Home | Amphibians | Frog Reproduction Made Simple – Breeding Fire-Bellied Toads

Frog Reproduction Made Simple – Breeding Fire-Bellied Toads

Chinese Fire Bellied ToadAlthough no frog can be classified as “easy” to breed in captivity, the Chinese or Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad, Bombina orientalis, is at least “reliable”. Two related species that appear in the trade, the European Fire-Bellied Toad, B. bombina and the Yellow-Bellied Toad, B. variegata, are also regularly bred by hobbyists.

The Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad is the most colorful and readily available of the 6 described species.  Ranging from eastern Siberia to northeastern China and Korea, it makes a wonderful introduction to the fascinating world of amphibian reproduction. They are also among the most interesting anurans that one can keep – owners invariably describe them as “amusing”, and I must agree!

Step One: a Proper Diet

Frogs that are to be bred should be pre-conditioned by being fed a highly varied diet comprised of earthworms, nutrient-loaded crickets, waxworms, small guppies, beetles, moths, flies, sowbugs and other wild-caught invertebrates; please see the article below for details and suggested food animals.

Pre-Conditioning the Frogs

Unlike many frogs, this hardy creature requires very in the way of stimulation in order to come into breeding readiness.  I’ve found that, when kept at typical room temperatures, normal fluctuations brought on by the changing seasons may be enough.

In order to assure success, you can lower the depth of the water in their aquarium for a few days during the springtime, and then re-fill it with water that is 5-10 degrees warmer than that in their aquarium.  Alternatively, keeping the frogs at 60 F for a month or so almost guarantees that they will be ready to breed once temperatures rise.
Chinese Fire Bellied Toad Amplexus

Courtship and Amplexus

It is best to move your frogs to a separate aquarium for breeding, so that the eggs can be left in place and the adults returned to their original home after spawning has occurred.  A ratio of 2-3 females for each male is desirable, but not essential.

Males in breeding condition sport dark, roughened patches, known as “nuptial pads” on their inner arms.  Courting males will let forth with a short series of unique calls, and in their “lust” will grab onto just about anything within reach – including fish, plastic plants and one’s fingers!

In contrast to most frogs (but in common with African Clawed Frogs and their relatives), male Fire-Bellied Toads grasp females just above the rear legs, rather than under the front legs (please see photo); this mating embrace is known as “inguinal amplexus”.  Unreceptive females will straighten out their legs and vibrate the body.

The Eggs

The breeding tank should be large, and furnished with abundant (preferably live) plants and a filter that does not create strong currents (corner filters are ideal).

Females lay 100-200 eggs, usually within 24 hours of entering amplexus; the eggs attach to plants, sticks and airline tubing.  At 72 F, the tiny (7 mm) tadpoles hatch in 3-4 days.  They remain motionless and attached to plants for 2 days, during which time they absorb the yolk sacs.

Rearing the Tadpoles

Once the tadpoles begin to move about, they should be fed tropical fish flakes and chopped blackworms several times daily.

Hind legs first appear around day 10, followed by the front legs on day 19-22.  At this point it is important to be sure that the tank is well stocked with plants, so that the froglets can easily reach the surface.  The tadpoles will exit the water onto floating cork bark, a platform or a gravel island.

The newly-emerged froglets, or metamorphs, will not eat for the first 3-4 days after leaving the water.  Thereafter, they should be provided with large quantities of fruit flies, 10 day-old crickets, springtails and wild-caught aphids and tiny leaf-litter invertebrates.  Nutrition is critical at this point – please see the article below and write in for further details.  Sexual maturity is reached in approximately one year.

Breeding Related Species

belly color comparison: top image European Fire Bellied Toad, bottom image Yellow-bellied ToadTwo related species are often seen in the pet trade – European Fire-Bellied Toad, Bombina bombina, which hails from eastern Europe, and the Yellow-Bellied Toad, B. variagata, of central and southern Europe.  Both may be bred in a similar manner.

In order to be primed for reproduction, these toads require a longer, cooler “winter” than does their Asian relative.  Keeping them in damp sphagnum moss for 4-6 weeks at 40-43 F (refrigerators work well for this) will suffice.  Following the cooling-off period, raise the temperature to 60-70 F over 2-3 weeks, at which point the males should start calling.

A rain chamber, while not essential, will help to bring Fire-Bellied Toads (and many other species) into breeding condition; please see the article below for instructions on creating a simple rain chamber.

Yellow-Bellied Toads sometimes exhibit an orange or red stomach; such individuals are difficult to distinguish from European Fire-Bellied Toads.  Check the fingers on the front limbs – those of the European Fire Belly have tiny webs; the Yellow-Bellied Toad’s fingers are not webbed.  They will, however interbreed with one another, as well as with the Oriental Fire-Bellied Toad, and so exact identification of captives is sometimes impossible.



Further Reading

Constructing a Rain Chamber

Excellent article http://www.int-res.com/articles/esr2005/1/n001p011.pdf on breeding and rearing the endangered European Fire Bellied Toad

Frog Diets

Natural History of the Fire-Bellied Toad

Collecting Leaf-Litter Invertebrates

Video: Fire Bellied Toads feeding

Chinese Fire-bellied Toad image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Dawson
European Fire-belly/Yellow-belly Comparison image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Christian Fischer


  1. avatar

    Frank, thanks so much for your encouragement! Nothing yet, but — is this a bad amplexus? (photo – http://tinyurl.com/l8h98kf) He always seems to be askew and “falling off”.

    Once two weeks ago he grabbed just under the arms, which I think is what closely related southern toads do.

