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

    If my toads only breeded for like 15mins, will she still lay eggs?

    • avatar

      Hi Kyleigh,

      In order for the eggs to be fertilized, they must be deposited while the male is grasping the female (this “embrace” is called amplexus). As she releases the eggs, he releases sperm and fertilizes them – fertilization is external, or outside the body, unlike with mammals. If the pair splits, she will not lay eggs. Fire bellied toads sometimes enter amplexus even if not ready to breed; try the technique mentioned in the article and perhaps they will reproduce in time.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions, enjoy, Frank

  2. avatar

    So will fire belly toads still lay eggs even if not during the breeding season? And should the eggs be big enough for the human eye to see?

    • avatar

      Hello Madison,

      Yes, they will breed at varying times of the year, in contrast to many other frogs. The eggs are visible to the eye. Please let me know if you need further info,. Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    Whats the year of this articles publication??

  4. avatar

    So if I hear the male making a whining puppy sound as he’s mounted on the back of the female, which is a couple of times a night does that mean I need to pepare for motherhood? I’m a first time fire belly toad owner-Christmas gift for daughter but my responsibility. Thank you, Angie

    • avatar

      Hi Angela,

      Males will try to breed even if female does not have eggs. If sge does develop eggs he’ll fertilize as they are laid…they may stay in amplexus, male grasping female, for several hours to a day beforehand, but there’s no real way to be sure female is gravid other than via radiograph. Let me know if you find eggs or if he seems to be interfering with feeding, etc. Best, Frank

  5. avatar

    My fire bellies laid eggs and have since grown into froglets which my boys and I have enjoyed watching their transformation. I am curious when the froglets usually get their red bellies though?

    • avatar

      Hi Kristin,

      Congrats! Color seems influenced by genetics as well as diet in this species,; it is common for captive-born animals to be duller in coloration than wild ones, and for this to become more evident over time. We are not sure of what types of foods are lacking; I saw a recent article related to this and will check for any new info, Enjoy, Best, frank

  6. avatar

    Hello. I have firebellied toads. Ricky, lucy, Betty boop & Emma. Today 4 26 2013 I went to do a little maintanance in their tank & saw that over the past few days they’ve been busy laying eggs. In their tank which is a thirty gallon are various sizes, tadpoles & some smaller then the gravel. Any suggestions in their care & well being would be most helpful & appreciated.

    • avatar

      Hi J.Q.,

      Nice to hear, congrats! It’s best to remove either the adults or the tads, but not entirely necessary..however, adults may lower water quality, increase ammonia levels etc and may consume newly-morphed frogs. If you remove the tads, use water from the original tank, to which you can add additional DE-chlorinated fresh water if needed – they will be more at risk from changes in pH and temperature than are adults. You can use a mix of the foods mentioned in this article, A diet of fish flakes (basic diet or community tank type) and softened kale (see article) is sufficient, but chopped blackworms and other foods mentioned should be given if possible. A corner filter or sponge filter should be employed to keep the water clean and oxygenated, but avoid strong currents. bare-bottomed (no substrate) tanks or plastic storage boxes are best; grAVEL TRAPS FOOD/WASTE AND MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR THE TADS TO FEED PROPERLY. Enjoy and pl keep me posted, best, Frank

  7. avatar

    hi i have fire bellied toads an i was wondering if when the tadpoles hatch i could put them in deli containers

    • avatar

      Yo can raise a several in each deli container…just be sure to do frequent water changes, sing dechlorinated water; or you can go with an aquarium, etc equipped with a corner filter, Best, Frank

  8. avatar

    also i was wondering how you get the cage to 72°F

    • avatar

      A tropical fish ehater in the water can be used…this will also warm the air a bit. But there’s usually no need to warm them; normal household temps are generally fine.

