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Contains articles and advice on a wide variety of toad species. Answers and addresses questions on species husbandry, captive status, breeding, news and conservation issues concerning toads.

Pet Frogs and Toads: Five Points to Consider Before Buying

Budgett's Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Rosarinagazo

We amphibian enthusiasts are a lucky bunch. The world is populated by 6,389 frog and toad species, and new ones are discovered regularly. Among them we find frogs that have sheathed claws, lack lungs and defend their young from lions, along with toads that breed in salt marshes and bear live young. Some tadpoles feed upon their fathers’ skins, while others munch bark from tree branches…and that’s the mere tip of the iceberg! Frogs may be hardy survivors that can reach age 20, 30 or even 50, or be nearly impossible to keep alive in captivity. The following points, drawn from a lifetime of working with frogs and toads in the Bronx Zoo and at home, are useful to consider before embarking on your amphibian-keeping venture.

 

Note: The terms “frog” and “toad” do not always correspond with taxonomic relationships. All toads may be correctly called “frogs”. I’ll use “frogs” when referring to both.

 

Pine Barren's Treefrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Lonerockalex

Please post below if you have specific questions, or would like a link to an article on a certain species.

 

Pet Frogs are “Hands-Off”

Cane Toads, White’s Treefrogs and many others are often very responsive to their owners, and will readily feed from the hand (or, for the “tooth” bearing African Bullfrog and Horned Frogs, from tongs!). However, they should be picked-up only when necessary, and then with wet hands. All amphibians have extremely delicate skin, and even microscopic tears will allow harmful bacteria to enter and cause havoc. Also, the skin’s mucus covering, which has anti-microbial properties, is easily removed even during gentle handling.

 

Well-cared-for frogs will reward you by exhibiting fascinating behaviors…but not if you disturb or injure them with unnecessary handling!

 

Blue Poison Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Wildfeuer,

Frogs Need Clean Terrariums and Excellent Water Quality

An African Bullfrog can eat baby cobras, survive 9 months without food and live for over 50 years. Yet 2-3 days of soaking in a fouled water bowl can end its live.

 

Frogs absorb water through the skin, and along with that water comes any associated pollutants. The most common of these is ammonia, which is excreted with the waste products. Most frogs are as or even more delicate than tropical fishes, since they absorb water over a greater surface area; ammonia test kits, partial water changes and strong filtration are critical to success in keeping them. Substrate needs the same attention as does water, since Horned Frogs and other land-dwellers can be poisoned by ammonia-soaked moss or soil.

 

Snowy tree cricket

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by PaulT

Frogs Need a Highly-Varied Diet

No frog will thrive long-term on a diet comprised solely of crickets and mealworms, even if these foods are powdered with supplements. I’ve done well by relying heavily upon wild-caught invertebrates during the warmer months.  Moths, beetles, grasshoppers, tree crickets, harvestmen, earwigs, “smooth” caterpillars and a variety of others are accepted – usually far more enthusiastically than are crickets!. Please see these articles for tips on collecting insects.

 

Useful invertebrates that you can buy include earthworms, roaches, butterworms, calciworms, silkworms, hornworms and sow bugs.  Feeders should be provided a healthful diet before use.  Canned grasshoppers, snails, and silkworms may be offered via feeding tongs. Please see the article linked below for further information on dietary variety.

 

Frogs are Easily Stressed…but it’s Hard to Tell

Stress is one of the most important and misunderstood concepts in herp husbandry. While some frogs will leap away when threatened, many instinctively freeze. Inexperienced owners often misinterpret the lack of vigorous protest as an “acceptance” of handling. However, be assured that your pet’s stress hormones are surging, and that this will have a deleterious effect on its immune system.

 

Being relatively inactive, many frogs may seem blissfully unaware of terrarium size, or of what is going on outside their enclosures. However, most are quite alert, and miss nothing. It may be difficult for us to detect a problem merely by observing our pets’ behaviors.

 

Certain species, such as White’s Treefrogs, American or Southern Toads, and African Clawed Frogs, are better-suited to busy households than are most.

 

Indian Bullfrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Amada44

The “It Doesn’t Do Anything” Factor

Ideally, the new frog owner will be interested in her or his pet for its own sake. But most of us also wish to see how it lives, what it does, and so on. Many frogs are about as active as the infamous “pet rock”…and are nocturnal to boot!

 

If you favor an active pet, consider a small diurnal species that forages for rather than ambushes its food, and keep it in a large, naturalistic terrarium. Five Blue Dart Poison Frogs (active hunters) in a well-planted 30 gallon tank will provide you with infinitely more to observe than will an Argentine Horned Frog (ambush predator) kept in the same-sized enclosure. African Clawed and Dwarf African Clawed Frogs also tend to be quite active, especially if housed in planted aquariums and not over-fed. Allowing sow bugs, springtails and other food species to become established in the terrarium will encourage activity.

