How to Keep a Wild Toad as a Pet

Updated on September 2, 2019
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I am an experienced day gecko breeder and tree frog keeper who takes interest in the biological sciences.

American toads are very common and easy to keep in captivity.
American toads are very common and easy to keep in captivity. | Source

Is It Legal to Keep Wild Toads as Pets?

If you wish to keep a wild toad for a pet, you have to find out first whether you can actually do so legally. Since laws vary from country to country and state to state, it is impossible to give a simple answer here. However, finding toads that can legally be taken from the wild and be kept as pets should not be too difficult wherever you live. Even Massachusetts, a state that has very strict laws about the keeping of wild animals, allows American toads and Fowler's toads to be kept as pets, as long as you limit yourself to two individuals.

Which wild toads are legal to own as pets?

Before you decide to keep that toad you found in your back yard or on a camping trip, you must make sure that you identify its species. For example, many states outlaw the keeping of the Colorado River toad, b alvinius, because of the psychoactive substances these toads synthesise. In the UK, the common toad Bufo buff is fine for a pet but the natterjack toad, Epidalea calamita, is strictly protected. However, they are now so rare that's highly unlikely that you will find one in your garden.

Where to Find Wild Toads

Although they are amphibians, toads are less closely associated with bodies of water than frogs. They will often only go near water to breed. Hence it is quite usual to find wild toads in your back yard or in a park. The most likely type you will find is the common American toad, Bufo americanus, if you are in the US, or the common toad, Bufo buff, if you are in Europe.

Murphy's law dictates that even if you were tripping over toads in your back yard on a daily basis, now that you are actually looking, you will not be able to find one. Like most amphibians, they like to hide, and you might need to look under some stones or leaf litter. However, I am sure that with a little bit of perseverance you will be able to locate one. It is actually better to find a juvenile, which is more likely to adapt quickly to a life in captivity than an adult toad.

Best time to find a toad:

The best times to look for toads is in the spring after heavy rains, although you can probably locate them in the summer and fall. Toads hibernate in winter so it is unlikely that you will come across one when it gets really cold and the ground freezes.

If you find toad eggs, you might want to read Caring for Tadpoles From Egg to Froglet.

What Do Toads Eat?

Toads are ravenous insectivores and will readily consume any invertebrate that fits into their mouths. Although there might be a temptation to collect slugs and worms from outside to feed your pet amphibian, there is always a danger of introducing diseases or pesticides. In the end, it might be more convenient to obtain crickets and other feeder insects bred specifically for amphibian- and reptile-keepers.

In general, the same principles apply as when feeding frogs: Crickets will probably form the bulk of your toad's diet. The crickets should be gut-loaded on carrots and other fruits and vegetables before putting them into the terrarium. You should also use a calcium and vitamin D supplement to ensure all your toad's mineral needs are met.

What to feed your pet toad:

  • Live crickets (preferably gut-loaded and dusted with calcium and vitamins). Most pet stores stock these.
  • Live mealworms or wax worms (also available at pet stores).
  • Depending on what type of toad you have, it might eat fruits and vegetables (cut into small pieces). But all toads prefer to eat live insects.

It is illegal to collect the highly endangered natterjack toad in the UK.
It is illegal to collect the highly endangered natterjack toad in the UK. | Source

Toad Habitat

How much space does a toad need?

Most toads are quite sedentary, spending a lot of their time burrowed in soil or hiding under a stone. Therefore, they do not need a particularly big enclosure to live in. If you are keeping one of the common Bufo toads than a tank 24"x12"x12" should be sufficient for one individual or a pair.

What type of enclosure is best?

They need to be kept in a terrarium that will keep their surroundings moist but allow good ventilation, hence a small fish tank is an acceptable enclosure but it must be fitted with a screen top. To prevent the toad from escaping, make sure the top is tightly fitted to the tank.

What else does a toad need in its environment?

Most of the furnishings required for keeping toads are similar to those for small or medium-sized terrestrial frogs. Toads like to burrow in soil or leaf litter, so give them something they can dig in for substrate.

What type of substrate works best?

  • There is quite a lot of controversy about using the soil from the location you took the toad from (as opposed to buying specialised amphibian substrates, such as coconut-husk based eco earth, etc.).
  • The danger with collecting soil from outside to use in amphibian enclosures is that it may be contaminated with harmful pesticides or fertilisers. However, if your back yard or park has a thriving toad population, chances are the soil there is safe.
  • It is always safest to buy commercially produced substrates, however, and they are not expensive.
  • Avoid using gravel or other substrates which your toad might swallow while hunting and which could cause intestinal impaction.

