Home | Amphibians | Toads | The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 2

The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 2

Click: The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 1 to read the first part of this article.

Marine ToadMany pet keepers feed their toads heavily on pink and even adult mice. This is a bad idea and will eventually lead to eye, kidney and liver problems. While these aggressive predators certainly take the occasional rodent or lizard in the wild, research has shown that insects, spiders and other invertebrates form the vast majority of their natural diet. In captivity, a goldfish, minnow or shiner can be offered every month or so, perhaps a pink mouse every 6-8 weeks, but limit their intake of vertebrates. Do not feed mice other than pinkies – toads swallow their food alive, and sooner or later they will be injured by a mouse’s sharp teeth.

Marine Toads take readily to tong or even hand feeding (use plastic tongs). Canned insects, such as Can O’ Grasshoppers and Can O’ Pillars should be hand-fed to increase dietary variety.

Wild caught insects, collected from pesticide-free areas, should be offered whenever possible. Zoo Med’s Bug Napper is an excellent insect trap. Sweeping a net through tall grass and searching around outdoor lights will also yield a wide variety of tasty treats. Avoid using spiders, stinging and brightly -colored insects and fireflies, and do not collect during times when your area is being commercially sprayed for mosquito control.

My Marine Toads relish cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers, beetles of all types, moths, tree crickets, caterpillars, sow bugs and most everything else I come up with. Most of my amphibians feed largely upon wild-caught invertebrates throughout the summer, but even a few beetles plucked from a screen door every night or so will go a long way in keeping your pet in the peak of health.

Social Groups
Marine Toads coexist fairly well together, but bear in mind that they need a lot of room and must be kept scrupulously clean. Fighting is rare, but large animals will out-compete smaller ones for food, so hand-feed if in doubt.

Captive Longevity
The published longevity record is 24 years. Two that I acquired as adults are, at last report, still going strong after 16 years.

Handling and Enrichment
Marine Toads learn very quickly where their meals lie, and will soon greet you as you approach their terrarium. They do not enjoy being held, however, and like all amphibians are subject health problems once the skin’s mucus covering is removed. Handle them – carefully and with clean, wet hands – only when necessary.

Toads in general and this species in particular secrete extremely virulent skin toxins and must be treated with care. Always wash thoroughly after handling them, and never touch your mouth or eyes before doing so. Do not handle Marine Toads if you have a cut in your skin, no matter how tiny it may be. Children and pets must be prevented from coming in contact with these animals, to the point of installing a lock on the terrarium if you are at all unsure. Toads that are licked or swallowed can cause life-threatening reactions.

Marine Toads benefit from hunting opportunities, and remain much more active and alert when provided such on a regular basis. Allow non-threatening insects (crickets may chew on cold or debilitated animals) such as caterpillars, katydids and grasshoppers to roam about their tank when possible. Better still, set your toads up in a secure area outdoors near some over-ripe fruit (to draw beetles and butterflies) or a bush crawling with caterpillars, sit back and enjoy!

Breeding
Egg-laying in the wild is generally in response to the onset of rainy periods, and such may occur if the toads are provided with “artificial rain” in captivity (more on this in the future). Captives sometime breed spontaneously as well. The tadpoles are fairly hardy – please write in if you are fortunate enough to have a breeding pair.

Miscellaneous
In some situations, Marine Toads fare well in semi-freedom. They stay quite close to favored territories – the same 5-6 individuals hunted outside my kitchen in Costa Rica every night for several weeks.

While working at the Bronx Zoo, I kept a few at liberty below a row of exhibits, and another small group in a greenhouse. Here they fed upon crickets, roaches, centipedes, spiders and the like, and grew quite fat. They never failed to emerge from their shelters when I arrived each morning, waiting in a semi-circle for the treats (earthworms and crayfish) they had come to expect. They really are among the most responsive of the amphibians – I highly recommend one if you have the space.

Please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

A great deal of information about Marine Toads is posted at:
http://www.globalamphibians.org/servlet/GAA?searchName=Bufo+marinus

20 comments

  1. avatar

    I will be bringing home my first cane toad 8-6-10
    I work at a mom and pop type pet shop.
    One day i was talking to the owners son,
    And he told me, he tryed to keep them a couple of,
    Times, but that they always died a couple of months later.
    This comment bothered my to the point that, maybe i should’nt get one.
    Well today i talked to his father and he said my,
    Son does’nt know everything.
    So the owner reassured me.
    So i did some searches and found this article.
    Which really boosts my confidence in keeping one.
    Your great article really answered every question,
    I could possible have.
    I raise roaches, isopods, crickets etc for my bearded dragons and such.
    I can’t wait to start feeding this cane free food!
    Thanks so much for this great article.

