Home | Frank's Creatures | My Animal Collection: How a Herpetologist Keeps American Toads, Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus and Related Species, Part II

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

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


American ToadAmerican toads are, in contrast to many amphibians, quite resilient in terms of temperature tolerance.   However, they do best at moderate temperatures, and in the heat of summer will attempt to burrow below the substrate.  Mine are kept at room temperature, which ranges from 62 F in winter to 78 F in the summer.  During particularly hot spells, I move them to an air conditioned room or the cool basement.

Naturalistic and “Hybrid” Terrariums

Toads also adapt well to planted, naturalistic terrariums.  A substrate of top soil and peat moss will allow them to construct burrows, which will be used repeatedly by the same animals.  Cover the soil with one of the moss-based products listed above and dead leaves in order to retain moisture.

A “hybrid” type set-up combines certain features of both styles described above.  A substrate of smooth aquarium stones (1/2 inch size or larger, to prevent ingestion) allows for live plants but deters burrowing (see photo).

R-Zilla Rock Dens serve well as shelters in such terrariums, or you can create your own using cork bark or rocks.  When designing rock caves, consider that the toads may injure themselves if able to burrow and collapse the structure.  Exo-Terra Terrarium Plants are extremely life-like and can be used to good effect in naturalistic terrariums as well.

A Terrarium for Public Display

I designed the gravel-base terrarium shown in the accompanying photo for a museum in New York City.  Zoo-Med Terrarium Moss is mixed into the gravel, which itself sits on an Under-gravel Filter Plate.  A drain cut into the tank’s glass bottom allows the entire terrarium to be hosed down.  A water reserve is kept below the under-gravel plate, creating a damp but not wet environment for the resident toads and salamanders.

Feeding American Toads and Their Relatives

Wild Caught Invertebrates

From spring through fall, I feed my toads exclusively upon wild-caught invertebrates.  A Zoo Med Bug Napper yields plenty of moths and beetles, and easily meets their needs.  However, I enjoy poking around, and so also collect tree crickets, sow bugs, harvestman (“daddy longlegs”), millipedes, termites, earthworms, field crickets and caterpillars whenever I am able.  I feed the toads just about every day during the summer (2-3 small insects each) and 2-3 times weekly when temperatures drop.

I avoid spiders, fireflies, ladybugs and brightly-colored insects, due to possible toxicity problems, and do not collect for a week or so after the area has been sprayed to control West Nile virus.

Commercially Available Insects

During the winter, I keep breeding colonies of sowbugs, earthworms and mealworms as a food source for my collection (regarding mealworms, feed toads only newly molted, or white grubs, and beetles).  The balance of the diet is made up of crickets, roaches, waxworms and butter worms.

Training your pet to tong-feed will go a long way in helping you to introduce dietary variety.  By doing so, I have been able to add Zoo Med Canned Caterpillars and Grasshoppers to my toads’ diets.

I powder feeder insects with a Tetra Repto Cal Supplement once weekly during the winter.  I’ve found that such is unnecessary in summer, when wild caught invertebrates dominate the diet.

Some Thoughts on Prey Size

I have always believed that American toads are designed, by mouth structure and feeing behavior, to take smaller-sized prey than do similarly-sized frogs (i.e. the green frog, Lithobates clamitans).  Even when feeding adult toads, I rarely use insects larger than a ½ to ¾ grown cricket.  Toads under my care are still thriving in their late 20’s and, while I cannot document such, I believe that prey size may be a contributing factor.


I’ve written other articles on toads and on amphibian care in general.  Please check out the following when you have a chance:

Canned Insects and other Invertebrates – An Important New Food for Pet Reptiles and Amphibians

Making the Most of the Mealworm: some tips on enhancing the nutritional value of this pet trade staple

Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptile and Amphibian Pets – approaches to consider

Terrestrial Isopods (Sowbugs, Pillbugs, Potato Bugs) As Food for Captive Reptiles and Amphibians

The Marine Toad, Bufo marinus (recently re-classified as Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Part I, Natural History


  1. avatar

    Thank you so much for your quick reply. We are outside Carlisle and Dr. Greenwalt was the only vet around that would treat my ratties (rip) a few years ago. I will call or stop by their office and ask today. Again, I thank you so much.
    Kelley Bollinger~and Hopper

    • avatar

      Hello Kelley, Frank Indiviglio here.

      My pleasure; I can refer you to a vet who consults via phone, but he would need to call a prescription in to a local vet, and the injection would need be done there; please let me know if you need that info.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hello! I’ve got a seasonal home in upstate NY and I’m noticing a ton of toads living in the garage. I’m concerned because I often have the garage door closed for long periods of time and I really don’t want to trap them in there with no way out. Frost and freeze season is soon approaching so please advise what I can do — should I leave flowerpots with soil in the garage in case my poor toads get locked in there? Please help!! Thank you and Best Rgds…Pattie

    • avatar

      Hello Pattie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Interesting question, I applaud your concern. Toads are well known for finding there way in and out of garages, basements, etc….have they been there over time, or can you find out if you are new to the home? It may just be part of their normal pattern; perhaps they enter and exit via unseen cracks in the walls, etc. toads have a natural antifreeze that allows them to survive the winter – in the wild, they go below ground but are still exposed to sub-freezing temps; the garage may be fine for overwintering. Dessication is another concern – is there a source of moisture?

      If they have recently been trapped there, via an open door, then the only sure way to ensure survival would be to capture and remove them. Spraying the garage with a house after dark on a warm night and returning in a few hours, or leaving out pans of water, will encourage them to move about.

      Please write back with a bit more info,

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    I’ve owned the home for the past 8 years and commute up there for the weekends. I guess this has been going on??? But this past summer I’ve spent much more time up there so the garage has been open pretty much the whole summer. It’s very damp and moist where I am so it’s necessary for aeration to have the garage open whenever possible. I have a little fountain outside of the garage and toads from big to small are using it for nightly dunks. When I haven’t been upstate I’ve left the side door to the garage open so they can get out…and lol who knows what else is coming in! Before I close up for the winter I can try to do a sweep of the garage but there are just so many places for them to hide and it can be tough for me to get to them because of all my storage items…. but would the toads leave the garage on their own when they sense the temp drop or is the garage an ideal place for them to ride out the winter?
    So lets say worst case scenario is a straggler or two gets stuck in the garage until spring…would pots of soil and pans of water laid about help them survive? I usually open up the place in April.
    Thanks again for your help…i did research on the net and found nothing about this — but I sure have learned a lot about my nighttime friends…the toads =)

    • avatar

      Hello Pattie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. I’d suggest a pile moist of dead leaves – this will attract them and make removal easier, and may help any that are trapped. Pans of water as well. They usually burrow deep (2 feet or so) and this would be hard to accommodate, but a leaf pile plus buffering effect of walls may help.

