The genus Taricha consists of three species and four subspecies of Western Newts (sometimes referred to as Pacific Newts). All newts are part of the family Salamandridae. The three species within this genus are the California Newt, the Rough-Skinned Newt, and the Red Bellied Newt, all of which are found on the west coast of the USA.

Differentiating between species

The Rough-skinned Newt (T. granulosa) and the California Newt (T. torosa) share several characteristics. Both are light brown to black on the upper body and orange to yellow on the underbelly. They have "pebbly" skin that is not slimy and they may grow to a length of 8 inches, which is large for a salamander. However, there are a few characteristics to tell them apart. Rough-skinned Newts have small eyes with dark lower eyelids, while California Newts have large eyes and light lower eyelids. Also, rough-skinned newts' upper teeth form a V shape, while those of the California newt form a Y shape. However, this is difficult to ascertain on a living specimen.

The Red-bellied Newt is brown on the upper body with a red underbelly, has grainy skin, and grows to between 5.5 and 7.5 inches. It can be distinguished from other coastal newts, not only by its red belly, but also by the lack of yellow in its eyes. Breeding males develop smooth skin and a flattened tail.


Taricha spp. eat a diet largely consisting of invertebrates such as Blood worms and mosquito larvae. Most predators associate bright colors with poison (called aposematism) and therefore, if attacked, the newt will take up a defensive position, showing off the bright underbelly. If the predator is not deterred by this display the newt will probably be its last meal. Newts of this genus are primarily nocturnal and may be either fully aquatic or semi-aquatic. None are fully terrestrial as they must enter the water to breed. Juvenile newts, which are known as "efts", are primarily terrestrial until they reach sexual maturity.


All species within the genus Taricha possess the biotoxin tetrodotoxin (TTX), one of the most potent toxins known to science. However, the degree of toxicity varies between species and between populations within a species. In general, the Rough-skinned Newt (T. granulosa) is the most toxic species. Rough-Skinned newts from populations in Northern Oregon are more toxic than those from California and Washington. Those on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, possess little or no TTX. Taricha can be lethal to humans if ingested and at least one human fatality occurred in Oregon from eating a Rough-skinned Newt. Eastern newts of the genus Notophthalmus (=Diemictylus of earlier authors) also secrete TTX, but in lesser amounts. When handling Taricha the toxins should not be allowed to come in contact with unbroken skin or mucous membranes. Proper hand washing after handling should prevent any problems with infection from Salmonella (which newts are known to carry) or ingestion of TTX, however, some individuals are known to be allergic to skin contact with the toxin. Also, as amphibians' skin is very permeable, hand washing before handling will reduce the possibility of the newt absorbing bacteria or other contaminants from the handler.

These newts are, however, often kept as pets and with proper lighting, feeding and hygiene they will readily adapt to aquarium life.

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Oriental Fire-bellied Toad

The Oriental Fire-bellied Toad, is a small (4 cm, 2") semi-aquatic toad species found in Korea, north-eastern China and adjacent parts of Russia. An introduced population exists near Beijing. They are commonly kept as pets in land and water vivariums.


Oriental fire-bellied toads are the most easily recognizable species of Bombina. They are typically a bright green with black mottling dorsally, but their coat may also darken to brown and even black depending on the scenery presented. Like other Bombina species, Bombina orientalis have a bright yellow to red (generally bright reddish-orange) ventral region mottled with dark brown to black. The skin on their dorsal side is covered in small tubercles. Although it is typically referred to as a toad, the Fire-Bellied Toad is not a member of the toad family (Bufonidae.) As such, it may properly be referred to as a toad.

They are noted for their bright green and black coloration on their backs, and brilliant orange and black on their underside. In the wild, B. orientalis eat various types of small aquatic arthropods (among other things) from which they obtain Carotene, which helps to color their bellies. These bright colors serve as a warning to predators of toxicity. The toxin is secreted through the skin mostly on the hind legs and sometimes the belly in a milky-like substance when the frog is disturbed or frightened. Not only will they emit this toxin, they will also lay on their back to show the colour of the belly, indicating its toxicity to any predators.


Like other Bombina species, B. orientalis is mostly aquatic, inhabiting warm, humid forested regions. They spend most of their time in the water, among dense vegetation.The orientalis is also known as the tuti toad.


Breeding takes place in the spring with the warming of the weather and increase in rain. Males call to the females with a light barking croak. They jump onto the back of any other fire-bellied toad that happens to pass by, often leading to male-male confusion, but rarely any sort of fighting. Females lay anywhere from 40 to 100 eggs in a large cluster, usually around submerged plants, near the water's edge. Tadpoles hatch from the eggs in 3–10 days depending on the temperature of the water. The larvae begin to develop legs in 6–8 weeks, and are fully metamorphosed and begin venturing on land in 12–14 weeks.

