American Toad – Habitat, Care, Diet, Facts
The American Toad, also known as the Dwarf American Toad or the Hop Toad, is a mostly nocturnal, warmth-loving species. This toad is widely distributed across the east side of the North-American continent.
They’re a great choice for new pet owners because they are low maintenance and generally not fussy. They’re easy to look after, safe to handle, and don’t require lots of space or a fancy set-up.
This toad is tiny by most pet owner’s standards. It reaches approximately 2-3.5 inches (5-10 cm) in length, with the average size being 2.75 inches (7 cm). That’s small enough to fit in your palm! It also has short legs and a round, chunky body. Its skin is thick, covered in tiny wart-like bumps, and it varies in color from a warm brown to an earthy green.
This toad can be an evenly distributed solid color or patterned. Some American Toads also have a noticeable stripe going down the middle of their backs. The belly is light-yellow and covered in dark spots.
This species presents sexual dimorphism in various ways. Females are larger than males, while males typically have a dark-colored throat. The sexes are usually colored differently and they also present distinguishing patterns. Oh, and by the way, this toad is poisonous. No, it doesn’t give you warts, despite its warty skin.
But they do have glands that secrete a milky substance that can be dangerous to humans if ingested. Touching them is okay, but you might want to keep them away from other pets.
American Toad Natural Habitat
It’s a big world out there, but this little toad isn’t scared! This bastard is highly adaptable and it looks like it’s trying to colonize the entire continent. In the wild, you can find them all across Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, in the south of Newfoundland, the entire northeast of the US, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and even as far as eastern Texas and Oklahoma.
The American Toad prefers terrestrial habitats with high levels of humidity. You can find these toads in pine and hardwood forests, mountainous areas, prairies, farmlands, and even in residential areas, parks, and yards. As long as they have access to soft soil for burrowing, moist hideouts, and plenty of foliage, these toads feel at home anywhere. They also need access to shallow bodies of water such as small lakes, ponds, and even ditches.
A water-rich environment is crucial for their early development. As they grow, they start searching for areas rich in vegetation. This is the perfect hideout and hunting ground for food. During daylight, they seek shade in cool areas such as under logs, stones, or beneath porches. Keeping all this in mind, let’s see how you can best simulate their natural habitat in your home!
American Toad Food & Diet
Toad tadpoles are herbivorous and they subsist off of algae. Adult toads are carnivorous. They eat a variety of insects and other small invertebrates. This includes spiders, crickets, roaches, flies, and moths, as well as worms, beetles, snails, and slugs. Fun fact, an adult American Toad can feast on up to 1,000 insects per day.
Variety is key to ensure proper nutrient intake. You should alternate between the various feeds found in local pet stores. These usually include crickets, fruit flies, mealworms, and waxworms. Consult your vet for more information about the appropriate amount you should feed your toad. Food and nutrient requirements will vary according to your toad’s age, size, and developmental status.
In addition to insects, you should also include vitamin and mineral supplements in your toad’s diet. This is the best way to guarantee your pet reaches its full nutrient requirements. A vet will instruct you about the proper quantity and frequency for supplementation. An extra nutritional boost is great, but too much of a good thing can also cause issues. Don’t rush into dusting all your toad’s meals with mineral powder before you ask for a specialist’s opinion!
When it comes to hydration, the American Toad doesn’t need to drink any water. However, that’s not to say your pet is a moving cactus. It still needs constant access to clean, fresh water. That’s because, although they don’t gulp down 8 glasses a day, American Toads need to soak in the water to absorb the necessary moisture through their skin.
American Toad Enclosure Setup
This is the best part! You’ll be pleased to learn that American Toads don’t need lots of space or water to be happy. You still need to put a bit of effort into simulating your toad’s natural environment, of course, but there aren’t many ways to go wrong. Probably the most important detail to keep in mind is the substrate. Your Toad needs a thick and soft enough substrate for burrowing, so you’ll want to take some measurements.
Generally speaking, most frogs are fine in a 10 gallon (40-liter tank). This should also apply to the American Toad. A 10-gallon tank should provide enough space for one pet. If you’re thinking about adopting more toads, you’ll want to extend this space according to the number of pet toads you’ll be going to keep.
Most toads can jump at least 2-3 times their body height, so you should equip your tank with a top lid to prevent your pet from escaping. Make sure the glass is thick enough to prevent breakage on impact. You don’t want your toad to get hurt when hopping around. Besides the enclosure itself, let’s also take a look at the lighting, humidity, temperature, and substrate requirements for this chunky toad.
Unlike reptiles, this amphibian doesn’t give a damn about lighting. American Toads are mainly nocturnal, spending most of the daylight hours hiding. As a result, they don’t need UVB light exposure. However, adding a source of light to your toad’s tank is still a good idea, and I’m going to tell you why.
The American Toad has a natural sleep-wake cycle, just like any other animal, humans included. Without any external environmental clues, such as daylight, your toad won’t be able to regulate its circadian rhythm effectively. This leads to erratic sleep cycles and it might impact your pet’s health in the long run.
