Home | Amphibians | Frog Diets – Nutritious Foods for Popularly-Kept Frogs and Toads – Part 1

Frog Diets – Nutritious Foods for Popularly-Kept Frogs and Toads – Part 1

Albino BullfrogsMany frogs and toads that are collected or purchased and kept as pets will greedily accept crickets and mealworms, the food items most easily obtained from pet stores.  Most thrive on this fare for a time, but eventually develop nutritional disorders and expire long before they have reached their potential life-span.  Following are some useful tips for those keeping American Bullfrogs, White’s Treefrogs, Budgett’s Frogs, most Toads and similar species.  Please see my other Amphibian Care Articles for information on feeding Poison Frogs, Mantellas, African Clawed Frogs, Horned Frogs and others requiring specialized diets, or write in with your questions.

Variety, the Key to Good Health

A varied diet is essential if you are to have success in keeping frogs long-term.  I have observed wild Marine Toads consuming over 2 dozen insect species in a single evening, and other researchers have documented a huge range of prey items.  Always strive to provide your frogs and toads with as many invertebrate species as possible.

Collecting Insects and other Invertebrates

I’ve done well by relying upon wild caught invertebrates during the warmer months and saving crickets, waxworms and roaches for winter use.  However, even the occasional beetle or moth plucked from a window screen will go a long way in ensuring your pet’s good health.

Collecting insects is actually quite interesting and a great deal of fun.  I’ve written a number of articles on insect collecting techniques and insect traps.  Please check them out when you have a moment – you may discover a new hobby in the process!
Green Frog

Commercially-Reared Insects

You should allow insects purchased as frog food to feed upon a healthy diet for several days, in order to increase their nutritional value (this process is often termed “gut loading”).  Please see the articles referenced below to learn about the proper care of crickets and mealworms and the use of commercially available cricket foods.

I powder most store-bought insects with supplements, alternating among Reptivite with D3ReptiCalcium and Reptocal.  I do not use supplements when feeding wild-caught invertebrates.


Further Reading

Please see the following articles:

Collecting Insects

Cricket Care

Mealworm Care

Roach Care




  1. avatar

    very niteresting, at first i didn’t feed my amphibians with wild caught insects but lastly, readind you and talking with other hobbist it’s not bad if the place where you got the insects is without any quemicals. So nowadays i use both, wc insects and cb ones 😉

    • avatar

      Hello Fernando, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Nice to hear from you again; please keep me posted and let me know what types of insects you have used. No wild insects here now in frigid (-2 C) NYC, but I imagine its getting warm there in Argentina!

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    well, i use to find under rocks and woods common slugs of Derocerus family, all sizes (i give them to all my amphibians according to the size), some snails after rainy days (i pull their shell out) and to my axolotls beast i use to feed them with big insects such as lumbricus terrestris ( i don’t breed them so i collect them from the garden) and slugs of the family Veronicellidae, and few crickets if i got ones hehe; but usually feed everybody with Einsenia foetida worms (my own culture), and crickets.

    Talking about the supplements, i never give them, it’s definitely important? the only effective manner i found specially with worms is feeding cultures with them, cause the calcium will spread out in the water (not in the case of crickets)

    if i add them in the diet will they make a better breeding condition? (i take note again 😉 )

    greets Franks!

    PD: the larvae of the hybryds are morphing, then i ‘ll show you.

    • avatar

      Hello Fernando, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the interesting feedback; glad you are using slugs and snails – few people do, but they are a fine food.

      We know very little about the actual nutritional needs of Newts and salamanders, but in my experience most do fine if given a varied diet containing some wild-caught inverts, with supplements being given when less variety is available. I’ve raised several species on a diet of nearly 100% earthworms with no problems.

      Feeding supplements to insects, as you mentioned, is a good idea when dealing with aquatic amphibs. You can mix powdered supplements into fish food flakes for worms, crickets, roaches and some others..

      A very good way of getting supplements into aquatic species is to use a pelleted food; most will take these, esp. if kept hungry for a few days. Repto-min is my first choice, but pellets designed for carnivorous tropical fishes (Cichlids, catfishes) are fine as well.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    i forgot to mention i caught some Trichorhina tomentosa, it’s an exellent live food for juveniles or smaller amphibians, i don’t culture them at the moment but i’d like to start soon.

    my bombinas loves them.

    • avatar

      Hello Fernando, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the observation. I agree – Small Tropical Woodlice (sow bugs, potato bugs) are a great food for many species – high in calcium. Many species can be collected almost anywhere, and many breed well in captivity. When established in a terrarium, they are also excellent scavangers.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

  4. avatar

    I use sow bugs (aka “rolly pollies”) in my planted tanks, they are really fun to watch.

    When using wild caught bugs, is it best not to supplement?

    I know fireflies can be toxic, are there any other bugs that should be avoided? I live in Arizona, if that helps.

    • avatar

      Hello Amy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. You make a good point – sow bugs are interesting in their own right, and are excellent scavengers as well. You might enjoy my article on Breeding Sowbugs. They are crustaceans, and so provide different nutrients than insects and are high in Calcium.

      As a general rule I do not supplement wild-caught inverts, but this varies with the species/age etc. of the animals in question. Growing frogs might benefit from additional calcium, and I usually supplement the diets of large, fast-growing species such as American & African Bullfrogs. Once they are large enough, I use an occasional small whole fish in place of supplements. However, providing diets high in wild-caught inverts is the best way to assure a healthful diet. Please check out these articles on Collecting Invertebrates when you have a chance, and let me know your thoughts and your own techniques.

      Best to avoid brightly-colored insects (milkweed bugs, ladybugs, etc as most are toxic/bad tasting), most ants (except for Horned Lizards, or if you can ID the species – harvester ants are useful), stinging/biting species (scorpions in AZ, of course!). A good field guide (Audubon, Peterson’s) will be very helpful and, since you appreciate sow bugs, enjoyable.

      Please let me know if you need more specific info on any of the above,

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Happy Holidays, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    I am new to reading this blog, but find the information I am reading amazing. I would love to change up the diet of my frogs, but I have a few concerns. I have green tree frogs living with a gold dust day gecko. They have lived together for over a year now and everyone is happy. Can I add pill bugs and things like that to their diet, or will one be harmful to the other? I have a 55 gallon tank with coco-fiber substrate and a lot of live plants. No plastic ones here. They eat crickets all the time, and when I put meal worms out they tend to ignore them. Variety IS the spice of life they say, and I would love some advice on how to give that to them.

    • avatar

      Hello Amanda, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks very much for your interest and the kind words!

      Good questions and an interesting mix of species you have there; very glad to hear you are using live plants – too few herpers do.

      Pillbugs would be an excellent addition to the tank…they will breed readily and are great scavengers which will eat dead insects, feces, and decaying leaves (you can also confine them to deep cups wired to branches, so that some are consumed before they burrow). Tree frog and geckos also favor flies, moths, small filed crickets, tree crickets and beetles, among others. Avoid spiders (many are great food, but potential for bites to yourself and animals), firelies, ladybugs and colorful species in general, bees…please see articles mentioned at end of this article for more info, collecting techniques.

      Mealworms are best avoided in general – however, if you start a colony (please see article) you can use newly molted grubs; geckos may take the pupae as well. Be sure to feed any crickets you use for a few days – cricket pellets, tropical fish food flakes, fruit, vegetables; use only small to half-grown crickets, not adults.

      You might also enjoy the following articles:
      Sow Bugs as Herp Food
      Green Treefrog Care

      Please let me know your thoughts and how all works out, and any questions you may have,

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    I have been reading all your articles, and I would love to get some pill bugs for my frog tank. Where can I find a culture of them. I have read that it is not good to start one from the onesfound in your back yard.

