Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Online breeder / seller,
Rescue / shelter organization,
Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted Jun 18, 2013
Firebelly toads are one of the most active and visible terrarium amphibians available, and they are an excellent captive-breeding opportunity.
A 10-20 gallon aquarium can house several toads. I have kept up to 8 in a 20-gallon aquarium.
Although they are toads, they are largely aquatic. An ideal setup is an aquarium with 4-6 inches of water and several hauling-out areas such as rocks, driftwood, or planted islands. A planted island can be made from a large terracotta pot filled with peat moss, planted with bog plants. The rim of the pot is just over the water level so the toads can haul out onto the land area, which is ideally covered with moss.
A filter is vital, preferably a submersible filter. However, a trickle filter can be set up with a submersible pump, some tubing, and a plastic shoebox. Allow the pump to send the water up the tubing and out of the tank into the plastic shoebox, which is filled with activated charcoal and filter pads. Two tubes can be caulked into exit holes cut in the shoebox to return water to the tank. Firebelly toads tend to prefer calm water so it is best to minimise current as much as possible.
Floating plants, either real or plastic, are also helpful. The toads will spend a lot of time simply hanging in them in the water.
I never used a heater for my tank, but an ordinary submersible heater could be used. They prefer to be kept at 75-80F.
I never used substrate but I would advise that if any is used, it is smooth creek sand or brown all-purpose sand. Darker coloured substrate will show off the toads' colours better.
Feed gut-loaded crickets or small earthworms 1-2 times a week. They will become tame enough to take crickets from your hand. They will also eat small fish, so some feeder guppies can be maintained in the water. Other food such as wild insects and house spiders can be fed, provided the sources are toxin-free.
As with most amphibians, keep handling to a minimum. Always wash hands before and after handling, and try to use an aquarium net when possible.
Firebelly toads interact with one another a lot. Try to get a good mix of males and females. Males have heavy, muscular forearms and an overall V-abdomen shape. Females tend to be brighter green on the back, and have much weaker forearms and a generally rounder appearance. They will frequently mount one another for hierarchy displays, and their protest calls are amusing to hear. Their breeding calls are slightly louder but are not frequent enough to be bothersome.
Firebelly toads are easy to breed -- simply by changing the water and chilling it (even with ice) you can easily get them to go into amplexus. Females lay strands of eggs as males fertilise them. I moved the eggs immediately to another tank with a small air-driven box filter (minimal water movement) and the eggs hatched in a few days. The tadpoles can be fed algae-based fish flakes and regular fish flakes until they begin to grow legs. At this point, they are best housed in an aquarium with just a thin layer of water in the bottom, which will have to be managed carefully and kept very clean. Feed well-rinsed live brine shrimp and tubifex worms or mosquito larvae, which will writhe in the low water level and attract their attention. Eventually they can be switched to "meadow plankton" from pesticide and chemical-free sources (run a find-meshed net through tall grass -- catch leafhoppers and micro-moths) or on pinhead crickets.
Their tank should be kept at about eye level so that the red and black belly patterns can be appreciated when they swim by the front glass.