Frog and Toad Myths Debunked

At Backwater Reptiles, we love exotic critters of all types – arachnids, amphibians, and reptiles alike! However, some people are not so fond of our amphibious friends, frogs and toads. This could be because frogs and toads are not traditionally “cute” like most pets, or maybe it’s due to lack of education on the species.

No matter what reason someone might have for disliking frogs and toads, in this article, we’ll set out to explain some of the more popular frog and toad myths. Hopefully a little knowledge will help some people see frogs and toads in a new light.

Myth #1 – Frogs and toads cause warts

First off, let us say that through years of experience handling toads and frogs on pretty much a daily basis, this myth is just NOT true. Let us state that again – frogs and toads DO NOT cause warts! You can safely pick up any frog or toad no matter how wet, sticky, or dirty it appears to be and you can rest easy knowing that your hands and face will be free of warts.

frog and toad myths debunked
As you can see, this baby Pixie frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) is not giving this handler warts of any kind. Another amphibian myth debunked.

Warts are actually caused by a virus. Frogs and toads are not capable of transmitting this virus. So, essentially, you could get warts by interacting with another human being, but interacting with an amphibian will not give them to you.

Myth #2 – Frogs and toads are slimy

This myth is only partially false. Toads tend to be “dryer” than frogs and this is because frogs live closer to bodies of water and are usually moister than toads. Toads have bumpier, rougher skin and tend to stay out of the water for the most part. So, the bottom line is that you might encounter a wet frog, but you’ll probably only encounter a moist toad.

We also want to mention that even though frogs are wetter than toads, that does not make them slimy. They are not sticky and don’t leave mucous behind on your hands if you hold them.

smooth sided toad
This Smooth Sided Toad (Bufo guttatus) is not slimy and not leaving residue on its handler. Frogs and toads might be moist or wet, but they are not mucous-y like a snail.

So, the takeaway from this myth debunking is: frogs and toads might be moist or wet due to the nature of their skin, but they won’t be slimy. No residue will be left on your skin.

Myth #3 – Toads and frogs are associated with witch craft

While frogs and toads might hold certain places of honor in the world of Harry Potter, in real life, toads and frogs are just like any other creature that has a bad reputation. Take for instance black cats. We all know that it’s just a superstition that a black cat crossing your path means bad luck. The same principle holds true for frogs and toads.

In fact, in some cultures frogs and toads are actually good omens or signs of good luck! Just goes to show you that it depends on your upbringing and belief system and not the animal itself.

Myth #4 – Licking a toad will cause you to hallucinate

This myth actually has a somewhat factual basis. Both frogs and toads can be deadly if handled improperly due to poisons secreted through their skins.

For example, the poison dart frog is very aptly named. This group of frog species secretes a poison through its skin that is toxic to all kinds of animals if ingested or allowed to get into the bloodstream.

However, it’s not a hallucinogen, so licking a poison dart frog will more than likely kill you or make you very ill instead of make you high.

strawberry dart frog
Although dart frogs are poisonous in the wild, in captivity they lose this trait. We definitely do not recommend licking a frog or toad regardless of whether or not the animal is poisonous.

On the other hand, many species of toads actually secrete a substance called bufotoxin through glands behind their eyes when they are stressed or threatened.

This toxin is deadly when “raw” and many family pets are actually killed each year from accidentally ingesting bufotoxins from Cane toads. What can happen is, the toad will actually try to eat the dry dog or cat food from their outside dishes (yes, these toads will eat dog food), and the dog or cat will then defend its food by biting the toad. Bad move.

However, bufotoxins can technically be processed scientifically and are then considered hallucinogens, so this myth is partially true. Colorado River toads are notorious for their bufotoxins and are actually banned in some states.

You can lick a toad or frog in an attempt to get high and hallucinate, but more than likely you’ll just end up in the hospital. Lesson: don’t lick toads.

Conclusion – Frog and Toad Myths

We think that frogs and toads make awesome pets, so we hope that this blog article has helped shed some light on common myths surrounding them.

Frogs and toads are just amphibians trying to survive like any other animal. We don’t think they deserve to be shunned or avoided just because someone once told you that touching them gives you warts!

 

 

 

Biggest Pet Toads

We love toads of all shapes and sizes at Backwater Reptiles, but sometimes we just can’t help but be impressed by the size of some of the species we sell. If you love toads and you want an impressive specimen to add to your collection, read on to find out the biggest pet toads sold at Backwater Reptiles.

South American Marine Toad (Rhinella marina)

This is definitely the biggest toad on our list. This species is very closely related to and often even classified as the same species as the common cane toad (Bufo marinus), which is described later on in this article.

