Fire-Bellied Toad

Fire-Bellied Toad

Also known as Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad or Fire Belly Toad (Bombina orientalis)

The Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad is one of the world’s most popular amphibian pets. It’s no wonder why, either. They have striking colors and patterns. The top of their bodies have a exotic green and black pattern while their under side is bright orange.

I’ll give you some basic information about the species in the section below. After that, I’ll go into detail about the ins-and-outs of keeping Fire-Bellied Toads as pets. I’ll give suggestions on tanks, habitat setup, lighting, heating, their diet, and more.

While their common name is “Fire-Bellied Toad” emphasis on the “Toad” part, they’re not true toads; they’re actually frogs. A true toad is one from the Bufonidae family – which is in a completely different Suborder and Family. These guy’s are called toads due to their bumpy skin.

In the Wild

When someone mentions a “Fire-Bellied Toad” they’re generally referring to the Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalist). What you may not know is that the common-name “Fire-Bellied Toad” is often used to describe a Genus; a Genus which contains eight different species. One of which is the Oriental fire-bellied toad, of course. Here is a list of the other species in that Genus.

  • Apennine Yellow-Bellied Toad (B. pachypus)
  • European Fire-Bellied Toad (B. bombina)
  • Guangxi Firebelly toad (B. fortinuptialis)
  • Hubei Firebelly Toad (B. microdeladigitora)
  • Lichuan Bell Toad (B. lichuanensis)
  • Oriental Fire-bellied toad (B. orientalis)
  • Yunnan Firebelly Toad (B. maxima)
  • Yellow-bellied Toad (B. variegata)

These species are found throughout regions of Europe and Asia. Like most frogs, they’re found in and around pools of water. They seem to prefer stagnant or calm bodies of water like ponds, pools of rain water, or gently moving streams.

Fire-Bellied Toad Habitat Setup

Setting up a habitat for your fire-bellied toad might be more difficult than the upkeep and care for them. These frogs need water. A lot. So, naturally, their enclosure needs to reflect that.

An all-water bottom or 50/50 land/water is ideal. This can be accomplished by filling their tank with water and adding several floating cork bark flats or by laying slabs of rock in such a way that it creates a land area and a water area.

Photo Credit: Laurent Lebois © / Flickr

Many keepers take this setup as a great excuse to build complex paludariums. A paludarium is an enclosure incorporating both land and water animals. For example, half land with live plants, springtails and isopods, and half water with the appropriate type fish. Of course, your frog will rule the enclosure on both the land and the water.

The number of frogs you’re keeping will determine the size of the tank you need. Aquariums or terrariums work fine, so long as they hold water. I recommend 10 gallons per frog.

If you’re housing just one, go with a 10-gallon aquarium. For two, three, or more, a 24x18x18 Exo Terra is a nice fit (or something similar in size).

Here is a list of the things you’ll need:

  • Aquarium or Terrarium
  • Thermometer / Hygrometer
  • Light for Day-Time (if no natural light is available)
  • Water conditioner like ReptiSafe
  • Branches, sticks, logs, cork bark, stones
  • Plants
  • Calcium and vitamin supplements

There are so many different ways you can make a habitat for a fire-bellied toad. Most keepers recommend a partial or full-water bottom. You can get away with a large water bowl but it’s not recommended.

Also, live plants and moss are great for these frogs but they’re not a requirement. Should you decide to use live plants, you’ll want to use a low-powered UVB light.

Lighting

Providing the correct lighting for your Fire-Bellied Toad will ensure they’re healthy and active. The type of lighting you need is debatable, however. Whether or not you need UVB lighting depends on who you ask, in most cases.

  • 5.0 UVB light is recommended during the day.

The general consensus is that a low-powered UVB bulb certainly won’t hurt your frog. They’re exposed to UVB (from the sun) in the wild and I agree that providing UVB for them in captivity is a good idea, too. A 5.0 UVB bulb will suffice.

There are plenty of people raising healthy Fire-Bellied Toads that don’t provide UVB for their pets and that’s fine. Whichever you choose, be sure to provide them with light during the day. They need a constant day and night cycle.

A room with natural light from a window is great! Definitely don’t place them in a dark, windowless room without having a light turned on during the day-time hours.

If you’re keeping your frogs in a planted habitat, you’ll definitely want a 5.0 UVB light! Most live plants need UVB to stay alive.

Temperature

One of the best parts about owning a fire-belly toad is that they don’t high temperatures. “Room temperature” is perfect.

  • 65 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit

Most people keep their house around 70 degrees year round. Anything above the mid-80s is too high. Problems will quickly arise. Likewise, if the temperature gets too low they can develop problems as well.

Temperatures below 50 are too low. Chances are, however, this won’t happen unless you’ve lost power to your house for several hours during the winter months.

Regardless, it’s always a good idea to keep a digital thermometer/hygrometer in the enclosure. This device will display the current temperature and humidity within their enclosure.

Humidity

Assuming you’ve set up the enclosure the right way, humidity won’t be an issue. It should stay within the correct range with a full-water bottom or 50/50 water/land bottom enclosure.

  • 50% – 70% humidity level

Setting up a waterfall will add to the relative humidity. If for whatever reason, the humidity keeps dipping below 50% you can use a spray bottle to mist their tank. Some people use misting systems or foggers but they’re not a requirement.

Water Quality

With all amphibians, water quality is extremely important. Feces from the frog and dead feeder insects cause the water’s acidity to increase rather quickly. It doesn’t take long for the pH balance to shift into a dangerous range.

For this reason, it’s important to perform water changes once or twice per week. Water filters can help decrease the number of water changes you perform but you’ll still need to change the water when needed.

  • Use amphibian-safe water conditioners to dechlorinate the water.

