Adding Newts to Your Pond? The Facts About Newts
Have you ever thought of adding newts to your pond? Would they make a good addition to it? It depends. Maybe yes, maybe no. After much thought, I’ve come up with some thoughts on the subject.
Growing up in upstate New York meant we had short spring and summer seasons. As soon as spring began, it seemed like summer was a week away. Summer in New York seemed to pass by at warp speed. Especially for someone like myself who spent a lot of time in nature hiking and freshwater fishing. I do miss the mountains. Besides the short seasons of the warmer months, reptiles and amphibians were also limited. Don’t get me wrong, we had salamanders, toads, frogs, and some mundane snake species, but pickings were slim.
Something I came across from time to time was the eastern newt both in its aquatic stage and its terrestrial one. During their terrestrial stage, they are known as a red eft. They have a striking appearance as anyone who has seen one will tell you.
Neither phase made a particularly good pet because newts are semi-aquatic. They live on both land and water during different stages of their lives. I would see groups of these newts in a small pond at a golf course in Monticello, NY. I attempted to keep a few as pets when I was younger, but they didn’t last long. Back in the 1980s, we had far more limited resources for keeping reptiles and amphibians like we do today.
Relocation to Florida
Today I live in Florida. When I built my own ponds, I thought about different possibilities for pond inhabitants. I thought about newts, sirens and even axolotls. I’ll talk more about these different amphibians later on in this page. I did, however, get a hold of some peninsular newts. These are a subspecies of the eastern newt and are native to Florida. I figured they would make an interesting addition. I bought over a dozen of them and added them to my pond last October. Up to this point, I’m not sure if they’re still there or not.
I expected (or hoped), that I would see these peninsular newts swimming around my pond like the eastern newts I saw at the golf course in upstate New York. I was also hoping they would breed and become self-sustained. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of them since.
It’s possible that they’re still in there somewhere because it’s a good-sized pond over forty feet in length. The pond was still new and the plants weren’t acclimated yet. I know I jumped the gun adding them early but they’re not always available. In fact, they’re often hard to get. I may add more at some point if the opportunity arises again.
Let’s get down to it
Basically, a newt is in the subfamily of the salamander. While most salamanders become terrestrial, newts stay semi-aquatic.
Some newts stay in the water their entire lives. That’s what I was hoping for in my situation. I know the northern phase of this species becomes a terrestrial eft at some point in their lives. I’m still not sure if the peninsular newt goes through this stage and hope they stay aquatic.
I thought about possibly adding other amphibians similar to newts. Here’s what I came up with.
A waterdog is the larvae of the tiger salamander. I had one of these in a ten-gallon fish tank in my son’s room. Unfortunately, he never turned into a tiger salamander and died in about a year. These are strange creatures. There’s no telling when they’ll decide to drop their gills and become the impressive and terrestrial tiger salamander. I tried slowly lowering the water level to no avail. It’s a shame because he seemed healthy and was at good body weight.
Some people use these as fishing bait. I paid nearly $40 for mine so I guess if you can find them at a bait shop instead of a pet shop, they’ll be cheaper. Actually, I don’t know if state regulations allow these as fish bait anymore. When taking the fact that waterdogs become tiger salamanders, it was obvious that they wouldn’t make a good addition to any of my ponds. Once they drop their gills, they’re gone. They’re also predators and might eat some of my other pond inhabitants. This pretty much disqualifies the water dog from being a proper addition to any of my ponds.
The greater siren is a freshwater, fully aquatic salamander native to my area. They have external gills with small front limbs while any hind limbs are completely absent. These salamanders grow to about three feet in length. They also supplement their gills with oxygen taken from the air. This aids them in breathing when oxygen levels are low during the high temperatures of summer. Sirens are predators and scavengers. Taking this into account with their potentially large size convinced me that they wouldn’t be a good addition to any of my ponds.
The axolotl is a Mexican salamander that has gained popularity in the pet trade. Closely related to the water dogs, they remain fully aquatic throughout their life. Not particularly attractive, these salamanders don’t acquire the large sizes of the greater siren but are still considered predators to some pond inhabitants. The deal breaker for myself is the low temperatures the salamanders need. Ideally, they need temperatures at about 68 degrees. All my ponds exceed this temperature during the spring and summer making them a big negative.
Newts as an invasive pest
Unfortunately, some species of newts are invasive. It’s made acquiring them difficult and when they’re available, they’re very expensive. Many species cannot be shipped over state lines which is the case with peninsular newts. My thoughts go back to the 1980s when I kept California newts as pets. I really miss them and would be interested in keeping them again. It’s doubtful that will happen though. I’d set them up inside in a semi-aquatic terrarium and not add them to any of my ponds.
When it comes to adding newts or salamander larvae to a pond, first check your local and state laws. All things considered, newts, in general, do not seem a likely candidate for most pond situations. Especially in my case. If you must add them, go with native newts over invasive ones. My best bet is the greater siren but I’m not really interested due to their predatory habits.