). I decided to give a try at making my own. I bought some stainless steel tubing and a spring bender and I am going to see if I can make it happen. The tubing is supposed to come on Tuesday so hopefully I can get that up and running soon.

Regarding the newts themselves... well I'm not sure what I am getting at this point. I originally wanted eastern newts since they have a lot of nostalgia from childhood but asking around led me to conclude that finding captive bred adult eastern newts is essentially impossible. I am now leaning towards Alpine Newts because the wife liked their looks. I wanted a crested newts because the males look like dinosaurs ;P but The Wife was unimpressed. I also like the looks of the Neurergus newts but at this point I am just staying open to possibilities since I don't know what is really available from breeders right now and I don't want to get a newt that will ultimately not like the enclosure I have made.

If you made it all the way to the end of this incredibly long post then you are a real trooper! Thoughts? Advice? Opinions? I welcome it all.
 

minorhero

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Nice setup. Hope you keep posting progress.
Congrats
Thank you! I definitely intend to do so. I find doing journals to be a super effective way of keeping track of what happens in a tank. Both things that work and things that don't. Really helps me to improve going forward.

And with that said, Update!

Over the last 2 days I moved over all the relevant plants from my old Walstad Bowl and planted them in the newt tank. Additionally I used some spare mahogany to make a lid that should hopefully keep the newts inside. I also replaced the moss I had on the 'land' portion with a different species. I fixed this in place with a dab of aquarium safe silicone. Here is how it looks now:

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As you can see the plastic returns I am using for filtration are pretty silly looking. I attempted to bend 3/4" stainless steel tubing but the results were not great. Even using a hydraulic press the job was difficult and the tubing did not maintain circumference. I bit the bullet and ordered a stainless steel return/intake set. If that works I will likely order another one. Once it comes in I will be able to cut holes in my lid so the whole thing sits normally without looking silly. Till then the setup is functional if not ideal.

And with that said... the newts are coming today! I looked around on the usual classified websites for breeders with alpine newts but didn't find any. I made a post in a facebook group looking for newts and within minutes I had 3 offers. Sooo clearly that was the way to go. I chose a reputable breeder and they shipped out 2 unsexed alpine newts yesterday via fedex with an expected delivery of sometime this morning. I will update again once I get them settled in.
 

MnGuy

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That's a beautiful tank and I love how you improved the 40 gallon stand. I have a 40 gallon tank and there are no good stands on the market. I know the Brooklyn stand is designed to allow you to put two 40 breeders on it, but the stand looks awful, leaves all the wires exposed and has no space for storage. I may have to steal your design.

I keep three alpine newts and two marbled newts. Here's my advice:

-Newts will climb right up your filter tubes, escape the tank and quickly dry out and die in your home. I would remove them ASAP.

-I'd also be worried about that filter intake sucking in your newts and hurting them badly. Newts are weak swimmers and prefer still water. I would recommend a sponge filter. I tried both a canister and hang-on-the-back filter with my newts before quickly getting rid of both. I never had any injuries because I wrapped the intakes with a sponge, but the newts did not appreciate the current and both types of filters provide too many escape routes that are hard, if not impossible, to work around.

-I like that wooden lip you built for your tank, because newts will climb straight up the corners of a glass tank and escape. They are incredible escape artists and people take for granted how nimble, persistent and strong they are. My marbled newts will stay stuck up in the corner of their tank for HOURS.

It looks like there's enough of an overhang there to prevent escapes, but I always worry about newts escaping out of anything that's not 100% enclosed at the top. I had an alpine newt escape out of a small hole cut in the metal screen lid. There was no filter tube or device there for her to crawl out of the hole. She simply climbed onto a wooden log and reached the hole somehow. I found her and she survived, luckily.

-I love the aquascape and think it's worth seeing how the newts adapt to it. That said, I have a pile of high rocks in the corner of my alpine newt tank and they always avoid it. I find that newts prefer a lot of flat space to crawl and rest on.

Post pictures of your newts when they arrive, and good luck!
 

minorhero

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Thank you! I've not kept newts as a responsible adult so its pretty valuable to hear feedback from someone who has.

I'm not worried about the flow in this tank at this point because its actually pretty weak. The canister filters intake/output has been severely reduced. I also have cherry and amano shrimp in this tank and just this morning one of the amano shrimps was sitting directly on the filter intake cleaning/feeding from it without issue. There is no way any animal could be injured by the flow. I have seen a lot of folks run their tanks with a TON of flow (mostly trying to catch every bit of poop and suck it up into the filter) but that is not how I run my tanks. I find low flow, a lot of plants, and a bit of weekly maintenance to be more effective for me.

