[Bombina orientalis]


Once you feel that you have mastered the intricacies of keeping adult firebellied toads, you may wish to try your luck at breeding these fine creatures. Breeding is not a task one should enter into lightly. If successful, you will be faced with the daunting task of keeping large numbers of tadpoles and toadlets fed, hydrated, and caged suitably. That is no easy task. You will find it necessary to purchase expensive, new aquariums along with the proper filters and materials to set them up. It can quickly become expensive, replacing thoughts of quick, easy money, with alarming visions of madly hopping toadlets bankrupting you.

Before you start, you had better be assured that you have both genders. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes... If you think that you can go to any corner pet shop and ask for a male firebellied toad, you've got another thing coming. It's not as easy as you might first think. Firebellied toads (and most other species of anurans) are notorious for difficulty in sexing. The most reliable method is to listen to a frog and see if it calls for a mate. Only the males call. The problem with that is, in a stressed pet shop environment, most males aren't in the breeding mood. If it's the wrong season, they won't call, and sometimes even if it is, they won't call with you hanging around. I'm hesitant to tell you this next fact, because it may just be an example of individual coloration. My male seems to be a much darker shade of green and is much bumpier than the females. I have not seen enough males to be able to tell you whether this is true of all males, or just the few I have come in contact with. Don't buy a toad solely on that description. Also, if you happen to see two firebellies in amplexus (the mating embrace), then be assured that the toad on top is a male. As to finding a female, I'm afraid it's just a case of luck - they're everything the males are not; they do not call, they're on the bottom in amplexus, and (if the theory holds) they are a lighter shade of green and are smoother. Additionally, if observing toads in a fairly large group, females can be distinguished as the larger sex - assuming they are fully grown.

If you're still of a mind to breed your animals, you will find instructions below. I breed my colony and sell the offspring to local pet stores and to various educational facilities. However, when I started, I was not at all prepared for the amount of money I would end up spending before I was through. This leads me to the first point I wish to make: caging.

As mentioned in the caging section , you should maintain a ratio of 3 frogs per 10 gallons. When breeding, you should have 2-3 males for every 1 female. At least, that's the general consensus. I have never had any problems breeding my toads with only one male in the group at once, but if you aren't having any luck, by all means, add a male or two to inspire a little masculine rivalry. An ideal breeding tank was described above ( Semi-Aquatic Tank Setup ), but prior to placing the toads in that, you will have to implement a winter cooling period.

If you watch the position of the sun and the length of the day, you will notice a correlation between daylength and temperature; that is, the longer the day, the hotter it is, and vice versa. Toads are also aware of this correlation - indeed, it is necessary to their successful breeding. Toads naturally breed around the time the days lengthen and the spring/summer rains come. To simulate their natural breeding season, you must first simulate their winter cycle. Over a period of a few weeks, shorten the daylength to around eight or nine hours of light per day. Cool their cage to the lower 70's Fahrenheit, and limit misting to once per week. These manipulations of their environment should prompt them to go into a winter dormancy period where they will move and eat less. They may even burrow into the substrate. For that reason, it is necessary to house them in an aquarium of the Forest Floor Setup. Don't let the temperature drop below 68 degrees; Oriental firebellied toads are more susceptible to lower temperatures than most other species.

After a month or two of this cooling period, you may increase the daylength to 12-14 hours and raise the temperature to 78 degrees, following the guidelines laid out in the lighting and heating section for changing such conditions. Feeding should also be increased to previous levels. You may now place the toads into the semi-aquatic setup. Make sure that they have access to plenty of water plants, in both the shallow and deep water sections. Pothos does fine for our purposes here.

Your male toads (if you have any) will likely commence calling for mates. Only the males of this species call. If any are seen, they will swim over and attempt amplexus, the mating embrace. They will grasp the female very tightly around her midsection, and hold on for the duration of mating. I have observed my male firebellies being dragged across the aquarium by irritated females not in the mood for the male's acts of affection. It's actually kind of rough.

If his advances were not spurned, the male firebelly will succeed in fertilizing the eggs the female lays in clumps on plants, rocks, and anywhere else she can find a spot. Firebellied toad eggs look like small, clear, gelatinous spheres containing a smaller black or gray ball inside, much in the manner of our first idealizations of atomic structure. The "nucleus" of the egg will elongate over the next few days, eventually revealing itself to be a small, not-quite-developed tadpole. Keep an eye on the eggs. When the tadpoles start periodically wiggling, they will soon hatch. This is a good time to move the adults out of the tank - they will eat the offspring. Turn off the filter as well; tadpoles can't swim all that well for the first few weeks of their life. Filters will suck them in or bash their little pre-toad heads on the rocks.

If your toads are as...enthusiastic...as mine are about mating, you will be as hard pressed to get them to stop mating as you were to get them to start...if not more so. This is where it gets expensive. You will put them into a new tank, only to have them lay a whole new clutch of eggs, which necessitates moving them out to yet another tank where they lay eggs - and the cycle continues. If left to their own devices (no pun intended), firebellies will breed all summer and into early fall. If your budget requires you to make them stop mating, either separate them into separate tanks by gender, place them into dry tanks (like the ones used to cycle them), or place them into a 10 gallon aquatic tank. As to why the latter works, my only theory is that they want more room before they start mating.