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

    I have 4 toads that I bought at a pet store 6 months ago, they are doing very well but it is difficult to find information on them, so I was very glad to see this article.My friend thinks the toads are fowlers toads but they were sold as American. Is there an easy way to tell the difference, and do they need different care?> Also, I have ordered the canned grasshoppers and silkworms that you mentioned. Three of the toads eat the silkworms from a tweezer, but the grasshoppers are very large. Can I break them up, also is it safe to give them to my fish (I have a velvet cichlid/Oscar? Thanks, yk

  2. avatar


    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks very much for your kind comment and interesting questions.

    American and Fowler’s toads are very similar in appearance…in fact, you and your friend may both be right, as their ranges overlap, and the 2 frequently hybridize. However, there are a few characteristics that you can check to distinguish one from the other:

    1. American toads have 1-2 large warts within each of the large black-colored blotches on their skin, while Fowler’s have 3 or more warts within each blotch.

    2. The American toad’s chest and abdomen is usually spotted with black; these areas on the Fowler’s toad are almost entirely unspotted (a few widely spaced dots may be present).

    3. Behind the eye is a raised boney line, known as the cranial ridge, which is easy to see. In American toads, this ridge is separated from the paratoid gland (the large “wart” in the same area) or connected to it by a thin spur. In the Fowler’s toad, the cranial ridge touches the paratoid gland.

    As you can see, there is some overlap, so it is best to check all three points. A hybrid individual that I found in Virginia had characteristics of both species – 4 warts within each blotch and a heavily spotted abdomen.

    The two dwell in slightly different habitats, especially where they overlap, but again this does not always hold true. Most often, American toads are found in fields and along forest edges, while Fowler’s toads tend to inhabit drier, sandy areas. In NY, Fowler’s toads may be found right among the sand dunes, in sight of the surf, along beaches on Long Island’s south shore. Both species will also colonize gardens, parks, farms and vacant lots.

    Concerning the canned grasshoppers: for small herps, I remove the legs and wings, and divide the body into sections (the point where the thorax joins the abdomen makes for a “neat” break). By rotating the different body parts given to your toads, you can assure that they are consuming, over time, an entire insect.

    It’s a fine idea to feed canned insects to your fish…I’m sure your Oscar will gobble them right up. I rinse them off first, in order to remove the oils that accumulate during processing, and have fed several types (snails, shrimp, grasshoppers, silk worms) to Jack Dempseys (a Cichlid), channel catfish and pumpkinseed sunfish. I also sometimes toss a bit of a grasshopper into my community aquarium – guppies, swordtails, barbs and tetras of all types go into a literal feeding frenzy each time!

    Please let me know how your feeding trials go, and what you learn concerning the identity of your toads.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  3. avatar

    have you any experience with Oak toads? I’ve seen them offered as WC by vendors and despite my disdain for WC animals they are legal and I’ve considered trying them. Do you think breeding could be a possibility with this sp.? I suppose it’d be best to find someone in FL willing to collect some eggs/tadpoles/adults and send them rather than buying from a commercial vendor.

    Also, I find your extensive use of WC insects interesting. Many hobbyists nowadays worry about parasites and pesticides and instead depend on culturing different kinds of live foods and/or vitamin/mineral supplementation.


  4. avatar

    Hello Joseph,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interesting questions and comments.

    I commend your interest in oak toads, Bufo quercicus. It’s sad that more attention isn’t paid them…based on what I know of related species, I believe they could be bred in captivity. Given there size – barely topping 1 inch snout-vent length, they would be a great choice for those with limited space.

    I’ve kept oak toads in an exhibit with Eastern narrow-mouthed toads (a difficult species that favors ants as food) and Eastern spadefoot toads. They were a real delight – as bold as American toads, and very prone to daytime activity. They favored all sorts of tiny insects, including certain but not all ant species, termites, ¼ inch crickets, tiny earthworms and aphids.

    In the wild, they are unlike many toads in that they may opportunistically breed after warm rains at nearly any time – from April through October in much of Florida, or approximately May though August in the northern portion of the range (they occur as far north as southern Virginia). Frogs that follow such a breeding strategy will often respond to increased misting and the presence of a pool of water without the necessity of other cues. This has worked well in breeding marine and Colorado River toads, among others.

    However, to be sure, it would be best to learn where your stock originates from. Those from the south (trade animals will likely come from Florida) might require a dip in temperature to 60 F for 30-45 days, followed by a gradual warming to 75 or so and heavy feeding. After about 2 weeks, you can put them into a rain chamber (please let me know if you need details) or perhaps just place them in an aquarium with 3-4 inches of water and plenty of floating plastic plants and cork bark. Spraying frequently with warm water may be all that’s needed in the way of “rain”.

    Regarding wild-caught insects, I’ve always felt that the benefits delivered far outweighed the risks, with certain exceptions. It certainly should follow that wild caught insects increase the risk of pesticide/parasite related problems, but it just isn’t borne out, in my experience.

    Pesticides are, in general, manufactured with the risk of secondary poisoning possibilities in mind, and most are fairly specific. Even in earlier times, the problems caused to non-target species were often the result of food-chain accumulation. DDT, far more toxic than most in use today, for example, did not kill animals that consumed poisoned insects but rather accumulated in their tissues and affected raptors, at the top of the food chain, by causing a thinning of the shells of their eggs. My work with food market turtles (primarily Florida softshells) in NYC has revealed a similar phenomenon – the turtles, both predators and scavengers in their habitats, are in all respects healthy, but older adults show high mercury levels (a real danger to people, especially pregnant women, who consume them).

    I do recall a hornbill that died of Warfarin (mouse poison) poisoning at the Bronx Zoo in the early 80’s, but an autopsy that animal indicated that it had fed nearly exclusively on mice for a very long time. A DEC biologist on LI is attempting to link the scarcity of striped skunks there to their habit of eating huge quantities of earthworms on golf courses, but this is a unique situation – golf courses are heavily sprayed, and earthworms ingest soil directly.

    Snails are notorious for serving as reservoirs of parasites that require a second host. Even here I have not experienced problems, as most such parasites are fairly specific as to their hosts. Some zoos put snails, crayfish and minnows through a methylene blue bath before using them as food, but this was not the practice at the zoos I have worked in, even as regarded the rarer species kept. I don’t know, offhand, of any terrestrial invertebrates that act as hosts for parasites that could then be transferred to captive herps. I’m quite sure they exist, given the absolutely mind-blowing twists and turns involved in the life cycles of many parasites, but I haven’t run across any related problems…it may be host specificity again.

    Although pesticides are hopefully not a concern with farmed insects, I imagine that potential parasites and pathogens are common in large scale operations…I’ve identified, without looking carefully, 4-5 additional insect species in a single shipment of crickets, for example. Waxworms, butter worms, minnows and earthworms are either collected or kept under semi-natural conditions, again opening the door to certain risks.

    The main concerns I’ve had recently revolve around the large scale spraying done to control mosquitoes bearing West Nile Virus. The insecticide used is said to be short-lived in the environment and very specific, but I have noticed a steep decline in cicada populations in several sites in NY since spraying began. I do not collect for 1 week after spraying has occurred (the county sends notices prior). Another concern would be collecting and using insects that are major agricultural pests, i.e. tomato hornworms/sphinx moths, especially near agricultural regions.

    Thanks again, please keep me posted on your progress,

    Frank Indiviglio

  5. avatar

    I used your information and figured out thast the toads are american toads, thanks! They are eating small pieces of the canned grasshoppers now also.I have some other amphibians and think that I will buy the insect trap I read about in the article when the weather becomes warmer. My toads are eating but it is pretty cool in theroom where I keep them, I have read that some animals should hibernate, does this apply to toads? Also can they become sick if they et but it is too cold to digest?

  6. avatar


    Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for updating me…happy to hear that you were able to identify the toads, and that the canned insects are proving useful to you.

    The Zoo Med Bug Napper is a wonderful tool…many of the insects you catch, especially moths and small beetles, will be ideal for the toads. Please write in if you have any questions once you begin using the trap, and let me know how it works out.

    American toads hibernate throughout much of their range, but in captivity this is only necessary if you’d like to breed them…even then only a short cooling off period is required. Please be in touch if you would like information as to how to go about this. Otherwise, normal room temperatures are fine…the usual seasonal fluctuations in room temperature and day length will be good for the toads. If you use a terrarium light, you might want to shorten their light cycle to be in tune with the seasons.

    American toads will slow down their feeding as temperatures drop, but will continue to feed and digest properly even down to 52 F or so. We don’t see the same problems as often occur in reptiles (especially monitor lizards) which feed at temperatures that are not optimal for digestion and then run into difficulties. My American toads are kept at room temperature….they feed ravenously during the warmer months, nearly every day, but only take a small meal once or twice per week during the winter.

    Good luck with all. Best regards, Frank

  7. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thanks much! I’ve toyed with the idea of keeping these or eastern spadefoots, or even doing a SE Us biotope tank(would be a wetland ecosystem consisting of newts, bluefin killifish, pygmy sunfish, Heterandria formosa, glass shrimp and perhaps chorus or some other treefrog). How did you find spadefoots to be in captivity? Someone on a frog forum had theirs breed in the water dish over vacation. How big of a tank do you think either species would require to keep a small group by themselves?

    Also, I find it interesting on how much vitamin/calcium supplementation is emphasized in different subgroups of the herp hobby. With reptiles and dart frogs, it is basically considered a necessity which if not offered will cause death of your pets. With newts/salamanders it is seldom mentioned, though I’ve heard people say terrestrially kept newts do require supplementation. Also, people are less likely to reccomend vit/mineral supplementation with the tougher NA species of anurans compared to tropical ones.

    Thoughts? Do these concepts actually mirror the needs of the animals? Does offering WC insects reduce the necessity to supplement?


  8. avatar

    Hello Joseph,

    Frank Indiviglio here, thanks for your insightful comments.