However, we are discussing the South American marine toad as a separate species because the animals that are directly from South America are much larger than the cane toads that have been introduced to other areas of the world as a means of pest control.

biggest pet toads
As you can see, the South American giant marine toad get really big! This toad is being held by a 200lb adult man.

South American marine toads can attain snout to vent lengths of close to ten inches and that measurement doesn’t include their powerful limbs! There are some pictures circulating online of specimens much larger!

These toads are classic-looking in appearance, meaning they have bumpy, ridged, skin and are a flat brown in color.

People enjoy keeping these South American giants because their size is simply so massive. Big size equals big appetite and these toads do not disappoint when it comes to feeding time. They are quite entertaining to feed and they will consume large feeder insects with no qualms.

If you are interested in one of these giant beauties, Backwater Reptiles has South American giant marine toads for sale.

Smooth Sided Toad (Bufo guttatus or Sapo dorado)

We bet you can’t guess where this toad gets its common name? If you said from its relatively smooth skin (at least for a toad anyways), you’d be correct. While most species of toads are recognized for their warty skin texture, the smooth sided toad has only a few flat, dark bumps. It also has some striking eyes with a red-brown belly covered in cream-colored spots or speckles.

smooth sided toad
The reddish brown underside of the smooth sided toad is visible in this photo.

This is a tropical toad species and will therefore require more humidity and heat than is necessary for a standard American toad. Their preferred habitat is leaf litter, so be sure to give them a substrate that is similar in nature such as peat moss or coconut husks so that they can burrow and hide.

Female smooth sided toads can grow to be around ten inches long, whereas the males will stay slightly smaller. Males tend to only grow to be five to six inches long on average.

Backwater Reptiles has smooth sided toads for sale.

Cane Toad aka Marine toad (Bufo marinus)

As we’ve already mentioned, cane toads are very closely related to the South American giant marine toad and are actually very commonly even considered to be the same species.

For the sake of this blog article, we’re grouping the South American toad and the far more common cane toad (which to confuse things further is also simply called the “Marine Toad”) separately as they can originate from different locations and have a sizable difference in total proportions.

large cane toad
The measuring tape in this photo shows that this is a sizable cane toad.

Cane toads are found commonly in the United States, Central America, and South America. They have been introduced into other places as forms of pest control and are actually considered invasive species by a lot of communities.

Well-fed, captive cane toads can grow quite large because they do have monstrous appetites. A large size for a cane toad is around eight inches long, although some will get larger.

Cane toads can also get fat if you don’t watch what you feed them. Like all the toads on this list, they will eat pretty much any invertebrate they can fit in their mouth. We feed ours crickets, roaches, meal worms, night crawlers, and occasional wax worm treats.

If you want a cane toad of your own, Backwater Reptiles sells them. We’ve also written an article detailing the history of the invasive nature of this species and how you can be a responsible cane toad owner.

Conclusion – Biggest pet toads

Most toads are pets that are better for being exhibited than being handled. In other words, even large toads with less finicky temperaments than their smaller cousins still don’t really enjoy being handled. We recommend them as pets for people who are fine with a less than interactive animal.

If you’re in the market for a very large toad that you can show off to your friends and family, the toads on this list are all good species to start with.

Couch’s Spadefoot Toad Care (Scaphiopus couchii)

At Backwater Reptiles, we think toads are quite underrated as far as exotic pets are concerned. Most have relatively simplistic care requirements, are fun to feed, and don’t need a lot of human interaction or attention to thrive. Not to mention they can be pretty cute too!

One species of toad that doesn’t get a lot of attention is the Couch’s Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii). These fun little toads might be shy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make rewarding pets.

Read on to find out how the Backwater Reptiles team cares for our Couch’s Spadefoot Toads.

Physical Description

Couch’s spadefoot toads will grow to be about three inches long on average when fully mature.

Their skin is actually fairly smooth with relatively few bumps or ridges. They are green, yellow, or olive-colored with dark green, black, or brown blotches or spots on their backs. Their bellies are a creamy color and lack markings.

couchs spadefoot toad care
Notice the striking vertical pupils on this Couch’s spadefoot toad.

The common name for this toad comes from the dark spur located on its hind legs. This spur is used much like a spade and helps the toad burrow down into the ground where it spends most of its time.

These toads are also known for their arresting eyes. They have striking vertical pupils and irises flecked with crackles of color. We think their eyes resemble those of a cat.

