Home | Amphibians | My Animal Collection: How a Herpetologist Keeps American Toads, Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus and Related Species, Part I

My Animal Collection: How a Herpetologist Keeps American Toads, Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus and Related Species, Part I

American Toad Setup

Today’s article is the second in a series concerning animals in my own collection.  For additional information concerning this line of articles, please see My Animal Collection: How a Herpetologist Keeps Barking Treefrogs (Hyla gratiosa) and Gray Treefrogs (Hyla versicolor).

Note: the following information is also largely applicable to other toads that commonly appear in the pet trade, i.e. the Great Plains toad, B. cognatus, the Gulf Coast toad, B. valliceps, the southern toad, B. terrestris, Woodhouse’s toad, B. woodhousei and the Texas toad, B. speciosus.  Fowler’s toads and the various Spadefoot toads prefer arid substrates…I’ll cover the care of both in the future.

Most North American toads in the Genus Bufo have been recently reclassified within the Genus Anaxyrus, but not all herpetologists agree on this point.

An Ideal Terrarium Pet

As with many of the animals I favor, American toads have much to offer the hobbyist but are not as popular as some of their more colorful relatives (actually, they vary greatly in color – I have run across yellow, reddish and nearly black specimens in the field).

Perhaps because they are so well- protected by virulent skin toxins, American toads are calm and confiding in captivity.  They usually take on diurnal habits, and even wild caught adults will feed from the hand in short order.  Pardon the stretch, but their behavior brings to mind that of the striped skunks I have kept.  Skunks seem to know that they are “untouchable”, and hence are very approachable (even in the wild)…toads are much like that, at least in my mind!

They are also quite intelligent and responsive – please see my article entitled “Amphibian Learning Abilities – the Southern Toad, Bufo (Anaxyrus) terrestris and Bumblebee Mimicsfor further details.

Designing the Terrarium

I currently keep 2 yearling American toads in a Tom Aquarium Jumbo PLA-House Plastic Terrarium.  This terrarium’s ventilation ports assure adequate air exchange (despite favoring moist habitats, toads and other amphibians fare poorly in stagnant air) yet are small enough to prevent small feeder insects from escaping.  This set-up is dismantled and cleaned weekly – the terrarium’s light weight simplifies this chore.


The substrate pictured in the photo is R-Zilla Compressed Frog MossAmerican toads prefer a drier environment than do most frogs, so I use only ½ to ¾ of the amount of water called for in the instructions when preparing the moss (the moss is packaged dry, and must be reconstituted).  Hagen Exo-Terra Plume Moss and Zoo Med Terrarium Moss are also good choices for toads and other amphibians.

In this terrarium, the substrate is rinsed or spot-cleaned once mid-week and replaced weekly.  As with most amphibian terrariums, I use only hot water to clean, with bleach or table salt added when something stronger is called for.


The terrarium is sprayed once daily with de-chlorinated water.The toads also frequently soak in their water bowl…just bear in mind that they are poor swimmers, so provide an easily-exited container for their pool.

Terrarium Decorations

I set up the terrarium in manner that encourages easy visibility and feeding- time interactions.  This is not always possible with amphibian pets, of course, as secretive species will languish and die if unable to hide.  American toads take to it readily however, and so observations, feeding and cleaning are much simplified.  In this terrarium the toads have become quite tame – noticing when I enter the room hopping forward in anticipation of a meal.

I provide a Zoo Med Turtle Hut or a Cork Bark Hollow as a retreat, but the toads are more often to be found on top of it, scanning the moss for insects or, it seems, watching the room in general.


The PLA-House Hood Light fits right onto the terrarium’s lid, and is useful for providing additional illumination without excess heat.

In planted terrariums, a Reptisun 2.0 Florescent Bulb will provide sufficient light for plants without exposing the toads to harmful levels of UVB – most amphibians have UVB “filters” in their skin, and actively avoid the sun.

Click: My Animal Collection: How a Herpetologist Keeps American Toads, Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus and Related Species, Part II to read the rest of this article.



  1. avatar

    Sorry Frank,

    I forgot to list the Buffalo Mealworm/Beetle also.

  2. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Me again – getting ready to place an order for food items to expand everyone’s diet a bit. Weavils and Bean Beetles and Buffalo Beetles ok too as if so I will order some and feed sparingly since all of these have such a tough exoskeleton. I also found what they call BLACK WORMS – I have never ever heard of these, they reference they are a great food source for amphibians – but what I like most is how very small they are – I have the link below for you so that you can see and also read what they say. If you feel this are ok – Id love to get some for my small baby toads – as it looks like they could eat an entire worm without any issue – and I also fear the baby canandian nightcrawlers I order, even if they should be pinched – would just be too huge for them and possible not safe either.

    Thanks again – wanted to run these by you since I do have option to order all my additional new food items from one vendor – which is so very nice!


    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Good choices…exoskeletons not necessarily bad, most of toad’s diet is comprised of insects and chitin needed for proper digestion, calcium etc…some, i.e. mealworms, waxworms, have proven to cause problems as a steady diet; small beetles generally very good. Sowbugs excellent as well, will live in terrarium, useful scavengers, high CA content.

      Blackworms are aquatic relatives of the earthworm..one of the best foods for newts, aquatic frogs, fish…I’ve raised axolotls on a diet of 90% bworms. Terrestrial salamanders will take them if you place a small bunch in a jar lid set into ground, but toads may have a hard time grabbing them. Also, the worms need to be refrigerated, rinsed daily. Most pet stores that carry tropical fish stock them…best to try first rather than ordering large supply…a small cup has hundreds.

      Yes, nightcrawler bits would be too lg for young toads.

      Please keep me posted, enjoy Frank

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Hope all is well. Thanks so much for your help – I am still looking for black worms (non bulk) at least to try – no luck yet, the best I found so far is only one store but they have them dried. I am curious about your saying they need to be rinsed daily – why is that?

    Also, I am perplexed I had a very strange event last night. I live in Missouri, it is toad mating time, and not one of my toads fully hibernates. I have had my window open at night, and I as well as I am sure my toads do also – hear the male mating calls. But last night, one of my toads was fully covereed and hiding. I took him out, so he’d have opportunity to eat some crickets I was feeding if he chose too. He was fine and immediately hopped from one toad cave to another. He lives with 3 other toads and as soon as he went into the 2nd cave I heard a loud chirp, then he hopped out and my toad Buster had him in a really hard grip riding his back, poor Niko was hopping around but Buster would not let go, not even when I picked them up or placed them in water to see if that might end it. He had a death grip on him, and wow – they are really much stronger than I thought. He didnt want to but I eventually convinced him to release his grip. Was this a mating behavior – and why maybe poor Niko was hiding – or is it possibly that Buster might be acting aggressively and better living with a larger toad I have versus 3 others his same size? I saw him do this once also, but that was in November – he had my toad Syndney in this same kind of grip, but it was more relaxed – Sydney didnt seem to mind, wasnt stressed or moving – they were just sitting there relaxed and Buster would only tighten his grip when Syndey moved e.g. in response to my talking and his turning his head.