  2. avatar

    Let me start by saying your blog has been the most helpful, thank you. My cousin has a African dwarf frog, I have enjoyed watching this frog for the past two years and decided to purchase one foe myself. When I went to the pet store they only had one,and I’m sad to say that it had lost its front legs. I brought him home anyway, so he wouldn’t be attacked anymore. The only other frog they had was one fire belly toad, so he came home with me also. The African dwarf died two days latter. I didn’t want the fire belly to be lonely so today I went to another pet store and purchased two more. As soo as I released them into the aquarium he jumped on one of the frogs backs and then a few minutes later started making a low barking sound. Could they be breeding. This little guy was very happy, as he did this throughout the evening. Also should I remove the crickets that are not eaten,how lo g should I leave them in there? Thank you for your blog, and your Facebook page, very interesting.

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank – Just letting you know I haven’t had success yet. They’ve had about 2.5 weeks of a break, and for much of that time they were in a normal room temp cage (72-75 degrees). Just resumed the heating to 90F and put them back in the rain chamber.

    At this point, I figure it won’t work and I probably really do need to cool them. Any tips on how to create a cool environment during summer? Fridge probably too cold and much too abrupt in any case. They’re common in FL, which gets down to 50s during winter.

    Thanks so, so much for all your help! – Sejong

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Well, you gave it your all, and had made some interesting progress. I admire your dedication.

      It would be best to wait until autumn/winter. Captivity does change amphibian reproductive cycling so that they may breed at odd times, but gen best to stay within their normal season. I’ve used a basement that stays at 55 F for other species, others have used A/c cooled rooms or aquarium chillers. Coolers are an option for small numbers, but takes a good deal of trial-error to maintain temps that way.

      best regards, Frank

  4. avatar

    Hi Frank – Since this species breeds until August, I thought I might try one more time, but have a couple Q’s – here’s my proposed setup: http://tinyurl.com/lb4g284

    With 6 ice cubes it can retain FL winter temps for 12 hours. It’s small, but my toads are a bit smaller than the quarter on the box, so for them it’d be roughly like a 10gal tank for a larger species (e.g., American toad). I’d need to drill some holes for air and my florescent UVB timed light for day cycles, but I figure I could keep them here for 2.5-3weeks just changing ice every 12 hours.

    Do you think that could work? Also wondering if I’d need to feed them during that time due to hibernation, and if I should put like 3″ of soil in so they can burrow.

    If you don’t have time to answer I totally understand. You’ve been so generous already! – Sejong

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      It could work in theory, but I’ve not tried so cannot be sure about all the variables. As for season, I was thinking more in terms of the winter season…they would not normally be dormant now; during dormancy, reproductive organs change, enlarge, sperm eggs develop, etc..complicated process which may be thrown off by chilling at this time. More time in dormancy may be needed as well. Year-round breeders from tropical climates (African clawed frogs) can be stimulated anytime, but often seasonal breeders cannot. The stomach should be empty for 7-10 days or so before cooling down, so that there is no undigested food in the system. Best, Frank

  5. avatar

    Thanks Frank, and for the critical tips! Seems like there’s a decent chance it still won’t work, but I’ll try it and give them about 4 weeks in there. I’ll let you know how it goes :)

  6. avatar

    Hi Frank – I’m now into the second day of the cooling period with my toads. I let them have nine days with no food following your advice. I’m also staging their cooling. So that it went to 75°, then high 60s, mid 60s today, soon it will be around 60, Florida winter low in many areas.

    I have them in nested cold boxes, each with a couple narrow slits for air by not entirely closing the lids. 3″ of moist coconut husk “soil”, and I spray and change ice every 12 hours. There’s no light but I think that might be ok from what I’ve read. Photo: http://tinyurl.com/loq9btq.

    Shouldn’t they be burrowing though? The female has just burrowed in the last couple hours, but the male is just staying on the surface.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Hard to say…captive conditions change the internal reactions that accompany dormancy; however, all will slow down and eventually become inactive when too cold. It could be that they remain active at 60. Please keep me posted, Frank

  7. avatar

    Actually, they both have burrowed now. I guess the question then is how can you tell if they’re ok during this cooling period – do you just hope for the best during the weeks while they’re buried?

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      If they become dormant, there’s no simple way to access their condition; keep the substrate moist and they should be fine; when in good health, they are resilient, as amphibians go. I hope all goes well, Frank

  8. avatar

    Thanks Frank – that really puts us both at some ease … I’m so grateful to you – I don’t think we could do any of this without your reassurance and advice. It’s been surprisingly easy to maintain the temp in that setup btw – just 6-9 ice cubes in a ziplock bag every 12 hours, next to the soil separated by duct tape (so they don’t burrow and touch the ice). I didn’t realize the 2 cups of moist soil really buffers the variations in surrounding temp. The temp actually fell a bit faster than I wanted it to, now steady in the mid-50s with 9 ice cubes after 48 hours.

    Fingers crossed! :)

  9. avatar

    Hi Frank – Today I gently brushed away (then replaced) some of the dirt and found my two oak toads are actually burrowed near the surface; is that normal when hibernating? Also … I’ve never seen an animal hibernate before now – would there be any gradual sign if my toads were actually dead, not hibernating? At 55-58° in moist dirt, I figure I might see them bloat or begin to decompose. I’ve read many mentions that hibernation’s always somewhat risky / imperfect physiological mechanism for amphibians, but I’m curious if you’ve ever actually lost any this way. I just keep finding myself hoping I haven’t killed the little guys – I know you said they tend to be fairly hardy towards this stuff. :)

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Hibernation is risky in wild and captivity, have seen losses in both…immune system not functioning at capacity, but some micro-orgs able to remain active, etc. As this is not the ideal time of year to cool them down, you may wish to bring them back to regular temps if you are concerned. I hope all is well, best, frank

  10. avatar

    Hi Frank – I decided I should keep going, see this through properly. It is helpful to have a clearer picture of what to expect though.

    I’ve found they “wake up” above right about 61-62°, interestingly enough. I accidentally let the temp rise to and found them lethargically moving around. I dropped the temp and they went back to sleep. I’ve never seen hibernation, and it seems so strange especially for these cold-blooded creatures. They appear dead, can bury themselves leaving shockingly limited access to oxygen … one thing to read about it and another thing entirely to actually see it.

