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American Toad (Bufo americanus)

American Toad

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.

American toad housing

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.

Last updated 05.18.05

Online Resources
American Toad Identification
Animal Diversity: Bufo americanus
Frogs Of Nova Scotia - American Toad
National Wildlife Federation - American Toad
Toadily Toads