Keeping Toads as Pets

Toads are popular exotic pets that can be housed in a terrarium.  There are a number of different types, each with their own unique patterning and behaviors.  If you’re considering buying a toad to keep as a pet, you should know that toads secrete a toxic substance from glands behind their ears, so must be handled with care.  The Marine or Cane toad is notorious for this, whilst some species are less toxic, such as the Fire Bellied toad.

Marine or Cane Toads


These are large toads that can grow up to 25cm long.  They come from South Central America originally, but are perhaps most well known for the damage they’ve done to indigenous wildlife in Australia, where they were introduced to the wild to control pests.  They are intelligent creatures and can make good pets.

Habitat & Feeding

Because of their huge size, marine toads will need an equally large size terrarium, 60 x 45 x 45cm or bigger for one toad.  It should be heated to approximately 26C in the day, 22C at night.  Put bark chippings or sphagnum moss on the floor of the tank, along with logs for hiding places.  You marine toad will also need a large shallow bowl of water that’s big enough for it to get in.  Make sure the water is rainwater or has been de-chlorinated.

Marine toads should be fed a wide variety of live foods, such as crickets and slugs, as well as larger things such as locusts and pinkie mice.

Green Toads

The popular American or Western green toad (bufo debilis) and European green toad (bufo viridis) make good pets that are hardy and easy to keep.  They can grow 5-7.5cm long.

Habitat & Feeding

These small toads are surprisingly active at night and need a large glass or plastic tank to live in.  60 x 30 x 30cm would be sufficient for two toads.  They require the same sort of substrate, water and decor as cane toads, but don’t need a heating system if the tank is kept in a warm room.

Green toads can be fed a mixture of live prey, such as mealworms, crickets and insects and earthworms from the garden.

Fire Bellied Toads

These toads are so called because of the distinctive red or orange markings on their bellies.  They can grow up to 5cm long and there are different types with slightly different requirements.  They are easy to care for and good for beginners.

Habitat & Feeding

European fire bellied and yellow bellied toads need a tank with a lot of water in, such as an aqua-terrarium, offering a mix of water as well as the usual hiding places.  Oriental fire bellied toads need less water, so you should provide them with a woodland habitat and a bowl of shallow water.  These toads are very hardy and can cope with a range of temperatures, so you shouldn’t need heating in the tank if it’s kept in a warm room.  Around 22C is best, but they can cope with temperatures from 15C up to 29C.  They can be kept in groups and may even breed.

Fire bellied toads prefer smaller live prey, with soft bodies and will benefit from an occasional vitamin and mineral supplement.  Fully grown adults should be fed two or three times a week, younger ones every day.

Horned Toads

Horned toads are also known as horned frogs.  They get their name because of the horn-like protrusions over their eyes.  Different species have different size “horns”.  The Asian and Surinam horned toads have large ones, whereas the Argentine and Cranwell’s horned toads have much less noticeable ones.  Horned toads grow big and fat, 10-15cm long and almost as wide!  They have huge mouths and bellies, with short legs.  They can weigh up to 2kg.

Habitat & Feeding

Horned toads aren’t particularly active.  They can be kept in a glass or plastic tank with a soil substrate for burrowing.  Put moss over some of the floor and provide a shallow bowl of water.  These toads like a warm temperature of 25-28C, so you will need to use a small lamp or heat mat on the side.  Be careful if you use a heat mat beneath the tank as you will need to leave a cool area for your toad to burrow and hide.  You will also need to spray regularly to prevent the substrate from drying out.

Horned toads are aggressive and need to be kept on their own.  They are also very greedy, so take care not to overfeed your pet toad.  They will eat all kinds of live prey from insects to pinkie mice.