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How to Care for an American Toad

Five Parts:Housing the toadMaintaining comfort levelsFeeding the toadMaintaining hygiene and healthKeeping a toad temporarily

American toads ( Bufo americanus ) make great pets. Learn to care for your own toad, and keep them healthy!

Part 1
Housing the toad

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    Prepare a home. Find a 10 or 20 gallon (37.9 or 75.7 L) aquarium. A 5 gallon (18.9 L) tank is too small for a regular habitat depending on the size of the toad, but will work in temporary conditions.
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    Make the habitat as much like the toad's natural area as possible, which includes dirt and sand, grass, water, small logs and rocks.
    • Fill the tank with 3–4 inches (7.6–10.2 cm) of organic potting soil, preferably with peat moss. Two inches works if you have other refuges for the toad such as a leafy plant or tilted piece of bark. Most pet stores carry ground coconut fiber or forest bark bedding which is an excellent substrate.
    • Find a medium-sized rock or a piece of slate and wedge it at an angle, near a corner of the tank as the toad may want to burrow underneath a rock.
    • Put one or two hollow logs and some moss in the tank if you want a natural environment for the toad, or you may use fish tank props to decorate it.
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    Add water. Using a Tupperware® container that is at least two toads wide and four toads long (big enough for him to swim around in), bury it so the top is level with the dirt, and fill it with filtered/unchlorinated water. Amphibians are sensitive to chlorine so do not use straight chlorinated city tap water; bottled water is okay to use. You can get distilled water at the drug or grocery store.
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    Be sure the lid closes securely. Never leave the tank without the lid on it. Never use a cardboard lid.

Part 2
Maintaining comfort levels

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    Be sure that the habitat does not get below 60˚F or above 70˚F. [1]

Part 3
Feeding the toad

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    Feed your toad properly. Toads will basically eat any small insect that fits into their mouths. One good rule is to feed the toad every other day.
    • For a small toad: 2 little bugs per day OR one small slug OR 1 pinhead crickets
    • Medium toad: 2 small bugs per day OR regular size slug OR 2 small crickets
    • Large toad: 3 small bugs per day OR large slug OR 3 small crickets
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    Feed toads live food as they only eat things that move. Do not attempt to feed dead insects as they decompose quickly and there is no point feeding something dead that risks harboring dangerous bacteria.
    • Toads are predators and have voracious appetites. An adult toad in your garden will eat up to 25 mosquitoes a night. In captivity, a well cared for toad will be fat. A skinny toad is a starving toad. Many pet/bait shops sell crickets. You can buy around 10 crickets and keep them in small kritter keeper with a few apple slices and some hiding spots like egg carton egg holders.
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    Alternatively, catch insects outside. Go for insects such as small beetles, pill bugs and crickets to supply your pet.
    • Toads love the little gray roly-poly bugs that can often be found under moist bark or wood pieces on the ground, under rocks, and in other places like that. They are easy to supply, or even cultivate on your own- just take a large container and punch holes in the top, place rotting leaves and bark in with some crumpled paper, and dump in the bugs. They will usually do fine and multiply.

Part 4
Maintaining hygiene and health

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    Perform regular maintenance. Change water daily (they use this dish as a toilet), remove any uneaten bugs (crickets can actually nibble on the toad's skin while it is sleeping) and shake dirt or sand off decorations.
    • If the dirt in your toad's aquarium becomes dry, use a spray bottle to moisten it. Toads also enjoy a misting every now and then. Don't turn the dirt into mud! Just make sure it is not dry.
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    If your toad appears to be lethargic or especially thin, look up "Toad Illnesses" on Google and refine your search by adding "thin" or whatever describes the current illness.
    • If your toad suddenly disappears, do not worry. He may be burrowed deep in the substrate to cool off or just to take a nap. He will come back up when he feels the need to bathe or air out.
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    If you plan on handling your toad, wash your hands thoroughly with water and mild soap and rinse especially well. The oils on your hands can harm the animal.

Part 5
Keeping a toad temporarily

Toads can be temporarily be kept for scientific observation or just plain fun. Here's how to care for the toad temporarily.

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    Find a 5 gallon (18.9 L) container with a lid.
    • Layer the bottom with 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) of sand then 1-1 1/2 inches of soil.
    • Pull small plants by the root and place them in the soil. Add some small stones, pebbles, and twigs.
    • Poke air holes in the container's lid.
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    Fill a bottle cap with water. Find some insects and place them in the habitat.
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    Place the toad inside and cover the habitat. Enjoy watching your toad before letting him go.
    • If handling the toad, wash your hands thoroughly with mild soap before and after handling.


  • If the toad is not eating, it might not be hungry. Toads are able to go without food for a long time, so don't worry. If it consistently refuses to eat, try changing its diet. A healthy toad is a vicious predator of anything small enough to fit in its mouth, and will rarely pass up a meal.
  • Do not panic if you check on the toad and it is not there. It is probably burrowed in the ground. It will come up to the surface when it is nighttime, hungry, or needs water.
  • Toads are not aggressive and will not bite. They have a defense system in which they secrete a toxin called bufotoxin. It is innocuous to humans unless it comes in contact with an open cut, is swallowed, or comes in contact with the eyes.
  • If your toad is laying on its back and not moving, it's possible he just got stuck. Flip him over and tap his tail very gently to see if he moves. If he doesn't, wait a little bit. This works mostly for baby toads.
  • Females normally have yellow throats. Males have white throats with black spots.
  • There is NO limit to the amount of bugs to feed your toad (some toads eat up to 1,000 bugs per day in the wild!) Your pet won't require that many since it doesn't have to hunt but don't be afraid to feed your toad more! They will eat until they are full. A fat toad is a happy toad.
  • Be sure your habitat has a lid since toads can jump higher than you think.
  • Toads eat at night.
  • Make sure you do not feed your toad light colored bugs, as that is a sign it is toxic.
  • In the water dish the water height shouldn't be any higher then the poison glands on its head.
  • Toads tend to urinate when they are frightened. Do not drop it if it urinates on you, as the urine is harmless. Simply wash your hands as soon as you're able to.
  • Don't handle your toad every day, or often, because the oils on your hands can hurt your toad.
  • If you find a toad in the wild and bring it in as a pet, there is no need to remove the legs from the crickets. In the wild all their food was on the move, so they will be just fine eating them whole.
  • Make sure it has something to hide in and provide a little pool of water it can absorb through its skin.
  • Give toads a natural habitat to ensure wellness.
  • Try to limit picking up your toad, because his skin is very fragile. The oils on the your hand can hurt your toad through excessive handling.
  • Give your toad a good hiding spot a rock of a flower pot with a doorway will do.
  • The toad can get homesick if you don't have its natural habitat and it's highly possible that it can die.
  • Don't leave your toad in the sun or it will dry out.
  • Do not squeeze your toad.
  • Clean your frog cage once every week or once every other week.
  • Make sure to take the back legs of a cricket off before feeding to your toad, otherwise your toad may suffer from stomach problems.
  • Have one living tree in your habitat.
  • Always clean your habitat.
  • Before you take the toad in its container, make sure it is comfortable. If it's not, hold him/her everyday to get used to you at first.
  • Do not let them escape!


  • Make sure that no pets go around the toad. American toads have a poison gland that is toxic if eaten, and can mildly irritate the skin.
  • If you are using branches in it's habitat, avoid using pine or any coniferous trees, as they can be harmful to toads.
  • Avoid sharp rocks in the cage.
  • Toads can be plump, so have large hiding spots.
  • Wash your hands each time you handle the toads.

Article Info

Categories: Toads