Fire Bellied Toad Care (Bombina orientalis)
by Erica Mede, CVT
Fire Bellied toads, also called Tuti toads, are found throughout southern and south east Asia and are commonly collected from Korea and China . Most of the individuals available in the pet trade are wild caught. These animals are found in the woodlands near water (generally shallow water as they are poor swimmers).
This is a hardy species of amphibian but not one that is meant to be handled. Females are slightly rounder and males tend to be more slender in body shape. These toads are typically kept together without incident but are aggressive with smaller tank mates. A beautiful and active diurnal species, the Fire Bellied toad is quickly regaining status as a favorite in the world of reptile and amphibian keeping. Fire Bellied toads are typically 2 inches in length and bright green and black with brilliant orange throats. The small tubercules covering their back gives them a typical “toad” appearance. Caution should be used while handling this species as the glandular secretion is toxic. Generally, these animals live 10-15 years with good husbandry.
Fire Bellied toads have a strong sense of sight and will eat anything that fits in their mouths and attempt to eat items that do not. They also do not have an extendable tongue but will stuff food into their mouth with their front legs. Captive adults are frequently fed cut up earth worms, crickets, meal worms, small roaches, and silk worms. Young toads should be fed every other day generally what they can eat in 10-15 minutes (usually 3-4 good sized prey items). Sub-adults and adults should be fed every 2-3 days in the same manner.
Placing the food in a dish or on a flat rock is a better option. Feeding with forceps is a very popular method as well. Calcium supplementation should be added to the food weekly and a multivitamin supplement every 2 weeks.
These toads should always be housed alone or in a small group of three similarly sized animals due to their tendency towards aggression of smaller cage mates. All females or one male with two females is acceptable. A 10-15 gallon aquarium or equivalent sized container such as a Sterilite or Rubbermaid bin is generally acceptable for 2-3 toads. Many keepers find that using non-conventional enclosure such as plastic storage boxes is not only easier to maneuver in their homes but also less stressful for the animal due to the opaque nature of the sides. Floor space is important in this semi-aquatic species as a large water bowl will be required.
Ideally, 1/3 of the tank should be aquatic or at the very least a large shallow water dish should be offered with 2-4 inches of water. Smooth rocks should be placed near the edge of the water bowl and in the water bowl to allow for easy access and escape.
Paper towel is by far the easiest to clean and cheapest substrate to use. However, it must be changed daily and doesn’t offer any aesthetics. Top soil is a common substrate providing a naturalistic look to the enclosure as well as offering the toad a chance to burrow under leaving only their eyes exposed in some cases. Soil must be spot cleaned daily and completely changed out every 2 weeks to prevent bacteria and fungus build-up. Moistened terry cloth towels are also utilized for substrate since they can be easily changed out. However, a few back ups will be needed and the towels must be washed and dried WITHOUT fabric softener preferably. The substrate needs to be moistened at all times with dechlorinated water. Tap water that has been dechlorinated chemically or “aged” is perfectly fine. Avoid distilled water due to the lack of minerals in the water.
Fire Bellied can be easily maintained in 75-78 °F ambient temperatures with a warmer site available in the 78-80°F range. At night, the temperature can drop as low as 72°F. Heating the enclosure is easily achieved using under tank heaters mounted on the side of the tank. Heat cable, heat tape, and other methods of heating can be utilized as well. Basking lights are contraindicated. The temperature should be maintained with the use of a thermostat and monitored with a thermometer at the level of the substrate. Moss is an excellent way to keep toads moist but care must be taken that it is changed frequently and is in a place where the toad will not accidentally ingest it attempting to eat.
Humidity is extremely important to the health of Fire Belly toads. The humidity in the enclosure should be maintained around 50-70%. This is easily checked with a hygrometer and maintained with a hydrostat. Frequent misting, moistening of the substrate, large water bowls, and foggers can all be used to maintain higher levels of humidity.
Fire Belly toads do not have many lighting requirements. They require a light cycle of 10 hours of light and 14 of darkness. An ultraviolet (UVB) light such as a ReptiGlo or a ReptiSun 5.0 can be utilized and is recommended.
Water bowls should be kept shallow to prevent accidental drowning as these frogs are poor swimmers. Water should be changed at least daily and only clean, dechlorinated water should be used. Never use distilled water as this will cause health problems in frogs! A hide box created from things as simple as a half a plastic flower pot, should be offered to provide a secure place for the frog. Live plants can be easily uprooted by these powerful diggers and should be potted separately if placed in the enclosure. Fake foliage such as silk leaves can be used without problems and pose the benefit of being easily cleaned.
Sources and Suggested Reading
- Frogs and Toads, Devin Edmonds
- Fire-Bellied Toad Care, Tom Mazorlig
- Frogs, Toads, and Treefrogs, Philip Purser
If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (502) 241-4117.