    Thanks as I am quite perplexed and not sure if perhaps Buster should have different room mates or not.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      The worms live in cold, oxygen rich streams…if water is left too long, wastes accumulate and oxygen becomes depleted, and they die..usually within a day or 2. I can go over the care if you locate some.

      It could be related to breeding…captivity changes their hormonal cycles, which may explain the Nov incident. Males calling could affect them. But male toads in breeding season have been seen grabbing (known as amplexus) dead fish, old shoes, rubber balls…not very choosy when it comes to mating! Females have been drowned if too many males are present..males usually give a release call and are left alone. keep an eye on them..not a prob if it doesn’t last too long. Yes…very strong! In ponds, males will kick at you if you disturb them in amplexus! Interesting that they are breeding in Missouri…here in S. NY, they are barely starting…a bit late this year, best, Frank

  4. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My Toad Randy has MBD. He has been with me 8 months, the same as his roommrates which act normally. But I had noticed that Randy’s movements seemed weak. He eats fine, he hops, he crawls – it was just that it seemed his hops and movements were weak and his coloration was off.

    He was xrayed at the vet yesterday and his diagnosis made. He received a calcium shot, and over the next 3 weeks we will be doing daily forced calcium/water baths and then another vet visit. I didnt know that parasites could possibly cause this also. So in addition to this, we are treating him for that. As he was rooming with 3 other Toads and as parasites might be a culprit, and as his roommate Buster has been in the mood for love lately – Randy now has his own home. I am also going to treat his roommate for possible parasites. Randy is also receiveing UVB treatment with a Reptisun 5.0 UVB lamp.

    I wanted to let you know this, and others too, that even though you treat them all identical and have had them all the same amount of time or longer – this condition has many factors – including each individual’s particular chemistry. So if you see things like I did – hiding more than usual, coloration is off a bit, and although at first glance they seem to be normal but perhaps they might seem just a little weak but not drastically much – to please seek veterinary care as quickly as possible.

    I have now also started testing my Toads – those that have been with me for 3 years or more, to those with me less than a year. At least once a week, I will be taking them out to ensure I see their movement much better than I can while in their enclosure alone – especially since a lot of my toads anyway – prefer to hunt via walking/stalking and not hoping and as some are so use to me being around them that they never hop or scurry to run away – they wait for me and are unafraid. I recommend this to others and wish I had done this all along also.

    Thank you

    • avatar

      Hello Kelly,

      Thanks for your thoughts, much appreciated. I didn’t see mention of parasites being confirmed,…Please keep me posted on what goes on re that. UVB is not often used with toads, so I’d be interested for more details as time goes on. Good luck with all, best, Frank

  5. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Randy didnt provide a fecal while at the vet; I didnt think to take one, but it wouldnt have worked as at that time he was living with 3 other toads. I couldnt be sure the fecal was truly his and what I found was basically almost petrified.

    But he did provide me one while soaking in his medicine and only the 2nd day we had started his calcium soaks. I just heard this past Friday that no parasites were found.

    His color is getting better – he is out and about more than he has been in quite a while. Even swimming on his own, crawling up and down on his cave, moving about his home, looking around. He still sometimes hides completely buried but not all the time which is wonderful. Sometimes he will even leave his head exposed and will have it up high looking around – that is until I say his name acknowledging what he is doing at which time his head goes down as fast as a speeding bullet.

    We are on the 2nd week of our treatments. He has one more week to go before we have a recheck visit. Of course since no parasites found I am not using the medicine they provided to treat for them. It was to be used once a week for 3 weeks, and I held out trying to get a fecal to see if even necessary – which I am glad I did so.

    Take care and will keep you posted.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Good to hear, thanks. Glad the meds worked out as well…parasite treatment is tricky, although we have a much better handle on it now than in years past,

      I hope all continues to go well, let me know if you need anything, Frank

  6. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Got my dubia roaches,lesser moth waxsorms, weavils, and dermastid beetles.

    Weavils require no food or water – that is awesome. Waxworms have what they need.

    I wasnt going to keep the dermastid with my crickets – will they eat cricket food and cricket jell for water – same for the dubia roaches too?

    I do have egg crates for them both.

    And for the roaches, waxworms and both beetle types – how often can they safely eat these?

    I hope soon to have some flightless house flies, buffalo beetles and silkworms – unfortunately currently out of stock.

    Thanks so much again.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Hi Kelly…you’ve been busy!

      Yes, keep all seperate. Here’s info on Dubia roach care and dermestid care.

      You can use cardboard tubes from paper towels etc to replace old egg crates for roaches, crickets as well.

      Small roaches can be used as base of the diet; flies, earthworms, silkworms also good as steady foods; alternate others…frequency, how you alteernate is not overly important, as long as you provide variety. Avoid adult crickets, larger roaches; waxworms best used infrequently..less than 1x week as can be hard to digest, But they can be stored in frig; you can also keep a few colonies going and then order other species on ocassion, to add variety, rahter than rearing all at same time (it is interesting to do that also, if you have time!). Best, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Randy’s 3 week MBD follow up appointment went well. He is able to jump much better, he is not completely hidden all the time. His color is better and he also is swimming more, crawling on top of his cave, and crawling up high and sitting in the plants in his home. His overall energy level has really increased.

    We didnt receive another shot of calcium. We are though doing another 3 weeks of calcium water daily soaks. Our next follow up, that will be after 6 weeks of treatment, will include an Xray to see what internal progress has been made.

    Conclusion is that although he didnt appear thinner than his roommates – is that he was most likely out competed for food.

    He and his roommates are the first toads that I have had share housing. So for those that do, we now eat food independently to ensure each receives enough – and then after all are fed and back in their home, I then provide more food so that they may enjoy hunting for the extra – as they really do seem to enjoy hunting food so very much.

    Will keep you posted.

    Thanks again.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for the update…glad to hear the good news! When you have a moment, please send along some general info re the Calcium soaks…we tended to go with injections at the zoo, but the soaking option would may be easier for most keepers to use. Please take notes as well…we still have much to learn, and each new bit is important.

      Yes..even though toads are not aggressive in the typical sense, competition is a factor. Also very useful to let them hunt..assuming each has eaten enough, as you mentioned, letting insects hide among plants, dead leaves and such encourages activity, alertness…similar techniques are termed “behavioral enrichment” in zoos, and are now required for most herps. Keep up the good work, enjoy, Frank

      • avatar

        Greetings. I wish I had found this blog sooner. I have a female Western California Toad and she isn’t well. I am thinking she might have a calcium deficiency also. We have had her for about four years now and she seemed great until last Sunday evening, I noticed a middle toe, tapping strangely. The next day she seemed to have body spasms also. No vet could see her this week, so I am trying to help her in any way until Monday. The vet said I could prepare Flukers liquid calcium and try to feed it to her, but she doesn’t want to eat. The container says you can add it to the water, could I just soak her in a bit of that as long as I dilute it? I have been setting her in the sunlight for short periods and it has seemed to help a little. When she moves, it seems like her back legs are weak, but she is finally moving around after days of just sitting in her water dish. I wish I would have known about switching the diet up, but people at the pet stores told us the crickets had plenty of nutrients and would be sufficient. I should have researched it sooner… my poor little toad. I want to help her, but don’t want to make her more uncomfortable. Any suggestions? Also, I love this blog, it is incredibly helpful!

