Across North America, it is not hard to find the American toad because of their huge numbers all around the region. The great thing about American toads is the fact that they are very easy to care for and are great when it comes to being pets.
If you are considering keep one or more American toads, taking care of them is not difficult if you follow these simple instructions.
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– Water Dish
– Live Insects
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The aquarium that you plan on using for your American toad should be at least 10 gallons in size or larger. Use the mesh to cover that aquarium because it will not only act as a protection from the sun and heat, but will also allow adequate ventilation for the survival of the toads living inside.
In order to make the inside of the aquarium look more like the toad’s natural environment, it is a good idea to fill the habitat with a suitable substrate. In this case, that will be the reptile bark that can be bought from any pet store. This will create plants and soil for the toad to live comfortably.
There should be a large dish instead of the aquarium to give your toad enough water to not only drink but to also bathe in. It is important because this allows them to keep the moisture on their skin and body temperature at a normal level to stay active and healthy.
These toads love insects, earthworms, spiders, crickets, flies, beetles and ants. Supplying these insects by placing them inside of the habitat will give your toad a reason to enjoy himself and actually want to live there.
The temperature of the artificial habitat that you have created for your toad should be no less than 65 degrees Fahrenheit and no more than 80 degrees F. Another positive factor is that these toads, unlike others, do not need supplementary heat lamps. The reason for that is because toads are likely to get very hot quickly and need to be cool by staying away from the heat.
American toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
Adults measure 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long. The dwarf subspecies (Anaxyrus americanus charlesmithi) found in the south rarely grows over 2 inches (5 cm). Usually females are bigger than males.
Toad coloration is variable, ranging from light tan to rusty red-brown or dark olive-green. Some have little in the way of a pattern while others may have stripes or reticulation. The ventral side is a uniform tan or light brown, with occasional dark spots or blotches. The back and body of American toads is covered in typical toad bumps or “warts”.
Distribution, Habitat and Behavior
American toads are found throughout eastern North America, from Quebec and Ontario all the way south into Texas and Georgia. They can be found in forests, woodlands, meadows and prairies, where they spend their time during the day concealed under objects such as logs or stones. At night they become active and in early summer or late spring, once the water temperature warms, males vocalize near the shoreline to attract mates. Eggs are laid in long strings in still or very slow-moving water.
Rarely offered for sale at pet stores, but throughout their range American toads are often encountered in nature and sometimes kept as pets.
A standard 15 gallon aquarium that measures 24 inches long by 12 inches wide by 12 inches high (60 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm) is large enough for one or two adult toads. A secure screen cover is essential to prevent escapes. Although they look sluggish and often don’t move quickly, they are capable of climbing out of an open aquarium.
Use a substrate that allows toads to burrow. Coconut husk fiber is a good choice, as are other safe soils. Avoid using soils that contain perlite or vermiculite. Leaf litter, cypress mulch, top soil, or a combination of those can also be used or mixed into coconut husk fiber. Simple substrates such as moist paper towels or foam rubber work well for temporary housing. Avoid using gravel, sand, or fir bark because these substrates are difficult for a toad to pass if they are swallowed, and they also do not retain moisture well.
Hide spots can be provided with cork bark, driftwood, commercially available reptile hides, flower pots, or other objects. Using a layer of dried leaves collected from the area where the toad was found also can work well. Live plants can be added if the enclosure is lit, but ensure they are free of pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals before use.
Temperature and Humidity
Most wild toads spend their time concealed during the day where the temperature remains cool. In captivity, most toads live well when the day time temperature ranges between 60°F and 75°F (16°C and 24°C). At night the temperature can drop. Avoid exposing American toads to hot temperatures for extended periods of time.
American toads are adaptable and tolerate varying amounts of humidity as long as a source of clean water is available to soak in during dry times. Consider misting part of the cage with water several times a week, or pouring water into one part of the substrate to create a moisture gradient within the enclosure where half stays moist while the other half remains dry.
An enclosure for an American toad – soil substrate, cork bark hide, pothos clipping, and a water dish.
Provide a water dish that is easily accessible and not any deeper than the height of the toad. The water should be changed daily or when it appears dirty. Most captive American toads will soak in the water dish at night, so it is a good habit to change the water each morning after use. If tap water from a municipality is used it should be treated with an aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.
