Home | Amphibians | Breeding a Skin-Brooding Amphibian: the Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa)

Breeding a Skin-Brooding Amphibian: the Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa)

Surinam ToadThe bizarre Surinam toad needs little introduction to amphibian enthusiasts…their unique strategy of brooding the eggs below the skin of the female’s back has rendered the species quite well-known. Yet, when I received a group of adults in 1986, I found that little had been published on their husbandry, and the last recorded captive breeding seemed to have occurred in the 1950’s.

Courtship and Fertilization of the Eggs
One female was in breeding condition, as evidenced by the circular, swollen ring about her cloaca and the dark brood patch on her back. Several males were giving forth their metallic, clicking breeding calls, so I chose the most robust of the group and placed him with the female.

Surinam toads swim in a series of circular loops, from the bottom to the top of the aquarium, when in amplexus, and will rarely be successful in fertilizing the eggs unless provided with a tank of at least 48 inches in depth. As the pair reaches the top of their loop, the female lays an egg, which is (on the next loop) fertilized and manipulated by the male onto her back’s spongy brood patch.

My Observations of Amplexus and Birth
Amplexus in the frogs I observed lasted for nearly 3 days, which I have subsequently found is the norm. The pair “shivered” in unison on many occasions, but I was not able to see the “bobbing” motions described by others. The photo accompanying this article shows what might be the first captive breeding (this while I was working at the Bronx Zoo) in many years. Within 24 hours of this photo, the skin on the female’s back swelled and completely covered the eggs.

After egg-laying, I removed the male. The female fed as usual. I did not offer blackworms, as these voracious little beasts burrowed into the soft skin of her brood patch at one point…talk about a horrid sight (I was able to wash them away easily)!

The young began to pop their heads out (the sight of 74 pointed little heads protruding from their mother’s back was yet another vision not for the squeamish!) in 100 days, and swam off on their own within a day or so. They averaged ½ to ¾ inches long, and fed readily upon chopped blackworms, brine shrimp and guppy fry. Sexual maturity was reached in 3 years.

Amazing Healing Abilities
The females back appeared “healed” within 24 hours of giving birth, but remained roughened in appearance for several weeks. Amphibians are increasingly being found to produce compounds of great medicinal value…I wouldn’t be surprised if the incredible skin trauma undergone by female Surinam toads is somehow tempered by a chemical that could be of use to people.

A wonderful video of baby Surinam toads emerging from their mother’s back is posted below:

Baby Surinam Toads emerging from their mother’s back


  1. avatar

    trying to find out how to take care of a suriname toad. I have one in a 30 gal. tank. bare bottom with gravel on one end. 75 degree water. water level 4″ he will not eat can you give me any info had him for one week now and he has not eaten anything.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      I’m assuming the frog you have is the large species, Pipa pipa, as this is the one most commonly available in the trade – if you believe it to be another, please let me know.

      I suggest you gradually raise the water temperature to 78-79F (over a 24-48 hour period) and fill the aquarium nearly to the top. Sometimes these frogs do fine in shallow water, but they are more comfortable in deep tanks…during field research I’ve seen them seined from 3-4 feet of water.

      Until the animal adjusts to captivity (if it is an adult, it was likely wild-caught), you should secure a towel or other material between the screen top and the water’s surface, as the frog will likely jump at night and may injure its snout against the screening. Be sure to secure the top screen clips – these will hold the towel in place and prevent an escape.

      It is safest to remove all gravel from the aquarium, as Surinam toads are very prone to impactions and often swallow quite large stones while feeding.

      Give the frog as much cover as possible – plastic plants with weighted bases and others secured around a rock ornament or otherwise held at the bottom of the aquarium are best. The frog will push beneath them and hide. These frogs seem so “expressionless” that it’s hard to imagine their being stressed, but internally a great deal is going on. They are quite sensitive to change – a wild caught one will have been through quite allot by the time it reaches your tank, and will usually not feed until it feels secure and out of danger (i.e. able to hide). Do not use an aquarium light, and do not turn the room light on when the room is very dark, i.e. at night…the shock of the sudden light would be very stressful to the frog. A group of frogs I received recently for a public exhibit were so shy that I needed to cover the aquarium with dark material for 2 weeks…if you do this, be sure to remove the covers slowly when necessary so as not to scare the frog.

