February is the month when frogs start singing their mating calls in many parts of the U.S. If you live in a warmer climate, you may already hear them calling for a mate from sundown into the later evening. As a frog lover, it’s a great time of year for me. It signals spring is near and the local fauna is waking up to begin a new season of reproduction and growth. But there are several things to consider when thinking about getting a frog as a pet. Will you ever get to see it or will it always be hiding? Will it be active during the day or only at night? Are they easy to keep or do they require specialized care? If all of these things are important to you, then the Bombina orientalis, or Oriental fire-bellied toad, may the perfect starter frog for you.
Keeping a Fire-bellied Toad As a Pet
First, just to clear up any confusion about the name, the Oriental fire-bellied toad is actually a frog. This is because all toads are frogs, even though not all frogs are toads. And frogs can be very interesting pets. The fire-bellied toad is actually quite beautiful because as the name suggests, it has a bright fire-red (or yellow) underside, which shows in stark contrast to its bright green and black mottled back. With the fire-bellied toad, however, caution must be taken when handling, as it does contain toxins that can be dangerous.
Fire-bellied Toad Toxicity
There are many examples in the natural world where an animal’s bright coloration is an indication of toxicity. This is nature’s way of warning predators to keep their distance. In many cases, however, toxic frogs that are kept in captivity lose their toxicity, because the toxins actually come from their diet in the wild. With the fire-bellied toad, this is not the case. Their bodies actually produce their own toxins, so even if kept and bred in captivity, they remain poisonous. You should not handle them at all if you have open wounds on your hands, and you should always wash your hands thoroughly after handling them or cleaning their vivarium. For this same reason, they should not be kept together with other species.
The Fire-bellied Toad Vivarium or Habitat
Housing for a fire-bellied toad needs to have both water and land areas. An ideal set up would be a 10-gallon or larger aquarium that contains water on one side and land on the other, with a slanted or graduated beach area transitioning from the land to water. An easy way to construct this is to pile up quarter-sized, smooth stones on one side, to a height of about five inches. Cover this with moss to provide a smooth area for your fire-bellied toad’s sensitive skin. You can even anchor the roots of water plants in the stones on the land side and create a sort of mini-forest to provide ample places for your fire-bellied toad to hide.
Create a slope with your stones so that the descent into the water is gradual, ensuring that your fire-bellied toad can easily get out of the water when it wants to. Fill with about three inches of treated water which has had the chlorine removed, and do weekly partial water changes. The fire-bellied toad creates a good deal of waste, and water changes are vital to its health.
Fire-bellied Toad Food
As with almost all frogs, the fire-bellied toad requires live food. Crickets are one of the most common food items, as they readily can be purchased at many pet stores and are easy to dust with powdered vitamins. Your fire-bellied toad will eat almost any living thing they can fit into their mouths, though, so house flies, earthworms, etc. are all reasonable options. Just be sure they have not been exposed to any poisons (like herbicides and pesticides) in the environments from which they have been gathered. The fire-bellied toad does not have an extendable tongue like many frogs, so they will often use their front legs and toes to stuff food into their mouths.
Overall Fire-bellied Toad Care
In general, the Oriental fire-bellied toad is very easy to keep, colorful, interesting, diurnal and inexpensive. They are also relatively easy to breed, although raising the tiny froglets can be much more challenging.
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