American toads are not picky eaters and feed on most invertebrates that fit into their mouth. Crickets, wax worms, meal worms, earth worms, super worms, and other commercially available feeders of that size work well. Offer insect larvae and worms in a small shallow feeding dish, such as the lid of a jar, so that they do not burrow into the substrate before they are found by the toad. Crickets and worms can make up the majority of a toad’s diet, with other food items being offered once every couple weeks. A feeding schedule of three to six food items every two or three days is adequate. Small toads that are under an inch in length should be fed smaller food items such as flightless fruit flies or three day old crickets daily. Adults should have their food coated with high quality vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings. Juveniles should have their food supplemented more often.
American Toad (Bufo americanus)
Introduction: American toads are common amphibians in eastern North America. Their coloration is variable, ranging from light tan, to rusty red-brown, to dark olive-green. Some have little in the way of a pattern , while others may have a more variegated appearance with stripes or reticulation on their flanks or legs. Their ventral side is a uniform tan or light brown, with occasional dark spots or blotches. The back and body of American toads, along with most other Bufo species, is covered in bumps or “warts”. There are two subspecies of American toad, both of which are identical except for adult size. The dwarf subspecies rarely grows over 2 inches (5 cm) in length and is found in the southern most part of their range, while the northern subspecies generally matures to between 2 and 4 inches (5-10 cm) and is more widely distributed.
American toads are rarely offered for sale in pet stores because of their abundance in the wild. Rather than trying to locate a toad at a pet store or reptile dealer, it’s best to collect one yourself. Before doing so, it is important to check the local laws in the area as a permit may be required to collect native amphibians. It also is best to remove a juvenile from the wild rather than a breeding adult. American toads are usually easy to locate in the spring after heavy rains, but can usually be found without much difficulty during summer and fall as well. Never release an amphibian back into the wild once in your care to avoid introducing foreign pathogens to wild populations. Instead, only collect a toad if you intend to keep it for its entire life.
Cage: A standard 15 gallon aquarium that measures 24 inches long by 12 inches wide by 12 inches high (60 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm) is large enough for two adult toads. A secure cover is essential to prevent escapes. Although they look sluggish and often don’t move quickly, they are capable of climbing out of a shallow open aquarium.
American toads are nocturnal. Often they prefer to rest in small burrows in the substrate or under hide spots in the cage. To accommodate this, use a substrate that the toad can burrow in. Coconut husk fiber (bed-a-beast, eco earth, forest bed, etc.) is a good substrate, as are other safe soils. Avoid using soils that contain perlite or vermiculite. Leaf litter, cypress mulch, top soil, or a combination of those can also be used. Simple substrates such as moist paper towels or foam rubber work well for temporary housing. Avoid using gravel, sand, or fir bark because these substrates are difficult for toads to pass if they are swallowed.
Hide spots can be provided with cork bark, driftwood, commercially available reptile caves, flower pots, or other objects that toads can easily hide under. Using a layer of dried leaves collected from the area where the toad was found can also provide cover. Live plants can also be used, but ensure they are free of pesticides or other potentially harmful chemcials.
Temperature and Humidity: Most wild toads spend their time burrowed under leaf litter or logs during the day where the temperature remains cool. In captivity, most toads live well when the day time temperature ranges between 60°F and 70°F (16°C and 21°C) during the day. At night the temperature can drop. American toads that have been collected from the southern part of their range may be kept slightly warmer.
Average household humidity levels are suitable for American toads. They are adaptable and tolerate varying amounts of humidity as long as a source of clean water is available to soak in. Consider misting part of the cage with water several times a week, or pouring water into one part of the substrate to create a moisture gradient within it where half stays moist while the other half remains dry.
Water: Offer a water dish that is easily accessible and not any deeper than the height of the toad. The water should be changed daily or when it appears dirty. Most captive American toads will take advantage of the water dish and soak every night. If tap water is used, make sure to treat it with tap water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals. Bottled spring water can be used instead of tap water.
Food: American toads are not picky eaters and feed on most invertebrates that fit into their mouth. Crickets, wax worms, meal worms, earth worms, super worms, and other commercially available feeders of that size work well. Crickets should make up the majority of a toad’s diet, with other food items being offered once every couple weeks. A feeding schedule of three to six food items every two or three days generally works well for most adult toads. Small toads that are under an inch in length should be fed smaller food items such as flightless fruit flies or three day old crickets every day. Adults should have their food coated with high quality vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings. Juveniles should have their food supplemented more often.
Widely distributed throughout Canada and the United States, American toads (Anaxyrus americanus, formerly Bufo americanus) are adaptable and hardy, making them fairly tolerant pets. Raising them from tadpoles is not quite as straightforward as it sounds, because you have to provide two different environments: an aquarium for the tadpoles and a terrarium for the toads, and different diets for the different stages.