    Spadefoot toads do very well in terrariums, but, unlike American toads or other relatives, remain persistently nocturnal. They can be observed with a night-viewing bulb – I’d suggest the Hagen Exo-Terra Moonlight Bulb, as it produces less heat than the infra-red models. They seem to grow slowly – 4 Eastern spadefoots that I received as new metamorphs 2 years ago are now only ½ adult size (they are chilled in winter, mostly dormant). I’m not surprised that they would be stimulated to breed by the presence of a water bowl – on Long Island, NY they lay eggs sporadically throughout spring and summer, after some (but not all) heavy rains. Drying them out and then flooding the tank should do it. They will construct permanent, deep burrows if given the opportunity – a mix of soil and sand, about 1:1, is a good consistency to start with. I’ll write an article soon on a sort of “ant farm” type set up for them that allows you to see the tunnels and resting chamber – please look for it shortly.

    As you suspect, much of what we know re: herp nutrition is anecdotal, garnered from hobbyists and zookeepers over the years. There just isn’t enough economic impetus, it seems, for significant research. Most recommendations are based on what has seemed to work over time. Even when research is carried out, there are blanks – for example, despite investigation, we are still not sure why a “goldfish only” diet kills mata mata turtles over time, but we do know that, given a diet composed of several fish species, the turtles will thrive and reproduce.

    Large zoos sometimes hire nutritionists, but they are usually mammal-oriented and even the Bronx Zoo, one of the world’s best-funded, abolished its Dept. of Animal Nutrition a few years back. Sometimes we can extrapolate from commercially bred species – this has worked well with pet trade tropical fish and invertebrates, as a good deal of money has been spent in researching the needs of valuable species such as trout, salmon, lobster, clams, etc. The trout research has helped in the development of foods for aquatic herps, i.e. Repto min – not exactly on point, but close.

    Dart frogs and other small herps present a unique challenge – leaf litter is amazingly rich in tiny invertebrate species, and these frogs and similar animals likely consume a wide variety of prey…certainly I’ve seen them snap at all sorts of animals when provided with leaf litter in captivity. Yet, due to their size, most are limited to 1-3 readily available food items in captivity…hence supplementation is necessary. Same re terrestrial salamanders – outside of tigers, fire salamanders and a few other large species, variety is difficult to provide. Unlike terrestrial forms, aquatic salamanders usually take pelleted food, and so benefit from the balanced nutrition provided by Repto-min, trout chow and cichlid pellets. It’s also easy to provide variety to certain tortoises, green iguanas and other herbivores – here supplementation helps, but may be less vital.

    Wild caught insects definitely reduce the need for supplementation – again based on experience, but holds true re a wide range of species. Nutritional analysis (drawn from studies done for other purposes, but applicable) shows a far wider range of nutrients in wild as opposed to cultured inverts.

    There are species that are just “tougher” than others, and it is no coincidence that these are successful colonizers as well. African clawed frogs have lived for decades on leftovers in tropical fish tank…I have seen animals stunted for 2 years suddenly take off and grow normally once put into a good captive situation. One well-studied introduced population lives in the underground water system of a castle in England…I’m not sure what they eat, but recall that several had survived into their teens. America bullfrogs thrive on whatever is available in their introduced habitats – from California to southern Japan, and I’ve seen marine toads eat dog food and salad (those on New Guinea are said to eat plants throughout the dry season)…the standard lab diet for axolotls until recently was beef liver only, and they did fine…red eared sliders sometimes get by on horrendous diets – one visitor the Bx zoo told me she gave her 20 year old animal 3 “mentos” mints and some bread crusts every day!

    Of course, many animals in above situations die, and all do better with proper care…point is that some just have different potentials than others.

    Thanks again for your interest, best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    hi, i have always loved amphibians, toads especially. a few years ago i raised a toad from a tadpole and it grew to be about 1.5 inches in say 2 years. all of a sudden it got sick and it couldnt hop around the tank anymore. i looked carfully and noticed its back legs were not developed ( not much muscle mass to them) do you think its because it was in a tank ? have you encountered this with your toads ?

  10. avatar

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

    It’s quite an accomplishment to take a tadpole through the difficult process of metamorphosis, so you are on the right track, congratulations.

    The root of the problem most likely lies in either (1) the diet of the tadpole, (2) the animal’s particular genetics or (3) the diet since transformation to a toad. Of these, I would suspect #3, as the others would have likely shown up earlier.

    Often, a calcium deficiency will leave an amphibian unable to contract its muscles, and therefore it will have difficulty in moving about. However, the lack of muscle mass might indicate other types of nutritional problems, or perhaps a deficiency in the tadpole’s diet which took an unusually long time to appear. The problem is not likely due to the fact that the toad was in a tank (I’m assuming you’re concerned about lack of exercise?).

    Please let me know the species of toad you have (or where the tadpole was collected if you are unsure of the species), the tadpole’s diet and the diet you have been giving it since transformation. Please also let me know if you have been adding vitamin/mineral supplements to the toad’s food and if so, the brand and how often they were used.

    Also, is the animal still alive, and have you noticed any twitching or trembling motions in the limbs?

    I’ll be able to give you some specific advice on helping this animal or avoiding the problem in the future once I have a bit more information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    Hello Frank.

    Thanks for the reply! Looking forward to the article on the ant farm setup. Have you had any experience with more desert adapted spadefoot species(i.e S. couchi and those of the Spea genus). Also, how big of a terrarium would be ok for housing a small group of oak toads?

    I wonder what it is that makes certain species able to survive on less nutrients than others…it is an interesting thought. In your book, it is said that you’ve managed to raise axolotls on blackworms alone, I’ve noticed the same, in regards to newts fed almost solely on black/earthworms. I recall worms have a much better Ca-P ratio than other feeders, mainly due to the soil in their guts(perhaps they could be kept on high calcium soil prior to feeding out). Do you think wild amphibians might get most of their calcium from soil picked up during feeding? Dart frog keepers usually reccomend Rep-Cal Calcium with Vit D3, used in alternation with Rep-Cal Herptivite. Do nocturnal frogs/toads/caudates, then synthesize their own D3 or get it in a way not requiring exposure to the sun?

    Hope this is easy enough to answer!

  12. avatar

    Hello, Joseph…Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your questions and comments.

    I’ve not kept Couch’s spadefoot toads, but in the wild they and similar species breed sporadically over a long season, in response to rains, and may not reproduce at all during some years. I believe that captives would have a very rapid breeding response to an increase in water availability/rain, assuming they were in good condition – probably even more so than Eastern spadefoots. Certainly this holds true for other desert/arid adapted amphibians I’ve worked with, such as Colorado River toads.

    It is indeed interesting what some animals thrive on, nutritionally. In most cases it it’s a matter of adaptation, i.e. being able to utilize the nutrients in certain foods successfully. This leads to some odd situations – captive leaf eating monkeys such as proboscis and silvered langurs actually become ill and die if given a “typical”, highly nutritious monkey diet – monkey chow and various fruits and vegetables – in captivity. They can only process leaves – mainly hard, waxy mangrove leaves in the case of the proboscis…I actually had weekly deliveries of the leaves shipped to NY from Florida when working with them; we see problems with tortoises fed too much protein, etc., as well. Sometimes animals supplement their diets in unusual ways – perhaps you’ve read of certain populations of African elephants that dig long caves underground in search of minerals, butterflies feeding urine, and so on.

    Some years ago, the Bronx Zoo nutrition dept. analyzed earthworms from several sources – collected at 3 sites and purchased – and found that all had a very good (from a herp point of view) calcium : phosphorous ratio, and were an excellent all-round nutrient source for many animals. Perhaps it is due to the soil, as they actually eat soil as they tunnel, or perhaps it is in their natural make-up. It would be interesting to test those from farms that raise the worms on chicken manure, as had been the practice in the past…not sure about today. Blackworms are Annelids, and therefore related to earthworms (Tubifex are not).

    Nocturnal reptiles and amphibians, as far as is known, obtain their vitamin D directly from the diet…some species, ourselves included, can use sun-generated synthesis or diet, and certain reptiles long though to rely upon the sun only actually can use dietary Vitamin D in some cases. Please see my article: Has Anyone Observed This?….. Madagascar and Standing’s Day Geckos (Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis, P. m. madagascariensis, P. standingi) maintain excellent health and reproduce without a UVB source when you have a moment.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    Hello Frank, Thank you for wonderful article on American Toads. I have been keeping 3 american toads for the last 9 months. They seem to be thriving but for some reason 1 toad has a problem hunting prey with his tongue. It’s too fast to be able to tell what is happening but he eagerly hunts and it appears that his tongue is either too short or not sticky. I have resorted to hand feeding him or feeding him “cold” crickets that are sluggish. Otherwise, he appears to be in good health. I found him when he was very small and he has always appeared to have this problem. Do you think this is an injury or could it be a dietary problem?



    • avatar

      Hello Bill, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your kind words, most appreciated.

      Interesting that you mention this problem, as I have encountered it regularly among American/Fowler’s Toads and, to a lesser extent, gray treefrogs. I can’t say for sure what’s behind it, but I do not believe it is usually injury related…in those animals I’ve kept, it developed spontaneously in several individuals.

      I tend to think it is more developmental that dietary also, as it has occurred in both small and large groups of toads that I have maintained at home and for release programs (NYC Parks Dept.). In all cases, I kept close tabs and am fairly sure that the animals ate largely the same types and volumes of food/supplements.

      I have not seen it among wild caught adults…only in animals collected as juveniles or hatched in captivity, and the problem has always manifested itself by age 12-18 months (I imagine that if the condition occurs in the wild, the animals so afflicted would not survive for long). Do you know the approximate age of your toads…please let me know if you have a chance.