  8. avatar

    I have had my toad for a few weeks now and I feed every other day. I am very concerned because my toad hasn’t pooped in a few days. Should I be concerned? I have tried warm water but she still won’t go. What should I do?

    • avatar


      Their metabolism can change over time, which can affect how often they pass wastes. However, if you suspect a problem, you can try forcing the animal to swim for 15-20 min in water, rather than just soaking…watch that it doesn’t weaken and sink, however. If this doesn’t work, there can be several underlying conditions. Most common is a blockage, caused by swallowing substrate or a diet high in hard to digest foods such as mealworms and wax worms. The only way to diagnose is via a vet visit/ultra-sound; please let me know if you need help in finding a vet, and pl send along info re diet, best, Frank

  9. avatar

    An update on Winifred my never-pooping toad friend:

    Well, she finally went yesterday. I had her swim for about 16 minutes and then she went the next day. I’ve made a decision for my little toad baby, no more butterflies and moths unless as a treat because they make her not poop. Maybe I should stick to her regular crickets, worms, and lightning bugs. Thank you for the advice, Frank!

    • avatar


      Glad to hear all is going well.

      Moths are generally fine; earthworms excellent and can form majority of the diet. Use only small crickets, as larger ones are hard to digest. Lightening bugs are toxic to many amphibs and should not be used. Enjoy, Frank

  10. avatar

    Hi Frank, I live in NH and have picked up a few American Toads over the last few years as pets… The 1st is Sheldon.. a hardy fellow which we have had for nearly 2 years… Another , Jake was rescued in the yard before becoming lawnmower mulch about a year ago…. Each has had separate quarters.. A larger plastic pet carrier, filled about half way with fresh moist eco husk . and also see each other at night as their homes are side by side in our master bathroom. In fact earlier this year since we dont use the bathtub in the master bath ( we use the shower stall) we put a little bit of a toad playground, water dish moss resting areas etc in the tube and let them get some much needed exercise every few days which they seemed to enjoy. However recently Jake has been lethargic , first burrowing underground in the eco husk … and didn’t come to the surface for a few days.I could see where he was by holding the carrier up and noted that he was still breathing etc.. Both Sheldon & Jake have always had good appetites and have existing primarily on a smll/med cricket diet( from Armstrong cricket farm) although with summer they have had a few variety meats… ant, small beetles, small earth worms etc.. Anyways ,I gently pulled Jake out yesterday and placed him in the tub to get exercise and he could barely walk, he then moved a bit but seemed to be dragging a bit .. he then hopped around a bit and navigated with a slightly better ease…, but still seemed to drag himself around…. I did give them both a larger beetle about a week a go and no real ill effect as far as Sheldon was concerned , but now I am wondering if perhaps the larger beetle didn’t go through Jake… however there didnt seem to be any noticeable bulge this morning as I put Jake in a warm soak, and let him swim around for about 10 mins….The only other thing which the both tried to eat were Northern Redback Salamanders which I had scooped up with other sundry bugs… however once I noticed the toads were trying to down them I pulled them out as I wasnt sure if they would be harmful to the toads…anways,I dont have a lot of $ but we would like to try and help our little friend… any help would be appreciated

  11. avatar

    Hi Frank!

    Randy had his 6th week appt last Thursday. Xrays were amazing. We compared them to those taken when he was first diagnosed with MBD 6 weeks prior. I was just amazed – his both regrowth was just unbelievable.

    At first xray – he only had half of the bone in his upper arms – none in his lower arm and none in his toes at all. The only bone seen in his head, was just a tiny bit in his jaw (which were flexible when tested). His shoulder area also had almost no white showing.

    Now – the bones in his legs are all the way to his ankles, and he also has some bone in his toes. His skull and shoulder area on the new xray showed much more white/bone also.

    The vet considered him done, and come back only as/if needed and also ready to live with less food aggressive roommates also.

    When I first contacted them, they had said it depended on how much bone loss he had as to whether or not they would do an injection, as they found the soaking to be a safer approach. Well he was bad enough to get an injection of calcium – sorry I dont know the specifics of that, no idea of amount, he wasnt even in the room with me when he got it – they did it after they xrayed him and saw what they did.

    But for the calcium soaks – The syringe prescription said I got 23% calcium, 30ml. I mixed 10mls in a 1/2 gallon of water. I soaked him 20 to 30 min a day (I always did 30 min) and I had to replace the mixture weekly. So he got a shot of calcium, we did soakings for 3 weeks, went back – no more shots or xrays – we did another 3 weeks of calcium soakings and on our 6th week visit he had xray and was cleared of all treatment. The soaking was so very easy for me – Id put him in his container and soak him while I cleaned and changed water in all my toad swimming pools – it really wasnt any extra work at all for me to do it. When he was done, I was done too and then I moved on to feeding everyone. I did feed him everyday rather than every other day while he was in his first 3 weeks treatment – as I knew he had a lot of growth to do and needed fuel to do it. I coated his food every meal, and even though he ate everyday – it still totalled the same amount of food Id have given him if eating everyother day. My doing so didnt hurt his weight – for all three visits – his weight remained a constant 26 grams. At first I fed him in his soaking container so I could ensure he was eating and easily catching food, then he would soak after that. Later, when he started climbing his cave, up in his plants and swimming everyday – I then fed him in his home (he lived alone while healing).

    It was amazing how quickly he recovered – I was thinking Id need treat him for many many months. I love this vet – he is fantastic, and I am so lucky to have an amphibian where I have option when comes to this kind of treatment – I truly am. They recommended I do light treatment too – ReptiSun 5 UVB – I though, only did this once a week for 20 min. Hed be out, Id turn on the light – hed sit a while, but then hide completely buried. So I didnt do much light treatment at all.

    I hope this is helpful and glad I can return all the help you have given me over the years. I have a new situation I need help with, but I will post this comment and then write that one separate – as this is long and I want to keep them separate for you also.

    Thanks again for everything.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Great news…thanks very much for the detailed info, it will be very useful. You’ve done a fine job…not always possible to reverse this condition. Please let me know if you need any diet ideas for future, enjoy, Frank

  12. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Kelly again!

    Yesterday, mowing day. We had been extremely hot and dry and then got a lot of rain Saturday. I walked the yard several times to clear it of toads – found one medium size fellow. Told him it was the middle of the day, hot and toads are suppose to be hiding not walking in a yard – he was rescued from the mower.

    Then I started mowing. I made a pass and then realized I meant to move the mower higher. I stopped did so, looked back at the cutting I just did and then I saw it…. a tiny toad crawling across the grass where I just mowed.

    Frank – he is the tinest thing I have ever seen. I have adult dubia roaches larger than he. He is maybe a half inch long (that is pushing it) – and only about a quarter of an inch or so wide – he is the size of a beetle.

