Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Chinese Fire-Bellied Toad

Bomina orientalis

© 1996 Karsten Plesner, Herpetological Society of Denmark, Norway and Sweden


Natural History
Bombina orientalis is one of 6 members of the genus Bombina. It is found at 1700-3000 m (5300-10000 feet) above sea level in southeastern Siberia, northeastern China and Korea. It spends most of the time floating or swimming in ponds and streams.

B. orientalis will grow to a size of 6 cm (2 3/8 inches). It's green or brown with black spots and patches, except for the ventral region which is red and black.

One major problem is distinguishing males from females. Males generally have rougher backs and their forearms are thicker than the females. These minor differences make them almost identical except during the breeding season, when males have black horny nuptial pads on their fingers and forearms. One way of telling which frogs are male and which are female is to observe the behaviour of the frogs. Whenever a frog tries to jump on the back of another frog and use the arms to grasp it, it's definitely a male. If the male isn't rejected immediately, there is a good chance that the second frog is a female and that she is even prepared to breed.

If the frogs haven't yet reached sexual maturity, there's no easy way to make sure that you have got both males and females.

Housing B. Orientalis
A group of 5-6 B. orientalis can be kept in an 80 l (18 gal.) aquarium with about 10 cm (4 inches) of water. Using fine gravel or sand will make it a lot easier to remove the eggs when the frogs start breeding. 1/4 of the surface should be kept 'dry' and will primarily be used as a feeding area. Put lots of floating plants (Pistia stratiotes, Riccia fluitans i.e.) in the aquarium and the frogs are going to spend a lot of time floating among these. Keep the temperature at 20-24ºC (68-75ºF)

B. orientalis will eat almost anything that will fit in its mouth: Houseflies, bluebottles, assorted moth larvae, earthworm, mealworm, Zoophobas ("king" worms), crickets and guppies. If you have guppies swimming in the water, the frogs will catch one from time to time.

There are several ways of trying to make B. orientalis interested in breeding. A 6-8 week 'hibernation' at 10ºC (50ºF) will usually do the job. Remember to lower the temperature gradually over a period of a week before the hibernation and similarly raise the temperature gradually afterwards. Another method which sometimes works is to change most of the water in their aquarium and replace it with water which is a few degrees colder.

When the frogs are ready to breed the males began calling. The sound is somewhat like the sound of a small dog barking at some distance. The males constantly try jumping on the backs of any other frog in the vicinity. If a male inadvertently jump on the back of another male, the second male makes a special croak just to inform him that he's made a mistake. The first male doesn't always get the hint and consequently the second male can at times carry another male around for hours.

Unfortunately the male/female ratio can be as bad as 10:1. If a female is present and she's ready to breed, she'll swim around with a male on her back and the eggs will be attached singularly or in small groups to plants, rocks, roots or whatever can be found in the water. One female may produce more than two hundred eggs.

The eggs should be transferred to another aquarium. After 3 days at 24ºC (77ºF) the eggs will hatch. For another 3 days, while consuming the yolk sac, the tadpoles don't move around at all. After that they'll begin swimming around, trying to find something to eat.

The tadpoles can be raised on finely crushed flakes, frozen or freeze dried fish food.

The hind legs will begin to break through about 3 weeks after the eggs hatched and the 'arms' will begin to appear about a week later. Five weeks after hatching, the first frogs will go through metamorphosis and will be ready to leave the water.

The froglets will eat any kind of small insects and larvae. They'll be ready to breed before they are a year old. The eggs of younger and smaller females tend to be fewer and smaller in size.

A Few Peculiarities
The ventral region of a captive bred B. orientalis is yellow and black rather than red and black. This can be corrected permanently by a adding little betacarotene to their food over a period of a few weeks. People breeding canaries have similar problems and apparently that market is more lucrative because they have several products available.

If a B. orientalis is scared while on land, it will arch the ventral side upwards and display the bright colours of the ventral region. This is called unkenreflex and is named after the German name for B. bombina.

Duellman, W.E. & Trueb, L. 1986. Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco. 687 pp.

Mattison, C. 1987. Frogs & Toads of the World. Blandford Press, Poole, New York, Sydney. 191 pp.

Obst, F.J., Richter, K. & Jacob, U. 1988. The completely illustrated atlas of reptiles and amphibians for the terrarium. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune, New Jersey. 830 pp.

Rogner, M. 1986. Tropische Froesche. Albrecht Philler Verlag, Minden. 112 pp.

Schulte, R. 1984. Froesche und Kroeten. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart. 240 pp.

Zimmerman, E. 1986. Breeding Terrarium Animals. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune, New Jersey. 384 pp

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