Aquatic Newt Build and Journal

minorhero

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yeah i use bloodworms primarily for all my species
Thank you, I really appreciate the feedback. I just ran out and bought some. I will try them later tonight when I can monitor the results. Any advice for other feeders I can give that have a supply of vitamins, carotenoids, and other good for them things?
 

Herphunter

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I use frozen bloodworms as well as a supplement or fill in food when I need to, but remember, bloodworms are actually insect larvae and are not nearly as nutritious as live blackworms. There is a local pet shop that sells them here and at this point I have become good friends with the manager. She will get a pound for me at a time and they last quite a while. You can also buy them online and have them shipped directly to your house. Shipping gets expensive though. Once you learn how to keep the blackworms, a pound will last up to a month or more for the 5 Ichthyosaura alpestris apuana (alpine newts) and 4 Triturus marmatus (marbled newts) I keep. I don't keep the 2 species in the same tank
I feed them both in the water and on land. When feeding on land, I have a small plastic lid from a speciman bottle that I fill with a teaspoon of blackworms. I put the lid in the same place all the time. In the water, I dump in a spoonful of worms and the newts will hunt them. Eventually, the worms burrow into the substrate and they are like little flagpoles sticking straight out. The newts will sneak up on them and snatch them from the sand. If they cause any disturbance to the water before grabbing them, the worms pull into the sand until its clear to come out again. Its cool to watch.
 

peteyusef

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yeah i use an upside down pringles can lid as a dish for my terrestrial juveniles
 

MnGuy

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I’ve been saying from the start that your aquatic rock work is not newt-friendly. They like crawling along a soft bottom with a lot of open space. Frankly the rock work displaces them. Please consider your newts’ needs above aesthetics. I’m not sure why you’re asking for advice when you seem adverse to accepting it.

Some newts are more terrestrial than others, and some subspecies of alpine newts tend to use land more.

I’d move the land-bound newt to a separate 5 or 10 gallon enclosure that is 2/3 damp sphagnum moss and 1/3 water (a shallow bowl will do) with cork bark and leaves as hides. It will show you what it prefers. The extra land will also give it more opportunity to find the fruit flies and eat so it doesn’t lose weight. Do not force it into the water portion of your current setup.

I keep juvenile marbled newts in a terrestrial setup and I rarely see them eat the fruit flies I feed them, but I know they do. Your current setup doesn’t have enough land to give your one newt enough space and time to hunt the flies.

Good luck.
 

minorhero

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I’ve been saying from the start that your aquatic rock work is not newt-friendly. They like crawling along a soft bottom with a lot of open space. Frankly the rock work displaces them. Please consider your newts’ needs above aesthetics. I’m not sure why you’re asking for advice when you seem adverse to accepting it.

Some newts are more terrestrial than others, and some subspecies of alpine newts tend to use land more.

I’d move the land-bound newt to a separate 5 or 10 gallon enclosure that is 2/3 damp sphagnum moss and 1/3 water (a shallow bowl will do) with cork bark and leaves as hides. It will show you what it prefers. The extra land will also give it more opportunity to find the fruit flies and eat so it doesn’t lose weight. Do not force it into the water portion of your current setup.

I keep juvenile marbled newts in a terrestrial setup and I rarely see them eat the fruit flies I feed them, but I know they do. Your current setup doesn’t have enough land to give your one newt enough space and time to hunt the flies.

Good luck.
I appreciate all feedback especially the negative feedback from experienced keepers. Due to the nature of a forum though I am the only one who is actually looking at and watching the newts directly and must consider my own observations and opinions as well and make decisions from all available information. In this case I have 1 newt that is acting in a way I would think is normal and 1 newt that is not. They both came from the same breeder and are the same size. Neither is old enough to be sexed yet by said breeder. While not explicitly told to me I got the feeling they came from the same clutch. So it seems unlikely that one newt is from a subspecies different from the other. Since I evicted the fish the active newt has only gotten more active. Since adding the fan that has increased. Today for example the active newt has spent as far as I can tell, the entire day in the water. I fed thawed frozen blood worms today and he ate quite a few. The inactive newt has not budged from his moss hiding place.