      I currently have 1 American toad with the feeding problem you describe (he is, like others with this condition, lagging in growth despite feeding well). I feed it in a bare-bottomed bucket, away from the others. ..most take well to this, and it saves time in tong-feeding. Crickets shed their rear legs instantly if you pinch the “knee” (no need to pull)…sounds horrible, but seems not to bother them at all, as they set about feeding in this condition right away! This may help your toad to catch its food. Hand-feeding is fine also.

      Please be sure to use a varied diet, as described in the article. Earthworms and moths are good as staples, along with well-fed and vitamin-supplemented crickets. The Zoo Med Bug Napper is a fine insect trap…American toads consume a huge variety of species in the wild, and do best on a varied diet in captivity.

      Please keep me posted, and let me know if you need any further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  14. avatar

    Thank you for the response, Frank.

    Yes, the toad with the feeding problem was caught as a juvenile in July of last year in Pennsylvania. It was about 1.5 inches long from snout to vent at the time (would that be from the current or previous years hatching?). Regardless, he is doing fine (although it lags in growth behind the other two just as you mention). I have not been supplementing their diet with vitamins but I will start now. The bug napper looks like a great product as well. Thank you for the help!

    • avatar

      Hello Bill, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for the update…your observation is in line with mine.

      The toad likely transformed the summer before you found it, as they are extremely tiny (about the size of a ladybug) when they leave their natal ponds…but growth rate varies tremendously in different habitats.
      Glad the information was useful; if you need anything further re supplements or diet, please let me know.

      Good luck, best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I have 3 wild caught american toads that have been thriving since caught about 9 months ago. About a month ago one of the toads started to lose the use of it’s front legs. I originally thought it had somehow broken it’s leg but the other leg was soon affected as well. The toads are fed wild insects in the summer and captive bred crickets all winter. They have not been given vitamin or calcium supplements. Does this sound like a calcium deficiency? I have started to dust their meals with calcium for the last week. If this is a calcium deficiency is it reversable? Is metabolic bone disease common in american toads?



    • avatar

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

      The symptoms you describe could very well be related to a calcium deficiency – low calcium levels prevent proper muscle contractions. Sometimes it manifests in several limbs at once, other times as you describe. Often a “twitching” of the toes or limbs (known as “tetany”) will be evident as well…did you notice this? Nerve disease and other problems of which we know relatively little as regards amphibians are always a possibility, but calcium deficiencies are the most commonly seen problem.

      The condition is likely not reversible at this point. The only real medical treatment would be an injection of Calcium Gluconate following blood tests. This is sometimes effective but results are highly variable. Without veterinary intervention, increasing dietary calcium may as least prevent a worsening of the condition – being very resilient little beasts, American toads can sometimes get along with rather challenging handicaps (you’ll need to house the animal separately to assure it gets enough food, however).

      If you decide upon a vet visit, call ahead to make sure the doctor is experienced with amphibians, or please write back and I’ll try to provide a local reference.

      As for supplementation, I suggest you create a high calcium powder by combining Reptivitewith Reptocal at a ratio of approximately 1:1 by volume. Use this on all meals for each of your toads for the time being.

      Using wild caught insects in the summer is a great idea. During the winter, try to increase dietary variety through the use of tong-fed canned insects (some, i.e. grasshoppers, are a bit large for toads and will need to be “trimmed”), earthworms, isopods (sow bugs), waxworms and mealworm beetles (please see article below re starting a mealworm colony). Most of these can be purchased…earthworms and sow bugs can easily be kept alive for winter use (please see below). It is very important to feed crickets a nutritious diet – this will go a long way in maintaining your toads’ health (please see below).

      The following articles might be helpful:

      Product Review: Prepared Diets and Food Supplements for House Crickets (Acheta domestica)
      Making the Most of the Mealworm: some tips on enhancing the nutritional value of this pet trade staple
      Terrestrial Isopods (Sowbugs, Pillbugs, Potato Bugs) As Food for Captive Reptiles and Amphibians

      Good luck, and please keep me posted and be in touch if you need further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

    • avatar

      Hello Bill,

      Frank Indiviglio here.

      Please note that, re the vitamin/mineral powder, I intended to recommend Reptivite be mixed with Reptocal. Sorry for the mix-up.

      Best regards,

      Frank Indiviglio

  16. avatar

    “As for supplementation, I suggest you create a high calcium powder by combining Zoo Med Calcium/D3 Powder with Reptocal at a ratio of approximately 1:1 by volume.”

    The two products you suggest mixing are essentially the same thing: calcium + D3. Did you intend to suggest a 1:1 mixture of one of these with HerptiVit?

    • avatar

      Hello Jen, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks very much for catching my error…I did indeed intent to suggest a product with a variety of vitamins/minerals along with a calcium source. Reptivite combined with Reptocal would be a good choice.

      Thanks again, best regards, Frank Indiviglio

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    We have been keeping 3 toads for about 9 months. 2 arefemale and one is male. Today the mail has a very red underside and didn’t want to eat. Any answers or do I need to prepare my kids for the worst?

    • avatar

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

      The symptoms you describe are typical of Septicemia, usually caused by Aeromonas/Pseudomonas bacteria. It is very common in captive amphibians and is termed “red leg” in zoos and labs (red patches often appear beneath the limbs).

      Aeromonas/Pseudomonas usually takes hold in terrariums that have not been cleaned properly… often ammonia from the animals’ waste products irritates the skin, causing small lesions which the bacteria colonize. The terrarium may “look clean”, but ammonia is colorless and odorless, and will be present in the liquid portion of the animals’ wastes, even if solid feces are removed. Don’t be too hard on the “terrarium cleaner”, as this is a very common problem that pops up in zoos all the time. Amphibians are very sensitive in this regard.

      I suggest that you clean with an amphibian safe product such as R Zilla Terrarium Cleaner in the future, but please write in with some details as to how you house the animals, their species and size, size of the tank, etc., and I’ll send along some more specific advice.

      Amphibians are very sensitive to many medications, but Methylene Blue is safe and often effective against Septicemia. Prepare a shallow bath (water about ½ the height of the toad) of Methylene Blue diluted in water at ½ the strength recommended on the bottle (recommendations will be for tropical fish). Leave the toad in the bath for 1 hour each day and repeat for 7 days. If the toad shows no signs of irritation (scratching at skin) you can increase the concentration to ¾ of the “fish strength”. Wear latex gloves – this is good practice when dealing with any sick animal, and the medication stains skin (your toad may be colored blue for awhile as well).

      I suggest you begin treatment quickly, as lesions and ulcers may develop soon, after which it is difficult to treat the animal. If untreated, Septicemia is always fatal.

      Of course, if you have access to a veterinarian with amphibian experience, by all means make an appointment.

      It is also highly contagious to other toads…be sure to separate the animals and check the others carefully. Clean the tank with some bleach or table salt, and rinse very well before re-introducing the toads. Keep the sick toad on damp paper towels with a cave or other area for shelter for now. Change these daily.

      I hope this was useful, please keep me posted,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  18. avatar

    Am just starting in toad keeping as im just setting up my tank,have found a male and am seeking a female to go with him. Just getting my housing up too have a 10 gallon aquarium with 2 inches of
    potting soil in it,water bowl and a hiding log.i live in louisiana
    so i feel heating&coolingmay not be a problem along with our humid summers.im pretty sure he is american as his belly and chest are covered in black spots.know he is amale as he has a black throat
    and let out a flurry of grunts&chirps when i caught him at the front door!didn’t pee on me though guess thats agood sign LOL.

    • avatar

      Hello Blaine, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      I apologize for being so long in responding. The delay was caused by a technical difficulty which has now been resolved.

      One thing to watch for is waste products in the soil…ammonia will not be visible – you’ll need to replace the top inch or so of soil every 2-3 weeks. Some sphagnum moss mixed in with the soil will help retain moisture and prevent the soil from packing.

      Temperatures should as you suggest be fine year-round. Watch him in mid-summer, however – in the wild toads burrow up to 2 feet below the soil, where it is cooler, at such times. Spraying the terrarium with cool water is useful…American toads are more resilient as regards temperatures than are other amphibians. A cool basement or air-conditioned room works well also.

      If you obtain a female and would like to try breeding them, please write back as there are a few useful techniques you can try.

      The chirping is a “release call”…females can do this also, but the black throat does suggest that it is a male. The liquid toads release when grabbed is actually water stored to see them through dry periods rather than urine…but it is a good sign that yours “controlled himself”!

      Please keep me posted,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    how lucky can i get! A neighbor gave me her old 30 gallon aquarium so i made a new tank with it. Added soil from outside in it as the recent heavy rains have softened the earth.Bought four or five plastic plants at Petsmart and put dead leaves and other debris from the yard in the tank
    along with several hiding areas where the toad can get out of eyesight.He has been very active since i did this and is eating like a glutten.All in all good
    no calling yet but i guess that is because he is not near water.

    • avatar

      Hello Blaine, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback…lucky indeed! A 30 gallon tank will provide a great home for your toad.

      Thanks for mentioning the increased activity levels. I always advise that secretive animals will show themselves more, not less, when given ample room and places to hide. The feeling of security provided by such frees them to move about more openly, and of course makes for a healthier animal. I have used this technique successfully in zoo exhibits with animals ranging from invertebrates to large mammals…glad you hit upon it.

      The breeding season for American toads has passed, so he will not likely call. Usually a winter cooling period (normal household fluctuations are sometimes sufficient) followed by artificial “rains” and, as you suggest, a larger pool, is needed to stimulate calling and reproduction. If you obtain a female and would like to try, please write back.

      Please remember to remove the top layer of earth when cleaning (see last comment)…sometimes that’s easy to overlook in a large tank. The toad will often foul his water bowl as well, so be sure to replace the water regularly (use an instant water conditioner to remove chlorine). Spray the tank lightly with de-chlorinated water once or twice each day as well.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  20. avatar

    Mr. Indiviglio:

    I need some rapid advise here. I obtained some american toad eggs via mail order, with the intention of raising them into toads and releasing them in our garden. We live in a suburban landscape that no longer has any toads, though I remember them as a child.