    • avatar

      Hello Amanda, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      Actually, I’ve used pill bugs collected in my yard and elsewhere for many years; as long as the area is not sprayed with pesticides, they should be safe to use. However, to be on the safe side you can order a culture here.

      Here is a link to my article on pill bug care, in case you have not seen it.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted on how all turns out.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank, i have a recently doubt. I’ve bought pellet food as an additional to my newts, but i’ve read vegetable material may harm them?? I use to feed them all with live food, but when i’m run out of it it’s good to have something more.


    • avatar

      Hello Fernando, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve long used Reptomin pellets as a large part of the diet of diet of many newt species with great results; trout chow and some others work well also. Newts are carnivorous, but they take in a good amount of plant material via the stomach contents of their prey, and incidentally while hunting in weed beds and among duckweed and other plants. Reptomin is actually a good way to ensure a complete diet, especially if you are only offering a few types of live prey.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    I always appreciate the practical information you provide.

    If I may ask a question that’s not directly related to frog diet – how often does the tank need to be broken-down and cleaned? I have a White’s treefrog and a couple of firebellied toads (housed separately) with a coco husk substrate and water bowl. Daily maintenance includes changing the water and spot cleaning.

    Thanks in advance,


    • avatar

      Hello Mark, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words. Major cleaning really depends upon how careful you are with spot cleaning, frog/tank ratio and so on. Temperature is also vital, as it warms up,bacteria grow fast and frog metabolisms become stresses – both the species you keep do best when a bit cooler than normal household summer temps. Once weekly is a safe guide, but may not be necessary.

      Be careful with coconut husk, as it’s easy for the frogs to swallow and may cause blockages. Fire bellies can be kept in semi aquatic tanks with a filter, or in bare bottom tilted tanks that can easily be dumped/cleaned and need no substrate. Same for white’s, of you can tong-feed to avoid impaction problems. Please let me know if you’d like details on these ideas.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thanks again for your great advice and I’ll certainly make a few changes regarding the maintenance regime.

    I also appreciate your warning about the coconut husk as I thought that was a safe substrate. Fortunately for the white’s I place the various feeder insects on Magnatural platforms which minimizes that risk though I’ll have to make some changes for the firebellies.

    Thanks again,


    P.S. I have your book on Leopard Gecko care and find it to be extremely practical along with being a great reference.

    • avatar

      Hello Mark, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your thoughts on the book…much appreciated. Fire-bellies will spend most of their time floating about in shallow water if given a chance, floating plants and raft, or just a tilted tank, will suit them well.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    The Bullfrog Tadpole the Cat Drug In:
    The next set of posts are some email exchanges with Frank that we thought others would enjoy.

    Hi Frank,

    I live in Eugene Oregon. Our 1 1/2 year old male kitty, Thurman, brought home a 6-7″ tadpole on June 1. It was alive. We had no idea what it was and put it in a large cook pot before heading to the pet store. It’s now 10 weeks and a 10 gallon aquarium later and we have what seems like a young bullfrog or green frog. These are invasive species here so we have a new pet.

    The tympaniums are still very small and much smaller than the eyes. We have been thinking of her as a female and call her June. She had very tiny rear legs showing when Thurman brought her in. The front legs popped out on July 15. The left was first, followed by the right leg 12 hours later. Her tail was completely resorbed by Aug 1 and she had not eaten any bloodworms for 9-10 days.

    She has been eating between 3-7 crickets a day for 12 days.  The crickets feed on crumbled up high quality kitty kibbles. The tank is half gravel (pet store, river tumbled), half water, with large rounded rocks from the yard(boiled for 20 minuntes) holding back the gravel and a waterfall pump.

    She seems happy, has lots of places to hide in the water where air is available. She has no place to hide on land because the crickets sit in the cave and she has trouble getting them. The tank is on the kitchen counter, so there is activity from my husband and me. Thurman has maintained an acute interest in her through the whole time. She has always been curious and ‘friendly’  with us. She waits in the deep water when crickets come into the tank and then swims up for the hunt. We have a ‘kricket keeper’ and she recognizes the black tube and goes to the deep end until the operation is complete.

    She is now ~ 2-2 1/2 ” nose to bottom. There may be a ridge forming like the green frog has along both sides of it’s back. When the back is wet and the light is right there seems to a be a row of highlights where the ridge would be. The skin is dark olive/brown with black spots. The underside is white from mouth to feet. There is beginning to be green around the mouth area.

    The pet store guy says we will begin dusting with supplements after she is used to eating the crickets and gets them fairly quickly after they enter the tank. Currently, there is a lot of waiting, watching and many misses. Also, mealworms, minnows and guppies have been suggested in a few weeks. How big of an enclosure will we need for her as an adult so she’s not cramped?

  11. avatar

    The American Bullfrog the Cat Drug In:

    Hello Kathleen,

    Thanks for the kind words and interesting story..in 50+ years of monitoring such things, yours is the first “cat/tadpole” story I’ve come across.  Quite a skilled hunter you have there!

    My compliments on rearing the tadpole.  At that size it would indeed be an American Bullfrog; the tadpole would have overwintered, as in Oregon they generally take 2 years to transform.

    Sexing via tympanium size will not be useful until the animal is sexually mature…age varies but likely several years from now.

    Good that you are feeding the crickets cat food; add some fruit/veg as well.  Growing Bullfrogs have high Calcium requirements, so add supplements as suggested; can do so now.  Also mix some in with the cricket’s food, so that they consume it as well.  Guppies, minnows are the best calcium source; good idea to offer now; may need to confine to a small, shallow bowl. earthworms are a good food source; mealworms less so, use sparingly if at all.

    Watch gravel size – if swallowed, can lead to impactions.

    An adult will need a 30 (long style) to 55 gallon aquarium equipped with a strong filter,  partial water changes vital, even with filters (now as well) as they produce a good deal of ammonia, which is colorless/odorless but very toxic.

    Enjoy,  Frank

  12. avatar

    The Bullfrog Tadpole the Cat Drug In:

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you for the very informative reply!

    Thurman the Hunter:
    Yes he is quite the hunter. We try, with fairly good success, to train our cats (4) to not kill birds, dragonflys, bumble bees and the like. The 2 youngsters have taken to bringing us pine cones, magnolia cones, figs, plums etc. The tadpole was a real surprise. The closest pond with water year round is 2 city blocks away! Thats a long time to carry without damage. There were some scratches, but no punctures. The big city kitty dwellers in your area probably know some great spots, too!  

    We now have a 2.5 gallon tank(with air filter from tadpole stage) with some white cloud fish and ghost shrimp. This is all the store had. Are goldfish guppies? Im trying another place tomorrow. I placed the feeder tank next to the land end and June sat for a long time watching the fish. I tried a shallow dish buried in the gravel and put a white cloud in. It was not there after 1/2 hr, but June had moved away beforr and was no where near. I think it swam out… I need to rethink the shallow pond. Will crickets eat very small fish? There was a large cricket very close by.

    I got a tester kit and we were at 8ppm. I have been changing water twice a week. I did a 75% water change, changed the bio/filter in the waterfall pump, and put in ReptiSafe (calcium in water, dechlorinate, ammonia reducer and inhibiter and other stuff). An hour later ammonia at .25ppm. Thank you for alerting me to this hazard! I’ll check in the morning and do another water change until zero is achieved. When I change the water, I don’t remove June. She goes to the land area and watches. Today I noticed that her chin, bottom of the mouth area, turned dark green. The rest of the underside was white. Is this an emotional response? Stress?