I am definitely concerned by the inactive newts behavior, the active newt on the other hand is really encouraging in his antics. As to the rocks, well I am concerned about enrichment. It was not that long ago that enrichment in captive animals was assumed to be unnecessary and potentially even harmful. We now know this to not be the case in many/most(/all?) species. A barren tank with nothing for the newt to climb on, under, navigate around in its search for food may make managing them much easier, but I am not sure if its better for them or not. I don't wish to make it sound like this is an experiment on my part. I have no control etc, so its clearly not. More of me trying something and seeing if it looks like its working or not. Currently I have to say it does look like its working for the active newt given it's behavior. Is the setting what is disturbing the inactive newt? Or something else? I'm not sure but I am more and more convinced that I need to change something for the inactive newt. I will try moving the blood worms closer to where its hiding. If that doesn't work I will move him to his own mostly terrestrial and much more barren tank and see what happens.
 

MnGuy

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I appreciate all feedback especially the negative feedback from experienced keepers. Due to the nature of a forum though I am the only one who is actually looking at and watching the newts directly and must consider my own observations and opinions as well and make decisions from all available information. In this case I have 1 newt that is acting in a way I would think is normal and 1 newt that is not. They both came from the same breeder and are the same size. Neither is old enough to be sexed yet by said breeder. While not explicitly told to me I got the feeling they came from the same clutch. So it seems unlikely that one newt is from a subspecies different from the other. Since I evicted the fish the active newt has only gotten more active. Since adding the fan that has increased. Today for example the active newt has spent as far as I can tell, the entire day in the water. I fed thawed frozen blood worms today and he ate quite a few. The inactive newt has not budged from his moss hiding place.

I am definitely concerned by the inactive newts behavior, the active newt on the other hand is really encouraging in his antics. As to the rocks, well I am concerned about enrichment. It was not that long ago that enrichment in captive animals was assumed to be unnecessary and potentially even harmful. We now know this to not be the case in many/most(/all?) species. A barren tank with nothing for the newt to climb on, under, navigate around in its search for food may make managing them much easier, but I am not sure if its better for them or not. I don't wish to make it sound like this is an experiment on my part. I have no control etc, so its clearly not. More of me trying something and seeing if it looks like its working or not. Currently I have to say it does look like its working for the active newt given it's behavior. Is the setting what is disturbing the inactive newt? Or something else? I'm not sure but I am more and more convinced that I need to change something for the inactive newt. I will try moving the blood worms closer to where its hiding. If that doesn't work I will move him to his own mostly terrestrial and much more barren tank and see what happens.

I’m sorry, but a 50 percent “success” rate isn’t anything to hang your hat on. It’s statistically irrelevant.

The counter argument is that the immobile, fasting newt is telling you there is something wrong with your setup, and given that it’s wellbeing (and possibly life) is at stake, I’d err on the side of listening to what that one is telling you rather than the one that is doing ok (after weeks of being not OK at first).

I’ve been keeping fish for decades, and passing off your iwagumi-inspired aquascape as “enrichment” for newts feels pretty disingenuous. There’s a reason you don’t see anyone keeping newts in tanks like that.

Give newts 2/3 of open floor space. Enrichment can come in the form of rocks and driftwood arranged so they don’t eat up all the floor space (I have both in my newt tank; I never advocated for a “barren” tank), leaf litter for them to hide and hunt among, submerged plants and floating plants.

I’m sorry, but you built a tank for your aesthetic vision. That’s fine; just pick animals that will succeed in it.

Good luck.
 

peteyusef

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I believe the setup is fine just not for alpine newts something like neugregus crocatus/yellow spotted newt would do fine with this setup
 

minorhero

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I’m sorry, but a 50 percent “success” rate isn’t anything to hang your hat on. It’s statistically irrelevant.

The counter argument is that the immobile, fasting newt is telling you there is something wrong with your setup, and given that it’s wellbeing (and possibly life) is at stake, I’d err on the side of listening to what that one is telling you rather than the one that is doing ok (after weeks of being not OK at first).

I’ve been keeping fish for decades, and passing off your iwagumi-inspired aquascape as “enrichment” for newts feels pretty disingenuous. There’s a reason you don’t see anyone keeping newts in tanks like that.

Give newts 2/3 of open floor space. Enrichment can come in the form of rocks and driftwood arranged so they don’t eat up all the floor space (I have both in my newt tank; I never advocated for a “barren” tank), leaf litter for them to hide and hunt among, submerged plants and floating plants.

I’m sorry, but you built a tank for your aesthetic vision. That’s fine; just pick animals that will succeed in it.

Good luck.

Given the stems in the scape (small in the pictures posted) its definitely more of a nature style scape, but my desire for enrichment is genuine. I think both newts and aesthetics can be appeased at the same time and for at least 1 newt its clearly working.