    After 5 weeks or so, the tadpoles are now on the verge of climbing up out of the water in a small aquarium onto some rocks — most still have only rear legs, but some have front legs and are starting to explore up on the rocks. My question is, when is the best time to release them into our yard? Right away, as tiny toadlets? Or should I try to get them bigger in a more controlled environment, feeding them tiny bugs etc?


    Jonathan Poor
    Maplewood, NJ

    • avatar

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

      I applaud your efforts to reintroduce American toads to your neighborhood; very interesting and worthwhile. I’ve been involved with the same, most recently for the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation.

      Unfortunately, re-establishing any amphibian is a difficult prospect, especially where they have become scarce due to factors which may still be at work. This is not to say it cannot be done…on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo, a radically changed environment actually made it easier for me to re-introduce wood frogs and northern water snakes. Please bear in mind also, however, that each toad breeding pond produces literally millions of toadlets annually, and only a tiny proportion of these survive even under the best of circumstances.

      That being said, I advise releasing the toads as soon as they leave the water. “Headstart Programs”, where young animals are held back until reaching a certain size before release, are valuable for sea turtles and other animals, but less important where toads are concerned. Young toads are already well-protected by skin toxins, and in any event their predators consist of only a few highly specialized species.

      Raising newly transformed toads in captivity is a daunting prospect…they need huge quantities of live food (chiefly aphids, which are often scarce near developments). Nutrient-supplemented pinhead (newly hatched) crickets may suffice, but even in zoo projects developmental deformities are common.

      The small toads will need areas with a fairly thick leaf litter cover…lacking that, they desiccate easily and rarely survive for long. Tiny leaf litter invertebrates form the bulk of their diet as well. They will not be able to find sufficient food in a weeded, relatively bare garden. I suggest collecting leaf litter from a wooded area and distributing it where the toads will be released…this is the most critical step you can take to assure their survival. If possible, also allow some areas to become overgrown with native plants (weeds), as these will draw favored food insects (I know, you probably got the toads to control insects…sorry, never that simple!).

      American toads do not need standing water in the wild outside of the breeding season, but a very shallow, easily exited pan of water should be buried flush with the ground for their use in your garden. Boards, rocks and dead wood should be available as additional cover and to attract sow bugs and other prey. The area should be sprayed each evening and, during dry spells, in the morning as well, especially if the leaf litter cover is thin. This can be discontinued once the toads have past their critical first year.

      If all does not work out, please do not be discouraged. If you’d like to try again next spring, I can give provide some ideas for a simple method that might allow you to raise a great many toads that will disperse on their own. Sub-adults are sometimes available rather inexpensively as well, although there are other concerns re this route.

      Well, probably more than you bargained for…sorry. The companies supplying eggs have a good idea in theory, but may not always properly prepare one for what is ahead.

      I’m very interested in efforts such as you are undertaking. Please keep me posted as time permits, and be sure to write in if you have any questions or concerns.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  21. avatar

    Mr. Indiviglio,

    Thanks for your rapid response!

    This morning, before I saw your message, I moved three toadlets to a small plastic tray that has a sandy “beach” on one end, and partially decomposed leaf litter at the other end — the leaf litter is crawling with teeny-tiny arthropods. Everything is very wet. I’ll put them out in our “back woods” when I get home this evening.

    Our yard is not the typical suburban lot — we let lots of things get overgrown, and we’ve got a bit of woods in back, where there is naturally lots of water — not quite a stream, but definitely swampy in the wetter parts of the year. We are big proponents of backyard habitat, for birds and other small critters. We use no chemicals or pesticides, no leaf blowers. We have a large compost pile, a vegetable garden, and lots of perennials. We leave lots of leaves under shrubs and ground cover.

    Unfortunately, we are an island in a blasted and impoverished landscape. The spread of professional lawn-care companies in our area has been an environmental disaster. (I call them land-scrapers)

    Since we do have lots of water I am somewhat hopeful we will be able establish some toads. I have found salamanders in our yard under rocks and pieces of wood. (I wonder where they manage to reproduce — don’t they require vernal pools as well?)

    I’m not worried at all about insect control, although I did have an idea they’d eat the slugs that are munching my salad greens. I was inspired to try this after a visit to my Mother-in-law’s house in Memphis Tennessee — in mid-town Memphis, where toads have reappeared in her garden. She reports seeing NO slugs in her greens garden! The toads are thick on the ground there — one evening, I went out back in a rainstorm and had to watch my step as the toads were hopping around in the driveway.

    Anyway, the very wet weather we’ve been having these last two weeks here in NJ should help as well.

    Jonathan Poor
    Maplewood, NJ

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks very much for your feedback.

      The conditions you describe will assist the toads immensely in becoming established. Other than as regards the numbers issue mentioned earlier, you have every reason to be optimistic.

      As both living and breeding habitat, swampy areas are better than streams for toads; another point in your favor.

      The most common terrestrial salamander in your area, within that type of habitat, is the red-backed salamander, Plethodon cinereus, although there could be others. Red backs lay their eggs on land (protected by the female) and hence thrive far from standing water. They are very sensitive to environmental conditions (even abandoning areas subjected to acid rain), and typically share similar habitats and diets with newly transformed American toads, so their presence on your land is quite promising. Please take a look at the linked photos when you have a moment and let me know if this is the species you are seeing (there are 2 local color phases). I’m most interested in keeping track of such things, thanks.

      Lawn care companies are a major factor in amphibian disappearance from what otherwise might be tolerable suburban habitat…not only for the obvious reasons, but also due to soil compaction (loss of hibernation/aestivation sites), etc.

      Toads in the numbers you describe in the southeast are usually encountered just after the young leave their breeding ponds en masse. I assume they were quite small? (Could have been any of several similar species in TN).

      The National Wildlife Federation supports a “Backyard Habitat Certification Program”, in case you might be interested.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  22. avatar

    Those are definitely the salamanders we see. Plethodon cinereus — “lungless” — Thanks for the information.

    I’m encourage about the habitat in our back yard, but daunted by the numbers. We’re working with at most 25 individuals (not millions!).

    I released around 10 toadlets yesterday evening in an area behind the compost pile with lots of leaf-litter.

    I’m curious as to why some toadlets seem ready to go, but others are lagging behind in development. There are some still in the tank that have 4 legs and sort of crawl along the bottom, but are not coming up on the rocks. Should I try to catch these and put them out in the woods? Others have only rear legs. They are still hungry for frozen-boiled-lettuce.

    As for the toads in Memphis, I’m afraid you’ve caught me exagerating! These were adult toads. I think they were Bufo americanus. They were common enough so you’d see one in the front yard and one in the back yard without looking very hard. During the rain, there were perhaps three in the driveway between the house and the garage.

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for the feedback and interesting post.
      Glad you’ve confirmed the presence of red-backed salamanders. Most of our native terrestrial salamanders are lungless. Respiration is entirely through the skin, leaving them very vulnerable to slight changes in humidity levels, availability of cool, damp retreats, (skin must be moist for oxygen/carbon dioxide transfer) and to ground/water borne toxins (skin highly permeable, so nearly any substance can enter the body).

      In intact NE forest habitats, the weight of those tiny red-backs typically exceeds that of all other vertebrates, including birds and mammals, combined! Despite their size, they and other amphibians play a vital role in ecosystem functioning, a fact only now beginning to register on “habitat managers/mis-managers”.

      Re numbers, I just didn’t want to give you false hope…25 could very well work given your situation. Supplementing this first release for awhile will help…there may be easier ways to go about it, so please stay in touch with me on that. You have the potential there for a very good situation, one which could yield some valuable, widely applicable information as well. I work with a number of similar projects, and would appreciate any input you might provide.

      Varying rates of development are common even in natural ponds; competition is high, and lagging tadpoles are a vital nutrient source for other creatures. Each female lays 1-2,500 eggs. Tadpole and salamander larvae (for those that lay in water) interactions are surprisingly complex – in vernal ponds, decreasing water levels actually foster physiological changes, with certain larvae (not American toads) suddenly developing long teeth and wider heads. This enables them to consume a high protein diet (their brethren) and transform before the pond dries up. Amazingly, tiger salamander larvae exhibit kin recognition, and preferentially consume non-related animals. A number frog/toad tadpoles are believed capable of this as well.

      Leave the metamorphs (newly transformed tadpoles) in the aquarium until they have fully emerged from the water on their own…sometimes development slows down as the tank’s population decreases. As long as water levels remain stable, it’s in their “interest” to stay in the aquatic stage and add size and strength for a time before tackling terrestrial life.

      Tadpole nutrition is vital; deficiencies can manifest 4-6 months or so after the tads leave the pond. A balanced diet comprised of pre-soaked kale, Spirulina disks, Tropical Fish Flakes and a bit of pond water (contains diatoms, floating algae) is ideal.

      Seeing even the number of adults you describe in Memphis indicates a healthy population. A breeding site within a mile or so is the key to long-term establishment (toads may live in excess of 20 years in the wild, and so can persist long after breeding opportunities have vanished).

      Very refreshing to read of your efforts and interest, thank you. Please keep me posted as time permits.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  23. avatar

    Any thoughts on how I might get and keep a toad or two for my garden? We are in a 6b hardiness area, urban/suburban development. We have some mature shrubs that would provide shelter. There are slugs galore, as well as the usual flies, japanese beetles, mosquitoes, lightning bugs, etc. Would they stay around? Could I catch and bring them in for the winter? Has anybody tried this?
    Thanks for any comments – including “forget about it.”

    • avatar

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

      American toads are suited for temperatures within your planting zone, but establishment in a new environment is difficult at best (a notch below “forget-about-it!). Re-located adults nearly always try to return to their home territory, and would likely wander off. Tadpoles that are reared on site and allowed to colonize the area as they leave the water are more likely to remain nearby, but establishing young toads is an extremely daunting process. Please scroll down the comments on this article and check out my recent correspondence with Jonathan to get an idea of just how complicated this can be.

