You’ll need to search long and hard to find a frog more bizarre than South America’s Surinam toad. Large and flat, with a pointed head and star-shaped sensory organs tipping the fingers, this tongue-less aquatic beast broods tadpoles below the skin of its back….need I say more?
“Handle With Care”
Surinam toads make wonderful aquarium subjects, but a bit of special care and planning are necessary if one is to succeed with them. Although captive breeding is possible (I wrote about this recently, please see below), it is not common; hence most of the animals available in the trade are wild-caught adults.
Surinam toads seem to be gaining in popularity lately…I’ve had several questions concerning newly acquired animals posed recently, and so thought this a good time to go into the topic a bit further.
Stress and Wild-Caught Frogs
Surinam toads collected as adults have lived in my collection for over 12 years, but most wild caught individuals presented some problems when first obtained. With their permanent, upward-directed stares and relative immobility, these frogs seem so “expressionless” that it’s hard to imagine their being stressed…but internally a great deal is going on.
They are quite sensitive to change – a wild caught frog will have been through a series of traumas by the time it reaches your tank, and will usually not feed until it feels secure and out of danger (i.e. able to hide). Stress is usually very difficult to detect in amphibians, but do not be misled – it is as serious a problem for frogs as for a high strung bird (or us!).
Until the animal adjusts to its new surroundings, you should secure a towel or other material between the screen top and the water’s surface, as the frog will likely jump at night and may injure its snout against the screening. Be sure to secure the top with screen clips; these will hold the towel in place and prevent an escape.
The water temperature should be maintained at 78-79F. Be sure to adjust your frog to any temperature changes slowly…gradually mix new water in with old, if necessary. Dramatic temperature changes will stress the immune system and can easily lead to some of the same health problems (i.e. Ick outbreaks) as affect tropical fish in similar circumstances.
A large, deep aquarium is best. Sometimes these frogs do fine in shallow water, but they are more comfortable in deep tanks – during field research I’ve observed them being collected from 3-4 feet of water. An adult will require an aquarium of at least 20 gallons capacity, with a 30 gallon tank being preferable (a 30 gallon can house a pair as well).
Surinam toads have a very vigorous feeding response, and quite frequently swallow gravel along with their prey. It is therefore safest to house them in a bare-bottomed aquarium. Despite living over mud, sand and gravel in the wild, captive Surinam toads are very prone to impactions. I’ve observed several on autopsy that were packed full of sand, and another that swallowed a stone which seemed barely able to fit in its mouth.
Check back on Friday for the conclusion of this article.