Fire-bellied Toad

fire bellied toad

Common Name: Fire-bellied Toad, Oriental Fire-bellied Toad

Size: Fire-bellied toads mature to a size around 2 inches (5 cm) in length or slightly smaller.

Appearance: Variable coloration, but most are grass green with a bright red or orange ventral side is the typical coloration. This red-orange ventral coloration warns predators of their poisonous nature, though they pose no risk to humans so long as care is taken to wash hands after they are handled and they aren’t ingested (i.e. don’t eat your pet toads). Their entire body is covered in black spots and blotches, which become thicker on their red belly, and often form a reticulated pattern. The dorsal side of some toads is dark black or brown instead of green.

Distribution, Habitat and Behavior: Fire-bellied toads can be found from northeast China through Korea and into a little section of far southeast Russia. They are semi-aquatic and live in a variety of habits, from forest streams and marshes to more disturbed areas such as rice paddies and drainage ditches. They are generally diurnal and bold due to their skin secretions which make them distasteful to most predators.

Availability: Fire-bellied toads are one of the most heavily traded pet amphibians and can be found for sale at most pet stores, even ones that don’t specialize in reptiles or amphibians. Since most of these toads are sourced from the wild, it may be worth contacting your local herpetological society or searching online for someone in your area who has had recent breeding success, which is not uncommon and a better way to acquire pet toads.

Housing: A standard fifteen gallon aquarium that measures 24 inches long by 12 inches wide by 12 inches high (61 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm) is large enough for a group of five adult toads. Keeping toads in groups is preferable to a single toad since they will be more active and display more interesting types of behavior. Use a secure screen cover to prevent escapes while providing ventilation.

Fire-bellied toads are semi-aquatic amphibians that should be provided with both a land and water area. If you use tap water from a city municipality, it should be treated with a tap water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals a day before use. The land area can compose roughly one half to two thirds of the floor area, and should contain hide spots such as cork bark, driftwood, rocks, and live or fake plants. If gravel is used to create a land area, it may be useful to cover it with large river rocks, soil, java moss, or sheet moss to prevent the toads from swallowing gravel during feedings. Fire-bellied rarely swim underwater, and prefer to float at the surface or near a shoreline. The water depth should gradually slope to 2 inches (5 cm), although deeper water can be provided. Pieces of driftwood, aquatic plants, and rocks can be placed in deep water to allow the toads to easily find a land area if needed.

A simple way to create a semi-aquatic setup in a small aquarium is to use a large water dish for a water area. The dish can be as simplistic as a small plastic box. Submerge this container into a substrate, such as coconut husk fiber or mosit sphagnum moss, to provide easy access to the water. In the water dish, a large rock or two can be placed on one end to provide a gentle slope out of the water onto land. Because the volume of water is small in this type of housing, it can become fouled quickly, and for this reason the water dish may need to be changed daily. This style of housing is only practical for small aquariums because it can be difficult to lift larger containers of water needed for larger enclosures.

Housing for fire-bellied toads with live plants and land and water area separated by a slab of cork bark.

A second way to create a semi-aquatic habitat suitable for fire-bellied toads is to create a small shoreline setup. In this method, medium to large grade gravel can be used in the aquarium. Most of it can be pushed to one side to form a thick layer of gravel that creates a land area, while the layer of gravel on the other side can remain thin. The aquarium can then be filled with enough water so that the water level remains just below the surface of the land area. All exposed gravel on the land section should be covered with large river rocks, moss, or soil to prevent the toads from swallowing it while feeding. It may be helpful to use a small submersible filter, or in larger aquariums a canister filter, to help maintain water quality. The output of these devices should be deflected with a rock or piece of wood to prevent too large of a current from being formed. Water changes should be preformed weekly or bi-weekly in this type of setup, or as often as needed. It may be helpful to use an aquarium vacuum to suck out waste that gets caught in the gravel. It’s also recommended that water tests be done regularly in this type of setup. Live floating vegetation like Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) and giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) can be grown on the water’s surface to provide cover for the toads.

A fire-bellied toad setup made with large river stones and rocks. Live aquatic plants (java fern) are grown in the water.

A fire-bellied toad setup made with large river stones. Live aquatic plants (java fern) are grown in the water.

Lighting: A small incandescent light bulb can be used for heat if needed. A fluorescent light is not necessary, but will make the tank look more attractive and will allow you to grow live plants if desired. Provide of a photoperiod of 10-12 hours.

Temperature: Fire-bellied toads are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, which is one of the reasons they adjust well to captivity. Daytime temperatures can range anywhere from 65°F to 78°F (18°C to 26°C) and should usually decrease at night. Avoid temperatures above 82°F (28°C).

Diet: Live crickets should make up the majority of the diet, with other food items such as wax worms, earth worms, and blackworms being substituted for crickets every few feedings. Some toads will also eat small guppies, ghost shrimp, or snails from shallow water if noticed. Like most amphibians, fire-bellied toads rarely recognize non-living food, so all food items must be alive when offered. A feeding schedule of two to six food items per toad every two to three days is appropriate. Juvenile animals should be fed daily in small quantities. It’s important that any uneaten food or dead feeders are removed from the cage as soon as they are noticed to prevent water from being fouled. Adult fire-bellied toads should have their food coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings. Juveniles should have their food supplemented as often as every feeding.

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