    I took the opportunity to weight the female — it’s been about a week; she was 4.5g going in, and now she was 5.6g (heaviest I’ve seen her; normal is 3.5-4.5), so yolk production / vitellogenesis might be underway. Or she could just be relatively more hydrated.

    • avatar

      Thanks for the update, Sejong. It is quite amazing what they are able to do..activity, breathing etc. I’ve had the chance to oserve hibernating gray treefrogs outdoors – seemingly frozen solid, yet good as new in spring! Red eared sliders hibernating in an outdoor pond would actually come out and bask on sunny days (even though temperature below water remained unchanged) in winter; painted turtles in the same pond did not. Bullfrogs and garter snakes in semi-natural situation (hibernating within an abandoned greenhouse would also move during winter..those in natural hibernaculums did not…not as cut and dry as I had imagined long ago! Best, frank

  11. avatar

    Frank that’s really fascinating and eye-opening for me – I had no idea hibernation could be so interestingly varied. It must be so cool to have seen all that first-hand – I feel like 80% of the informative value of an experience is lost when we only read about it. And even then there’s so little written about all but the few animals involved in research or industry.

  12. avatar

    I have seen a lot of pictures where the majority of the tank is water, and there is a small land area.
    I am concerned that my tank settings aren’t meeting the needs of my two fire belly toads. My tank consists of terrarium moss wich covers the majority of the tank, one decent sized but very shallow water dish/bowl, two live plants inside small pots, another very small water bowl, and a few rocks and sticks to rest on. I refill the water bowls often and also spray /mist the tank multiple times a day with water. I keep a blue day light on their tank during the day (and turn it off at night). Am I meeting all the expectations so that my toads will be happy? Is there anything I should keep in mind or notice? Am I doing anything wrong? There had been one time where one of the toads escaped the tank, and I have no idea how or why. Thankfully we found him, but it was very scary since I have 2 cats who would have gladly turned him into a toy. Do you know how or how I can stop that from happening again? We put a dictionary on top of the tank because we thought that the lid would stay on better. I was also wondering if a 10 gallon terrarium would be big enough for two fire belly toads. Also, how often should I clean the tank? If
    I have aquarium moss, how often should I replace it? And for one last question, how do you tell apart a female fire belly toad from a male? Mine look exactly the same except one is slightly smaller and is a little bit brown/darker. Sorry for the overload of questions; I hope you understand that I’m a concerned and loving pet owner.

    • avatar

      Hi Amber,

      Great questions that others will benefit from,…pl post as often as you wish.

      They adapt to many situations, but do best in a tank that is mainly water but with plenty of floating live or plastic plants to rest on; you can also add a small turtle dock or floating piece of cork bark for those times when they wish a drier area, and this can also serve as a feeding site for earthworms and other food items that sink quickly.

      Best to use a small filter and to do partial water changes each week, as ammonia builds up and will kill the frogs in time. Corner filters or smaller turtle filters work well (air pump needed to operate these).

      Cage clips are the best way to keep the frogs in…they can stick to glass if conditions are right, and will push at the screening. They produce skin toxins, and could be fatal to a cat if swallowed.

      Females are a bit stouter and larger than males, but this varies among individuals. males call when in breeding condition.

      Try to provide a varied diet…please see here and let me know if you have any questions, enjoy, frank

  13. avatar

    Thank you so much! Since you brought up the topic of feeding, I was wondering how often they should be fed and how much. I tend to feed them about once a week with 2 dozen crickets and maybe a few mealworms. Again thank you so much and I am surprised on how quick you can respond!

    • avatar

      My pleasure…there’s room for flexibility in feeding, but small meals every other day or so are preferable to 1 large. Mealworms should be avoided….implicated in impactions, and poor nutrient profile. crickets alone are not sufficient, even if well fed and powdered with supplements (which should be done prior to feeding ) ..please see the linked article on frog diets (has 2 parts) and let me know if you need more info, best, rank

  14. avatar

    Hi Frank! Well I’ve had my oak toads in the hibernaculum for 5 weeks now, fairly steady 48-53°F with occasional rises into 60s. I’m now slowly raising the temp to 65 over a couple days and will then put them in the room-temp terrarium and give them some food. After a couple days at 70 I’ll put them in the rain chamber at 85°. Similar to a protocol I read of a species being conserved in the Colorado mountains. Does that sound like a good plan?


    • avatar

      Thanks for the update..sounds reasonable, although it’s hard to predict; will be interesting if out-of-season chilling is effective, works for some, not others,. A friend worked with boreal toads there and at the C Park Zoo, did very well although hormones were also used to get the numbers up when populations appeared in serious trouble. Hope all goes well, please let me know, Frank

  15. avatar

    Thanks Frank! I’ll proceed and let you know if it works – my wife and I bought new tubing for the rain chamber tonight, should get them in there by about Friday, at this pace. If we’re lucky, we’ll have some kids :)

  16. avatar

    Well Frank it may be a bit early to say for sure, but I got the toads in the rain chamber on Mon night, and yesterday they formed a very solid amplexus after I turned off the “rain”. But this morning, the male is falling off as before, and there are no eggs.

    I weighed the female before, after, and during the hibernation, and despite the highly variable weights of anurans, she didn’t show any significant weight gain that would indicate she’d become gravid. She does look visibly larger.

    We’ll keep watching, and I’ll let you know if we see anything. The male certainly seems to have taken to things faster and more energetically than before hibernation.

  17. avatar

    Hi Frank – the male has called on and off, but nothing productive, so today I took them out. I think at this point it’s fair to say I won’t succeed without hormone treatment, as I expect their solid amplexus would have been somewhat productive, and they would’ve more vigorously formed amplexus during the 3.5 days in the chamber. Let me know if you think I should give them another spell in there, but if not, this attempt has been utterly fascinating and well worth the effort regardless!

