FIRE BELLIED TOADS ... Bombina orientalis.
Probably one of the most common and popularly kept toads of the
day. Undemanding and amusing. An ideal introduction to the hobby
and only the Axolotl is an easier Amphibian to keep (Nothing
is less demanding than an Axolotl.) But as beginners toads go
these are a natural choice.
Siberia to China, where they
inhabit mountain streams.
One of the most
aquatic toads, they spend a great deal of the time floating
about on the surface and will hop
into it the moment they fell disturbed or threatened. The tank
set up should reflect this pattern of behaviour with a good
section of both land and water. Two types of land are most
suitable; a) a slab of foam b) a container sunk to the level
of the water surface pierced around the bottom to allow water
flow and filled with pea gravel. No form of soil or bark chippings
should be used or pieces sticking to the toad's skin will spoil
the water. A two-foot tank is ideal for two to three pairs
of toads. If you prefer the more laboratory approach, a wall
brick set against the foam will give the toads a point of egress
from the water and you need only siphon and detritus from the
water and rinse out the foam as required. A more natural set
up should be provided with an undergravel filter upon which
the box of gravel may safely be rested. Water weeds can be
included eg. Elodea and floating 'duckweed' types may appeal
to yourself and your toads. I know of one tank provided with
a plastic bonsai tree and the toads delighted in climbing about
in that. Hiding places may or may not be provided on whatever
land is provided. Half flower pots really add little to the
aesthetic appeal of a natural tank where perhaps suitably convex
sections of bark may be better. The land area may be as much
as half the tank area or as little as a platform where the
toads may congregate. No form of heating is necessary and any
fluorescent lighting, purely a matter of taste. While basically
nocturnal, these toads will be found to be quite adaptable.
Tubifex worms are
many peoples preferred mainstay for Bombina. Offered in a shallow
vessel such as a
jar lid, they
are accessible to the toads without being able to escape into
whatever land section is available. However when offered, I
have found these toads will eagerly take de-winged fly's, maggots,
mealworms and indeed any other variety of insect unfortunate
enough to find itself on their land. Unfortunately I have found
them unwilling to take crickets from the surface of the water
(crickets being expert at getting there quickly and drowning
almost as soon!)Flies on the other hand are avidly taken. Perhaps
because they tend to walk upon the surface film? An individual
toad and cashed beneath the surface may grab tubifex. Obviously,
not such a problem with the plastic box as with the foam.
These toads reach sexual
maturity at twelve months and will attempt mating with their
own siblings at this time,
if still being "brought on" together. Even if only
half grown physically. Either way, come the beginning of spring
warmth and attendant daylight, the males will begin to call
their "Oot, oot, Oot,oot" and a lone group of males
only will grasp each other in amplexus. This results in the
offended party emitting a rapid, escalating call of protest
while swimming or dragging itself and it's would be suitor
about the tank. Provided one has a sexually mature female or
more in the tank then the idea is that the males calling should
attract her. April onwards through the summer is accepted as
the breeding season for these toads.
Various tricks being suggested
to set them off; from changing the water to raising and dropping
the temperature, even dousing them with cold water from the
rose on a watering can. In the case of a laboratory type set
up it has been suggested by an experienced breeder that a scouring
pad, pulled into its composite strands and placed in the water,
will serve the dual purpose of supplying water born crickets
and egg depositing toads with a convenient point of focus.
Which ever type of set up is preferred for the initial home/breeding
tank, an accessory such as this can only be an advantage as
it, if used as intended, as a spawning mop can simply be transferred
to the hatching tank. (It is not clear to me, personally, why
the eggs should be removed to a suitably aged and algae encrusted
tank. Only that the emergent tadpoles will feed on this and
any natural suspended murk in the water.
I intend to experiment
by leaving some eggs in my own natural - bottom filtered tank
as it is rich in aquatic protein.) Within a week one may expect
to find tadpoles adhering to the algae on the sides of the
tank and ant plants available. Very shortly after that they
will have used up the yoke sac and will be swimming about in
search of further sources of nourishment. This we may help
to provide with a sparing supply of fine 'fry food'. Enough
should be added that can quickly be consumed and several feeds
may be required daily
Should the water become too cloudy then
it may be wise to siphon off some water and replace it with "stood
tap water". Chopped tubifex may be offered but here again
attention to water quality is paramount, as stale worms are
a notorious danger to young amphibians.
At around six weeks
you should have found the tadpoles have fully developed into
tiny toadlets, barely half an inch long and about as delicate
as they look. This is the point where your thoughts of getting
rich quick on the sale of captive bred toads will turn to despair
at keeping any alive to earn that prestigious badge of merit;
Captive Breeder! Don't get too disillusioned, its nature's
Now we enter the last stage and with luck, the longest.
Remove the healthy well formed toadlets to rearing tanks where
they are to brought on and begin the life of a proper toad.
You may use a "pet pal" approx. 8" x 5" or
perhaps a regular glass tank of any size. Most important is
a well fitting lid as the toadlets are adept at scaling vertical
glass until they are much larger. What ever you choose, beware
the temptation to overcrowd the babies and you may also recall
the saying about putting all your eggs in one basket.
tank should have a layer of fine gravel covering the bottom
and this should be banked gently over half the length to allow
a gradual beach from very shallow water. Even then a flat pebble
or two partly set into the waters edge may serve well. The
odd pinch of moss will give the toads something to think about
and will provide foraging sites. Within a few days the toadlets
system will have adjusted itself sufficiently that they will
be seen to pounce on and snap up micro food such as fruit flies,
aphids etc (take care where you collect aphids) and may attack
tubifex id offered on a jar lid. Once they start to accept
tubifex and suitable small crickets on a regular basis you
may pat yourself on the back for, calamity not withstanding,
what you have is what you'll keep.
As stated earlier, the toads
may mate at twelve months old but this tends to prove youthful
high spirits more than anything else. Three years old has proven
the optimum age at which to try for your second generation.
It may also be noted that the captive bred strain fail to develop
quite the same brilliance of coloration - above or below -
found in wild bred stock. A quirk found quite liberally scattered
throughout nature actually. I ponder that despite our best
efforts, there are simply things in wild nature that we must
fail to perceive. Let alone understand and recreate.
Steve Gaites 06/07/94
References: Experience. Special thanks to
Steve Crabtree (Vice Chairman PRAS) for the information regarding
method of breeding B. orientalis which for convenience of distinction
I have referred to in this piece as the Laboratory method.
For Steve's own definitive article see PRAS Newsletter no.
71.( Also covers Mr Crabtree's method for sexing these toads.)