      You’ll need a good filter, but must adjust the water flow so that it does not move the frog about. A partial water change, 20-40% every 1-4 weeks, depending upon filtration, is important. Use a test kit to check your ammonia levels frequently, including now – the frog may have passes an earlier meal…like all aquatic amphibians, Surinam toads excrete their wastes in a highly toxic state, and are very sensitive to high ammonia levels (such will cause them to cease feeding, and eventually to expire). There waste products are largely comprised of liquids and will not be visible. Be sure to de-chlorinate all water used in the aquarium.

      Surinam toads take live food (or food moved before them as if alive) only. Favorite foods are earthworms, blackworms and small fishes such as guppies, platys, swordtails, mollies, minnows and shiners. Use goldfish no more than once each month, and vary the species fed as much as is possible. You can leave the fish in with the frog, as it will likely feed at night until it has acclimated. Be sure to adjust the fish to your aquarium’s water temperature (float bag for 20 minutes) so that they do not contract Ick or other diseases that might be transmitted to the frog (also, they are more likely to be consumed if they swim about normally). When using earthworms, introduce to the tank at night…worms usually survive 8 hours underwater, but add only 1 at first and make sure to remove it in the AM if uneaten. Once the animal begins feeding, vary its meals among all of the aforementioned food items.

      Check the skin for grey or white areas, which would indicate fungus, and also for injuries…these frogs do not ship well, and often arrive in poor condition. Please write back if you observe any unusual marks, scratches or discolored skin.

      I sometimes treat wild caught Surinam toads for parasites following a fecal test or cloacal swab, but am hesitant to suggest this until you try the aforementioned suggestions. However, it’s something to consider…please keep me posted; we can discuss that option next if need be.

      Once acclimated, Surinam toads are wonderfully interesting aquarium subjects…they eventually abandon their nocturnal ways (at least where food is involved!) and should provide you with much to observe and learn about.

      I hope this has been of some help. Please let me know how all goes, or if you need further advice.

      Good luck and best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar


    • avatar

      Hello Jim, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      The cottony patch is most likely due to fungus. Often a small wound allows fungus to take hold, but a wound is not always a pre-curser. Check for sharp edged areas in the tank in any event.

      The only way to positively identify the fungus and the medication to which it is sensitive would be to have a sample sent out by a veterinarian for analysis. This would be the best route to follow if available to you. However, please be aware that amphibian medicine is not as advanced as we might hope, and such is not always successful.

      If you decide not to take your frog to a veterinarian, you might try Methylene Blue. This medication is a good general treatment for amphibian skin disorders, including many types of fungi. Try baths of 1 hour in length each day for 7 days. Use Methylene Blue at ¼ of the strength recommended on the bottle for tropical fish (aquatic amphibians absorb medication over a much greater surface area – the entire skin – than do fishes) and work up to ½ strength by day 3. The medicine will stain the frog’s skin for awhile, but it is otherwise harmless (wear gloves as it stains human skin as well).

      Be sure to give the frog plenty of cover in the soaking container, as it will be stressed by the change in its environment.

      If this is not successful, a veterinary visit is your next best option, as other over-the-counter medications, while sometimes effective, are harsh and difficult to use with frogs.

      Please keep me posted…we still have a great deal to learn and every new report is important.
      Good luck and best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    ilove your advice and its been very accurate.. sometimes it takes so long to find someone who knows. i just purchased two more pipa pipa frogs. how do i tell male from female by there appearance. i have a very large one so im guessing female. i no the male makes noise..but any other ways? and have you seen any pictures of differences? ive been looking all day. thanks alot.

    • avatar

      Hello Frank, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      Full grown female Surinam toads are significantly larger and broader than males.

