What do newts eat? It depends on their age and where they live. They are semi-aquatic animals, meaning they live both on land and in the water. In both these environments, they will eat pretty much any prey they can fit into their mouths.
Newts are strict carnivores, meaning they eat only “meat”. Generally, they will eat soft-bodied insects, worms, slugs, and other small invertebrates on land. In the water, they will eat small crustaceans aquatic insects, tadpoles, water snails, immature fish, and even smaller newts (yes, they can be cannibals).
Newts go through 3 distinct life stages. They start as aquatic larvae, feeding on aquatic insect larvae, daphnia, and other aquatic invertebrates.
As they transform into adults, they can eat larger things such as slugs, snails, immature fish, and even small frogs and smaller newts. They aren’t picky with what they eat, so almost prey they can catch and fit into their mouths is on the menu.
What Newts Eat In the Wild
As mentioned earlier, newts are semi-aquatic creatures. This means they live both on land and in the water. Some newts, such as paddle tail and Spanish ribbed newts are mostly aquatic, while others such as the rough newt-skinned newt are mostly terrestrial, spending most of their time on land.
Since newts get their food from the environments they live in, their exact diet will depend on whether they spend most of their time on land or in the water.
Newts that spend most of their time on land will have a diet mainly made up of worms, slugs, snails, insects, and other small invertebrates found on land.
Newts that spend most of their time in the water will have a diet mainly comprising of leeches, slugs, water snails, aquatic insects, and other aquatic invertebrates such as brine shrimp and daphnia.
A Newts Diet During the Different Stages of Life
Newts typically go through three life stages: Aquatic larvae, terrestrial juvenile, and, semi-aquatic adult.
Female newts lay eggs and attach them to grass and other vegetation in breeding ponds. After about 2-3 weeks, these eggs hatch out into tiny larvae. These larvae have feathery gills to help them breathe in the water.
A few months later, these larvae will go through a process known as metamorphosis and transform into Juveniles (also called efts) able to live on land.
What Newt Larvae (Baby Newts) Eat
Newts start their lives as tiny embryos inside an egg sac. Their first food source for the developing embryo is the yolk of their egg sack. They will eat most of the yolk until they are ready to hatch into the water. This can take anywhere from two to four weeks.
After hatching, the larvae will feed on;
- Small worms
- Aquatic insect larvae (glass worms, mosquito larvae, etc)
- small aquatic insects,
- Baby brine shrimp,
- Baby daphnia, and other small aquatic invertebrates.
As the larvae grow in size, they can eat larger things, such as frog tadpoles, adult daphnia, slugs, larger insects, amphibian eggs (frog eggs, other newt eggs, etc), fish eggs, and larger worms.
What Juvenile Newts (also called efts) Eat
After approximately two to three months, the larvae will begin transforming into juveniles through a process known as metamorphosis. During this process, they lose their gills, develop lungs for breathing air, and develop strong legs for walking on land.
The juvenile efts live most of their lives on land feeding on
- Fruit flies and a wide variety of other small insects
Some newts have an entirely aquatic juvenile phase and do not leave the water after going through a metamorphosis. These will have a similar diet to that of the larvae, just on a larger scale. They will eat bugs, tadpoles, immature fish, and other prey can they find in their environment.
What Adult Newts Eat
After a few months, to as much as two years, the efts will mature into adult newts. The adults are fully grown, so they have stronger jaws and larger mouths enabling them to eat larger prey. They have ferocious appetites and will eat nearly anything they can get into their mouth.
Here’s a list of things that would make up an adult newts diet in the wild.
- Ants, Bees, Wasps
- Spiders, Millipedes
- Fruit Flies, Crane flies, Sawflies
- Crickets, Cockroaches
- Springtails, Mites
- Mosquitoes, Mosquito larvae, other aquatic insect larvae
- Grubs, maggots
- Snails, slugs, leeches
- Danpnia, shrimp, and other small aquatic crustaceans
- Small frogs, frog eggs, and other amphibian eggs
- Small and immature fish
- Beetles, moths, and a wide variety of other insects.