      Hard to say if they would leave on their own, but very possible – toads live 20+ years and seem to have distinct home ranges and may use the same hibernation sites for years.

      Since you need aeration, I urge you to work out a system where a screen could be left in –place somehow; rodents (deer mice, Norway rats if present, chipmunks, voles, etc.) will, without question, establish themselves and can present a significant health risk – fleas, ticks, lyme disease, etc. It would be a good idea to set traps and poison as well.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Thank you so much Frank for your advise! That is a good…no..great idea with the leaf pile! I’ll bring a little bit of outside into the garage for any toad that I can’t round up. I can also accomodate the 2ft depth that they require as I have some pretty large receptacles at my disposal. I’m going to make it that any toad that gets left in my garage will have top notch accomodations and I do overwinter my perrenials in the garage and they’ve done alright so those buffering walls are doing their job! You are a real lifesaver (literally for the toads lol) answering all these questions so I just want to thank you again. I expected to find some good information about my dilemma on the web, instead I found nothing …but I never thought I would get “personalized” help about this. I’ve definitely bookmarked this page!!! All the best to you and keep hoppin’ lol sorry I couldn’t help myself.

    • avatar

      Hello Pattie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      My pleasure…and thanks so much for the kind words. I think they’ll be fine; toads are quite tough. I know of 2 Colorado River Toads that were trapped in a space under a concrete pool for at least 10 years, and emerged fat and healthy when the pool was removed; have also found American toads apparently frozen solid but which thawed out and hopped away in spring.

      Please keep an eye on my articles when you can (3 new ones posted each week) and write in anytime.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Dear Frank,
    I live in North Mississippi and have (what I think may be American Toads, Fowler Toads or Woodhouse’s Toads that have spent the summer in my potted plants on my porch. the weather is turning cooler and one frog (my favorite) has spent the past 3 days completely under the dirt in my shamrocks plant. It is an oblong type pot and so it is longer than it is deep ( maybe 6 inches deep). I am wondering if I need to dig the frogs out of the pots and show them to the flower bed? I don’t want them to feel evicted because I like them, but I would be brokenhearted if I found Hopper or Red frozen in my flower pot over the winter. Will they move when they cant burrow deep enough, and will it be too late by then? I know that frogs have the ability to survive on their own but I am afraid that I may have interfered by making the pots available~ I did try to discourage them, but they are just too darn cute and can hop pretty high, lol. I put the potted plants up on bricks and built frog houses out of potting soil and turned them on their sides. They used them for a while, but then moved back into the plants. The frog houses are still there, but my friends moved out. So, anyway…. should I leave them alone, or dig them out?



    • avatar

      Hello Lauren, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the interesting story; toads are very interesting to have around, aren’t they? I’ve run into a few similar cases recently. Difficult to say for sure – toads produce a natural antifreeze that helps protect them, but in your region they probably would go below 6” when it gets cold. So I think the safest course would be to relocate them – choose a warm day so that they will be active when moved. They are very territorial and so might remain in the pots even if it is not the ideal winter retreat. In spring they may return if you have the same sort of conditions available for them.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    I have what I believe is an emergency. My one toad wasn’t acting very active the past few days, and when I went to change the water tonight I found him sitting on top of the fake fern. He is very bloated, and there is something long stringy and gooey running from his mouth to his one foot. His eyes are glossy and his mouth is partially open and he is breathing very slowly. I’m not sure what to do. none of the vets are open around here right now and I do not believe they treat toads.

    • avatar

      Hello Ookami, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Sorry to hear the bad news; it’s difficult to diagnose via email (or, for toads, even upon an exam) but the symptoms you describe usually indicate a bacterial infection (bloating is caused by gasses released by the bacteria). This can arise from any number of sources – perhaps a fouled water bowl or substrate; please write back with your cleaning schedule and we can talk a bit more about possibilities.

      Another problem involves parasites – most wild caught toads harbor some, which in the wild may cause no problems. However, in close confines large populations can build up, leading to a severe problem.

      Unfortunately, there is not much you can do without medication. Please check your state in this listing of Herp Vets; if none are nearby call any within state and ask for a reference. Sadly, even with treatment most do not survive once an infection has progressed to the degree you describe. The toad will not likely soak, so it’s a good idea to spray it so that it does not dehydrate.

      Sorry I cannot provide better news; please let me know how all foes and write back concerning cleaning, etc. as well.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Well their substrate was just added withing the last few weeks, I usually wipe the inside of the tank walls off with warm water. I cleaned the water dish out with hot water and refill it everyday.
    I’m looking at the list of pen vets now. I have been misting him more because he seems to sit in one spot for awhile. He wasn’t on the plant today, he was sitting under the one half cork-round and was still quite bloated wasn’t breathing quite as laborious and he didn’t have anything coming from his mouth. His eyes are still glossy.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      It’s a good idea to remove a thin layer (an inch or so) of substrate from the surface each week; toads often defecate in their water bowl, but may pass uric acids into the substrate. If you add a fluorescent light, you can use hardy live plants, which help take care of wastes as well – please let me know if you need more ideas on this, or on using washable/replaceable terrarium liners, moss, etc.

      Best to use an instant dechlorinator in water used for the bowl and to spray the toad (sold in pet stores, tropical fish section).

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    I will start doing that more often then. I do do the at times just not as frequently as I should I’m guessing. I had live plants in the old tank with lighting but the guys seem to like to sit on them and kind of crushed them all. Is there any plants that you think I could add that wouldn’t get crushed or at least not quite as quickly. Is spring water(the kind you get in jugs at Walmart) okay to use. I usually don’t use our house water for anything because Ive tested it in the lab and its not fit for human consumption and my crabs can’t have it. I figured i would chance using it for the toads either. We live in the center of an apple orchard and the sprays get into the well i believe.
    Lavi(the ill toad) was moving around when I went to spray the tank today, still doesn’t look well though. his eyes kind of look watery.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. Chinese Evergreens, Cast Iron Plants and Snake Plants are all very sturdy and do fine in low light levels. They are popular house plants and should be easy to find. Pothos also, but needs a bit more light.

      Good idea on the water – amphibians absorb everything through their skin and so are vey sensitive. If the toads were collected locally, pesticides, fertilizers could play a role in what’s going on also; lots of news on Atrazine problems these days. Avoid distilled water (leaches salts from amphibs).

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hi, Frank, I’ve really appreciated reading your advice. Been very helpful to a new toad caregiver.

    I have two American/Fowlers toads (I can’t really tell which one), and one of them seems to be coming down with what I can tell is red leg. He/she’s always had a bit of reddish orange to his/her coloring, but now there is a bit of pinkish “blushing” on the underside of legs. From what I’m reading, making sure the toads’ environment is cleaned routinely and given fresh water is best, but I didn’t know if there was something better or more effective that you’ve found. Haven’t really found a vet in my area to take them to. Thoughts?


