Great Crested Newts are large newts, attaining lengths of 5-8 inches, they are black in colour with orange or yellow bellies mottled with black, during the breeding season, males develop large, jagged crests down their spine and tail, these give them their common name. They have a diet of aquatic insects, worms, snails and small larval amphibians. They prefer deep water (over 30cm) and bodies of water without predatory fish. From mid-June onwards (depending on the time they started breeding) they begin to leave the pond and become terrestrial. The males lose their crests and the females are thinner (being fat with eggs during the breeding season). They hide under damp wood, thick vegetation, leaf litter, under stones, in moss etc and usually only hunt for worms and insects night or very damp days.
These newts are very delicate when it comes to breeding, they like seasonal pools which dry up, these pools drying up kills off the predators there (dragonfly larvae etc.) this lessened predation on these Newts' offspring. Although they prefer deeper ponds, they can be found breeding in ponds used by both of the other newt species.
Great Crested Newt males are known to grow impressive crests (hence their name) in the breeding season (February to June) to court the female who lays her eggs on submerged vegetation. These newts are known to like egg-laying on water Forget-Me-Nots.
The larvae are nektonic which means that they swim freely near the surface of the water most of the time (which means that they are more likely to be eaten by fish) to feed on small water creatures.Their larvae can grow to 8cm long (larger than some Palmate Newt adults!) before they metamorphosise. The process may take over a year to complete and the young Great Crested Newt emerges from the water a miniature version of it's parents.
Juvenile Great Crested Newts stay out of water completely (they are badly suited to swimming and may drown) but reside in damp areas like their parents. They become sexually mature after around 3 years.