Native to rice paddies and the highlands of southern and southeastern Asia, Oriental fire-bellied toads have bright green and black coloration on their warty backs and brilliant orange and black on their undersides. Despite its name, this amphibian is technically a frog, not a toad. One characteristic differentiating frogs from toads is toads have rough, textured skin. And, while this frog has bumpy skin, it is one of the exceptions.
Oriental fire-bellied toads are hardy, colorful little creatures that are suitable pets for beginners. You will not be able to hold it much, but they are interesting to observe. They are not difficult to care for, although they do take a fair amount of work to maintain.
Common Name: Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad
Scientific Name: Bombina orientalis
Adult Size: 2 inches long
Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years
Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad Behavior and Temperament
The bright colors of these frogs are a warning to predators to stay away, including humans. Its skin excretes a toxin. This clever frog announces its toxicity to potential predators by flashing its bright, fiery colored belly. Most predators recognize that such bright colors indicate that eating this particular frog can make them ill.
While it is somewhat toxic to humans, regular handling of the warty, semiaquatic Oriental fire-bellied toad is not recommended as it secretes poison from its skin. This toxin is not strong enough to kill or severely harm a human, however, it may induce skin sensitivity. If the poison is on your hand, and you put your finger in your eye, it can cause pain, so avoid handling this creature if you have any cuts on your hands. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching them or cleaning their tanks as all frogs have sensitive skin that can react to oils or soaps on your skin.
Due to their potential toxicity, do not house these toads with other animals. Regular cleaning and water changes will help keep toxins from building up in the tank.
Fire-bellied toads do not have extendable tongues, so they use their mouths and forelegs to grab their food and stuff it into their mouths. It will rarely bite you; if it does, your finger was likely mistaken for food.
Housing the Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
At the minimum, get a 10-gallon tank for this animal's enclosure. You can house two or three frogs in a tank of this size. If you get more frogs, plan on about 4 gallons of tank space per frog. The horizontal or long aquariums provide more floor space for their size. A secure lid is a necessity. These active little frogs will try to escape if given a chance. The top should allow adequate ventilation.
A semiaquatic tank is an ideal set up with a third to half of the tank as land area, and the remainder should be about two to four inches of water. You can decorate the land area with smooth rocks.
The water should have a filter, and frequent water changes are necessary. Use only dechlorinated stale water or bottled spring water in the tank. These frogs produce a lot of waste, so you will need to do frequent partial water changes.
Expect to clean out the cage thoroughly once a week. While cleaning, place the frog in a secure second tank. Scrub the tank and furnishings. Rinse thoroughly with hot water, do not use any detergents or chemicals. To make cleaning easier, get removable tubs or basins for each side. You can also use smooth gravel on the water side as well as live or artificial plants.
A heater is not usually necessary as these frogs can handle standard human room temperature, although slightly warmer temperatures are ideal, roughly 75 to 78 F. Use a thermometer to accurately gauge the temperature. Set up a basking area with a low wattage lamp set for 12-hours per day, mirroring the day and night cycle. You can use an under-tank heat mat under the terrestrial portion of the enclosure to heat the tank; if you keep the substrate moist, the two together will help increase tank humidity.
These frogs have no specific lighting requirements other than a day and night cycle. Many experts agree that this species does not need UVB lighting. However, some experts state that a low dose of daily UVB can't hurt and might help with calcium absorption. Most importantly, this species requires humidity. Sometimes too much light can dry out the enclosure, which can damage the animal’s sensitive skin. Extended light periods may also stress out your frog.
Humidity is essential for this species, so pick a substrate that will help you maintain high humidity and keep it moist by spraying it every day with a water bottle. Aim for 65 to 80 percent humidity at all times. A hygrometer or humidity gauge will help you check moisture levels. If you have difficulty maintaining the moisture on your own, invest in a mister or humidifier for your enclosure. You can automate it, setting it to go off at timed intervals or when low humidity levels are detected. If all else fails, your frog can also get adequate hydration and humidity from the aquatic portion of its enclosure.
Substrate is the bedding or lining for the bottom of your pet's cage. Sphagnum moss, coconut husk, and organic, fertilizer-free potting soil are excellent substrates for the terrestrial side of your frog's cage. Provide a depth of about 2 to 4 inches, since fire-bellied toads often burrow. Include damp moss, other plants, and some areas to hide in the terrain portion of the tank.
Food and Water
Oriental fire-bellied toads will eat a variety of prey items, including crickets, other insects, such as waxworms and earthworms, and small feeder fish like guppies. Avoid feeding mealworms because their tough exoskeleton can be too tough to digest. Never feed wild insects; they often have parasites, pesticides, and herbicides.
Gut-load or feed prey items nutritious food before feeding them to your pet. Dust the prey items with a multivitamin powder. Generally, frogs have a good appetite and should not have problems eating in captivity. Feed young frogs once a day. Adults typically only need to eat two to three times a week. Feed as much as these amphibians will eat in about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on your frog's body shape. Remember that overfeeding is likely more of a problem than underfeeding. Frogs are opportunistic eaters. Make sure that your pet is not getting too round, and if so, cut back on the frequency of feeding.
The water used in the tank must not have chlorine or chloramine, which may be in municipal tap water. To be safe, use a pet supply product made for removing chlorine and chloramine which can harm or kill your pet frog.
Common Health Problems
Red leg disease, caused by a parasitic infection, is a common condition in captive pet frogs, including Oriental fire-bellied frogs. Frogs or toads with this disease develop reddening of the legs as an early symptom. Other signs include unresponsiveness or sluggishness.
Most frogs are susceptible to fungal infections. Look for inflammation on its face or an oozing a cottony-like substance on its skin.
Red leg disease and fungal infections are treatable if caught early. Treatment requires a visit to an exotics veterinarian who has experience with amphibians.
Choosing Your Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
This small and easy-to-care-for animal makes an excellent pet for a beginner frog owner. The best option for purchasing one is a reputable amphibian breeder, who can tell you the animal's history and any health conditions it might have. They can cost from $15 to $25.
A healthy frog has clear eyes. Although most healthy frogs have smooth skin, expect your Oriental fire-bellied toad to have rough, bumpy skin. If you can watch it eat before deciding, that's ideal; most frogs will not refuse food unless they're unwell. Red flags of frog illness or potential poor husbandry include lethargy, trouble breathing, or if its abdomen seems bloated.
Different Species of Frogs
If you're interested in this animal as a pet, you may want to consider other frogs similar to the Oriental fire-bellied toad:
Otherwise, check out all of our other frog profiles.