I will get something temporary in place to cover up the area where the filter tubes exit the tank. Maybe plastic wrap and taped to the edges? I don't want to do anything permanent yet because the plan is to get in some stainless steel filter tubes and then once they are on hand, to cut holes directly into my wooden lid to exactly fit those tubes. Without them on hand I won't know for sure their exact dimensions and how they will sit installed.
 

MnGuy

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Thank you! I've not kept newts as a responsible adult so its pretty valuable to hear feedback from someone who has.

I'm not worried about the flow in this tank at this point because its actually pretty weak. The canister filters intake/output has been severely reduced. I also have cherry and amano shrimp in this tank and just this morning one of the amano shrimps was sitting directly on the filter intake cleaning/feeding from it without issue. There is no way any animal could be injured by the flow. I have seen a lot of folks run their tanks with a TON of flow (mostly trying to catch every bit of poop and suck it up into the filter) but that is not how I run my tanks. I find low flow, a lot of plants, and a bit of weekly maintenance to be more effective for me.

I will get something temporary in place to cover up the area where the filter tubes exit the tank. Maybe plastic wrap and taped to the edges? I don't want to do anything permanent yet because the plan is to get in some stainless steel filter tubes and then once they are on hand, to cut holes directly into my wooden lid to exactly fit those tubes. Without them on hand I won't know for sure their exact dimensions and how they will sit installed.

For a temporary fix for the filter tubes, I would recommend something more rigid like a piece of wide-brimmed cardboard taped to the corner with a very tight hole just big enough for the filter tube to fit. Or rigid plastic from a takeout container, milk jug, etc.

Good luck.
 

Noodlethenewt

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I’m not an expert but this tank looks somewhat like the environment newts in the genus Neurergus would live in
 

MnGuy

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Any updates and pics of the newts?
 

minorhero

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Any updates and pics of the newts?
Yes indeed, though I could wish for better.

The newts came in healthy and well packaged. I let them come to temperature and then put them on the land portion. They both promptly plopped off and went for a swim. For a few hours they explored the tank. Then one found its way back to the land area and frankly hasn't left it near as I can tell. The other went onto the land a day latter and at least once after the light is off, went back to the water, but then came back to the land area as well. They both are hiding in the moss there. I've given them flightless fruit flies and pellets to eat. Not sure if they are eating the flies or not. They haven't touched the pellets.

Possible issues I have identified include:
1) they are just new to the tank and freaked out
2) They don't like the amount of flow
3) There are 5 ricefish in the water that were moved from the previous tank and that is freaking them out

Potential solutions I have begun to implement:
1) Just wait
2) I added a ball valve to the filter output and dramatically reduced the flow. It wasn't fast to start with, its now much less.
3) I can remove the ricefish if needed. I am reluctant to do this because I don't have another tank for them (the one I took down was their home) and I frankly really like them, I had to buy them from a breeder in Hawaii as they can be hard to find in the States. BUT, if I don't see improvement in the newts behavior by tomorrow I plan to remove them from the tank and find someone to come get them.

Picture of one of them from shortly after they arrived:

TfPc2Xs.jpg
 

MnGuy

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Yes indeed, though I could wish for better.

The newts came in healthy and well packaged. I let them come to temperature and then put them on the land portion. They both promptly plopped off and went for a swim. For a few hours they explored the tank. Then one found its way back to the land area and frankly hasn't left it near as I can tell. The other went onto the land a day latter and at least once after the light is off, went back to the water, but then came back to the land area as well. They both are hiding in the moss there. I've given them flightless fruit flies and pellets to eat. Not sure if they are eating the flies or not. They haven't touched the pellets.

Possible issues I have identified include:
1) they are just new to the tank and freaked out
2) They don't like the amount of flow
3) There are 5 ricefish in the water that were moved from the previous tank and that is freaking them out

Potential solutions I have begun to implement:
1) Just wait
2) I added a ball valve to the filter output and dramatically reduced the flow. It wasn't fast to start with, its now much less.
3) I can remove the ricefish if needed. I am reluctant to do this because I don't have another tank for them (the one I took down was their home) and I frankly really like them, I had to buy them from a breeder in Hawaii as they can be hard to find in the States. BUT, if I don't see improvement in the newts behavior by tomorrow I plan to remove them from the tank and find someone to come get them.

Picture of one of them from shortly after they arrived:

TfPc2Xs.jpg
Nice looking newt. I think you should give it more than a day — a week or more. As you noted, it could simply be an adjustment period.

Some subspecies of Alpine newts are more terrestrial than others. It might not be an issue at all. What did the seller say about their habits?

That said, my three alpine newts are exclusively aquatic. I’ve only seen one on their log and it was for a few seconds.

Some people will disagree but I keep my newts with White Cloud Mountain Minnows and they do fine. They actually hunt down and eat the babies. I’ve only had two baby fish survive into adulthood in the 6(?) years I’ve had the newts and fish.

