Fire bellied newts are among the most commonly available amphibians at pet shops. Hardy and relatively easy to care for, they make a good choice for the beginning amphibian keeper.
For the purposes of this article, the term fire bellied newt will be used to generically refer to newts belonging to the genus Cynops. In my corner of the world, the Chinese fire bellied newt, Cynops orientalis, is the one most commonly found in pet shops. This newt is sometimes also called the oriental fire bellied newt, and the dwarf fire bellied newt. The other member of this family of newts that has commonly been found in the pet trade is Cynops pyrrhogaster, or the Japanese fire bellied newt. Both of these newts are dark brown to black over most of their body, save the brightly contrasting fiery orange red markings on the belly. In the wild, these markings serve a warning to predators, for fire bellied newts produce some potent skin toxins and have fairly prominent parotid (poison) glands on the sides of their head.
There are some differences in the size and appearance of the two newts. C. Pyrrhogaster (Japanese fire bellied newt) averages about 3.5 to 5 inches (9-12 cm), although there have been reports of them reaching 6 inches (15 cm). This newt has a rough or bumpy appearance to the skin, and generally the pattern of the red/orange coloration on the belly is speckled. C. orientalis is a bit smaller at 3-4 inches (6-10 cm), and the skin appears smoother. The orange pattern on the belly tends to be more blotchy, with orange sometimes the predominant color on the belly. The only real impact of these differences is that the larger Japanese fire bellied newt needs a little more room and can handle a bit larger prey.