 

Some species that tend to be active at night may adjust to daytime schedules once they settle into to their new homes. American Toads and their relatives are especially accommodating in this regards. Others, such as Green and Gold Bell Frogs, American Bullfrogs and Leopard Frogs, are ready and willing to feed round-the-clock. Red night-viewing bulbs will greatly increase your ability to observe Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Spadefoot Toads and other strictly nocturnal species.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

 

Nutritious Diets for Frogs and Toads

Toad Care: Common and Unusual Species

 

 

Amphibians as Pets: Care of Common and Unusual Types of Toads

European Green Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by H. Krisp

Children the world over are often introduced to amphibians when they come across their first toad.  Far bolder than typical frogs (and much easier to catch!) most take the indignity of capture by grubby little hands in stride, and leave all who encounter them with a favorable impression.  With few exceptions, however, these droll, long-lived amphibians are relatively ignored by pet-keepers and zoos alike.  After a lifetime of working with dozens of species, I find this hard to understand.  Toads of many species (there are almost 600!) take well to captivity, and often become as responsive as do turtles.  Nearly all feed readily from the hand, and they are frequently described as “charming” by owners.  Many are active by day, while others are quick to discard their nocturnal ways.  I still find American Toads and other common species as fascinating as Kihansi Spray Toads (which produce tiny toadlets rather than eggs!), Blomberg’s Toads and the other rarities I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

 

Classification

Toads and frogs are classified in the order Anura, which contains 6,396 members.  The world’s 588 toad species are placed in the family Bufonidae.  Toad taxonomy is now in a state of flux, so I’ll mainly stick to common names here…please post below if you would like the Latin name for any species.

 

Asiatic toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia commons by Visviva

Range and Habitat

Toads are native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and have adapted to rainforests, deserts, grasslands, meadows, temperate woodlands, cold mountain streams, farms, cloud forests, suburban gardens, city parks, coastal sand dunes and many more.  Despite lacking native species, Australia hosts enormous populations of Marine or Cane Toads.  Released to control cane beetles (a task at which they failed miserably!), Marine Toads now threaten the future of animals ranging from insects to large monitors.

 

Toad Diversity

The USA’s toads are incredibly diverse.  Included among the 35-40 native species is one of the world’s smallest, the inch-long Oak Toad (one of our regular readers is now attempting to breed them; I’ll post updates).  The massive Marine Toad is also a native, but is limited to the lower reaches of the Rio Grande in extreme southern Texas; the Florida population is introduced.  Sharing the Marine Toad’s Texas range is the fabulously-bizarre Mexican Burrowing Toad (Rhinophryrinus dorsalis).  Other US natives that deserve more attention include the gorgeous desert-dwelling Sonoran Green and Red-Spotted Toads, the minute Narrow-Mouthed Toads and the subterranean, gnome-like Spadefoots.

 

Narrow Mouthed Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Eugene van der Pijll

The toad family contains the only live-bearing Anurans (Nectophrynoides and Nimdaphrynoides spp.)   One of these, the Kihansi Spray Toad, was declared extinct in the wild not long ago.  I worked with wild-caught individuals at the Bronx Zoo, and was astonished at the size of the youngsters produced by the females, who themselves did not reach an inch in length!  Happily, they thrived in captivity and have now been re-introduced to the wild; please see the article linked below.

 

Vying with the 9-inch-long Marine Toad for the title of world’s largest species are the striking Blomberg’s and Smooth-Sided Toads.  Species that “break the mold”, in terms of appearance and behavior, include the Argentine Flame-Bellied Toad, which rivals the colors of any Poison Frog, and the long-limbed Climbing Toad.  I’ve had the good fortune to work with each of these, and many other unusual species; please post below for detailed care info.

 

The Terrarium

Your toad’s natural history will dictate the type of terrarium it requires; please post below for specific information.  Terrariums for most should have large land areas and a water bowl.

 

Substrate

Sphagnum moss or, for planted terrariums, a mix of moss, dead leaves and topsoil, works well for forest and meadow adapted species.  Toads may swallow substrate with their meals, although they rarely launch the suicidal lunges typical to many frogs.  In order to limit the possibility of intestinal blockages gravel should be avoided.  Tong or hand feeding is also useful.

 

Climbing Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Daderot

Light

Toads seem not to require UVB radiation, although some keepers believe that low levels may benefit certain diurnal species; the Zoo Med 2.0 UVB Bulb would be a good choice for these.

 

Heat

Temperatures for tropical species should range from 75-82 F.  Toads from temperate regions fare best at 66-74 F.  However, specific needs vary, especially regarding those native to deserts or rainforests; please post any questions below.

 

A fluorescent light may provide enough heat – if not, try a 25 watt incandescent bulb or ceramic heater; these can dry out the substrate, so additional misting may become necessary.

 

Humidity

Humidity needs vary, but even desert dwellers should have access to a moist retreat and easily-exited water bowl.

 

Water Quality

Toads have porous skin patches on the chest and elsewhere and will, therefore, absorb ammonia (released with their waste products) and other harmful chemicals.  As ammonia is extremely lethal, strict attention must be paid to terrarium and water hygiene.

 

Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used in toad terrariums.  Liquid preparations are simple to use and very effective.

 

Feeding

Toads are carnivorous and stimulated to feed by movement.  The one surprising exception is the Marine Toad.  In Costa Rica, I came to know one huge individual that would visit our field station each night.  After pushing open the screen door, she would eat table scraps that had been left for a dog!

 

A highly-varied diet is essential.  Crickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet for any species.

 

The following should be offered to tiny species such as Narrow-Mouthed Toads and to newly-transformed individuals: fruit flies, 10 day old crickets, springtails, termites, flour beetle grubs, aphids and “field plankton” (insects gathered by sweeping through tall grass with a net).

 

In addition to crickets, earthworms (one of the best foods for most) roaches, sow bugs, waxworms, butterworms, silkworms, houseflies and other invertebrates should be provided.  Insects should themselves be fed a nutritious diet for 1-3 days before being offered to your pets.  Many will accept canned grasshoppers, snails, and silkworms from tongs.

 

Please ignore the You Tube videos of Marine Toads consuming mice. Even in rodent-rich habitats, wild Marine Toads feed primarily upon insects.  While a very occasional pink mouse will do no harm, furred rodents should never be offered.

 

Food should be powdered with Zoo Med ReptiCalcium plus D3 or a similar product.  Vitamin/mineral supplements such as ReptiVite may be used 1-2 times weekly.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

American Toad Care & Natural History

Nutritious Diets for Frogs & Toads

Poison Frogs – Sap Beetles as an Alternative Food for Small Frogs

Picnic beetle

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Miroslav Deml

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Keepers of Poison Frogs, Mantellas, newly-transformed frogs, and other tiny amphibians face difficulties in providing their charges with a varied diet.  Wild frogs consume dozens to hundreds of invertebrate species, but captives are usually limited to fruit flies, flour beetles, pinhead crickets and springtails.  Vitamin/mineral supplements help, but dietary variety remains critical.

Throughout my career at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos, I have relied heavily upon wild-caught invertebrates.  I recently “re-discovered” an old favorite – the various Sap or Picnic Beetles (Family Nitidulidae).  I first used Sap beetles when rearing Wood Frog metamorphs decades ago, and later fed them to Spring Peepers, Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Poison Frogs and others in zoo collections.  Many small amphibians will eagerly gobble up Sap Beetles, but Poison Frog and Mantella keepers will find them especially useful.  Sap Beetles never fail to bring an enthusiastic feeding response, and can save us some time and money while providing nutrients missing from standard foods.

Natural History

Sap Beetles are classified in the Family Nitidulidae, which contains nearly 3,000 members.  Most top out at 1/8 inch, with the largest barely reaching ¼ inch in length.  Several species, commonly known as “Picnic Beetles”, show up when sweet foods are served outdoors.  Some feed upon over-ripe fruits, corn and other crops, while others take nectar, sap, fungi and carrion. Read More »

Amphibians as Pets – Common Frogs, Toads and Salamanders of the USA

Spottted Salamander

Downloaded to Wikipedia by Camazine

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  This article covers the care of several native amphibians that live in close proximity to people.  As a result, they sometimes wind up in yards, basements, window wells and other such places.  Most are also seen in pet stores.  While they can make interesting, long-lived pets, all have specific needs that must be met if they are to thrive.  The following information will give you an idea of what is involved caring for amphibians as pets; please see the articles linked below for more detailed information, and post any questions you may have.  If you find an injured animal, or wish to learn how to become a wildlife rehabilitator, please see this article.

It is important to bear in mind that captive-born specimens make far better pets than wild individuals, and that many species are protected by law. Read More »

Keeping Frogs and Toads as Pets – Creating a Terrarium and Best Amphibian Care Products

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  From tiny “living jewels” to hulking giants capable of consuming bats, snakes and rodents, the world’s nearly 6,000 frog species present an amazing array of pet-keeping opportunities.  With proper care, some may live for decades (to age 50 in the case of the African Bullfrog), and quite a few are active by day and quickly learn to accept food from one’s hand.  However, keeping frogs and toads as pets means providing a habitat that meets their specific needs – humidity, temperature, substrate, terrarium size and shape, light, water quality and other conditions must be carefully considered. 

Oak Toad

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Eric Shashoua

Although each has needs that vary from those of others, some general rules have emerged.  The following information is drawn from my experiences with hundreds of species over a lifetime of frog-keeping in zoos and at home.  It can be applied to most of those that you are likely to encounter.  However, details will vary – please post below for information concerning individual species.

Housing

Please remember that your frog’s natural history will dictate the type of terrarium it requires…please post below to discuss the need of individual species, or to share your observations.

Setting up the Terrarium

Active, sedentary, high-strung, aquatic, arboreal and terrestrial frogs and toads utilize their living spaces in different ways.  Following are some basic guidelines for popular species. Read More »

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