      If you are interested in insect control via an interesting garden inhabitant, setting out praying mantid egg cases would be a simpler and more effective route to follow. Mantid egg cases (oothecum) are available from biological supply houses and commercial greenhouses (please let me know if you need some sources). Mantids would fare well in your region, rarely stray and often establish self-sustaining colonies in new habitats. They are very interesting to observe…adults are large and quite bold, going about their lives in broad daylight and with little regard for observers’ prying eyes.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  24. avatar

    Mr. Indiviglio:

    Today, one more “metamorph” climbed up on the rocks in the tank, and I relocated the little guy out into our rain-soaked woods.

    Still have 15 or so that are in various states of transformation, but seem to prefer the water still. I bought some Tropical Fish Flakes “with spirulina” (Pet store didn’t have spirulina disks, though they could order it for me) — the tads however seem mostly to be ignoring the fish food and going for the minced boiled Boston lettuce.

    I had mentioned earlier that we placed three toadlets in a tray that had sand and decomposing leaf litter. I meant to put those guys out in the yard, but it took a few days to find them in there! I was worried they were no more, but after a more careful search (and placing bits of leaves in a shallow pan of rain water) we did find all three. They are incredibly well camouflaged — exactly the same color and texture as wet decomposing oak leaves. They also seemed pretty lively, giving us some good little hops. I imagine they found something to eat amongst the leaves? There are lots of arthropods and worms in there. I’m hoping they’ll find what they’re looking for out in back as well.

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for the update.

      The weather we’ve been having is perfect for young toads…desiccation is a threat in some years. Populations of leaf litter invertebrates are high as well.

      As a general rule, lettuce does not provide a complete diet for tadpoles; however, your remaining animals will likely transform soon, and the availability of natural prey items should take care of any nutritional problems they may have. Kale, romaine, dandelion etc. are good choices for the future; introducing fish food early on may make a difference as well…even tadpoles can become “picky” in time!

      Their camouflage is amazing, isn’t it? Add virulent skin toxins tom the mix and you can see why they live so long once past the delicate stage (and if they have a place to live, as you already know!). Springtails, ants, termites, tiny beetles, newly-hatched millipedes and sowbugs and similarly sized animals make up the bulk of their diets during their first few months of life.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  25. avatar

    Mr. Indiviglio:

    An update: after my last post, a few days went by with no customers – even tads with 4 legs were hanging back in the water, wouldn’t come up on the rocks. I decided to change out some of the water (I’ve been using water from our sump), and while I was doing that, I noticed that the quadrupeds were definitely not swimming very well. I decided to relocate 5 of them to my sandy plastic tub, which had lots of nicely decomposed leaf litter, a clump of grass and a sandy “beach”. They seemed to do well in there, hopping about when I poked the leaves.

    After a few more days, one or two would climb up every day. Eventually, I moved all of these back into the woods. The ones that spent a few days hopping in my tray did seem to have better “land-legs” than the ones newly emerged.

    One day, when I was delivering a toadlet to the woods, I actually saw one I had previously released! There are 25 or so out there now.

    At this point, I’m down to just six that haven’t left the water. One has four legs, 4 have just the rear legs, and one little guy hasn’t got any legs showing at all! What’s up with that? I decide to move these last six from the aquarium to my tray with a bit more water in it. There’s now an inch or less of water, with some leaves in the water, and some high ground made out of sand that they can more easily walk up onto.

    Thanks for your help,

    Maplewood, NJ

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for the update.

      You are taking all the right steps…my compliments. They do get noticeably stronger as time goes on; newly emerged animals are an important food source for several creatures, but after a few days the survivors are better equipped to avoid capture.

      Amazing that you saw a previously-released toad, given their size and cryptic coloration. Once on a field research project I spend hours searching for a 17 foot long anaconda in a shallow, room-sized pool of water. I knew the snake was there as we had previously fitted it with a transponder, but its ability to evade capture astonished me. I can’t imagine re-locating a toad metamorph!

      Lagging tadpoles are quite common; given the large clutch sizes and the tadpoles’ importance as a food item, such is not unusual. They may actually slow down as the population drops, so as to stay in the pond and put on some size. Dropping the water a bit each day may bring on an increase in their growth rate, as they will need to leave the “pond” before it dries out.

      Good luck and please keep me posted on your observations.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  26. avatar

    Quick update.

    I released the last of the toadlet/metamorphs not 5 days ago, bringing the total released to around 30. There was one last hold-out tadpole that only last week started to develop hind legs. But three days ago it died.

    Yesterday, while mowing the lawn around 20 feet from the wooded area where I released the toadlets, a 3/4 inch toad hopped out from in front of the mower. I quit mowing and got a good look at him. Very handsome, tan with yellowish brown spots, impressively long digits on rear legs. Frisky, hopped away at a good clip.

    I was surprised to see him out in that spot, which was quite dry and hot, more weeds than grass — a kind of plantain lawn. I had figured the little ones would stay back in the woods, where it is cool and damp.

    So I’m feeling pretty happy — increased three-fold in size, clearly finding plenty to eat.

    Jonathan Poor
    Maplewood, NJ

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks so much for the update…you did a great job, congrats. Very useful for me to hear first hand-accounts of how long the tads take to transform and the toads to grow.

      Regarding the one you saw, they are pretty resilient…they will desiccate if forced to remain in the open, but as long as they can retreat underground of below damp leaves to re-hydrate, they will be fine (toads absorb water mainly through a permeable area of skin on the chest, but through the rest of the skin as well, and can even draw moisture from damp soil and leaves).

      I look forward to hearing more….and to your next project!

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  27. avatar

    Another sighting last Friday. My wife was planting lavender on a slope adjacent to our house. She gathered some finished compost from a mound next to our house (left there from last spring), and then dumped a handfull into a 6 inch deep hole she had dug a few minutes earlier. A toad popped out from in the compost and hopped out of the hole! She’s not sure if the toad was in the compost or had fallen into the freshly dug hole. It was 100 feet from where I released the toadlets. She thinks it was around an inch long. It hopped off into an area of leaf litter composed largely of American holly leaves. (She’s wondering, would the toads be injured by the spines on those leaves?)


    Jonathan Poor

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. Great news…it’s hard to explain just how difficult it is to find animals in the field. I’ve spent hours trying to find a huge anaconda in a room sized mud hole…and the snake was transmitting signals from a transmitter implanted earlier! So you and your wife are doing quite well indeed. Very nice to hear that your yard is providing a suitable habitat. It will be interesting to track their growth rate as time goes on; I hope you continue to find them.

      Re the holly leaves, it’s difficult to say, but I’ve found toads among bramble, dead thistle and other such plants, as well as in empty lots full of broken glass in NYC and NJ, so I believe they will be fine.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  28. avatar


    While running the weedeater today I came across a small toad huddling near the foundation of my house (in western IL, on the Mississippi). Thankfully I didn’t injure the little fella and decided to bring him in the house for safekeeping.

    I suspect it’s an American Toad, and although small, I believe it’s probably a juvenile female. The throat has no coloring on it and I don’t “believe” there are any nuptial pads.

    Anyway, my question is regarding feeding… in addition to all the other staple insects/worms, one I have not seen listed anywhere is earwigs. Would they be a viable food item? My yard is rife with them, and would be easy to collect. My concern is the pincers, should they be clipped?

    Thanks for any info,


    • avatar

      Hello James, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog….glad you have good reflexes!

      Interesting question….American, Fowlers and related toads do consume earwigs. They seem to take them down fast enough to avoid problems with the pinchers, and their powerful digestive juices make short work of the insects once they have been swallowed.

      However, a small toad swallowing a large earwig might run into problems; another concern is that too many at once might create a digestive difficulties – the pinchers pass are largely indigestible, and are passed in the feces. In captivity, changes in hydration, dietary fiber content etc. might affect the toad’s ability to handle these insects (I once lost 2 long term captive frogs in this manner. The insects involved were Japanese beetles). So, clipping the pinches is an excellent idea. During my zoo years, co-workers thought it odd that I removed the claws from crayfish fed to marine toads, amphiumas, bullfrogs and other formidable amphibians, but I garnered a few longevity records and since then have always erred on the side of caution.

      Sexual dimorphism, i.e. nuptial pads/throat color, will only be evident upon sexual maturity; young animals of both sexes are identical.

      Good luck and please let me know if you need anything further,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  29. avatar

    Thanks for the quick reply and information Frank, I greatly appreciate it. I may toss him some earwigs from time to time, but will remove the pincers first for easier digestion.

    I’d like to cultivate a sow bug colony for supplementation, particularly during the winter and have been checking out your information on that subject.

    My daughter was of the opinion our toad was a male, basically based on size; but I suspected it was female based on them allegedly being more common. On further inspection, I think my daughter may have been correct. Will females have any spots or color on their throat? It seems my memory at the time of earlier posting was flawed, this one does have spots across the throat, and on closer inspection of the front feet I see what I would call “nodules” that may be the nuptial pads; at any rate, the feet are not smooth. In reality, the sex is not an issue for me other than just to know.

    Thanks much,


    • avatar

      Hello James, Frank Indiviglio here.

      I’m glad to hear that the information was useful.

      A sowbug colony is a very good idea.

      Sexing toads is a bit problematical, and complicated by the fact that several species hybridize (i.e. Americans and Woodhouse’s toads) at range overlaps. Females of most species do have spots and black markings, but not always; males’ throats have more of a black patch, but again this varies.

      Both sexes do have nodules on the feet; the nuptial pads are actually larger than these nodules, but are only evident on males during the breeding season (spring). Only males call during the spring, but both sexes will utter a “release call” when grasped.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  30. avatar

    Thanks again for all the great info and assistance, Frank.


  31. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    No sitings of toads since our last post at the end of July. We’re hoping some of the toadlets are still out there. Pretty dry out there right now. I think you’ve said that they’ll burrow down to escape the heat.