    The gravel is mostly covered up with round skipping sized stones that the crickets hangout on. June does not seem interested in being on the ‘land’ for very long and prefers to be slightly submerged with a rock as a blind while she watches her prey. So,  I have gradually raised the water level so that the skippers are like islands. I read your article about using the turtle dock for feeding. It’s an interesting idea and would give much more room for swimming.
    Cheers, Kathy  

    • avatar

      Hi ]Kathleeen,

      I missed one question: goldfish are larger than guppies…fine on occasion, but a steady diet of them has been linked to nutritional disorders (liver, kidney); but small ones are easier to catch than other fish, so ok for now. Fish-feeding takes time and experimentation. Shallow bowl w/o water can work if frog eats quickly; feeding tongs worth trying; but hard until frog is confident; some people move frog to a bucket with an inch or so of water and add fish – not all will feed in this way, but makes life easier if it works. Minnows are one of the best if available; white clouds guppies fine as well.. Worth taking time as fish are best source of calcium, allow frog to add size rapidly.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  13. avatar

    The American Bullfrog Tadpole the Cat Drug In:

    Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for the feedback and glad the info was useful.

    Very unusual that no damage was done…amphibian skin is very delicate; cuts and resulting infections are a constant problem in zoos and private collections.

    I suppose the oddest related story I know of involves the Black Footed Ferret…it had been declared extinct, but some years later a farm dog brought a dead one to its owner.  A tiny colony was found, and taken into captivity for breeding; the species is relatively secure now.

    Most frogs have some color changing ability, but this is not well documented in Bullfrogs.  Often does relate to stress; temperature as well.

    Resting posture you describe is typical; floating plants are also favored.  highly aquatic, although in time captives may leave the water entirely; new metamorphs tend to be shy, as they are on the menu of everything from giant water bugs to other frogs and wading birds.

    Best regards,  Frank

  14. avatar

    The American Bullfrog Tadpole the Cat Drug In:

    Hi Frank,

    Here’s a new story about June on her fourth day of eating live food.

    On 7/29 she began eating her first live food after resorbing her tail. The crickets were mostly medium small, but there was one that was much bigger and maybe 3/4 of her body length. This one was very hard to get. I saw it push her mouth open once and hop out. On 8/1, on the fourth day of eating live food, she took up a different stance with this cricket. There is a long narrow rock that leads to the water. Instead of facing the large cricket, she faced the ramp and waited for the cricket to walk past. In one huge leap she got the cricket and was in the water, jamming her mouth between to rocks below. Her eyes were alternating between bulging and recessing into her head(chewing?) and her chin area was bulging and wildly moving from the efforts of the cricket to escape. This was so astonishing! I realized I had witnessed tool use in addition to the development of a very complex strategy.

    Is tool use something I should be looking for and expect to see? Are the teeth under the eye area inside the mouth? Would this be why the eyes recessed into the head?

    Thank you for all your help and insights,

    Cheers, Kathy

    • avatar

      Hello Kathy Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the update…you are making some great observations! Actually, the action of the eyes regressing is thought to help move food deeper into the throat, as well as to protect the eyes from injury (thrashing legs, etc.). The teeth are tiny and set into the upper jaw…their main use in holding onto the prey. Frogs do not chew, so each meal is taken down in one piece. The digestive enzymes are quite strong, with even most bones being broken down.

      Hunting strategies and such are little studied in frogs, but there is a good deal of evidence that they remember what has been learned and apply it in useful ways. Watching a single animal carefully, as you are doing, is a great way to learn just what they are capable of. You might enjoy this article on Cricket Learning Abilities.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  15. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    This is an update on June’s calcium intake. She has had 7 crickets in the past day that have been coated with Rep-Cal phosphorus free calcium +D3. The pet store guy said to put the crickets in a plastic bag with a pinch of the powder and coat them with it. How much is good? How many per day?

    An interesting side note about capture ability:
    At the same time as introducing calcium coated crickets, I changed the environment by removing most of the gravel and adding a Turtle Dock (Turtle Pier not available here). When trying to capture dark crickets on dark stones, there were many misses. The trajectory was great, but she seemed to come up short…rocks are hard? Crickets blend in? No texture?

    With Turtle Dock, the coated crickets are again the same color as the background, but she gets them in 1-2 tries. Surface is more forgiving? There is deeper texture than the tumbled stones from our river-bottom yard? Crickets movement is hampered?Anyway, I thought it interesting. If I get time I’ll post this comment in the ‘bad aim,vit A’ article.

    The added swimming area seems to be a great thing and is getting a lot of use. Also the turtle dock surface seems to be very comfortable. She hangs out there for long periods.

    The other pet store had rosy minnows, so we now have a strata in our small feeder tank. The escapees from my trials at feeding, showed up in the water changes after the removal of the gravel.

    Your suggestion of putting her in a bucket with 1-2″ water and fish is interesting. I realize my problem is that I have never touched her or netted her since turning into a frog. I don’t know how to pick her up and I don’t want to hurt her skin with a net. Suggestions?

    Thanks for all your help and insights!

    • avatar

      Hello Kathy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the great post. There is a learning process., but some of the points you mentioned, traction and such, could be involved. I have noticed that young amphibians of all kinds take awhile to become good hunters…many losses in the wild.

      There are so many variables when it comes to meal size/frequency…temperature, size of food items, etc.; but frogs are very good at regulating their metabolisms to fit the situation, so there’s quite a bit of leeway. A day or 2 off after a large meal is a good idea. We do not know their calcium requirements, still guesswork at this point, but powdering most meals and using whole fish on a regular basis usually works well.

      Turtle docks are very good…I’ve used them in zoo exhibits. If it turns out that you need a larger, flat surface in time I can send you a link to order the turtle pier.

      Good question re moving the frog…ushering into a plastic container is best; a few seconds in a net will do no harm (although this can be bad for some extremely delicate species); cotton preferable to nylon if available.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  16. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Here’s an update on our Juvenile American Bullfrog that Thurman the cat brought in as a Tadpole.

    Fishing Pond:
    I took your suggestion of putting her into a container with fish in an inch of water. I decided to buy a Kritter Keeper (medium 8″, 12″). The feeder fish tank is next to her tank and she spends time watching them everyday. I thought if everything was see thru it would seem the most ‘natural’ to her.

    She was in the fishing pond for 3.5 hrs. Thoroughly engaged the whole time making many strikes. I started out with 2-3 of each the feeders. As time went on I eventually moved all of them over and cleaned their small tank: 9 ghost shrimp, 10 white clouds, 6 rosy minnows. The strategy was to sit at one end and strike out in all forward directions.

    After putting everybody back, I found that she had caught a ghost shimp! This happened during the last 1/2 hr.

    The next day, she spent much more time watching the fish tank than previous days. Much of the time was from the higher view of the turtle dock rather than from in the water.

    Today, 2 days from 1st time, she got to go fishing again. The excursion lasted 1/2 hr. The strategy was different. Today the best position was to face a corner and wait for them to show up. If fully extended her nose would just miss the wall. There were still a lot of strikes. The catch was made after she began to leap where they might be going instead of where they were.

    After catching the second fish, she moved to the center and had a different attitude; watching without intent maybe… Then she pooped. And then she went to the wall facing her tank and stretched and clawed at it. I put the ‘Glad plastic rectangular container’ in the tank and she walked into it. Amazing! Beam Me Up, Scotty…

    I’m wide eyed with wonder at what I’m seeing from a juvenile bullfrog that is 22 days into eating live food! Thank you so much for all your insights and suggestions,

  17. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    An Juvenile American Bullfrog Question:

    Today and 2 days ago I found a filmy slimy substance on the frog. The first day it was on the head and she was using her hands to remove it. I pulled it off with chopsticks – my answer to tongs until I can find some wooden ones. Today it was on her legs. She used her hands again to work it off. After she was free of it, I pulled it out and briefly I saw the shape of her legs before it became a string of slimy stuff. Is this skin? Do frogs shed their skin? How often? Or, is it pond scum? Or….huh?

