Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Care Guide and Information

The oriental fire-bellied toad, also known as Bombina Orientalis, is a species of frogs commonly found in northeastern China, Korea, and parts of Russia. It is semiaquatic and measures about 4 centimeters and 2 inches. While being a full-grown frog, it is usually referred to as a toad because of the tubercles found on its back.

The frog typically has a bright green color with its dorsal regions having black mottling. However, depending on the scenery of the backgrounds they are in, they may change their complexion to brown or even black. It also has a bright reddish-orange color on the ventral region, which is mottled with dark brown to black. It is believed that it gets the coloration of its ventral region from the diet it eats in the wild, which consists of small aquatic arthropods and other things that contain beta-carotene. The colors of the oriental fire-bellied toad gives it a visual appeal and make them great for aesthetics. 

However, the bright colors are not only for visual appeal. They are also meant to warn predators of the frog’s toxicity should they think of messing up with it. When the frog is scared or disturbed, it secretes the toxin through its skin from the hind legs and the belly. The toxin has a milky-like look. When it is disturbed, the frog may also show the color of its belly to the predator as an indication of its toxicity. It does this by lying on its back.

Despite its toxicity, the frog is often kept as a pet. As long as they are given enough food and water of good quality, they can do quite well in captivity. When kept as pets, they are usually fed on small crickets and invertebrates such as earthworms. You can dust their food with calcium powder. However, it is not advisable to feed the frog mealworm larvae as it can find it difficult to digest or pass the hard shells of the larvae. When kept as pets, the frog is usually kept on its own as its mild toxicity makes it incompatible with other animals. In spite of this, it is a very social animal that likes being in the company of others. It is also not advisable to regularly handle the frog as ingesting its mucus can result in feelings of discomfort.

The oriental-fire bellied toad has a lifespan of up to 15 years when kept in captivity. To enable it to develop its bright colors, it is advisable to provide it with beta-carotene from an early stage. It prefers being in the water, although you should have some kind of island when it wants to periodically be on dry land. Even though it likes staying in the water, it is not a good swimmer and may drown if the water is too deep. They are also very sensitive to chloramine and chlorine. If you have to use tap water for this frog, you should first treat the water for these two elements.

Species of  the fire-bellied toad

Besides the Bombina Orientalis, there are about five other species of the fire-bellied toad. They include;

  • Bombina bombina– the European fire-bellied toad
  • Bombina Maxima- the Yunnan fire-bellied toad
  • Bombina Microdeladigitora- the Hubei fire-bellied toad
  • Bombina Pachypus- the Apennine yellow-bellied toad
  • Bombina Variegata– the yellow-bellied toad

The oriental fire-bellied toad is the most commonly available of them all. Native to northeast China, Korea, and parts of Russia, the frog is widely imported as farmed stock or wild-caught and kept as pets by most people. Grass green and black in color, the frogs have varying degrees of dorsal color which includes bronze and brown. However, their underbellies are a vibrant color of reddish-orange. Their coloration gives them their visual appeal and is the reason they are preferred as pets.

The yellow fire-bellied toad, though also pretty much available, is more expensive than the oriental fire-bellied one. The albino yellow fire-bellied toad, which has a creamy white color with a pasty yellow pattern on the belly, is even pricier. Just like the European fire-bellied toad, the yellow fire-bellied toad is native to Europe and is more common in Greece, France, Germany, and Romania.

Most of the species of the fire-bellied frogs are small in size with only the European, yellow, and the oriental fire-bellied toads being able to reach at most 2 inches in length. The Yunnan fire-bellied toad is, however, the biggest of them all, being longer in length than the others by half an inch or more. Besides their captivating bright colors, the other qualities that make the fire-bellied the best choice of pets include their interesting behavior and diurnal activity.

In the natural wild habitat, the fire-bellied toads prefer swampy environments and marshy wetlands. They often stay near the forests or close to the water. When kept as a pet, the frogs just need a clean environment, a varied diet, and the right range of temperatures to be able to survive. If well taken care of, they can stay alive for more than 10 years.

Breeding the oriental fire-bellied toad

Of all the six species, the oriental-fire-bellied toad is the most colorful and therefore, the most preferred choice of pet among many. It is is also readily available. In a pet store, you can find the frog for as low as $10. However, you can reliably breed the frog.

Before you start the breeding process, you should pre-condition the frogs by feeding them a highly varied diet. The diet should consist of waxworms, nutrient-loaded crickets, earthworms, sowbugs, flies, moths, beetles, small guppies, and other wild-caught invertebrates.