Enclosure Requirements

In the wild, Couch’s spadefoot toads are found in the southwestern United States (areas of California, Arizona, and Texas). They are also found along the eastern and western coasts of Mexico. This means that they are used to dry, arid habitats with sandy soils and desert vegetation.

In order to replicate this environment in captivity, we recommend a substrate that can retain moisture but doesn’t necessarily stay overly wet. Try organic potting soil with no added chemicals or even shredded paper towels if you want to go really simple. We do recommend the soil if you want to witness your toad perform burrowing behavior though as this medium is more accommodating than paper towels.

If you are keeping a single Couch’s spadefoot, then a ten gallon tank will suffice. If you want a breeding pair, we would recommend a twenty gallon so that they have enough space to comfortably cohabitate.

Your Couch’s spadefoot toad will spend most of its time burrowed underground or hiding during the day, so be sure to provide places for it to take cover. Don’t include any cage accessories that are overly heavy (i.e. large rocks or large ceramics) because the toad could accidentally disturb these items and unintentionally injure itself.

couchs spadefoot toad
This photo shows the black spur or “spade” on the hind legs of the toad that enables it to burrow efficiently.

Although they are used to dry, arid, land, we do recommend keeping a relatively moist environment as this will encourage your toad to be more active. Couch’s spadefoot toads are adapted to emerge only when it rains, so keeping the tank humid will help them to stay alert.

We also always keep a shallow water dish in the toad’s enclosure, even if they don’t actually drink the water. It helps maintain humidity and allows the toad to soak if it desires.

Maintain temperatures of mid to high 80s during the day time via lights and don’t let the temperature drop below 70 at night.  

Feeding Habits

Couch’s spadefoot toads are carnivores and enjoy eating lots of different types of insects and invertebrates.

The spadefoot toads at Backwater Reptiles are fed a staple diet of gut loaded crickets. We supplement with meal worms, reptiworms, roaches, and night crawlers. Pretty much any invertebrate that is the proper size to fit into the animal’s mouth will do just fine.

Temperament

We haven’t heard of anyone being bitten by a Couch’s spadefoot toad. They are for the most part shy, secretive animals that prefer to hide and run away from you rather than try to bite or behave aggressively.

Couch’s spadefoot toads are also not big on being handled. While you can pick up and hold your toad, we don’t recommend doing it on a regular basis as the toads just don’t really like it.

scaphiopus couchii
Couch’s spadefoot toads make good pets for people who want a low key animal with minimal care requirements.

If you own a Couch’s spadefoot toad, you might actually not even see much of it unless you are a night owl. The toads tend to come out at night and remain burrowed underground in the day.

The bottom line is – Couch’s spadefoot toads keep to themselves and hide a lot. If you want an interactive pet toad, we’d recommend another species.

Conclusion

Although secretive by nature, Couch’s spadefoot toads can make fulfilling pets for people who want a very low-key, low-maintenance animal.

If you wish to obtain a pet Couch’s spadefoot toad of your own, Backwater Reptiles has them for sale.

Cane Toad History (Bufo marinus/Rhinella marina)

Cane toads (Bufo marinus/Rhinella marina) have a rich history and are perhaps the most well known (or notorious) toad in the world. They’ve earned a rather bad reputation as invasive and detrimental to natural ecosystems. This is largely due to the attempt to use them to control cane beetle populations in Australia…but more on that later.

These behemoth amphibians are best known as “Cane” toads because they originally helped eradicate pests from sugar cane fields. However they’re also called “Marine” toads by some, and even “Bufo” toads by Floridians.

For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to give a brief history of the cane toad and discuss what has given this hardy toad such bad notoriety. We’ll also go into detail about how this affects the pet trade and what you can do to be a responsible pet owner if you wish to keep cane toads of your own.

A Brief Description of the Cane Toad

Cane toads (also called Marine Toads and Giant Neotropical Toads) are known for their dry, bumpy skin and large size. Overall, they are fairly unremarkable-looking brown toads, but they certainly pack a punch when it comes to defense mechanisms.

cane toad history
Cane toads are brown or grayish in color and have very dry, bumpy skin that secretes toxins.

Toads don’t have many natural defense mechanisms. They lack claws, sharp fangs, or stingers to fight back against potential predators. However, cane toads are actually quite poisonous. They possess glands that secrete a poison called bufotoxin through their skin which is extremely toxic. This means that most potential predators have learned not to mess with cane toads as they can die from ingesting the poison on the cane toad’s skin.

Because they lack predators that can actually stomach their toxic skin in many environments, cane toads live quite long and can grow quite large in the wild. This is doubly true in captivity where feeding time and environment are highly regulated.