    If you don’t mind, I wanted to ask you one other thing – one of our two spring peepers has suddenly gotten a swollen eye – the eye is still the normal black, not opaque, but is nearly swollen shut and the eyelids are puffy and red. I thought I might just ask you if you had any advice or know what it is. Here’s a photo: http://goo.gl/h4FRPb

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      You’ve ;earned much of use in any event. I would not try again at this point. You may have better luck in the fall; the gonads go through great changes when resting and during the breeding season…shrinking, growing etc. If these changes are controlled by a circadian rhythm, in-season chilling may be more effective.

      Unfortunately there’s no way to diagnose the eye condition visually. An infection, Vit A deficiency (but that gen shows in both eyes) or trauma/particle in eye can be involved. These drops will do no harm, but a vet visit would be the best option.

      Hope the toads enjoy fattening up! Frank

  18. avatar

    Frank thanks so much for your wonderful blog and your guidance in all this. Without your encouragement I wouldn’t have learned or tried nearly as much :)

    The swelling has gone down around the peeper’s eye and now it seems it was trauma – as it looks like the eye has been destroyed (empty-looking eye socket with contents that look shriveled). My poor little frog … is it possible for an anuran to survive with only one eye? They have such extremely limited vision already, and it seems like they need binocular depth perception to orient towards and catch their prey.

  19. avatar

    Oh that’s a relief – thanks Frank. We’ll take care of the little guy.

  20. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have 6 fire bellied toads, 40 gal tank half filtered water, half rock no soil lots of water plants. 2 males 3 females the males are constantly hanging on the females and barking but the females do not seem interested and always trying to escape the holds. I tried to feed them some guppies but they were not interested so now there are guppies living with them. Should I remove the guppies. could they eat the eggs? Would raising the water temp help bring the females in the mood? the females have also become fat or look pregnant but never any eggs. What should i do? also what is a rain chamber or is that for a different species of frog. Thanks Michelle

    • avatar

      Hi Michelle,

      That’s a common situation for them…females will not breed unless eggs are already developing…try the temperature changes described in the article, but it may not work at this time of the year..they vary in ther responses. Rain chanbers can be used, but are not usually necessary for this species…here’s an article.

      The eggs are fairly well-protected by jelly, and there will be many. Guppies are probably fine, and good scavengers…as long as population does not explode, they can stay, or you can remove when you see eggs.. Best, Frank

  21. avatar

    Frank, I had six frogs but just lost a female she stopped eating, her eyes looked like they had cataracts she was also very fat and my oldest frog. she became very still, I thought she was dead but when i picked her up she moved. It took two more days for her to die, I felt helpless, did not know what to do. So I just let her be. She looked miserable, If this happens again, is there a humane way to put a frog out of it’s misery? or is there a way to set up a hospital tank to try to save it? maybe antibiotics? What do you think? We do not have a vet in this area that treats frogs. Thanks Michelle

    • avatar

      Hi Michelle,

      Hard to choose an antibiotic w/o a diagnosis, but let me know if you see other problems. Retained eggs can be a concern.,,perhaps try the temperature changes described..also, males can stress them with constant mating attempts, best to have more females than males, and separate for a time if need be. You can euthanize with Oral Gel Extra Strength…OTC at drug stores, for treating pain due to sores etc in mouth. Rub onto chest,,..it is absorbed and quickly and humanely stops the heart. Best, Frank

  22. avatar

    Is there a way to get them to STOP breeding? I never did anything special to even get them started and i have 1 male and 1 female in a 40 gal tank. Half land half water set up. Right now I have 2 froglets left out of the 100s of tadpoles that were in the tank. I took those 2 out and have them in a secured plastic ice cream tub but I do not have a separate tank so once they out grow that they will have to go back in with the adults. I also have no idea how to care for these 2 (and to be honest am unsure how they survived this long). I have been feeding bloodworms and can only assume they were eating them..but even after all of this mess I have come across even more eggs in my tank! I’ve cleaned the tank out twice already of eggs and am ready to tear my hair out because I’m running out of substrate!

    • avatar

      Hello Kida,

      You must be doing something right! Actually, it’s best to let them reproduce and dispose of the eggs. If the male is removed the female will likely retain the eggs and develop a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). Small frogs can be started on calcium/vitamin powdered 10 day old crickets and fruit flies…feed heavily so that they will put on size and be able to take more food items, best, Frank

  23. avatar

    Hi Frank – I accidentally put my small male oak toad in a bucket of dilute bleach solution for 20mins. He got out as much as he could to sit on top of a cloth floating in the solution. I took him out immediately and have him soaking in pure filtered water that I’m changing every 15mins (low osmolarity compared to his blood would pull stuff out of him, I figure).

    He looks 100% normal, isn’t even lethargic, acting normal too. It’s been nearly 1 hour. I think the bleach was really dilute. I can’t afford a vet, and my amphibian medicine textbook only goes so far as to suggest 1% sodium thiosulfate solution as a possible antidote for iodine poisoning (unobtainable like most lab/med chemicals, and this is chlorine). So I’m just keeping him soaking in the filtered water.

    I just thought I’d ask if you had any quick suggestions. Thanks so much!

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      You’d probably see a reaction by now if there was going to be one, skin sloughing etc…no way to know what’s going on inside, but again you would see something by now. Don’t use distilled water, but otherwise flushing as you are doing is the way to go. I hope all goes well, best, Frank

  24. avatar

    Thanks for the reply, Frank – we haven’t seen any indication at all of anything abnormal, so thankfully he might be ok. We’re really fond of the little male, so I hope so.

