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Inexpensive Homes for American Toads and Their Relatives

Bufo viridisFrom simple, easily-cleaned habitats to complex environments, herp enthusiasts have many options when it comes to setting up terrariums for reptiles and amphibians.  Today I’ll cover everything you’ll need to create an ideal habitat for American, Fowler’s, Southern, Great Plains and Green Toads.  With a bit of modification, your set-up will also accommodate Red-Spotted, Colorado River and Marine Toads, and others with slightly different needs.  I’ll also mention money-saving alternatives to certain products, along with non-essential “extras” that can be added if you wish.


Toads spend their time on and below the ground, so floor space is the most important consideration.


A 15 gallon aquarium for a single toad or a 20 gallon long style tank for a pair. Be sure to use a fitted screen cover, as feeder insects are escape artists.

Plastic Terrariums work well for young toads.

Low Cost Alternative

Plastic storage boxes can be transformed into “luxury toad suites”.  Simply cut out a section of the top and use aquarium sealant to secure screening for ventilation.  The extra room provided by such containers is especially useful for prospective toad breeders.


Toads usually create their own burrows in which to shelter, and appreciate a substrate that allows them to dig.


Eco Earth, Plantation Soil and Sphagnum Moss work well for toads; moss may be rinsed and re-used several times.

Low Cost Alternative

A mixture of top soil, dead leaves and sand is an easily-prepared alternative to commercial substrates; just be sure to collect your materials from a pesticide-free area.

Hiding Spots

Toads will accept cave-like shelters in lieu of burrows.  Most individuals are very selective and if given options will choose one shelter and occupy it for years.


Plastic and wooden Caves and artificial Hollow Logs will be readily occupied by home-hunting toads.

Low Cost Alternative

Broken clay flowerpots (watch sharp edges), curved sections of tree bark and small hollow logs all serve well as toad hideaways.

Water Bowl

Your toad will need a shallow, easily-exited water bowl in which to soak.  If not sunk into the substrate, the bowl should be of sturdy construction so that it will not tip over.  Be sure to remove chlorine and chloramine from your water with Tap Water Conditioner.


Naturalistic Ponds and Crockery Bowls are available in a wide assortment of sizes and shapes.

Low Cost Alternative

Red Spotted ToadButter dishes, plastic jar lids, frozen dinner trays and similar non-toxic items will do nicely.  Use a small stone to make lightweight containers tip-proof.

Non-Essential Items

Toads seem not to need UVB radiation, but they do receive limited sun exposure in nature.  UVA, while not essential, encourages natural behavior.  The Reptisun 2.0 Bulb, specifically designed for amphibians, emits UVA and low levels of UVB.  It is also suitable for live plants.

A Night-Viewing Bulb will help you to observe your pet’s nocturnal activities.

Live Pothos, Snake Plants, Chinese Evergreens and Cast Iron Plants will add greatly to your terrarium’s appearance. These species do well in dim light and will help detoxify ammonia and other waste products.  Realistic artificial terrarium plants can also be used.



Further Reading

American Toad Care

Common Problems when Raising Toads

Toad and Frog Diets

Bufo viridis image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Скампецкий


  1. avatar

    Love toads, very under-rated animals. I like the ‘low costs alternatives’ sections in this blog.

    • avatar

      Hello Gary, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words. I look forward to your comments and observations, and enjoy following you on Twitter as well.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    This is an excellent explanation of housing options, and it’s so refreshing to see something written explicitly for toads as opposed to gleaning information from posts meant for the more popular amphibian pets.

    I was hoping I could ask you a question though. I’ve fallen in love with the European green toad and have been trying to find some for about 10 years now, but they seem to be extremely hard to find in North America. Seeing them mentioned in your blog gives me hope that you may have experience with them and may know of a supplier. Do you happen to know where I could acquire some of these awesome animals?

    • avatar

      Hi Christie,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. The European Green Toads I’ve kept arrived via zoo channels. I did a quick google search and found some US suppliers who list them, but I did not recognize any of the names so cannot comment on reliability. Keeping an eye on Kingsnake.com should also be useful. If nothing turns up, let me now and I’ll contact a friend who imports European salamanders; perhaps he will have a source.

      So much variety on a basic body plan…I had hoped to devote a major section of one amphib area at the Bx to toads, but interest is not all that high in the zoo world. While in Japan, I came across the Japanese Toad…check some photos when you have a moment.

      Enjoy, Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I had never even heard of Kingsnake.com, I can’t believe I’ve been missing such a massive resource all this time! I’ll definitely keep my eyes on this website from now on. And thank you so much for your offer of a supplier contact, I may take you up on that if I can’t find any other source. It’s amazing that something that’s such a common pet in Europe is so hard to find in North America! Would it be a problem for your supplier if I am in Canada?

    Yes it’s a shame how little toads are appreciated. When my American toad was sick recently I was phoning several exotic animal vets in my area and most of the secretaries didn’t even know what a toad was! I can’t help but feel that if more research was done on them, particularly in the area of animal intelligence, their profile could be raised in the public eye. On a high note though, I did visit a zoo in Arizona which had a whole section dedicated to toads. They had examples of all the toads from the desert region, all in large realistic habitats! There’s definitely a toad lover running the reptile unit down there.

    • avatar

      Hi Christie,

      Having started in this field as a child, I’m blown away by Kingsnake and related resources. I think you’ll find one. My guy imports from Europe, doesn;t deal with toads but I thought he might point me in the rt direction; I’m not sure about the regs there, but could find out if need be.

      I may be able to send a list of herp vets in Canada if you need…perhaps one will be nearby (then again, given Canada’s size!).

      Re intelligence, a series of photos I saw in a book as a child stayed with me, re an experiment with a southern toad and bees and bee mimics. i wrote about it, but search engine on blog is not great..I’ll send it sometime. I’ve seen Marine Toads come to the back door of our station in Costa Rica at same time each night, push open door, and feed on insects attracted by light. Plenty of other stories. This article and 2 linked at end deals with learning in reptiles.

      Was it the AZ-Sonora Desert Museum?

      Thanks for the interesting comments, Best, Frank

  4. avatar

    Thank you for all the information, and yes it was the Sonora Desert Museum! The reptile and amphibian house in that museum just blew me away.

    • avatar

      One of the best…and years ahead of their time, mixing museum-zoo-outdoor exhibits. An ex-Bronx Zookeeper worked here for many years, not sure if he still does. 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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