Up to 11 centimetres long, the smooth newt is brownish above, with a pale underside and a bright orange band down the centre. It has numerous dark spots all over its body, except for the head, where there are dark bands. Outside the breeding season the male and female are similar, but in the breeding season the male becomes brightly coloured with a wavy crest on both tail and body.
The smooth newt lives in a wide variety of damp conditions on land and is more widespread than the crested newt. It inhabits most of Europe except the far north and the southwest.
Adults usually live in water only for a month during the breeding season and spend the rest of the year in damp places on land. They become dormant in winter and can spend this season under water or on land near water. The males parade before the females in spring. Eggs are laid singly on water plants. The smooth newt generally feeds on water invertebrates.