In captivity

In the United States, B. orientalis is commonly kept as a pet. They are generally a hardy species that do well in captivity if given good water quality. They are commonly fed with small crickets dusted with a calcium powder. They can also be fed with other small insects and grubs. They should not be fed mealworms, as these larva possess hard shells which fire-bellied toads have a hard time digesting or passing.

Fire-bellied Toads are usually fed live food. They only hunt prey which moves, ignoring any food item which is too slow or still. At times, they may even release prey that doesn't put up a strong enough fight. Some keepers have success by "hand" feeding food items, attaching pieces to a long piece of wood or straw and waving it in front of the frogs. Oriental fire-bellied toads can be trained to accept food in this manner.While not the most toxic of amphibians, regular handling is not recommended (avoid if there are cuts on your hands) and your hands should always be washed thoroughly immediately after touching the frog or cleaning the tank. Although harmless to the skin of most, if ingested it can cause discomfort. Because of their mild toxicity, oriental fire-bellied toads should not be kept with most other types of frog or amphibian.

When kept in captivity, it is important to provide adequate hiding places as Bombina orientalis need to feel a sense of security. They tend to spend the majority of their time basking in neck-level dechlorinated water (if they do not completely immerse themselves.) An ideal filter is a type of mini filter, as long as the outlet is blocked in some way ideally by a barrier of stones, it disperses the water better without creating a strong current.

Because members of the Bombina genus have short, round tongues that cannot be pushed out of the mouth, fire-bellied toads cannot spit out items that have been accidentally taken into the mouth. As a result, their enclosures must not include gravel of a size which may be accidentally ingested. Larger rocks, Eco Earth or sand, may be used instead. An animal which swallows a piece of gravel it cannot pass will become impacted and will die unless it receives medical attention.

In captivity, oriental fire-bellied toads have lived for more than a dozen years, with 15 years being common. Some older reports document them as living up to 30 years.

In captivity, providing a source of Beta-Carotene (such as carrots) to the prey insects (crickets) early in a frog's adult stage allows it to develop brighter coloration.

Oriental fire-bellied toads should be kept in water, with some kind of land or island which allows them to periodically climb out of the water. Be careful though, these frogs aren't strong swimmers and may drown in water that is too deep. An ideal enclosure has plenty of land and water-based hiding places, as well as a land-based location suitable for depositing live food. Fire-bellied Toads have a sensitivity to chlorine and chloramine - tap water should be treated or allowed to stand for several days, to allow chlorine to dissipate, before adding it to their environment. Chloramine will not dissipate in this manner, so tap water treated with chloramine must be treated with a dechloramine agent (and then allowed to stand) before being added.
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Morelet's Treefrog

The Morelet's Treefrog is a species of frog in the Hylidae family. It is found in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montanes, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marches. It is threatened by habitat loss.


The Morelet's Tree Frog (Agalychnis moreletii) is a fairly uncommon frog which has a green body, black eyes and a red or pink underbelly. They belong to the order Anura, which encompases all frogs, the family Hylidae which encompasses specifically tree frogs, the genus agalychnis, or tree frogs native to Central and South America and species moreletii. They have also been called black-eyed leaf frogs and popeye hyla. They are found in moist subtropical lowland mountainous forests and wetland habitats of Belize, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. They have been collected on the Atlantic and Pacific slopes of Veracruz, Chiapas, the Maya mountains of Belize, northwestern Honduras and El Salvador. They can live in pristine or disturbed habitats and will breed in temporary or permanent bodies of water. They have an extended breeding season during the summer months. They deposit clutches of 50 to 75 eggs on vegetation or rocks over water. The eggs of the Morelet's Tree Frog have a green pigment and when they hatch, the larvae fall into the water to complete their development into frogs.


The Morelet's Tree Frog was abundant within its range and were kept as pets internationally. However it is currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List as of 2001 because of habitat destruction and disease. Industry and agriculture are thought to be the main causes of lowland montane forest destruction. The population of Morelet's Tree Frogs are also being decimated due to a disease called Chytridiomycosis, which is an infectious disease that kills amphibians. Chytridiomycosis and habitat destruction are projected to cause the population to decline over 80% in the next 10 years. In some regions, the frogs have gone extinct completely. For example, a study done in 2004, has claimed that Morelet's Tree Frog may be extirpated from the region of Southern Mexico. Small snakes also are predators of the Morelet's Tree Frog.

Conservation Measures

Morelet's Tree Frogs are dying at a rapid rate. Their survival is dependent upon several factors due to their human and disease caused population decline. Some conservation measures are in place, while others are still in need of implementation or research. A number of protected parks have been created to curb habitat destruction in areas of Central America and Mexico. Taxonomic research is currently in place to further understand the population's status. More data is needed, however, on a temporal and spatial scale to determine trends in the population of Morelet's Tree Frogs.