A single adult cane toad will average anywhere from four to eight inches in length, although the largest specimen recorded was actually fifteen inches long from snout to vent! In the wild, they can live for ten to fifteen years with considerably longer lifespans when kept as pets. South American Marine toads (same species) attain absolutely massive sizes.

History of the Cane Toad

As we’ve already established, cane toads are considered an invasive species in many areas and have therefore gained a reputation as pests that are harmful to local ecosystems. While this is not untrue, man is partially to blame for this occurrence and we think it’s unfair to vilify the cane toad just for being so successful at surviving.

Because the cane toad is such a voracious eater, it has been introduced into regions of the world as an agricultural pest control method. These cases of introduction have been well documented and the cane toad might be the best studied of all introduced species cases.

After relative success with cane toad introduction into Puerto Rico and Hawaii, cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935. This is probably the most famous case of cane toad introduction because it had such a massive impact on the native ecology.

cane-toad-size
Here’s a fairly large cane toad pictured next to a dollar bill for size reference. These toads can grow quite large.

The release of the toads into Australia might have been considered successful if the toads actually brought down the population of the targeted insect, the grey-backed beetle. However, because the cane fields offered little shelter to the toads during the day and also because the beetles lived in the tops of the fields and cane toads are not good climbers, the toads ended up eating everything en masse but the targeted insect.

Nowadays, cane toads are considered pests in Australia with their population numbering well into the millions. Australian governments have even asked residents to help out by collecting and disposing of the animals.

Owning a Cane Toad as a Pet

Because cane toads are so populous, their numbers are not in danger of declining if people collect them for pets. In fact, we think it’s more humane for them to be kept as pets than “eradicated” for being too successful at breeding and populating.

Because cane toads historically can thrive in such a variety of habitats and consume just about anything, they are exceptionally hardy pet amphibians. They have very easy care requirements which means they make great classroom pets and also great pets for children.

Just be aware that due to the toxin they can secrete, you’ll want to make sure that they are not handled with excessive force as this can trigger the toxin to be secreted.

We would also advise always washing your hands after handling any animal (not just reptiles and amphibians) to help prevent Salmonella contamination, as well as to wash away any potential bufotoxin from the Cane toad itself.

bufo marinus
As far as toads go, cane toads are hardy, personable, and overall very entertaining pets.

That being said, we do not ever recommend releasing any cane toad (or other pet reptiles/amphibians) into the wild. For example, unless you can guarantee that your pet cane toad will not be able to breach the walls of your back yard, we do NOT recommend setting up an outdoor enclosure where they can live in a natural setting. There is just too much controversy surrounding their invasiveness and the potential for human error.

Conclusion – Cane toad history

Cane toads may not be the world’s most treasured amphibian, but because they’re so adaptable, we think they can be fun and entertaining pets to anyone who has a love for toads. We hope you’ve enjoyed our article on Cane toad history and consider yourself more knowledgeable when it comes to these tremendous amphibians.

If you’re interested in obtaining a pet cane toad, Backwater Reptiles has these gigantic amphibians for sale to responsible hobbyists.

Frogs vs. Toads

Ever wonder what the difference is between frogs and toads?

Frogs and toads are very similar animals after all and both are in fact amphibians. So what differentiates these two animals from one another? Read our Frogs vs. Toads blog post to find out!

Frogs vs Toads

Frogs vs. Toads – Proximity to Water

One difference between frogs and toads is that frogs live in or near a water source. Toads, on the other hand, can live on land in dryer environments, although they do still need a certain degree of moisture present to thrive.

Eastern Spadefoot Toad
This is an Eastern Spadefoot Toad. It has unusually large and bulbous eyes for a toad as well as unusually moist skin.

Frogs will actually spend most of their time in the water and are adept swimmers. Toads prefer to be on land and are not very graceful in the water.

Frogs vs. Toads – Physical Differences

There are a number of physical differences in the way frogs and toads are built that also help differentiate them from one another.

Frogs have smooth, moist skin, while toads have rough, bumpy skin that is often dry.

Glass Frog Underbelly
This is a glass frog. This species is known for its transparent skin that allows you to see its internal organs.

The hind legs of frogs are very long, graceful, and powerful because their main method of locomotion is jumping. Toads tend to have shorter, stumpier legs that enable them to walk or hop instead of jump long distances.

Frogs are generally lean, athletic-looking amphibians, whereas toads tend to have bodies that make them appear squat and out of shape.

A toad’s eyes are usually shaped like a football, but a frog has round, saucer-like eyes. A frog’s eyes will also bulge out a bit from its skull, while a toad’s eyes will not bulge.