    Jonathan Poor

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the update. They do stay below ground in mid-summer, and become highly nocturnal. Usually they emerge only on rainy nights; you may see more of them as the weather cools.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  32. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My girlfriend and I raise American toads that we rescue from drying up mud puddles in the spring. We’ve raised and released more than hundred this year. We’ve decided to keep about 10 or so through the winter. We have a fair amount of experience with amphibians as we raise newts and dart frogs as well. However, we’ve run across a problem that we are unsure how to handle. A few of our small toads seem to be bloated and really have trouble using their hind legs. I don’t think it’s a vitamin deficiency as we feed them fruit flies dusted with herptivite and reptivite with calcium D3. We also feed them earthworms and other insects regularly. The small bloated ones almost look they are inflated with air. In fact, if you squeeze them a little you can hear a little gas “pop” come from them. I’m thinking they are either infected with some type of bacteria causing the gas problem or maybe they are impacted in their intestinal tract. They still have an appetite but every one afflicted eventually succumbs. The problem only seems to affect some of the very small toads. It’s i heartbreaking to watch. Do you have any suggestions?


    Bill and Michelle

    • avatar

      Hello Bill, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      The condition you describe is quite common, especially among newly transformed American toads. I’ve run across it myself when raising large batches for a release program in NYC.

      There may be 2 things going on. Difficulty in using the rear legs is sometimes linked to a calcium or other deficiency, but efforts to reverse it, at least in small toads, have proven unsuccessful. Using supplements helps, but in actuality we really do not know what most species, especially North American natives, need. Tadpole nutrition is another area that needs investigation. Poorly nourished tads may transform, but then die several weeks later…I’ve had this happen on a number of occasions over the years, with several species, even the relatively indestructible African clawed frogs.

      Bloating is, as you suspect, usually a by product of a bacterial infection…frogs already weakened by a nutritional deficiency may be more likely to become infected with bacteria that healthier clutch mates fight off – hence both symptoms in 1 toad. This is based mainly on anecdotal evidence, but does seem to happen time and time again, and with several species.

      Another point to bear in mind is that, among species that lay huge clutches, a great many tadpoles will not survive even under the best of circumstances. Some turtle species lay infertile eggs, apparently to satiate predators and take attention away from viable ones…I have no hard evidence, but I would not be surprised to learn that weaker tadpoles serve a similar function (someday someone will publish this, and I’ll say….”I thought so, but….!”.

      I would suggest providing the tads and metamorphs with as much variety as possible; I’ve had good luck with Tetramin Food Flakes and kale pre-soaked in hot water for tads. Metamorphs probably consume dozens of leaf litter invertebrate species in the wild, complicating our job in raising them. If time permits, you might try collecting leaf litter inverts – please see my article on Leaf Litter Invertebrate Use for more details.

      You and your partner have undertaken an admirable task…Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  33. avatar

    Last Sunday one of our dogs unearthed a toad that appears to be blind. One eye is closed, the other is open but seems to have a film over it. It also had a skin injury. I suspect the blindness issues were from a previous dog mauling that it survived, only to be found again. I’ve treated the skin injury with Novalson solution, and it seems to be getting better. Right now I’m keeping it on a clean towel until the injury heals, and giving it a little soaking once a day. It is not eating, however, as this is Minnesota and it is no doubt wanting to hibernate. Should I hibernate it for awhile? After it gets out of hibernation will it be able to find food in a terrarium without sight?
    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hello Laurie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and the welfare of your unfortunate patient!

      Bacterial/fungal infections are the main problems, but the steps you are taking should take care of that. Damp paper towels are good in that regard…the toad will be stressed if unable to burrow, however, so be sure to provide a small cave or broken clay flowerpot. I’d suggest a small bowl of water and daily spraying of the enclosure and animal, rather than removal for soaking, as such may stress it. Use an instant de-chlorinator in the water.

      Many native species do go off feed even if kept warm in the winter, although toads tend not to be as strictly controlled by “internal clocks”. It may just be stress or the effects of the injury, so try feeding from time to time. At average room temps., it’s caloric needs will be quite small. Hibernating toads in captivity is a bit risky, especially as regards sick animals.

      Toads have a nictitating membrane that can be moved back and forth across the eye – this may be the film you are seeing. If it is stuck, veterinary assistance would be needed to set it back in place. It may allow for some vision, however, so keep trying for awhile. Toads hunt by sight, but will snap at insects that bang up against them (not easy to arrange, however).

      As you may know, ingesting a toad can be fatal for a dog…most spit them out due to the foul taste, however.

      Good luck with the toad and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  34. avatar

    Thank you so much! Yes, our dogs seem to know not to put toads in their mouths, but our (large) one- year- old puppy is still curious about them and paws and pushes them with his nose apparently to get them to hop or squeak. This one is pretty vocal, so I suppose he was more fun.
    I have put the toad (throat is light gray .. a boy?) on damp paper towel, with water tray and a little cave, but being blind he doesn’t seem to know if he’s in a cave or not. He’s in a 10 gallon aquarium now but if he thrives I’d like to get him something bigger. Should I just put a bunch of crickets in the tank so they can “bump into him”? Also, we live in the country with a well. I have access to the well water or the tap water which goes through a conditioner/softener, but there is no chlorine in it. Which would be better to use? Our vet is knowledgeable about herps, so I’ll plan to bring the toad in next week if they eye doesn’t show improvement. I do so appreciate you being there to answer my questions!!!

    • avatar

      Hello Laurie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback and kind words.

      I would use small crickets (sold as “½ inch size” usually) as adults may chew on the toad if it is debilitated. Once it starts to feed we can talk about a balanced diet.

      Well water may be very hard…which tends not to be good for amphibians (although not in all cases)…and it’s difficult to judge tap water without knowing what sort of conditioners, type of softener etc. Since the toad will not require much water, you might be better off using bottled water – Poland Springs or such (but not distilled, this leaches body salts/minerals).

      A visit to the vet you mention would be a very good idea, perhaps the one eye can be saved if it is indeed a membrane problem.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    A lot has happened since I last wrote. Toad went to the vet who gave me some antibiotic eye ointment for his eyes and other wounds, and instructed me to keep him warm and damp. All went well a couple of weeks. Eyes both opened, he got more active, and I thought for sure I would be able to release him in the spring, and then suddenly he died. In the meantime I found a nice big tank on Craig’s List for him. The tank happened to come with a Russian Tortoise. I’ve had a Russian tortoise for 20 years and am familiar with their care, but I can’t get this little guy to eat. His previous owners just fed him lettuce, and surprisingly there is no pyramiding of his shell, but he seems under weight for his size and is small for his age. I’m keeping him separate from my other tortoise. He is on a hay substrate on the floor of a room heated by in-floor heating. His area is about 6 times roomier than his tank was. Do you think he just needs time to acclimate to his new surroundings, or should I take him to the vet too? I’ve offered him all kinds of greens, vegetables, and reconstituted grassland tortoise pellets too, but he just scoots away and buries himself in the hay. I’ve soaked him a couple of times and clipped back his beak, which was way too long. The ambient temp in his room is about 75 degrees, but the floor is warmer. Any thoughts?
    Thank You,

    • avatar

      Hello Laurie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      It’s very difficult to medicate amphibians; even in zoos losses are high. You did the best you could.

      I’ve definitely seen tortoises that have taken time to adjust to new surroundings, they are very aware of changes; also the beak trimming, while necessary, would be an additional source of stress.

      Some Russian tortoises cease to feed in the winter, even if kept warm…this is particularly common re individuals whose wild-caught ancestors originated the northern portions of their range. However, given that that animal was not well cared for, it may very well have some health problems – a person feeding it lettuce only was undoubtedly making other serious mistakes. A vet visit, blood tests, cloacal wash and such would be advisable. Calcium, Vit D/B levels are no doubt low; your vet will have other thoughts/recommendations as well.

      You may want to provide a basking site warmed by an overhead lamp – floor heat can be useful, but it will not usually warm the air very much above ambient, and basking under a light will likely be more familiar to the tortoise.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  36. avatar

    Hello, we have been caring for an American toad we found late in the fall here in Chicago. He has done well over the winter ate some and hibernated some. He has recently started calling out at night, and we had thought he may be ready to go back outside. However, the temp reaches in the mid to upper 40’s currently during the day and drops low at night.I think this may be to cold yet considering he has been indoors for winter. When is it advisable to release him? What temp do we want it to be for him to make a good transition from indoor to outdoor?

    • avatar

      Hello Amanda, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Very interesting to hear that the toad is calling – perhaps he senses the increased day-length, and the warmth of the house has pushed forward his “internal clock” – first instance of such that I can recall.

      It would be best to keep him indoors for a time. They are very territorial, gravitate to the same hibernation areas each year (may reach 20 yrs of age in wild). They also need to burrow down below the soil when cold weather hits – this would likely be impossible right now in the frigid land you hearty folks call home! Getting caught in a cold snap might also be a problem, especially if he is disoriented from his time indoors. In southern NY, I use mid-April as a safe release time, I’d say at least then or later in Chicago.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  37. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My North American toad has been very sluggish lately and has been keeping his eyes closed a lot. Upon further inspection I noticed he had a light film over his body. I washed the film off and he seem slightly more alert and his eyes are open now. Do you know what this film is?



    • avatar

      Hello Kyrie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      A film as you describe is usually mucus, and may be released when the toad is too dry or in preparation for hibernation. Unfortunately, it can also be in reaction to any number of parasites or illnesses (as a skin protectant), but it is almost impossible to know if this is the case without a veterinary exam/fecal tests etc.