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Cranwell's horned frog

Cranwell's horned frog, also called the Chacoan horned frog, is a terrestrial frog endemic to the dry Gran Chaco region of Argentina. Like most members of the genus Ceratophrys, they are often considered Pacman frogs because of their uncanny resemblance to the popular video game character of the same name. Most adult species range from 8-13 cm long (3-5 in) and can weigh up to 0.5 kg (1 lb).

The backs of these frogs typically have dark green and brown coloration, although albino variants with orange and yellow backs also exist. The dark color scheme aids in camouflaging the animal as it burrows and waits for its prey. Though generally inactive, they are aggressive eaters, and are capable of leaping for several body lengths in order to capture prey.

Cranwell's are nocturnal and rest with their eyelids open. They are ordinarily carnivorous, feeding mostly on insects and like-sized animals, and are known to cannibalize other frogs.

At extreme temperatures, Cranwell's frogs enter a period of estivation, developing a thick layer of protective skin to trap moisture and aid in respiration. When estivation is complete, the frog uses its front and hind legs to help shed the protective layer. In many cases, the frog uses its jaws to help pull the skin over its back, often eating the skin in the process.

Like many Pacman frogs, Cranwell's are very popular as pets. As such, they should be kept in a humid environment such as an aquarium with moist substrate (not gravel). They should be fed a mixed diet of gut-loaded crickets, mealworms, small mice, and feeder fish. As a rule of thumb, these frogs should be fed every 1–2 days until the age of 18 months, at which point they should be fed once every 4–7 days.

Because of their large mouths, these frogs are particularly susceptible to impaction, a condition whereby the frog's gastrointestinal tract is obstructed by a foreign body accidentally swallowed. The foreign body can be almost anything, but in Pacman frogs kept as pets, it is commonly a small rock or piece of gravel used as substrate. Impaction often leads to constipation and malnutrition, and possibly death unless treated promptly with laxatives such as the osmotic diuretic lactulose. In severe cases, the volume of feces in the intestines is so large that the lungs are obstructed and the frog's breathing is impaired. Surgery is often the only alternative in these cases, although it is rarely performed because of its typically prohibitive costs.

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California Newt

The California newt is a newt. It is also referred to as the orange bellied newt. They can grow to be 8 inches (20 cm) in length.

Range and habitat

California newts exist primarily on the California coastline and in the Sierra Nevada. This is because they prefer less humid climates than the rough skinned newts. During the non-breeding season the newts are land dwelling, preferring rock crevices and logs. While breeding, the subspecies torosa torosa prefers slow moving pools in coastal streams.


Reproduction occurs generally between December and early May. Typically the adult newts will return to the pool in which they hatched. After a mating dance, the male mounts the female and rubs his chin on her nose. He then attaches a spermatophore to the substrate, which she will retrieve into her cloaca.

The egg mass released by the female contains between 7 and 30 eggs, and is roughly the consistency of a thick gelatin dessert. Typically the egg masses are attached to stream plant roots or to rocky crevices in small, slow moving pools. But they have also been known to be attached to underwater rocks or leaf debris. While shallow in a wide sense, these pools are rather deep relative to the average depth of a Southern California stream, varying in depth from about 1 to 2 meters.

Adult newts will stay in the pools throughout the breeding season, and can be occasionally found well into the summer. Larvae hatch sometime in early to mid summer, depending on local water temperature. Larvae are difficult to find in streams as they blend in well with the sandy bottom, which they usually stay close to.

Toxicity and predation

Like other Taricha members, the glands in the skin of T. torosa secrete the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, which is hundreds of times more toxic than cyanide. This is the same toxin found in pufferfish and harlequin frogs. Researchers believe that bacteria synthesize tetrodotoxin and the animals that employ the neurotoxin acquire it through consumption of these bacteria. This neurotoxin is so strong that it is enough to kill most vertebrates, including humans. However, they are dangerous only if ingested, and can be safely kept as pets.

Due to their toxicity, the California newt has few natural predators. Garter snakes are the most common, and some species have developed a genetic resistance to tetrodotoxin.


Earthworms, snails, slugs, sowbugs, bloodworms, mosquito larvae and other invertebrates are among the California newt's prey. In the Sierras, the newt will also consume trout eggs. In an aquarium habitat, the newt may eat goldfish flake food.

Conservation status

The California newt is currently a California Special Concern species (DFG-CSC). Some populations have been greatly reduced in southern California coastal streams due to the introduction of non-native, invasive species and human habitation. The mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) have caused the greatest reduction in newt populations.

Introduced as fish bait and stock pond prey, red swamp crayfish are an incredibly aggressive, prolific, and stalwart species that will prey upon newt larvae and egg masses. The crayfish will also disrupt newt breeding via competition for space during the summer mating season and physically antagonizing adults. Crayfish will typically maul the adult newts with their claws, and subsequent infection can lead to death. T. torosa are present in streams with introduced crayfish often sport tails with several notches removed. They are amphibians and live in humid areas.

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