    Thanks for your help,

    • avatar

      Hello Kathy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Frogs do shed, but they eat the skin as it is being pulled off; they start from the rear and use their hands to pull the skin up towards the head and right into the mouth…like us peeling off tight socks. It takes only a few seconds and so is rarely observed. You might have found a few pieces that broke off and were not removed. These usually come off on their own, but good to remove them if you notice…just take care not to injure the new skin, as cuts always lead to infections. Use wet hands (anytime you handle a frog) or wet powder free latex gloves. There are a few lubricant type fish/herp products that help soften the skin..if it happens often, let me know and I’ll send links.

      Frequency depends upon diet, temperature, age and so on, but hard to keep track in any event. If you notice skin regularly, a skin fungus might be involved, but otherwise no need to worry.

      This plastic tong is also useful for feeding; wood would work as well, but avoid metal. Bullfrogs need dietary variety, and tong feeding allows you to add canned insects and small live or dead minnows. The feeding advice in this article on African Bullfrogs applies to American Bullfrogs as well.

      Please let me know if you need any further info on diet or care. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  18. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    This is an update regarding the adult American Bullfrog with a calcium problem. After more observation, he does not appear to be losing the ability to hold his head up. I will certainly be supplementing his food and hoping that the condition will not progress any further. I am clueless as to which supplement would be the most effective and the safest. How have your experiences been with Reptocal and similar products? One person whose opinion I’ve read seems to think that a calcium supplement was responsible for killing captive dart frogs. I am under the impression that many supplements contain phosphorus, which I think offsets the effect of the calcium and renders it useless to the frog. Can I at least stop worrying about spreading germs from other wild frogs to this one, which was wild caught as a tadpole?

    Thanks for your help,


    • avatar

      Hello Jared, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the feedback. Live minnows, goldfish, and pinkies are the best calcium sources (usually a natural 2:1 Ca:P ratio, which is ideal), so best to try and work these in. Fish difficult, unless the frog will tong feed; otherwise confine in a shallow bowl. Minnows shiners can be a staple, goldfish and pinkies less often. Crayfish very good if available (I remove claws), also earthworms.
      Some P is needed, but too much can offset Ca value; but we are nowhere near a complete understanding of the issue; unfortunately, net full of much conflicting and poorly researched info. I’d use ReptiCal with D3 (which has no P) on all meals (except vertebrates and crayfish); he will also be getting crickets and so will have some P there. ReptiVite once weekly will act as insurance re other vitamins.

      Pathogen transmission is always a concern, especially where wild caught amphibs are concerned. All harbor parasites..this does not always lead to problems, many are self-limiting, but always use separate tools between cages or soak in bleach solution (which works well as a gen cleaner also); 1 cup/gallon – take care not to breathe fumes. An instant de-chlorinator can be used after cleaning with bleach to assure all traces are gone, but it rinses well.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for the advice on American Bullfrog nutrition.

    Varying his diet sufficiently is turning out to be the most difficult part of this. I still notice the abnormal head movements, but only when he is moving around (which isn’t often- most of his activity is nocturnal, so I only hear it anyway). The last time I fed him I noticed him having some issues catching food which resembled the short tongue syndrome you describe. That’s why I am looking into a supplement that contains vitamin A (from a source other than beta carotene) in addition to the calcium and D3. As you said, the progression of these conditions might be unstoppable, but I guess they come with age.

    Thanks for your help,


    • avatar

      Hello Jared, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Age shouldn’t really be a factor if a Vit A deficiency is involved. You might want to consider Vit A injections or another treatment that a vet could prescribe. Please let me know if you need help in locating a herp-experienced vet.

      A fish-earthworm based diet often works well. I usually recommend going light on goldfishes and pinkies, but both might be worth a try in your case if you decide not to see a vet. Goldfish-heavy diets have led to fatal health problems in Mata mata turtles; early research pointed towards Vit A overdoses but this was not confirmed as far as I know. Some people have used frequent goldfish feedings with bullfrogs, without apparent problems. Just shooting from the hip here, but perhaps try adding some goldfishes and an occasional pinky to your frog’s diet.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  20. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    The American Bullfrog diet issues have been manageable, but another problem I never expected to see has come up. I didn’t notice his right eye has completely clouded over until a few days ago because he has occasionally been closing one or both eyes for quite a long time, which I assumed was diet- and muscle-related. Everything about the eye says “infection.” The whiteness appears to be on the inside of the cornea, and it is not evenly white, but it covers the entire inside of the eye. I can still see the pupil, but he has been holding the eye closed more often than not for about a week. His appetite hasn’t been the same for about a week and a half, although he still eats from my hand. His activity hasn’t decreased very much, if any. He sometimes looks like he’s trying to wipe something away from that eye.

    From what I’ve read, local infections often turn into septicemia very quickly in frogs. I did a routine complete water change yesterday. Could the eye closing before have been caused by water quality, meaning that something has just found its way in? I can’t imagine him actually injuring the eye on anything. He has had a cataract-like growth in that eye that hasn’t changed in months, but this looks completely unrelated. The only thing I have on hand to treat it with is tetracycline that is intended for fish. Without an exotics vet, which I could not find anywhere near me, the range of antibiotics is limited, and none of them are intended specifically for amphibians. I would not use anything on it unless the need was dire.

    Thanks again for your help.


    • avatar

      Hello Jared

      Local infections can become very serious, but unfortunately there’s not an accurate way to diagnose the problem based on those symptoms; if an infection is involved the medication would depend on the identity of the bacteria, fungi or virus involved. Injuries to the eye can happen at night when they tend to jump if startled, etc. The nictitating membrane (“3rd eyelid” ) can also get stuck in the closed position, but this is not common. Diets high in pink mice sometimes cause fat deposits in the eye, but bullfrogs are not especially prone to this…

      If a vet is not available, and the frog declines in condition, experimenting may be your only option. I’ve had some luck using methylene blue, but not on eyes (please see this article). An over the counter human triple antibiotic ointment might be worthwhile, or perhaps turtle eye drops (I’ve not checked ingredients recently, but can look into it if need be)

      Sorry I could not be of more help,. but a vet visit is the only chance of possibly diagnosing the problem accurately.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  21. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I wanted to give you an update on the eye condition. When I manage to get a good at it, I can see no change on the inside, but a small, clear bubble is growing on the front of it, outside of the cornea. I have been putting a few drops of methylene blue in the eye each day for almost two weeks. My zoology professor gave me a solution of three parts water and one part methylene blue because we knew neither the concentration of the original solution or what it should be diluted to for animal use. It would be good to know that all types of bacteria are at least slightly susceptible to it, so I would feel like I was doing some good by using it.

    His interest in eating has actually improved substantially after being minimal for a while, which I don’t know how to interpret. Except for the eye, he looks and acts the same as usual. The combination of age and diet might have made him more open to infection- I’m not sure how senescence works in amphibians.

    Thanks for the ideas on what to use, and I’ll keep you posted.

    Thanks for your help,


    • avatar

      Hello Jared

      Thanks for the update. The concentration sold in pet stores for use with tropical fish is safe at ½ strength, and can be gradually increased to full strength for many species. However, best to continue as you are since you’re seeing an improvement. Really no way to judge whether it is the medication that is helping, as the source of the frog’s problem is not known…bacterial, fungal, viral, a disease, etc. The vets I’ve worked with considered it broad spectrum, and so a good starting point if the condition is undiagnosed.

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

      American Bullfrogs live well into their teens, and possibly beyond…I don’t recall the age of yours, but I believe rather young?

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  22. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    For once, the immune system of a frog in captivity might still be working. The actual inside of the eye is clearer, and the growth on the cornea has not been spreading at the rate it was. The clear swelling could be an ulcer related to whatever was or is going on inside the eye. It takes up less than a third of the cornea. I think that it either affects his vision or is painful, becuase I often see that eye closed, although he hunts with both eyes open.

    He’s been an adult frog for over nine years. I once ran across a website that listed longevity records for almost every species of reptile and amphibian ever kept. Although they haven’t been updated in years, most species had several ages submitted. I wouldn’t call it definitive, but it was so extensive that you might have seen it before. I’ll try to find it again if I can.

    Thanks for your help,


    • avatar

      Hello Jared

      Thanks for the update.

      You may be thinking of Reptiles & Amphibians in Captivity: Breeding and Longevity. It was long maintained by Frank Slavens, who retired as Curator of Reptiles, Woodland Park Zoo, in 2001. An amazing amount of work went into it – over 500 collections were represented (this was largely pre-internet). I and most other zoo herpetologists relied upon it extensively. It’s a shame that no one has taken the reins, but it remains very useful.

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

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  23. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I am sorry to report that he died this past Monday. The cloudiness in his eye had returned, cleared up, and returned again since my last update. His interest in food gradually declined during the last two weeks of his life, and he did not actually eat anything during that time. He also became bloated, especially on one side, about the same time he stopped trying to eat. I guess that might have been related to the infection, but he did not exhibit the definitive “red-leg” that you would expect to see in septicemia. I do not know whether trying to force-feed sooner (I was planning to try it the day he passed) would have helped.

    My carelessness likely stressed him enough to allow the infection to return. Twice, after the eye had returned to normal, I found him on his back in the water, unable to turn himself back over. Don’t ask why that had to happen twice before I learned not to leave extra crickets next to his tank where he could see them. About a week after the second incident, the eye was cloudy again. I don’t know if more than one pathogen was involved. I had him preserved in formalin, but I don’t know whether a pathogen would still be identifiable in a preserved specimen.

    Thanks again for all of your help. I’m sure you know that although Ranid frogs are very hardy animals, it’s not easy for them to keep the same internal balance they have in the wild.


    • avatar

      Hi Jared,

      Sorry for the sad news; thanks for the update. Bloating is often caused by bacterial infection (gas produced by bacteria) and may or may not be related to the initial problem. The gas could contribute to the inability to right itself; Calcium deficiancies also prevent muscles from contracting properly (but you often see tetany (twitching of gingers, toes and legs) in such cases.

      While treatment is often stressful, but in the future you may wish to have fecal exams run on new animals; please let me know if you need assistance in locating a vet.

      Unfortunately, Formalin eliminates possibility of diagnosing most problems, autopsies need to be done right away, and the expired creature should be refrigerated ASAP.

      best, Frank

  24. avatar

    Hi Frank – Huge thank you for your site! Such good information, and you’re so helpful to everyone. I have a question about dusting with vitamins –

    I have two male spring peepers and two oak toads, one male and one female (unusual for being v small – smallest N.Am. toad species). I live in New York City, so can’t find bugs easily, and order crickets from Armstrong which seem good quality. The toads and frogs are all the same size and adult (2g peepers and 3.5-4.5g toads – bunch of little guys), so I’ve been keeping in same large cage with very good gradations in hear and humidity, so they’re comfortable. Had peepers since May, and oak toads for about 1.5 years.

    Been feeding crickets mostly just Fluker’s orange cube for nearly that whole time, and never dust the crickets. Recently I noticed the crickets don’t like to eat orange cube much, so started feeding only carrots. Afraid of the slow decline in health you describe (no one’s sure on lifespan of oak toads; scant data indicates 4 years – literature’s always so scant on anything not human it seems). Just today I saw male oak toad’s toes twitch briefly, which I’ve never seen before a him. I have had a Zoomed uv fluorescent compact bulb as well for a long time, on a 12 hour timer.

    I’m now a little worried and want to vary the diet of the crickets and start dusting. This week I started now feeding crickets carrots and Fluker’s calcium supplement powder in alternation. For vitamins, I saw you recommend three vitamin supplements (zoo med calcium with D3, reptical, reptivite w D3) in alternation but they seem so similar, I’m not sure if I misunderstood. Could you clarify for these toads and frogs which you recommend and how often?

    Also, curious how old age appears in toads, and was wondering if you could give a quick description of what happens?


    • avatar

      Hi Sejong

      Thanks for the kind words; glad you are keeping these species; I’ve had both at the \Bz Zoo, but there’s very little interest in them in general.

      Best to vary the diet as much as possible…crickets alone are not ideal long term. Some of the foods mentioned in this poison frog article would be useful. Internet dealers ship many of those mentioned; leaf litter inverts can be collected almost anywhere (tiny millipedes, sowbugs, etc. Crickets should be given a varied diet…lots of fruit/vegetables, tropical fish flakes and other foods mentioned here . You can also order sow bug and butterworm cultures, and pick out smaller ones; sow bugs can be bred as well. Tiny earthworms great for toads, can also be bred at home. Let me know if you need more info on that.

      Toes briefly twitching is generally not a pro0blem…many toads do this when hunting. tetany, more generalized twitching of limbs, indicates a Calcium deficiency.

      We don’t know very much about their actual vit/mineral needs, alternating is just a safety measure, and seems to work well, but there are many variables.

      American toads have lived into their 20’s, marine toads longer, but as you have seen little info on oaks, No real studies on aging that I know of. Frogs I’ve kept into their 20’s and 30’s sometimes show no external signs at all, others gradually become ill form a variety of causes, perhaps as the immune system weakens. glad to see your interest..we need much more research into these matters, esp. considering how impt it is to breed endangered amphibs. Pl keep me posted, best, Frank

  25. avatar

    Hi Frank – Thank you so much for your advice. I’ve been feeding my crickets on a varied diet just as you suggested, and got the vitamin powders as well.

    I’m curious about the worms – I can’t seem to find a place where I can buy tiny earthworms, which leaves me with raising them myself. I found this place that will sell me 50 large red worms (http://www.backwaterreptiles.com/feeders/earthworms-for-sale.html) – should I order those and try to begin a small compost box in my apartment?

    I didn’t realize you were at the Bronx Zoo – I actually live right next to the Zoo. I’ll be going to med school in New York this fall, but got interested in comparative physiology which gives so much context for understanding human biology, and that’s how I wound up with our fun little frogs and toads.

    That’s so interesting what you say about seeing toads age. I would have expected a lot more familiar aging signs to become apparent. Do you think the lack of pronounced symptoms has to do with their being cold-blooded, and thus generally slow / less active creatures to begin with?


    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Glad the info was useful, thanks for your note.

      Earthworms are easy to breed, info here http://bit.ly/14KycB5. You may find better prices by searching under “red wigglers”. NY Worms is local, but I believe they only sell larger batches. Adult red wigglers (the commonly sold species) can be broken into smaller pieces if needed.I was at the Bx Zoo for 21 years, grew up locally as well. Now working freelance for several institutions, writing. Yes, amphibs and others very useful as you mention,. Much research going on re human organ storage, based on amphib “anti-freezes” and also regeneration; meds from frog skins, etc…you have much of interest ahead of you i’m sure, enjoy and pl keep me posted.

      Can’t say for sure about aging at all (perhaps you’ll discover keys in time!) but we see similar scenarios with other laong lived amphibs, esp those from temperate/cool habitats…Fire salamanders, 50+ years, olm – possibly to 100, jAPANES GIANT SALAMANDERS, and many turtles; also tuatara – well over 100.

      Enjoy, best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Forgot to also ask if you could suggest anywhere to buy pill bugs, if they can be small enough. Searching turns up a lot of noise about pest control.

    One last question – I’ve noticed my spring peepers don’t lash their tongues out to get prey, but have always lunged and caught the prey instead. Does the species just not have the long, sticky tongues of my toads?

    Incidentally, I found it difficult before to find any good pictures or videos of oak toads, so I recently posted an HD video of my male to YouTube for people who might be curious like I was – http://youtu.be/Yd_yLHJNfE8.

  27. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I’ve been following your advice for months now, and it’s been tremendously helpful.

    I wanted to ask if you could help me mate my two Oak toads. I have a healthy male and female that have plumped up a bit since I got them (I keep a weight log). There’s not much info on the species out there, and I even wrote the Wikipedia Oak toad article after scouring primary sources for whatever I could find (photos of my little toads there too, now).

    The only pertinent info I found was this: (1) They breed in shallow, often vernal pools, (2) attach eggs to vegetation (e.g., blades of grass) 1.6-4.7″ deep, and (3) heavy, warm spring rains stimulate mating behavior.

    In a more general book on amphibian medicine, it said an injection of LH to the female and RH to the male can often stimulate mating behavior in toads. But I’m not really equipped for that 🙂

    I was wondering if it could be as simple as providing them with a sizeable and adequately deep dish of water in their large cage, simulating heavy rain by more frequent heavy spraying and wetting of soil, and otherwise keeping them fed, on 12hr UV cycles, temperature and humidity gradients in the cage as usual.

    The male does already chirp, but only a couple times a week, and not intensely. I’ve been able to stimulate chirping behavior in my spring peepers by playing recorded spring peeper chirps on my iPhone. Maybe that could also work for my Oak toad, help things along?


    • avatar

      Hi Sejong.

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. Glad you are working with these interesting toads…they are ignored in the hobby and zoos.

      A winter cooling off period is usually necessary to induce them to come into breeding condition, but sometimes normal room fluctuations are adequate. A rain chamber; please see this article http://bit.ly/aXH4vb is the best way to go; misting etc. as you describe can work if they are ready to breed, but may not be enough stimulation. Leaving them in a tank of low water, with floating vegetation for them to rest on, may also do the trick, but again only if they are in breeding condition (eggs forming, sexual organs ready, etc); recordings always help, but a chill and rain chamber are usually adequate. Toads breed in large groups…male competition, numbers etc. may be critical for some species, but we do not know enough about this aspect. Would be great if you bred them lots to learn…. If they do not breed this year, we can discuss chilling etc next season. Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank.

  28. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I’m just getting back home from a trip through Virginia, where I spent some time looking for oak toad tadpoles since I was in their range. Unfortunately I only found southern toad tadpoles, identified afterwards, which surprised me by being so small. I also only realized after that oak toads have grown exceedingly rare in that state.

    So now I’m going to go with the other plan of trying to breed my oak toads. I read your rain chamber article above. Could you give any more info on chilling? Oak toads thrive best in Florida, where it rarely goes below freezing in the winter. Should I let my toads burrow, then … put them in the fridge for a few days, take them out, and put them in a rain chamber after giving them a couple days to adjust again?

    Thanks so much!

    • avatar

      They are tiny, aren’t they. Metamorphs also, hard to believe…

      I wouldn’t try breeding the oak toads now…seeing as they are native and wild-caught, their “internal clock” will be on a spring/summer cycle. Some species breed out-of season, but best to wait until fall; I can look into details and send info then. Best, Frank

  29. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    While this species breeds from spring all the way out to october, the literature says their peak time is in spring, and toadlets tend to be most common by late summer and early fall … I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try sooner, especially as the male’s been chirping a lot since the warm weather rolled in this week. I set up a wet chamber (need the pump and hoses for “rain”), and put the toads in, but nothing happened yet. I’ll set it up with 12-hour rain cycles like you suggested in your amazing post, and will check back in with you then!

    In the meantime, I’ve been trying to raise the southern toad tadpoles I collected. I’d like to see if I can get them to the juvenile toad stage. Most have morphed into toadlets in the past two days. I tried to raise American toad toadlets before, which taught me the importance of water quality and varied environments in the enclosure. I figure I can feed these tiny toadlets pinhead crickets and fruit flies, with vitamin supplements, and some might survive that way.

    Still kind of in disbelief at your amazing background. You must have so much fun with the work you do.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Thanks for the kind words…I’ve been very lucky indeed; now I get to do it all over again with the little guy in these photos (nephew);

      Some toads and other amphibs can be sparked to breed at almost any time in sp/summer, but they may not complete the process due to the lack of a dormant period earlier. Fertilization mat=y be a problem also, as many seem to ready the sex organs for reproduction during winter. “false starts” and such are common, esp for opportunistic breeders that are not tied to a short, specific breeding season….here in the NE, spring peepers sometimes begin calling in October, when conditions are similar to March/April, but they do not breed.

      Can’t hurt to keep trying a rain chamber..or try placing them in a large storage plastic storage box with shallow water…the increased volume may help, even w/o rain. Chilling them now is not advisable…too dramatic a change from what their bodies are programmed to do at this time of year.

      Pins/flies are good starter foods, but metamorphs can be hard to raise; vit/mineral deficiencies common, even with supplements (we really have no idea of their specific needs); I’ve done very well by collecting insects from areas where pesticides are not common…aphids are an ideal food, and if you find them they are usually safe as they are quite sensitive to pesticides. Also leaf litter invertebrates, pl see this article.

      Here’s a 3 part article on American toads, similar to southern in their needs.

      Enjoy, pl keep me posted, Frank

  30. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Your nephew’s really lucky to have an uncle like you to show him this stuff! Thanks so much for your explanation above. The “false starts” really explains a lot, as well as why chilling them at the wrong time wouldn’t be a good idea.

    The southern tadpoles are doing well so far. They’ve nearly all morphed into toadlets now. I lost handful due to drowning at first before I got the right balance of shallow water and shoreline. For the past 10 days or so I’ve had a stable toadlet population of 25.

    I’ve been religiously changing their water and cleaning their cage every day. I’ve been feeding them pinhead crickets twice a day that in turn are fed a highly varied diet. Coating the pinheads with your suggested vitamin powders as well every 3-4 days. I’ve not found aphids, but have baited and trapped small, wild black ants, and am feeding them those too.

    Promising Intervention Procedure:
    I had a few that occasionally begin to look emaciated and stop eating. I’ve successfully managed them by quarantining them in a basic rehydration solution for a couple hours when I find them (1 part saline: 1 part 5% sucrose; not balanced electrolyte soln, but chemicals for Ringer’s solution too hard to find, as with pure dextrose). I’ve had to do that with 7-8 of them so far, and in each case, within 12 hours they’re indistinguishable from the other toadlets and eating again.This had otherwise been a big problem for me the last time I’d tried to raise toadlets.

    They’re growing quickly, so far all look healthy — finger’s crossed. This is a really interesting little project, and my wife and I find them very cute.


    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Thank you…I’m luckier than he, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Photos of our last field trip here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.538437132865369.1073741829.100000972624553&type=1

      Floating plastic or live plants are a good way to prevent some of the drownings…coat the surface, allows them to rest and use a s a ramp of sorts to land. I sometimes move tads with 4 legs into a tilted tank, so that there is a smooth and easy exit to land.

      Please send some further details on your re-hydrating mix when you have time; we’ve experimented with a few over the years with mixed results, would like to keep your info on hand and pass along.

      Best, Frank

  31. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    That’s some field trip! Turtles, frogs, stick insects, crayfish, snakes — I have a hard time finding anything at all whenever I go out, hahaha. Just shows how much it helps to really know what you’re doing 🙂

    The solution I’m using is from Amphibian Medicine and Captive Husbandry, Wright & Whitaker, 2001, p. 328. It’s a modified version of the solution they recommend for only “emergency rehydration if no other fluids available”, as it’s not a balanced electrolyte solution. 1-2 parts 0.9% saline to 1 part 5% dextrose is what they recommend. A couple pages earlier they recommend 1:1 for more severely dehydrated amphibs. I don’t have access to pure dextrose (only dextrose with coloring and zinc for diabetics), so I’m using sucrose (Domino pure cane sugar) … might not be absorbed through the pelvic girdle, but at least it’d have the same osmolarity. I’m also using non-iodized table salt, which is salt and trace amounts of an anti-caking agent. I’m using the 1:1 solution because I figure it’d give the sugar molecules a better chance of being absorbed (assuming that happens at all, even w dextrose) — since I’m trying to clumsily guess at what might help a frog that’s not eating that well and likely needs some calories as well as some rehydration. Not quite the same problem, but the soln previously revived one of my spring peepers from severe dehydration.

    This is me applying my very limited premed understanding of physiology for all I’m worth, hahaha.

    There are so many interesting solutions in the book that I figure you experts use all the time. One’s even a hypertonic solution, shows some success for freshwater drowning victims. For me, at home with just a jewelry scale and kitchen supplies, I find myself wishing I had access to basic chemicals like KCl, CaCl2, MgSO4, so commonplace in a college chem lab. Right now I’m accepted to Cornell med school but haven’t started yet.

    • avatar

      Thanks, Sejong,

      Great ideas…I’ll save and pass along. That book is a classic; at larger zoos, vets take care of medical situations, so keepers and others sometimes do not see all of what is going on. Many breeding, medical and basic care breakthroughs have happened in just the way you describe, research and experimentation by dedicated private individuals. ie…re sugar, highly concentrated solutions are used to shrinks cloacal tissue during a prolapse, a method hit upon years ago by a very young herp enthusiast, as I recall.

      I’m out every weekend, and lucky that my nephew lives very close to many great sites…swamps, wooded areas, ponds, etc. Now that he has lots of experience under his belt, his eyes, size and enthusiasm are far more important in finding small creatures than any knowledge on my part! Some of the more unusual finds..large albino ratsnakes, geodes, fossils are actually
      “planted” by yours truly…I’ll need to tell him, someday, that he can’t expect to find a saber toothed tiger fang every time he steps outside, but having too much fun for that now! Tomorrow hope to go to a site in N. NJ where billions of periodical/17 year cicadas have emerged.

      Enjoy, keep at it, Frank

  32. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Just checking in to let you know – it’s 3.5 weeks in now, and I now have 21 toadlets left of the original 25. They’re growing, some nearly doubled in size, but still small.

    I’d love to ask you two things –

    Water – With these tiny toadlets I’ve been changing the water everyday with filtered water, but from my amphibians book I wonder if I should be using something not quite so pure. Maybe 0.9% saline – would you use pure water?

    Feeding frequency – These little guys are ferocious. With my oak toads, they eat every 2-3 days. With these ones, I’ve been giving 60-80 pinheads each day, but they seem so hungry, I just tried giving that amount a second time in the day, and they ate it all. I’ve read toads can overfeed and die, but my other toads seem to never have done that – they lose appetite after eating a few bugs. Would it be bad to keep giving my toadlets crickets til they stop eating? For reference, they weigh between 0.10-0.28g, and pinheads are about 70% as long as the width of their eyes.

    All the best!

    • avatar


      Good to hear, sounds like you’re doing well.

      Not sure what you mean by filtered water run through an aquarium filter is fine, as is most bottled (spring water). Do not use distilled, as it can leach trace elements from the body. Tap water , is usually fine unless you are in an old building with copper pipes. otherwise, any aquarium product that instantly removes chlorine/chloramines can be used.

      They are primed to eat continuously..necessary in wild but not in captivity. You can continue as is, even skip a day or 2 regularly; they can adjust metabolisms to food availabiltiy. i’ve never seen death via overfeeding, easp. in young animals. Enjoy, best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Ok, thanks Frank! My wife and I have been really enjoying watching these little guys grow.

    Their size really is incredible. I learned from a comparative physiology professor that mammals have a surface area-to-body mass limit at around 2.5g, due to heat dissipation issues and maximum practical ramping of metabolism to maintain core temperature. The smallest mammal is the Etruscan shrew with a resting heart rate of around 1500bpm, same as a hummingbird in flight. It lives about 6mo.

    In contrast, I’ve never quite understood why there are so few small, cold-blooded land vertebrates compared to insects. Watching my crickets compared to my toads, I wonder if it has to do with water loss becoming a problem for even a cold-blooded animal as it gets very small – maybe a similar surface area-body mass thing. These crickets can survive without water for more than a week. Do you think that might be on the right track, given your vast experience? A potential hole I see in that hypothesis is that even a tiny vertebrate could solve the water loss problem by just having thicker skin, as in a reptile vs a toad.

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Insect diversity and population sizes are amazing subjects, much of it needs to be viewed in terms of their evolutionary history. Water loss is a concern for many amphibs, esp. the lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae), which are terrestrial and breath entirely via the skin; if not moist, they cannot breath. Others have found a variety of ways to survive, some have even adapted to deserts…toads lose very little water via the skin, except for one area on the chest through which they absorb water. Crickets do need water, but can get plenty from eating toad droppings, moist moss, etc; most insects can also drastically alter their metabolisms for a time, in order to get past difficult times. All in all, very interesting questions to ponder..much has been written, much remains to be learned, Best, Frank

  34. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for the very interesting info above. When I saw your response, I started looking into the literature.

    I’ve run into a problem and could use some advice. My experiment raising these toadlets has gone a little too well. It’s now 5 weeks in, and I’ve had no further deaths. Counting the last couple tadpoles that hatched, I now have 23 that are alive and growing quickly. From past experience, I expected to only have a handful by this point.

    I bought 4,000 pinheads for $70, and the toads have eaten them so quickly that I’m now down to about 25% left in 3 weeks. The obvious thing to do is to let some of these toadlets go so I have a more manageable number, but what I’ve read about Southern Toads is they can’t tolerate very cold weather, and while I collected them in Virginia, I’m now in New York, outside of their northernmost range. I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep feeding all of them at this point, so I think my options are kind of limited:

    1. Let most of them go at a local pond, knowing they’ll not survive the winter (do you think that’s accurate?)

    2. Carefully package most of them and FedEx them back to a relative in Virginia, who can let them go locally

    I could use your advice. I’ve grown kind of fond of them, and saved them from a field with run-off pesticides that were killing morphed toadlets, so I don’t really want to do something that will lead to them dying. I intend to keep a couple of them to carry through with the experiment of raising them.

    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hi Sejong,

      Nice job!..best to cut down, esp. as they’ll need a more varied diet as they grow. You should not release them in NY…even if they survive the winter, they will interbreed with native American and Fowler’s toads. I need to sign off now, but will get back to you with some details re shipping, best, Frank

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    If you do have any advice on shipping my couple dozen toadlets, it’d really help me. Sorry to bug you – you’ve been so generous with your time in answering my questions, and you’re so incredibly knowledgeable.

    I also wanted to ask if it’d be bad to feed my toadlets beef liver (they eat off a stick). It would help with my difficulty in providing them with large quantities of insects by feeding them another protein source part of the time; I’ve been feeding them sparingly. I’ve read this is something that can work.