    About the water – do you have an article on here about what is best to use? I’ve honestly always used filtered water. My books say to use things like ringer’s solution, but those inevitably tend to require basic lab chemicals that are generally unobtainable for hobbyists (high costs, etc). Even getting pure glucose without added zinc is prohibitively difficult, and I’ve had to substitute sucrose in rehydration solutions previously to treat acute dehydration.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Haven’t had much call to rehydrate any in very serious distress…zoos generally use ringers, but in most cases dechlorinated tap is fine…if the animal is too far gone for that, it often does not recover, as far as I recall. Private rehabbers have reported success with dilute gatoraid, but I’ve not seen any articles with details. best, Frank

  25. avatar

    Ok, thanks Frank; I’ve always wondered about that.

    The one time I treated a severe dehydration case was one of our peepers that had been accidentally left in a dry glass jar for most of a day, very low humidity – when we found it, it was shriveled, unresponsive, and even it’s limbs appeared bent from desiccation. No indication it was alive. But I mixed a solution of 1 part saline (mixed with non-iodized salt) to 1 part 5% sucrose (same osmolarity as 5% glucose that was recommended by my book), and put the amphibian in a tilted enclosure so its lower half was submerged. Within an hour it opened its eyes and resumed slow buccal pumping/breathing. An hour later it looked still better; I tried rotating the enclosure so it was just out of the liquid and it nudged itself back to half-submerged. After a total of 4+ hours it had resumed a normal appearance and had left the liquid. It’s been healthy in the several months since, and I documented it in case it ever happened again.

    The acute dehydration appeared very severe, and I was too worried for the little guy to try just filtered water for fear it might upset his electrolytes or something else. But at least that seemed to work in that instance. Gatorade seems like a really clever idea.

    • avatar

      Great info to have on hand, thanks. Quite impressive on such a small frog..we’ve lost more than 1 poison frog to dehydration during shipping mishaps. Rehabbers use Gatorade for mammals/birds as well; I’ll bet there are details available through one of the large rehabilitators associations. best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Hi Frank! I just wanted to ask you – you probably don’t remember but I have a spring peeper that lost one eye over the summer. It sppeared shriveled and the bulge in that side of his head decreased afterwards. But now it looks like that eye might be coming back.

    Do you know at all if any frogs are capable of that kind of regeneration? I know salamanders can.

    Thanks! – Sejong

    • avatar

      Nice to hear from you, Sejong.

      Frogs are capable of some regeneration, but are not as intensely studied as are salamanders. Salamanders are able to regenerate limbs (frogs possibly) but also sections of various internal organs; I’ve not read anything re eye tissue…I look forward to updates, you never know! Best, Frank

  27. avatar

    Hi Frank.
    I have owned many types of frogs through my teenage years and i am joining the hobby again.
    I am looking into breeding frogs and i was thinking about starting with fire bellied toads and see where it takes me.
    I had a couple of question running through my mind and was hoping you could help me.
    1. I am going to get a 100+ liter tank and was wondering how many toads should i put in for best results ?
    2. Is it best to have room temperature water and low water for 4-8 weeks and then raise the temperature to 23-24°C and raising the water to 8-10cm ?
    3. If i do get eggs is it best to remove the to a good container ( if so,with a shrimp net? ) or does that kill the eggs ?
    4. I read somewhere online that i need to give the newly morphed toads a color enhancing diet in order to get that red/orange color, is it just nonsense ?
    5. And last but not least, when i have young adult toads is it ill advised to put them with the parents in case of incest?
    Regards, Unnar

    • avatar

      Hello Unnar,
      Welcome back to the fold and thanks for the great questions!

      If the tank has plenty of plants, resting sites and a good filter, I’d say 12 or so adults..you could keep more, but 12 would work well.

      You can experiment a bit with temperature…needs vary among the different species, and may be affected by origin of parent stock, but that is a good starting point…water can be raised higher if there are easily accessible resting sites.

      Yes, best to gently remove eggs via shrimp net; have a well-aged, filtered tank set up beforehand.

      Some frogs need supplements to retain colors, as they harvest carotenoids etc from diet…supplementing works well for flamingos and some other birds, less studied in frogs. Bombina, however, seem not to be affected bu diet…genetic perhaps, or dietary aspects that we do not yet understand…color fades with age, varies among populations..I’ve not seen anything published to support use of supplements…vary diet as much as possible, however.

      Always best to avoid breeding relatives, but 1st and second crosses do not seem to cause any problems with this species…hard to know history of stock unless you work with a careful private breeder, so if you can trade etc that would be preferable.

      Enjoy and please keep me posted, observations always helpful, as we still have much to learn, best, frank

  28. avatar

    Hi, i have two fire bellied toads, mudrick and camoflage. Anyway, we cleaned out their cage today and put new moss in and as soon as they both got into their water dish they started amplexus but it only lasted about a minute. The male started making a noise ( probably a mating call) and I’ve heard him do for like three nights now. so me and my brother looked up what to do on youtube and they said to put them into a cage mostly full of water. we did that but now we are worried she might have had the eggs in their water dish. Did they actually mate or was it just some weird thing they did? We don’t know what to do or where to put them.

    • avatar


      Yes, good idea to put in a tank with 3-4 inches water, floating plants as resting sites. Eggs are visible, so you will see them. They do not mate in the sense of fertilizing internally…the male hangs on until the female deposits eggs; he releases sperm as the eggs are being expelled into the water.

      Fire bellies often enter amplexus after some type of disturbance – adding water, moving the frogs etc., and even when they are feeding…they seem to get their “signals” crossed! So they may not reproduce, but interesting to try…please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  29. avatar

    Hi frank

    I recently got a 220 liter tank and i am going to breed fire bellied toads in there. With the tank i got a external filter for fishes, can i use it or is it to powerful for such low volume of water ?
    Also, i am wondering if apple snails are safe in a breeding tank? i know the eat algae and such but will the eat the eggs if the get a chance?
    Last but not least, what is the highest amount of water i can but in the tank so they still feel safe and comfortable ( in cm or inches ), if a have resting spots in the water.

    regards, Unnar

    • avatar

      Hello Unnar

      An external filter can be used if you can modify the outflow (block with a rock or cork bark, i.e.) so that the current does not disturb the frogs. Not all will work with reduced water levels, however. Submersibles can be used if external is not suitable.