    P.S. I dont know why it gave the article a -1 ,
    I clicked on the thumbs up button.
    Ken

  2. avatar

    Hello Ken, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words.

    The toads are likely wild-caught, and the deaths after a few months may be due to parasites that build up to un-naturally high levels in captivity. It would be a good idea to have tests of fecal samples done by a veterinarian, so that parasites can be treated. Please let me know if you need help in locating an experienced vet.

    Good luck, enjoy, and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank

    I recently brought a cane toad home from a reptile expo. (I was told that (s)he is about 1 year old) Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s happy. It won’t get out of its soaking dish–at all., except when I take it out to clean. Then as soon as the dish is back in, the toad clambers back in. I’ve offered crickets, earthworms, dog food, both soft kibbles and canned, and veggies, but no indication of anything being eaten. The temp is provided by a heat lamp and is about 75 degrees, night time without lamp is about 65, substrate is wood mulch, has 2 hiding places- one under the lamp so if it’d like to be warm without the light, and one off to the side for just hanging out. The aquarium is a bow front that is 2.5 ft long, 1.5 ft wide and 1.5 ft deep and is set in front of a window. I also mist it 1-2 times per day. What could be wrong? I’ve had it for 2 weeks now, so I would think that it would be adjusted by now. The proprietor I bought it from is in Nebraska ( the expo I purchased it from was here in Denver) Could the toad still be stressed out from the trip and new surroundings? I’ve talked to some local reptile stores, left a message with the seller and am gathering a consensus. Any info you can provide will be appreciated. Thanks

  4. avatar

    Hello Tami, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Incandescent lights tend to dry out the air and substrate – despite thick skin, cane toads are sensitive to this and will spend all their time in the water when too dry. A ceramic heater might be a better choice – a 100-200 wt model could be placed a bit further away from your tank then can a bulb, and can be used day/nite (it will still have a drying effect, but a bit less).

    Also, bright lights may stress the toad – it will still seek water, but will be stressed and may not feed. (Be sure to de-chlorinate the water with instant drops as well). In the alternative, you can use a bulb but wet the substrate down well each day, and cover ½ (no more) of the screen cover with plastic (keep bulb away from plastic). A red or black bulb will not disturb the toad and can be used at night as well.

    Try also raising the temperature to 80 by day and 70 at nite. 65 is a bit low (some populations adjust, but typically they prefer warmer temperatures).

    Be sure the shelter is easily entered – some individuals prefer to push their way under a pile of artificial plants when hiding.

    Please see the notes in the article concerning substrate – wood chips are easily swallowed and can cause impactions; consider sphagnum moss, a washable cage liner or even dead leaves.

    Non-living foods are only taken on very rare occasions by very hungry individuals. Stay with crickets and worms (leave food in at night) and then other invertebrates in time; no need to offer dog food, greens.

    As you mention, stress can indeed be a big factor…unfortunately, most are wild caught (often in Fla); parasites that tend to do little harm in the wild become dangerous when the immune system is weakened by stress. A vet visit may be necessary to rule out parasites if the animal continues to refuse food.

    Try covering most of the glass with a towel or sheet, especially if the toad remains in the open, and disturb s little as possible – this may help it to settle in.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hello Tami, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Incandescent lights tend to dry out the air and substrate – despite thick skin, cane toads are sensitive to this and will spend all their time in the water when too dry. A ceramic heater might be a better choice – a 100-200 wt model could be placed a bit further away from your tank then can a bulb, and can be used day/nite (it will still have a drying effect, but a bit less).

    Also, bright lights may stress the toad – it will still seek water, but will be stressed and may not feed. (Be sure to de-chlorinate the water with instant drops as well). In the alternative, you can use a bulb but wet the substrate down well each day, and cover ½ (no more) of the screen cover with plastic (keep bulb away from plastic). A red or black bulb will not disturb the toad and can be used at night as well.

    Try also raising the temperature to 80 by day and 70 at nite. 65 is a bit low (some populations adjust, but typically they prefer warmer temperatures).

    Be sure the shelter is easily entered – some individuals prefer to push their way under a pile of artificial plants when hiding.

    Please see the notes in the article concerning substrate – wood chips are easily swallowed and can cause impactions; consider sphagnum moss, a washable cage liner or even dead leaves.

    Non-living foods are only taken on very rare occasions by very hungry individuals. Stay with crickets and worms (leave food in at night) and then other invertebrates in time; no need to offer dog food, greens.

    As you mention, stress can indeed be a big factor…unfortunately, most are wild caught (often in Fla); parasites that tend to do little harm in the wild become dangerous when the immune system is weakened by stress. A vet visit may be necessary to rule out parasites if the animal continues to refuse food.