Give your toad a place to hide.

You should provide your toad with hiding places in the form of pieces of bark, branches, or rocks. You could either collect these from the location where you caught your toad or buy some of the commercially produced reptile hides and caves.

Do Toads Like Water?

All amphibians must have constant access to fresh water. Like frogs, toads do not actually drink water, but absorb it through their skins.

  • Make sure they can easily get into and out of the bowl.
  • The water must be changed daily to prevent bacterial contamination which would cause your pet to become ill.
  • The water must be dechlorinated—tap water could poison them.
  • Either leave the water standing for 24 hours, preferably with an airstone bubbling through it, or use a water dechlorinator (the same type used for aquarium fish).

Does a toad need to swim in water?

A toad does not need to swim, but it might like a soak. All that they require is a shallow bowl; they are not good swimmers.

Common European toad Bufo bufo.
Common European toad Bufo bufo. | Source

A Toad's Temperature and Humidity Requirements

  • Most true toads native to Europe and the United States prefer cooler temperatures.
  • They will generally spend their days burrowed in soil or leaf litter and emerge at night when the temperatures are cooler.
  • They usually do well with a daytime temperature between 60-70 F.
  • Because of their warty skins, toads need lower ambient humidity than frogs and will get enough moisture from soaking in their water bowls at nights. However, if your house is particularly dry, like if you use central heating in winter, you might want to increase the humidity in the enclosure by spraying it with clean, dechlorinated water a few times a week.

Do I need to heat my toad's enclosure?

In general, you will not need any special heating or lighting equipment for your enclosure, unless you are keeping it in an unheated room in winter where temperatures fall very low.

If your house is particularly dry, you might want to increase the humidity in the enclosure by spraying it with clean, dechlorinated water a few times a week.

Does taking wild animals for pets appeal to you?

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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    • profile image

      patricia lyn ball 

      3 months ago

      i have found this website very helpful for my toad named dorthy i found her in my yard and i didnt know most of these thiings so it was really helpful

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      I've found a toad in texas at my sister's home and i noticed that somthing was wrong with it . It had open wounds and seems to be missing an eyeball.... well at firest i thout one of the dogs got a hold of it when i asked and toled my syster and her kids. Her oldest one sad that the kid next door was shooting a litle frog a few days ago .. i asked were that one was and he pointed to the spot i found this one at ... it was still alive ... i placed into a small box and let it sock in some water after a few hrs i began to realy check him out i removed 7 BBs out under his skin ... and left him alone ... next morning i removed a BB out hit left eye socket. Altho its bin a wek now tending to him... her hes still alive hes not out the woods yet .. what can i give him for food .??? Also i lookes up todes in texas and found one on the endangered species list that is close to what this one looks like to sho this little monster's parents.. he was disaplened and his BB gun Destroyed still does seem fair but .. we can only do so much to a kid .. about this frog its a woodhouse toad.. i toled his parants its a houston toad.. anyway what is some other ways to cair for him ???

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      I brought in a few toads from outside a year ago. They refused to hibernate. They got by my door in the winter. I finally brought them in. I've had them 3 yrs. I had one that the belly turned red, so did his little feet then the next day it was dead. I live in Texas. What was wrong. They are in a 50 gallon tank, water changed every day and they have superworms and crickets. What am I doing wrong. They even get liquid calcium in their water. ????

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      I have a wild toad that LOVES to be pet. Does anyone know why?

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      Is there a difference between a wild toad and a store bought toad?

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      i have a wild taod

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      hi I have a question how do you tell its a boy or girl?

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Hi i have question .that how much frog save water for self within 24hours

    • profile image


      9 months ago

      Hi i have question .that how much frog save water for self within 24hours

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      Oh, i feed my toads which are hyprids from the Rio Grande River. They contain thousands during the summer time. So, i took a bunch home 19! I cared for them until they were big fast and let me tell you,allthe babies i captured are more wild like then the one i ran into already big. She was and is lazy. So, ihad to keep her because i figured a bird would get her or shed be hungry alot bec she lets all the toads still her worms and i have to block them away lol now, i am done to 6. I was suppose to let 2 more go. Is it too late??? Oct 10th in nm. Yes, it got chilly at night. I just need to know if i should hypernate them or do they live longer not hypernating in captivity? I read they could live up to 50 yrs in captivity but only 10+ in the wild....

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      this is very helpful.

    • profile image


      20 months ago

      This is vary helpful,me and my brother like catching toads so i make thangs for it so now i know how to care for a toad

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Do toads hibernate?

