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How to Take Care of a Toad (Care Sheet & Guide 2021)

Nicole Cosgrove

Introduction

When you think of getting a pet, a toad may not be the first animal that comes to mind. However, toads are interesting, fun pets to own! There are hundreds of species of toads in the world, so when choosing a toad as a pet, you have plenty of options. Caring for toads doesn’t have to be difficult, but they do have specific needs that have to be met for them to thrive, so here are the things you should know about the care of toads.

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Toad Facts

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Image Credit: Piqsels

Most people know there are differences between frogs and toads, but what most people don’t realize is that all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads. Meaning that toads are a subspecies of frog. Toads are amphibians, but many of them are completely terrestrial once they reach adulthood. Toads are frequently found in cool, damp areas, like under logs and rocks, and in some areas, they’re very visible in the summertime when they’re out looking for food or a mate.

Toads are coated in a toxin that is relatively harmless to most humans and animals, but it is very bitter tasting. They developed this trait to protect them from predators, as anyone who’s ever seen their dog pick up a toad can attest to. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure to wash your hands after handling a toad, but the myth that toads cause warts is false.

One thing that may surprise you about toads is that they don’t ribbit. Toads have a high pitched “song” they sing to interact with other toads, but if you’re hearing ribbiting, it isn’t from a toad.

Are Toads Good Pets?

Toads are interesting pets that are pretty low maintenance. Most of them are content to spend time alone or in the presence of other toads and generally are indifferent or don’t like to be held by people. They do learn patterns, though, so if you feed them consistently at the same time, your toad will likely begin to approach when they see you, expecting to get a meal.

Adult toads are usually considered to be nocturnal animals, but in nature, they are sometimes out and about when the weather is rainy because it provides them the opportunity to grab insects, like earthworms, driven into the open by the rain. Juvenile toads are usually diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day.

On a daily basis, there is likely very little you’ll need to do for your toad. Depending on the size of its enclosure, you may have to remove waste every day or two. The only daily tasks that are guaranteed with your toad, though, are that you’ll need to provide fresh, clean water and food.

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Where Can I Get a Toad?

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Image Credit: Piqsels

Many pet stores sell different types of toads and you may luck into finding a rare or unusual toad in a pet store, but more often than not, you’ll find common toads like Fire-Bellied toads, which are semi-aquatic, and American toads, which are terrestrial. For more specialized toads, you’ll have to look online for specialty shops and breeders. Other toads commonly kept as pets include Harlequin toads, Marine toads, Crested toads, Yellow Spotted Climbing toads, Suriname toads, and Colorado River toads. You may also stumble upon an unusual variety of a more common toad, like albino Fire-Bellied toads or different color varieties of Harlequin toads.

How Much Does It Cost To Own a Toad?

Toads are generally inexpensive to acquire, running between $10-30. Specialty or unusual toads will usually be more expensive, but usually do not exceed $150. When you purchase a toad, you’ll also need to buy an enclosure. Very basic, small enclosures are around $20-30 while larger and more elaborate enclosures can run upwards of $75. You’ll also need substrate, which can be anywhere from $5 up, a heat lamp for basking and a light that provides low-level UVB rays, which will cost you $30 or more total for both items. Heat mats are also acceptable. Don’t forget to grab some gut-loaded insects to feed your toad, which will cost you a few dollars.

Toads do not require regular vet visits, so you don’t have to worry about the cost of office visits, vaccines, and things that mammals routinely need. However, this means that if you are taking your toad to the vet, it’s likely there is a problem. They are injured or ill, which can cost you an office visit fee, which is usually $60 or more, and potentially the cost of medications or treatments.

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What Kind of Home Does My Toad Need?

Enclosure

Your toad’s enclosure should be large enough for it to move around, exercise, and hunt. They also need enough space to get away from the tank’s heat source as desired. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of enclosure options on the market.

 Substrate

Substrate for toads should be absorbent, so coco coir, sphagnum moss, and reptile substrate bark are all good options. The substrate should be relatively soft, so gravel, sand, and rock-textured mats are not good options.

 Light and Heat

It’s recommended to provide your toad with a light that provides low-level UVB light rays, but this isn’t absolutely necessary, especially if they are in a room with natural light. They do need access to a basking area but should be able to get away from the heat when they need to as well. Keep in mind that toads are cold-blooded, so they need heat for energy.

 Hides

Your toad will love having places to hide in its enclosure. Plants, fake or real, are good options for toads to hang out in or under, as is soft substrate. Caves and bridges they can hide beneath offer hiding spots that are protected from the heat of the heat lamp.

