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The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 2

Click: The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 1 to read the first part of this article.

Marine ToadMany pet keepers feed their toads heavily on pink and even adult mice. This is a bad idea and will eventually lead to eye, kidney and liver problems. While these aggressive predators certainly take the occasional rodent or lizard in the wild, research has shown that insects, spiders and other invertebrates form the vast majority of their natural diet. In captivity, a goldfish, minnow or shiner can be offered every month or so, perhaps a pink mouse every 6-8 weeks, but limit their intake of vertebrates. Do not feed mice other than pinkies – toads swallow their food alive, and sooner or later they will be injured by a mouse’s sharp teeth.

Marine Toads take readily to tong or even hand feeding (use plastic tongs). Canned insects, such as Can O’ Grasshoppers and Can O’ Pillars should be hand-fed to increase dietary variety.

Wild caught insects, collected from pesticide-free areas, should be offered whenever possible. Zoo Med’s Bug Napper is an excellent insect trap. Sweeping a net through tall grass and searching around outdoor lights will also yield a wide variety of tasty treats. Avoid using spiders, stinging and brightly -colored insects and fireflies, and do not collect during times when your area is being commercially sprayed for mosquito control.

My Marine Toads relish cicadas, katydids, grasshoppers, beetles of all types, moths, tree crickets, caterpillars, sow bugs and most everything else I come up with. Most of my amphibians feed largely upon wild-caught invertebrates throughout the summer, but even a few beetles plucked from a screen door every night or so will go a long way in keeping your pet in the peak of health.

Social Groups
Marine Toads coexist fairly well together, but bear in mind that they need a lot of room and must be kept scrupulously clean. Fighting is rare, but large animals will out-compete smaller ones for food, so hand-feed if in doubt.

Captive Longevity
The published longevity record is 24 years. Two that I acquired as adults are, at last report, still going strong after 16 years.

Handling and Enrichment
Marine Toads learn very quickly where their meals lie, and will soon greet you as you approach their terrarium. They do not enjoy being held, however, and like all amphibians are subject health problems once the skin’s mucus covering is removed. Handle them – carefully and with clean, wet hands – only when necessary.

Toads in general and this species in particular secrete extremely virulent skin toxins and must be treated with care. Always wash thoroughly after handling them, and never touch your mouth or eyes before doing so. Do not handle Marine Toads if you have a cut in your skin, no matter how tiny it may be. Children and pets must be prevented from coming in contact with these animals, to the point of installing a lock on the terrarium if you are at all unsure. Toads that are licked or swallowed can cause life-threatening reactions.

Marine Toads benefit from hunting opportunities, and remain much more active and alert when provided such on a regular basis. Allow non-threatening insects (crickets may chew on cold or debilitated animals) such as caterpillars, katydids and grasshoppers to roam about their tank when possible. Better still, set your toads up in a secure area outdoors near some over-ripe fruit (to draw beetles and butterflies) or a bush crawling with caterpillars, sit back and enjoy!

Egg-laying in the wild is generally in response to the onset of rainy periods, and such may occur if the toads are provided with “artificial rain” in captivity (more on this in the future). Captives sometime breed spontaneously as well. The tadpoles are fairly hardy – please write in if you are fortunate enough to have a breeding pair.

In some situations, Marine Toads fare well in semi-freedom. They stay quite close to favored territories – the same 5-6 individuals hunted outside my kitchen in Costa Rica every night for several weeks.

While working at the Bronx Zoo, I kept a few at liberty below a row of exhibits, and another small group in a greenhouse. Here they fed upon crickets, roaches, centipedes, spiders and the like, and grew quite fat. They never failed to emerge from their shelters when I arrived each morning, waiting in a semi-circle for the treats (earthworms and crayfish) they had come to expect. They really are among the most responsive of the amphibians – I highly recommend one if you have the space.

A great deal of information about Marine Toads is posted at:

The Marine or Cane Toad, Bufo marinus (Rhinella marina) in Nature and Captivity – Marine Toads as Pets – Part 1

Marine ToadI have always found Marine Toads to be among the most engaging of amphibian pets.  Toads in general seem to be (externally at least) more responsive than frogs- they “watch” everything, and appear to deliberately consider their next move.  Protected as they are by powerful skin toxins, Marine Toads in particular seem possessed of real “confidence” in captivity, and we can get to know them well if we take the time.

Please see Marine Toads – Natural History for information on Marine Toads in the wild.

Enclosure and Physical Environment
Some Marine Toads grow quite large – to 10 inches, and even small individuals can be quite active and consequently need a large terrarium.  An averaged-sized adult can be kept in a 30 gallon “long” aquarium – while a really large one or a pair will do best in a tank of 55-75 gallon capacity.

During warm weather, Marine Toads can be housed in secure outdoor enclosures as well.  Insects lured by a small light or over-ripe fruit will supply your toads with important dietary variety.

Their enclosure should be topped by a screen cover secured by clamps  and the substrate should be kept damp but not wet.  Compressed Frog Moss, Fir and Sphagnum Moss Bedding and Reptile Cage Carpet all work well.  Marine Toads have a tendency to swallow substrate when feeding – usually they pass this without incident, but tong-feed your animals or use a feeding bowl –prod- if you notice this happening frequently.

Despite being quite bold, Marine Toads require a hide-a way where they can get out of sight (Rock Den or Turtle Hut).  Be sure to provide a cave for each of your toads, as animals that cluster in one shelter seem prone to fungal infections of the skin.

Marine Toads need to soak frequently, so always have a bowl of de-chlorinated water available.  Be sure that small toads can exit the water bowl easily, as they are poor swimmers.

While small toads can be kept in planted exhibits, adults will mangle all but the sturdiest of plants (try Cast Iron Plants and Snake Plants).  They will clamber about on smooth logs – just be sure that these are secured in place as these brutes are quite strong and may roll a log onto themselves or a tank-mate.

Light, Heat and Humidity
Marine Toads do not require UVB radiation, and so will get along with a regular fluorescent bulb.  Use a low UVB output plant light if you keep live plants, as high levels may cause eye damage.

The terrarium should be maintained at 72-80 F.  Marine Toads can tolerate much warmer conditions – I have uncovered them below boards at temperatures of 100 F – but such is stressful and should be avoided.

Despite being largely terrestrial, Marine Toads seem quite prone to desiccation – spray their terrarium each morning and keep a water bowl available at all times. They often defecate in the water bowl – be sure to clean this as soon as possible, lest they absorb ammonia and other toxins through their skin.

Your pets should be given as much dietary variety as possible.  I have observed wild Marine Toads consuming over 2 dozen insect species in a very short time, and other researchers have documented a huge range of prey items (please see Marine Toads – Natural History article).

The main portion of their diet should not be crickets, but rather a mix of earthworms (these can be used as the bulk of their diet if necessary), roaches, crickets, and waxworms.  Silkworms and Tomato Hornworms, available via internet dealers, should be offered from time to time.  I use super mealworms sparingly, but others have done so frequently without incident.  I have found crayfish to be an important food item for a wide variety of creatures, including Marine Toads.  I remove their claws, just to be on the safe side.

Adults fed a varied diet require a vitamin/mineral supplement  only once each week at most.  The food of growing animals should be supplemented 2-3 times weekly.

Check back Wednesday for the conclusion of Marine Toads as Pets.

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