ORIENTAL 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 way.

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.
The rearing 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 his established 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.)