    • avatar

      H i Sejong,

      It’s tricky, esp in extreme weather. Use a styrofoam box w/o air holes; best to put the toads in cups within this, but you can also leave at large in box; if you use individual cups, place damp sphagnum moss in each (or in box if they are loose) seal with tape. Put small holes in individual cups, punch holes from inside out, so sharp edges face out. Put Styrofoam box in a sturdy cardboard shiping box. Pack newspaper around inner box. Holes not needed n outer box, but some people feel better doing so; oxygen needs very low. Place some gel freezer packs in outer box. Label “fragile, this end up” and “live, harmless frogs”. Soem people do not specify that animals are inside…if you do so, you should call local UPS office, as some vary re accepting live animals. UPS priority overnight works well…assures delivery before 10ZAM; drop to UPS as late as possible. Air temps vary radically in crgo areas of planes, rucks, waiting areas…losses do occur, even between pros and zoos.

      Liver is okay short term..very labor intense and not the best nutrition. Sweeping a net through tall grass in an undisturbed area can yield hundreds of small bugs in minutes..;larger spiders, bees etc can also be caught, however. Chilling extra animals in basement will slow them down if that is an option/. can refrigerate at 40 F if guts are empty. I’d say just retain as many as you can comfortably handle.

      Best, Frank

  36. avatar

    Wow, that is so, so very helpful – thank you so much, Frank! Now I can ship them to my brother-in-law in DC. If I’m lucky, it’ll go smoothly for the little guys.

  37. avatar

    Frank, I just wanted to let you know how this turned out in the end, with my southern toad toadlets. I wound up with about 22 in the end, so I’d had about a 60% survival rate raising them from tadpoles, but more like 80% when you take away my own error.

    – Survival Rate –
    About 2/3 of the deaths were due to my own mistakes — not realizing how easily they could drown in particular, which took me a while to figure out (e.g., that they’ll swim in one direction until they drown, even with a shallow ledge right behind them), and also I had 3 deaths because I didn’t realize these small toadlets seem “dumber” than adults — 3 died orbiting a small 10″x6″ container until they dried out (in just 2 hours) when a sopping wet towel sat right in the middle, little more than an inch away.

    Ruling those out, I’d say it was close to an 80% survival rate, which I didn’t expect.

    Very few “just died”, like I’d had in the past when raising tadpoles. I think what really helped was not having any substrate in the cage for small toadlets. I just slightly tilted it, put shallow water in, and changed the water / wiped up droppings every day. If my speculation about that being a big factor is right, then I’d further speculate that the spartan enclosure aids survival by (a) facilitating a clean, dropping-free environment, (b) removing substrate which is hard to clean, (c) removing small debris that can fatally impact their bowels. I’d expect all of that to affect them most when very small and vulnerable.

    – Feeding them Liver –
    I fed them crumbs of beef liver to supplement their pinhead cricket diet with enough calories, got them to eat by putting it on a small flat magnet “tray” that I moved with magnets on the other side. And it worked! My wife helped me, and we fattened them up. It was a lot of fun, really endearing, but was a lot of effort like you said. I kept it up for about 5 weeks.

    – Releasing Them –
    In the end I didn’t have the heart to risk them all dying by shipping them down, especially after I’d saved them from a pesticide-laden field. So we drove down to VA in late August and let them go there at night after a rain shower, by a pond where I could hear other species calling. They varied from 0.15-0.33g at that point; weighed them all before letting them go.

    Nothing more amusing than watching a score of tiny toadlets hunting beef liver crumbs! That’ll be with me for a long time 🙂 Got a nice video of it too.

    Thanks so much for all your patient advice and help. You’re so cool, helping folks like us out.

    • avatar

      You’re helping me out!….feeding tiny frogs/toads is a major problem, with losses very high in zoos and among breeders; diet is generally limited to pins, springtails, fruit flies, unless one takes time to collect; I would not have bet on the liver idea! Liver (and beef heart) as you may know, was used as the sole diet for lab-raised (research use) axolotls for decades, so it seems to be a great food, at least for some amphibs; how did you decide to try it for the toads? If you have a chance, can you send a link to the video (if available) and also some details or a photo of the tray, etc…’d love to pass this along to some contacts; perhaps write it up as well for a post here if you agree. findiviglio@thatpetplace.com.

      Spartan enclosures almost always best for rearing young, glad it worked out…some exceptions, but I’ve had good results with such for frogs, salamanders,

      Thanks, best, Frank

  38. avatar

    Wow – well I’ll definitely send you the video and some photos of what I did! And you can certainly use it however you see fit. The beef liver idea though — that one came from you 🙂 I’d read about that a bit online, and you’d helpfully guided me on it, but cautioned me it’d be risky long-term. Based on your advice, I fed them pinheads as much as I could afford to, but it wound up as a diet of about 60% beef liver and 40% crickets.

    • avatar

      That’s what happens when you get old!…I recalled our discussions, but not the liver…and I know I wouldn’t have come up with anything so original as a vibrating tray! Well, it’s a great bit of info to have, thanks again, best, Frank

  39. avatar

    Hi Frank! I have been reading your posts on varied diets and I have a few questions regarding my own little buddies. It started when I rescued what I thought were a couple of american toads in an abandoned tank. Turns out there was also a green tree frog hiding in there as well. The three of them have been getting along well, however the frog seems to think he is a toad. I recently added another green tree to the tank and I’m starting to wonder if the tank I have them in is too small for the four of them. The newest green tree is still relatively small, so I was wondering if it would be ok to put them in a 40 g breeder tank. If that is an acceptable tank, I also was wondering how to better balance the habitat for both breeds so that its more comfortable for everybody. My last concern is food variety. I have read that toads are voracious eaters so will they be ok eating the same variety of things or is there something specific one needs over the other? I have been having them on crickets but I would love to experiment with some more variety. Thanks!

    • avatar

      Hi Teena,

      Thanks for your interest.

      A 40 gal would be fine for all. Green tree frogs would benefit from potted live plants (pothos, snake plants, Chinese evergreen etc).. a low output UVB would help plant growth, may or may not benefit frogs but will not hurt. They prefer warmer temps than toads, ..the small amt of heat from a UVB may be enough for them, depending upon room temps. Extra branches useful also, you can drape sphagnum moss in branches to create a moister environment above ground. \

      Toads will use sphagnum or deeper substrate in which to burrow, extra caves, and will also shelter under plants.

      Earthworms impt for toads, most tree frogs will not accept. Both will take sowbugs, an impt source of calcium. Calci and butterworms (put in cups, in branches for treefrogs), small roaches impt for all. treefrogs specialize on small flying/climbing insects – moths, hairless caterpillars; lab reared houseflies esp valuable for them and will be taken by toads also. enjoy, let me know if you need anything, frank

  40. avatar

    Thanks very much for the list! Looks like i have a complete weekend project. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  41. avatar

    Hi Frank, is it possible to start a non poisonous snake colony in NYC where the rats seem to be uncontrolled? I live on the lower east side near the east river and the city doesn’t seem to be able to control the rats down were. I see them especially near the schools in my neighborhood. Please advise. MC

    • avatar


      Unfortunately, no. In addition to the unsuitability of the environment for larger snakes, predators cannot keep up with a prolific rodent in an artificial setting. In natural habitats, millions of factors are at work. Rat control in NYC had always been an incredible challenge….poisons offer the only realistic control means (although limiting litter, properly securing garbage etc helps…but that step seems beyond so many people, in my experience, sadly) but rats quickly develop resistance and in a short time eat the toxins with impunity. Poison types must be rotated regularly. Sorry I could not be of more help, 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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