    Question – he recently hatched obviously – is he now eating bugs – once toads and on land are they eating bugs and no longer living on plants? I had some baby roly poly bugs (extremely young and small) – coated those and offered them but am not sure if he ate them. I have some flour beetle larvea still, so I coated those put them in a dish – he didnt eat them.

    Some of it could be that he is stressed from what has happened still – but thought I should check and even see if he is truly eating bugs at this point.

    I will get him some pinhead crickets that are as small as fruitflies, I will get him fruit flies too, some tropical roly polys eaten by dart frogs where the adults are no larger than very small roly polys that are native to North America, and I will get him some of those springtails too –

    If he cant eat bugs, or wont – I will of course let him go – he is small enough to be wolf spider food – I am not kidding.

    Any advise for Lucky, along with confirming if he does eat bugs at this point is of course so very much appreciated. (does he need a product higher in calcium than repti cal and reptivite?)

    Thank you.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Yes, once they transform toads take live food only. I’ve had some trouble rearing youngsters long term…seem to need correct nutrient balance, lots of variety, very high CA etc. Hard to provide variety at that size..the sowbugs you mentioned are excellent; aphids, if available nearby good also, as is “field plankton”..please see this article for some ideas. They do have many enemies, but fare better than other small amphibs due to skin toxins…many predators avoid them. I would coat everything with CA/vits if you decide to keep it, give as much variety as possible..perhaps a Z med 2.0 bulb also…not sure if useful, but should do no harm, best, Frank

  13. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you again. I just ordered his food and it should be here tomorrow. Going to the pet store tonight to see if they have fruit flies, that I will only use tonight – as I like the manner my onside vendor uses for their housing and food better than what the local pet stores offer.

    He will have flour beetle larvea, fruit flies, tiny crickets, tiny roly polies. I didnt get the springtails, their care kind of seemed a little complex for me, but I might rethink that.

    I did find this site that sells lab raised aphids – they say they are pea aphids – I hope this are ok for him, I will check with you before I order and feed though – and also provide you the site info too.


    On the fence about this little guy, I feel somewhat out of my realm. Perhaps I will only keep him until time the weather is not so horribly hot and dry as it has been. Although even today – during the day – after the rain we received this weekend – I heard more male mating calls.

    Thanks again!

  14. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Some of my lesser waxworms – well they are moths now. Are these safe for the toads to eat?

    Thank you!

  15. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Found some bugs – something they call a bean beetle and termites.

    Are these both safe foods – I would request worker termites and not soldier ones if safe to eat – they look soft, but I have only seen them in photos and also not sure how often they may safely be used, if even at all.

    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Both are good…termites a big part of natural diet when available; I trap them using damp cardboard as bait. Workers of some species may be a bit large, so check sizes if possible. best, Frank

  16. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    For the baby toad (smaller than a June bug) – well wanted to let you know I let him go. He was extremely extremely active – he pooped daily which for my adult toads, this is not common for them at all – and he was a 24 hour eating machine. Id feed him 2 to 3x a day – fruit flies, flour beetle larvea, weavil beetles, roly polys, and pinhead crickets – and I honestly could not keep up with his needs. Also, a week later when I mowed the yard – I found three more his size (although they were dark brown while he was a sandy brown color).

    I kept the new 3 with Lucky for one night – and then I released them all together in an area that is near a park, but due to the horrible terrain there is another 3 acres of land kept wild that can never be developed. It has plenty of woods and high grasses and a good size creek running through it, that for as long as I have lived here, even during our 4 foot deep drought 2 years ago – it never ran dry. Although close to the park, the terrain I put them in is to rough and steep for anyone to try and traverse and I am sure also has ticks on top of it to deter those that might consider it – the creek is a good depth, but is clear and when viewed you see no fish of any size that might even tempt someone to try and fish there. It was the best spot I could find, the other conservation areas near by are to close to the Mississippi river and they do flood often and also are flooded now.

    Wanted to let you know – the demands of the little ones were most unexpected and too hard to even try to keep up with and to dangerous for them for me to even attempt to.

    Take care,

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Sounds like a great plan, thanks for letting me know. The most impt thing for youngsters is to put on size, as you’ve seen…some estimates put a med sized Am toads intake for summer at 20,000+ insects; young black rat snakes can somehow tap reserves to add size even during lab-enforced fasts of 3-4 month duration! They can make do with less and slow growth to match, but ideally they eat as much as possible…enjoy and please let me know if you need anything, beat, frank

  17. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I found the below statement about dubia roaches – thinking if correct, then due to their mass/volume that I should feed them less of these than I would if I were feeding crickets – your thoughts?

    ******Their meat to shell ratio is much higher than crickets.
    They also are heavier-bodied than crickets; it would take approximately 4 – 6 crickets to equal one dubia nymph of equivalent length.******

    Thank you

  18. avatar

    I rescently caught four young woodhouse toads in my backyard in arizona. My question is how would i tell the gender i only want to keep two but i dont want the same gender

  19. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I noticed something different – maybe it is something you have seen before. Last year I found a small toad – only about 1.5 inches total length. Good news, as in the last year – he has doubled his size – if not 2.5x honestly.

    He is now larger than a toad that I have had for 3 years now. I know this other toad has grown since he came inside – but his growth is not as drastic as the other and now he is smaller than the new toad that when caught a year ago, was smaller than he was.

    Have you seen this before – should I have concerns? Both act normally, but I just happened to notice this and it seems a little odd.

    We have four type of toads in our state – only 3 are found in the area I live. One is a spadefoot toad,which honestly to me looks more like a frog than a toad. We have the American Toad and the Fowler toad – not sure if this helps you – from the photos I have they dont look much like either one really. Perhaps they are cross bred – or maybe the fella that has the slower growth rate is cross bred.

    Not sure if that might impact the difference in the growth I am seeing, but thought Id share the types we have locally in event that might be the influence.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Spadefoots are indeed frog-like, and very unique! Interesting to keep, although they will only come out after dark. Differing growth rates are very common within a single species, especially in captivity. No need to worry if all else is well. The 2 will hybridize, but I’ve not read anything indicating an effect on size. What is the 4th species you have? best, Frank

  20. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Whew – thanks so much that makes me feel much better! Maybe the younger toad’s growth might slow down after a bit – but wow, he really grew alot and fast!

    I looked at our state conservation publication about Frogs & Toads in our area – and we have the American and Fowler – but we have 2 kinds of Spadetoads – One they call the Plains Spadefoot Toad and the Eastern Spadefoot Toad.

    Both Spadetoad varieties (via the state map of their location), are by the rivers in our area. The Eastern is around the Mississippi River – from about St. Louis down to the bottom of our state (perhaps past MO but they only provide a map of MO only). The Plains Spadefoot Toad is closest to my location – but they show it around the Missouri River – both they show living more closely to the Rivers, and not having much territory past them.

    I go fishing in both, and have never seen one in person – but would very much like to. They are very very interesting looking. Not only their skin texture and their beautiful colors – but also that they eye slots run vertical and not horizontal like the American and Fowler toads. They are very darling looking!

