How do I breed Bumble Bee Toads?

melanophyrniscusstelzneribumblebeetoadjoshsfrogsadultbumblebeetoadsreadyfortherainchamber

Adult bumble bee toads, getting ready to go into the rain chamber.

Captive Breeding of Bumble Bee Toads
Captive breeding of bumble bee toads has been largely unsuccessful until recently. True, there have been several instances of bumble bee toads breeding, but it has largely resulted in very few offspring being produced. Most of the time, I think this was due to a small number of older animals being utilized in a breeding program, as breeding was not attempted much until after the toads ceased being imported, and adult bumble bee toads were difficult to find.
Unfortunately, many wild caught bumble bee toads were sold as captive bred animals the last time they came in. There is an easy way to tell if a bumble bee toad is captive bred or wild caught. All wold caught bumble bee toads will have red blotches on their rear and the bottoms of their feet. In captive bred animals, these red blotches are yellow. This is most likely due to their diet as tadpoles, and is something we at Josh’s Frogs are attempting to address via supplementation of carotenoids in the tadpole’s diet.

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Adult Bumble Bee Toads – female on left, male on right.

Sexing Adult Bumble Bee Toads
Sexing adult bumble bee toads is quite easy. Once the toads are about 10-12 months old, they display obvious sexual dimorphism. Females are about 1/5-2 times larger then males, and much more rotund. Males are smaller, more slender, and typically call when kept in a wet or more humid environment. A bumble bee toad’s call resembles that of a canary, and is very melodious.

Cycling Bumble Bee Toads
Cycling refers to mimicking the seasonal temperature and humidity differences an animal or plant is exposed to in the wild. Often, this is necessary for the organism to reproduce in captivity. While cycling bumble bee toads is not absolutely necessary to breed them in captivity, cycling them definitely increases the chances of successful egg laying.
To cycle bumble bee toads, we cut feeding in half for a couple weeks, then drop the temperature down to about 55F-60F as well as stopping all misting. As long as the toads have access to water in a shallow dish, they will be fine. After 2-3 weeks of this, we start misting again, double or triple feeding, and keep the toads at normal room temperature (about 70-75F). After a week or two, any mature females will quickly bloat with eggs. Gravid females will look like they are about to pop! At this point, all of the bumble bee toads that were cycled are put in a rain chamber.

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Adult female bumble bee toad being introduced into a rain chamber.

Using a Rain Chamber with your Bumble Bee Toads
Rain chambers allow us to mimic the heavy seasonal rains that tell many amphibians in the wild it’s time to breed. For bumble bee toads, which breed primarily in vernal ponds, we use a 40 gallon breeder tank measuring 36”x18”x16”. About 2” of gravel is placed in the bottom of the tank. Several sponge filters, run off of an aquarium air pump, are used to keep the water oxygenated and maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria. A submersible aquarium heater is used to keep the water at about 74F.

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Adult Bumble Bee Toads hanging out on java moss covered cork pieces in a rain chamber.

Floating cork bark pieces, covered with java moss, are used to provide the adult bumble bee toads a place to hang out in the rain chamber. Plastic plants, attached to the glass with a suction cup, and placed in the corners of the rain chamber to provide a place for the bumble bee toads to climb out, and to help prevent drowning. Bumble bee toads are clumsy, and can easily drown if not provided with an easy way out of the water.

Water is maintained at a depth of about 10”, and a pH of about 6.5, and is a mix of R/O water, tadpole tea (peat extract), and enough Instant Ocean Salt Mix (for saltwater aquariums) to acquire a specific gravity of 1.001. Josh’s Frogs strongly recommends setting up the rain chamber several weeks before introducing your cycled bumble bee toads, as this will give plenty of time for beneficial bacteria to grow.

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