Fire Bellied Toad Care
Bombina orientalis which is commonly known as the Fire Belly Toad or Fire-bellied toad, is actually a frog. All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads. If this toad is called a Fire Belly Frog, it would still be correct. The term Fire Belly Toad actually refers to a group of six species of small frogs belonging to the genus Bombina. The name "fire-bellied" comes from the brightly colored red, orange,or yellow and black patterns on the toad's ventral regions, which act as a warning to predators of the toad's foul taste. The other parts of the toad's skin are green or dark brown.
Bombina bombina (Linnaeus, 1761) – European fire-bellied toad
Bombina microdeladigitora Liu, Hu & Yang, 1960 – Hubei firebelly toad, and other names
Bombina maxima (Boulenger, 1905) – Yunnan fire bellied toad
Bombina orientalis (Boulenger, 1890) – Oriental fire-bellied toad
Bombina pachypus (Bonaparte, 1838) – Apennine yellow-bellied toad
Bombina variegata (Linnaeus, 1758) – yellow-bellied toad
The species can be found both in Europe and in areas of Asia.
The toad most commonly kept in captivity is the Oriental fire bellied toad. In this care guide we will be referring to that species of toad. This species is most often called the Fire Bellied Toad or Orange Bellied Toad.
The Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis) is a small semi aquatic frog species found in Korea, northeastern China, and adjacent parts of Russia. An introduced population exists near Beijing.
They have a lifespan of around 5 years, but with proper care can live 15 years or more. This toad is a small, easy to care for amphibian that only reaches about 2” in size. They make a great “beginner” pet.
Fire bellied toads are very easy to care for & their care is fairly straight forward. With that said they are not “cuddly” pets, and should not be handled. If a toad needs to be moved for whatever reason (cleaning or breaking down a cage, moving to a new enclosure, etc.) be sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling your toad. Think of them more like fish that make a nice display animal, they are active and very fun to watch. They are a diurnal animal, meaning they are active during the day. Fire bellied toads do great in groups of the same species, and 3 can be kept in a 10 gallon tank.
If you have more than 3, a 20 gallon tank is a good idea. Remember if more are kept together you might end up with eggs! There is more information on tadpole care and breeding below. Temperatures should be between 65℉ to 78℉, and normally room temperatures are fine. If you keep your home very cold you might need to add supplemental heat but most people find that no heat is needed. If heat is needed it can be in the form of an under tank heating pad connected to a thermostat (links below).
Fire bellied toads are insectivores, and will eat a variety of insects including crickets, springtails, mealworms, red wiggler worms, black soldier fly larvae, and just about anything they can fit in their mouth. When they are young they should be fed daily, and once they reach a year old they can be fed 3 to 4 times a week. Prey should be dusted with a calcium supplement like T-Rex Fire Belly Toad Supplement - Calcium Plus.
When toads get to be around a year old they are sexually mature. Males will call, the sound is almost like a small dog barking. If you do not wish to breed it’s a good idea to separate any males from females. If eggs are laid and you don’t wish to raise them, put them in the freezer overnight before throwing them away. Never put them down the sink or in local water areas. Or you can find a pet store or breeder that might take them off your hands. If you do wish to breed see the section below.
Breeding & Tadpole Care:
Fire bellied toads are fairly easy to breed in captivity. Keep in mind they are not going to make you money as they are also inexpensive animals. Be sure you have room to house all the tadpoles and baby frogs before you venture into breeding them. It’s also a good idea to have a plan in mind if you can’t find all the babies homes. A young female can produce 50 to 100 eggs, while an older female can lay 200 eggs. You will want to remove the eggs or tadpoles into a new tank as the parents will eat them. Tadpoles begin to hatch in 3 to 5 days, don’t be surprised if not all the eggs hatch, this is one of the reasons they lay so many.
In 21 days to a month, they will complete metamorphosis. If you notice some don’t change or have issues with leg development, up the parent’s calcium intake before trying the next year. When hatched, tadpoles will be seen clinging to sides of the tank for the first few days.They use stored egg yoke as food for about the first week. When free swimming begins, you can start to feed a tropical fish flake, and as they grow, move up to small pellets and Indian almond leaves. Feeding should be done once to twice a day. Once they are full little toads (known as toadlets) and begin to come out of the water, you can then move them to their own enclosure. I recommend moving them at this stage so you can make sure they are getting enough to eat. Switch them to small insects now like springtails, termites and pinhead crickets.
Setup and Supply List:
Cage: This can be a 10 to 15 gallon glass tank. Make sure your tank holds water. Fire bellies are semiaquatic and you will want to provide a large water area. On average 50/50 land to water or 60 land to about 40 water is fine. These little guys enjoy swimming and you will often find them in the water. A tank this size works well for 2 toads: Aqueon 10 Gal Black Aquarium.
A general rule is 1 frog per 4 gallons of tank size. They may be small but they are active frogs. I have found over the years that they do best in a group of 3, so a 15 to 20 gallon tank is a great size.
