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Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina orientalis)

Fire-bellied Toad

(Photo by David G. Barkasy)

Introduction: Fire-bellied toads are enjoyable to keep. They are brightly colored, diurnal, and hardy; a combination that is hard to beat. Most are grass green with a bright red or orange ventral side. 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 in captivity turns dark black or brown instead of green. Some have speculated that this is caused by a change in diet, light levels, stress, temperature, humidity, or a combination of those factors. Fire-bellied toads mature to a size around 2 inches (5 cm). Males can be distinguished by their more streamlined appearance and vocal ability. The ventral side of fire-bellied toads is red to indicate that they are poisonous.

Cage: 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. 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. 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 should be covered 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 3 inches (7.6 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 plastic storage container, but large commercially available reptile and amphibian water dishes can be used instead. This dish can be submerged into a safe soil substrate, such as coconut husk fiber (bed-a-beast, forest bed, eco earth, etc.), 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 housingis only practical for small aquariums because it can be difficult to lift larger containers of water needed for larger enclosures.

Semi-aquatic Setup

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 during feedings. It may be helpful to use a small submersible filter, or in larger setups a canister filter, to help maintain good 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, with no more than half of the water being removed at a time. 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. Grow floating vegetation like Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) and giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) on the water's surface to provide cover for the toads.

Semi-aquatic setup

If tap water is used, it should be treated with a tap water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. Bottled spring water can be used instead of treated tap 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 if lighting is used.

Temperature: Fire-bellied toads are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, which is one of the reasons they make good captives. Daytime temperatures should range from 72°F to 78°F (22°C to 26°C) and can drop at night. Cool temperatures are tolerated well, and occasional drops down to 60°F (16°C) don’t present a problem. Avoid temperatures above 82°F (28°C). A low wattage incandescent light bulb can be placed over the land area during the day to create a warm spot for the toads. A submersible aquarium heater can be used to heat the water if needed, though only rarely will this be required.

Food: Fire-bellied toads have a voracious appetite. Live crickets should make up the majority of their diet, with other food items such as wax worms, earth worms, black worms, and small silkworms being substituted for crickets every few feedings. Few toads 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 usually works well. 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. 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.

Last updated 03.21.08

Online Resources Fire-bellied Toads
Breeding, Rearing, and Raising the Red-bellied Toad (B. bombina)
Darin Croft's Fire-bellied Toads
Frog Land: Fire-bellied Toads
Grizzly Run: Fire-bellied Toads
Marc Staniszewski's Bombina Page
Mellisa Kaplan's Fire-bellied Toad Care Sheet
Pet Education: Fire-bellied Toads