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Small newt of slender build, dimensions between 6.5 and 10.3 cm with totally black (most common), brown or gray coloring on the body except for the belly which has a background color from red to faded orange with irregular black spots. The red color also continues on the lower part of the tail forming a more or less thick band. The tail is deeply compressed laterally and is used for swimming. Head slightly compressed with evident parotoid glands.
The sexual dimorphism is rather evident once it reaches sexual maturity: the males are smaller than the females remaining under 8cm, they have a shorter tail than the body, a broader tail than the females and like most newts the males have a more pronounced cloaca, especially during the reproductive period.
In 2009 all Cynops from mainland Asia were classified as belonging to the new genus Hypselotriton based on some differences with Japanese species, but this classification was not accepted by most scientists, relegating hypselotriton to subgenus.
Two subspecies of Cynops orientalis have been described, Cynops orientalis orientalis and Cynops orientalis qianshan. This division, although plausible from a geographical point of view being the two groups divided by the Yangtze River, is not yet supported by genetic studies and in addition the morphological differences between the two subspecies are minimal. All the specimens currently in captivity are plausibly belonging to the nominal subspecies, but without knowing the locality of capture of the animals it is not possible to distinguish the two.
Relatively common and widespread species in China in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Anhui and Hubei. They live in a wide range of wetlands at various altitudes but prefer still or slow moving, fresh, richly planted waters with a stony-sandy or muddy bottom with plant debris.
Care in Captivity:
A 50L aquarium is great for a trio or a couple. The tank must be set up with dense vegetation and with many hiding places created with rocks, plants and trunks, the bottom can be bare or composed of very fine sand, to avoid intestinal obstructions, gravel is not recommended.
An emerged area, even of a small size, is mandatory, in fact while they are purely aquatic newts, some specimens may need to go out of water occasionally, particularly at night. Observing them for very long times outside the water can be a clear sign of an unsuitable accommodation for them or of any pathology.
Lighting is not necessary but recommended for the correct development of plants. Recommended temperatures are between 14-20°C but they can safely tolerate even lower temperatures in winter and temperatures up to 25°C in summer without showing signs of malaise, however I do not recommend temperatures over 26°C.
The use of a filter in the aquarium is at the discretion of the keeper, however I recommend it to be set at minimum to avoid currents in the aquarium, if you do not adopt a filter, the plants will have a crucial role and partial water changes are recommended in addition to regular top ups.
They are not a picky species that actively hunts anything that moves and not, the diet must be based on earthworms, brine shrimp and thawed bloodworms. Enriching the diet with other arthropods is always recommended, to date the only prey that they have not appreciated are slugs that they tend to regurgitate because of their mucus. Food must be administered 3 to 2 times a week, I personally supply it once in the winter and twice in the summer.
Reproduction and Care of Larvae:
This is a species that if housed in a suitable tank it breeds with relative ease. The courtship takes place by the male through chases, tail-fanning and occasionally bites. After fertilization, the female lays her eggs individually on the aquatic vegetation.
A period of brumation is not necessary for this species, with often a drop in the photoperiod and temperatures of up to 5-15°C for the winter months is enough. The breeding season runs from March to July, during this period each female can lay 10 to over 250 eggs.
It is recommended to remove the eggs from the parents’ tank to avoid cannibalism, a 5L container can be excellent for hatching and the growth of the larvae. The larvae must be fed with live food such as daphnia and other small invertebrates, once they reach two cm you can also start supplying defrosted food of the right size but it is not always given that it will be accepted.
The juveniles can be kept in a terrestrial setting until they are sexually mature once reached 3 years of age, alternatively they can be grown in an amphibious environment with an emerged area and a couple of centimeters of water, the aquatic area must be full of plants to avoid drowning, java moss is an excellent solution.
Until a few years ago it was one of the species most present on the market, following the European regulations on the import of Caudata, this is one of the species that was most affected by it and it almost disappeared from sale if not for private reproductions.
They are not subject to any regulations.
They are newts active both during the day and night. They have a very strong feeding frenzy, therefore I recommend to be careful during feeding, they can even bite off each other’s limbs very easily. Nowadays, after many years of keeping, I consider it one of the most aggressive species during this phase. One solution to cope with this problem is to provide food at various points in the tank. Outside of food, they do not present particular territorial behaviors.
About the Author...
Giuseppe Molinari, born in 1996 in Cesena, spent his childhood in the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines where he became passionate about naturalistic subjects.
He is currently graduating in Natural Sciences at the University of Bologna.
He is passionate about wildlife photography with a predilection for herpetofauna and he collaborates as a volunteer in various LIFE projects within the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests.
It has been breeding caudata continuously since 2014, in particular he focuses on species of Asian origin.
Citation: Grosse Wolf-Rüdiger. (2018). Threatened newts and salamanders of the world: captive care management. Mannheim, Germany: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde.