Home | Reptile and Amphibian Health | Surinam Toads (Pipa pipa) as Pets, Part III: Diet and Feeding Techniques

Surinam Toads (Pipa pipa) as Pets, Part III: Diet and Feeding Techniques

 

Surinam ToadSurinam toads are well known for their bizarre reproductive strategy (please see article below), unusual appearance, large size and unique habitats.  They make very interesting pets but, as most in the trade are wild-caught, present a few problems when first introduced into the aquarium.  Last time we took a look at establishing the new Surinam toad and helping it to make the adjustment to captive life (Surinam Toads (Pipa pipa) as Pets: Acclimating New Animals and Special Considerations).  Today I’ll take a look at their dietary needs.

A Live Food Specialist
Surinam toads will take live food (or food moved before them as if alive) only.  Their favorites are earthworms, blackworms and small fishes such as guppies, platys, swordtails, mollies, minnows and shiners.  Use goldfish no more than once each month, and vary the species fed as much as is possible.

Feeding Techniques and Cautions

You can leave fishes in with the frog, as it will likely feed only at night until it has acclimated.  Be sure to adjust the fishes to your aquarium’s water temperature (float bag for 20 minutes) so that the frogs do not contract Ick or other diseases that might be transmitted from stressed fishes (also, fishes are more likely to be consumed if they swim about normally).

When using earthworms, introduce them to the tank at night (foe newly acquired frogs).  Worms usually survive for 8 hours or so underwater, but add only 1 at first and make sure to remove it in the AM if uneaten.

As mentioned in Part I of this article, Surinam toads often swallow gravel while feeding and are best kept in bare-bottomed aquariums.  This is a special concern when using earthworms, which are taken right off the substrate, and blackworms, which burrow into it.  If you use substrate, avoid feeding blackworms and offer earthworms from a plastic feeding tong.

Introducing Canned Shrimp and Snails

Well-habituated Surinam toads will consume prawn and other non-living food items that are dropped so as to land directly in front of their mouths.  Start your frog off with live food, but after awhile try using canned shrimp and snails to provide dietary variety.

Composition of the Diet

I have kept and bred Surinam toads for a number of years using a diet comprised of approximately 75% fish (platys, guppies, mollies, minnows, shiners and occasional goldfish) and earthworms, with the balance of their food intake consisting of blackworms and shrimp.

Further Reading
Please see Breeding A Skin-Brooding Amphibian: the Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa)  to read about captive reproduction of this fascinating animal.

You can learn about the other aquatic species in the family to which this frog belongs (Pipidae) at

http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/names.php?taxon=&family=pipidae&subfamily=&genus=&commname=&authority=&year=&geo=0&dist=&comment=.

 

40 comments

  1. avatar

    my large female pipa has like cartlige spots on here and wont eat what the f is the this ? ick looks clear like slimy this looks weird help me somebody

    • avatar

      Hello Marcus, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      Please write back with more specific information concerning the frog’s symptoms and also some details concerning the aquarium – size, temperature, pH and I’ll do my best to provide some advice.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    she sick and wont eat she has white like cartlide spots on here like here skin is rotting off what do i do shes going to die she a big healthy female but she dont look good now

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      Bacteria and fungal infections are common in Surinam toads, and cause the symptoms you describe. The best treatment you can provide at home is Methylene Blue (available at most pet stores); this is used in the water and absorbed through the skin. You can use it at the strength recommended on the bottle for fishes. Keep the frog in it for 2 days, longer if needed. At this point, however, the infection may be difficult to treat – unfortunately, it is likely that the frog will not survive. If you have access to a veterinarian who treats amphibians, I would suggest a visit.

      Skin infections usually take hold in times of stress (temperature change, not enough cover for the frog, shipping) and if the water quality is poor. Surinam toads produce a great deal of waste – ammonia needs to be monitored and water changes, even with filtration, are important.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    its a 24 gal nano cube its at 80 now but got a little cold when the temp dropped im running out of time

    • avatar

      A long, lower tank, along the lines of a “20 Long”, would be preferable, as Surinam toads spend most of their time on the bottom. 78 F is ideal, but I wouldn’t make any changes right now, as this would further stress the frog.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    i got some of that ick treatment i dont know what else to do i dont want to take to a vet theyll just charge me more than than frog is worth it ticks me of i dont know what to do. its called maracide. i took to long to get the heater i guess i have alot of exotic pets but only got the aquatic ones this year

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      The disease we term “ick” is actually a parasitic infection, unrelated to your frog’s condition. If you will not be bringing the frog to a veterinarian, then Methylene Blue, as suggested earlier, and not Maracide, is your best treatment option.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Well thats just prime. So its been a week do they sell this at petsmart or a pet store.

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Most stores sell Methylene Blue, it’s a common tropical fish medication. Best to begin treatment as soon as possible.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    the pets stores around here now days dont know what a pipa frog is aint that great when i called they were like what a paper frog ???

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Surinam toads are still not well known in the trade; most are wild caught as adults, which adds to the difficulties in keeping them healthy. They are interesting, but are not the best aquatic frogs to start with.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    tropical treasures got it how do i treat her just pour in the water or what ? its in phoenix where i live , petsmart and petco dont carry it

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Please see my response to your earlier question, posted yesterday morning, re treatment details.

      Good luck and please be in touch if you need further information,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    i got the treatment i gave her a dip how often should i do it ???

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Sorry if my earlier note was unclear…use at the dosage recommended for fish. You can keep the frog in Methylene Blue for 2-3 days (it will stain the frog’s skin), or longer if you see no improvement. After 4 days, do at least a ½ water change and add a methylene blue as recommended on the bottle to the newly added water. Again, in a well-advanced case of Septicemia-like infections, treatment with or without veterinary intervention is difficult.

      Usually, we start with ½ the fish dose when medicating amphibians, but best to go full strength in your case; I’ve used Methylene Blue full strength in emergency situations as well.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    she died i wanna new one though could i get a new one and i already got the treatment is that fungus still in my fish tank now i could use that stuff at first sighn i didnt get the stuff till it was to late

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Yes, the fungus and bacteria are in the tank and filter. Please see my last post for information concerning disinfection.

      As mentioned, I would not recommend getting another Surinam toad as it will likely have been collected along with the one that just expired and may become ill as well. Wild caught Surinam toads are very delicate; fecal samples should be analyzed by a veterinarian to determine what parasites are present.

      If, as is likely, a skin infection takes hold, you would also need to bring the animal to a veterinarian. Home treatment is not nearly as effective; catching the condition earlier would not make a great deal of difference in this case. There are a number of other issues involving water quality which would need to be addressed as well. Wild caught or sensitive amphibians really should not be kept if access to an experienced veterinarian is not available.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    sorry to bug you so then do you think i should just pour the methylene blue in the aquaruim then ?

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      No trouble at all…yes, you can add the Methylene Blue to the tank as per dosage on bottle, then allow to sit (run filter) for 2-3 days. Then empty and clean as mentioned last time. Be careful – MB stains skin and clothes, plastice.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    i put the methylene blue in the tank its a nano cube tank then after three days do i drain the whole tank and clean it or what ? i had anachris in there alot of it too that stuff will kill the plants right ? the tank looked clean and i had snails in there ?

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Yes, drain and clean as described earlier….the fungi/bacteria are microscopic so appearance is not a good guide as to cleanliness.

      Best to re-locate the plants and snails if possible, some species survive, others do not.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    should i clean the aquarium every couple months or so maybe few ??? so no bacteria ??? i gotta ph and ammonia gauge and heater for all my aquatic pets

    • avatar

      Hello Marcus, Frank Indiviglio here.

      The bacteria that causes the type of ailment your frog experienced is almost impossible to eliminate, as it is present in most environments. But by doing partial water changes, keeping ammonia in check and filtering well, you can keep the frog’s immune system in good shape, so that it can fight off common microbes. No need to drop and clean the aquarium unless there is a health problem.

      Experience in caring for tropical fish is very useful in keeping aquatic frogs. A basic aquarium care book, especially the water quality sections, might prove useful to you.

      However, as mentioned earlier, wild caught Surinam toads will always harbor parasites as well, and these may cause problems in captivity regardless of how clean the tank is kept. In zoos, we usually run fecal tests on all wild-caught animals, and medicate them for various parasites. If you d not have access to an experienced amphibian veterinarian, I would not suggest that you buy Surinam toads, unless you can locate a source of captive born young (very rare). African clawed frogs and dwarf African clawed frogs are far better choices, as far as aquatic frogs go.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have 2 suriname toads in a 56gal aquarium with a good eheim canister filter. water qulaity is good. I think it is a small male (5″) and older female (6″), at least one is male as something clicks at night. Feeding questions: i have a pond in the backyard, so i’ve been giiving them minnows 2xweek. They are hogs. between the 2 they will eat 30 minnows over night. Aver size is about 2″ long: shiners, topminnow, baby bass, etc. So the question: is there a correct quantity of minnows? How much is enough or how much is too much? Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Jay,

      great diet…varied fish feeding on insects and such are best; just watch for some of the small sunnies and cats that have dorsal/pectoral spines (frogs will not likely avoid dangerous species not native to their home range).

      Hunger will vary with temperature; I’m assuming at least 78 F there in Texas? You could cut back a bit, as they are adults (males stay smaller than females); perhaps 20 2x/week. The frogs seem able to alter their metabolisms so as to stay in good weight as long as they are not being starved. Fish provide lots of nutrition; less needed. In the wild, they will gorge when able, but then may go without in lean times – so seems to be no “automatic” cut-off in captivity.

      Please keep up with partial water changes, esp. when fish are fed. A sudden release of a large quantity of ammonia, i.e if both excrete at same time, can overwhelm filter and kill them quickly. Ammo chips (zeolite) in the eheim is a good precaution.

      Here’s an article on breeding that you may enjoy.

      Enjoy and pl let me know if you need anything further, Best, Frank

  14. avatar

    Frank another feeding question, as this blog page seems to be about food. I can’t for the life of me talk them into eating insects. I drop in grasshoppers, cicadas, daddylonglegs, and other misc bugs that i find on the porch at night. Everything is always still there and quite drowned dead in the morning. why are they bug snobs?

    • avatar

      Hi jay,

      Good call! In the wild they stay on the bottom and do not rise to surface for insects as do the related Af Clawed Frogs. Dead food, i.e. drowned bugs that sink, is rarely taken. They love earthworms, however, and these are a great food item if taken from soils that are not treated with pesticides., lawn products, etc. Small live shrimps are also relished. One problem with earthworms taken from the bottom is the tendency to swallow substrate; we’ve lost animals to gravel impaction at zoo. Natural habitat is mud/sand bottomed water, but even that can cause probs in captivity. Best to tong feed or be sure they grab worms on way down.

      Please lkeep me posted, best, Frank

  15. avatar

    minnows up to 3.5″ are eaten. I thought that might be too big for them but aparently not. A small sunfish almost 3″long survived. it was shorter then some other fishys, but bluegill are very tall (dorsal to ventral). I guess the frogs know that he couldn’t quite get his mouth over it. The sunfish has sort of become a pet last couple weeks. I have no clue what he is eating. Good thought on the dorsal spines, thanks.

    They like worms. Even big 6″nightcrawelrs. sometimes half the worm will stick out of his mouth for several minutes, like a kid eating spagetti.
    How can they swallow underwater without drowning?

    • avatar

      Hi Jay,

      The probably tend to focus on longer fish as you suggest. Sunnies are great aquarium fish, I have several species; smaller types are very popular in Europe. Will eat worms and insects, and easy to switch onto pellets, flakes, etc.

      Crocs and aquatic turtles have a flap that closes over the trachea when they are feeding underwater; keeps water out of lungs. Less known about frogs, but likely a similar mechanism.

      Surinam toads & Af Clawed frogs lack a tongue – not much use in grabbing food underwater.

      Best, Frank

  16. avatar

    yes, i’m at 76-78deg F. At first I had them in the garage next to uros and water was over 85. You recomended to get it down quick. They in the house now, so I have the same temp too.

    One problem with earmworms: i think frogs are nearly blind or really stupid. if worm falls 2″ away from where frog is perched, he ignores it. Probably doesn’t know it is there. Eventually somebody swims by, bumps into worm with face and eats it. I’ve not tried tongs, as tank is pretty deep and they are usually on bottom.

    You mentioned(and i agree) that they are usually on bottom, but i also notice some floating behavior. They burp bubbles to control bouancy.

    • avatar

      HI Jay,

      They hunt mainly by feel – live in turbid/muddy waters. The star-shaped structures on the fingers are filled with nerve endings; they have a lateral line as do fish, but this likely senses larger, more mobile prey and predators. Worms are mainly found by brushing the fingers through mud. Eyesight very poor, not much use in their habitat.

      best, Frank

  17. avatar

    We had a big hatching of frogs this year. I dont mean captive surinams, i’m meaning out by the creek there are a ton of baby leopard frogs 3/4″ long. I’ve been sweeping the creek side with a buttefly net, easy to catch 20-30 in short order. Toads love ’em. Apparently tastier than minnows because baby frogs are the first thing to go. The baby frogs tend to gather at the rim of the aquarium, so that thier legs are still in the water but thier body is mostly out sticking to the glass. Giant toads have learned to slowly swim the edge of the tank with one paw sweeping along above the waterline. When a baby jumps, they pounce. Pretty cool new seasonal menu item.

    • avatar

      Very interesting note, thanks. I’ve had Surinams take tadpoles, not experimented with metamorphs but makes sense. Just be sure you’re not collecting one of the rare leopard frog subspecies/species! Transfer pf parasites/bacteria between related animals from different parts of the world can be a concern – one that is relatively harmless to natural host may transfer to a relative and become a serious problem (similar to tourists getting sick after drinking tap water in foreign countries), so you may want to go slow, watch closely. Enjoy, best, Frank

  18. avatar

    Hi Frank, followup on varied menu: I live in rural area on dirt road with a pond and creek nearby. Every weekend i live catch Surinane’s cusine for the week. Minnows are by far the favorite and most common to catch. Top minnows, darters, small sunfish, chub and other misc unidentified pisces of the lake. water bettles are not taken. They swim maddly at lightning speed on top on water, frogs are too slow (and they are quick). Frogs definately prefer feeding at bottom. Dragon/caddisfly/misc water bug larvae are taken. I have stopped catching small baby frogs per your thought of possible tourist diareahea. I’ve been there and wouldn’t wish it on anybody, not even a frog. They love freshwater shrimp. I did not know that we had fresh water shrimp around here, until i started seining the pond for frog-lunch. Shrimp are very popular, also with the resident sunfish who is still there. Crayfish oddly are not eaten. I have 6 crayfish living in tank now. I thought they would go down, but for some reason they still survive. I even dumpped in some smallish freshwater clams about 1/2 to 3/4inch. they are still there too. I am interested in feeding odd species that i can locally catch, just to see what happens. I have been looking for leaches, but when you want a bloodsucker you cant find any. What do crayfish and clams eat? I might have accidental new pets.

    • avatar

      Thanks for the feedback, Jay. Sounds like a fantastic diet. very interesting that they are taking bottom dwelling insect larvae and shrimp…makes sense, but not much recorded about their diet in the wild, and few people go through the trouble of collecting.

      Crayfish will eat dead or slow moving fish, insects, algae, many live plants as well as sinking tropical fish pellets of all types. Fascinating to breed..females brood eggs and keep young on back for a time; main problem is that when one molts, others often consume it (they remain soft and defenseless for several hours); providing multiple hiding places can help. They may attack debilitated frogs, but if very small should not be a problem.

      Fresh water clams are filter feeders…I’ve had them live for years on a diet of algae tablets (tropical fish food) and crushed fish flakes dissolved in water (mix in jar, dump into tank) and whatever Daphnia etc. were established (planted tank near sunny window); however, some species are delicate and may need a better diet. filter feeding foods sold for marine inverts such as coral would be useful.

      I tend to get side-tracked when collecting food as well…right now keeping giant water bugs and ferocious water bogs that turned up in nets.

      be careful with leeches…seem quite hard to digest unless chopped up (many turtles take them0…not sure if feeding them to frogs would be a good idea, may do some damage before succumbing to digestive enzymes..no evidence of this, just a hunch,

      Enjoy, best, frank

  19. avatar

    Hi Frank, I know that you told me not to feed froglets because of potential communicable disease between amphi. so I slacked off of the baby frogs, now (July) they are all too big anyway, just regular looking frogs. Yesterday I caught a huge bullfrog tadpole. It was 3″ long and really fat (think girth of an Eisenhauser silver dollar). I figured it would too big and would probably live to grow feet. I thought it would be cool to have a metamorph bullfrog pet, so I dumped it in the tank with regular selection of minnows. Tadpole did not hit the bottom of the tank before he was engulfed. I cant believe that suriname swallowed it whole, it was huge. It would be like us swallowing a beachball in one bite. I’ve been concerned about feeding too large of critters. Thought they might choke. But I guess frogs don’t have the same choking reflex that mammals have.

    I’m down to 3 crayfish, they attack and eat ach other. Crayfish are viscous. Sometimes they crawl on the frog. It gets swatted with a flipper or brushed against the tank wall to dislodge. Otherwise they are peaceful cohabitants.

    One more note, recently booth frogs have shed their skin. I was planning on netting it out, but something ate the skin by morning. I don’t think crayfish could eat that much, so I guess frog ate his own skin? Is shedding a good thing or indication of parasites?

    • avatar

      Hi Jay,

      Nice to hear from you. Pipa have extra large gapes, even for frogs, and no tongues to get in the way. Some tads have protective skin toxins; perhaps bullfrogs lack these, or they do not affect Pipa. Nice to have this info on hand, thanks.

      Crayfish always find one another right after a shed, when shedder is soft and defenseless, Battle at other times also. They will attack lethargic/ill frogs, and are drawn to cuts in skin, etc, so take care.

      Frogs usually eat skin as it is pulled over hear, so sheds are rarely seen. Not sure if they would pick up a previously shed skin, but crayfishes and other animals will. Shedding is normal, even for adults; frequent shed can indicate a problem, but hard to monitor as most are consumed.

      Enjoy, best, Frank

  20. avatar

    Toads and frogs cannot get ich. Ich is an obligate parasite of fish; it doesn’t infect other animals.
    Still, on general principles, I wouldn’t feed frogs or toads with fish that might be infected with ich.

    • avatar

      Hello,

      Thank you for your interest. The protozoan that causes ick, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, was long thought to infect fish only. However, we now know that it does indeed infect amphibians…whether all or just those that have been tested are susceptible is not known. Other parasites in the same genus also affect amphibians, and the treatment/precautions are the same or similar. please see this article abstract (addresses infection in tadpoles). Best, Frank

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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