    • avatar


      Thanks for your interest and the kind words.

      Both species do have a pinkish blush, which can change in intensity over time. However, bet to be safe. If it is red leg, it can spread quickly (red areas) and you may see broken skin. Methylene blue is a good choice if you cannot find a vet (sold as a tropical fish med). Please see this article for details; use just enough to cover the toads abdomen…don’t force it to swim.

      I may be able to send some links to in state vets; if you’d like me to look, please let me know your location.

      To distinguish the 2 species, check the paratoid gland (large poison gland behind the eye). In Fowler’s Toads, the paratoid touches the cranial ridge, which is the raised line of bone behind the eye.

      Please let me know if you need any further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I just read through all of your articles on American toads and all of the comments on this article to make sure no one has asked my question before.

    I live in southeastern Virginia and found what I believe to be a female American Toad last Thursday. I have never owned a herp before, but I am just in love with toads. I have her alone in a 10-gallon tank with 3-4 inches of substrate, a half-log, and a little ‘pond’ with rock stairs that lead out of it. The first night I had her, I ran out to petco and bought 20 small crickets. She ate them all in one day. I’ve read more since then and have been feeding her fewer larger crickets. I’ve also fed her a moth that I found outside, and plan to feed her more wild-caught “approved” insects once it gets a little warmer and they are more prevalent.

    Yesterday, she shed her skin, which I had already come to expect from my reading. She was super damp-looking after she shed, but she looked fresh and happy. She buried back under her log afterward and I did not see her until I got back from all of my classes today. She is several shades darker now than she was yesterday! She was an olivey-green with lighter green and brown touches, but now she is nearly black, like the color of a ripe avocado skin. She is also moving a little sluggishly compared to when I first caught her, but maybe she is getting used to her environment and just relaxing some? I was also worried that she may be cold, since I’m keeping her in an air-conditioned dorm room.

    Thank you so much for your time,

    • avatar

      Hello Katie,

      Thanks for your interest.

      ½ grown crickets are preferable to adults, as adults carry a good deal of indigestible material (wings, lg rear legs); usually sold as “Half inch crickets”. Best top feed the crickets for 2 days or so before offering to toad. You can use fish food flakes and orange/apple, or commercial products as described here. Be sure to use supplements as mentioned, especially while you are relying heavily on crickets.

      Earthworms are one of the best foods; can form the bulk of the diet. Can be collected from pesticide free areas or bought at some pet/bait stores. Breeding info here.

      Color changes are normal…in response to temperature, humidity and shedding. They remain active at 55F or even a bit lower, but will be slower, eat less. Cool temperatures are preferable, in general, for these and most native amphibians. Fungal, bacterial infections common at higher temperatures.

      Wild caught toads have parasites; normal loads generally do no harm, but best to change substrate once weekly early on, to keep populations down (eggs usually passed in feces). An experienced amphibs vet can run fecal tests and medicate, but this is not always necessary and meds can be hard on their systems. Please let me know if you need help in locating a vet at some point.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

    • avatar

      Hello Katie,

      Thanks for your interest.

      ½ grown crickets are preferable to adults, as adults carry a good deal of indigestible material (wings, lg rear legs); usually sold as “Half inch crickets”. Best top feed the crickets for 2 days or so before offering to toad. You can use fish food flakes and orange/apple, or commercial products as described here. Be sure to use supplements as mentioned, especially while you are relying heavily on crickets.

      Earthworms are one of the best foods; can form the bulk of the diet. Can be collected from pesticide free areas or bought at some pet/bait stores. Breeding info here.

      Color changes are normal…in response to temperature, humidity and shedding. They remain active at 55F or even a bit lower, but will be slower, eat less. Cool temperatures are preferable, in general, for these and most native amphibians. Fungal, bacterial infections common at higher temperatures.

      Wild caught toads have parasites; normal loads generally do no harm, but best to change substrate once weekly early on, to keep populations down (eggs usually passed in feces). An experienced amphibs vet can run fecal tests and medicate, but this is not always necessary and meds can be hard on their systems. Please let me know if you need help in locating a vet at some point.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar


    How are you doing! Hope you are doing well!

    Well it’s been a long time since my last message on this board — measured in 1000s of days! I wonder if you’re still reading messages here.

    Anyway, after a few years of raising and releasing toadlets, I got discouraged, in part because my source for tadpoles in the spring vanished.

    But this year, I thought I’d give it a try again. I’ve got 20 or so american toad tadpoles in an aquarium again. They are from rural Alabama, via eBay. I was shocked to see them arrive packed in two small plastic water bottles, filled about a third each. I guess the idea was that there was air in the bottle that would keep them oxygenated on the long trip in the mail. But can you imagine the bumpy ride that must have been! Previous orders from other places arrived in plastic bags that were designed for shipping fish.

    They were all alive on arrival, but around 1/3 died within a day or so. The remaining tads seem pretty strong.

    I’m feeding them dandelion and spirolina flakes. I also got a small jar of water from a vernal pool and added that to the tank, thinking that this water would contain stuff they like to eat. (You’d recommended “pond water” — would vernal pool water also contain the diatoms, etc. that they need?)

    I went and re-read all our previous correspondence, and feel daunted at the difficulty of trying to establish toads here. The numbers are against success — but also, the relentless assault on the habitat practiced by all my neighbors (weekly blasts of leaf blowers, no loose material anywhere, hard-packed chemically stimulated lawns). This feeling comes also because I’ve been visiting the vernal pools up in South Mountain Reservation here in Essex County NJ. We went up in late March and heard spring peepers and then in the last few days, I’ve been back to find the pools teeming with tadpoles of various sizes. So even if the surrounding residential neighborhoods are impoverished, amphibians are hanging in there up in the woods…

    • avatar

      Hi Jonathan,

      Fine here, thanks..I hope you and yours are well. I recall our correspondence; I get email notices when comments are posted, so it’s easy for me to stay in contact.

      Vernal pond water is fine, although due to their small size pollution from pesticides, road run-off etc can be a concern. The micro-organisms may be taken as food, especially vital for salamander larvae, less so for toad tads. the tads will relish algae-covered sticks, however.

      Suburban neighborhoods are usually rough habitats for toads, as you mention; I see the same on LI and in other parts of NJ. grey treefrogs usually do better is such situations..I still find them in well-developed areas, incl Queens, the Bronx and LI. Small parcels of woodland/fields will allow populations to hang on, fortunately.

      Enjoy, pl let me know how all goes, Frank

  12. avatar

    Great to hear from you…
    These pools are pretty protected from suburban runoff — they are in a valley that has no suburbs above it, really.


    I’ll see if I can get an algae covered stick!