      A distinguishing characteristic of mature females is the raised, circular ring of flesh around the cloaca. This is readily visible if you view the animal from the rear (the cloaca is between the rear legs). Unfortunately, even the most reliable of references (i.e. Biology of the Amphibians, Duellmann and Traub) do not state whether or not this ring appears only when the female is ready to breed, or whether all females possess it once sexually mature.

      As far as I can recall, all large females that have passed through my hands have borne this ring. In fact, this was also true of all of the apparent females in a group of 18 wild caught Surinam toads that I examined last week. But this could be a coincidence…please let me know if the ring is visible on your large animal when you have a moment.

      Juveniles do not exhibit any sexual dimorphism.

      Good luck….I hope to hear about your breeding success in the future! Please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    frank i called myself frank by accident in last message on sexing lol.. im jim . thanks so much ..i checked i think theres a definite ring on large one.. i was looking at the smaller.. it seems to be very thin one then at night i heard loud clicking so im a happy man …lol im also gay so i dont always look at female anatomy and in this case i see i need tad more practice. i will be trying to breed soon ..im very excited thanks so much again. if you respond to this ..please let me no i have indoor pond that seems very good for breeding..but after female has eggs on back..can she be put in a well filtered tank probably 10 to 20 gal until there birth?? i can observe and watch closer for problems i thought

    • avatar

      Hello Jim, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Glad to hear the info was useful and congrats on having what sounds like a pair. Only the males call, so you can be sure of that one – also a good sign as that usually indicates that he has settled in and feels at home. Frogs break all the sex-determination rules known (and a few that we likely don’t know!) so there’s always something new to learn!

      An indoor pond sounds ideal – the deeper the better, so that they can do their circular swimming motion when breeding, but sometimes as little as 15-24 inches of water is enough (although only a few eggs will attach).

      I actually prefer to leave the female in the enclosure in which she has bred – less stressful, no need to worry about minute water chemistry changes which may affect the eggs. If you do move her, a 20 gallon tank would be needed at the minimum; 30-55 gallons would be preferable.

      Please bear in mind also that they can leap out of the water at night – this is less likely in a large pool than an aquarium, but a cover is a good idea if practical.

      The move to a large pool may spur breeding…if not, please let me know and we can discuss manipulating water levels.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  5. avatar

    frank im sorry its me again.. im very happy with my pair of surnames..but i notice shes has been liking a spot at top of tank proping herself sideways into plant but somehow it looks like she took breath somehow and has more air on one side so shes healthy and i put a worm in front of her she snaped at it..seems fine..but not the way she swims ..shes able to move ok..just you can even see its not normal to be there..please dont tell me pop it lol.. is there a way to deal with this easy? i put her in 2 inches of water in large plastic rectangular tub thinking that way nothing happens to her overnight and keeps her in position for now til you help me AGAIN lol

    • avatar

      Hello Jim, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Unfortunately, a swelling such as you describe is often related to gas produced by a bacterial infection. The problem could conceivably be lung-related, but bacteria have been involved in all the cases I’ve run across. However, the fact that the frog is eating is a bit odd, most often they do not when suffering a bacterial infection.

      In either case, the animal will need veterinary treatment. You should be sure that your veterinarian has experience with amphibians…not common, unfortunately. I have a few lists on hand if you do not have someone in mind…please let me know if you’d like me to try to refer someone.

      If you have the frog in low water, be sure to cover it as it will try to escape at night…also provide floating plants as shelter.

      If it will be some time until you can see a veterinarian, please let me know as there are a few steps you can take while waiting.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    Hello Frank!

    I carefully read all your recommendations and found the information very useful for me.
    Currently we are at the zoo is in process of trying to bred this species. But several features is not understanable for us.
    First of all all recomendations (not only these at your page) listed the importance of depth and no any parameters of width and long of the enclosure.
    Second it is not understandable why and what sense of the circular amplexus of the pair during deposition of the eggs by female.
    Does it the difference of the temperature between the floor and top level temperature is of value?
    Can you please explane this if possible?

    • avatar

      Hello Mikhail, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words. What zoo are you working with?