      A variety of snails are sold under that common name…some may take frog eggs, but typically they avoid the jell-covering.

      Water depth is not that critical, as the frogs generally stay on the surface. As long as there are plenty of floating plants and an easily accessed land area, you can use as much as you wish. Please keep me posted, frank

  30. avatar

    how long does it take for a firebelly toadlet to get big?

  31. avatar

    Hi Frank

    I set up my 220 liter FBT tank and now i have 6 toads, i will be adding more later on.
    One of my male toads is constantly “humping” on a female toad, he grabs her and holds for hours!
    The male has not eaten for a week and just keeps holding on to the female, and it’s always the same female. Yesterday i got tired of this and pulled them apart gently and fed the female, the male did not eat.
    This has to be a ridiculous amount of stress for the female, she never gets a day off. Every time a check on them he is grasping her and she is making a distress sound and trying to release the grip.
    I almost never interfere with their behavior and such but this has gotten out of hand.
    Any suggestions ?

    Best regards Unnar

    • avatar

      Hello Unnar,

      This is a common problem with this species; captive conditions affect breeding behavior, so that the sexes are not always in sync. Feeding can also stimulate amplexus, although in that case it usually is short-lived. Both will be stressed by ineffective breeding attempts. Adding plenty of floating plants, cork bark etc to can help keep them apart, but in most cases the only solution is to separate and reintroduce at a later date. Best, Frank

  32. avatar

    Thanks again for awesome advise :)
    But what kind of feeding routine increases the chance of entering amplexus?
    I feed the 2-3 times a week, Locust and mealworms both calcium dusted (I skip the dusting 1/3 times)

    • avatar

      My pleasure. There doesn’t seem to be any link between schedule and the behavior…for lack of a better way to explain, this species’ food and breeding centers seem closely “wired”…one stimulates the other! I’ve not seen this with other frogs, but have observed similar actions in Eastern Newts and some others. The amplexus you describe is different,….male is in breeding condition and will likely continue to try for awhile.

      Re food…best to avoid mealworms, or use newly molted grubs only (white in color)..hard to digest, and poor nutrient profile even with supplements. Earthworms are ideal as a base, but you’ll need to tong-feed or place on land, as they sink in water. Check out these other suggested foods and let me know if you need more info. Best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Hello, I just bought to fbt a month ago and yesterday they laid eggs. Today they are starting to change. I have about 40. I was wondering how many usually survive ? I don’t want to dispose of them but I also don’t want 40 frogs. I don’t have the space. Any advice?

    • avatar

      Hello Ingrid,

      Survival can be high, as the tads are easy to rear; once they transform into frogs, feeding will be more difficult, as they need tiny live crickets, sold as “pinheads” and fruit flies. You might contact a local herpetological society to see if someone will take them. If you do not wish to rear the tadpoles, it would be best to dispose of the eggs now via freezing. Best, frank

  34. avatar

    Hello, we have 3 adult fire bellied toads and recently adopted some fire bellied tadpoles. We have them housed in a small aquatic tank formerly for a beta fish with a gentle filter and no substrate. We feed them algae wafers and fish flakes. We recently noticed back legs developing. When should we remove them to something with land or can you suggest a better set up ( something that would allow them to climb out on their own) currently there is no way for them to access land and no way to allow that in this tank. We would love to take better care of them. Thanks in advance!

    • avatar

      Hello Coleen,

      You can set the tadpoles up in a small plastic terrarium or aquarium. If you place a wood block or something similar beneath 1 end, you can create a gentle slope that will allow them to exit the water easily. They will not feed once the front legs begin to appear, so partial water changes will suffice and a filter is not needed. or you can set up something more permanent…slightly deeper water with a small sponge filter and a turtle ramp or mopani wood as a land area. Enjoy and please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  35. avatar

    Thank you for your quick response! How deep should the water be? We have 14 tadpoles! Most have visible back legs but as of yet none of the legs appear to have broken through the surface. Should there be any substrate on the bottom?

    • avatar

      My pleasure. Can be 2-6 inches, as long as it is easy for them to access land. Tilting a tank may not work, as it leaves little space for water unless tank is very long. You can use a plastic sweater storage box…pop some holes in top but use cover as they climb glass/plastic when wet. Tilt this as mentioned,; best to have a regular aquarium set up for them once they transform..adults may eat small ones. Or just set up a 10 gallon tank with filter, turtle ramp, 2-3 inches water, and they can stay there once transformed.They will need pinhead crickets, fruit flies for food, so plan ahead…powder all meals with calcium, vitamins when they are young. Best, frank

  36. avatar

    Our firebelllied tadpoles now have back legs and some have front legs too! I know I will soon need fruit flies and pinheads and have secured them. I have read some sources suggest putting the newly hatched toadlets in a tank lined with paper towels as it makes it easier for them to catch their prey. I’m struggling to find a good example of a tank set up for the newly morphed toadlets

    • avatar

      Hi Coleen,

      Good to hear all is going well. Paper towels work fine, be sure to keep them wet or the skin will stick to them. You can tilt the tank to provide a pool of water, or use plastic coffee can lids and the like for water. As they grow, you can move to a set-up that is similar to adults. Please keep me posted, enjoy, frank

  37. avatar

    It’s is again! Now all but 3 of our FB tadpoles are toadlets they’ve begun to take fruit glues and pinheads are on the way how do we know how many to feed? Can leftovers in the tank be a problem ?