All that said, I’ll reiterate that newts are bottom dwellers and like a lot of flat ground — like a catfish but much more active and out during the day. It could be that they just don’t feel comfortable with the amount of open floor space. Your aquascape looks great but is more oriented toward top and mid-dwelling fish and shrimp.

Like you said, flow could be an issue as well.

Good luck.
 

minorhero

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Update and in need of some guidance:

So its been about 3 weeks since I introduced the newts to their new home. Some changes have happened during that time. I off and on saw at least one of my newts out and about in the tank but mostly they stayed on the land portion. Then one morning I found one of my ricefish nearly bitten in half. Sooo yeah that was the end of the ricefish in the tank. I moved the survivors out and am in the process of rehoming them.

I was still not seeing the newts out as much as I thought they should. I kept track of temperatures in the tank and found that in the evening (when I was in the room (it's my office) with 2 computers running and the door closed tank temperatures could climb up to 73 degrees. I was concerned that was too warm and introduced a fan over the tank. Now temperatures stay between 64-66 degrees. Shortly thereafter one of the newts started venturing into the water at least daily. As I sit here writing this I am watching him swim around in the tank.

The other newt (I'm pretty sure its the same one at this point), does not move from its spot under the moss. And near as I can tell other then to shift slightly back and forth, has not moved from that spot in weeks. I have been feeding a mix of flightless fruit flies (added to the land portion) and some soft sinking pellets, (added to the water when I see the other newt swimming about). The one that is active and swimming I have seen take bites out of the pellets and eat the flies. The other one I have not seen eat. Maybe it is eating the flies, but I haven't seen it.

At what point should I take action with the one on the land and what should that action look like? Should I pick them up and separate them into a smaller container, or should I put it in the water so it can swim around and get fed the pellets? Something else?

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peteyusef

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i recommend trying different food in the water that would probably lead to the newt to spend more time in the water and become more comfortable
 

peteyusef

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pellets are cool and all but with newly arrived newts it works much better to show them food that resemble actual prey to get them comfortable and eating often
 

minorhero

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pellets are cool and all but with newly arrived newts it works much better to show them food that resemble actual prey to get them comfortable and eating often
What foods would you recommend? And how to administer? The one in the moss won't see anything I stick in the water. Should I put the new food on the land with them? Should I use tongs?
 

peteyusef

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it doesnt totally matter if they won t see it to be honest my crocatus hide in the rocks and i never see them until they smell the bloodworms i put in then they all appear i would just start with blood worms then try brine shrimp but dont worry too much just drop in a thing of blood worms and if they are in the water they will take notice
 

minorhero

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it doesnt totally matter if they won t see it to be honest my crocatus hide in the rocks and i never see them until they smell the bloodworms i put in then they all appear i would just start with blood worms then try brine shrimp but dont worry too much just drop in a thing of blood worms and if they are in the water they will take notice
Are you referring to frozen blood worms?
 

peteyusef

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yeah i use bloodworms primarily for all my species
 
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    Hi Lilith, you can check the medications page for a list of axolotl safe treatments. Although if the infection is mild, I would stick with fridge and salt baths!
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    I believe the fridge gets to about 54°, so if you can replicate that in the tank, it might be okay. I personally would fridge just to make catching them easier, and if the infection is something in the water column at all, it will hopefully die out while they're AWOL (I'm thinking like ich for fish, not sure if axies have an equivalent)
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    Ok, thank you!
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    My three inch axolotl was having trouble pooping up to a few days ago. I wasn't feeding her as often because I was scared I would just add to her constipation. I fridged her until she pooped (twice), and then began to feed her around 6 bloodworms every other day. she's been pooping everyday now, but she's at that age where you can see through her stomach and I always see poop ready to come out but has not yet passed. I don't think she's constipated anymore, but I'm not sure and i don't want to over or underfeed her... any advice?
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    Feed it chopped worms chitoos, its big enough and bloodworm is nutritionaly deficient.
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    Freeze dried , live or frozen bloodworm.
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    Oh ok thanks! I thought she might be ready for something more. do you have any advice about the apparent poop problem?
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    @Lilith, fridging is not required for fungus treatment. Read my thread on treatment.
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    Feed it more, six bloodworm isnt much, dont use freeze dried foods
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    Feed daily , remove uneaten food
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    Its probably not pooping because its hardly beign fed, it pooped in the fridge because the lower temp caused it to purge itself. If it stays constipated you can pm me
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  • Audrey22:
    Hi guys. Quick question. I have newly morphed eastern newt efts. They lost their gills but they still prefer the water. I have coconut fiber, moss, hidey holes and some food in the temporary habitat for them (waiting for the other newts to morph as well). But they still run back to the water. Is it the wrong substrate? Do they prefer something other than coconut fiber? I've been doing everything else properly (According to my research) but just wondering why they haven't ventured up. Have any ideas?
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