      Surinam toads have been bred in water as shallow as 24 inches, but many of the eggs fail to implant on the female’s back at that depth. I’ve had my best results in a custom made tank of 48 inches in depth, although others have reported success at 36 inches. The extra water volume and depth also serves to bring the animals into breeding condition, it seems; perhaps mimicking the natural situation – a water level rise as the rainy season begins.

      A pair in amplexus swims to the water’s surface and, once nearly there, they “flip” so that their abdomens face up and their backs face the bottom of the aquarium. At this point the female lays an egg, which lands on the male’s abdomen. He fertilizes it and helps maneuver it onto her back, where it lodges in the now spongy skin. The pair then head down to the bottom of the tank in and then circle back up, repeating the cycle. The whole process takes several hours, until the full clutch (often 75-100 eggs) is laid. This unusual strategy explains the need for a deep tank – without such, they seem not to have enough space to complete their circular “dance”, and most eggs wind up on the bottom of the tank. Some frogs will not try to breed without a good deal of space.
      Temperature changes seem not to be vital, especially if the males are already calling. If they are not, you might try keeping them in shallow water (8-10 inches) for 2 weeks, then filling the tank to its maximum depth with water that is 2-4 degrees (F) cooler than that they are held in. When keeping them in low water, be sure to monitor ammonia and such carefully, as it will concentrate and build up high levels quickly (I apologize if that is obvious, but I missed the importance of that once).

      Please let me know how all goes…I’m interested to hear other’s results, as there is some variability in their requirements, and we still have a lot to learn about related frogs in the genus.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Thank You very much dear Frank!
    I’m currently working for the Leningrad Zoo, city of Saint Petersburg, Russia in the department of Insectarium and amphibians.
    I will keep you informed about our progress.

    • avatar

      Hello Mikhail, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback…I would appreciate hearing how all goes with the frogs. If the males do not begin calling (metallic click) after awhile, then it might be a good idea to put them through a low water-high water cycle.

      If time permits, could I trouble you to post an occasional comment concerning what type of reptiles and amphibians are in your collection? I and our readers are also interested in insects…I’ve done some work with the Tama Zoo in Japan and with insect collections here in the US as well, and would be very interested knowing about your collection. And of course please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Frank, I have kept this species years ago with good success. I recently purchased 1.2 at a reptile show- I looked at all of the frogs for sale for the white fungus that you mentioned and they all looked good. I bought them sunday- I noticed Thursday evening that one frog had a small white spot on its back but it was also shedding so I thought I would just watch it for a day or two…..now, Saturday night I just came home and 1 frog is dead, one is close and the other one is still very active but is covered in white “shed skin” all over. Does this fungus happen so quickly or could it be something else? I have the remaining two soaking in the Meth. Blue and have completely broken down their tank for a full cleaning (the tank was set up clean with a great filter). All of the frogs have ate well this week and I even heard the male calling……any thoughts? I do have a good picture of the one that died if that could be sent to you. I have spent quite a bit of time researching these frogs before deciding to get them so I am very disappointed.

    • avatar

      Hello Kathy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and sorry to hear the bad news.

      Fungus can spread quickly but does not usually result in rapid death as you describe. Adult Surinam Toads are nearly always wild-caught; the stress of shipment to the show and then to your home may have depressed their immune systems and allowed an internal bacterial infection or other problem/parasite to explode in numbers. The rapid shed cycle you mention on one of the remaining frogs (if it is skin you are seeing) is a common response to fungi and parasites; the fungus may, however, be secondary to a more serious ailment.

      Methylene Blue is the most effective step you can take at home. If they do not improve, a vet visit is advisable – please let me know if you need help in locating a local herp-experienced vet.

      Another point to keep in mind, and sorry if this is obvious, is that ammonia can spike rapidly in a tank that is clean and filtered but has not had time to “cure” and buildup a population of beneficial bacteria. Rapid sheds and quick death are typical in ammonia poisoning. Nutrafin Cycle and zeolite-based ammonia remover should prove useful, especially when first setting up the aquarium (I, however, use both continuously with all fishes and aquatic amphibians).