  9. avatar

    hi i need to know if a 20 gallon is big enough for breeding and also how many frogs can you have to that tank. like me on facebook at backroad reptiles. if you do that i would be so pleased

    • avatar

      A 20 is ideal. Depending upon how you set it up, you could keep 6-8; shallow water , a corner filter or other submersible, with floating plants, “turtle piers” or “turtle docks” as a land area works well. best, Frank

  10. avatar

    your story is alot like mine loving animals at first sight. exept the difference between me and you, is you never said you got yelled at by neibors for catching house geckos under thier stones.the first thing i ever bred was a house gecko and now i am moving up to bigger and better things like fire bellied toads and bearded dragons.please reply

  11. avatar

    i have a floating dock. do you think i need more than 2 frogs to hit the breeding season with and also did you like the facebook page

    • avatar

      Hi Joe,

      It’s usually easier with several frogs…competition seems to encourage them, and fertilization is more likely, but pairs can work also. I have access to a cool basement; there are small aquarium chillers available but if house temps drop in winter that is often adequate. please send a link for your page, best, frank

  12. avatar

    how do you get the water in the cage colder like 72° in with the toads

  13. avatar

    should i get more than two frogs to hit the breeding season with

  14. avatar

    i will try to send the link

  15. avatar

    Hi, I recently went on vacation for two months and when I came back, I saw only two tadpoles. Why are there only two? Do I have to keep waiting for more? Will the female stop laying eggs even after she only laid two? Thank You and I appreciate your answers.

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan,

      Perhaps low fertility; also, tads will consume dead tankmates, decaying eggs; pl send more info re diet and all; they may breed several times each year, best, Frank

  16. avatar

    Sorry, I meant two weeks, not two months. I have ten fire belly toads in a forty gallon tank. I have five males and five females. I keep the temp at a constant 78*F. I do have a lot of detritus, but they are from a substrate I bought from petco. I went through the 6 week period of winter and have done everything I can. The water is about 4 inches. There are a lot of hiding spots. I also have a water fall and the frogs like to burrow underneath it. What do you mean low fertility? Could I have prevented that? How do you increase fertility?

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan…diet could be the key; crickets alone, even if supplemented with vitamin powder, are not sufficient. However, inbreeding, insufficiently long or cool winter (they have a wide natural range, some require different conditions than others) , age could also be involved. please see this article for some diet suggestions and let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  17. avatar

    I feed them crickets three times a week.

  18. avatar

    What about crickets, waxworms, and mealworms? Are those three enough? The dead variety insects they sell might not be consumed by my frogs because its not live. I just don’t know if I’m able to get worms and roaches in the house. I also only see one tadpole now. I don’t what happened to the other one? I’m worried he might have been eaten by one of the other frogs. I don’t want to separate the adults because I’m worried that they are not done with their mating.

    • avatar

      Unfortunately not enough; best to avoid mealworms other than newly molted individuals (soft, white in color), waxworms only good as an occasional meal; canned insects need to be moved about on a forceps,…not all frogs will accept. Try internet based dealers (see food section on kingsnake.com) order silkworms, perhaps small roaches, calci worms…even an ocassional meal may make a difference. Moths gathered near outdoor lights, if available, are also useful.

      dead tads decompose very quickly in warm water…frogs may consume live tads as well, and other tad will eat dead ones. Frogs breed all at once, usually..then no activity until next season; fire bellies vary in this regard, but there should be a lull of several weeks-months, best, Frank

  19. avatar

    Thank You for your answers and I appreciated the time you spent in making sure I properly knew the secrets of breeding them. Also, do you know anything about banded armadillo lizards? I was planning on getting some, but just didnt know how they act and stuff.

    • avatar


      Thanks for the kind words…do you have a latin name for the lizard…I’m not sure which you have in mind, I think I have seen that common name applied to several, thx, Frank

  20. avatar

    It is called a flame bellied armadillo lizard. It is orange on the bottom and black on top. Cordylus mossambicus is the scientific name.

    • avatar

      Hi jonathan,

      The latin name may have changed recently, so you may want to look into that; very little has been done with them, most wild caught and often with heavy parasite loads, dehydrated; care should be similar to others, but they live at higher altitudes than most, cooler nightime temps may be useful. Vary nthe diet as much as possible, be sure they are drinking. please let me know if you need more info. best, frank

  21. avatar

    This for the info. I think I will reconsider getting one. I recently caught a baby mantis and they have quite an appetite for bugs. So, what are you currently working on in ur job? And is there another place we can talk because I do not want to overload this page with our conversations.

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan,

      Please post as often as you wish…other readers enjoy, and it helps with site recognition, etc. No need for article to be right on point, I can move if need be. Here’s an article on Mantids…great favorites of mine.

      In addition to writing blogs for Thapetplace (this one, Thatbirdblog and some articles on Thatfishblog) since retiring from the Bronx Zoo I’ve written several books and have ben consulting for The Staten Island Zoo and several museums and aquariums.

      best regards, Frank

  22. avatar

    Um, is it possible to tell if I have an asian mantis or European mantis? It is green and the body is like a curled leaf. It’s also a young one because it is small. And just to be clear, my frog only produced two eggs because she did not have any more calories to produce more. I feel bad because I couldn’t feed her on my trip. Also, during my trip, I caught ten lizards and one has blue spots. I wonder what species that one is, I can’t tell because it is just a juvenile.

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan,

      Here are photos of the 2 introduced mantids; nymphs are difficult to ID. There are also a number of native species in the USA. A good field guide to your region would be useful.

      Frog reproduction in captivity is quite complicated; inbreeding and a host of other factors, many of which we do not yet understand, are likely involved. We’ve analyzed many similar situations regarding rare species in breeding programs at the Bx Zoo…unfortunately, clear guidelines remain elusive.

      Depending on where you were, lizard ID, especially of juveniles, can be difficult. The Peterson Field Guides (Eastern/Central USA and Western USA) are excellent, and depict juveniles of many species.

      Please keep me posted, Best, Frank

  23. avatar

    My firebelly toads won’t stop breeding, I was told it was difficult so I wasn’t worried about getting males and females but right now I have over 100 tadpoles and my frogs just layed more eggs and I just sold about 80 baby frogs. I don’t do anything special in my tank other then it’s pretty humid in the tank. I don’t take them to a cooling tank then warm it to induce breeding they do it all on their own non-stop 🙂

  24. avatar

    How that happen Kristen? That’s impossible. My frogs are defective!

  25. avatar

    So, frank, I’m a 15 year old student in high school and I don’t know what my profession should be. I have straight A’s. I really love animals but being a zoologist can’t get me the things I want. On the other hand, being a doctor will, but it doesn’t involve animals. What should I do? I’m also going to volunteer at the L.A zoo for a year and at an Adventist hospital in another year. I’m confused about what I should be, any advice would help.

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan,

      I know 2 medical doctors, and several others in fields unrelated to animal care, who have managed to use their careers to further their interests in animals. One in [particular is a well-respected turtle specialist…he is a surgeon, and can go places and become involved in things that most biologists can only dream of; zoo salaries are generally low; other aspects of the field vary, but medical research with animals is perhaps the only way one might acquire wealth working with animals. Many zoologists, biologists etc need to work second jobs…such was necessary for me. I became a lawyer early on, but had no interest and was pulled by animal work; for me, it was worthwhile, but I wish I had been able to blend the law career with my interest..everything is so much easier when you are financially sound. of course, you’re not working with animals every day,. but in time even that may be possible. hard to do something you do not like, but if you want to a doctor I’d say give it your best..you are young enough to try various routes, as you are considering, and even to make some mistakes that can be undone (well, usually!). Exotic animal vets can do well int eh right situations..I know several who work for major zoos, spend much time in the field, establish private practices as well. Several wall street types here in NYC have also been able to use their wealth to become involved in interesting zoo projects (amazing what doors a sizable donation will open!) researching medicinal uses of animals, bio tech etc has potential, but not a sure route to financial independence. You are on the right track, I believe…I should have asked the questions you are looking into now..keep thinking, seek advice and let me know if I can be of any help, best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Thank You, I will keep talking to you throughout the years informing you about my progress. I appreciate your time and kindness to helping me with my future.

  27. avatar

    So you write blogs about different topics everyday?

    • avatar

      I post appx 2 new articles/week on the reptile blog, less often on the bird blog and answer questions as they come in,

      Blog’s search engine is not very accurate, so let me know if you are havuing trouble finding specific articles or topics, best, Frank

  28. avatar

    I think I would be a good architect. I’m making sand dunes, arches, and caves. All made of sand, just so the lizards will have a nice home.

    So what do you do on your free time? Are you currently taking care of any animals?