Other animals on the menu include baby mice (pinkies), small lizards, and even smaller newts. They are not picky eaters so almost any animal they can overpower and fit into their mouth is on the menu.
How Newts Get Their Food
Newts live both on land and in the water. They use slightly different hunting methods in each of these unique environments
On land, they cannot move very quickly. This means they can not actively chase after prey as other quicker predators do. To get around this, they developed a passive ‘sit and wait’ hunting strategy.
This is an ambush-style technique where the newts hide in shady areas or burrow slightly in the mud and then pounce on any prey that passes by.
However, they can also use a more active hunting strategy. The only problem here is that they will be restricted to prey that moves slower than them, such as slugs and earthworms.
In the water, they can move much faster because they are efficient swimmers. This makes it possible for them to actively chase after prey such as fish, tadpoles, and small frogs.
What to Feed a Newt in Captivity
A newt in captivity will be able to eat all the food it would eat in the wild. The only reason captive newts have a different diet is that most people aren’t able to get the wide variety of prey that would make up a newts diet in the wild. So they resort to using food they can purchase in a pet store, or cultivate on their own.
However, even in captivity, it’s a good idea to keep the diet of the newt as close to its wild diet as possible. This means you will have to feed it live bugs, worms, and other live prey.
Here is a list of newts eats in captivity:
- Mosquito larvae
- Glass worms
- Brine shrimp
- Fruit flies, maggots, grubs
- Phoenix worms
- Dubia roaches
Some aquatic newts will also readily accept frozen or canned foods such as frozen worms, canned crickets, frozen brine shrimp, canned mealworms/waxworms, and canned snails.
The most appropriate food will depend on the specific species of newt. For example, an aquatic newt may be happy eating dead bugs, floating food sticks, and even fish food.
A terrestrial newt on the other hand may only accept live prey. However, most newts (both aquatic and terrestrial) will readily accept live prey so, when in doubt, use live prey.
A varied diet is recommended so change the food items offered every few feedings.
Gut loading, Vitamin & Mineral supplements
In the wild, newts get all the nutrients and minerals they need from the wide variety of prey they eat. In captivity, their diet is limited to only a few things. Additionally, most captive-bred prey items are raised on low-quality food, so they are not as nutritious as wild prey.
For this reason, is important to gut load feeder insects before offering them to your newt.
Gut loading is the process of feeding feeder insects highly nutritious foods at least 48 hours before they are offered to the newt. During this process, you’ll give your feeder insects nutritious foods, for example, oranges and vegetables with lots of vitamin C. After eating this food, the insects will be offered to the newt.
Doing this will benefit your newt because the nutrients are passed on to it after eating the gut-loaded insects.
Another way to ensure your newts get all the nutrients they need is by dusting their food with vitamin and mineral supplements.
The easiest way to do this is by using commercially manufactured vitamin and mineral supplements.
The process is simple:
- Place the feeder insects into a small container
- Sprinkle some supplement powder in with them
- Gently shake the container so the supplements lightly ‘dust’ the insects
When the newt eats these insects, it will also consume the supplements and remain strong and healthy.
Newt Larvae in Captivity
In the wild, newt larvae are aggressive predators that will eat a variety of small aquatic animals. In captivity, they have to be fed tiny live foods. The most suitable foods will depend on the size and age of the larvae.
Newly hatched larvae can be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp, baby daphnia, microworms, blackworms, and grindle worms.
When the larvae are bigger, they will be able to eat larger things, such as larger brine shrimp, adult daphnia, glass worms, chopped earthworms, bloodworms, and tubifex worms.
Juvenile Newts in Captivity
When the larvae go through metamorphosis and transform into terrestrial juveniles, their diet will shift towards land prey. Since they are not fully grown yet, they have to be fed a smaller version of their adult diet.
They can be fed
- Small worms
- Pinhead crickets and other small insects such as wingless fruit flies.