      Please send in some additional info on its feeding history, temperature, humidity and such and I’ll try to offer some specific advice,

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  38. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My boyfriend searched online a bit more and read that toads can shed and usually eat the shed skin? We definitely keep him hydrated well with spraying as he seems to have a lame arm and has a hard time getting in his water dish on his own and we will place him in his dish as well from time to time. We feed him about 15 baby crickets a week and we leave them in the tank with him. From what I’ve read of other peoples questions, this seems like WAY too much, right? Also, he makes me very nervous as he tends to have a lot of odd behavior I’m not used to, for example, we set him in his water dish to soak and he apparently never got out. The next morning he was still in his dish not moving. He was limp and had no signs of life. I had to go to work so I left him on his soil under his light and he was fine when I got home…could this have been possible hibernation mode? He just seems to be a very inactive toad, but he does eat and he does burrow. So as I said we feed him crickets, his tank is about room temp (only additional heat is what his light gives off-7w), we have him in the large size tank of the one you suggest, Bed-a-beast soil and moderate humidity (just what is given off by spraying the tank with water and his light). I hope this gives you a better idea.

    Thanks so much,


    • avatar

      Hello Kyrie,

      Thanks for the feedback. Toads do consume their skin when shedding, but unshed skin would be recognizable as such – sort of like damp tissue paper; if this is what you may have seen, it could be that the toad is too weak to finish.

      It’s tricky to tell hibernation/slowdown from illness. Toads usually keep feeding indoors in winter, even at 65F or so, but adults may go off feed, due to an “internal clock”. Yours may just be slowing down, but not in true winter mode as he is feeding – this can throw off his behavior – his body clock says “winter”, but temps are high. Usually they do okay and perk up in spring.

      However, limpness etc can indicate a number of problems…most common is a calcium deficiency, but only a vet exam can tell you for sure. If you are not doing so, begin powdering all meals with supplements, alternate between Reptivite w/D3 and Reptocal. Best to feed several small meals each week, otherwise the uneaten crickets lose their supplement coating. Please see this article on Cricket Diets as well. Try to vary his diet – waxworms, earthworms, sow bugs can all be ordered via internet; collect wild insects as well as mentioned in the article. Toads are good at adjusting their metabolisms to suit diet – 15 small crickets /week may be fine assuming the toad is not obese – young ones rarely get too heavy, they have large appetites.

      Good luck and please let me know if you need anything further.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  39. avatar

    Thanks so much for all the info Frank! I will try those supplements as well as varying his diet. When feeding him other insects like waxworms and sow bugs should I try and keep them in a dish or let them roam about the habitat? I’ll let you know if there are any changes with my toad 🙂

    Thanks again, you rock!


    • avatar

      Hello Kyrie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      My pleasure, thanks for the kind words.

      Waxworms are best kept in a bowl sunk into the substrate, otherwise they burrow down. You can do either with sow bugs, they will come out at night and also are good scavengers. No need to powder them – they are crustaceans, related to crabs, and high in Calcium. You can also breed them – please see Raising Sowbugs. Mealworms are not great, unless newly molted (white) but mealworm beetles are a good food source, please see Raising Mealworms for more info.

      Good luck and please let me know how the toad makes out,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  40. avatar

    Hello Frank, Happy Spring!

    After the successes of last spring and summer, I’m wondering if I’ll see any of my toadlets again this season. The area where I released them in my yard is very swampy right now. I assume they’re burrowed down in there somewhere.

    How large would they be surviving one winter?

    The local reservation (South Mountain reservation in Essex county NJ) has loads of vernal pools right now. In past years I have heard frogs or toads singing in these pools, but I’ve never seen any of them. Any guess about what they might be? What is the general time-table for toads to mate and produce eggs in the pools?

    Last year you mentioned you had a technique for raising toadlets:

    You said:
    “If you’d like to try again next spring, I can give provide some ideas for a simple method that might allow you to raise a great many toads that will disperse on their own.”

    We’re definitely game to try again this season. With the amount of rain we’ve gotten (and are getting as I write!) we might even be able to create a small pool in our back yard…

    Jonathan Poor
    Maplewood, NJ

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks and same to you; nice to hear from you again.

      The first frogs to call in your area (early/mid March on) are spring peepers (high peep) and wood frogs (like ducks/clacking). Spotted salamanders often use the same pools at the same time. Leopard and Pickerel frogs may be mixed in, populations localized. Click Here for recordings of these and some other frogs native to NJ (not all shown are native, and wood frog is not recorded).
      Bull, Green and Gray Tree Frogs breed later, sometimes through early summer.

      American toads will be roused by the rains also, but do not usually breed until April. Size depends largely upon diet, but 1-2 yearlings could likely fit on a quarter.

      A small child’s pool or similar container sunk into the ground works well, aeration/ filtration may not be needed, but will give better results..predators can be a problem, however – raccoons, herons, etc. Or you can raise them indoors and then transfer to a sunken pool just before they transform. Pond water works well, as it will have lots of infusoria, algae, etc. If filtering aerating, you can up their food intake, provide lots of algae-based tablets, kale, etc. I can send product samples (filters, etc for indoor/outdoor use if you’d like).

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  41. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Just an update on how my toad is doing: Nothing has changed at all unfortunately. He still has that weird slime on him that I keep having to peel off almost weekly (I’m assuming it’s not a skin shed anymore) and is very sluggish. Anytime I peel off the slime he seems to perk up a little bit and his colors are more vibrant, but the stuff builds back up again. I cut his number of crickets from 15 down to 5 a week and those went too fast, then upped it to 10 and now it doesn’t seem like he’s eating hardly any. I haven’t changed his cricket only diet yet because he barely seems interested in crickets so I’m not sure how I’d get him to eat worms and such. Also, I’m thinking more and more he has a deformity of the arms as he rarely uses them and more or less just scoots with his back legs when he moves. I’m really not sure what to do about him.


    • avatar

      Hello Kyrie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      The arm problem may be related to calcium/Vit D; the slime is more difficult to figure – at this point a vet exam would be the only way of diagnosing the problems. I can try to provide a reference to a herp-experienced vet if that might be helpful.

      Good luck and please let me know if you need further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  42. avatar

    Hi Frank:

    Afraid I have bad news! All our new tadpoles died! We ordered 50 or so tadpoles from the same source as last year, and they arrived Thursday eve in a gas-permeable sack, all alive and wiggling. The bag contained a bit of pond algae, which the some of the tads were munching on, as well as a few mosquito larva and some kind of tiny worm.

    I got out the small plastic aquarium that we used last year, cleaned it out, put in water from our rain barrel, and released the tadpoles into the water. They looked fine. On Friday, I gave them a bit of cooked, minced lettuce. I noticed that they did not start right in munching the lettuce, they way they did last year. Later on, I put in a bit of green algae I found growing in the street where our basement sump discharges (It’s running almost constantly, these days).

    This afternoon (Saturday, roughly 48 hours after receiving the tadpoles) I checked on them, and found them pretty much all dead, lying on the bottom of the tank. A few wiggled a bit, and I fished those out and put them in a separate container of sump water, but at this point, looks like they’re not gonna make it.

    So, I’m not sure what the die-off was caused by. Comparing to what we did last year:

    1. This year I used water from a rain-barrel — last year I used water from our basement sump. The rain barrel could have been contaminated, with pollen, oak catkins, dust, etc. The water in there has been sitting for two weeks.

    2. The alge from the street? You had said they like pond water, and they arrived muching on some kind of green algae, but perhaps the stuff in the street was toxic to them?

    3. I filled up the aquarium higher this year, 6-7 inches deep, while last year probably was more like 4 inches.

    Not sure what else…
    Do you have any ideas?

    I’m going to try to order another bunch…


    Jonathan Poor

    • avatar

      Hi Johnathan,

      Sorry for the news – I would suspect the algae, but the tadpoles could have been carrying a parasite/disease that took some time to incubate – unfortunately hard to tell, they are likely wild caught.

      I hope the next batch does fine, please let me know,

      Best, Frank

  43. avatar

    Frank, if you don’t mind, I’d like to offer Kyrie some additional suggestions regarding the slime on her toad…

    Kyrie, you don’t give a lot of information regarding your toad’s habitat, other than using Bed-a-Beast. Is there any kind of moss in there as well? Like Exo-Terra’s Forest Moss, or Zoo Med Frog Moss? Does he have ample places to hide, or plants for cover? Anything that creates a cave?

    If he doesn’t have any place to hide other than a burrow in a bare tank, he may be stressing, which will only exacerbate any underlying health issues.

    When you mist, how much do you mist? Just enough to moisten the topsoil, or do you saturate the soil? And how often do you change the bedding? Waste products will accumulate in the soil, so it should be changed periodically. I do mine monthly, but Frank would be the better authority on how often.

    Also, what kind of water are you using? Distilled? Tap? Spring? Rain? Reverse Osmosis? Well? The kind of water being used may have something to do with it. For example, if it’s tap water from a municipality that uses a high chlorine or chloramine load, it could be burning the toad’s skin, which would explain a protective sliming.

    Anyway, with the weekly time frame of growth for the “slime,” it sounds to me like either a bacterial or fungal infection; which a too-wet environment could contribute to. As Frank said, only a vet can tell for sure, but I think the above are some factors to consider in making a diagnosis.

    Hope this helps.


    • avatar

      Hello James, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and your comment.

      As you say, there are a great many factors to consider – excess mucus/frequent shedding is a disease response common to many conditions, the leg issue may be related to diet but again there is much we do not yet understand. Proper environment is “health care” with all animals, although a diagnosis is important in cases such as this.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  44. avatar

    I have three american toads that have been living in my yard for a few years now. I am wanting to spruce up the area around where they live. I wanted to find out if there are any plants that I should not put there, that could be harmful to them, etc. Do you have any suggestions?

    • avatar

      Hello Jackie, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Nice of you to consider the toads before planting…

      There’s not really any concerns with toxic plants; however, new plantings can change the environment which the toads no find satisfactory. Attracting different insect species, encouraging more/less leaf fall or shade/sun can render the area less suitable and perhaps cause them to move off. Hard to say, however, unless one were to do a careful survey of the area.