The oriental fire-bellied toad, unlike other frogs, also needs stimulation to be ready for breeding. While changes in seasons can be enough stimulation for them, you can also keep the depth of water in their tanks low for a few days before refilling with warmer water, at about 10 degrees higher, during springtime. You can alternatively keep the frogs at a temperature of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit for about a month. When temperatures rise, the oriental fire-bellied frog will be ready to breed.

It is important to note that the breeding frogs should be kept in a separate tank from which they usually stay. This is to allow the eggs enough space to hatch into tadpoles after spawning has been done. The adult frogs are usually returned to their original tanks after spawning. The ratio of the male to females should be desirably one to three. When they are ready to breed, the male frog will sport rough, dark patches on their inner arms. These are known as the nuptial pads. It will then let out a series of unique mating calls to the female frog and try to grab onto anything within their reach.

The male frog mates with the female by grasping the female just above the rear legs. This embrace is usually referred to as inguinal amplexus. If the female is not ready and unreceptive to the advances of the male frog, it will straighten out its legs and vibrate its body to shake off the male.

Besides having a large enough space, the breeding tank should also be furnished with plenty of live plants so that the eggs can attach to them after being laid. Furthermore, there should be filters that do not create strong currents. Corner filters are very ideal for this. The female frog will lay up to 200 eggs within 24 hours after mating. The eggs will attach to the plants, airline tubing, and sticks in the tank. If a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit is maintained in the breeding tank, the eggs will hatch into tadpoles within four days. They will, however, remain motionless and attached to the plants for about 2 days. During this time, they will be absorbing the yolk sacs.

Once the tadpoles become active and start moving around, you can feed them chopped blackworms and tropical fish flakes. The tadpoles should be fed several times a day to enable their growth and development.

As the tadpole grows, the hind legs will appear first then followed by the front legs. The froglet usually develops the hind legs when it is about ten days old. The front legs will appear between the 19th and the 22nd day. The tank should be well-stocked with plants so that the froglets can be able to easily get to the dry surface.

Do not expect your froglets to eat for about 4 days after getting out of the water. However, after that, nutrition is very critical to them. You should ensure that they have large quantities of young crickets, fruit flies, springtails, tiny leaf-litter invertebrates, and wild-caught aphids for them to feed on. Your froglets will grow, and within a year, be ready to breed themselves.

You can also breed the European fire-bellied toad and the yellow fire-bellied toad just the way you would breed the oriental fire-bellied toad. They may, however, require longer and much cooler temperatures to be able to be prime for breeding. You can keep the, in damp sphagnum moss at temperatures of about 40 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit up to six weeks. If you have a refrigerator, it would work well for this. After the cooling-off period, you can raise the temperature to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for over 2 weeks. This should get the male fire-bellied frog ready to make that mating call.

Alternatively, you can make a rain chamber to get the fire-bellied toads into a breeding mood.

People often find it difficult to tell the yellow fire-bellied toad apart from the European fire-bellied one because they sometimes all have a red or orange stomach. The easiest way to tell them apart is to look at their limbs. The European fire-bellied toad has webbed fingers on the front limbs while the yellow fire-bellied toad does not. They can, however, interbreed with each other just as they would interbreed with the oriental fire-bellied toad. This can make telling them apart very difficult and often impossible.

Housing your oriental fire-bellied toad pet

In its natural habitat, the frog prefers the slow-moving streams and water ponds. They are mostly found in swampy bushlands, river valleys, open meadows, and mixed, coniferous or broad-leaved forests. They are quite common in the Asian countries of China, North Korea, and South Korea, and certain regions of Russia. During the winter, they like hibernating in rotting logs or burrow themselves in piles of leaves.

If you are to keep the frog as a pet, you should be able to provide the semi-aquatic environment they thrive in. They prefer floating in shallow water with their toes barely in contact with something solid under the water. It is very simple to set up its tank. It is important to note that any water, especially tap water, to be used in the frog’s tank should first be treated to neutralize the chloramines and chlorine present in the water.

To get started, fill a tank, or an aquarium, with about 2 inches of water and then on the surface, float a large slab of cork bark. You can also use several large rocks to protrude from the water and serve as the land area. The land area should be equal in surface area to that of the water. You won’t need to add any substrates to the water. You can change the water maybe three times every week as you remove the wastes from the tank and clean it up.