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks…I’ve not seen the Plains Spadefoot, other than in books. They are as you say..I have an old book about them titled Gnomes of the Night, which seems to fit perfectly! They breed sporadically, during heavy rains, and so are hard to find/census. I think their conservation needs are overlooked due to this. best way to locate them, in my experience, is to search for tads in temporary bodies of water…hard to ID tads, but once they mature you may be rewarded with spadefoots. Here in NY they tend to use drainage sumps, very shallow depressions in grassy areas etc. Enjoy and pl keep me posted, Frank

  21. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I wanted to use my tap water for my toads again, as I was thining some elements it contains other than the bad ones and flouride, might be beneficial for my toads – versus have water so pure it contains almost no trace elements at all.

    I saw a different posting recommending Beta Safe – I looked hard last night but couldnt find this. I did find something by Top Fin – called Betta Water Condiitioner. Says it neutralizez ammonia, choramines and chloride and promotes a health slime coat – will this be ok to use also?

    Thank you!
    Kelly Dorr

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Yes…No trace elements, as in distilled water, is bad…leaches minerals/salts from the body. Conditioned tap water fine…the process used by all drops is the same; slime coat aspect may or may not work but should do no harm. Zoo Med’s is another option, but most tropical fish products fine as well.

      Best, frank

  22. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Thanks for the tip! I go the ReptiSafe and I love how it includes Electrolytes and even Calcium – thanks so much.

    I had bought some silkworms – suppose to be 1/2 to 1 inch, but sigh – all were over 2 inches and too large for my Toads. My vets office has a bearded dragon, and they said he does eat chow and fruits and veggies but meal worms too. She is large and I knew the silkworms werent to large for her.

    Well she loves them – they told me they hide them in her house for her to discover and runs as fast as a rat to get them – something she does not do for all her other foods. And luckily, one office worker has a mulberry tree so she has fresh leaves for them to supplement their silkworm chow. She told me the little things just eat like crazy.

    Well – I ordered more, they are suppose to be 1/4 to 1/2 inch – fingers crossed, as I cant wait for my toads to have some!

    Thanks again!

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Glad it was useful and thx very much for the story! You’ll often see a real burst of interest in novel food items, esp among insect-eating lizards that likely consume dozens of species in the wild;…while some insects are tastier than others, there’s also studies showing that many species vary their diet in accordance with nutrient needs. Always good to offer as much variety as possible; good luck with the next batch…best, Frank

  23. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Got some silkworms for the toads finally – they really loved them. I was concerned at first, as the worms little feet can really hang on to you, and thought my toads would have some trouble with that aspect. While they had some of it sticking out of their mouth after they caught it – it all went down fine.

    So even though some of my toads are large – I will feed them all the smaller size – I was really suprised at how well the worms even held on to me!

  24. avatar

    Hello Frank, lovely column and information here, thank you for listening to all of us. 🙂

    An American Toad has adopted my cabin. I live in the woods in SW Ohio, one-room cabin, four dogs. I leave the door cracked at all times so the dogs can come in and out, small fenced “yard”. This is deep woods, lots of very tall hickory, ash and walnut trees, so lots of leaf cover. The toad is about 3 inches long and for many months he has been coming into the cabin just before dawn. He goes under the bed to sleep. At night, just after dusk, out he goes again. Every day. 🙂 The dogs are used to him and nobody bothers him. When I first noticed him in the spring, I was worried that the dogs might bother him, so I picked him up many times and put him out in the woods. But the next day, here he would be again. I decided to let him suit himself. Sometimes when the lights are on at my desk, many moths come in and then he hops all around the cabin to catch them. Do you think he will try to hibernate in here? The winter temperature in the cabin stays around 55-60 F. My plan is to just let him suit himself because he could burrow outside if he wanted to. He’s a curious little fellow and I’ve grown quite attached to him. I bought him some waxworms but he has plenty of insects around here anyway. Any suggestions for the winter? So far just leaving him alone seems to be working. His name is Harry. 🙂 Thanks again for all your comments and help.

    • avatar

      Hello Amy,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Worry more about the dogs…swallowing a toad (an adult at any rate) could be fatal! (most dogs spit them out beforehand, due to the bad taste).

      Very interesting..they do establish home ranges, but often change; all seems to suit this one well.

      Yes, best to leave to it’s own devices…when confined in winter, some remain active at 55 F, others cease feeding, or become dormant; yours may move outdoors, which would be better..inside you’d need to worry about hydrations, etc if it is dormant. Please keep me posted, I’m interested to learn how all goes, enjoy, Frank.

  25. avatar

    Hi, Frank!
    Today I caught two baby toads in my sunday school classroom (not everyone can say that, I’m sure. its fairly moist in there, I’ve actually recently caught-and-released a salamander which had lived there for years) and decided to keep them. I really don’t want to release them, as I’ve grown somewhat attached and don’t want them to share the same fate as the host of frogs and toads which have thought our pool a nice place to swim and died of the chlorine… I came across this website while researching them, and was wondering if you had any advice for me.
    They’re fairly small, probably no bigger than the nail of your thumb. Right now they’re housed in a ten gallon tank with a loose fitting wire lid that used to hold my brother’s green anole. I’ve filled it with about one inch of soil from my yard, with a partially submerged piece of slate for hiding under, a reptile bowl, and several sticks and plants. I’ll be able to easily catch small crickets and rolly-polies for the remainder of summer and autumn, but don’t know what to do during the winter. I’m not sure if they’ll hibernate or not.
    One is noticeably skinnier than the other, could this be a problem? Also, how would one determine the sex of a toad this small?

    • avatar

      Hello Alicia,

      They make hardy oets but young ones can be a bit difficult as they are prone to nutritional disorders. Provide a highly varied diet, and use calcium supplements on all meals and vitamins 2-3x weekly. Sowbugs are excellent 9these can be purchased online in winter) and earthworms should also be used frequently. Remove the top layer of soil each week or so…sphagnum moss may be easier to use, and you can rinse several times before discarding. Use instant de-chlorinating drops in the water and spray the tank daily as well.

      Please see Part II and also this article for more diet suggestions.

      Growth differences are normal; animals that feed but remain thin may be harboring parasites or have other health concerns.

      They cannot be sexed until adulthood.

      They usually remain active at room temperatures during winter, but may slow down feeding a bit.

      please keep me posted and let me know if you need more info.

      Best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Hello again Mr. Diviglio,

    I commented recently on an article relating to C. horridus and kinship recognition, and I’m here again with another NY native wildlife question.