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    My surinam toad ate a very large rock and now I’m scared it will die. What can I do? I know you’re not supposed to have substrate but I’ve been in the middle of transitioning tanks and such. Please help!

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and sorry for your trouble.

      They sometimes pass stores; if possible, remove any other stores so that you can tell if the swallowed one has been passed with the animal’s waste products. Do not feed the toad for the next week.

      If the stone doesn’t pass within 5-7 days, then you’ll need to take the frog to a veterinarian for radiographs. Please let me know if you need help in locating an amphibian-experienced vet in your area.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    Can you please satisfy my curiosity? Approximately how many times does the female hatch eggs in her lifetime? There’s lots of footage on the web on the eggs sinking into skin and then the babies crawling out, but none of the healing process after wards. Does the skin get shed or seal up again?

    • avatar

      Hello Astrid, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your post…great questions. When I first bred these frogs, I couldn’t imagine the skin would ever heal after 100 good-sized youngsters had pushed there way out! But it did – the holes sealed overnight; the area remained discolored for a time, but the skin was perfectly intact.

      Biologists are studying frogs’ abilities to re-grow limbs, survive freezing, and produce unique chemicals, in hopes of applying this research to injured/ill people (we actually have pain killers from frog skin chemicals already)…I hope someone is looking at Surinam Toads as well.

      Unfortunately, we do not know how many times a female can reproduce. As far as I know, there have been no in depth studies of wild frogs. The longest-lived captives have survived for 8-10 years, and they take quite awhile to reach maturity, so it would seem that a female would reproduce more than once. However, captive breeding is not yet regular enough for us to make any predictions. It seems like a traumatic experience, but then again they heal quickly – perhaps you will be the one to find out for sure!

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    I have 4.3 in a 65 Breeder/Cube Tank , it’s a very tall tank , my guess is 3ft L x 2ft W x 2ft H … The water line is 2 inches from the top , temp is 76F , PH 6.5 …. When I get them established , I would like to breed them. How do I go about doing this using this particular tank? Or do I need to put them all in a 4 ft deep Plastic Trash Can ?? or ???? thanks for your advice and help!

    • avatar

      Hello Reg

      Thanks for your interest. It’s easier to use a deeper tank, but some success may be has in 2 feet of water; all eggs will not likely attach, as the pair’s circular swimming loops will be shortened. Deeper water may also stimulate breeding, but I’ve had frogs come into breeding condition in low tanks. It probably would be best to isolate a single pair if you use that tank, as others may interfere as they move about, rise to surface to breathe, etc.

      Sometimes females will come into condition spontaneously. If not, you can try conditioning them by dropping the water level for a few weeks and increasing temps a bit; then re-fill with cooler water…let me know when you’re ready and I’ll check my notes for specifics.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    Do you still breed these guys ? Did you use a customized tank or plastic trash can ? My tallest tank is my 65 breeder tank , at 24 inches. My 125 gallon tank is only 22 inches tall so even that is maybe too shallow ? What season did you breed yours ? Anyways , thank you for all your help ! I hope you dont mind me blogging and asking you questions off and on in here . This IS the only place I know of ( via google ) that’s not only active but that has Pipadae keepers.

    • avatar

      Hello Reg

      My pleasure to hear from you…not many people work with these fellows, so I’m always glad to hear about your efforts, and to help if possible.

      I was lucky in being able to have a tank built for the frogs…it was plexiglass, about 4 feet in depth.

      Another thing to watch for in shallow tanks that are filled to the top is jumping, esp among new animals. Covering the inner side of the screen top with a towel helps.

      I don’t breed them now, but over the past few years have been working freelance with a group that I obtained for a public aquarium in CT. Quite a few health problems at first, medication and all threw them off so we didn’t try to breed them. Some of the males call, but females not responding.