The other alternative way of housing your pet frog is by submerging a shallow water container into a soil-like substrate or a substrate made from coconut husk fiber. If you choose to go this way, the water container should only cover about half of the terrarium’s bottom. You can also place pieces of cork bark and artificial plants on top of the coconut husk fiber. This provides cover to the settlement. The substrate should stay moist always. You can do this by adding a little water to it at most twice every week. It should not, however, become soggy or waterlogged. To keep the water clean, you should change it daily.

The frogs are not space hoggers and do not need large enclosures. If you have three adult frogs, the standard 10-gallon aquarium should be more than enough space for them. If you own six or more frogs, then you might consider getting the 20-gallon tank. The frogs are very social animals that should not be kept in isolation. They like staying in groups. If you keep their tanks open, they will always try to jump out and escape. Ensure that the top is covered by a tight-fitting cover.

The ideal temperatures for the frog is a range between 65 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it will also do just fine under room temperatures. You should constantly monitor the temperatures as anything above 82 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous for the frog. Low temperatures, even as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, do not seem to be a problem for them though. Humidity isn’t as important to the frog as temperature. It will do just fine under the normal household humidity levels of 30%. You can keep the tank moist by spraying it with water daily to provide a temporary increase in humidity. This is similar to what they experience in the wild after a rain.

A semi-aquatic planted aquarium would allow you to beautifully display your treasure. You can simply create a semi-aquatic planted aquarium by sloping the substrate of gravel towards one side of the aquarium. You can use rocks to hold the gravel slope in place then fill the aquarium with water till it reaches just below the high point of the sloped gravel. 

You can then place live java moss along the shoreline of the slope. With time, and under the right amount of moisture and light, the moss will grow and help to keep the sloped gravel in place. Heart-leafed philodendron, pothos, and other hardy houseplants can be grown on the gravel. For the water, parrot feather, java fern, anubias species, or cryptocoryne would work just well. You can increase the water levels to about half a foot in order to accommodate the plants. You don’t have to worry about the frogs drowning, the vegetation will provide footholds for them in the water.

The inclusion of live plants in the aquarium helps in maintaining the water quality, sprucing up the enclosure, and producing a stable environment for the frogs. You may only need to make partial water changes once or twice every month. As much as the frog may not need any special lighting system, the live plants will need sufficient lighting if they are to flourish. You can use the standard T8 fluorescent tubes over the aquarium to light up the enclosure. It is better to go with lights that have a natural color temperature.

The oriental fire-bellied toad diet

Your frog will need the right diet in order to live a long, healthy life. Providing them with a wide variety of food will help. It sounds like too much work. In reality, it is very easy to keep your frog on a healthy diet. For starters, crickets make up the majority of their diet. The other types of food you can feed your frog include;

  • Springtails
  • Earthworms
  • Waxworms
  • Mealworms, and 
  • Aquatic invertebrates.

The frogs have a ferocious appetite and will eat anything when they have a chance. They may end up eating too much. You should always monitor the amount of food you give them in each serving. If you notice that they are becoming quite overweight, you should cut back on the amount of food you give them. Obesity can be a cause of health concern for the frog. You should also not feed them mealworms and waxworms on a regular basis. These should be treats. The wax worms should only be fed to them once a month while they can have mealworms every two weeks. 

Besides crickets, earthworms are also a good choice for regular meals. The oriental fire-bellied frogs like live meals, so ensure that the worms are still moving even if you chop them up.

You should feed the frogs about two to three times per week. You can give them up to five crickets every feeding. Ensure that the insects you feed the frogs are appropriately-sized or they could experience digestive issues. The insects should not be longer than the width of the frog’s mouth. While adult frogs may be able to comfortably eat full-sized crickets, it is better to always go with the medium-sized ones to reduce the risk of the frog choking.

To help with proper nutrition and stronger bones, the insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements before feeding to the frogs. Calcium supplements can be used during every meal. On the other hand, vitamin supplements should be restricted to about two times every week.

The frogs are routine animals. It is better for them if you fed them at the same time every single day. They will be able to know when to expect food. They also tend to eat their skin after shedding it.

The trickiest part about feeding the frog is the water in their enclosure. Crickets are unable to last long in the water. Once they die, the frogs lose interest in eating them. This means you will have a lot of cleaning and a change of water to do. The way out of this is to place the crickets in a container before putting them into the frog’s tank. The container should be big enough so that the crickets can’t jump out. After the frogs have had their fill, you can pull out the container with the remaining crickets.

Safety tips for handling oriental fire-bellied toads

If you are looking for pets to play around with, you might have to rethink about getting a frog as a pet. Just like the other amphibians, they are that much into human touch. They find it stressful. Besides that, chemical residues and oil from your skin might do them harm. If you absolutely have to handle the frogs, then it is advisable to first put on a pair of gloves.

Always wash your hands before and after handling the frogs. It is good for both the frog and yourself.

When they feel threatened or in distress, the frog is known for producing a mild toxin as a defense mechanism. This toxin can be irritating and dangerous to human beings. If ingested, it can be fatal. You should avoid rubbing your eyes after handling the frog until you have thoroughly washed your hands. 

You should never leave your children unsupervised around the frogs. They may only harm the frogs but also ingest the toxins released by the reaction of the frogs to a threatening situation.

The frog, just like other animals, can carry bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections and pass them on to humans.

Maintaining the health of your oriental fire-bellied toad pet

It is very important to not only buy a healthy frog pet but also keep it healthy. If you want to know whether the frog is healthy, you should be on the lookout for clear nostrils, bright eyes, smooth skin, and absolutely no sign of mites on the frog.

You should schedule annual checkups for the frogs with a qualified vet to ensure that they maintain optimal health. If possible, keep a detailed diary of the care the frog receives so that it can be possible to point out contributing factors whenever problems arise.

You should always have the contacts of a local vet who is able to handle exotic pets so that the frogs receive quality healthcare in the event of any issues. It is advisable to report any slight signs of trouble to the vet as early detection and treatment can help in averting the fatality of problems. You should not assume if you notice anything unusual with your frog. Some of the signs of ill health include;

  • Irregularities in the skin or skin lesions
  • Poor feeding habits
  • Loss of weight
  • Lethargy
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Weak movement of the legs
  • Distressed breathing
  • The presence of an unusual white substance in the mouth of the frog
  • A characteristic bloated look

Some of the common health issues that the frog usually face include chemical intoxication caused by exposure to detergent, soap, and pesticides, intestinal obstruction from swallowing the gravel in the tank or eating too many hard-shelled insects, nutritional deficiencies, and skin problems caused by abrasions, and fungal and bacterial infections. nutritional deficiencies can result in lethargy, weak hind legs, and a change in the skin color and tone.

They are also likely to suffer from redleg disease. The redleg disease is a parasitic infection that results in the legs of the frog turning red. The frog will also become sluggish and apathetic. As soon as you notice the red legs, it is advisable to visit a vet for diagnosis and advice.

Your oriental fire-bellied frog is vulnerable to fungal infections. If you notice that its face has become inflamed or that the skin is oozing cottony-like substance, arrange a visit to the vet as soon as possible. Remember that waiting can lead to worsening of the situation and even fatalities. Early detection and treatment help preserve the health of your frog.

Getting an oriental fire-bellied toad as a pet

Well, for starters, the frogs are some of the cheapest pets you can find around. They are relatively easy and cheap to maintain too. As long as you can get them crickets and calcium and vitamin supplement dusting over the crickets, they are good to go.

However, one of the main reasons why the frog should be your choice of pet is its visual appeal. Their display of bright colors is great for adding to the aesthetic value of your home.

Besides that, they are also diurnal animals. This means, that unlike most amphibians, the frogs are quite active during the day. You can, therefore, sit back and enjoy observing their behavior. You can enjoy watching them time their prey before lurching at it at the last moment. You can also get to enjoy the aggressiveness of the male frog while their companies splash around and make squeaky distress calls.

When threatened, the frog reveals its red, orange-colored belly as a warning for the adversary to keep off. In extreme cases of feeling threatened, the frog totally flips over so that all you will see is the bright ventral coloration. It is a wonderful sight, as long as you are not the enemy.

When looking to get the frog as a pet, it is always easier to enquire from the local pet stores if they have it in stock. However, it is better to first stopover at the local herpetological society and see if there are any that have are currently being bred there. They are in a much better condition than the ones from the pet stores which usually have been caught from the wild, and more often than not, shipped around the world from the natural habitat to the pet store.

When shopping for the frog, it is important to be observant of the environment around them. Do you notice any animal that seems sick or unhealthy around there? Take a look at the enclosures the frogs are kept in and see if they are clean. Are they kept on their own or with the other types of animals? While keeping the frog with other animals is not a problem, keeping them in the same space with crabs, newts, other types of frogs, and other semi-aquatic animals can be too stressful for them and may even result in physical trauma for them. Besides, the animals may be from different places and may carry with them foreign pathogens that might affect the frog.

Never take home a frog that seems to be emaciated and sunken in or bloated and ballooning out as a pet. They may be having a problem. They should be plump and with slightly rounded sides of the body. You should also pass any frog that looks like it has an excessively sloughing skin or dead, gray skin hanging off of them. Any sores or wounds are also a pointer to a problem.

The other way to tell a healthy frog before making a purchase is by observing their behavior. In as much as the oriental fire-bellied toad is a bold frog, it will be startled when you put a hand into their enclosure. If it seems unresponsive and lethargic, then it could be suffering from ill-health. If you are unsure of what to look out for, you can always ask your vet to accompany you when shopping for a frog.

The oriental fire-bellied toad fun facts

Here’s a summary of facts about the frog;

  • They have a lifespan going for more than 10 years.
  • Since they have no eardrums, the frog usually absorbs sound through its lungs during inhalation.
  • Instead of extending out their tongues to catch prey, they jump at the prey and catch them with their mouths.
  • The frog is a social animal and is gregarious.
  • While the frog is a diurnal animal, it usually mates at night.
  • The female can lay up to 100 eggs which then get attached to live plants around the tank.
  • The frog warns off enemies by secreting a toxin from under their belly.
  • The female frog is usually larger than the male one.
  • During the breeding period, the male frog develops nuptial pads on the fingers.
  • If the female frog is unreceptive to the mating call of a male one, it usually straightens its feet and vibrates to shake the male off.

Essential care for your oriental fire-bellied toads

The frogs are intriguing and amazing pets to own, especially if you are into exotic pets. However, how long they live depends on the quality of life you give them. The better you take care of them, the longer they live. If you are quite inexperienced at handling frogs, here are essential care tips that you may find useful;

  1. Ensure that you provide the right habitat for the frogs. The aquarium should be of the right size and able to comfortably accommodate the frogs. For example, if you have a 10-gallon aquarium, then you should not put more than five frogs in it. The aquarium should also have a screen cover to prevent the frogs from escaping and promote proper ventilation.
  2. The frogs are semi-aquatic and your aquarium should, therefore, have both water and dry land. The dry land area should take up about two-thirds of the aquarium. Try as much as you can to recreate their natural habitat, complete with live plants, rocks, and moss. Ensure that the dry land slopes into the water.
  3. The frog needs light not only for heat but also for UV rays to keep the metabolic bone disease away. You can always use a small incandescent light bulb.
  4. While the frog can withstand cold temperatures, high temperatures can harm it. It is important to constantly monitor the temperature and maintain it between 71 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You can move the aquarium to a cooler room in the house, use a fan, or turn on the air conditioning when it gets too hot.
  5. The frog does not care much for humidity as the other amphibians do. However, it is still advisable to spray the aquarium with water every day to keep it adequately humid.
  6. You should feed the frog live food purchased from the pet store. Catching wild crickets and insects that may have been exposed to pesticides and other harmful chemicals can be dangerous to the health of the frog. Never feed the frog insects or worms that are larger than the width of its mouth. This is to avoid the risk of choking. Also, give them an amount of food that they can clear within 15 minutes.
  7. Clear any remaining food off the aquarium to avoid contaminating the enclosure by rotting food.
  8. Before feeding the crickets to your frog, ensure that the crickets are gut-loaded. You can also dust the food with vitamin and calcium supplements. However, engage your vet first to know which products are good for your frog.
  9. Every once in a while, your frog will need to shed off their skin. You can help in the process by misting the frog. If the skin is not shedding off properly, you can also gently massage the frog until the skin slips off. It might, however, be stressful for the frog because of the sensitivity to touch. Massaging too roughly can also damage its skin. It is better to just take to a vet if it is experiencing problems shedding off the skin.
  10. Keep the enclosure of the frog clean at all times. The aquarium should be cleaned daily and periodically given a thorough cleaning. When doing a thorough cleaning, ensure that all the items are properly rinsed before being taken back into the aquarium. When cleaning, remember to use only mild dish cleaning detergents.

Above all, remember that your frog likes its privacy. Only handle it when you absolutely have to, and ensure that its enclosure has a lot of hiding places in which it can enjoy some quiet time.

Final thoughts

The frog is pretty easy to care for. If you are just starting out like a frog pet owner, then this should be your go-to choice of pet. You should always purchase your frog from a reputable dealer who will be able to furnish you with the frog’s health history. In case of any health issues, they will let you know and suggest possible remedies. When choosing your frog, go for that which has a smooth skin and clear eyes. The skin of the frog may look bumpy though, which is why it is named after a toad in the first place.

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