American toads, Bufo americanus, make great first amphibian pets. They are easy to keep, inexpensive, and can be found nearly anywhere in the United States. They do have requirements, and deserve respect and attention like all pets.
Toads captive bred and hatched will be healthier and parasite free. If you acquire toads from the wild they may be infected, or harmful. It is always safer and more beneficial to spend the few extra dollars to buy one that has been already kept in captivity.
The American toad has bumpy, dry skin. They are normally grayish-brown in color and can reach up to 1-2 inches in length. They can be distinguished from other, similar toads from the two large bumps on their head, just behind their eyes.
An American toad, with the proper care can live for many long years in captivity. Just because they are common around America does not mean they are disposable pets.
Despite what many people claim, toads will not give you warts if touched. They may however defecate in your hand if frightened but this is 100% harmless. Never stand holding a toad because if they were to jump off your hand, they may become injured. Never squeeze or grab onto your toad tightly.
Toads are constantly hungry insectivores, meaning they only eat insects. They are always hungry, and a baby toad may consume 15 crickets a night. Crickets should be your main source of food since they will keep your toad fit. They will also take minnows, earthworms, pinky mice, and fruit flies.
When feeding, the prey items should be as long as its head is wide. If the prey is too much wider they have a chance of choking. Only feed pinky mice to adults. As a general rule, feed as much as the toad will eat in 15 minutes. Be sure to remove extra crickets from the cage when the time is up.
Normally American toads will only attack and devour things that wiggle and squirm. This means that if you provide earth worms or pinky mice, you may have to wave it around in front of it with your fingers or tweezers.
A single toad can stay in a 10 gallon tank. For every new toad 5 gallons should be added on. Babies and juvenile American toads will be comfortable in 2-5 gallon critter keepers.
American toads love burrowing so a deep substrate is important. The substrate should be about 4 inches deep, giving them plenty of room to dig. These amphibians are nocturnal and may hide underground all day waiting for food or night to come. Do not be worried if you cannot find them.
The best working substrates are non-fertilized potting soil and sphagnum moss. Both work well, and can be mixed together if desired. You will want to spray the substrate daily so that it is easier for your toad to burrow and it does not get caved in or dried out.
Logs and driftwood pieces make great hides. An American toad will burrow and hide under natural things like that. Hides above ground can be provided, but may not be used as much. Fake hollowed out logs are preferred.
Temperature is not much of a problem as long as they have peat moss or other loose substrates to burrow into if they get hot. Room temperature is fine, and at night they can drop 10-15F. UV lighting has not been proven necessary for American toads since they are nocturnal.
Toads are amphibians and they need their water. A water bowl big enough for your toad to soak in, but not deep is optimal. This water bowl can have rocks in it as well in case they need to climb out quickly. The water may also be a place to go to the bathroom, and needs to be replaced daily. Spray the substrate they burrow in once every morning.
Replace the substrate every 2-4 months or when needed. Keep the water bowl clean, and remove rogue prey items. The entire cage should be cleaned with a 5% bleach solution once a month.
American toads can be bred fairly easily, and it is very simple to do once you get down the day-to-day care. You will get best results with a group of toads. The difference between males and females is hard to tell, but the males will croak. During the winter months, lower the photoperiod to 10 hours, and bring the temperature down into the 60's. Toads will only eat once a week during this time.
After 3 months of this, bring everything back to normal. Now both the males and the females will be in the mood, and ready to mate. Males will call, meet, and mount females. They get in position to squeeze the eggs out and fertilize them externally.
Once the eggs have been laid, and fertilized scoop the out gently with a spoon into a different aquarium filled with an inch of water. They will hatch in a week or two.
When the eggs begin hatching, sprinkle finely crushed gold fish flakes in there, and put a piece of lettuce under a rock on the bottom of the tank. Over the next couple of weeks, they will go through metamorphism.
When legs begin to develop, move them to a separate tank that is half water and half land. They will begin moving onto land until their entire body is suited to live on land. They should then be moved to yet another tank.
Now these baby toads are simply smaller versions of their parents. Feed them crickets, and keep them in separate containers because cannibalism has occurred with this species.
Conclusion American toads are great pets to own. They have a never-ending appetite, and love to burrow. Remember that even though there are many of these toads out there, they should not be treated as disposable pets. Always do your homework before purchasing a pet, and have fun with your toad.
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Georgia Stampley - November 25, 2011
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