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The Chinese Fire-Belly Toad is one of 6 members of the genus Bombina. It is found at 5300-10,000 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 2½". It's green or brown (and sometimes a blotched mixture) 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 them apart is to observe the frogs' behavior. Whenever one 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 both males and females.
A group of 5 - 6 Fire-Bellies can be kept in a 20-gallon aquarium with about 4 inches of water. Using fine gravel or sand will make it a lot easier to remove the eggs when the frogs start breeding. One-quarter 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, etc.) in the aquarium, and the toads will spend a lot of time floating among these. Keep the temperature between 68-75ºF.
A Fire-Bellied Toad will eat almost anything that will fit in its mouth: Houseflies, bluebottles, assorted moth larvae, earthworms, 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 50º F 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 jumps 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 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 77º F, 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 beta-carotene 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 its ventral side upwards and display the bright colors of its ventral region. This is called unken reflex, and is named after the German name for B. bombina.