Regarding the one its not working, I moved some bloodworms closer to him yesterday and left them. At one point I noticed some had been eaten but later I noticed the active newt had partially had snuck up from behind the rock and was hanging out there which makes me think he might have been eating some of the bloodworms. Since I can't confirm whether the inactive newt ate the worms I will move him to a separate container later today so I can monitor him a little more closely and make sure he is eating.
 

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I have central newts (subspecies of eastern newt) that thrive off of frozen blood worms. They come in little cubes that I place under a submerged container until they stop floating, then remove the container and my newts go to town!
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Ignore the aforementioned worm cup (there's also a plastic fork that was holding down blanched cucumber for my shrimp). The newts enjoy climbing around the rocks and driftwood and frequently will be out in the open area on the left, where I feed them. Sometimes they hang out in the vallisneria, but hardly ever near the top. I used to have a larger land area for them that they never used so I re-scaped their tank.
 

minorhero

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Thank you all for suggestions on feeders! @Kirsten, love eastern newts! Do they give your shrimp much trouble? I have amano and yellow neocaridina in my current tank but honestly thought the latter might end up being dinner some day.

I realized its been more then a week since I last posted about my concerns and I thought I should give an update.

So after I last posted I left the bloodworms in the tank next to the inactive newt over night. The next day I made a hospital tank out of a plastic sterlite storage container. I was just waiting for the epoxy to dry on the screened portion of the lid when I went to check on the inactive newt (the light having just come on for the day) and ended up finding him swimming around in the water instead of on the land portion.

I decided to hold off on moving him to the hospital tank since I figured it would do more harm then good now that he was behaving normally. I fed more bloodworms into the water and later saw the inactive newt eating them. Since then both newts have been very active and frankly I haven't seen either back on the land portion at all.

I asked on a facebook group about feeders and got a lot of good information including folks suggesting I try earthworms and white worms. For the former it was easy to find in 'untainted' land and for the latter I ordered a starter culture off of ebay and I'm currently waiting to receive it. I've fed cut earthworms a few times and the newts are definitely eating them. I've decided to start a worm ranch in a container embedded in my yard to better control supply and the quality of their food. I will probably put that together tomorrow.

I have also started making a DIY Chiller for the tank so I can ditch the fan. So far the chiller is using parts meant for PCs. I have a PC cooling block, a PC heatsink and a fan, and a 40mm peltier cooling device. My first attempt was using a rather wimpy 5amp peltier and worked great!....... before I added water. Then it did almost nothing.

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I bought a beefier peltier at 10amp (but only have an 8amp power supply... so we'll see I guess, and will give that a go to see if it accomplished my goal of dropping temps by a handful of degrees.

Here is how the tank looks now and a close-up of one of the newts.

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I honestly think my tank is a good home for the newts but given the expressed concerns, I wanted to do as much research as I could given my inability to see the newts in their natural habitat with my own eyes. To that end I searched online for pictures and video of the newts in situ. Unfortunately pictures ended up being pretty useless as 1) it is very hard to know for certain if I was looking at an actual wild newt in its native habitat or a captive newt in an aquarium, and 2) they always focus in closely on the newt itself instead of its surroundings. After much searching I was able to find 3 videos of alpine newts in the wild and a handful of other videos I highly suspect were aquariums being passed off as being in the wild.

The first is a BBC video:


The second appears to be a hobbyist who shoots the entire video from above:


The third is a would be nature documentarian. All the underwater shots are done in an aquarium but he has one scene at the 4 minute mark where he shows a small trench where he catches some newts:


I heard mention in another video (that I can't find anymore) that these trenches in the forest (frequently made by trucks or large machinery from years or decades past) are common breeding grounds for these newts.

In all 3 videos it seems pretty clear that there are significant underwater obstacles in the forms of sticks, leaves, rocks, and plants. Since the newts choose these locations and seem to do just fine in them I can't find anything objectionable in my own setup which frankly has fewer obstacles then what is visible in these videos.
 

Kirsten

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@minorhero They do fine with the amano shrimp but have definitely picked off a few neocardinia. As long as you keep up with feeding they'll be less likely to prey on the shrimp. I do find that one of my newts enjoys hunting them albeit unsuccessfully. I've still had shrimp produce offspring. If you have facebook I recommend joining "Newts and Salamanders" as well as the "Caudata.org" groups for quicker responses.
 

minorhero

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Its been a few weeks and a bunch more things have happened so figured I should give an update.

Following up from my last post I have had a chance to start a worm ranch and I think its working.. well honestly its hard to tell, but its PROBABLY working....