      Those at the Bx Zoo bred in spring, but I know of others that have bred at other times. A “drought” followed by high, cooler water may stimulate them at any time. In Venezuela they appear to breed during the rainy season, which starts in May; breeding may vary further south.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    Hello Frank ,
    I’m curious , outside of obvious males wanting to breed, what are some reasons you’ve observed to why males click in the tanks ?

    • avatar

      Hello Reg

      Good question. I’ve not read anything on calls as communication, other than for mating, but they and Af Clawed Frogs will sometimes call in response to a pen tapped against the tank, so perhaps they respond to other males.

      Male frogs also have a “release call”, for use when they are grasped in amplexus by other males. “Centers” for sex and foods must be wired closely together…if you feed a group of Fire-bellied toads, males will often grasp others….seems to be amplexus, although perhaps just dominance?..lots to learn, please keep me posted on what you see.

      However, it could also be that they are more or less always in breeding mode in captivity, where water levels, temp, pH, daylength etc. does not vary as much as in the wild. When conditions are ideal, some mammals, fish and birds (house mice, keets, etc.) that normally breed seasonally will reproduce year round; some evidence of this with herps as well.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  14. avatar

    Happy Monday !! I came home to continous exticement after a nice four day vacation weekend in dfw to find that one of my female Pipa pipa has eggs on her back. I’ve had this group of 4.3 for about four months and never had any problems. All are wild caught adults kept at 80F with acidic, PH 6.0-5.6 , 125 gallons. Since recieving them, I’ve fed them alot of Canadian and European Night Crawlers and Feeder Guppies/Platies (no goldfish). I am not sure if keeping the lights off in the tank for four days or the precipitation pressure or even the combination of both triggered the hot steamy action. I’ll update in 100 days about emerging toadlets !!
    … To note , I wasn’t trying to breed them until this April or May in a 4ft x 3ft x 4ft custome tank . Being that a standard 125 gallon tank is only 24 inches in height, about half the eggs did not stick therefore I do not think they will hatch, I have noticed other adults eating these eggs that did not attach.

    • avatar

      Hello Reggie,

      Thanks for the great news, congrats. The info re pH temp etc. is also useful, thank you.

      The factors you mention could very well be involved; barometric pressure changes are sensed by many herps despite being indoors. Half attaching at a depth of 24” is good, about what I’ve seen in similar situations. Unattached eggs will not be able to develop, so best to remove before decomposition sets in.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    No eggs yet, but the male is click happy and amplexusing a lot. She just ignores him. (sort of like people). Is this a pre-courtship thing? Water temp haas dropped recently due to season, maybe I should not raise it artifically with heat? My tank is only 36″deep. If this is early courtship behavior what can i do to improve odds of becoming a grandpa?

    • avatar

      Hi jay,

      Captive conditions usually alter circadian rhythms and all, so it’s common for different animals to be at different stages of mating readiness;…I’ve experienced the human side of this as well, but I digress…

      Males do typically cycle before females, so perhaps leave them as is for another week if temps hold in low-mid 70″s. You may notice a swelling about her cloaca, and the development of a dark brood patch (can be subtle in some individuals) After that, try raising the temperature to 78F. The change in temperature may stimulate her. Lately I’ve been hearing of differing protocols being successful. Dropping the water level significantly, then raising it after a time, often sparks them. If they do not breed this time,I can contact a few people and check on the latest thinking in zoos.

      36″ can work; they will drop some eggs on the the bottom, but a large percentage should remain on her back.

      Good luck, I look forward to updates, best, Frank

  16. avatar
    Hersheil Mann, Jr.

    Hello Frank,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your information about the toad and especially your questions and responses.I am a Biologist and have worked extensively with the Xenopus laevis. However I read sone information on the Surinam toad that has generated a strong interest in this animal.
    I searched and was unsuccessful in finding someone or company that sells them. If you have any information that can help withis need it would appreciate it very much.

    • avatar

      Hello Hersheil,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’ve kept and bred various Xenopus species for 50+ years now, and never tire of them! An X. tropicalis in my collection is now 24-27 yrs of age.

