Keeping a Fire-bellied Toad As a Pet

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.

fire-bellied toad

The Oriental fire-bellied toad is like two frogs in one … its upper side is bright mottled green and black while its underside is bright orange-red and black. Image credit: LA Dawson (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

fire-bellied toad

When you consider beauty and ease of care, Fire-bellied Toads get my vote for one of the top exotic pets in the pet trade. Image credit: Chris Paul (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

fire-bellied toad

Fire-bellied toads are referred to as “semi-aquatic,” meaning they need both land and water in their habitats.

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

If you’re squeamish about feeding your pets live food, then keeping frogs may not be your thing. In captivity, live crickets are the most common food for fire-bellied toads. In the wild, they would eat any live food they could fit in their mouths.

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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fire-bellied toad

21 Comments

  1. Those are gorgeous toads!! I would be a little worried about the toxicity. I had an aquatic frog a few years ago! It was so mesmerizing watching it swim and I loved to hear it sing!

    • Haha! I had a house full of frogs when my kids were growing up. I used to pay the neighborhood kids a nickel each for bugs to feed them! I was known in the neighborhood as the “Frog Lady.”

    • Heather – I personally know two others who have frog phobias. I just don’t understand because I love frogs. But I have a phobia of balloons, so I understand!

    • Lisa – I hope when he does ask for one, you will seriously consider it. My daughters learned so much when they were little from living in a house full of frogs!

    • Ashley – They are good looking! They’re beautiful, actually. You don’t find yourself saying that about a toad very often, do you? LOL

  2. It’s absolutely beautiful. I don’t think I’d want to take the chance with the toxicity (because I’m a giant wuss lol) but I can see why people would want one as a pet. So pretty!

    • Cyn – I mentioned the toxicity because it is something you need to be aware of, but as long as you handle them carefully and wash your hands well afterwards (as you should do in the case of any reptile or amphibian) the risk is very low.

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