Anyway when reading about worm ranches/farms I found that a lot of people do them indoors but honestly that seemed like a lot more trouble. I found some other folk doing it outside and that seemed like a better way to go. I used an old 40 gallon plastic storage container as my worm ranch and began construction by drilling a bunch of 1/8 holes in the bottom for drainage.

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I dug a hole in my yard under a tree deep enough that the container would fit in it up to the lip but not so deep that it was completely below the surface.

I then poured in a 1 to 2 inch layer of gravel I had lying around and then covered that with some dried grasses from cuttings in my yard.

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I had half a brick of dried 'forest moss' made by exo terra and 1.5 bricks of coconut coir left over from some other projects. I rehydrated those and piled them in as well:

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After that I made a lid for it out of some wood scraps I had laying around. Actually I was able to use some really old wood that I've had for a while that I have been repeatedly asking myself why I held onto. Now I'm glad I did.

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I'm the only person I've seen make a wooden lid. Most people would just use the plastic lid the container comes with and drill some holes for aeration and water but I have small children that will definitely jump up and down on this thing so I wanted something stronger.

The end result is not terrible looking and will hopefully do the job.

I have set about filling the thing with worms I find in my yard and on hikes in parks. The winter temperatures are definitely slowing the collection but despite this I probably have added around 100 worms to the ranch since I made it. Now mind you, I haven't actually tried to pull any out yet, its all been about adding worms so far. I have thrown a few handfuls of vegetable scraps into the ranch to feed the worms and... that's about it. Hopefully in a few months I will have enough worms in there and their numbers will be self sustaining enough that I can start to harvest from the bin.

I also got in my culture for white worms and immediately split it in two to start new cultures in large disposable tupperware containers. I've basically ignored those for the last couple of weeks waiting for the population to increase to a point where I can start harvesting.

In other news I was finally able to find 2 stainless steel intakes that I can use for filtration and I was able to drill holes to allow them to sit properly into the tank. It was a LOT harder to find these then I first would have thought simply because many sellers do not actually ship the same exact product they show pictures of online. It was essential that the intakes have inlet slits only very near the bottom and many had inlet slits much higher up then pictured. But after enough searching I found someone in north carolina on ebay that had what I needed.

Switching subjects, I have been completely unable to find anyone willing to take my ricefish off my hands (even giving them away) so out of desperation for anything else to do with them I tried adding them back to the tank now that the newts have adjusted to their environment a bit. The newts definitely acted a bit more skittish for a couple of days after the reintroduction but have since settled back down.

Here is how the tank currently looks:

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Its getting very close to the first big trim of this tank when I can get the plants much closer to their 'final' form.

Meanwhile I have made 4 versions of the DIY aquarium chiller and all have failed in various ways. The latest rendition worked... for a time. Then the peltier unit failed and clearly it stopped working after that. All the peltier units I have purchased so far have been cheapies off of amazon so I am going to try to buy one from a more reputable vendor and try one last time. If it doesn't work I will need find a good way to mount a fan gosh darn it.

For those that have followed along, my only question at this point is about feeding and how much should I be feeding? Right now I am feeding 1 adult earth worm per day cut up into 1 to 2 cm pieces (approximately, darn earth worms can stretch out a lot sometimes). The newts seem to be eating all they want and my snails and amano shrimp are eating any leftovers (which was really surprising to me that they wanted the leftovers). My newts I found out hatched right around March of 2020 so they are currently 10 months old. I've read that adults are usually fed once every other day so I guess I wanted to know when to switch over to that schedule? My concern being that I don't want to make them obese.
 

minorhero

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Update!

Its been a month so its time for another update!

Things have been going very well with the tank. The newts are eating well and seem healthy. The plants are all growing in and I've had a couple of trims at this point.

On the negative front, I tried several variations of a peltier based diy chiller but couldn't get more than a single degree difference in temperature. So I with much reluctance attached a fan to my light bracket. This gave me a 6 degree fahrenheit drop in temperature. It also about triples my evaporation rate but ehh what can you do? This is how that looked:

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I also learned after posting some pictures on facebook that my newts (now about 11 months since hatching) are both girls. I was really hoping for at least one boy for the nifty coloration that male alpine newts have. I have decided to try and find a male to join the party. Ideally I would find an identifiable male, but those are fairly rare among people willing to sell a critter. So I am likely going to have to settle for another unsexed juvenile and just hope for the best.

I was also told that once my newts reach 3 or 4 inches in length I can start feeding them every other day. I'm definitely already there so I switched to that schedule.

Without further ado, here are some pictures of the newts and other tank inhabitants.

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and the obligatory full tank shot:

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