If you keep your tank in a dark room with no direct sunlight exposure, you should buy a UVB lamp for your toad. I’d say around 12 hours of light exposure is enough to simulate the natural day and night cycle for your pet. For most of these 12 hours, your pet toad will stay hidden to sleep. When nighttime comes, you can turn off the lamp and let your pet come out to eat and explore.
The relative humidity level can be anywhere between 40-60%. You can achieve this requirement simply by misting the enclosure with a spray bottle a couple of times a day. If you live in a dry climate, you could also use a hygrometer to ensure the humidity is within the suitable range. If you can’t remember to mist the enclosure every day, a humidifier is also a good investment, but not necessary.
Don’t forget to place a small dish of water in the tank. This toad species needs to soak in the water to hydrate its body. Because their skin is highly permeable, every substance that comes into contact with it will get absorbed. This is why you need to use clean, safe water for the enclosure.
Tap water usually contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride, which are used for cleaning and disinfecting. While they are safe for humans, they can be harsh and dangerous for amphibians. Bottled water is a safe and cheap alternative that won’t hurt your toad. You can also buy tap water conditioner to dechlorinate the water. Whichever option you choose, the result should be the same.
The American Toad likes mild to slightly chilly temperatures. Anywhere between 59-75 °F (15-24 degrees Celsius) should be fine. Most households already meet these temperature requirements year-round. You can also use a room thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. Remember that a thick glass tank with a top lid can warm up quickly if you use a UV lamp to simulate daylight.
When temperatures rise too much, this toad will seek a cool, shaded place to hide. You should create a few hiding spots for your toad to go to when the light comes out or when the enclosure gets too hot.
Things such as sticks and dried leaves, cork bark, flat stones, or even ornamental resin hideouts are all good. The substrate should also be thick and moist enough for your toad to dig around. This is another way for toads to cool off during hot summer months.
The substrate represents a huge part of your toad’s enclosure, so it’s important to get it right. The American Toad, just like any other toad species, likes burrowing and sitting in the soil to cool off and hide. Because of this, you should provide your toad with at least a 3 inch (8 cm) deep substrate. With this in mind, let’s see what exactly are the best choices for a substrate.
You can choose between clean dirt, plantation soil, coconut fiber substrates, as well as soil mixed with moss, bark, or mulch. You can even add some leaf litter. Not only will it act as a good hiding spot for small toads, but over time, the leaves will start decomposing and enriching the substrate. You could also add a few live plants to add more shade and moisture to the enclosure.
Amphibian-friendly mulch and proper moisture levels will help these plants grow and they will also enhance your toad’s habitat. You can choose between plants such as the Golden Pothos, Ivy, Prayer Plant, Leopard Lily, Spider Plant, or Snakeskin Plant. Keep an eye out for these plants. You don’t want them to wither away, but you might have to do some pruning to make sure their size doesn’t get out of control!
American Toad Breeding
The American Toad starts breeding in spring, usually between March and May. That’s when temperatures come back up after winter. Temperature increases and heavier rainfall associated with spring means more insects, so more food for toads as well. For toads held in captivity, breeding seasons might not apply, because living conditions are always optimal.
You should have no problem breeding your American Toads, but sometimes you might have to increase their environmental temperature and humidity higher than normal, to simulate natural weather changes. Toads need access to shallow bodies of water when reproducing. That’s where they place their eggs for hatching. As in any other toad species, fertilization in the American Toad is external.
During breeding, the male toad clutches its front arms around the female toad, holding himself steady on her back. The female toad then enters the water to release her eggs. Subsequently, the male toad starts releasing its sperm to fertilize the eggs.
Female toads lay anywhere between 4000-8000 eggs in two rows, but don’t worry! Not all of the eggs will hatch. One important side note here! For the eggs to hatch, the water should be dechlorinated and free from other harsh chemicals. The temperature should range between 21-23 degrees Celsius.
Once the eggs have been fertilized, it should take about 4-10 days for the tadpoles to hatch. Newly hatched tadpoles are herbivores and they require a diet based on algae. After about 70 days, the tadpoles should develop into toadlets, at which point, you need to start feeding them insects.
Once the basic needs are cared for, this toad should be just fine. It doesn’t have very high temperature or humidity requirements, and it doesn’t necessarily need UVB exposure either. They are safe to handle for humans but should be kept away from other pets.
The American Toad’s skin secretes a toxic milky substance that poses a threat if ingested or if coming into contact with the eyes. If you own a cat or a dog, your pet might get poisoned if they lick or bite the toad when playing.
Other than that, the American Toad is a safe, low-cost, and relatively quiet pet. This small, low-maintenance toad is perfect for new pet owners and amphibian enthusiasts alike. It’s easy to look after, it doesn’t require lots of space, and it has an average lifespan of up to 10 years in the wild. They live even longer in captivity. The oldest American Toad kept as a pet lived to the age of 36.