    Try covering most of the glass with a towel or sheet, especially if the toad remains in the open, and disturb s little as possible – this may help it to settle in.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    hi frank i have a male cane toad had him six months keep him in a nice big tank was the size of a golf ball when i got him now he is about 4.5 inch in body size not counting leg lenth keep him around 80% humid and 28′c feed him on a mix of can of hoppers earth worms lob worms can of criks meal worms wax worms and the odd pinky one every few months still very timid at the mo but growing bolder day by day very rewarding pet one of the famly

  7. avatar

    Hello Chris, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback. Glad to see that you are giving him a varied, balanced diet. One thing to watch as he grows is cleaning of the water bowl and substrate; they produce mare and more ammonia with their wastes as time goes on. In addition to being toxic, if allowed to remain in the enclosure for too long, ammonia can alsolead to all sorts of infections.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Extremely glad for all of the positive knowledge that you have apparently stored up over the years and the valuable input you are providing for your readers, etc.

    Most folk, tend to think it being somewhat on the ‘strange’ side, to be so caring like I am when it comes to caring for my toads, Bufo marinius, which were wild caught and do not seem to like the ‘captivity’ thing.

    I tried to GOOGLE in some possible contact sources that actually sells “Captive-bred” Marine/Cane Toads, but, so far, I haven’t been able to locate any breeders that sell them outright to private individuals, like myself, etc. Could you possibly give me a telephone number and/or web-site? Thanks, Dean

  9. avatar

    Hi Dean,

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. Unfortunately, they are rarely if ever bred by hobbyists or zoos. Since they’ve become established in Fla (natural pop. in s. Texas) and are not protected, it’s easier for suppliers to collect. Please send me some details on your set-up (substrate, size, temps, hiding spots, diet etc) and what problems you are experiencing, and I’ll see if there is anything I can suggest,

    Best, Frank

  10. avatar

    Just got 3 small marine toads, eating well but very timid. Can they be kept together with American toads? Keeping them in a 40 gal terrarium with organic potting soil.

  11. avatar

    Hi Curtis,

    They will technically get along, at least while the marine toads are small, but there are some concerns. When related animals from different parts of the worlds are kept together, parasites/micro-organisms that are relatively harmless to one may infect the other, where they may cause illness or death; similar to what sometimes happens when tourists drink tap water in foreign countries. In zoo, we always avoid miing animals from different areas.

    Also, the American toads will likely out-compete the marines, so you would need to monitor food intake carefully.

    Be careful with potting soil, lest the toads consume too much with their food (not always a problem, but potentially); perhaps feed in a large bowl, or place a layer of dead leaves on top of the soil. Sphagnum moss is also good, rarely if ever causes problems.

    Please let me know if you need more info, enjoy, Frank

  12. avatar

    Will replace the soil, it has bark pieces that I’m afraid could be ingested and cause impaction. Will use the moss.

  13. avatar

    Sounds good…they seem not to swallow moss; it is easy to eject from the mouth, perhaps passes through the gut easily also. Have used for many species, long term. Also retains moisture, and they can burrow into it. Depending on use, you may be able to rinse once-twice before discarding. Pl keep me posted, Frank

  14. avatar

    How much frequently should these toads be fed in adulthood? Everywhere I have searched it says every 2-3 days, but I find it too frequent. For an opportunist feeder which doesn’t move that much in captivity, isn’t that interval too short?

  15. avatar

    Hello,

    Much depends upon temperature, type of food and animal’s condition, but adults in good health are able to modify the metabolism somewhat to fit food availability. If they are in good weight (no protruding hip bones, etc) it’s fine to cut back in general…they will lose little if any weight. They’ve evolved to eat as much as possible, as often as possible; as you suggest, captives easily become obese. Allowing food items to hide among dead leaves, etc will encourage activity, but even in huge zoo exhibits mine have usually appeared very heavy. Please feel free to send along temperature and diet details, and let me know if you need any diet info, etc…lots of misleading info out there. Best, Frank

  16. avatar

    I don’t have a toad yet, but I am concidering getting a large frog. I was searching for B. alvarius, but they are rare in Europe, instead I found a supplyer who had three large species that interest me, the cane toad, the horned frog and the pixie frog. I am searching for an easy species of a really large anuran with slow or modifyable metabolism. My problem is that, when I travel, e.g. for vacations, I don’t want to carry a whole collection with me, but still I want a frog. Now I have a male crested gecko and a lovely female rabbit (Libo), which I must carry. I have read that pac-mans and pixies in adulthood stay easily without food for two weeks, as they binge eat for a time, then remain inactive. Also both of them go into aestivation in unfavorable conditions. I most likely will exclude the pixie, because it is the most expensive of the three, and I don’t want to lose it by a mistake. Also, if they are small, there isn’t a sure way to sex them, and so I might end up with a small female, which I don’t prefer. The horned is quite hardy, But the cane toad is more interesting to observe. But if the toads are wild-caught, I won’t buy them, because I don’t want to mess up with vet checks etc. So I have some questions for that particular species:
    How much time can a cane toad stay without food with no problems?
    Does it eat larger quantities in proportion to pac-mans or pixies?
    Do all specimens eat non moving items, or is that very rare?
    What is its temperature tolerance?
    Can it be kept on paper substrate, as I have read elsewhere with a water bowl, or in soil substrate without water bowl?
    Is there any problem with large food items, because it hasn’t teeth?
    What are the recomended dimentions for one individual?
    What is its behaivior in captivity?
    Can it be sexed from a young age?
    And what is their size range? Is it true that there are specimens only 10 cm long at maturity? Is there any way to estimate how much one will grow from the juvenile stage? I am searching for the largest possible.

    Thank you very much, and also congratulations for your excellent blog! I have broused it several times.

    ps. Why another comment of mine in the previous article about the cane toad doesn’t appear?

  17. avatar

    Hello,

    Thanks for the kind words; I’m not sure about your other comment…I don’t see it in my email notices either…could I trouble you to re-post when you have time?

    The assumptions you make about the various frogs are correct….African bulls and horned can go for long periods without food, and are quite inactive; those in the trade are invariably captive bred. However, they are very sensitive to ammonia …when left alone for long periods w/o cleaning, they may soak in fouled water, which can be toxic and cause fatalities. You’d want to make sure that the gut was completely empty beforehand.

    Marine toads are far more active, responsive…free ranging individuals I kept would appear whenever I entered the area (behind scenes at Bx Zoo) in anticipation of a meal. Most are wild-caught, as far as I know…so checking with a vet would be a good idea. However, well-established ones tend to do fine.

    Re your questions:

    How much time can a cane toad stay without food with no problems?
    At normal tem\temperatures and if well-fed, 2 weeks or so; problem re ammonia applies

    Does it eat larger quantities in proportion to pac-mans or pixies?
    Yes..faster metabolism, and needs smaller, more frequent meals

    Do all specimens eat non moving items, or is that very rare?
    Seems rare.

    What is its temperature tolerance?
    20-36 C (I measured some in Venezuela at 43 C, hiding in sun below tin sheets! Best at mid range of thise temps, however.

    Can it be kept on paper substrate, as I have read elsewhere with a water bowl, or in soil substrate without water bowl?
    Paper tends to get torn/displaced, washable terrarium liners are fine; sphagnum or coco-husk better than soil; water bowl must always be available.

    Is there any problem with large food items, because it hasn’t teeth?
    Inverts are their main food in the wild and captivity…stuffing with mice as sometimes seen on internet videos is a bad practice; they have not evolved to digest mammals. Horned and Af Bulls take some vertebrates, but most of these are other frogs, rarely mammals…overuse of mice leads to health problems, shortens the life span.

    What are the recomended dimentions for one individual?
    A standard 55 gallon aquarium for a large adult; perhaps a 30 for a smaller animal.

    What is its behaivior in captivity?
    Most adjust well, will feed by day , may become quite tame, feed from hand etc.

    Can it be sexed from a young age?
    No, not until adulthood.

    And what is their size range? Is it true that there are specimens only 10 cm long at maturity? Is there any way to estimate how much one will grow from the juvenile stage? I am searching for the largest possible.
    10 cm might be a bit small, but some populations mature at sizes not much above that. They vary widely in size. I found no truly large individuals in Venezuela, despite much time in the field, seeing many (llanos habitat); large ones were common along rainforest edges in Costa Rica. real giants used to come out of Surinam, parts of Columbia many years ago; rarely now. When searching for large ones for a zoo ex, I contacted importers, let them know my needs…not sure if large individuals wind up going straight to US, due to demand and price, or if they also go to europe; but they are no longer commonly seen.

    Other articles: http://bit.ly/112XnLz
    http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2009/02/27/feeding-pet-african-bullfrogs-pyxicephalus-adspersus-part-2/

    Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  18. avatar

    They aren’t the easiest species of frog then. They need constant feeding with half a collony of insects, but otherwise they are active and good for observation. I still cannot decide on which frog to buy. Some more questions:
    How many average insects can a cane toad eat in one feeding?
    In what condition do wild-caught specimens come?

  19. avatar

    Hello,

    Food intake depends on a variety of factors…age, environmental conditions, type of food used, etc. In general, 2-3 weekly feedings suffice, and like all amphibs they seem able to adjust metabolism to food availability (within reason). The condition of wild-caught animals varies greatly from excellent to very poor….collectors, middlemen, shippers, importer, re-shipper, final seller are all involved, so even when dealing with a reputable final source there can be problems, best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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