      I would avoid major digging, as you might disturb their hibernation sites (toads tend to use the same areas each year. Evergreens should not be planted, as the needles change the leaf-litter community drastically. Also beware of grasses, bamboo or other plants that send out dense root networks –m these would prevent the toads from burrowing below the soil during the day and for extended dry periods.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  45. avatar

    Hello!! I recently purchased two fire bellied toads. One hasnt eaten since i got him. I couldn’t figure out why until today the lady at pet smart told me that it might be blind. So,ive been watching him. he is moving slowly and only stays close to the edge of the terrarium i have him in. he snaps at the crickets almost as if he hears them. poor thing misses everytime. I dont know what to do. Is there anyway i can feed him? Or is my poor buddy doomed??

    • avatar

      Hello Angelina, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      Although the problem could be vision related, what is more commonly seen is an inability to properly contract the muscles and “aim” at the insect; this may be related to a nutritional problem – most often a calcium deficiency. It often occurs in frogs and toads, more so that with other herps.

      Try powdering all foods with supplements – alternate between Reptivite with D3 and Reptocal. If you pinch the crickets’ rear legs at the “knee”, the cricket will shed the leg, making it easier to catch (this doesn’t seem to bother the cricket, as it is a normal defense reaction – they will feed right after shedding legs as if all is fine).

      Force-feeding is also possible, but try above first – please write back if you need force-feeding info.

      Experienced vets can also administer calcium Gluconate injections.

      Good luck and please keep me posted,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  46. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    An update: our second batch of toad-tads is doing well. They are growing, but at varying rates. They are eating spirulina flakes and some boiled boston lettuce (they get very excited by the lettuce, for some reason). I’m thinking of getting a jar of pond water to give to them, because I think I remember you recommending that for the diatoms… Any other foods I should try?

    Here’s another question. I visited some vernal pools in our neighboring Essex County park, South Mt. Reservation today to see if I could observe tadpoles in there. (I had seen some 4 weeks ago.) Sure enough they were there! What surprised me was their size — over an inch long! Bodies close to half an inch, with quite impressive tails. Are these a different species from my Bufo americanus, or are they just eating well? Could they be woodland frogs?
    Thanks for all your help,
    Jonathan Poor

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the update. Pond water is a good idea; kale has more nutrition than lettuce, and is a very good basic diet – soak in hot water for 10 min or so, best not to boil as nutrients are lost. Dandelion is also a good choice.

      The tadpoles could be Am Toads, in the wild they eat 24/7, and take in a greater variety of foods than we can provide in captivity. Also, decreasing water levels in vernal pools stimulates appetite/growth, so that they can transform rapidly (tiger salamander larvae actually develop different teeth and mouth structures at such time, and begin to eat each other). One inch is getting near the upper size limit for toads..in vernal ponds in Essex the tads could also be gray treefrog or woodfrog, check for extern al gills, this would indicate salamander larvae – marbled, spotted and several others occur there , and reach 2-3 inches.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  47. avatar

    I have a small Native toad it will not eat live bait or when I try to get its attention, (I get it’s attention, but it looks away.) what should I do about this?

    • avatar

      Hello Michael, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. It would be best if you wrote back with a few more details – type of terrarium (substrate, moisture level, hiding spot, size, etc) and type of insects being offered.

      However, in general it is best to leave the toad alone (not try to get its attention, not handle it) at first and to be sure it has a cave to hide in or moss to burrow below. Crickets are the best food to start off with, as you can leave them in overnight – the toad is more likely to eat at night, or when all is quiet.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  48. avatar

    Hi I have had three American toads that I saved from the lawn mower, a dog, and a cat three years ago. They are all about three inches long except one that is a bit smaller than the other two. I have kept them in a 20 gallon tank with a screened lid partially covered with press and seal due to the dehumidifier in the hallway. I do something similar to help keep the humidity of 85% in my hermit crabs 55 gallon tank. I have the toads on dirt from where I found them mixed with some peat moss. They have a decent size dish of water that they enjoy soaking in, a on its side flower pot, and two tunnels made in the soil(by me) that they enjoy hiding in. The soil around here is quite clay-y so they don’t seem to be able to bury in it themselves. I have fake plants along with a few spider-plants that I change out once they sit on it to death. I had a small succulent in there they liked to hide in but it died when I had to move the tank. sometime ago I saw one of my toads grabbing the other around the middle and squeezing which is what my aquatic frogs did when they were laying/fertilizing eggs. However they weren’t in water and I never saw eggs at all…. Getting to the point… was that in fact mating, and is it possible for them to mate in captivity or would I need to offer more water….. well any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m more informed on natural care of hermit crabs than toads. Would it be advisable to change their substrate to something like sterilized non fertilized potting soil and sphagnum or peat moss mix? I was thinking of changing it to that and collecting leaves from where I found them and strewing those around on the top… I also feed them small crickets I feed assortment of foods before they are devoured, meal worms I feed cooked carrot, and random bug s I catch outside or inside. We have a kind of water beetle that comes indoors because we live in an apple orchard and there is a drought, do you think the toads would eat smaller ones? The beetles give off a bad odor when threatened so they may not want to eat them either way.

    Thank you and apologies for rambling on.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. I’m a great fan of rambling – actually, I think your note shows deep interest and a great deal of thought regarding the care of your recued pets, keep it up!

      That was indeed a mating embrace, known as “amplexus” in amphibians. Male toads sometimes latch onto females that are not carrying eggs (or even tennis balls, fish!) – so the female may not necessarily have been gravid (carrying eggs). If she was, she likely re-absorbed the eggs. But sometimes they can become egg-bound if there is not sufficient water in which to deposit the eggs. If you notice her swollen or not-feeding, please write back. They do need water in order to lay – usually a fairly large volume. Next time you might try moving them to a plastic garbage can or similar container with 4-5 inches of dechlorinated water and some plastic plants on which to rest. A drop in temperature in winter (normal household temp change may be enough) may stimulate breeding.

      Sphagnum/peat is fine, but I wouldn’t change since you’ve been doing well for years – some substrates are easy to swallow, and can cause blockages. Leaves are a great idea as long as no pesticides are used, – keeps toads “busy” searching for bugs.

      Newly-molted (white) mealworms are best, don’t use too many yellow ones, high chitin levels in exoskeleton; very good that you feed all and use wild caught insects. Earthworms are one of the most nutritious foods.

      During times when you rely mainly on crickets, best to use supplements. In winter I powder most meals with supplements, alternating among Reptivite with D3, ReptiCalcium and ReptoCal.
      Good question on the aquatic bug – toads will likely avoid them die to the odor; many species have a nasty bite as well, so best not to use.

      Perhaps you would enjoy the following articles on toad learning ability and hermit crabs:
      Amphibian Learning Abilities

      Hermit Crab Social Behavior
      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  49. avatar

    I bought some reptile calcium powder stuff but didn’t open it because I wasn’t sure if it was good for the toads.


    it says repti calcium.

    I’m moving them into a better tank, the one their in now is leaking and has a slate bottom. Thats why I was thinking about changing up the substrate, maybe if I mix that and the dirt from where I found them it would be less of a stressful change…
    I was thinking of making the pool a bit bigger to possibly accommodate them possibly mating. My room has no heat so during the winter the temp drops in here…. I have them in my room by the way. The leaves are from the base of the mt. where no one sprays anything. I’ll check it out. I hope to one day do my biology work with studying hermit crabs in the wild, along with other animals. I have 18 hermit crabs at the moment. I rescue crabs from people who realise they don’t know how to care for their crabs. There is alot of false info about them out there. Most people don’t even know they can live 60+ years in captivity if cared for correctly.
    Anywho…. I will watch them closer when I feed them next, and see if they are all eating.

    Thank you

    • avatar

      Hello Ookami, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. We certainly need more people studying hermit crabs and other such creatures that don’t get nearly enough attention. I had the good fortune of working with Coconut crabs for awhile (captivity) – still much to be learned about them as well. I wish you well.

      Sounds like you’re giving the toads a varied diet; supplements are most useful during the cooler seasons, when people tend to feed crickets/mealworms and little else. Also critical for young, growing toads.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  50. avatar

    Hello~I hope I can find some suggestions for our sick toad. Hopper is an American Toad my husband found at his work (a concrete plant) over a year ago. He was small when brought home, but got puddy and was really good doing until a little bit ago. He slowly stopped eating as much-he would go to his “bowl” and sit in it for mealworms, he also had crickets in his tank all the time and other bugs my son and I would find. He still soaks nightly in his water but I noticed the “bump” on his throat is a darker color and seems to be a bit harder than it was-I don’t want to push hard on it but I did feel it since it looked different than normal. He also seems to be swallowing alot even with nothing in his mouth-I can’t see a thing with is tongue pilled on his bottom jaw! 🙂 He is getting thin and doesn’t seem to have much strength-he has a hard time hopping around when out of his tank and just this am I heard him chirpping alot and found him on his back and I had to turn him over. Oh, he also seems to be letting out loud single chirps at different times, mostly over night but a few during the day. We live about an hour from “That Fish Place” and I have called several vets in the area-none treat toads. He is my 6 yr old son’s toad and we all love the little guy. We just had our 15yr old dog and 16 yr old cat put down 2 days apart last month, so I really don’t want anything to happen to my boy’s toad he loves. I have searched the net and can’t find ANYTHING about sick toads.
    Any info anyone has would be helpful.
    Thank you so much!

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

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

      The symptoms you describe are typical of a Calcium deficiency, which is often coupled with other nutritional disorders; Calcium Gluconate injections are the treatment of choice. A diet heavy in mealworms may also cause problems, i.e. an intestinal blockage that prevents the animal from feeding. The lump may be coincidental (a cyst or tumor perhaps) or also can be at the root of the problem.

      Please check this list of Reptile/Amphibian Experienced Veterinarians in PA; if none are conveniently located, ask for a referral. If the toad recovers, please be in touch and we can discuss diet and supplements.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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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