Firebelly Toad
Don’t let is name fool you! The Firebelly Toad is not actually a toad at all, but rather a frog. It lives a mostly aquatic life.

Most frogs also possess some kind of teeth. Some frogs have vomerine teeth, which are located on the roof of the frog’s mouth. Other frogs might have maxillary teeth in addition to (or in place of) the vomerine teeth. This distinguishes them from toads, which have no teeth.

Frogs vs. Toads – Behavior

The main difference in behavior between toads and frogs is the amount of time each animal spends in the water. As mentioned earlier, most frogs prefer aqueous environments, whereas toads live on dry land.

South American Giant Marine Toad
The South American Giant Marine Toad is an enormous toad that exhibits the classic toad physical traits of bumpy skin and squatness.

Both toads and frogs are omnivores and eat everything from worms, crickets, and roaches to algae and pond sediment.

When it comes to reproduction, frogs lay their eggs in clusters very near to a water source as the tadpoles need to hatch into a watery environment. Toads will often lay their eggs in long chains. The young of both frogs and toads need to be born/hatched near water to survive.

Frogs vs. Toads – Toxicity

Both frogs and toads can be poisonous, however only toads possess poison glands behind their eyes.

Frogs, such as the Poison Dart Frog, can exude a poison through their skin. Scientists are currently unsure of what causes these frogs to be able to secrete such a poison, but they believe it to be something the frogs generate from plants or food in their wild habitats since the captive bred frogs are not toxic.

Tomato Frog
The Tomato Frog can exude a white substance from its skin when aggravated. This substance can be irritating if it comes into contact with human skin.

A toad’s toxicity comes from the poison glands behind its eyes. Whenever a toad feels threatened, it can secrete poison through its skin. This poison can then be ingested by a predator or come into contact with the skin of another animal (even a human handler) and cause irritation.

The same gland behind the toad’s eyes can also produce a separate compound that makes the toad taste awful when a predator tries to eat it. The predator will try to eat the toad and end up spitting it out due to the bad taste. Frogs do not possess these glands.

Frogs vs. Toads – Conclusion

These are not all the differences between frogs and toads, but they are the basic ones.

It should also be noted that the differences and similarities listed are discussed as generalities and that not all frogs or toads will fit neatly into one category or another. A good example of this is the Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa) which is technically a frog but looks very much like a toad and even has the word “toad” in its common name. We wrote a whole blog article discussing the unique nature of this frog that you can read here.

One thing that both frogs and toads have in common is that they make great pets. This is why Backwater Reptiles has a large selection of frogs for sale as well as a sizable collection of toads for sale.

What’s the Difference Between Amphibians and Reptiles?

The differences between reptiles and amphibians is stark. This week at Backwater Reptiles, we received a lot of new frogs, toads, and salamanders and that got us to thinking that maybe this blog article should discuss what makes an amphibian an amphibian and what makes a reptile a reptile. Although most reptile hobbyists know the differences between the two, some people have got to be curious as to what separates a salamander from a skink, right?

clown tree frog

In general, it’s easy to just say that frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders are all classified as amphibians, but you can read on to learn why these animals are different than reptiles.

asian spiny toad

The main indicator that an animal is an amphibian is that it “lives two lives” or has two distinct life phases. Amphibians are born in water and breathe through gills, then undergo metamorphosis and become full-grown animals that survive on land. Take a frog for example – they come into this world as tadpoles swimming around in ponds or pools of water and eventually grow into mature frogs. Reptiles, however, will be born as miniature forms of themselves and, aside from possibly displaying different markings as juveniles, should look the same their entire life.

slimy salamander

Reptiles don’t need to live near water, whereas amphibians need to live where water is present for two reasons. First, their skin needs to stay moist. Second, amphibians lay their eggs in or very near water.

Amphibians externally fertilize their eggs whereas reptiles internally fertilize. Amphibian eggs are usually found in a gelatinous clump in or near water, while reptile eggs are leathery, amniotic, and often buried for the gestation period.

eastern spadefoot toad

Finally, there are also aesthetic differences you can observe if you are not familiar with the animal’s life cycle. Reptiles possess scales, whereas amphibians have moist, sometimes sticky skin. Reptiles have claws to defend themselves from threats, but an amphibian’s main defense mechanisms are irritating secretions from the skin or biting because they don’t have nails.

golden tree frogs

This entry is not all inclusive as we could easily write an entire essay dedicated to this topic. It’s simply meant to touch on the main differences between reptiles and amphibians and to provide the basics for beginners.

All animals pictured in this blog post are amphibians for sale on our website.