    • profile image

      Carole Miller 

      2 years ago

      My husband and I found 2 toads while camping and decided to care for them until we left, but decided to bring them home. We set up a terrarium in our home, and an additional enclosure outside with an umbrella covering the top to keep them safe from predators. We named them Ben and Jerry, as they are both males. We have had them for 3 months now, and they love climbing on us in the evening while we watch tv. I put them in a separate container for feeding, and they both seem to get excited when they see the container come out. They both chirp and seem very contented to be with us. I play videos of toads in a pond for them, and they both sing along with the video, puffing out their throats. I hope I can find a female in the spring for them, but at 70 years old, I never thought that I could get so attached to these darling little creatures. My advise to anyone considering keeping them as all you can about food, housing, handling, then just do it! You will fall for them as we did!

    • profile image

      Melissa Pennington 

      2 years ago

      I rescued a toad in my backyard and it seems to be either deformed in his back legs or has an injury because he does not use them well, she/he more or less drags the backlegs. I am a commited rescuer so it will stay with me until.. well if she is injured and heals then I will release her, if not she is stuck with me for life. All your info will help me get her tank right.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Not convinced that your advice about dechlorinated water is correct. Every year we collect several hundred frog and toad tadpoles that are reared (then released) in chlorinated tap water and are more than happy - our death rate is under 2%. We keep them until frogs and then release. We have been keeping a couple of toads long term - again only on chlorinated water and never a problem.

      I think that common sense says that chlorinated water should be a problem - and hence the myth - but how many have done the test as we have?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Found a toad in our unheated garage in Connecticut today. 6 inches of snow outside and it has been cold. The temp in garage has not been over 50 degrees F. Put water in shallow container but how can this toad have made it so long?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Am I to provide during the winter? Not sure if they hibernate in the winter while in captivity. They take meal worms from my hand. So my question is do they hibernate inside?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Are toads poisoness?

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Couple days ago I found my own frog and I just want to take care of it but even this I let it go because it should be outside in the wild so if you find a wild frog if you want to keep it keep it but if you think its wrong don't because in my not be good cuz it might have a familybutbthis woukd mean amlotnif instill had it

    • profile image


      5 years ago


    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      6 years ago from London

      That's a fantastic story DJ, I really feel that toads are underrated as pets.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I disturbed a bufo bufo toad from hibernation in the winter whilst fishing and took it home because i wasn't sure it would survive the winter after being disturbed, the toad is now so tame after a few months me and my family have decided to keep it it's a great pet and seems very intelligent

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Voting up! I used to keep Common Toads as a boy and into my teens and also they used to breed in a small pond in my parents' back garden. I love toads and miss not seeing any here on Tenerife though there are two species of frog, the Iberian Water Frog (Rana perezii) and the Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meriodonalis).

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Hi Liza, I have to admit the common toad's charms are not immediately obvious, although they do have beautiful eyes. Personally I prefer captive bred, exotic frogs and toads from places like the Amazon rain forest, to the animals found in the wild. However people do seem to want to collect and keep toads and other amphibians, but a lot of them have no ideas about their requirements so the poor toads croak, in the sad, slangy way.

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      @bdegiulio, thanks! Find out from your sister what frogs she keeps. I now have a giant waxy monkey tree frog, Zoidberg, who I'm very proud of since it is still a rare frog to keep in captivity. A few years ago I kept Amazon milk frogs, but I traded them for geckos.

    • Lizam1 profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      I have to admit that a toad or a frog is the last pet I would want to keep - but I have to admit your title intrigued me, so I clicked and read. You obviously know your stuff! Still not convinced about having one as a pet though:-)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting. I remember as a kid keeping frogs and toads. My sister has some exotic frogs that she keeps.

      Very interesting Hub. Great job.

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Thank you both for your comments. When I was a kid I loved the idea of keeping salamanders and frogs I found in the wild at home, but my parents never allowed it. All I was permitted to keep were caterpillars!

    • Dreamhowl profile image

      Jessica Peri 

      7 years ago from United States

      Good advice! A lot of people, especially kids, like to take animals they find in the wilderness, like frogs, and bring them home as pets without even knowing what they need to survive. We get a few parents that come into our pet store asking about things like this because of it. A friend actually brought salamanders home from a hike and they ended up dying due to lack of proper care. Thanks for sharing this information!

    • RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

      Rhonda Humphreys 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Some interesting information that I did not know about toads. thank you for a wonderfully written piece. Rated up, interesting and useful.


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