• Toad Basics - Keeping ground-dwelling Toads. A care sheet for Bufo, Anaxyrus, Spea, Scaphiopus, Ollotis, Alytes, Pelobates

    Toad Care Basics - Care of Bufo, Anaxyrus, Spea, Alytes, and other Ground-Dwelling Toads
    by John P. Clare

    Caring for toads in captivity - as pets or otherwise. This article covers most if not all species of US and European ground dwelling toads, including the multitude of Bufo/Anaxyrus in the US and Europe, and the Spadefoot toads. This is aimed at people who have decided to keep a toad but know little about them and want to give them good basic care in a hurry. This seems to happen a lot. The info presented here is not intended for fire-belly toads (Bombina).

    Texas Toad, Bufo speciosus East Texas Toad, Bufo woodhousii
    velatus
    Couch's Spadefood Toad,
    Scaphiopus couchii
    Photos ©John P. Clare / FrogForum.net

    Container/Vivarium/Terrarium (all the same thing):

    • These toads live on the ground so you want more surface area than height.
    • A rudimentary, cheap but very functional container is a 55 litre/58 quart plastic storage container sold in Walmart in the US, or anything similar elsewhere in the world. Make sure you pick up the lid when you buy the box (make sure the lid snaps on securely so that the toads can't escape!). Such a container could comfortably house at least 2 of any US or European species with the exception of adult Cane/Marine Toads and Colorado River/Sonoran Desert Toads - these guys are just too big to keep more than 2 adults in a container like this, and even that is pushing it.
    • Alternatives: an old aquarium with a good lid, and for very temporary housing, a sturdy cardboard box.
    • Punching some holes in the lid with a screw driver is good for ventilation. A more sophisticated approach is to cut a section out of the centre of the lid using a craft knife (box cutter) and then glue an over-sized piece of window mesh onto the lid over the hole using a hobby glue gun - this glue is safe enough once it's solid and cold - a quick rinse with water prior to using the lid is helpful.

    Substrate (what stuff the toads will run around on or burrow in):

    • Additive-free top soil or potting soil from a garden centre or hardware shop/store is ideal. You can use your garden's soil provided it has not had chemicals sprayed or added to it in at least 6 months.
    • Coconut fibre (sold under various brand names as a compressed brick that you soak in a bucket of water overnight to expand).
    • Very temporary: paper towl or newspaper - these foul very easily and do not provide a stable environment for your toads, so only use if absolutely necessary and only for a short time. Burrowing species (including most species of Bufonid west of the central US, many southern European/North African species, all spadefoots) will suffer a lot of stress after a day or two on a substrate into which they cannot burrow so bear this in mind - stress leads to disease. Paper towel contains bleaching agents, unless explicitly stated to not contain them - these can be harmful to toads and frogs.
    • If you use a real substrate like top soil, provide at least 2 inches. Most of these toads burrow to some extent, some more so than others. This will make them feel more secure.

    Hides/Cover:

    • Halved hollow logs are great for this and are commonly sold in pet shops, or you can provide your own. There are artificial versions made of plastic that are very good too.
    • Slabs of flat wood are good too - the toads will burrow underneath them.
    • Plants will be uprooted and damaged so find robust species if you must use plants. Otherwise go with the artificial versions sold in pet shops and hobby shops.
    • Some species like their own private space so give several hides if you have several toads. It's always good for a lone toad to give more than one hiding space too.

    Food/Feeding:

    • Most toads have a hard time eating earthworms so those are usually not on the menu for these guys.
    • Crickets are a good staple - don't use wild caught ones because they pose a parasite risk and are often high in dangerous pesticides that can hurt or kill your toad. Suitable crickets are usually available from good pet shops and can be mail ordered online. If you've just found your toad, the chances are it won't eat right away so a 1-2 day mail order delivery of crickets is fine and should save you money over buying locally.
    • Captive cultured cockroaches are excellent but are expensive unless you culture them yourself.
    • If feeding crickets, make sure you gutload them first. This means you feed the crickets for at least a few hours, preferably a few days, prior to offering them to the toads. This increases the nutritional value of the crickets. A simple and cheap cricket food is tropical fish flakes. Commercial cricket diets are available too.
    • Mealworms and Superworms are suitable food, depending on the size of your toad but it's best to go with smaller than bigger because the big ones can do damage with their biting jaws.
    • If you have baby toads (called toadlets) you will need to offer fruit flies (captive cultured, not the wild kind - too messy) or pinhead or very small crickets.
    • Outside of winter you can offer food every 2-3 days to adult or well grown juvenile toads. Toadlets should be fed daily. In winter, depending on how cold, the toads may not eat at all.

    Temperature and Moisture:

    • Outside of winter, if you don't know what kind of toad you have, a safe range for most American toad species is from 15-25 degrees C (that's 59-77 degrees F to Americans and old fashioned British people!). European species should be kept a little cooler unless you know the individual species' requirements.
    • Don't keep in sunlight.
    • Don't keep near heat sources unless you know that it is required by the toad species in question and the heating method is safe for amphibians.
    • A water bowl is a good idea for all species - just put an inch (2.5 cm) or less of water in it, and it doesn't have to be big. It's a good idea to use dechlorinator (sold by pet shops and many supermarkets) to treat the water before you let the toads use it.
    • Toads don't drink but they will sometimes soak in the water.
    • A brief daily misting of water using a mister bottle does no harm.
    • Toads generally like their homes a little drier than frogs, so don't go overboard with the misting.