    • avatar

      Hi Colleen,

      It’s hard to keep track of intake, and not really necessary as they can adjust metabolism to food availability, withing reason. Add enough so that each frog can theoretically eat 10 or so insects per day, with 1-2 fast days inserted per week if need be. Dead insects should be removed if possible, leftover live not a problem. Be sure to powder pins with CA and Vit/Mineral supplement. Enjoy, frank

  38. avatar


    What’s the best way to tell if a fire belly toad is in amplexus.?

    How do we distinguish between a male and a female accurately?

    Do firebelly toads get pregnant because over the past few days 3 of our fireblly toads have very big bellies and the other 3 are slim but they all have the same diet.?

    What does a real firebelly toad egg look like? is it actual eggs or is it a chain of frog spawn?

    If you could answer these questions accurately that would be fantastic because we are really struggling to find someone who knows about these toads in depth.

    Thankyou look forward to hearing from you soon.

    • avatar


      In amplexus, the male grasps the female from behind and holds on tightly until she lays eggs….can last minutes to hours, depending on her readiness.

      Females are larger and wider than males, but this varies so it can be difficult to distinguish the sexes.

      Females do get heavier when they are carrying eggs. The eggs are tiny and black, covered with a jelly-like material. Females produce several hundred to several thousand.

      Enjoy, best, Frank

  39. avatar

    Hello frank its sinead again.
    Thankyou for your help so far.
    Ive got some more questions im hoping you can answer.

    Question 1 is, if you don’t do a cool down period in winter for atleast 6 weeks will the firebellies still produce eggs or not? is the cool down period essential?

    Question 2 what is the best temperature for frogs to amplux in?

    Question 3 how many hours of UVB is recommended to help the froggies breed better and more often?

    Question 4 is what does the “oo oo oo” sound that the froggies make mean?

    Thankyou again for your help .

    • avatar


      They often breed at various times of the year and at different temperatures, w/o a cooling period. Manipulating the water level, as described, may stimulate them.

      There’s no evidence that they need UVB, and high levels can damage the eyes. A low-output bulb may be of benefit to some species, but there’s no studies on this frog that I’m aware of.

      The sound can either be a mating call by males, a release call (when a male or non-gravid female is clasped in amplexus) or perhaps a warning – territory etc.

      enjoy and please keep me posted, frank

  40. avatar

    hello frank.

    Just to let you know how much we appreciate all your help so far, very happy we have found an expert like you so thankyou.

    I have a few questions more to ask you and I am sure you will be able to answer them.

    1. Will controlling the environment the toads are in e.g lighting , tempreture and food control have a positive or negative influence on our toads breeding?

    2.How long does amplexus have to continue for in order for eggs to be produced and fertilised?
    because two of our frogs have been in amplexus for the past 4 days exact and still no eggs :( we have no filter in the tank because we heard the filter current can suck in eggs, we have a delta therm thermometer that controls the water tempreture. and two bunches of live plants for the eggs to attatch onto.

    Our brown toads who we were told were female are not eating at the moment but have larger bellies that grow day by day. Is this a sign that they have eggs inside them ready to be fertilised ?
    And the other three green ones are eating but are slim. This is why we believe our brown ones are femles as The green ones always grasps onto their backs and waists.

    Is this correct or have we missed anything out? or done anything that we are not suppose to?

    Thankyou again for all your help.

    • avatar


      Thanks for the kind words.

      They eggs are already being carried when amplexus begins; however, males often grasp any female within range..eggs should be released within a short time after amplexus is entered. If not (i.e. within 1-2 hours) the pair should be separated; if males continue to grasp females w/o eggs, you may need to split the sexes for a time.

      males often grasp other frogs when excited by the introduction of food…seems the pleasure centers are closely-wired!

      Providing a winter cooling period is the surest way to induce breeding, and to ensure that females produce eggs, although not always necessary.

      Gravid females sometimes refuse food, so they may be carrying eggs but not yet ready to expel them.

      best, Frank

  41. avatar

    Thankyou so so much for your help yet again we understand even more about our firebellies than we ever have befour.
    we are going to attempt the cool down period and we will update you in a few days.

    Thanks :)

    • avatar

      My pleasure.

      If you are in the UK, it would be best to chill in the fall – now they are in warm weather mode (metabolism, appetite etc) and it could be a stress on their systems to change the “season”; internal clocks (circadian rhythms) play a lg role in their behavior, best, frank

  42. avatar

    Hello frank

    Ok we understand thankyou for telling us that, We have instead separated the females from the males like you said but we are unsure of how many days to keep them apart. How long do you suggest?

    Thankyou :)

    • avatar

      Hi Sinead,

      Unfortunately there are no guidelines captivity changes behavior/hormone flow etc, making it impossible to predict. Pairs sometimes work together in lg tanks with lots of floating plants, so females can escape. best, frank

  43. avatar

    Hello Frank , Thankyou for your guidance over these past few days I can not begin to tell you how much we appreciate it, you are brilliant and im so glad we found you.

    In one of your previouse comments, you put that our toads will breed in any condition so I was wondering if we took out our delta therm and let the tank environment be at room tempreture will that help? Because maybe they are confused that it is warmer than its meant to be so maybe they feel forced to breed instead of being naturally ready themselves? Is this possible?

    Would it be beneficial to gradually drop the tempreture over a few days instead of removing the filter immediately? We thought that an instant tempreture drop may harm the breeding process , so we are checking with you to be sure.

    One of the females keep on barking and staring over at the male tank. her throat was moving in a very fast way that’s how we know it was her that was barking, she seems to “miss” him, as if she is lonely without him, does this mean they are in a relationship with eachother and that they are ready to breed?

    Thankyou again for all your fantastic help :)

    • avatar


      Glad the info was useful.

      Room temperature variations are ideal for these frogs, especially if they get a natural day/night period via a room window, or if you use a timer to control the tank lights, and key this to natural day length.

      Usually best to lower temperature slowly, but in this species a rapid change can stimulate breeding, and will not harm them (as can happen with fish).

