The fire bellied toad is a bright coloured toad that appeals to anyone looking to keep interesting to watch amphibia. These toads are very popular among petkeepers, and for good reason. Their lifespan is 7-15 years, when kept properly. They are native to China, Korea and southern Russia.
The top of the frog is green, though some can be darker - almost black in colour - and there are albino variants. As their name suggests, these frogs have a bright red, orange or yellow underbelly. This acts as a deterrent to predators who may not want to eat them due to their potential toxicity. Their toxicity is no joke, either, these frogs secrete toxins from their skin to scare off predators. These frogs grow to 1-2 inches when adult size.
There is very little difference in size between male and female toads. Male toads tend to have more and better defined tubercles (wart-like bumps on back) than females. In early spring, males develop nupital pads on their first and second fingers. These appear like dark spots on the toad's hands. Females do not develop these. Also at this time of year, when entering breeding season, the males will begin to "bark". This is a call unique to male fire bellied toads, however females may make noises when under stress.
Fire bellied toads spend most of their time in the water, and require a semi-aquatic tank. A ten gallon tank can comfortably house three adult crabs. Substrate is not necessary for the terrestrial area of the tank, the toads do not exhibit any burrowing or digging behaviours, but if you would like substrate then a coconut fibre or other mulch such as sphagnum moss is a great addition to your toad enclosure. Rocks and pieces of bark can make good hiding places for the toads, which is necessary to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. The ideal temperature for these toads is 22C-26C (71F-78F) and nighttime temperatures can dip to 15C (60F) at the lowest. No basking light is needed for fire bellied toads as a heat mat on the side of the tank will usually suffice.
Feed fire bellied toads with a variety of live insects such as locusts, crickets, mealworms and (as a treat) waxworms. Offer food every other day and sprinkle with calcium supplement once or twice a week. Make sure crickets and locusts are the staple food and not mealworms, as they have shells that are difficult to digest if eaten in large quantities. All insects should be gutloaded with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and/or a gutloading formula.
Healthy toads will shed their skin regularly. When they shed, they will bloat themselves and often sit in a crouching position. They will eat their shedded skin for extra nutrients. You can help your toad shed by gently massaging its skin.
Fire bellied toads reach sexual maturity at around 12 months of age. They will breed in the spring and summer with very little special effort needed. Breeding begins when the males begin emitting a bark-like call. Young female frogs produce clutches of sixty to eighty eggs, but older females can produce clutches of up to two hundred. The eggs will stick to surfaces in the tank, and will begin hatching within three days. When they begin swimming, tropical fish flakes work well for feeding. After a month, the tadpoles complete metamorphosis and climb onto the shore. They can now be fed with fruit flies and small crickets.
Signs of an unhealthy toad can be weight loss, lethargy, bloated abdomen, skin lesions, distressed breathing and weakness in the legs. If your toad has weak hind legs and lethargy, it may be a nutrient deficiency. Ensure that your toad is getting the right amount of nutrient supplements. If symptoms persist, consult your local herp vet. Another reason for weakness in the legs is intestinal blockage, which is caused by swallowing gravel or some other obstruction in the digestive system. Avoid feeding too many hard-shelled insects as this can cause intestinal blockage, and make sure you feed your toad away from any gravel or sand that could become impacted. Abrasions or white spot on the frog's skin may be a fungal or bacterial infection and a vet will be able to prescribe antibiotics.
Are they poisonous?
Yes, like other brightly coloured animals, these toads are poisonous if eaten, so don't eat your toad. The toxins that the toads secrete can irritate your skin, so always wash your hands after handling a fire bellied toad and avoid touching your face and eyes. However, these toads are not poisonous enough to kill a person.
Are they good starter pets?
Yes, these toads are highly recommended for beginners as they are cold-resistant, so any mishaps with the heating won't kill them. They are one of the most commonly kept species of frog, though don't let that put you off, they are still incredibly interesting and appeal to experienced petkeepers too.
Websites we recommend
Fire-bellied Toad Care Sheet | Reptile Centre
Fire-Bellied Toad Care Sheet - Josh's Frogs How-To Guides
The Fire-Bellied Toad - Reptiles Magazine