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Rough Skinned Newt - Taricha granulosa

The Rough Skinned Newt has been dubbed the most toxic amphibian by some. It is said that swallowing a Rough Skinned Newt can kill an adult man in less than 30 minutes. The good news is that this little, eternally grinning amphibian can make a safe and interesting pet with the proper precautions. With their chocolate-brown dorsum and bright orange underside the Rough Skinned Newt covers both camouflage and warning coloration. As an easy to care for species the Rough Skinned Newt is suitable to for all levels of keepers, but due to its toxicity, would be best if either kept away from children or only handled by them with close supervision.


Average Size:
7 to 8 inches.

Life Span:
Possibly up to 30 years, little hard data available.

In the wild Rough Skinned Newt eats a variety of small, live aquatic material as an adult and various vegetable material in the larval stage. Variety is the name of the game when feeding your newts. Frozen foods are excellent, and bloodworms, blackworms and brine shrimp can all be offered. Very small fish or tadpoles may also be taken. Whenever live foods are used make certain that they are clean and not a source of disease or parasites. Commercially available newt pellets can be offered, but acceptance is usually low.

While your newt would be thrilled to eat multiple times as day as much as it could, it is not advisable to overfeed your pet. Every other day to every third day feeding is recommended, and no more than your newt can eat in 15 minutes.

Rough Skinned Newts are a mostly aquatic species in the wild that can occasionally be found out and about under moist leaves and rocks. In captivity a partially filled aquarium is the best way to keep them healthy and happy.

A nice sized cage for a couple of Rough Skinned Newts would be 30 inches long X 12 inches deep X 12 inches tall (20 gallon long aquarium).

Gravel will provide an attractive tank bottom for your newts, just make sure that the particle size is large enough that they cannot easily ingest it with their food.  It can be sloped up at one side of the tank to provide a place for your newts to get out of the water should they so desire

Fake and live plants can be used to give your Rough Skinned Newts a place to lounge and hide away. Branches and rocks can be placed so that they protrude above the waters surface if gravel is not mounded up for the newts to climb out on.

Grooming and Hygiene: Handling is acceptable, though care should be used to not get water from the newt or actual secretions from the newt on the mucous membranes or in open wounds. If one is careful, the Rough Skinned Newt can be handled safely. Always wash your hands before and after touching your gecko or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases

Temperature: Rough Skinned Newts prefer room temperature accommodations, preferably below 75 degrees F. Heaters should only be used to prevent the water temperature from dropping below 60 degrees F.

Lighting: Lighting is more important for viewing your newts than it is for the newts themselves. If you wish to keep live plants in your tanks, place a full spectrum bulb on your tank.

Water: Provide clean, chlorine free water for your rough skinned newts. Make sure that it is neither too basic nor acidic, hard nor soft.

Habitat Maintenance: Use a reliable underwater filter to keep your newts water as clean as possible. A 25% water change is recommended weekly in conjunction with vacuuming the gravel clean. Filter cartridges should be changed biweekly as Rough Skinned Newts produce a moderate amount of waste.

Recommended Supplies:

  • Secure glass or plexi enclosure with screen top to prevent escape
  • Numerous live or fake plants
  • Light housing and bulbs
  • Thermometer
  • Filter and filter cartridges
  • Newt pellets
  • Live prey items
  • Gravel
  • Rocks, driftwood for decoration   

Normal Behavior and Interaction: Expect your Rough Skinned Newt to be relatively inactive for the most part, though you may occasionally see your pet swimming sinuously through its enclosure. Feeding time is when your newt will be most active. If your newt is scared it will adopt a posture with its back arched to show off its bright orange belly. In the wild this would warn predators that it carries a vile poison and to back off. Always handle your newt carefully so it does not feel threatened. Your newt may enjoy the company of other newts, and in the wild they can often be found in great gatherings. If you do decide to keep more than one newt make sure that all of your newts are getting sufficient food at feeding time and that no one animal is being bullied.

Signs of a Healthy Pet:

  • Healthy skin
  • Clear eyes
  • Active
  • Eats regularly
  • Clear nose and vent  
Common Health Issues and Red Flags: 

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Bumps, sores, or abrasions on skin 
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs
  • Abnormal feces
  • Stringy or fuzzy material on the skin
  • Red spots, blotches or lines 

Injuries and dietary deficiencies are the most common ailments for the Rough Skinned Newt. Most injuries will heal on their own.  In case of severe injury a reptile/ amphibian veterinarian should be contacted. Dietary deficiencies can be avoided by feeding a proper, balanced diet to your newt. The symptoms of a dietary deficiency are indistinct in aquatic newts and hard to diagnose. Prevention is the best medicine in this case. This is a hardy species that should do well with for many years with conscientious care.

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.

I would like to Thank Genevieve LaFerriere for writing this caresheet. She breeds and sells geckos, visit her website:

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:27 EST
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