Pet of the week: The Oriental fire-bellied toad

Who's this slippery customer?

The fantastically titled Bombina Orientalis is the Oriental fire-bellied toad (otherwise known as the tuti toad) and is not a scary as he sounds – though he could be confused for a creature from a Godzilla movie. He is so-called due to the vibrant markings on his belly, a warning to predators in the wild, but in the safety of a tank in your living room, he is simply for decoration, as the Oriental is quite harmless.

OK, so he's quite cute, but as a pet?

Toads and frogs make excellent pets and are a joy to observe. There are more than four-and-a-half thousand varieties of frog and toad in the world, and being as they are amphibians they can adapt to many different environments, so they will happily live at room temperature. All you need is a tank (or vivarium, as it is better known) with a small pool of water and plenty of green stuff and points of interest for them. Having said that, they will happily live in a basic tank without any greenery, but as they are themselves beautiful to look at, it seems a shame not to make the tank something of wonder and beauty as well. So don't be stingy. Vivariums start at £20 and go upwards from there.

What can you do with them?

On the whole, toads and frogs in the wild scare easily (hence the warning markings!). And as with all amphibians, they don't really like being handled, according to Arvin Khelawon of Kings Aquatics and Reptile World in London's Camden Town, as your hands are too hot for their delicate, sensitive skin. They are pretty active little creatures, the Orientals, and hop around in their tanks during the day (unlike most other amphibians which are largely nocturnal).

What about feeding them?

Toads have quite good appetites and need to be fed every other day on a diet of live crickets or worms. You can even fetch worms out of the garden to feed them.

And how long do they live?

Between 10 to 15 years. Most owners favour keeping several frogs at once, not because they get lonely on their own (not that we know of anyway), but because it makes them more healthy and active as they compete for food. Plus there is more to see. Breeding toads is quite tricky, so the chances of your ending up with a living room full of spawn is limited, therefore it is OK to keep toads of differing sex.

How do I get hold of one?

Kings in Camden is a well-established reptile and amphibian trader and will ensure that your pet comes from a reputable source and is kept with the utmost care. Toads cost about £10 to £15 and as I said it is advisable to keep a few of them. Contact Kings at kingsreptileworld.co.uk.

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