    We have the DEC Permit to collect and possess, and while we use it primarily for short-term educational captives we’ve run into a B. americanus that appears to be moving in for the long term. She(?) is about 3″ long from nose to vent, is sitting comfortably warm in a deli cup in my lap at the moment, and missing both legs on her left side. (I say her b/c at that size I’d expect to see pads on the forefoot of a male, and I don’t in this case.) Other than a few quiet squeaks or chirp noises, I haven’t heard much vocalization either. There is exposed bone in the foreleg, but I’m seeing that characteristic intelligence you wrote about, in that she won’t really let me get a good look at her otherwise. Without the foreleg, I’m certain she’ll either be eaten before she can get to a safe place, or fail to burrow deeply enough for successful hibernation. (The Farmer’s Almanac is calling for an horrendous winter here in the Southern Tier.) She’s got some secondary scrapes to her belly and stubs on the left side, which would seem to be from dragging. (Is it cruel of me to call her Eileen? 🙂 )

    So, my concerns are first, appropriate habitat. I have a brick of eco earth sitting unused, and we have sphagnum moss as well. Would a thick layer of the former with the latter over top be sufficient as substrate, given her limitations? (If needed, I can feed from a wide shallow dish to keep her insects off of the eco earth.) My concern is getting her stable enough to overwinter in the bottom of the refrigerator, and having a large enough habitat. Will a 12″ by 8″ “critter keeper” be sufficient, or should I allow her more climbing room in spite of the traction issues?

    We live in a rural enough area that the “bait fridge” at Walmart usually has wax and meal worms, and I get “dillies” for my Axolotl, which I know B. americanus will take on occasion too. Also, I have a fairly stable B. dubia colony for the tarantulas. Any reason I shouldn’t toss her a small dubia now and then? I’m concerned that crickets might end up chewing on her if she can’t move around well enough to nab them first.

    Thanks in advance!
    Becky at Smart Snakes

    • avatar

      Hello Becky,

      The animal might do better w/o substrate, as most clings to in sects and w/o the front leg it may not be able to wipe off, may swallow too much, leading to an impaction. A cage liner would be preferable, along with a small shelter and low water bowl.

      The nuptial pads appear on males only in the breeding season, although some show a thickened area year round; difficult to sex otherwise, the calls you’re hearing are mainly distress at being confined etc.

      Hibernation is risky…need to be sure gut is empty, and get temp and hydration just right…easier to keep active.

      Mealworms should be avoided; waxworms okay but only on occasion. earthworms best as basis of diet; small roaches, crickets fine unless there is an open wound; phoenix worms, butterworms good as well. Ca/Vit supplements impt.

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

  27. avatar

    Hi, Frank,
    I hope you can help. As a parent, I have tried to pass on to my kids a love and affection for all things natural. We have run the course of pets but I have prevented them from keeping wild caught animals for any length of time…frogs being the exception. Every kid needs to witness the changes from egg to hopping frog! Still, the frogs have alwaysbeen released.
    Today, everything changed. We found a very young red, American toad. Length is about an inch. It is skinnier than I am used to seeing, like a frog anatomy lesson. The cause I suspect is the fact that it is 3 legged with a healed over hind-leg nub that it still tries to hop on. It seems to spend a lot of time on its back. We have lidded aquariums here that can be set up per the instructions on your site.
    I just wondered if you had any advice on trying to care for this thing…and if we feed him well and fatten him up, should we release him as we normally would? Is this the rare creature that might be better served by a captive life?
    I know nothing is definite, but I would truly value your opinion. Thank you very much.

    • avatar

      Hello Loumaie,

      As you suspect, neither option is clearly better. At that size, they need a good deal of attention to diet…variety, lots of CA/Vit supplements, etc…perhaps difficult to provide in winter (although small insects of several types can be ordered online.) Otherwise, care fairly straightforward. They tend to get along fine with missing limbs…protected from most predators by skin toxins; being thinner is normal, but they generally get enough to eat. Red coloration is unusual, more common in some regions than others…where was t found? If you’d like to send a photo, please use findiviglio@thatpetplace.com. Best, frank

  28. avatar

    My american toad is trembling and has its back legs stretched straight back. I am not sure what is going on. It is as if she is paralyzed. Yesterday one of the smaller one, which I believe the males are smaller(?), was riding on her back and would not get off. I tried to detached them but the smaller one had the front legs so tight I could not. They are detached now, but she appears to be hurt now. What is going on?

    • avatar

      Hello Fawn,

      The smaller male was in amplexus with the female (mating attempt)…captive conditions change the normal timing of this (spring); damage may be due to amplexus….normally they would be in water, and female would produce eggs, after which male fertilizes and then detaches – or a calcium deficiency or other health concern. However, only a vet exam can diagnose the cause…please let me know if you need help in locating a veterinarian. best, Frank

  29. avatar

    My husband rescued a toad (I think it’s an American Toad, but it also could be a Fowler’s Toad.) out of a swimming pool. It was going to drown in the skimmer basket. It was tiny when he found it in June and it was difficult to find food small enough for it. It has grown a lot and seems to be doing well. However, I noticed on two different occasions, a twitching in one toe. When I read one of the responses on this forum I became more concerned that the twitching might be a sign of something wrong, or develop into the loss of use of its legs. I feed the toad crickets and sow bugs / pill bugs caught in our backyard as well as caterpillars that feed on our kale plants and broccoli. We use no pesticides or fertilizers in the garden. The kale is high in calcium, so I would think that the caterpillars eating the kale would be a good source of calcium for the toad.
    I also got flightless fruit flies for the toad when it was too small to eat anything larger. It has eaten a couple silkworms too, but those grew too big quickly and we are out of those for now.
    The toad seems healthy and moves around normally. I’m just concerned about that toe twitching I saw and I wonder if there’s anything I should be doing. Thank you for any suggestions.

    • avatar

      Hello Nila,

      The toe-twitching is normal, usually seen when the toad is approaching food; tetany associated with a CA deficiency is different….limbs shake, animal cannot move, etc. Sow bugs are especially high in Ca; other wild caught insects excellent as well. You can breed sowbugs for use in winter, order other insects online…if you need to rely heavily upon crickets in winter, feed them well beforehand and powder with a good CA supplement. Vit/ Minerals can be used 1-2x weekly as well. The articles below should be helpful, pl let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  30. avatar

    Thank you Frank for your prompt reply! I am relieved to hear that the toe-twitching is normal and it was when the toad was approaching food. I think we will try breeding sowbugs for winter too. Thanks for the information. At first I thought we might release her (I think it’s a girl, but not positive yet), but she is a delightful creature and I don’t want her to be eaten by snakes outside. We’re trying to take good care of her and she seems content enough.

  31. avatar

    Hello Frank,
    My toad ended up dying and now another one is experiencing the same thing. I had no idea that Ca was important for them. I feed them crickets only with no source of Ca. I will attempt to get some Ca powder and shake the crickets in it in the hopes that I can save this one. I feel sick that I didn’t know about the Ca and now they are in jeopardy. Hopefully my local pet store carries a powder I can use.
    Thank you

  32. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    We’ve had an american toad for the last few months about 3inches . He is eating meal worms, earth worms and a moth a couple of times. When should we expect him to hibrenate and how deep should the dirt be. We usually put potting soil mix with leaves crushed up in the tank. Will they drink water when we mist him or get it from the bowl we have in the tank and does he get some from the earth worms when he eats them. Thanks for you response.


    • avatar

      Hi David,

      Indoors they generally stay active down to 55-60F; they will move/feed less, but usually do not hibernate.

      Outdoors in Birmingham they would become dormant, although they might move during warm spells..in warmer parts of the state they may be semi-active through much of the winter. Hibernating in a tank outdoors is tricky…let me know if that’s what you are planning.