  13. avatar


    I have been reading through your blog and your extensive knowledge is really quite incredible. I am attempting to captive breed American toads in an evolution and ecology lab in order to explore adaptations to local environments. I was wondering if you or your colleagues had had experience captive breeding American, or related toads. Any help, or suggestions in this matter would be greatly appreciated.



    • avatar

      Hello David,

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      Related species usually breed best when subjected to a cooling off period of 4-6 weeks, preferably during fall or winter, after which they are placed in a rain chamber with a large water area. Human growth hormone injections and similar hormones used to stimulate African Clawed frogs may also be effective, sometimes independently of season, etc. I’ll be zaway from the compeuter for the next 1-2 days, but will send details re above after that and will also check if any contacts have useful info,

      Best, frank

  14. avatar


    Thanks for your quick reply, I will await further information.

    Thanks again,

    • avatar

      Hi David,

      Just heard back from a friend who worked on the Wyoming Toad, A. baxteri project. Due to rarity/zoo interest, there’s more info on this animal than most of the American Toad’s relatives. Biology varies, but general principles apply. A 4 week “winter” at 40F, followed by rain chamber treatment, did not work all that well. Hormonal stimulation was effective; please see this article.. Wyoming’s Fish/Wildlife Agency is still working with this species, may have updated info.

      For other anurans, I’ve used kits marketed for lab studies of African Clawed frogs (Ward’s etc) without the additional steps described in article. A vet experienced with amphibs could give you proper dosage for American Toads..unfortunately I don’t recall.

      If you want to try w/o hormones, I’d suggest 4-6 weeks at 38-40F (be sure digestive tract is empty, and reduce temps over 7-10 days in damp sphagnum moss, followed by confinement in a rain chamber (as large as possible). Here’s info on simple rain chambers; commercial models available I believe.

      {PL keep me posted and let me know if you need any info, enjoy, Frank

  15. avatar


    Thank-you for the information, I’ll get them chilling and in a rainchamber as soon as possible. If that doesn’t work then I will definitely pursue the hormonal stimulation and let you know how it goes.

    Thanks again,

    • avatar

      Hi David,

      My pleasure, I hope it goes well. Not sure if they can be cycled with temperature changes out-of-season; would be interesting to know (some frogs can be); look forward to hearing more, Frank

  16. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I really need your help! I just bought a house with a koi pond here in south Texas and I have toad trouble. I have identified the species down to the gulf coast toad and I know I have at least 6 large adults at night and what seems like hundreds of babies jumping around during the daytime. They have dug extensive holes around the foundation of the house and concrete patio and some go four feet deep. I like what the benefits of the toad are but I dont know what to do. We have filled in holes and they just dig out or start new ones! Any suggestions?

    • avatar

      Hi Shannon,

      No real way to discourage toads other than to make the habitat unsuitable…concrete, etc. You may want to set some small mammal live traps at night, or have a rodent exterminator check the area…I’ve worked with many species in the field, and do not know of any that can cause any concerns via digging, or which construct 4 foot burrows. They do utilize the burrows of gophers, ground squirrels, rats, etc., so this may be what you are seeing.

      Best, Frank

  17. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you very much for this great resource and taking the time to answer our questions.

    About a year ago I had inquired about a White’s Tree Frog having a prolapse and as suggested, I brought her to a local vet specializing in reptiles and amphibians after a sugar water bath didn’t work. The vet discovered a lump which he later determined during an autopsy to be a 1.5″ – 2″ tumour on her intestine (I had opted to have her euthanized as she seemed in distress).

    If I may trouble you with another question: this past June I caught an American Toad in my backyard for my nephew. Despite having a very good appetite, it had not produced any waste and was getting quite bloated after about four weeks. At the beginning of August I placed it in a warm water bath and after about 30 minutes it produced quite a large piece of waste. Unfortunately it has not produced any further waste on its own.

    Housing is a 10 gallon tank with a chemical-free top soil substrate mixed with cocoa fibre that’s kept damp to the touch. There is a hide along with a water dish that’s changed every other day or so. Diet has been primarily crickets along with the occasional butter and wax worms. Ambient temperature has been around 75F though it has been cooling to around 65F (there isn’t any artificial heating or an overhead light).

    Would you have any thoughts on why the toad isn’t producing any waste? And do you have any suggestions for improvement in terms of housing?

    Thanks in advance,

    Ottawa, Canada

    • avatar

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the kind words and update, much appreciated.

      Soil and especially coco fiber are easily swallowed and may slow down excretion or cause a blockage. Although toads live on similar substrates in the wild, tghings change in captivity…diet, hydration, calcium levels and other factors influence digestion and the passage of wastes. Sphagnum moss and/or dead leaves seem to work very well.

      Use 1/2 grown crickets if you are not already…adults have a higher proportion of indigestible material…wings, rear legs, etc. Avoid waxworms as they have extra thick exoskeletons it seems, and may be hard to digest. Add earthworms if possible..these are good as a staple. This article contains more info on useful foods.

      They usually remain active at temps in the low 60’s or even lower, but will slow down a bit; some wild caught adults may become semi-dormant even at those temperatures, but most continue to feed

      Please let me know if you need anything, enjoy, Frank

  18. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you very much for your prompt and informed reply. It’s really appreciated as always.



  19. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Just a quick update that we implemented your suggestions along with taking the precaution of only feeding in a bare-bottom cage. When he finally left a “little” present in his enclosure, you’d have thought it was Christmas morning with our level of excitement and he’s since left a couple more.

    Thanks again for your assistance and advice.

    With much appreciation,


  20. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    David Here again just wanting to provide and update on the toad breeding. I’ve tried different treatments of cooling and refrigeration to simulate winter, and rain chambers but no success as of yet. I’m currently running them through an accelerated year with cooling and day/night cycles. I will let you know how things progress.

    Thanks again for you help,

  21. avatar

    Hello Frank -Thank you for your interesting articles.

    My toads burrow in the winter – I’m keeping them in rather shallow substrate this year ( only 2-3 inches).
    Should we “uproot” the toads during the winter in order to put clean dirt / fresh substrate ?

    Im concerned more now that the substrate is shallow – worried about ill effects of ammonia or skin irritation from any possible waste …

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,

      Thanks for the kind words. have you overwintered them before? Waste is not usually a concern in true hibernation, but there are other things to consider., please send some details re past winter, temperature etc when you have a moment, thx, best, frank

  22. avatar

    Hi -yes, this is the third winter for one of the toads, and the first winter for the other toad.

    I used to keep a deep substrate, a mix of dirt and peat moss. Every spring I would wait as long as I could stand to, them finally dig my little girl up, worried thst she had perished…

    She was always very deep and the dirt was so compacted by then, that each time I thought she must have died from being unable to escape the hardened dirt. I believe she was stuck because toads would have been out by the time I dug her up…

    Each time dhe was in good condition, but almost entombed in dense dirt. I did drizzle dechlotinated water every once in a while, so she wouldnt dessicate ( since outside she would have rain and snow meltkng occasionally, to keep her from drying out.

