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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 10:16 EDT

Chinese Fire Belly Newt, Cynops orientalis

The Chinese Fire Belly Newt (Cynops orientalis) is a small black newt measuring about 2.2 to 4 inches. It has bright orange aposematic coloration on the ventral sides. C. orientalis is commonly seen in pet stores where it is frequently confused with the Japanese Fire Belly Newt (C. pyrrhogaster) because of similarities in size and in coloration. It typically exhibits smoother skin and a rounder tail than the C. pyrrhogaster, and has less obvious parotoid glands.

They are mildly poisonous and excrete toxins though their skin. Consisting mainly of tetrodotoxins, newts of the genus Cynops pose a medically significant threat if enough toxins are consumed. Despite this, skin excretions along are not likely to be harmful to humans unless they entire animal is swallowed. Regardless, the washing of hands before and after making contact with these or any amphibians is important to reduce the risk of transferring toxins or disease to and from the animal.

Though these newts are relatively easy to care for, many new imports die because of stress or diseases contracted during shipping. For the animals that survive the shipping, mortality rates remain very high from poor husbandry received at pet stores or from the final owner.

This newt does best in an unheated aquarium at temperatures between 58 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 74 degrees Fahrenheit normally result in high levels of stress or even death. The adults do best in aquatic habitats with some degree of land provided.

If the newt does not enter the water, this may be a sign of stress, improper water quality, or other health issues. A five gallon aquarium is ideal for these newts, though smaller tanks may have water quality issues.

Mixing other animals with this species is discourages. Other animals may be aggressive, carry foreign diseases, have different housing requirements, and may eat or be eaten by the newts. Fire Belly Newts must never be kept with a dwarf or clawed frogs, as these animals are known carriers of chytrid, a skin fungus that is generally fatal to most amphibian species.

Newts in captivity may eat pellets or freeze dried foods. Live food items that are readily taken may include bloodworms, earthworms, water fleas, adult brine shrimp, blackworms, or mosquito larvae.

Water plants and plastic egg-laying strips work well for the females, and plastic strips may be preferred to live plants. The eggs are laid singly wrapped into the plants or plastic, with a few eggs laid each day. A typical clutch may vary between 50 and 250 eggs per female.

Larvae hatch after a few weeks and can be raised on baby brine shrimp, daphnia, or cut blackworms. However, because of the low demand for captive bred C. orientalis, intentional breeding is uncommon and metamorphs can be hard to sell or even to give away. After metamorphosis, this species tends to go through a terrestrial stage. At this time you would need a tank with a water depth ranging from 1 to 2 inches. Although, this water depth can be slightly higher or lower. Heavy planting is needed; such as elodea and java moss.

Image Caption: Two Chinese Fire Bellied Newts (Hypselotriton orientalis). Credit: Dobromila/Wikipedia

Chinese Fire Belly Newt Cynops orientalis