Fire Bellied Toads, Easy Frog for Beginners
People starting to keep amphibians are very lucky, the recommended beginner frogs, the oriental fire belly toads, Bombina orientalis, are not only an extremely hardy species that is easy to keep in captivity, but are also brightly coloured, active, and very amusing to observe. The dorsum (back) of the frogs is moss green with contrasting black markings, while it's underside is a bright orange with more black splotches, giving them their common name. They also sport beautiful orange or red finger tips. The fire bellied toad excretes toxins from glands behind its ears, and the striking colouration warns predators of its foul taste. Although the toxins are far less potent than those of the South American poison dart frogs, and not particularly harmful to humans, but might cause irritation if they get into the eyes, and it is best to avoid handling the frog for a long time. Handling is generally not recommended for any frog pet, since its very permeable skin might absorb oils or soap residue from human hands. When feeling threatened, B. orientalis, will arch its back and raise its legs, to make sure the potential predator will notice the warning colours and reconsider having it for dinner. This is known as Unkenreflex, from the "unke", the german name for "a fire bellied toad".
In the wild fire bellied toads are found in China, Korea and Thailand. It is a fairly small frog reaching 2 inches (5.5 cm) in length. Although it is called a toad, a name usually given to terrestial frogs it is semi-aquatic and spends a lot of time in water. Its skin is, however, quite warty, males are generally more so than females. The sexes are not easily told apart, except duirng the spawning seasson when the males will call and develop black nuptial pads on their forearms.
The Fire Belly Toad Vivarium.
Because of its semi-aquatic nature, water should represent a large portion of the fire bellied frog habitat in captivity. There are several ways to setup the vivarium to achieve this, the simplest method is to create a substrate gradient by piling most of the aquarium gravel at one end, the land portion which gently slopes to the water part. It is advisable to use large gravel, that is too big for the toad to ingest accidentally when it is feeding.
Another method for setting up the vivarium is to use a sheet of acrylic as a divider which is fixed to the bottom of the tank with aquarium sealant. The land part is then filled with substrate, which can be gravel, peat moss, or Zoomed Eco Earth (compressed coconut fibre). The land area should provide hiding spots for the toads, and it is nice to decorate it with moss and rocks. Living plants in both the land and water areas are a great addition, but plastic plants can be used for a simpler setup. If there is no slope leading from water to land, a ramp created from a branch should be used to make it easy for the toads to climb out of the water.
The water used must be treated with a decholorinating aquarium water conditioner, such as that used for fish. Although fire bellied toads are sometimes kept without any filtration, with frequent water changes, it is better to use a small aquarium filter to prevent build up of waste in the water and even with filtration weekly partial water changes should be carried out. The water should be about 4 inches (10 cm) deep.
An Example of a Fire Belly Toad tank
Fire Bellied Toad Environment
The toads should be kept at a temperature of 24-26oC (75-78F) with a drop of a few degrees at night. High humidity will be provided by the large water area, the live plants and possible spray from the filter, but can be supplemented if necessary by spraying. To prevent the toads escaping, unless the tank is particularly high, a lid should be fastned securely, but a screen top is necessary to prevent conditions from becoming stagnant.
The vivarium should be longer than it is high, since unlike tree frogs, the toads do not utilize vertical spaces very much. A 10 gallon tank is sufficient for housing three FBT frogs, 20 gallon tanks can house more individuals. It is not advisable to mix other species with fire bellied toads, in case their toxins poison other amphibians.
Viviarium setup using an acrylic divider
Fire bellied toads are insectivorous and in captivity should be fed 3 times a week on crickets, locusts, flies, wax worms, moths or phoenix worms. Unless feeding phoenix worms, which are naturally high in calcium, the insects should be dusted with a multivatim/calcium supplement. 3-4 insects should be fed per toad at each feeding. To maintain the bright orange colouration of the belly, the live food should be gutloaded on foods high in beta carotene, such as carrots or sweet potatoes.
aa lite (author) from London on July 03, 2012:
It really isn't very toxic at all, lots of kids keep it as pets. Perhaps your aunt can be persuaded with facts.
Dany on July 02, 2012:
My cousin got one for his b-day and my aunt is freaking out about it cus it's toxic and she doesn't know y i keep mine I told her there not bad it's fine to let him keep it but she's taking him back :-(
kieran angus on June 22, 2012:
Great info hoping to get a few of these guys but of course parents are put off by live feed.
Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on June 13, 2012:
Another excellent hub that I just voted up for! I used to keep and breed Fire-bellied toads.
aa lite (author) from London on May 24, 2012:
Wow!Fire bellied toads falling from the sky is not something I am familiar with, despite keeping frogs for years. I thought they were aquatic, not aerial lol. Good luck to you with your frog, you should find everything you need to keep it from any reptile petshop.
nanette on May 24, 2012:
this info really helped since a fired belly frog fell from the sky and is now my pet
Reptillian from South Dakota on May 10, 2012:
The pet I really want is a puppy, but tank animals are what I'm stuck with since I live in an apartment that doesn't allow cats or dogs...sigh. :)
Crickets don't bother me. I had a pet hermit crab once that I fed the occasional dead cricket to, I don't think a live cricket would be all that different...though I am kind of soft hearted when it comes to animals, so I don't know if I could bring myself to feed one living thing to another. I'd probably feel bad for the cricket.
aa lite (author) from London on May 10, 2012:
Thanks, actually I would recommend that you get both! The main hassle with reptiles is having to feed them yucky crickets, once you've got over that hurdle, you might as well keep several to make it worthwhile.
Reptillian from South Dakota on May 10, 2012:
Interesting article on a very cool amphibian! I was thinking of getting a lizard in a few years after my hamster dies, but maybe I'll give toads a try.