Why did my fire-bellied toad die? Should I euthanize the other one?

“I hope that you can help me. My son has/had 2 fire belly frogs. They are kept in a 5 gallon tank with 1/2 water – 1/2 rocks and artificial plants.

Two days ago the frogs would not eat or even come out from under the rocks to eat. We tried to uncover them to find out what was wrong. One seemed very lethargic, seemed bloated and was lying funny. He died this evening. When I removed him from the tank he had lots of foam that came out of his mouth. The only strange thing I saw and see in the one that is still alive is two lighter spots on their head. Any ideas? I suspect that the other one is going to have the same fate if I don’t figure out what is up.

Also one very hard question. This frog that died seemed to die a very slow and painful death. I was trying to figure out how I could get him out of his misery and kill it but I could not come up with any good ideas. Do you have one in case this next one gets sick also?”

Fire-bellied toads are generally hardy and forgiving pets, but if they aren’t provided with the right conditions they may succumb to disease or develop health issues.

Why did your toad die?

I don’t know, and unfortunately it is not possible to know without a necropsy performed by a veterinarian who specializes in amphibians, and even then veterinarians may not be able to determine cause of death.

What I can offer is some speculation. There are several thoughts that come to mind, mainly related to enclosure size:

  1. In small aquariums, such as a 5 gallon tank, waste (dead feeder insects, feces, shed skin, etc.) is especially concentrated and it is easy for things to get dirty fast. A dirty enclosure can lead to problems with water quality that can harm or stress amphibians. Dirty enclosures also breed the types of bacteria that are prone to infecting stressed or weak toads.
  2. It is easy for small enclosures to overheat. If the room the enclosure was kept in was too hot, even if just for a couple days, the toads may not have been able to move to safer areas given the size of the aquarium.
  3. Stress. Although fire-bellied toads do great in groups and tolerate crowding temporarily, they are territorial animals, especially males. If there were few visual barriers or hiding spots available, this could contribute to high levels of stress. Stress weakens the immune system and makes it more likely health issues develop.

So, all in all I lean towards wondering if the toad may have died due to the size of the enclosure.
There are of course all sorts of other problems that could have arisen, some even unrelated to your care (for example, if these were new toads and were already unhealthy when purchased), but based on the information you have shared with me the only thing that sticks out is the aquarium sized used.


Related to euthanizing the other toad, I would advise against it. Acceptable situations for euthanasia involve suffering which cannot be alleviated any other way, for instance if a rock fell in the enclosure onto the toad and it is slowly dying or a toad escaped and was mauled by your cat but is not yet dead.

Note freezing is not a humane method of euthanasia for reptiles or amphibians.

For more advice about euthanizing amphibians see: http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/euthanasia.shtml

Instead I would recommend doing exactly what you have already done. Clean the enclosure. Monitor the other toad carefully. In the future, consider upgrading to a larger aquarium. Also, have a look at the Fire-bellied Toad Care Sheet and make sure the care you are providing for this toad is adequate.

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