    Anyway, this yesr the dtores eere out of yhe big bale of peag moss, and I was worried thst topsoil alone would encase her (them) even worse yhan a mix of peat and soil.

    So I kept it shallow. I put a cave over one and spagnum moss over the other.

    Then I resd repeated stories in here about bacteria and red leg, and worry about waste or bacteria build up over winter.

    She used to be about 6 inches underground, and this way, their heads are above the dirt.

    Forgive the typos- not easy on a small devise. : )

    • avatar


      It’s actually not all that easy to hibernate toads at home…losses are common with other species when we do so in zoos. Since you’ve done so well (congrats!), I would go back to a deeper substrate. Mix in more sphagnum with the soil, which will keep it looser and prevent compaction. You should be able to order a small bag of peat moss on line as well…I’d do that; peat (and sphagnum) acidify soil a bit; this could play a role in your success – keeping down bacteria, etc.). Spray a bit more over the winter as well; use cold water so as not to change surrounding temperature too much.

      Bacteria/red leg are more of a problem when the animals are active, defecating, etc. The toad will not be digesting/passing waste so waste buildup should not be a concern. During hibernation, the immune system slows down…micro-organisms that function at lower temperatures can sometimes become dangerous, but since you’ve not seen those problems, I wouldn’t worry.

      Interesting that the toad hibernates at those temps, as that is well within their active range. An internal clock may be involved…this happens with many amphibs and reptiles that are kept warm when they usually hibernate. But in those cases, they tend to remain active, but refuse food.

      Do the temps stay at 68-70 overnight as well?

      Please let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  23. avatar

    Oh I forgot to answer this – the temperatue is room temperature – apx 68 degrees – 70.

  24. avatar

    Hi yes the temps have been actually 69 -70 at night for the last 3 winters ( I realised this will be her 4th winter, because I’ve dug her up 3 times already…

    Theres no way she could have gotten out by herself – it was difficlt for me to get her dug up, and I’m a lot stronger than her tiny arms would be.

    This winter im running the night temps at 68 -69. The new toad followed suit and buried for the winter about a week after the first one did….

    Thanks for the advise – I’ll get pest and spaghnum added to a deeper level.

    The first two years it was nerve-wracking digging her up – it was slow and dcary- trying not to hurt her, bdcause I never knew where in the tank she was buried…

    The dirt was so hard it was awful. Adding spaghnum to make it less dense is a great idea… I was surprised how compacted ghe peat moss became (because its so light weight ) -but I guess it turned more like the “bricks” before you break them up.

    • avatar

      Thanks…that’s very interesting…those I’ve kept, remain active and feeding at 60 F, possibly lower; do you know where the toad was collected?, I’m assuming its an American Toad, Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus? …they have a wide range, and different populations may be “wired” to hibernate at different times.

      The sphagnum and regular spraying should help; I’d hesitate to remove the peat, since I’m not sure of its role in all.

      Healthy toads are quite resilient…there’s stories of individuals being trapped in small cavities in building walls for years, then being released with no ill effects. Decades ago, I was dismantling a concrete pool that was part of a window exhibit in a pet store. I was shocked to see 2 fat Colorado River Toads hop out; spoke with manager and we figured they had crawled into crevices when small, and were sealed in by later renovations…had to be 7-8 years prior. They apparently had some room to move a bit, insects and moisture found their way in, etc…but still, things often go wrong when we try to overwinter them , so you’ve done very well. Please let me know your diet (well, toads diet!) when you have time, best, Frank

  25. avatar

    Hi That’s amazing that those toads survived being trapped like that…

    These are from St. LOUIS Missouri. I havent tried to identify which kind they are – I assumed they are American toads. Would love to see photos of the cranial etc difference (side by side) for those and fowlers, to be able to distinguish for certain. (The written description alone is less clear for me).

    My diet needs improving lately – : ) The toad that I’ve kept for 3 years had mostly mealworms, mealworm beetles occasionally, and crickets. Only a few slugs that I found in the garden and some sowbugs. Not many.

    I dusted with calcium powder and multivit .

    I fed the mealworms healthy food ( raised my own) – I recently read your notes on how earthworms are a better choice and switched now to those. Im so glad !!

    Because I had a horrible experience with mealworms- I fed them well, to gutload them, but it made the container too moist and soon there was a mass of moving living golden fuzz climbing up and out of the contsiner, and onto other things next to the mealworm box…

    It was like a horror movie… then I read you cant kill it – bleach, boiling, freezing etc nothing kills it. They were grain mites. And they are so tiny they can get in your lungs snd also make your arms and head itch…. It was gross… So im very glad to switch to earthworms : )

    I fed the mealworms banana peel, oats (1 minute oats), cream of wheat, sometimes apple slices or potato slices, carrot slices, and whole 12 grain bread, crushed cat + dog food. So several things could have started the mites… had losses in mealworms with the dog and cat food….oh – the entire mealworm colony died once when I put peanut butter (mixed with the oats – like I feed to the mockingbirds) too much protien I guess.
    Anyway if a mealworm colony gets too damp (sometimes I put lettuce and celery and lawn clippings in ghere also) — the dampness can set off the mites like crazy… I was always worried the mealworms would die from lack of moisture, so I gave too much damp food..

    Long story to say the toads got a wide variety of vits through the mealworms that way – but not all good came of it. 🙂

    Happy to switch to earthworms now. Much better. The skin craly feeling from the mealworm mites was awful. Even put slme in the freezer snd “sparkles ” grew in there… im sure it was the mites. So small that they are invisible unless in collective moving masses.

  26. avatar

    (Forgive typos -hard to type on a tablet)

    I put some mealworms in the freezer and the (mites) sparkles started growjng in the freezer…

    Ps I added apx 7 inches total of substrate and offered food to the toads ( the new one ate hungrily) and had them both soak in their water bowl. Three days later the toad that I’ve had for 3 years buried deeply… the new toad buried her body, but with her little face out of hhe dirt… so maybe she wont bury deeply this first year.

    Do you hsve suggestions or concerns about her not burryjng complrtely ?

    My tendency would be to place her in her feeding tub and let her eat if dhe wsnts to – every month or week maybe ? Snd place her in ghe wster nowl for a mandiyoty dosk for wster so she doesnt dry out.

    • avatar


      Thanks for the update and your mite-horror story! No need to worry abut how deeply the toad burrows….as long as there is substrate around the body and you moisten that area, the toads will not dehydrate. I would not unearth to feed. You might try offering food in the terrarium, just to see if there’s interest.