Cage decor: Setting up a natural looking habitat for a fire belly can be fun! You can go as simple as placing a filter in the water & stacking some rocks, or more complex and do a full planted paludarium (a planted tank that has both land & water, see steps below) Whichever way you decide to go you will need the following.
Substrate: I use aquarium safe gravel when setting up a basic tank, and a mix of organic top soil and stones when doing a natural paludarium. Midwest Hearth Natural Decorative Polished Jade Pebbles 3/8" Gravel Size is recommended. More details on setup below.
Decor like driftwood.
If you choose to use live plants here is a great mix of aquarium safe plants for the water area: 25+ Stems / 6 Species Live Aquarium Plants Package - Anacharis, Amazon and More!
You will need a well fitting lid for the size cage you pick. These guys love to climb so don’t be surprised if you see them at the top of the tank. I recommend the Zilla Fresh Air Screen Cover
A water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines like Josh's Frogs Dechlorinator Tap Water Conditioner
A small filter or pump for the water area: Fish Tank Filter, Water Pump. If you choose to use just a pump without a filter you will need to do water changes more often.
A good calcium supplement such as T-Rex Fire Belly Toad Supplement - Calcium Plus
And lastly, food for your toads. You can breed your own feeder insects, buy store bought ones, use dried insects or commercially available floating frog food. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00025YW84/
My video shows how to make a simple setup:
I later added some sphagnum moss & live pothos ivy.
For a more complex paludarium you will need everything above, plus:
Substrate: Organic topsoil, sphagnum moss, and gravel
Horticultural charcoal if doing bioactive
Plants and moss for the land area, you can choose to do plants on the land area & in the water but with these setups I normally just do plants in the land area
Lights for the plants
Additional decor for the land area such as cork bark, wood & leaf litter
Gorilla glue or spray foam for the background
Plastic light diffuser panel AKA egg crate plastic for the false bottom
Plastic or fiberglass screen
Small zip ties
If you plan to make your setup bioactive you would need to add a charcoal layer under your topsoil, and add springtails or other insects to clean the tank. Bioactive is a great way to make a tank that requires little care. If you would like to make a raised area for the land you will need something to make a false bottom. I’ve found light diffuser plastic, sometimes called egg crate, is very easy to work with and can be found at most home improvement stores for under $20. You will also need something to attach your background with. I use gorilla glue, but many use spray foam and aquarium safe silicone.
Steps for making your own paludarium:
Make a background:
This can be as simple as adding your substrate to the back, or complex structures with areas for plants and hides.
Place your tank with the side you wish to add the background to, on the bottom. This way your items will stay and not fall off as you work.
Here we have put down enough gorilla glue to cover the back, leaving about 2” from the bottom for the false bottom. Spray your glass with water, squeeze out the gorilla glue, and spray with a little more water. The gorilla glue will start to expand so you have to work quickly. I always lay out my wood or other decor first to see placement before adding the glue. Also make sure to have your substrate ready before you start. Place your wood or other items in the glue and add substrate, covering the glue. I recommend wearing gloves so you don’t get covered in glue and dirt! You’ll notice the glue will make everything rise, so press down every few minutes until it stops. It’s a good idea to have some rocks handy to place on large items to hold them down.
Once the glue has fully cured (I leave it overnight) turn your tank back upright and lightly scrape off excess dirt with your fingers.
Making the false bottom:
Cut your light diffuser to the desired size, making sure you leave areas for the water. Here we’re using a ten gallon tank and the false bottom covers a little more than half the tank. You can use PVC or more of the light diffuser to make the “legs” to hold the bottom up about 2”.
Make sure it fits tightly on the sides so an animal can not get stuck. You can see in this picture we have a small pump behind the plastic. The plastic is put together with small zip ties and the front “hinges” up in case we need to get to the pump.
Next Cut a piece of screen, plastic or fiberglass, to cover the plastic.
Cut a piece of landscape fabric to cover the screen so your substrate does not fall through. Alternatively, you can use 2 layers of screen if you wish.
Here you can see the lip we made almost like a little wall to hold in the substrate. This is just a fold in the screen.
The screen is covered with the landscaping fabric, and curved up a little on the sides.
Here we have added a layer of charcoal because this setup will be bioactive. The charcoal helps to remove odors and toxins. You can skip it but it’s better to have it in place.
Add your substrate, and if doing bioactive add the charcoal layer first, followed by the topsoil, sphagnum, and then leaf litter.
You can see we add the substrate just to the lip on the screen.
Add your plants, more leaf litter and moss. Being sure to remove as much fertilizer as you can off the plants if there is any.
Wash your gravel and then add it to the water area, building it up toward the land.
Add dechlorinated water.
We also added a branch (which they don’t really use but looked pretty) and a large rock to hide the tube from the pump.
Add springtails & insects like ispods. When doing a bioactive setup it's best to let everything get established for about a month. That way all the good bacteria and flora has had time to grow. You can also add bacteria booster to the water and a bioactive bacterial booster to the soil.
Plug in your pump, add toads or other frogs & enjoy!
All supplies can be found in the Alchemy Reptiles shop!