Food and Water

Your toad should always have access to clean, chlorine-free water. Most toads, even terrestrial toads, will appreciate having an area with shallow water they can drink from or spend time in. It should be shallow enough that they can sit in it with their head above the water. Keeping half of the enclosure’s substrate dampened allows them to have access to a moist area and a dry area, but they should still have access to drinking water.

A food dish isn’t necessary for toads because most of them get a diet of live insects and usually will eat them quickly. If feeding wax worms or something similar that is unlikely to escape, a food bowl may come in handy, but a food bowl isn’t going to work for insects like crickets.

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What Should I Feed My Toad?

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Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

Toads are insectivores and will typically only eat live prey, so there isn’t a commercial toad food option available. You can feed crickets, wax worms, earthworms, mealworms, and other similar insects. Toads should be fed insects that are dusted with a calcium and amphibian vitamin supplement or that have been gut-loaded. Gut-loaded insects are insects that have been fed a specific diet that makes the more nutritionally complete for the toad.

You have the option to purchase live insects from most pet stores, and usually you’ll have a couple of options to choose from. You can also investigate what it would require for you to keep and grow your own live food for your toad, which will save you money in the long run.

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How Do I Take Care of My Toad?

Feeding

Juvenile toads should be fed every day, but adult toads usually only need to be fed every other day, sometimes only needing to be fed every other day. Most toads won’t eat if they aren’t hungry.

 Handling

Your toad may get comfortable with routine handling, but it isn’t usually their preference. They prefer to be on their substrate or in the water so they can feel safe and secure and have the opportunity to hunt.

 Shedding

Even though they aren’t reptiles, toads do shed their skin. Juveniles shed their skin every couple of months while adults usually only shed their skin twice a year. You may notice leftover shed on toes, which will usually work their way off in a damp environment. You’re not likely to spot shed in the enclosure, though, because most toads will eat their shed skin to absorb the nutrients.

 Bathing

Toads do not require bathing and, if provided a hygienic environment, will usually stay pretty clean.

Brumation

Brumation is a semi-hibernation state that toads in nature will enter that causes a decrease in metabolism, requiring little to no food to survive. They will usually hide underground or deep beneath leaves during brumation. Captive toads don’t have to have a brumation period but may be healthiest if one is provided. A consistently cool environment is needed for brumation, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on temperature and moisture levels during brumation.

Enclosure Care

You should be removing waste from your toad’s enclosure when it’s there, which can be daily or may only be a couple of times per week. You’ll need to fully replace the substrate from time to time, depending on moisture levels, size of the enclosure, and how much waste your toad produces. Make sure to refresh water daily and remove dead insects from the enclosure within a day if not eaten.

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How Do I Know If My Toad Is Sick?

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Image Credit: Alois Grundner, Pixabay

Lethargy/Inappetence

While lethargy and inappetence are both technically symptoms, they can be indicative of a few issues. These issues are most commonly caused by environmental stressors. This can be inappropriate heat or lighting, overcrowding, or water quality problems. Ensure your toad’s environment is appropriate and move forward with treatment from there.

Weight Loss

Weight loss can be caused by underfeeding or malnutrition caused by no dietary variety or no supplementation. It is possible for toads to have internal problems, like tumors, so if improving your toad’s diet doesn’t seem to help it feel better, you will need to have a vet evaluate it.

Bloating/Weight Gain

Bloating in toads is most commonly caused by eating a large meal or poor digestion, which will almost always resolve on its own. If the bloating is caused by something more serious, like intestinal parasites or infections. If you’re unsure why your toad appears bloated, having a vet evaluate it is going to be your safest option.

Skin Changes

If you notice white, fuzzy patches on your toad’s skin, it’s likely that it has developed a fungal infection. If you notice red splotches on your toad’s skin, this can be caused by serious internal infections. If you notice skin changes in your toad, a vet should see it to verify the diagnosis and provide medical treatment.

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Conclusion

Toads are interesting pets and are quite hardy, making them a good option for new pet owners or people new to caring for amphibians. However, they aren’t a good pet pick for anyone who is looking for a pet that will enjoy being handled and spending time with them. As hardy as they are, toads do have specific needs, so you’ll need to be ready to meet those needs if you bring a toad home. Toads are a long-term commitment as well, since they can live to exceed 10 years, so be prepared to care for your toad for years to come.


Featured Image Credit: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.