The spawn of the American toad is distinctly different from that of frogspawn, because it is laid in long strings rather than amorphous blobs. The eggs don’t require much in the way of care apart from regular water changes, just a freshwater tank mimicking the conditions of the species’ natural habitat. Note that American toads can lay up to 15,000 eggs at a time, which would produce far more tadpoles than even the largest tank could accommodate. If you’re raising eggs taken from the wild, don’t take more than a dozen or so. Each separate egg will show a distinct black dot at the center, enabling you to count the number of eggs in a length of spawn string.
American toad tadpoles are primarily herbivorous in the beginning, eating algae and aquatic vegetation. Supplement whatever is already in the tank with boiled leafy vegetables and flake food for herbivorous or omnivorous fish. Crumble the flakes between your fingers for small tadpoles. Conduct partial water changes at least once a week, more frequently if you have a lot of tadpoles or the tank is small. For all stages of the life cycle, use dechlorinated or spring water. Water straight from the faucet contains chemicals that are toxic to amphibians.
Once the toadlets are spending most of their time on the land area, transfer them to a terrarium set up with chemical-free potting compost, moss, bark, a shelter and a very shallow water bowl. Toadlets are perhaps the most difficult of the stages to feed, because they need very small terrestrial live food. Flightless fruit flies, pinhead crickets and very small worms are all suitable, but if you are struggling, contact a vet who specializes in amphibians for advice. If the original tadpoles or spawn came from a local pond, this might be a good point to release the toads back into the wild. Do not do this, however, if the species is not native to your area or the toads came from another area.
If you decide to keep one or two of the toads as pets, they need a fairly large tank — at the absolute minimum 2 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot, and preferably larger — with the same terrarium habitat as the toadlets. Live invertebrate prey that is small enough for the toads to swallow should form the diet. Crickets, mealworms and earthworms all make good snacks. If you decide to catch food from your yard, ensure that the bugs have not been exposed to insecticides and don’t belong to a toxic or venomous species. Most slugs would be acceptable, for example; wasps or hairy caterpillars are not. Powder their food with a calcium and vitamin supplement for amphibians a couple of times a week.
Scientific name: Bufo americanus
Common name: American Toad
(Information in this Species Page was compiled by Bobby Galonski in Biology 220W, Spring 2003, at Penn State New Kensington)
Bufo americanus is a very common, nocturnally active species of toad. It is found throughout almost all of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, and its range extends north into central Canada and south into Mexico. It abundantly occupies both natural and human modified habitats. Its ubiquity has led to its informal designation as the “common toad.”
Adult B. americanus are 2 to 4 inches long with females being slightly larger than males. They have stout, rounded bodies, and relatively short legs. Their skin is rough and thick with colors ranging widely over many shades of brown, dark-red, or dark-green. The toads are darker dorsally (on the back) than ventrally (on their bellies). Males have a dark brown to black throat while females have a lighter (predominately white) throat coloration. Over the skin surface are a variety of spots and streaks of brown or beige. Dark brown spots on their backs typically contain one or two red and/or yellow, prominent, raised areas called “warts.” The number and patterning of these warts is important in the determination of many of the B. americanus sub-species.
Activity and Life Span
This toad is active from April to November depending upon the local climate and weather conditions. During their active seasons, they typically spend the day-light hours in their shallow soil burrows or under logs or within leaf piles. They emerge at night to actively feed on a wide variety of insects. The inactive seasons are spent in deeper, hibernation burrows that they dig into the soil profile.
In their natural habitats most American toads live for a year or significantly less. Successful (or lucky!) individuals, though, may live for 5 to 10 years in natural ecosystems and are thus able to reproduce (sexually maturity occurs after 2 to 3 years). In captivity, American toads are known to live much longer. One captive individual, for example, lived for 35 years before its unfortunate accidental death.
Diet and Economic Impact
Bufo americanus’ main tool for food gathering is its tongue which is long, sticky, and rapidly extensible. The attachment of the tongue inside of the lower jaw facilitates its rapid extension toward prey. B. americanus’ visual acuity, total visual fields, and large, binocular visual fields (for 3-D vision) contribute significantly to the efficiency of prey detection and capture. Prey items readily taken by B. americanus include flies, crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, earthworms, slugs, and snails. It is estimated that 88% of their prey are invertebrates that are classified as agricultural pests. In a three month season, a single toad will consume just under 10,000 insects and, thus, has a significant economic value for farmers and gardeners.
