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 Mimics” for 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 Moss. American 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.
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.