Red-spotted Newt Notophthalmus viridescens

red spotted newt

Image courtesy of Virginia Herpetological Society

Red-spotted Newt Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

Rafinesque originally described the Red-spotted Newt N. viridescens viridescens and the Peninsula Newt Notophthalmus viridescens piaropicola in 1820. Since that time, two other subspecies of the genus Notophthalmus have been described. For the sake of completeness, they are the Central Newt Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis, which was originally described by Wolterstorff in 1914 and the Broken Stripe Newt Notophthalmus viridescens dorsalis as described by Harlan in 1828 my purposes within this article, however I am focusing on the Red-spotted Newt N. v. viridescens.


The Red-spotted Newt N. v. viridescens as you might imagine, has reddish-orange spots which number anywhere from three to eight and are located on the dorsum, encircled in black. Most of those I have seen and cared for have an olive ground color. This layer of color is covered in smaller black dots, like someone literally peppered them with Black Pepper, which cover the dorsum and ventral areas as well as the limbs. The babies, or Efts as they are properly known, are an amazing red color with the same reddish spots outlined in black. Adults measure almost 4 ½” in total length. They are found on the Eastern coast of the United States and Southeastern Canada.


The Red-spotted Newt can be housed with others of its own kind, but there are other species which are combative and should not be introduced to these animals. We recommend no more than three adults in a 15 gallon aquarium measuring 20 ¼” by 10 ½ by 18 ¾”. As with any enclosure that has an open top, we would highly recommend that you also purchase a screen top for the enclosure, that fits snugly and can be clipped in place. The reason for using a fish tank rather than a reptile terrarium is that reptile products, generally speaking, are not designed to hold water.


Red-spotted Newts should be kept in anywhere from 6” to 12” inches of water. As mentioned earlier, I highly recommend you use reverse-osmosis water instead of de-chlorinated. Natural-colored aquarium gravel is an excellent substrate, which I have used to obtain a very realistic environment. “Natural,” meaning I use live plants, which will be covered more in-depth in the décor section for this species. Red Efts, or baby Red-spotted Newts, should be kept on a forest floor-type of bedding until they reach sexual maturity. Care for the Red Efts is a bit more complicated and therefore are not covered within this piece.


When it comes to decorating the enclosure of the Red-spotted Newt, it’s more about the plants than anything else. I have always placed at least one or two tethered pieces of cork bark with our enclosures. You can do this or use floating turtle islands as well. To tether pieces of cork bark we use a piece of monofilament fishing line or aquarium silicone to attach it to the bark. At the other end, we use a regular led weight meant for fishing, and this keeps the bark from floating all over the tank.

Any kind of freshwater aquarium plants can be added to the gravel. These will also help filter out toxins, that would otherwise build up. Larger rocks and other pieces of aquarium driftwood can be used as well. These would lead from the gravel, up to and breaking the surface of the water to make a very natural effect.


When it comes to lighting for the Red-Spotted Newt, we use a fluorescent bulb suited for plants, which doesn’t seem to disturb the newts at all. However, I must caution against using a high output incandescent light, as this will heat the aquarium and may end up stressing out the newts. It’s unknown whether or not the Newts require exposure to UVB light. Those I’ve kept have shown no preference or ill-health when not kept with UVB exposure, so we presume this is not a necessity to this species.


The water temperature for the Red-Spotted Newt should be maintained anywhere between 60 to 74˚ F during the spring and summer months. During the fall and winter months, we generally reduce the temperature to 40 or 50˚F.


Based on all my experience, I highly recommend a submersible filter. These are sold generally as a Turtle filter but have worked when keeping all types of aquatic amphibians. With the Red-spotted Newt, I also suggest that you turn the water flow down, or at least partially block the flow if it is not adjustable. This will keep the newts from being pushed around the aquarium by the current.  As opposed to other types of newts or salamanders, Red-Spotted Newts seem to enjoy a smaller flow of water, and exhibit a more natural behavior than in faster currents. Make sure to clean the filter itself about every week or two. Further reading: Newts and Salamanders (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual)