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Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad

Nicole Cosgrove

Remember the cute little frog you loved to hunt in your backyard’s ponds when you were a kid? Well, forget that, because today we present to you a much more original and super flashy amphibian: the oriental fire-bellied toad! Which is also known by its sophisticated species name, Bombina orientalis. The best thing about this fascinating small-sized toad is that, if you take good care of it, it could become your loyal companion for up to 20 years!

So, here’s everything you need to know about the care, tank setup, temperament, health, and more of the oriental fire-bellied toad.

new frog dividerQuick Facts about Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad

Species Name: Bombina orientalis
Family: Bombinatoridae
Care Level: Beginner/easy
Temperature: Daytime: 70°F to 75°F

Nightime: 60°F to 68°F

Temperament: Gregarious, hardy, diurnal
Color Form: Green or brownish grey with black spots, bright red-orange belly
Lifespan: Up to 20 years
Size: 1.5 to 2 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons for 2-3 frogs
Tank Set-Up: Terrariums with half land and half water
Compatibility: Get along well with other fire-bellied toads

Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Overview

The oriental fire-bellied toad is found in China, Korea, and southern Russia, and Japan. Unlike other toads, this species loves water; in its natural habitat, it is mainly found in ponds and other bodies of water. The oriental fire-bellied toad also likes to cling to the leaves of conifers when it wishes to rest above water. However, it remains predominantly an aquatic species.

They are popular in the pet trade, but they do not have a special conservation status because they are not considered endangered. Indeed, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN), the oriental fire-bellied toad is listed as Least Concern due to “its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification and presumed large population”. You can check more about this organization and the list of species threatened with extinction here.

Oriental Fire Bellied Frog on the soul_ worldswildlifewonders_Shutterstock
Image credit: Worldwildlifewonders, Shutterstock

Toad vs Frogs: What’s the Difference?

Before delving into the rest of the article, let’s take a moment to differentiate a toad from a frog:

  • Frogs have longer legs, which are good for jumping, have smooth, moist skin, and special toe pads for climbing.
  • Toads are heavier with shorter legs, and their skin is dry, often with spiky-looking bumps. They may also have bulging bumps at the bottom of their eyes, which are poison-secreting glands: the parotoid glands.

But why exactly do biologists say that all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads?

Because toads are a subclassification of frogs. Both are amphibians and belong to the order Anura (meaning “tailless”), but only members of the Bufonidae family are considered “true toads”.

We normally use the common name “frogs” to refer to species predominantly aquatic, with smooth, damp skins; the common term “toads” refers to more terrestrial species with warty skin.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and our oriental fire-bellied toad is one of them: it has spiky warts like most toads but prefers water to land, like most frogs.

How Much Do Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Cost?

From $10 to $25. So no, they’re not expensive exotic animals at all. You could keep multiple oriental fire-bellied toads in the same tank without spending too much money.

But before you go to your favorite pet store, you should try to rescue one from your local rescue center. Indeed, due to the impressive lifespan of these oriental frogs, they can sometimes be abandoned by their first owner.

This is because, sadly, some people do not realize that these amphibians will last much longer than a “normal” pet (e.g., dogs, cats, hamsters, etc.). Therefore, if their life situation changes and they can’t keep them anymore (or they just get bored of having a frog as a pet), they decide to get rid of them. So, this could be your opportunity to give these gorgeous and attractive animals a second chance in a new home.

If you’d rather buy one (or more), look for good species-specific breeders or ask your vet about the best options in your area.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Oriental fire-bellied toads are gregarious: they enjoy the company of their congeners of the same species. It is advisable to put more than one specimen in the same enclosure to keep them entertained, active and happy. They are also diurnal, so you might see them doing their “frog activities” (e.g., eating, hopping on the plants, frolicking in the water) during the day.

There’s also another fascinating behavior of these species that you may be lucky enough to observe: the unken reflex. The toad exhibits this defensive behavior when disturbed or attacked: it rises on its front legs and arches its back to present its bright belly to its attacker. It is a big warning that if the predator tries to eat the toad, it will regret it painfully.

And that’s precisely what happens if the predator goes further: the toad produces a milky toxin that tastes pungent and putrid. Needless to say, a dog or snake that has tried to gobble up a toad quickly learns to avoid them.

But don’t worry about your own safety: in captivity, once accustomed to its owner, the oriental fire-bellied toad does not typically exhibit this type of behavior.

Oriental Fire Bellied Frog in the water_ agus fitriyanto suratno_Shutterstock
Image credit: Agus Fitriyanto Suratno, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

Oriental fire-bellied toads are small-sized, reaching a length of about 2 inches. Their backs, covered with spiky warts (also called tubercles), can range from bright green to brownish-gray, but the skin on their stomachs is smooth. Females usually are larger than males.

So, up to now, they seem to be utterly normal pet frogs, maybe a little boring. But make no mistake: their exceptional characteristic lies on their stomachs. As mentioned earlier, their bellies are a fiery bright, red-orange color, and usually with dark spots, to warn any potential predator that they are about to get in big trouble.

divider- reptile paw

How to Take Care of Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank

A 10-gallon tank is a bare minimum for the enclosure of a single oriental fire-bellied toad. On the other hand, your pet frog risks getting bored: it is, therefore, advisable to have more than one specimen in the same tank. Allow between 15 and 20 gallons for housing 2 to 3 toads. A secure, ventilated cover is a must, as these bouncy little toads will escape if given the opportunity.

A semi-aquatic terrarium is ideal: half water (about four inches deep) and half land. The land area may contain rocks to serve as a hiding place; beware of sharp stones, however, which could injure the delicate skin of your toads. Add aquatic plants, wet moss, and maybe a small floating island to rest.

The water should have a filter, and frequent water changes are necessary. Use only dechlorinated water or bottled spring water in the tank. These frogs produce a lot of waste, so you must frequently change the water. Smooth gravel can be used for the dry land area, and live or artificial plants can be used.

You May Also Like: 9 DIY Reptile Enclosures You Can Build Today

Temperature

Fire-bellied toads are cold-tolerant amphibians, so you don’t need to provide additional heating for the terrarium (unless you live in a freezing area). During their most active period, the temperature of the terrarium should be maintained between 70 and 75°F. At night, it can drop to 60 to 68°F.

You don’t need to buy a fancy thermometer to help you monitor your terrarium temperature unless you’re worried about your toads scorching in the summer. In that case, you can buy a Zoo Med Digital Thermometer, which is inexpensive and easy to install and will help you keep an eye on the temperature during the summer heat.

Humidity

If you’ve set up the tank the right way (e.g., half water, half soil, a few plants, rocks for hiding, etc.), humidity shouldn’t be a problem. It should stay within the correct range of 50-70%.

Adding a waterfall will also help to increase the humidity of the habitat. However, if you notice that the humidity drops below 50%, use a bottle to spray the tank. You could also use misting systems, but they are not required.

Substrate/Bedding

While you can use gravel as a substrate, a water bottom with cork bark or small rocks is perfectly fine. The bottom may also be bare, but you can use stones or gravel to fill it. Substrates like coir are also great, but that’s not an absolute requirement.

Since a fire-bellied toad has a lot of water in its habitat, you have a good chance of keeping the moss alive. Putting in a quality drainage layer will help the soil stay soggy for long periods.

Oriental Fire Bellied Frog sitting on the rock_ Lauren Suryanata_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lauren Suryanta, Shutterstock

Lighting

On the other hand, good lighting is essential to encourage the daytime behavior of oriental fire-bellied toads. Use fluorescent bulbs to avoid overheating the habitat.

Fire-bellied toads do not require specific UVB lighting, but be sure to place their tanks near a good light source to encourage their normal daytime behavior. Provide them with enough light during the day and darkness at night to reproduce the regular cycles (day and night) of their natural habitat.

Note: If you keep your frogs in a planted habitat, you will likely need a low-intensity UVB lamp to meet the plants’ daily light needs.

Do Oriental Fire-Bellied Toads Get Along with Other Pets?

In short, no. The toxin of oriental fire-bellied toad is very active: scientific studies have shown that 1 mg injected into a mouse could kill it in less than 15 minutes.

So, you don’t want your other furry companions to mess with your pet frog. However, you can (and should) keep multiple fire-bellied toads in an appropriately sized terrarium. They will be happier, more active, and you will also enjoy more entertaining interactions between your little batrachians.divider- frog

What to Feed Your Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad

Oriental fire-bellied toads are omnivorous but primarily insectivorous. You will need to feed adults a wide variety of invertebrates, such as mealworms, crickets, and mollusks, to help them thrive and keep them healthy. Tadpoles will appreciate algae, fungi, and plants.

Here’s a list of invertebrates to feed your toads:

  • Crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Silkworms
  • Hornworms
  • Waxworms
  • Earthworms
  • Collembola
  • Dubia roaches

Note: If you feed your toads’ crickets a few times a week, sprinkle them with a vitamin or mineral supplement beforehand to make sure you meet all their dietary needs.

Also, don’t forget that fire-bellied toads are known to be gluttonous eaters. They will overeat if given the opportunity. Therefore, you need to keep a close watch on their size. However, it can be difficult to judge how much to feed them at first. A good rule of thumb is, if they get overweight, decrease the amount you give them.

Finally, the frequency of meals should be 2-3 times a week, depending on the size of the insects.

Keeping Your Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Healthy

Red foot disease is a common disease of oriental fire-bellied frogs in captivity. Parasitic infection causes it; frogs or toads with this disease develop redness of the legs as an early symptom. Toads with this disease will be listless and sluggish. Red foot disease requires a visit to a veterinarian who has experience with reptiles and amphibians. However, this condition is quickly confirmed and treated if detected early.

Also, like most frogs, they are susceptible to fungal infections. If your oriental fire-bellied toad has an inflammation on its face or is oozing a cottony substance on its skin, it is time for a visit to the vet. The good news is that it’s also another disease that can be managed quite easily if caught early.

It would be a good idea to keep a “food diary” of what you feed your toads; that way, your vet could identify any illness that might be related to their diet. A well-educated and knowledgeable owner is the key to keeping these wonderful, fascinating, and exotic pets toads healthy for many years to come.

Breeding

Breeding fire-bellied toads can be tricky. In the wild, these toads breed in the spring. In captivity, they are less likely to mate as they rarely undergo the seasonal changes that occur in the wild. But, if you’re successful, it will be a rewarding experience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity of raising tiny tadpoles?

First of all, having multiple breeding pairs will increase your chances of success. Having two to three males per female will increase these odds even more. Females are generally larger, and males are more vocal. They can be heard “calling” during mating season.

If you’re lucky, your male toads should eventually woo the females, utter their seductive “croaks,” and eventually mate.

Note: Keep in mind that females can lay up to 100 eggs at a time.

As soon as you notice the eggs in the terrarium, usually around submerged plants, remove them from the enclosure and keep them in water at room temperature in another container. Feed the babies with the right food for tadpoles, which you can find in pet stores, or with algae, fungi, and plants.

It will take the tadpoles around three months to completely transform into young fire-bellied toads. As they develop their paws and their tails disappear, provide them with a ramp or a floating platform that they can climb on so that they do not drown.

new frog dividerAre Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Suitable For You?

If you want to adopt an oriental fire-bellied toad to play with all day long, handle it and pet it, then no, this is not the right pet for you. It’s stressful for the toad and potentially dangerous for you due to the toxin these animals secrete as a defense mechanism against their predators.

So, it’s best to limit the time you spend handling them. Wash your hands thoroughly after each handling, use gloves if you have minor wounds on your hands, and do not rub your eyes. These beautiful exotic specimens are meant to be observed and will be part of your family for up to 20 years if you take good care of them.


Featured Image Credit: Kuritafshen, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.