Fire Belly Toads (also known as Fire Bellies or Fire-bellied Toads) make excellent pets. They’re a great choice for beginners as well as being an interesting species for even the most experienced herpetologist, who might normally stick to more challenging species.
Fire Bellies are easy to look after and much more forgiving of suboptimal conditions than most amphibians, which makes Fire Belly Toad care relatively simple and straightforward. These toads are also attractive, gregarious, active by day and fascinating to watch. What more could you want?!
This Fire Belly Toad care sheet will cover everything you need to know about looking after your new toad or toads, and will help you give them the best life they can possibly have. We firmly believe that this is the most comprehensive care sheet available online, but it still can’t cover as much as a book can.
For this reason we recommend having at least one of the following books ready to hand at home in case there’s something you’re not sure about. Fire-bellied Toad (Quick & Easy) is an excellent book dedicated to all things concerning Fire Belly Toad care, while Frogs and Toads (Complete Herp Care) and Frogs and Toads: Your Happy Healthy Pet are great reference guides to frog and toad care in general.
Choosing A Fire Belly Toad
There are three species of Fire Belly Toad that you’re likely to come across in the pet trade, with the Oriental Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina orientalis) being by far the most common and the easiest to find in a pet store. Fire Belly Toad care doesn’t vary much at all between species, so this Fire Belly Toad care sheet is a good guide for them all. But before you start looking after your toad, you want to make sure you buy a healthy one!
The easiest way to find a Fire Belly Toad for sale is to head to your closest exotic pet store. If it’s a good store, the animals will all be in good condition, but sadly that’s not always the case, especially for the larger, more general retailers.
You’ll want to choose a bright and active individual, as those tend to be the healthiest toads. Tap on the glass and pick one that responds by hopping around. Most Fire Bellies are green on top (although some are brown) with black and orange or red markings underneath. The colors vary over time and also depend on the toad’s diet, but you’ll want to choose a brightly colored individual. If you find a toad that’s particularly lively and attractive, that’s the one you want!
It’s also a good idea to buy two or more toads, as Fire Bellies are usually happier in groups. After all, they’re one of the few toad species that lives communally in the wild.
Fire Belly Toad Size
An adult Fire Belly Toad will typically reach a length of 1-2 inches (3-5cm), but most will end up somewhere in the middle of the range. Females generally boast a slightly fuller build than the males, but male and female Fire Belly Toads can be very difficult to tell apart.
Fire Belly Toad Life Span
If your Fire-bellied Toads are well cared for, you can expect them to live for at least 10-15 years. There are plenty of reports of them surviving well beyond this, perhaps up to 30 years for some individuals! So clearly you should only decide to keep Fire Bellies if you’re ready for a lengthy time commitment.
Fire Belly Toad Habitat
In the wild, Fire Bellies live in calm or standing water, where they spend much of their time. This means that they require more water in their tanks than most toads, but that’s just about the only challenge when it comes to Fire Belly Toad care, and it’s really not that difficult.
Fire-bellied Toads will be happiest in a semi-aquatic terrarium/vivarium with a roughly 50-50 split of water and land. This can be achieved with a gently sloping substrate, with the water level no deeper than about 2″ (5cm). Fire Belly Toads seem to enjoy floating where their feet can still just about touch the bottom. If you splash out on a larger tank than most people do, you can include deeper water with live aquarium plants that will provide a good foothold for the toads.
Sand is an ideal substrate for the watery part of the tank, while the land part should be covered in a moist coconut fiber or cypress mulch substrate. Two inches of this would be perfect to allow the toads to burrow. Moss also works well as a substrate, with sphagnum moss being a particular favorite. No large gravel should be used, as Fire Belly Toads are aggressive feeders and may well swallow the gravel, causing impaction. Artificial turf is also unsuitable as it is too harsh for a toad’s delicate skin.
Your toads will also appreciate some hiding places. These can be specially designed reptile/amphibian shelters, or pieces of bark or large, aquarium-safe rocks that are too big to be swallowed. Any rocks must be smooth to avoid hurting the toads. Bark, rocks etc should all be sourced from a pet store or online – materials from your back yard will be covered in potentially harmful bacteria.
Fire Belly Toads shouldn’t be kept in a tank smaller than 10 gallons, but one, two or three will happily live in a 10-15 gallon terrarium. If you want more than three Fire Bellies, you’ll need a tank of 20 gallons or more.
Fire Belly Toad Temperature, Lighting and Humidity
One of the things that makes Fire Belly Toad care so easy is the fact that they come from temperate climates. They are cold tolerant, do not need basking sites, high humidity is unnecessary and they have no special lighting requirements.
Your Fire Belly Toad tank should be kept at around 70-75F during the day and between 60-68F at night. Temperatures above 80F will not be tolerated for long. In most homes, the terrarium will not need much (if any) supplemental heating. A terrarium thermometer will still be required to ensure your toads are getting the temperatures they need.
Like most amphibians, UVB lighting is not strictly needed for Fire Belly Toads. If you do want additional lighting in the tank, you should use a fluorescent light with a low output, ideally placed just outside the tank and above the land area. Make sure that the light does not give out extra heat.
Fire Belly Toads do respond well to a regular photoperiod i.e. a cycle of day and night. This helps to ensure regular behavior, so the tank may need to be covered over sometimes if you keep the lights on well into the night.