      They do not form pairs bonds etc, but are social in that they live in groups, usually. Wondering if female you mention may be a large male?…females tend not to call continually; males will sometimes grab other males in amplexus, so they can be confusing.

      Please keep me posted, best, frank

  44. avatar

    Hi I have a question are male fire bellied toads green and females are brown my frog keeps making noises

    • avatar


      Both males and females can be brown or green; adult females are larger and heavier than males, but there is some individual variation. males call to attract females, and both sexes will make short calls when disturbed by another, i.e. when going after same insect, etc. Please let me know if you need more info, best, frank

  45. avatar

    Hi Frank
    How are you? I know its been a few days since our last messege and a lot has happened in that time.
    We moved our firebelly toad tank opposite the window so that they receive 100% natural sunlight, we removed the UVB. we kept the natural plants, water and resting rocks for them to sit on. we have a corner filter aswell.
    The oo,oo,oo noises still happen so they must be natural and not influenced by the delta therm as we removed it. we are giving them 100% natural environment. we would only use that delta therm if the tempreture fell below 62f because we were told that it was bad.

    we have been watching videos on youtube of people with firebelly toads themselves and they show that they have everything we have but they somehow are getting eggs and tadpoles, but still we have no luck. could it be possible that our females are infertile?
    Is it beneficial to separate the males from the females for a few days? because our males keep grabbing onto other males and also when a male and a female amplex, no eggs are released.
    The only thing we see that’s new in the tank everyday is skin sheds floating at the bottom of the tank.

    Can you please help?

    • avatar


      Glass filters out UVB (at least within the range needed by herps) but exposure to a natural light cycle may be useful. Temps below 62 F are fine, and can stimulate reproduction. The steps outlined in the article have proven useful, but captives cannot be relied upon to behave as would animals in the wild – the huge array of factors affecting wild frogs can not be duplicated in captivity, even in well-financed zoos, only mimicked somewhat. Pets may not respond to the same cues as would free-living frogs, and they may breed outside the normal breeding season. Sometimes after a year or so in captivity they adjust to the new artificial cycle and begin breeding more reliably. For now, keep they healthy with a varied diet and let them settle in. Best regards, Frank

  46. avatar

    Hello Frank

    We have taken your comments on boared and over the past few days we have redesigned the tank and thought carefully about how to give our frogs a 100% natural environment. we have placed our tank directly above the window so they receive 100% natural daylight, we have took the delta therm out and let them have the bedroom tempreture, we have put natural fresh plants in the water and have gave them plenty of space in the water ( 10cm high to be exact) to move around. and they are still doing the “oo oo oo” noises and doing amplexus but the females are not releasing eggs. Could it be possible that the females are not ready and that we should separate the males from the females so that they become ready to release the eggs? We know that the males are grasping females because we discovered 2 different ways to sex them. from what we see we have three males and three females in the tank. 3 oriental firebelly toads and 3 European firebelly toads.

    What do you suggest we should do?

    have you got an email address or a way we can post you a video to you so you can see our toads and you would be able to help us distinguish between a male and a female. you could see their behaviour then and tell us if our toads are actually mating or not. it would be a big help.


  47. avatar


    I have 3 brown firebellied toads and two r female and one is male, My question is this……
    is it possible that the female get bigger in breeding season coz they are carrying eggs? b coz my female are getting bigger each day
    and am not sure why coz all of them have exactly the same diet.

    Thanks hope you can help.

  48. avatar

    I have read a lot of your advice to people and I am in need of some help. I’ve had 4 fire belly toads for 5 years. For the first time ever, in December I woke up to eggs which turned to tadpoles. I took them all out and cared For all of them. I found homes for them and kept 15 of the little runts. It’s been 9 months so I got a 75 gallon to merge the adults with the babies. I set the tank up beautifully and let it run before putting r the frogs in. I found mold growing on the loss I had in there. So then I took everything apart and bought new moss that the seller said is not toxic and would not grow mold, it did. Two disasters later, I opted out of moss. I have 15 stalks of love bamboo, real rocks that I have novels and found outside over time and cork bark, fake plants. The frogs have been in the tank about 3 days and I was leaving for vacation. I came back to find two frogs latched on two each other. And many eggs and tadpoles. It appears they keep breeding on different days judging at the stages of the eggs and tadpoles. I cannot go through taking care of 200+ tadpoles again. How do I get them to stop breeding?! Do I leave the eggs and tadpoles ander nature take its course ? I read in an earlier post that maybe bc the habitat was disrupted that caused them to mate? My tank is at 72 degrees and I know not to let it cool at all because of what happened in December .
    Please help, I can’t handle more baby frogs. I don’t want breeding, how do I prevent it?
    And any recommendations of what moss to use ?

    • avatar

      Hi there,

      Often times frog breeding is triggered by an environmental change, so it very well could be that by you changing your setup, you triggered them to breed. If they continue to breed I would contact a local pet store or a school and see if they would take any off of your hands. If you are near our store in Lancaster, PA I’m sure that we could help you out. The easiest way to get them to stop breeding would be to separate the males from the females. If you listen carefully, you can usually hear the males calling in the evening. Male fire bellies will also have a more slender body shape and a pointed pad on their front “thumbs”.

      As far as mold is concerned, it is actually part of a healthy ecosystem and serves to break down dead matter. All healthy vivariums will have a bit of mold that cycles through every so often to clean things up. It is unsightly but usually harmless. You can avoid having large amounts of mold accumulate in your terrarium by providing more ventilation (possibly replacing a glass canopy with a screen cover). Unfortunately, any non living moss that you place in your terrarium will eventually succumb to mold. I have had some success with Zoo med’s “Frog Moss” coming back to life in my vivariums. Even if it doesn’t begin to grow, it still contains spores which can seen your tank and begin new moss growth elsewhere.

      I hope that this helps a bit.


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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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