      Re ID the Peterson Field Guide to reptiles and Amphibians of the Eastern/Central USA is the best resource. Any library will have or can get it; available on Amazon etc as well. Best, Frank

  27. avatar

    Okay thanks – good to know. Thanks for your help and advice.

  28. avatar

    Hi -just wanted to say hi. ? ? My one toad is still buried deeply, and the new toad is still buried , but with her little face above the dirt… I melted some snow to room temperature and poured that on them recently, to keep them hydrated…

    I read somewhere that rain water and snow have good things in them (and not the chemicals that are in the tapwater etc) so thought it might be benificial. I usually use rain and snow water on occasion…

    (Room temp)

    Are any of your american toads hibernating ?
    Hope youre faring okay with this harsh winter – missouri has deep as now and very cold… best –

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,

      Thanks for the update. De-chlorinated tap or, if necessary due to copper supply lines, etc., bottled water is preferable to rain water. No evidence, as far as I know, of any benefit to rain/snow (content varies widely in any event, so a study would need be done exactly where you’d be gathering water, in order to be relevant). Could even be harmful, as rain can carry pollution from points thousands of miles away, and is the primary cause of acidification of water and soil even in otherwise protected/pristine environments. I keep most native amphibs active, at 58-62 F, unless they show signs of slowing down naturally, as did yours. Eastern Spadefoot Toads did this, and so are kept at app. 54F.

      Cold here but a walk in the park compared to Missouri, thanks! Temps below freezing and any bit of snow sends NYC area into panic mode…different further north in the state, where people are well-adjusted to severe winters. A happy and healthy new year to you and yours, Frank

  29. avatar

    Thank you –
    Glad to hear that dechlorinated tap water is just as good and even safer than rain and snow water –
    Its certainly a lot less effort as well ! : )

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,
      Glad the info was useful; the only problems I’ve ever encountered were in 100+ year old zoo buildings with copper pipes (copper leaching, usually after water was in pipes all night); Enjoy and pl keep me posted, frank

  30. avatar

    Its kind of sad that the “outdoor” toads are being possibly harmed by natural rain and snow wster – from human pollutikn …

    Oh I keep forgettjng to ask you about this –

    A couple years ago I found the most interesting turtle in missouri – I’ve had no luck in identifying it at all…

    I wanted to keep it but thought I better leave it where I found it, so it could *hopefully* breed and make more babies…

    It was so cool – it coulsd shut itself into a ball… with no legs, henad, or tail showing at all… just

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,

      Yes..pollution carried by rain and snow, acid rain etc are especially troubling because even undeveloped, pristine environments can be affected. Amphibians, with their porous skins, are particularly vulnerable, best regards, Frank

  31. avatar

    (Sorry-every time I try to edit my post, it bounces me away from this section…so my posts are always so messed up full of typos…

    Anyway most turtles can “tuck in” but you can still see thier head legs and tail .

    This one, all you could see was a shell, completely closed up. Like a clam shell.

    Any idea what type it was .

    A new undiscovered species . Or… .

  32. avatar

    Hi I was having difficulty posting last might –

    I keep forgetting to ask you about a really nice turtle that I found a few years ago, in missouri.

    I cant locate any ID for what type it is, and have never seen one like it before, or since.

    It wasa little bigger than a soft ball, could move relatively fast, and could close its shell up, in a way that completely hid its head, tail and legs…

    Like a closed clam. ?.most turtles can “tuck” their head, legs and tail in a little, under the edge of their shell, but you can still see their head, legs and tail.

    This one closed up like a ball, completely closed, with no head, legs or tail to be seen at all.

    I loved that turtle and wanted to keep it, but thought it was so neat, that I should leave it where it was, hoping it would find a mate and produce more of its kind.

    Any idea what kind it might be ?

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,

      It was likely a Box Turtle…several species are found from s Canada through the USA to Mexico..they differ widely in coloration, but all have those amazing hinges that allow them to seal up the shell (although captives often get too “fleshy” to do so!). They were once rather common in some places…as a child, I could even find them in the Bronx, and in most NYC suburbs. Unfortunately, road mortality has greatly reduced their populations, and thousands were sent into the European pet trade until that practice was outlawed. Today, most states protect them, and captive breeding for the pet trade here in the US is becoming more common. They can make very good, responsive pets – that have been documented living to 100+ years! – but need lots of room and attention to environmental needs;this article has details on natural history and care; you can see photos of the various types here. Did you see the turtle in a rural or developed area? Best, Frank

  33. avatar


    I have actually had experience with the water in an old museum building causing rapid and widespread mortality among American toad tadpoles. Contamination from the pipes caused mortality among the majority of the tadpoles in less than 24hours, showing how sensitive they can be to pollution and heavy metal contamination. When I switched to distilled water that was adjusted with RO Right the mortality dropped off and all the tadpoles survived to metamorphosis.

    In terms of activity, the toads that I have from the Montréal area remain active, albeit slightly slowed down, even at 40°F and I need temperatures between 34 and 39°F for them to hibernate.

    • avatar


      Thanks for your note; the copper I mentioned is the main concern I’ve run across; killed even African Clawed Frogs at a nearby zoo. Interesting re activity at40F…I see a good deal of variation in American and Fowler’s toads, native frogs; wood and green frogs from s. NY remain active at those temps, but not Fowler’s toads. Best, frank

  34. avatar

    Hi the turtle was walking through a backysrd, but in an area that had a woods a few feet away, and a rocky cre ed k a few feet the other direction… I was very worried thst it would tip over if it went into the woods ( and end up on its back, unable to right itself) because the woods was full of fallen tree limbs all over – also worried it might go towards ghe creek, because it was pure rocks and a 20 foot drop ) ..

    I hated to leave it there … oh and dogs, cats and lawnmowers…

    The whole area had no good place for it to go, to be safe.

    • avatar

      Hi Debra,

      They do fine with hills, logs and water…they are native to such habitats, and with a good sense of depth perception (i.e. aquatic turtles will plunge off a table etc, box turtles stop at the edge, peer over); can generally withstand dogd, cats, raccoons…cars are the main threat., best, frank

  35. avatar

    Thank you for the link – It was like the photos where you cant see anything but completely closed shell…

    I had never seen one like that before, and could never find the correct kind of photo online, so I appreciate your help !

    We had a box turtle when I was a kid, but ours didnt close up like that. It was amazing – at leadt to me – lol.