      I found 2 dealers carrying Pipa pipa; the links are below. I do not know either personally. The frogs will likely be wild caught, so you may have some initial problems; please let me know if you need further info. A very small species, P. parva, is sometime available, although not lately. I’ll keep an eye out for you.

      Please let me know about your work with Xenopus when you have time. Also, would appreciate any feedback on this article re some unusual behaviors I’ve noted.


      Best regards, Frank

  17. avatar

    Frank , my toads are very quiet now. All winter they were clicking like crazy and amplexing. Now (it is hot in texas in june) they hardly make any noise. Is this a seasonal normal thing, or am I doing something wrong? Also I think feeding has slow down. water temp is maybe 73-75.

    • avatar

      Hi jay,

      Nice to hear from you. They seem less strongly tied to seasonal breeding than other frogs; breeding behavior seems to arise at various times throughout the year…this may be a function of captive conditions…light levels, temps, perhaps pH, etc. all affect hormone release, and the timing of reproduction. Might be a good time to drop water level a bit in preparation for a “flood cycle” later on, in order to spur breeding. Enjoy, best, Frank

  18. avatar
    Fabrizio Lucente

    Hello Frank, I bought a pair of Pipa pipa at an expo, 3 weeks ago; I keep them in 60 liters, added a few cc of pure turf decoction, and nothing else.
    I give frozen Atherinidae (little fresh water fishes), and they are eaten; but I’m not sure both of them are actually eating.
    I noticed male was a bit less active, more on the bottom and with close webs, while females keeps them rather extended.

    2 Days ago I noticed some White small areas on male webs and leg, and now, after putting him upside down, I see he has plenty of White Patches 🙁
    Could you suggest me a prompt treatment? Bleu Methylene? I have it in powder, how much should I put for each liter of bathing?
    Here his picture : http://i60.tinypic.com/2mequ7m.png
    Thank you,

    • avatar

      Hi Fabrizio,

      Methylene blue would be my first choice if you do not have access to an experienced vet; not all fungi respond, but worth a try. Mix the solution as described for fish, but use only a half strength dose; soak the frog for 1 hr; start with once daily for 3 days, then a day off; then 3 days again. If the frog continues to get worse at any point, increase the concentration to the full fish dose (watch for signs of irritation – scratching, etc). Best to separate the frogs. Unfortunately, this is rather experimental, and the actual fungus cannot be identified by appearance alone. Please keep me posted, good luck, frank

  19. avatar

    Hello frank, I’m from China, I can’t speak English well, if where is wrong please forgive. I try to breed the pipa, and there are about 180 eggs in 2 female back. But a few days later, all eggs fell down soon. It makes me sad, because I know falling eggs cannot become adult. I don’t know what causes it. Is water? PH or PPM. If the water hardness is high ,it will lead to?
    I hope you can help me, and I want to make friends with you.Thank you.

    • avatar


      Thanks for your interest…it’s not common for them to breed, so you are off to a good start.

      They do best in soft water; adults can adjust to harder water, but perhaps this affects the eggs; unfortunately, there seems to be no research that is directly on point. I would try softening the water if possible.

      When you have a chance – I’m very interested to learn what types of reptiles and amphibians are kept and bred there; are Pipa pipa common in the pet trade?

      Best regards, Frank

  20. avatar

    Hello Frank,I am from Beijing of China. Surinam toad is not common here .I’m lucky that I have three .One of them is bought in a large flower market 2 years ago,the others are bought soon from a friend. Since then ,I have never seen sale of pipa .In Chinese website ,there are just a little record of pipa keeping and breeding, and there are many data are wrong .I love my toads very much ,so I search the websites of the foreign, although my English is not good.
    You are interested in what types of reptiles and amphibians are kept and bred here . In fact, it is just the primary stage, most of them are common types. such as Litoria caerulea,Ceratophrys,Africa bullfrog etc ,and some types of China .Of course,some senior player had scarce type.
    And it is hard to seen salamander in china.
    You mean the hard water cause the eggs drop from female’s back ? If I try softening the water if possible,may be can avoid it?
    Your friend Hose.

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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