      They absorb most of their water via a patch of skin in the chest area…soaking in bowl of even on wet substrate. Some enters the skin elsewhere also, when you mist the tank.

      Best to avoid mealworms, or use only newly-molted (white) grubs. earthworms are ideal as a basis of the diet.

      Best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Hey Frank,

    Thanks for responding so quickly. We were buying the mealworms from Pet Smart and keeping them in the frig. He gobbles them up. You mentioned we should avoid them. Should we maybe just do earthworms and crickets since they are easily attainable. He seems healthly and goes wright for the mealworms and whatever we put in there. Thanks again for your response.


    • avatar

      Hi David,

      My pleasure…they always go for mealworms, but they are hard to digest (thick exoskeleton) and even with supplements etc have a very poos nutrient profile. Earthworms ideal as base, along with some crickets. If you keep a colony of mealworms, you can occasionally offer newly-molted (white) grubs. Please see this article for other ideas and let me know if you need anything, best ,. frank

  34. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Are small dubia roaches easily digestable, moreso than roly polly bugs and are they safe to feed 2x a week?

    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Dubias are a good food source and can be used often; despite the hard exoskeleton, sowbugs also readily digestible and a good Calcium source, happy new year, Frank

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks so much. Another question for you.

    I know variety is important – but I was wondering about your thoughts on something. Is it ok to feed my Toads, mostly crickets with some earthworms and waxworms during the sametime. Then later, feeding them mostly silkworms, with some roaches and earthworms and such for a while.

    Reason I ask is I had gotten some small silkworms – but holy wow do they grow fast, so we mostly ate silkworms for about 2 weeks, with some waxworm and roaches and crickets thrown in once and a while.

    Since some bugs grow so fast and since others are less expensive in bulk – wondering if I could use one source as the main diet for a couple weeks (with a couple other kinds mixed in) and them when they are exhausted, them move to another one as the main diet for a couple of weeks with others thrown in.

    Of course, using only bugs more suitable and easy to digest as the main source for the 2 weeks – e.g. never using waxworms, mealworms, or beetles as the main during any period at all.

    Thanks for your input and expertise – I so appreciate and need it!

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, the schedule you describe should be fine; most wild amphibs load up on whatever species is especially common at the time..i.e. earthworms during rainy periods, termites during mating flights etc. I would try to use earthworms regularly, and avoid mealworms other than newly-molted individuals. Best frank

  36. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks also.

    I almost forgot to tell you. Toadie got MBD. He went thur treatment the same as my toad Randy did and his xray proved very well and we were done with treatment.

    But not long afterward, I noticed he was more dormant than usual – not swimming and hiding most of the time completely buried. When I tried to feed him, it would take over an hour to finally get him to consume maybe three bugs.

    We went back to the Vet, his bones were still wonderful, but the behavior was extremely concerning and he had some exoskeleton the Vet could feel in his stomach and which also showed on the xray.

    We started the calcium soak treatment again, and I also began force feeding him, using a product by a company called Oxbow. It was called Carnivore Care. I mixed it with water and force fed him along with the soakings. The food will only keep 7 days after opened, so he was force fed by syringe for 7 days and then he did a full MBD calcium soaking treatment period of 3 weeks.

    He is fantastic now – hunting, out and a bout – pooping and swimming, it was a miracle.

    Wasnt sure if you had heard of this force feeding food option, the package shows it could be used for snakes, birds, ferrets and cats. It was so very easy to use a syringe with a special plastic tube tip on it – all I had to do was move it along his mouth and he would open it, then I would inject the food into him (I was doing 1 to 2 tenths of a 1 cc syringe based on his weight of 22 grams). The Vet tech told me the company has a program where you can input the animal type, weight, etc and that program tells you the amount of food to utilze.

    If you have not heard of this, or would like more info, let me know I still have a packet of the food I didnt need to use that I can collect more data from if you should want it.

    I have to say I was scared to death of trying to force feed him even though the Vet said his jaw bones were strong and not flimsy, but doing this by liquid with a tube on the end of the syringe was so extremly easy – for me, and extremely gentle for him.

    Thank you
    Kelly Dorr

    • avatar

      Thanks for the info Kelly.

      I’ve used similar products in zoos but was not aware of one that is available outside of zoo/vet circles; I’ll keep the info on hand and forward to others. If the animal was having trouble passing waste, best to stay with earthworms, perhaps lab-reared houseflies (wingless cultures online); not sure how digestible silkworms are..

      Sounds like you did a good job…mistakes can be made, shooting food into lungs, but you’d have known if you did that soon enough! best, frank

  37. avatar


    Thank you so much for your site. Can you please make a recommendation for me?

    I live in Ohio. I purchased and repotted a plant from Home Depot about a 6 weeks ago and placed it in my office. Last week I gave the plant a healthy watering and the next day I discovered an Eastern American Toad on the top of the soil. I have never kept an amphibian but decided to give it a try.

    I purchased a 10 gallon Zilla terrarium and filled it with moist (distilled water) Eco-Earth, provided a shallow water dish and a inverted flower pot with a suitable entrance. I then placed the (very lethargic) toad in the terrarium, and waited. He made his way to the corner and burrowed in. It is now four days later and he hasn’t moved from his original location. He is still alive as I note movement when I spritz the cage in the morning.

    I know it’s the time of year toads would be hibernating in the wild here in Ohio, but he has been at office temperatures for some time now. My question is, should I leave him alone and wait for him to come out of his burrow before trying to feed him, or should I get some crickets to place in his cage at night to see if it will bring him around?

    I guess I don’t know whether to leave him along and he’ll come out and start looking around when he gets hungry, or should try to force the issue by introducing food into the environment?

    Thanks so much. Would like to see the little guy make it.

    • avatar

      Hello Scott,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Wild-caught toads are often governed by circadian rhythms…internal “clocks”….and tend to remain semi-dormant even if warmed; especially true if hibernation has already started. many adjust to local cycles after a summer in captivity, and feed the following winter. Even though semi-active, they tend not to lose weight, as metabolism adjusts somehow. Try a few crickets – use small only – adults may chew on dormant amphibs. If it doesn’t eat, try in 10 days or so. keep moist.

      Do not use distilled water, as it leaches vital salts from the animal…one time use not a concern, but stay with bottled spring water or tap water that has been de-chlorinated (instant drops avail at any pet store).

      Please keep me posted, interesting to see how they adapt – individuals vary, best,. Frank

  38. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I just recently learned about and volunteered with an organization in my area called FrogWatch USA. It is a collaborative effort between the St. Louis Zoo and the Mo Dept of Conservation. Once I attend my training class, from April through August, I am to listen for varying frog and toad calls and document elements like species, time of day, temperature etc and then log such into a research database.

    They are collecting data to review for climate change impact, human improachment and or possible concentrations of species in certain areas. Looking to see if data advises of species relocations, declines and or increases.

    I am so excited that there is an interest and concern and that I will be assisting with this data collection along with meeting others with this same interest. I thought I had heard that they had several chapters in our area, and after my volunteer experience this year and what I experience, I very well might seek certification and membership.