    • avatar

      Hi Debra…glad it helped; pets tend to become very confident, and usually give up the habit quickly; when using box turtles for classes, etc, I can never induce them to close up so children can see how the hinges work! best, Frank

  36. avatar
    anne-marie abrahamsen

    Hello! My name is Anne-Marie. I have 2 wild caught wart toads (I don’t know their real name) and 2 wild caught red efts along with three large white’s tree frogs. I was wondering if I can keep the wild over winter and also if I can house them all together? I have a 30 gal. tall tank (for tree frogs ) . I am having no problem feeding them for now, bur I am running short on pin head crickets for the efts. I originally got macropods for them but now have to find another supplier. Can I house them together? If not, can I house any or the three together? Any Info or help would be greatly appreciated. PS: can I also introduce a small turtle into the mix?
    Thank you so much for any info you can share with me.

    • avatar

      Hello Anne-Marie,

      Useful questions, thanks.

      Even in zoos, it was difficult for us to house multiple species together, Your native toads could technically get along with the Whites treefrogs, but it’s risky. All amphibians carry certain parasites and other micro-organisms that may do them little or no harm, but which can cause illness or death if they transfer to a related animal from another part of the world (similar to tourists getting sick from drinking tap water in foreign countries). Also, a 30 gallon is ideal for 3 White’s treefrogs…crowding leads to problems, ammonia buildup etc.

      White’s treefrogs would eat the efts, and would likely die quickly after (eft toxins are very powerful).

      Toads/efts might co-exist, but toads would out-compete the efts for food.

      Efts are tough to feed…need more than pinheads alone (and pins should be powdered with calcium and a multi vitamin). Please see this article...the foods recommended for poison frogs are ideal for efts. Once the efts change into the aquatic form (1-3 years) they will be easier to feed.

      Turtles always attack amphibians, even those that feed mainly on [plants…also, you would need a different set-up, demanding on the species – hot basking site, plenty of UVB exposure. Cannot be done properly in a tank of that size.

      You might find this article on frog/toad diets useful also.

      Pl let me know if you need more info.

  37. avatar


    I have what I assume is an American Toad. I caught it wild one night I accidentally kicked (her?) when walking outside. I’m glad I didn’t hurt it. Luckily is was more of a glancing blow. Ended up naming her Bufo, seemed fitting. But since then I built her a little home and learning as much as I can. I’m currently feeding primarily crickets, I plan to start raising my own meal worms.
    Thanks to you I know much more about how to care for my toad.

    I do have a couple questions yet.
    I see you have Chinese Evergreens as a plant that would fair well in the tank with the toad.
    With the plant(s) would I have to change the substrate? (Or if I do how often?)
    Also with the plant would the roots have an impact on her ability to burrow? I don’t have very many house plants but I’d assume the roots would keep growing within the dirt.

    And with the meal worms (white grub) and beetles still need the calcium powder you listed earlier? I still intend to use crickets and sometime wax worms but they are not very easy to get around me the pet store runs out so fast and I can’t store that many of them.

    Right now she seems very healthy but I’ve been reading that toads would use the “water bowl” as a toilet but I’ve never seen any crap, should I be worried or would it be safe to assume she’s doing it around the tank and I just not seeing it on / under the dirt. She moved her “burrow” 3 times since I’ve had her in this tank. The soil by the way is about 4″ deep.


    Awesome blog.

    • avatar

      Hello Jon,

      Thanks for the kind words. Chinese evergreens are very tough, small root system but toads like to burrow below plants…may uproot. Worth trying or you can leave in pot, bury that in substrate,

      You may not see much waste in the water…often soft, breaks up but change water often, daily if possible; ammonia is not visible. You can cover soil with dead leaves, replace them and top layer of soil weekly to remove feces etc. Or switch to sphagnum moss…can rinse once or twice then replace.

      Mealworms not a great food ; use sparingly if at all. Earthworms impt to add to diet, along variety. Please see this article . Be sure to feed crickets and others for several days before use, and add Ca and Vitamin supplements to most meals; pl see this article.. Please let me know if you need any further info, enjoy, best, frank

  38. avatar

    Thanks for your articles Jon–I am not planning on keeping my toad indoors as she is wild. However, she has become my new best friend and I want to make my yard as nice for her as possible. As it starts to cool off I am worried about how she’ll fare over the winter. Long story short–I’ve not gotten a single strawberry from my vast strawberry bed for many years, and we gave up planting herbs and vegetables last year–due to terrible infestation with leopard slugs. We could not step outside after dark without accidentally crushing them underfoot (and they’re hard to get off shoes). In about July I suddenly spotted an adult American toad hunting on my patio, within a few weeks all the slugs were gone from that area. I’ve started scooping up the slugs in the front and moving them to the back for my toad-pal. It seems our wood pile has accidentally created the ideal toad home. Plus the patio has crickets, potato bugs, and also earthworms when it rains. I’d like to make sure she over-winters well and encourage her to stay here in the spring. I think I might for once get a vegetable or fruit out of the garden if she sticks around. Should I try to build her a burrow for the winter, or should I just leave her be?

    • avatar

      Hello Neva,

      There’s a great many factors involved in locating an ideal over-wintering site; the toad will be fine. They tend to be territorial, so assuming food supply and all remains stable, it may stick around ..they can live to age 20+ in the wild. best regards, Frank

  39. avatar

    Thank you so much for the article on American Toads. I am absolutely in love with amphibians and have been since I was very young. I’ve tried keeping many different species of frogs and toads inside. They seem to do wonderfully until winter comes around. Is it necessary for them to hibernate?? There are days in the winter months where I go to feed them and I find them bloated and dead. They all seem to die off. I don’t know what it is, so I stopped keeping them. Is hibernation a needed cycle they need to go through??

    • avatar

      Hi Tiana,

      Thanks for the kind words.
      It’s a tricky situation. Temperate species do not necessarily need to hibernate (unless you intend on breeding them, in which case most will need to cool down). Some will remain active and feeding at temps in the mid 50’s; other species will become lethargic, refuse food. When temperatures are low, but not low enough for hibernation, the immune systems of some species slow down, and parasites or other health problems that were being suppressed may become deadly. Bloating often indicates a bacterial infection, but can also occur after any death, as a result of decomposing bacteria (these release gasses). Lots of variation between species..please let me know which species you have in mind, and what the day/night temperatures were at the time, and I may be able to offer some advice, Best, Frank

  40. avatar

    Hi! I think I need help. Last week, the guy who cuts our grass nicked an American toad. It was bleeding but I couldn’t see an actual wound. I’ve had it in a small terrarium with EcoEarth substrate since. There’s no exotic animal vet near me so I’ve been utilizing advice from a herpetologist I contacted online. The injured leg is looking better but still a bit swollen. Anyway, my question is about feeding. I’ve read that these little guys are naturally ravenous, but it seems to only eat 2-3 crickets a day. I have no idea how old it is, of course. It’s about 2 inches in length, fitting comfortably in the palm of my hand. I say all that to ask…is it eating enough? Is there anything else I should be doing? Thanks!

