Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina orientalis) Care Sheet
Fire-bellied toads are a semi aquatic species of frog. While they are referred to as toads, fire-bellies are indeed frogs. Unlike many frogs, fire-bellies lack extendable tongues. To capture prey, they use their mouths to grab their food and stuff it into their mouths with their forelegs.
The coloring of the fire-belly toad ranges from vibrant greens and reds to duller oranges and darker grays and browns.
Fire-bellied toads can be found in Korea, north-eastern China, on two Japanese islands (Tsushima and Kyushu) and adjacent parts of Russia. They inhabit mixed temperate forests made up of deciduous and coniferous trees, in the vecinity of streams, ponds, lakes, swampy lands, ditches, and puddles.
Fire-bellied toads can live 10-15+ years.
Fire-bellies typically reach an adult length of approximately 1.5 - 2.5 inches.
Temperament - Handling
As with most frogs, this species should not be handled regularly. They are mildly toxic which is a deterrent but the oils in your skin could be absorbed by the frogs and cause them harm.
Fire-belly toads are very active. When housed properly they can be seen moving around their environment, floating in their water, or possibly calling to one another as they look for a mate. If frightened or startled they may arch their back to show you their colorful undersides. This is a warning that they are toxic and shouldn't be messed with. Some will go so far as to completely turn themselves upside down to display their colors. Pending you have offered at least 4inches of water for the frogs to swim in, they may also swim to the bottom and rest on the floor while the "predator" has a chance to leave.
Habitat - Enclosure
A ten gallon fish tank can be used to house a small (3) colony of toads. Longer tanks are certainly more preferable as this will allow you to offer this terrestrial species more room to move about. Since this species is semi-aquatic, they are going to require a section of water. A 60-40 split of land and water is ideal. This simply means that roughly 1/3 of the enclosure should be accessible water with the other 2/3 being land.
There are several ways to create a paludarium for your toads. I am currently housing 3 fire-bellies in a 45 gallon fish tank (shown on the right). The paludarium I created was designed with aesthetics and functionality in mind. The combination of fire-bellies and the fish means the tank is always moving.
Your enclosure should also include smooth rocks, bark, artificial or live plants, or some other means for the frogs to hide. I personally prefer live plants and believe they add a beautiful touch of color and class to every enclosure.
Directions for creating the first enclosure depicted can be found here: Fire-bellied Toad Habitat Construction
Fire-bellied Toad Paludarium
The water that makes up 1/3 of your fire-belly toads vivarium should be cleaned regularly. If you are not using a filter to help keep the water clean then you will want to swap the water out daily. To simplify the water changes, you could offer a "pool" of water that is nothing more than a tupperware container or other like material. More advanced habitats will require filtration as daily water changes may not be practical.
Fire-bellied Toad Plants
Cage furniture should not be sharp. This species does well with live plants. Live or artificial plants and rocks should be provided for the frogs so that they can hide and feel secure if they so desire.
Advanced set-ups will require some sort of filtration system. We prefer to use a fish tank filter that can handle 2 times the amount of water that we are providing. This allows us to keep fish in the paludarium alongside the frogs. The constant movement of water keeps it clear of the feces this species readily deposits and doesn't allow harmful bacteria to develop.
Fire-bellies have great appetites and will readily accept crickets, mealworms, silkworms, waxworms, phoenix worms, butterworms, flies, etc. They will eat just about any live insect they can fit in their mouth. They will also make attempts at catching any live fish you may have in with them.
Our frogs are fed a diet of small crickets, offered every other day. Each frog is offered prey until they begin to ignore them. At that point we stop adding crickets.
A daytime ambient temperature of 72°-79° is accepted, though 74°-76° is ideal. At night a drop in temperature equaling 68°-70° is acceptable. You can provide an incandescent bulb to create a basking spot (no higher than 82°) for your fire-bellied toads if you wish, though it isn't necessary if you are providing proper ambient temperatures. I maintain my enclosure at 75°. I also maintain the water temperatures in the mid 70's.
A photoperiod of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness is adequate. This species does not require special UV lighting, though low level UV lighting would not harm them.
Distinguishing the sex of your fire-bellied toads is going to be a bit more difficult than sexing other species. Male fire-bellies typically have thicker forearms than their female counterpart. They also have rougher backs than the females. During breeding season males will have black horny nuptial pads on their fingers and forearms. (Used for holding onto the female.) This is also a great time to watch the behavior of your toads. The males will be seen jumping onto the back of the female and holding on with his forelimbs. If the other frog doesn't quickly try to escape, there is a good chance it is a female. Males will immediately call out and try to throw the offender from their back.
Breeding begins in the wild when hibernation ends and warmer temperatures move in. Hibernation typically takes place between September and May. In the wild these frogs will hide themselves inside rotting logs, debris, stone piles and almost anywhere they feel safe. Ff you wish to successfully breed your fire-bellies, you will need to cool them to mimic this hibernative state.
As the warmer weather and rains move in, between April and May, but carrying thorough as late as August, these frogs begin showing signs of breeding season. The males will develop black-tipped tubercles on their hind legs and nuptial pads on their front legs. These pads are used to grasp the female (amplexus) during breeding. The males will begin calling out in hopes of attracting a female. The male will begin his attampts at amplexus by holding onto the female. If she is receptive, she will begin depositing eggs as he fertilizes them. If she is not, they may wrestle or you may hear her call out in a defensive manner. This also occurs when one male grasps another male in error.
Once you can see the eggs, you will need to either remove the adults or the eggs from where they were laid. The female can lay in excess of 250 eggs which will adhere themselves to structure in the tank. The eggs will hatch quickly, in under a week and you will be presented with tadpoles. The tadpoles will readily eat fine fish flake food. These tadpoles will reach metamorphosis in 4 to 8 weeks. As they begin their metamorphosis and devlop legs, you can try feeding them flightless fruit flies. They will begin feeding on these small invertebrates before they have absorbed their tail entirely.
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Author: Richard Brooks
Images © Richard Brooks