Unless you live in a particularly dry area, the humidity will probably be fine, especially in a tank with plenty of moss and water. However, increasing the humidity a little won’t hurt, so spraying the moss with a hand spray bottle now and again isn’t a bad idea. Purchasing a hygrometer can help to be on the safe side.
Fire Belly Toad Food
Live gutloaded crickets and mealworms can make up the bulk of your Fire Belly Toad’s food, but you should give them as much variety as possible. Fire Bellies will happily eat blood worms, moths, phoenix worms, flies, larvae, wax worms, small beetles, water snails and shrimp. Even minnows, small guppies and perhaps pinkie mice can be offered occasionally.
All food should be live, as toads only recognize food as food if it’s wriggling. Adult Fire Belly Toads will manage to stuff large crickets into their mouths, but it’s much better for them to be restricted to food no longer than 1/2″.
Different people have different opinions on how much Fire Bellies should be fed, and luckily these toads are quite forgiving. Some people recommend letting them eat as much as they can every day for 15 minutes, while others only ever offer 2 or 3 small crickets, and only a few times per week. Watch your toads carefully and use your judgement – individuals will vary.
Fire Belly Toads recognize routine, so try to feed your toads at the same time every day and they will respond well.
Food should always be placed in the land area of a terrarium, and should be sprinkled with calcium supplements. Add in powdered reptile/amphibian multivitamin once or twice a week to ensure that your toad’s dietary requirements are met.
Water for Fire Belly Toads
Toads are very sensitive to chemicals in their environment, so all drinking and bathing water should be distilled or at least dechlorinated. Similar care and attention should be applied to any water used to increase humidity by spraying the moss inside the tank.
A filter is necessary for the water in the toad terrarium. Different filters are suitable for different size tanks – a filter like this is ideal for a small tank with only one or two toads, while this filter would be better for a larger terrarium.
You could also consider adding a small terrarium waterfall feature to the enclosure. This will not only look great, but also help to prevent the water from becoming stagnant.
Fire Belly Toad Tank Cleaning
Your Fire Belly Toad tank should be cleaned weekly or when it appears dirty, whichever is sooner. Clean substrate should be provided every time. The water will need to be changed more frequently, while feces and dead insects (or excess live feeder insects) should be removed immediately.
You need to be careful to clean the terrarium properly. Due to the chemical sensitivity of toads, harsh cleaning products should absolutely not be used. These are toxic to toads and could even kill your pet. Nothing more potent than vinegar spray and dishwashing liquid should be used, followed by a thorough rinse with distilled or dechlorinated water. Amphibian-safe disinfectants are available, and these should be used where possible.
Handling Fire Belly Toads
Handling Fire Belly Toads involves risk to both yourself and the toad. Your skin contains salts and oils that are dangerous for toads, so you should try to avoid handling your Fire Belly Toads for their own sakes. Wearing latex gloves is a good solution when handling is necessary e.g. when cleaning out the tank. If latex gloves aren’t available, only ever touch your toad with clean wet hands.
Fire Belly Toads are toxic and may carry salmonella. After handling a Fire Belly, you must wash your hands thoroughly and do not touch your eyes or mouth before washing your hands. The same applies for any cuts or grazes – if you have any on your hands, then you really do need to wear gloves.
Particular care should of course be taken with children – watch them carefully!
Fire Belly Toad Tank Mates
The only good Fire Belly Toad tank mates are other Fire Belly toads. They are generally happier in groups of two or more and they live communally in the wild. Other animals (especially other amphibians) do not make good Fire Belly Toad tank mates because of the toxic secretions produced by a toad’s skin.
Fire Bellies are also particularly aggressive eaters, and will happily latch onto pretty much anything that moves. This may include other toads, and a Fire-bellied Toad will have no problem with munching on the legs of a smaller amphibian like a little newt. You have been warned!
Fire Belly Toad Behavior
Fire-bellied Toads are active by day and by night, especially if they are provided with consistent light and dark periods. They can be surprisingly intelligent and seem more aware than most amphibians. It doesn’t take long for them to get used to their feeding routine, and they’ll often greet you as you approach. Some individuals will become bold and even climb onto your hand to be fed, however this should be avoided – see the warnings above about handling Fire Belly Toads.
One of the most interesting aspects of Fire Belly Toad behavior is a curious act known as Unkenreflex. This is done to ward off potential predators, so you’re unlikely to see it in captivitiy unless you deliberately antagonize your toad. Still, if you see your toad arching its back and sticking its legs in the air, it probably means that it sees you as a predator and it’s showing off its colors so that you don’t eat it.
During the breeding season, you may hear male Fire Belly Toads making their distinctive mating call. Rather than the croak you might expect, the call sounds curiously like a barking dog instead.
Healthy toads will regularly shed their skin, and will often eat the skin afterwards. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Fire Belly Toad Health
Warning signs and symptoms to look out for include skin lesions, lethargy, weak leg movements, decreased appetite or weight loss, bloating and difficulty breathing. Any of these could be indicative of health problems and an exotic pet vet should be consulted.
Hopefully this Fire Belly Toad care sheet has all the information you’ll ever need, but please contact us if you think there’s something missing and we’ll be happy to help out.