Using tap-water can cause problems for your pet. The problem comes from chlorine, chloramine, and other chemicals used to treat the water. These chemicals are harmful to frogs, even in small amounts.

Photo Credit: Laurent Lebois © / Flickr

One of the easiest ways to condition the water is by using ReptiSafe. It’s cheap and widely available at virtually any pet store. All you do is squirt some of the liquid into the water to dechlorinate it, making it safe for your pet. Read the instructions before using, of course.

Substrate

Fire-Bellied Toads don’t require a substrate, either on the land or in the water. A full-water bottom with floating cork bark or slabs of rock is perfectly fine.

The bottom of the tank can be bare, too. You’re welcome to use rocks or gravel if you want. Substrates like coco-husk fiber are great as well. They’re just not a requirement.

Check out my substrate guide for more information and ideas.

Being that a fire-belly toad has a lot of water in their habitat means you have a good chance to keep moss alive. Moss is a favorite among herpetologists that want a naturalistic setup.

Don’t be afraid to use products like Eco Earth on the land areas either. ABG mix, eco earth, and, plantation soil are all great substrates. The only problem you might run in to is soggy soil.

Setting up a quality drainage layer will help the soil from remaining soggy for extended periods of time.

Fire-Bellied Toad Diet

There is a long list of insects your fire-bellied toad will eat. As always, having a variety of different foods in their diet will help them live long, healthy lives. Crickets should make up the majority of their food but you can offer them other things as well.

Here is a short list of the things your frog can eat.

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Wax worms
  • Earthworms
  • Springtails
  • Some Aquatic Invertebrates

Fire-Bellied Toads are known to be ferocious eaters. They will eat too much if given the chance. You should closely monitor their size. It can be difficult to judge how much food to give them at first. Some frogs stop eating when their full while others, like these frogs, eat as much as possible. If they’re becoming overweight, dial back the amount you’re feeing them.

Neither wax worms or mealworms should be given to your frog on a regular basis. Mealworms once every other two weeks and wax worms are best used as a treat – once a month.

Chopped up earthworms are a good choice, too. So long as it’s still moving, your pet will likely eat it.

  • Feed them 2 – 3 times per week (appropriately sized insects)
  • 2 – 5 crickets per feeding

Like I mentioned earlier, crickets should be their main source of food. Dust the crickets with a vitamin and calcium supplements to help with strong bones and proper nutrition. Calcium supplements can be used with every feeding while vitamins can be used one or twice per week.

The size of the crickets should match the size of your frog. Feed them crickets no longer than the width of their mouth. As adults, fire-belly toads are capable of eating full-sized crickets but its best to feed them medium-sized crickets to reduce the chance of them choking.

Another thing you have to consider is how you’re going to feed them. With an all-water or partial-water bottom, things can get tricky. Crickets don’t last long in the water and if they die there, it makes things more difficult for you. You’ll have to spot clean and change the water more often because of this.

One way to keep this from happening is to put the crickets in a container just big enough to keep them from jumping out of. Place that container in your frog’s enclosure. Allow each of your frogs to eat the recommended amount of food before removing the crickets and container from the frog’s tank.

Reproduction

Breeding fire-bellied toads can be a rewarding experience. Most keepers breed these frogs for the joy of raising little tadpoles. Whatever your reason for breeding them, I’ll do my best to help you in this section.

Sexing

First and foremost, you need to have at least one male and one female. The best way to differentiate the two is by size and sound. Females are generally larger in size and the males are more vocal. They can be heard “calling” during mating season.

Male fire-bellied toads have nuptial pads which are visible when they’re full grown. Also, they usually have thick forearms in comparison to females.

Breeding

Having several breeding pairs will increase your chances of success. In fact, having two to three males per female will increase those chances even more.

In the wild, these frogs breed during the springtime. In captivity, they’re less likely to mate because they rarely experience the seasonal changes that happen in the wild.

To remedy this, you might need to “cycle” the frogs. That means you have to mimic the winter months for a period of time (roughly eight weeks). During this time, keep the temperature around 60 degrees. This can be accomplished by moving their enclosure to a garage or cooler part of your house.

After replicating the winter season, now you need to mimic springtime weather. Start by increasing the temperature back to normal. After that, add more water to their habitat and begin feeding them more often. Mist their enclosure often and consider placing a dripper system to simulate rainfall. A “rain chamber” can be used if needed.

With any luck, your male frogs will be croaking and eventually they will mate. This should happen shortly after increasing the temperature, water, and food. Check on your frogs frequently to see if they’re in the amplexus position (male grasping the female around the waist).

Females can lay eggs as often as every two weeks. Also, they typically lay between 80 – 300 eggs at a time.

Tadpoles

Remove the eggs from the parent’s enclosure within two days. Assuming the eggs are fertilized, they will hatch into tiny tadpoles within seven to ten days.

At this point, it’s like raising any other tadpole. Keep them in water at room temperature between 3 to 4 inches deep. Feed them commercial tadpole food, algae, lettuce, etc.

It will take up five months for them to completely metamorphose into juvenile fire-bellied toads. As they develop legs and their tail disappears, provide a ramp or floating platform for them to climb on.

Handling Fire-Bellied Toads

As with all amphibians, its best to limit the amount of time you spent handling them. Not only is it stressful for the frog but any chemical residue on your hands can be harmful to them.

That’s not the only reason, of course. Fire-bellied toads produce a mild toxin that can be dangerous to humans. The toxin is a defense mechanism which is potent enough to deter would-be (animal) predators. It can be dangerous and irritating, especially if ingested. It should go without saying but don’t eat your pet. Don’t even rub your eyes without first washing your hands thoroughly.

In all seriousness, try to limit the amount of time spent handle your fire-bellied toad. They’re great display pets what will live up to 20 years or more when cared for properly.

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