Capturing Prey and Avoiding Predators
The American toad very rapidly orients itself to moving prey. If the prey is two inches or less away, the toad will remain motionless and use a rapid tongue extension to capture the organism. If the prey is more than two inches away, the toad will move via a “leap-sit-leap-sit” pattern into its striking distance.
Many predators would be expected to find B. americanus an ideally sized prey choice. Relatively few predators, though, readily take American toads for food. Its cryptic coloration, ability to change colorings to match substrate, and its avoidance of daylight and even moonlit nights all contribute to the excellence of its camouflage. Toads are also able to “play dead” upon encountering a predator thus possibly confusing the predator’s instinctive behaviors and potentially, then, avoiding being consumed. Also, the production of poisonous cutaneous secretions and parotoid gland (two glands located on the head just behind the eyes) poisons make the American toad a less attractive food item than might have been originally suspected. Garter snakes (which may have a resistance to the toad toxins), hognose snakes, hawks, herons, and raccoons are predators of adult toads. Eggs and tadpoles are preyed upon by a variety of fish, diving beetles, and predaceous diving bugs. It is interesting that toads raised in captivity do not, apparently, produce the parotoid and cutaneous toxins. It is suggested that the absence of the diverse array of arthropod-generated poisons in the diet of these captive toads is the explanation for this observation.
Breeding and Reproduction
The American toad breeds during a very short interval of only a few days in the spring. Breeding occurs in lakes, ponds, and marshes, but is especially common in flooded areas (wet meadows, puddles, and ditches) formed from the runoff accumulation of spring rains. Males congregate in these pools and make their trilling, mating calls both day and night while sitting half-submerged in the water. A number of males may be in residence even at a relatively small pool. There does not seem to be aggressive, territorial behaviors among these individuals. When a male does attach himself to the back of an attracted female (“amplexus”), the pair sits quite motionless in the shallow sections of the pool. The stillness of the pair is thought to help them avoid detection by other, non-paired males who might interrupt the mating event. The size relationship between the amplexic male and female is important. The smaller male must be small enough to ensure that his released sperm effectively fertilizes the ovulated eggs, but not so small that he leaves room on the female’s back for another, competing male. The eggs are released in strings which, as they are fertilized, are interwoven around the substrate and vegetation of the pool. The preferred selection of pools that do not have fish and the egg counter-shading (light on top and dark on the bottom) help to reduce the magnitude of egg predation.
Development of Young
Fertilized eggs develop quickly depending upon the temperature of the pool water. The eggs hatch in 3 to 12 days, and, as the tadpoles emerge, they form school-like groups called “aggregations.” These aggregations feed on algae, detritus and, possibly, protists and small invertebrates and grow and develop rapidly. Between days 12 and 20 the tadpoles (which are approximately one inch long) begin to form hind legs. After about two weeks more, the front legs will begin to be observed in some individuals. The eruption of the front legs signals the closing of the gills. After 35 to 70 days, then, the tadpoles mature into tiny, terrestrial toadlets. The wide range of timing for individual metamorphosis has logical ecological and evolutionary benefits. Avoidance of mass emergence (and possibly mass predation) and the maintenance of incubation flexibility in the face of highly variable spring rains (and pool size and, thus, pool longevity) are two keys aspects of the developmental biology of B. americanus.
This page was last updated on October 8, 2013
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American toad information
The American toad is a common species of toad. it’s divided into three subspecies the eastern american toad, the dwarf american toad, and the rare hudson bay toad. two subspecies exist: the eastern american toad and the dwarf american toad.
Distribution and habitat
The american toad is found in areas with lots of moisture and plenty of insects. it is often found in parks, yards, farmland, prairies, mountain areas, and forests. American Toads are found throughout eastern canada and eastern USA. they prefer areas with vegetation and a semi-permanent body of fresh water. It covers the northeastern us and therefore the midwest states to eastern Kansas and therefore the Dakotas. Toads sleep in terrestrial habitats starting from hardwood or pine hardwood to white pine-eastern hemlock forests.
American toad characteristics
The eastern american toad may be a medium-sized toad typically locomote in size from 5–9 cm. They’re primarily colored numerous reminder brown however they will even be red, olive or gray. Skin colour will amendment depending on habitat colors, humidity, stress, and temperature. Males are typically smaller than females and should have a dark throat. Toads have short limbs and that they have webbed toes on their hind legs. Their pupils are oval in form and that they have a gold circle round them. Its skin contains glands that turn out a white toxin that helps protect the toad from predators.
