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What Is a Fire Bellied Toad?

By Angie Bates
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The term fire bellied toad encompasses eight species of poisonous toad in the Bombina genus. Several species in the genus are kept as pets, while others are strictly confined to the wild. Fire bellied toads are so named because of the red or yellow bellies that indicate to predators that their skin is poisonous.

The back, head, and top of the appendages of all species of fire bellied toad are green or brown. As with all toads, fire bellied toads have warts on their backs, usually of darker coloring than their skin. Their undersides are all varying shades of yellow, orange, or red, with blotched black patterns. Secreting a toxin, their skin is poisonous and possibly fatal to predators.

In the wild, these toads blend into the surrounding vegetation, keeping their bellies hidden. When threatened by predators, they raise up or flip onto their backs to show their bright bellies and warn off potential attackers. Predators usually recognized the bright coloring for something they do not want to eat and find other prey.

These toads range in size, depending on species, but none are particularly large. The European fire bellied, Bombina bombina, is the smallest, measuring only 1.6 inches (4 cm) on average, whereas the largest, the giant fire-bellied, Bombina maxima, is an average 2.6 inches (6.5 cm) long. All species have triangular shaped pupils. Omnivorous amphibians, fire-bellied toads spend most of their time in the water. Hardy, they are some of the longest lived toads known, averaging a 20 year lifespan.

Although the European fire bellied and the yellow-bellied toad, Bombina variegata, are seen in the pet trade, the oriental fire bellied toad, Bombina orientalis is by far the most popular. This popularity is due to the oriental's coloring, which is the most striking of the common species. The oriental's back is a bright leafy green, with brown-black warts scattered across it. Its underside is a vivid red-orange, broken up by irregular black blotches.

Most pet guides for the fire bellied toad deal with the requirements for the oriental species. Orientals are approximately 2 inches (5.5 cm) long and weight 1–2 ounces (28–56 g). They should be fed a variety of insects and invertebrates, including crickets and worms. Both water and land are necessary in their enclosure, which should be no smaller than a 15 gallon (57 liter) tank. Although temperatures may briefly drop as low as 60&degF; (16&degC;) in the evening, they should generally range between 72 and 78&degF; (22–26&degC;) and should not exceed 82&degF; (28&degC;).

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