Feeder insects should be no larger than the width of the newt’s mouth. Giving a newt an oversized insect could lead it to choke or injure its digestive tract.
How Much & How Often to Feed Your Newt
This may seem obvious but, only feed your newt what it can consume. Don’t fill up its tank with insects or worms that will stay uneaten for days. The general rule is to feed your newt as much as it will eat in 15-20 minutes.
Concerning how often to feed a newt, Adults will have to be fed every 2-3 days while juveniles will have to feed every day.
However different species of newt have different requirements so there is no “one size fits all” answer here. Skinny adult newts will have to be fed small quantities of food every day until they put on a healthy weight.
What Human Foods Can a Newt Eat?
While it’s not advisable to feed a newt most ‘human foods’, some aquatic newts will readily accept very thin slices of freshwater fish such as salmon or trout, raw shrimp, thin slices of beef liver, kidneys, and other lean meats such as chicken. Most other human foods though are not suitable for newts.
Why Isn’t My Newt Eating?
The most common reason a newt may not eat is, is under stress and still getting used to a new place – This is very common with new newts. To remedy this problem, try calming the newt by placing it in a dark room, then leave it alone for some time so it can calm down. Newts are nocturnal animals so they will be more active in the dark.
A second reason a newt may reject food may lie with the characteristics of the individual. The newt may not be used to eating the food you are offering – In this case you need to carefully research the correct diet of your newt. Most newts will readily accept worms and live bugs.
Another, and more serious reason a newt may not eat can be due to disease or parasitic infection- Most health problems in captive newts are due to unclean water. Bacteria and fungus can grow and cause infections.
Carefully monitor your newt for possible changes or signs of an infection. If you notice any problem, contact a veterinarian for further instructions.
Common Feeding Mistakes
Feeding the Wrong Type of Food
Different newts will have different diets. Aquatic newts may accept dead bugs, while terrestrial newts will likely only accept live prey. If you give a newt the wrong type of food, it may reject it and starve.
Using Wrong Sized Feeder Insects
Although newts have teeth, they don’t use them to chew their food. Rather, they use their teeth to maintain a grip on their prey as they swallow it whole. This means they can not eat anything they can not swallow whole.
A tiny juvenile newt will not be able to eat a full-sized cricket. If it does attempt to eat it, it may choke or injure itself in the process.
Not Using a Varied Diet
Like us humans, newts need to eat a balanced diet to remain healthy. Giving a newt a limited diet means it will not get some of the nutrients it needs. Make sure you feed your newt different foods on different days.
Using High-Fat Foods too often
Regularly feeding newt mammalian meats (such as pinkie mice, beef, or chicken), or high-fat invertebrates (such as waxworms) can lead to obesity.
High-fat foods should be limited to occasional treats. However, they can be used to help fatten a starved newt.
Feeding a Starved Newt too Much, too Quickly
Some people purchase thin newts, and give them a lot of food, often out of sympathy for the animal. While this may sound like a kind act, it can lead to a serious condition known as refeeding syndrome that can be fatal for the animal.
Refeeding syndrome is a condition that is caused by sudden shifts in the electrolytes that help the body metabolize food.
For this reason, starved newts should be fed small amounts of food every day, until they put on a healthy weight.
Most newts will stop eating when they are full. However, some newts have huge appetites, so overfeeding is a real possibility. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which could, in turn, lead to several health problems for the newt.
Alternatively, underfeeding a newt means it will starve and most likely have poor health.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can a Newt go Without Eating? A healthy newt can go without eating for as long as two weeks, but this isn’t to say you should starve your newts. I personally never go more than 4 days without feeding my newts.
If you plan to go away for a long time, find someone to feed and take care of your newts while you are away.
Newts are very opportunistic feeders that will eat a variety of prey in their environments. Their exact diet will largely depend on whether they spend most of their time on land, or in the water. Regardless of this, all newts have very similar diets.
If you recently acquired a pet newt, just make sure you feed it a varied diet, and don’t forget to gut load feeder insects before every feeding session!