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan,

      Have you ID’d the lizards yet?..most need lots of UVB exposure, pl let me know if you need info. These days I mostly keep insects, as my 5 yr old nephew is here often, and loves to collect with me…have some giant water bugs, fishing spiders…varies. Some native fishes also; herps mainly limited to long-term captives – a 43 year old musk turtle, fire salamanders and clawed frogs in their 20’s, a red salamander aged 30 or so; best, Frank

  29. avatar

    They are out on the patio getting exposed to it a lot. I didn’t ID them yet, I’ll just wait for them to grow up.

  30. avatar

    Actually I don’t cover them. Once, one of the big ones escaped and I found him on the top of the curtain! Do they like high elevation?

  31. avatar

    Well it happened at night, and when I looked up, he was on the top of the curtain. He was on the pole that held the curtain.

  32. avatar

    On the pole that held the entire curtain. It was also night time.

  33. avatar

    My fire belly toad is making a weird clicking/popping noise that he’s never done before. He is still active and eating though. Do you think that he is sick?

    • avatar


      It is most likely his normal courtship call…it can sound quite strange if you’ve not heard it before. When they become ill, most frogs cease feeding. Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  34. avatar

    Hello. I have no problem getting my fire bellied toads to mate. If fact the lay eggs once a month every month. I guess they are just happy. My question is if I cant get flightless fruit flies or crickets small enough for the toadlets to eat what can I feed them. It is hard to find anything outside in the city for them to eat that I know is not going to hurt them. So what can I feed them. Also how long does it take for the toadlets to get big enough to eat small crickets.

    • avatar

      Hello Heather,

      They should be able to take pinhead or even 10 day old crickets, as well as fruit flies, upon transforming; pet stores often do not carry, but you should be able to order online (let me know if you need help finding sources); springtails, ordered online also, are another option. No way to say when they will be large enough to take 1/4 inch crickets, as there are many variables.

      best,. Frank

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank – I’ve scoured everything I could find on breeding species similar to my oak toads, tried warm water, etc, and only got the male to croak a little. I’m guessing your approach to chilling fire-bellied toads, at least some species of which are also in temperate zones, might be the best approach with my oaks.

    My wife and I are just afraid of hurting the little guys 🙂 Do you think that approach might work, or maybe I need to go colder than 60F?

    Tellingly, my 2 male spring peepers, housed with oaks, haven’t developed darkened throats like in breeding season either. So I think your point about the chilling being needed for gonad readiness may well apply in our case. – Sejong

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Unfortunately I can’t say for sure how cold they need to be, or for how long. 60 may not be enough…many toads, and peepers, are active at that temp, but then again any sort of a change can spark breeding (in 1 Central American zoo, draining an outdoor pond housing giant sidenecked turtles, housed together for 40-60 yrs w/o reproduction,, sparked breeding after a single day of “drought”!). The animals will need to have empty stomachs…i.e. 1 week or so since last meal, and are best housed in damp sphagnum moss, and should be taken down in temp in stages. Main risk is that the immune system may not function well, allowing parasites, bacteria etc which were normally suppressed to become dangerous; chilling, however, kills some bacteria and is used to treat certain amphibs as well…all depends upon the micro-organisms that are present; deaths in wild occur as well…unfortunately no way to be sure of outcome. Please let me know if you need more info, best regards, Frankk

  36. avatar

    Frank, it might be working! I covered 80% of the screen cover with saranwrap to heavily increase humidity, turned on the rain, covered the sides of the cage with cardboard to calm them, bought a little heater and carefully raised the temp of the cage to 87F, and am now watching them repeatedly forming the amplexus for the first time!!

    Given what you said, I thought I’d try raising temp and humidity a bit more before I tried chilling, as I’d noticed that had seemed to encourage the male to make loud mating chirps.

    The male keeps getting off-center when mounting the female, and nothing more yet, but this is exciting progress! My wife and I are both hopeful for our little oak toads 🙂

    • avatar

      Hello Sejong,

      Very good to hear!…seems to be the change they needed; this is great info to have, whatever happens; please take notes.

      We don’t fully understand what’s involved/…following exact sequence of seasonal changes sometimes does not work, other times, rapid changes do the trick…captivity changes all; believe it or not, years ago if boas were reluctant to breed we’d put males in a sack and drive them around in a car trunk…toss back in exhibit and they’d sometimes copulate! substrate changes – bard to leaves, has worked for monitors; when fire bellied toads feed, they often progress to amplexus…with males as well as females; lots to learn about their “wiring”…please keep me posted, good luck. frank

  37. avatar

    Can you post photos of set ups on here. My fire bellied toads lay eggs once a month every month. I built an island in their aquarium and have 2 females and five males and several tads and baby frogs. I have water heater temp set at 78. Just thought maybe my setup could help for anyone trying to breed fire bellies that haven’t been able to.

    • avatar

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks very much; I can’t post photos here, unfortunately, but please email when you have time; I’ll forward directly to readers who may benefit, and can perhaps use in future articles (I’ll check with yiu beforehand). Nice to hear of your success, Frank

  38. avatar

    Thanks a lot Frank – so fond of this species, it’d be really neat if I could contribute even a tiny amount to the limited knowledge about them :). It was what you said about the sidenecked turtles that made me think I should try a couple more things.

    I’ve noticed something really key now — every time the air temp drops below ~85F (at the heated end of the cage), they stop forming the amplexus, but above that temp, they form it vigorously and continuously. The male’s now mounted the female properly (steady 91F), and they’ve been attached for a couple hours. No eggs yet, but I just read one study on a frog species that said LH/lutenizing hormone surges drastically in the male when the amplexus is formed (it didn’t look at the female). I think that would stimulate follicles and cause a surge in sperm production, but it would take a few hours at least. If that’s true of most toads/frogs, it’d mean they’d tend to stay in the amplexus for a while before releasing fertilized eggs … from your other posters here, that sounds like that’s maybe how this might go!

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      That story is little known, but it really opened my eyes to possibilities, esp. long ago when breeding was far less common among captive herps. Very good info re the temperature, thanks, Some frogs stay locked for hours, others days…a few variables that are not well studied. Human lutenizing hormone derivatives are used to stimulate frogs to breed in zoos…usually successful, although once we succeeded in causing male African clawed frogs to develop ovaries! Keep an eye on them…male toads have killed females in the wild…drowning, stress etc. usually occurs when many are involved, but in tank will be harder for females to get away if need be. Best, Frank

  39. avatar

    That’s astounding — they diverged from us 250,000,000 years ago, and yet a modified version of a key _human_ hormone has the same effect on them as in our bodies. In so many ways, it seems like vertebrate physiology has changed hardly at all since we crawled out of the ocean.

    • avatar

      So true!.African clawed frogs were the original pregnancy-test animal, long before rabbits; a urine sample was injected into the frog…if the woman was pregnant, the frog would very quickly lay eggs; millions were released when rabbit and other tests evolved, which is why they are established in ponds, rivers in California/Texas. Amphibs still serve as important lab animals….organ storage, limb regeneration and such…best, Frank

  40. avatar

    Frank – How long should I keep my toads in the rain chamber before it’s bad for them? It’s been about 3 days straight, they’ve been in amplexus about 80% of the time (less more recently), the male’s loudly called for the first time I’ve ever seen (last night), but nothing else has happened yet. I’m thinking the female may need to be at high temp, high humidity for a few days for gonads to develop, based on a review paper I read last night (basically said as far as we know, high temp, then high humidity, presence of fat stores are all the most likely main triggers — and maybe photorhythm in some species). I moved the temp probe to the water and have kept that at 83-88F (above that they seem to remain active, maybe even moreso in low 90s, but I get really scared of overheating them when the water feels warm to my hand).

    There are two medium-sized rocks in there they can climb on to get out of the 0.25-0.75in slanted pool, but they don’t tend to go on them. I just worry all that water may kill them (and no food, though you said 1 week’s empty stomach might help). They don’t appear weak.

    • avatar

      Hello Sejong,

      I’ve moved various frogs in and out randomly…unfortunately no set rules in a captive situation. If they don’t appear stressed, trying to escape and all, maybe try another day then return after they have been out for a day or two. Plastic plants floating will give some support, shelter. A week without food won’t be of any consequence (I may have mentioned the fast re chilling, but fine in any event), Best, Frank

  41. avatar

    Thanks, Frank!

  42. avatar

    Frank, I’ve kept the toads back in the normal cage now for about 3 days. It’s still heated and highly humid, since that might help them ready their physiology. I’ve noticed one really interesting thing though — ever since I started heating the cages, including in the rain chamber, the female has consistently sought out the warmest part of the cage and remained there! The male doesn’t nor do the two male spring peepers, which remain in their variety of habitual spots. This has happened now in a variety of locations and with different heating sources, two cages, etc, such that it’s become a clear pattern. Female has sought out locations she never normally seeks out, even regularly taking up exposed positions in apparent preference for heat, despite the shyness of this species.

    Hypothesis: I’m going out on a limb here guessing, based on how similar our physiology is to other vertebrates on the cellular level — my guess is that as with human women, it would take the female several days to make eggs (secondary oocytes), so when it gets warm, she needs to remain in the warmth to ready herself. The male, if like us, wouldn’t need so long, which explains why they have an LH surge when entering amplexus, which starts the process of sperm production (secondary spermatocytes), which is known to only take a few hours to a day (just as in human males). That hypothesis is supported by the fact that females have no equivalent hormone surge on amplexus.

    For males, it would save a tremendous amount of energy to only ever produce sperm once a year at the moment of need in amplexus. Presumably females would do the same thing if their bodies could respond fast enough.

    It’s all speculation based on the review paper I read and some principles of comparative physiology, but do you think that sounds plausible? Have you noticed females of other anurans “seeking out the warmth” and/or needing prep time at high temp/humidity before being ready to mate? If no, that’s a good indication my hypothesis isn’t true.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Interesting, thanks you…I can’t say for sure; trying to recall situations where I would have noticed this behavior had it occurred, but not sure; it could very well be…much depends on the species breeding biology; a variety of trigger events are needed, and varying temperatures are critical for different species; here in NY, spotted salamanders will cross snow to reach breeding ponds (they moved yesterday, into ponds, just north of NYC), while bullfrogs rarely breed before June; I think you would find a herpetology textbook of interest; This text was published in 2013..I’ve not been through it carefully, but prior editions were excellent; it provides a good basis in their biology, so that things we see can be put into context; there are a few amphib-specific titles also, let me know if you need more info; good luck and pl keep me posted, frank

  43. avatar

    Hi Frank – Thank you – I deeply appreciate you recommending a great textbook! It turns out I’ve got the 3rd edition already, which I’ve dug into a lot; but for all its fascinating breadth it just doesn’t get very specific. In my opinion, articles on your site are a better and more thorough resource than many textbooks out there in many ways … do you have any plans for writing a book on frogs and toads like those you’ve written on seahorses and on newts and salamanders / is the latter a good resource for anurans?

    It’d be a dream if you wrote thick grad school-level textbooks, though given how astoundingly vast your experience is beyond just herpetology, I’m sure you could write on a dozen topics. It just seems you have so much detailed, specific, and eminently practical knowledge it seems like texts from you would really fill some gaping holes in the body of knowledge that right now appear to be filled haphazardly by 1,000s of scattered, often inaccessible papers.

    I did find this detailed account of the specific anuran hormone cycle http://tinyurl.com/oaeb48l. Our female is eating a lot and *seems* to be growing “fatter”, which might be eggs :). I think I’m going to give our toads another couple days before putting them back in the rain chamber, really hoping to avoid the risks of chilling. We’re awfully fond of the little guys, and hoping they might live long like you said.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Thanks for the kind words….I thought you might have looked into texts! It’s a different process than what I do, and what I write, although I appreciate your support. Unfortunately, book publishing has taken a real downturn, at least re the types of books I’ve written. Even in the best of times, the financial return is very poor, and the time commitment is immense. The salamander book is applicable to frogs in many ways…1st edition is a larger book, more detailed but may not be available any longer; hopefully; I had to cut text way back for 2nd, but info is updated. Dick and Patti Bartlett’s books on frogs (pub by Barron’s also) are the best available; they are friends of mine, have forgotten more than I’ll ever know. Dick’s natural history books wonderful also…i.e. In Search of Reptiles and Amphibians.

      You would enjoy the technical/professional herp journals; the first 3 mentioned here are the best, and longest-running. Others here http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2010/12/30/professional-herpetological-organizations-and-journals-part-2/#.Uz2P61d8qpE. Top ones tend to be expensive, but this is where the cutting edge research is published; lots of natural history info in addition to physiology, and some captive articles from zoos. However, you can register for free email abstracts to most professional journals here
      http://www.bioone.org/page/about/organization/mission; abstracts very useful on their own, and you can often request a copy of article from author or via local library.

      This journal is new, and free online…a great resource.

      Best, Frank

  44. avatar

    Thanks so much – those look like great resources! I’m going to try and find your 1st ed version of newts and salamanders – I was wondering why it showed up twice on Amazon and one version was out of print. When I looked over the table of contents yesterday it seemed to be full of great guidance.

    It’s a shame there isn’t more natural economic incentive to reward authors like you for the time investment of publishing great textbooks, and even what there is has gotten smaller. Especially the more detailed the books become, demand becomes very narrow. The cumulative effect of that must slow down human progress over time. Another case of high scientific value and low economic impetus, which is often when the NSF has stepped up in the past to encourage more activity. It’d be nice if they funded authors to gradually create a more robust library of reference material, much as they have researchers.

    • avatar

      Thanks, Sejong…tough field, and there are so many writers looking to publish…textbook work and similar has never paid well; but publishing useful in est. credibility, leads to other work, etc. Best, Frank

  45. avatar

    What email address should I send the photos to?

  46. avatar

    Hi Frank, I started trying the rain chamber again after a few days with the female in a warm, humid environment. While seeking out the heat, the female has encouragingly gained a lot of mass in the last 2 weeks. I keep a weight log, and while she’s never been more than 3.5-4.3g before, she’s now 5.4-5.7g, which the books say happens when their eggs are ready, been filled with yolk. She is noticeably larger.

    Back in the rain chamber, I’ve tried a couple other heating methods (water heater, red zoomed lamp), but they haven’t begun amplexing behavior as before; male made mating call once only briefly. I’ve just switched back to the space heater today which I used when the male was active before. Hoping for the best.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Thanks for the update…looking forward to good news.

      I took my nephew to some amphibian breeding ponds recently…we were lucky this year; able to observe wood frogs, spring peepers and spotted salamanders breeding; went back to see salamander egg masses this week. Fire bellied newt eggs hatched at home also, enjoy, Frank

  47. avatar

    Wow, that’s so neat – peepers, wood frogs, and salamanders breeding – your nephew is so lucky!

  48. avatar

    My wife and I both think he’s such a cute little boy! Can’t help but wonder if he’ll wind up studying herpetology in a few years… 🙂

    • avatar

      Much appreciated! He’s already been behind the scenes at the Am Museum of Nat History many times, conducts “mini classes” at school and such; I’m just hoping to open his eyes to as much as possible..best, Frank

  49. avatar

    Well, while I’m sitting here, I’m hearing the little male oak toad chirp like I’ve never heard before! Almost ear-splitting, and it’s been happening since their light went out for long ~30min spells. Been 2 days in there, but calling much more today since I increased rain, adjusted temp, and raised water level. Still, he’s not managed to amplex w the female, and the one time we happened to observe an attempt, he fell off immediately / she moved away.

    While I haven’t chilled them, she sought out heated areas and her mass has sharply increased to levels I’d never logged before (just like egg production), now he’s chirping nearly without ceasing; seems to imply readiness in both. Two weeks ago when I tried this, she seemed unready and he chirped less but they entered amplexus a lot faster and at length. Last fed them 4-5 days ago.

    Do you think I might still need to try something else?

    What I’ve learned so far: Diurnal species but specifically avoids calling til “night”, kept in secluded spot w blinders around cage and UV lamp timed for 7-hr nights, rain adjusted to “heavy” shower, water temp 86-88F; above or below male doesn’t call. Depth of 2-2.5in of water.

    Enclosure photo: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ssign9eiq2kdr51/Photo%20Apr%2024%2C%201%2006%2045%20PM.jpg

  50. avatar

    Ah wait – we just risked a very quiet, quick glance with the light, and they’re in amplexus!! We’re both really excited. I last heard him chirp 20min ago.

    • avatar

      Wow!…this and your last is great news! Very glad you’ve kept notes, so little attention is paid to this family, and many are in trouble here and worldwide. Looking forward o your next, good luck, Frank

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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