    • avatar

      Hello Joanne,

      They eat nonstop in the wild but need little in captivity. best not to feed daily…every other day or so fine. They can regulate metabolism to food availability, and will not starve, don’t worry. Wild caught individuals may slow down in winter, even if kept at room temps, due to internally-controlled cycles. Be sure to powder most meals with calcium and use vitamins as described in the article. Long term, crickets are not a sufficient diet but should be okay if you plan to release in the spring; include earthworms if possible. Please see links below for other food items and let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  41. avatar

    One of our two toads is starting to be vocal. I think it’s a Fowler’s Toad, but am not certain yet. It’s about 5 months old or a little more. It’s making squeaks and is starting to sound like it’s practicing calling a bit. I assume now that it is a male. I was wondering what you have noticed about a variety of vocalizations of toads? Does the male make other sounds, or do they only make the calls to attract females? Do females make sounds other than a distress call?

    • avatar

      Hi Nila,

      Other than mating calls, they use voice only for distress calls (i.e. when grabbed by a predator); there’s a similar “release call” given during amplexus, if female is not gravid or a male is being grasped. Captive conditions change the timing of mating, etc., so its difficult to relate calling to breeding activity in pets, Please keep me posted, best, Frank

  42. avatar

    Thank you for the reply. I’m wondering whether it is normal for my toad to be making sounds or whether it might be due to stress because he is captive? I have the two toads in separate tanks. Both toads were very small when my husband rescued them out of pools. He relocated some other toads he rescued, but he brought these home partly because they were so small. I have enjoyed having them, but will consider releasing them to a good habitat in the spring. I don’t want them to be stressed in their captive home.

    • avatar

      Hi Nila,
      I’ve not known them to make sounds when stressed by captivity, and the fact that they are feeding shows they have adjusted; if stressed by captive conditions, small tank etc., they generally try to escape continually, will not feed. Best, Frank

  43. avatar

    As an added note to my last post: I would describe the sounds as small squeaks, chips and chirps. A couple times almost like a croak. Both toads are eating well. I follow the diet suggestions you gave and have an earthworm box going to help with winter feeding. They are in a soil substrate with water dishes, rocks, leaves, and houses to hide in.

  44. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Thank you for the information again. The toads do not try to escape and they both eat well. Each toad is in its own 10 gallon tank. So, hopefully that’s enough room for them. I put paper scenery images to look like grass and woodland taped around the outside of the glass, leaving one section open so that they can see out and one side open between the tanks in case they want to see each other.

  45. avatar

    Hello again Mr. Indiviglio!

    Along with the Green Snake I also acquired a small Western Toad that’s a little over an inch long. I was originally getting a White’s Tree Frog to replace my Tiger Salamander but I figured that since a lot of people already keep the frogs that I’d go instead with a the more uncommon toad. I’ve kept wild adults before but never one this small and compared to the images that came up in a search he looks to have a much brighter and cleaner pattern, almost uniformly yellow-greenish. Do toads change color as they get older? Also, will he get bolder in time? Right now he’s just sitting in one corner of his enclosure and didn’t take any food when I offered it. I assume he just needs time to get used to the new environment so I left a container with some prey in there. Thank you again!

    Cheers, Alex

    • avatar

      Hi Alex,

      Common for small ones to be shy (and brighter in color; they also hybridize with related species where ranges overlap); give it caves, opportunity to burrow etc and leave alone for awhile. They tend not to feed for the first week or so. Small toads can be more difficult to care for than the more robust adults…they seem to need lots of variety, and/or supplements. Please see this article and let me know if you need anything. Enjoy, Frank

  46. avatar

    Please help me! I have had my American Toads for almost a year now. I have 7 total in a large low naturalistic terrarium. I use ecoearth with dechlorinated tap water for their bedding. They all seemed to be perfectly healthy until last month. One of my toads seemed to be moving weird. I soaked him in dechlorinated water and Melafix for turtles and put him back. The next day he was dead. Three days later I noticed another one doing the same. I picked him up and he immediately stretched his back legs and flipped over dead. I sanitized the whole terrarium with vinegar and boiling water and gave them new bedding. I thought it was over until today. One of my toads seemed to be almost having seizures. It lasted about 2 minutes with him convulsing every few seconds and then he died. I have no idea what to do and I don’t want to lose any other toads!! Please help me.

    • avatar

      Hi Kayce,

      Symptoms could indicate Calcium deficiency..this is common, but there are also many other problems that can be involved…a vet exam is only sure way to diagnose, let me know if you need help in finding a vet. please also send some info on diet and supplements used, best, frank

  47. avatar

    They eat about 300 crickets a month. Every other time they eat I shake them in Reptical.

    • avatar

      Hi Kayce,

      Crickets alone, even if supplemented, will not provide adequate nutrition. Zoo Med’s Rep Cal with D3 is a good choice, also use Zoo Med Reptivite 2x weekly (in general). However, dietary variety is essential..please see this article for future reference. The article is re insectivorous lizards, but the info is applicable to toads; earthworms are an especially good base dietary item. However, supplements will not reverse an advanced CA deficiency (if that is the trouble here). CA gluconate injections have proven useful in some cases. Please let me know if you need more info, best, frank

  48. avatar

    The only other thing I can think of is that last month my husband mixed up their water bowl with my Whites Tree Frogs water bowl. Could that have caused a problem?

    • avatar

      This would not likely be involved, although there is o way to say for sure w/o tests. Please see response to earlier post, best, frank

      • avatar

        Hello Mr. Indiviglio,
        I love toads. Have many in my yard in the summer. But it is now late October and very cold here in Western NY and I no longer see toads in my yard and I assume they are already hibernating. But today I found a small Bufo Americanus toad in my garden. He is missing one of his hind legs. I did see this toad earlier this summer and felt bad but he seemed to get around just fine. However, now I am worried that his is unable to dig himself into a hole to hibernate because of the missing hind leg. Is there anything I can do to help him out? I would appreciate any advice.

        • avatar

          He would probably be fine on his own, but if you wanted to help him out you could build a “hibernaculum” which is a man made area for toads to overwinter. According to this article posted by the national Wildlife Federation: “You will need a 14-inch section of 4-inch plastic drainage pipe. Choose a place in your yard with well-drained, loose soil and dig a trench. Position the pipe in the trench so that one end protrudes about 2 inches above the soil (forming an entrance hole) and the rest of the pipe slants down into the trench at a 30-degree angle. Backfill with soil to support and cover the slanted pipe. Then pour in loose sand to fill the pipe halfway. Fill the rest of the pipe with composted leaves.

          A toad may use the hibernaculum as a summer retreat, burrowing into the leaf mold. When winter comes, it will dig deeper, into the sandy layer. After the toad tucks itself in for the winter, you can bury the protruding pipe end in compost or leaves for extra insulation. Remember to remove this layer before spring arrives so the sun can warm the soil.”

          I hope this helps!

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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