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus americanus
Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
Origin: United States and Canada
Common Names: n/a
Size: 5 – 9 cm
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Amphibia
- Order: Anura
- Family: Bufonidae
- Genus: Anaxyrus
- Species: A. americanus
American Toad Facts
- They are found in the eastern United States and Canada.
- It is divided into three subspecies the eastern American toad, the dwarf American toad and the rare Hudson Bay toad.
- Toads have short limbs and they have webbed toes on their hind legs.
- The toad is usually nocturnal.
- They eat a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates, including snails, beetles, slugs, and earthworms.
American Toad Behavior / Lifecycle
The toad is usually nocturnal. During the day they hide under rocks or logs, or penetrate dead leaves and soil. They are solitary, except during the breeding season and that they are active at night. During the day they hide under logs, rocks or leaf litter and if they live in a region that has a cold winter, they will hibernate during the winter months. The toxin protects it from some predators. For predators that aren’t affected by the toxin, the toad puffs itself up so that it looks bigger! The toad mates from March to July, depending on the latitude. The eggs are placed on submerged vegetation in shallow water. The tadpoles hatch in 3-12 days and become toads in 50-65 days.
Feeding for Toad
They have a long sticky tongue to catch their prey, but larger prey they will grab and force it into their mouth with their hands. Their diet includes crickets, mealworms, earthworms, ants, spiders, slugs, centipedes, moths, and other small invertebrates.
Photo of American Toad
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Yes, you can have a toad as a pet and no, you won’t get warts from it. In fact, toads are just a subset of frogs that have slightly different features such as dryer skin and shorter legs.
Don’t let that dry bumpy skin turn you away though. Toads make excellent pets for both new and experienced reptile pet owners.
Some are more common and easier to care for of course, so for beginners is best to stick to these species.
Most Common Starter Species
Some toads are more difficult to care for than others. For your first toad pet you should consider one of the easier to care for species we explore here.
1. American Toad
Don’t be surprised if the first and most plentiful pet toads you see at expos, pet shops, on online shops is the American toad. They are very common and one of the easiest to care for.
They make good beginner pets because they are quite hefty and aren’t nearly as delicate as the other options below. They are also rather inquisitive and active, which makes them fun for adults and children alike.
The biggest drawback to American toads is not unique to their particular species. If you plan to handle yours you will want to take special care to always wash your hands before and after as they secrete skin toxins.
2. Red-belly Toads
Also known as bumble bee toads, red-belly toads are another option for your first pet toad. While not nearly as sturdy of a pet as an American toad, what they lack in stature they make up for with presentation.
These little guys are very bright and colorful. They have deep black skin that makes the yellow dots covering their backs really pop. And, they have red feet and rear ends, which can wrap around to their bellies.
There are a couple factors that make them on the easier side for owners. One is that they can be housed together because they are not going to fight or harm one another. Next is that they do not need massive tanks. Even their lighting, heat and humidity requirements are rather average.
3. Fire-bellied Toads
Not to be confused with red-belly toads, fire-bellies are a different species altogether. They also make great pets for those new to owning reptiles or toads.
Setting up their tank can be a bit of a challenge for first timers because these are aquatic toads. You’ll need an aquarium or more specifically a paludarium. But, once you get the heating, lighting and general setup worked out you should be good to go.
What makes them great for beginners is that unlike many reptiles they are up and active during the day as opposed to being nocturnal or crepuscular. It’s best to enjoy watching them in lieu of handling them as like many other toads their skin secretes toxins.
A Note About Toxins
All three of the toads above secrete different toxins from their skin. These toxins are actually what gives Fire-belly toads their amazing colors.
That being said, it’s best to minimize handling of your pet toad. The three above won’t do you much harm, especially if you are sure to wash you hands after handling. But, as much as they can harm you, you can harm them. Their skin isn’t used to all of the different oils on human skin and chemicals in soap you use.
Furthermore, dog owners have to be especially careful. You do not want your dog to eat your toad as it’s bad for the toad obviously but also for your dog due to the toxins.
Last, always source your pets from a respected seller. There are many other toxic toads that don’t make good pets, like cane toads. You don’t want to accidentally capture a dangerous one while herping.
Not all toads make great pets, but the three above are good for beginners as well as those with experience keeping reptiles. While American toads are the most common, bumble bees and fire bellies are great choices too.
But, if you don’t think toads are right for you, maybe you’ll be more comfortable with a frog.