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for the update…wonderful group – several friends work on projects here in the NE with Frogwatch; I hope you continue with them and others..please let me know what you see/hear when you have time, enjoy, Frank

  39. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I have tried several worms with my Toads. They refuse to eat those sold at both Petsmart and Petco. I had been buying some from a local fishing store, but they changed vendors.

    I tear the worms into bite size pieces, and noticed the ones they refused to eat were stinky when I did this – they acted well alive, but they did not smell good. The ones from the fishing store, when I did the same, had no foul odor.

    Unfortunately, he has changed vendors. The worms are labled as Europeon Nightcrawlers – but they do look like red wigglers not normal nightcrawlers, and I do need small worms for my smaller toads.

    I have concern about the new worms, as I had seen a posting by a biology professor and snake ethologist stating they had experienced some red wigglers being toxic to snakes (producing coelomic fluids) and had seen several baby garter snakes literaly puke themselves to death. They only assume such being toxic to other creatures also.

    I know you had some frogs fed soley a diet of earthworms – I was wondering if you can tell me their size and where you got those since you experienced no issues like the above. I hate when my food sources change, although I know it is bound to happen. I can tell the difference in the smell of those they will and those they will not eat, but I dont like this being my only guide.

    Since Petsmart and Petco have switched to the same vendor with foul smelling worms they refuse to eat, and now my only other source also changing vendors when I was having no such smell and great success with the worm vendor they used before, I am looking for more earthworm options in event once I try these, they also smell foul and or my toads again refuse to eat them at all.

    Thank you

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      There are thousands of species that are collected or bred, most non-native so it’s very hard to ID species…some produce foul tasting secretions…toads generally reject , so toxicity is not usually a concern; worms with dark bands on body are often rejected, I’ve noticed. NY Worms carries a species that is accepted by all, in my experience, but you may want to call ahead to double check. You can order in bulk and store-breed, let me know if you need info. All species I’ve collected (NY) have also been accepted, and breed well..if you have a safe area to collect from, try that as well. Please let me know if you need more info, frank

  40. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My Toad doctor is on vacation until this coming Sunday (I do have an appt then) – and his Toad Tech assistant isnt available to me for a couple of days so wondering if you have experienced what I am seeing with Toadie.

    Last week, his eating was not well – his tongue would not project at all most the time, and the once and a great while it did – he would hit the bug with it and not be able to hold onto it to bring it into his mouth. He is active and is trying to hunt though. I immediately thought a calicum or vitamin A deficiency was involved – although his vitamin/mineral regimen is the same as all the other toads, he has a history of issues.

    But today, I am not sure that is definately the case. All my Toads once and a while, will have issue where during a feeding, the tongue doesnt project or project well but the issue immediately resolves either that same feeding, or the next one. But today on Toadie I noticed something physically different – and I did compare what I saw to other toads I have and dont see the same.

    On his lower chin, right at the tip where it meets the upper lip – and right at the edge of it – I see a little bump. It is somewhat hard – my other toads appear to having something similar although much smaller – however, when it is touched on them – there is no resistance or hard type feeling – the area on them immediately goes flat and is flush with the rest of their chin bone.

    His outer lips look fine in appearance so I am not thinking that mouth rot is involved – I am thinking there is some sort of internal issue – although I have never heard of this and have no idea what it may or may not be, or if it may or not be contagious to the other toads.

    You ever have such experience? I hope to hear from the Toad Tech late tomorrow night – but unfortunately our doctor is on vacation until this coming Sunday.

    Thanks again

    • avatar

      Hi Kelly,

      Unfortunately it’s not really possible to diagnose…they are subject to a huge range of conditions – diseases, growths, tumors etc. – about which we know very little. Amphib medicine is advancing, so hopefully your vet will have some thoughts on the matter, but there’s nothing you can do at present. Sorry I could not be of more help, I hope all goes well, Frank

  41. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    My granddaughter caught a toad last fall and we kept it until now. We were wanting to release her back to the woods near where she caught it. It’s very healthly and has been fun to watch grow. It was probably a few months old when she caught it now it’s at least doubled in size. We fed her earthworm, crickets, and some mealworms. My question is wil she be ok to set free. Thanks for your help. Have a great day.


    • avatar

      Hello David,

      It should be fine if released, short time in captivity will not affect instincts – hunting, hibernation, etc.

      No telling if it will stay near if released in yard…they usually wander – breeding sites, etc; shelter will not keep it near, as they can push below ground or find any number of available spots; Sounds like your granddaughter did a fine job, congrats. best, frank

  42. avatar


    We live near Birmingham Ala. If we make a shelter would it hang around. Thanks again


  43. avatar

    Hello, Mr.Indiviglio
    First off I would love to thank you for providing this blog is such a good resource and extremely helpful. Now, I was wondering if you could tell me about toad hibernation. I have had my toads for several months now and have noticed that they are starting to be slower at eating or just refusing food all together until the next day. Now I know that toads are naturally active form April to November and have taken this into account,(I have also begun to switch them to every other day feeding as suggested in one of your earlier posts) My main question is how do you hibernate wild caught American toads over the winter? Do they even have to hibernate or will not hibernating cause health issues? If they must hibernate what is the procedure, do you stop feedings completely or do you dig them up and give them food, should the temperature be lowered as to induce a natural setting. Also if they are going to hibernate how will I know that it is what they are doing, because during the day some of them, not all will bury beneath the surface of the coconut fibers(I’m also switching to sphagnum moss because one of your earlier posts said that coconut fibers may cause blockage), so essentially how will I know, will they refuse food altogether, will they become lethargic because their systems are shutting down, or will they just bury? The conditions my toads live in are as follows, 80 degree tank day time 60-75 night temperature ,a tank 30 by 12 by 13 terrarium, with a shallow dish of water (changed every day) a log to hide and a hut to hide they also have a fake plant. A couple other questions I have that are not related to hibernation is when feeding I know you are supposed to dust with a calcium supplement, are you supposed to use that every feeding if you feed every other day, or once every week.

    • avatar

      hi there,

      Brumination (hibernation) is not necessary for most amphibians/reptiles when they are being kept in a captive setting. If they are beginning to become lethargic, I would double check the air temperature in their enclosure. They could be burying themselves to become closer to a heat source if you happen to be using a UTH.

  44. avatar

    your site has been a huge help for me and i’m hoping for a tiny bit more…
    this has been the year-of-the-toads for us and just one of my issues is with this gal (?) who has taken up residence in our garage.
    while this has been great, we’re worried about her staying throughout the upcoming cold michigan winter. i’m sure she could hibernate in her corner packed with leaves while it stays cold, but we sometimes use the garage and turn on the heat for sporadic periods of time as well. it would only be for a few hours at a time, and only rarely, but we’re concerned that doing so will mess up her hibernation period.
    do you think maybe we should shoo her back outside and build her a hibernacula?
    thanks so much for any help!

    • avatar


      If the garage will be reaching temperatures over 70 degrees- yes I would suggest getting her to the outdoor hibernaculum. Sudden, extreme temperature shifts are generally not good for cold blooded animals and could potentially create some metabolic issues.


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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