    Finally, from a pet point of view, most wild toads are quite nervous when first caught - give them time and don't expose them to loud noises and bright lights. Try interacting with them a little each day - take the lid off and have a look, feed them, etc. They don't like being touched or handled - these are definitely a "look, don't touch pet".

    Good luck!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Toad Basics - Keeping ground-dwelling Toads. A care sheet for Bufo, Anaxyrus, Spea, Scaphiopus, Ollotis, Alytes, Pelobates started by John View original post
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. BG's Avatar
      BG -
      Now i have it down packed . lol tomorrow I'm going to work on his house. These guys were in cypress mulch
    1. frigs's Avatar
      frigs -
      is this care sheet relevant to fowler's toads?
    1. nicodimus22's Avatar
      nicodimus22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by frigs View Post
      is this care sheet relevant to fowler's toads?
      Yes, they are Bufo toads.
    1. bufoguttatus's Avatar
      bufoguttatus -
      Are these temps suitable for most central/south american Bufo as well? I have a sub adult male B. guttatus at room temp right now (71-73 is my room's thermal range) and was wondering if supplemental heat is necessary for him or marine/cane toads.

      P.S.
      First post on the forums!
    1. mandelay's Avatar
      mandelay -
      I have an American toad, about 2 months ago i noticed her rubbing her eyes as if somethging were in them... she burrows alot so i dont see hertoo often.... now she came out of burrowing and her one eye is puffy... it looks like the eye lid is puffed out and swollen and she can barley open her eye.... she keeps trying to rub her eye and now she is having a hard time eating because of her eye... the actual eye ball itself is clear and deosnt looklike any problems but the lid that covers it looks puffy and watery.... anyone know what this could be caused from?
    1. arielgasca420's Avatar
      arielgasca420 -
      thanks John!
    1. kayliszumita's Avatar
      kayliszumita -
      i have a wood toad.
    1. LeeAnn's Avatar
      LeeAnn -
      I absolutely love the toads in my backyard. They are the Gulf Coast Toad and I am contemplating keeping a couple as pets. My biggest concern is - do I have to feed them live crickets? I have a bug zapper and they congregate on the ground below and eat the "fried" bugs so could I feed them dead crickets?
    1. rodofruin's Avatar
      rodofruin -
      Just got an north american toad girlfriend has been bothering me to get her an frog/toad of her own and figured it would be a good starter and not only are they easy to care for but really fun to watch mine is very active and loves night-crawlers definitely recommend to the beginner keeper.
    1. mommafrog3's Avatar
      mommafrog3 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mandelay View Post
      I have an American toad, about 2 months ago i noticed her rubbing her eyes as if somethging were in them... she burrows alot so i dont see hertoo often.... now she came out of burrowing and her one eye is puffy... it looks like the eye lid is puffed out and swollen and she can barley open her eye.... she keeps trying to rub her eye and now she is having a hard time eating because of her eye... the actual eye ball itself is clear and deosnt looklike any problems but the lid that covers it looks puffy and watery.... anyone know what this could be caused from?

      We found a toad in our backyard, that is having a issue with "his"1 eye. you know how the eyes kind of sit out on the head? our toads eye in sunk in. when he eats he leans up and turns his head toward the left (that's his good eye). At first it didn't look like there was a eyeball in there, but today while feeding him I noticed there is. not sure what damage was done.
    1. keyloleether's Avatar
      keyloleether -
      I have an American Toad who has a prolapse which happened 2 days ago. I let him soak in a bowl of water with sugar & kept him on a paper towel, then attempted to use a q-tip to slowly push back in the cloaca. I think it was just too far gone by the time I tried to help him because there was alot to push back in and it just wasn't working. I didn't notice right away because its winter time & he stays under the dirt most of the time. I just don't want him to be in pain anymore so I wanted to know the easiest & most humane way to put him out of his misery. I heard you can leave them in the fridge overnight in a container and then put them in the freezer for a couple days but that just seems cruel so I don't know what to do, please help !
    1. CinnamonPearl's Avatar
      CinnamonPearl -
      Quote Originally Posted by keyloleether View Post
      I have an American Toad who has a prolapse which happened 2 days ago. I let him soak in a bowl of water with sugar & kept him on a paper towel, then attempted to use a q-tip to slowly push back in the cloaca. I think it was just too far gone by the time I tried to help him because there was alot to push back in and it just wasn't working. I didn't notice right away because its winter time & he stays under the dirt most of the time. I just don't want him to be in pain anymore so I wanted to know the easiest & most humane way to put him out of his misery. I heard you can leave them in the fridge overnight in a container and then put them in the freezer for a couple days but that just seems cruel so I don't know what to do, please help !
      Bring your toad to a vet that specializes in amphibians. The vet will be able to either treat the prolapse or humanely euthanize the toad. Never try to put it back by yourself. You aren't trained and probably did more harm than good. If there is no vet available anywhere, do some research on humane euthanasia for frogs and follow its instructions.
    1. toad11's Avatar
      toad11 -
      I have a common toad i've had him for 4 days and he is about the size of a quarter he has some pealing skin near his joints what is happing is he hurt or is he shedding
    1. lovedrugger's Avatar
      lovedrugger -
      .....
    1. lovedrugger's Avatar
      lovedrugger -
      Quote Originally Posted by toad11 View Post
      I have a common toad i've had him for 4 days and he is about the size of a quarter he has some pealing skin near his joints what is happing is he hurt or is he shedding
      Toad11 It's probably normal shedding. They grow some. I was told that they eat it most of the time :/