A vivarium is a sort of artificial world made by humans to simulate the natural environment for a particular animal held in captivity. While this might initially seem like not much of a hobby for such a fancy name; the truth is, many people obtain great joy out of building vivariums – it allows them a measure of great artistic expression and freedom; not so unlike a painting of a natural setting.
The first thing to do when setting out to construct such an environment is to have the animal in mind for which it is intended. Fire salamanders, for example, will have different environmental requirements (if only for comfort; although usually it’s more than that) than paddle tail newts. Since this is an article for paddle tail newt enclosures, we’ll focus on these for the time being.
The paddle tail newt is a somewhat rare amphibian that sometimes passes for the much-lauded fire-belly newt, even though they are derived from different species (which basically means, they cannot breed with each other). Their median size is just about half-a-foot, which means that the environment you opt for cannot be too small; indeed, there is a recommended fifteen gallon minimum for each paddle tail newt you choose to harbor. You can expect these wonderful creatures, native to south-central China, to last for a decade – they will definitely become a constant for a considerable portion of your life.
Beyond the fact that paddle tail newts can look like their fire-bellied distant brethren, the ones you’ll get over here in the States for your home-made vivarium will have brown-to-black skin, with a burnt cinnamon underbelly with hints or red scattered about. Other than that, they pretty much look like… salamanders. As for their temperament, it’s a good idea to either house them alone, or house together only similarly-sized paddle tails; otherwise you’ll find the smaller one with chunks of its body missing from time to time as the larger one nibbles on it. They are extremely regenerative creatures, but I can assure you they do not enjoy being nibbled on very much.
Additionally, you must provide plenty of housing places even if you choose to house only a single newt per vivarium; there’s just something about their natural temperament that means having a spot away from view and light makes them happier creatures. Keep in mind that they don’t need lighting; so, if you want a sunlamp for the plants in your vivarium, or simply for your own viewing pleasure, dark spots with overhanging branches and rocks and caves will make for much happier newts – especially if you expect them to breed, as unhappy newts and salamanders and snakes tend to avoid breeding if distressed.
As for food: newts will eat a wide variety of worms, from blood-worms to earthworms and much in-between. Crickets and other land-bound insects can be a favorite – although paddle tails have hibernation periods which seem to arise suddenly, and may seem odd to humans. They don’t each much according to human determination anyway; often eating for a single day each week. Make sure the food is in bite-sized pieces before placing it inside your vivarium.
Lastly, try and clean the vivarium or terrarium once a week by merely picking up and scraping waste; a full clean should be done every month – consisting of removing the newts from the environment and washing down rocks and other items. Change their drinking water as well, and you should be able to provide them with a solid ten year occupancy in your homely vivarium.