Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad
European Fire-Bellied Toad
Presently there are eight species of frogs that are referred to as fire-bellied toads: Bombina bombina, B. fortinuptialis, B. lichuanensis, B. maxima, B. microdeladigitoria, and B. orientalis, B. pachypus, and B. variegate, but only two of them (those listed in the heading above) are regularly found in the pet industry. Since the care for these two is similar, this information will pertain to both of them unless otherwise noted.
Clearly one of the most popular frog pets in the world, fire-belly toads are small, stout, hardy, and semi-aquatic frogs exhibiting a number of unique characteristics. They are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful toads (although they are not true toads), with tuberculated skin patterned in vibrant green and black or brown and black dorsally and alternately patterned red and black on the underbelly. They use these colors to warn predators of their toxicity, displaying their red underbelly in their defensive position—a behavior known as an “unken reflex”. They have uniquely triangular black pupils, set in large golden-flecked eyes. They are social animals and large groups are often found together in a relatively small area. They can reach sizes of up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) and can live for nearly a decade in captivity.
Oriental fire-bellied toads are primarily native to northeastern China and Korea, and adjacent southeastern Russia. European fire-bellied toads are native to most of Eastern Europe from the Baltic across through central Asia. Within their ranges, fire-bellied toads inhabit the edges of stagnant pools and ponds, slow moving rivers and streams, rice fields, irrigation ditches and associated ecotones. They are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, with norms in the upper 60s to mid 70s Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures can also be tolerated periodically; occasional drops to the sub-50s can be tolerated. Temperatures above the mid-80s should be avoided. Fire-bellies are also tolerant of standing water so long as there is good biological (generally lots of plant life) filtration.
Fire-bellied toads are semi-aquatic amphibians that should be provided with both a large land and water area. Generally, the land area should compose roughly one half to two thirds of the cage space, and should contain hiding spots such as cork bark, driftwood, rocks, and live or fake plants. If gravel is used as 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 at least 3 inches (7.6 centimeters), 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.
Fire-bellied toads have voracious appetites which can be somewhat surprising for such relatively small frogs. They will eat virtually anything they can fit into their mouths, including black worms, tubifex worms, blood worms, small earthworms, wax worms, superworms, silkworms, crickets, house flies, snails, aquatic invertebrates and small fish. Prey items should be gut-loaded and dusted with a calcium and mineral supplement every second or third feeding.
Although cannibalism has been reported for fire-bellied toads, we have reared many successive generations of them in a large (300 gallon, heavily planted) enclosure without any evidence of cannibalism. That being said, it is usually wise to keep animals of like size together to avoid any unfortunate mishaps.
Fire-bellied toads secrete a milky toxic substance from their skins when irritated, which can cause mild discomfort to humans (generally, symptoms similar to an allergic reaction such as sneezing and a runny nose). Although this substance is not known to be dangerous to humans, care should be taken when handling these frogs and remember to always wash your hands! Also, due to this excretion, fire-bellied toads are best kept with only members of their own species and should be in heavily planted or well-filtered water so as to avoid intoxicating themselves.