Suriname Toad (Pipa pipa)

The Suriname Toad (Pipa pipa) is one very unique and fascinating amphibian. Everything about them – from their appearance to the manner they reproduce – is odd.

Because these amphibians are growing in popularity in the reptile/amphibian pet world, we thought we’d dedicate an entire blog post to them in which we’ll address the most frequently asked questions we get about these unusual animals.

Is the Suriname Toad actually a toad? Or is it a frog?

You’d think that because the word “toad” is in its name that Pipa pipa would be a toad, right? Although it does resemble a toad in color, it is still very much a frog.

Suriname toad - Pipa pipa
This is a front view of the Suriname Toad out of the water. These are some FLAT frogs!

Toads live much of their life on dry land (albeit close to a water source), but Pipa pipa is an aquatic amphibian and actually spends most of its time in the water. While these frogs can leave the water, their body shape just isn’t designed that well for life on land. They are awkward on land, whereas in the water, they are quite at home and even graceful.

Frogs have thin, smooth skin that is usually wet, whereas toads have dry, nodular, bumpy skin. The Suriname Toad’s skin more closely resembles a frog’s because even though it does possess texture, overall it is smooth to the touch and nearly always wet.

Why are these animals so flat?

One of the attributes that draws hobbyists to Pipa pipa is its bizarre appearance. The first thing most people notice when seeing one of these frogs for the first time is how flat they are. Being flat helps them to camouflage and appear like leaf litter, wooden detritus, or other large sediment that settles to the bottom of murky ponds.

Their unique body shape also allows them to be streamlined when swimming.

Surinam Toad
You can see how this frog’s flat body shape helps it to look like detritus on the floor of a pond.

I’ve heard these frogs have amazing reproductive habits. Do they really hatch babies from their backs?

Yes! One of the most intriguing tidbits about the Suriname Toad is that rather than lay eggs that require hatching like most amphibians, Pipa pipa “hatches” fully formed froglets from the skin on its back! Unlike most amphibians which go through metamorphosis, the Surinam toad emerges as a fully formed miniature version of the adult frog.

After very elaborate mating rituals in which the males make clicking sounds underwater to attract a mate, the mating begins. While the male and female are performing the act, they somersault and do acrobatics that allow for the eggs to stick to the female’s back. The eggs will then sink into her back skin and form a “honeycomb” from which baby froglets will hatch.

Is the Suriname Toad endangered?

Thankfully, the Surinam Toad is listed as being an animal of “Least Concern” according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

They are commonly found and widespread throughout the Amazon Basin in South American countries.

How do I care for my pet Suriname Toad?

The nice thing about keeping Pipa pipa as a pet is that they are undemanding amphibians. They just need the bare minimum to be healthy and happy. A twenty gallon aquarium, which is the minimum recommended size for a single adult, an aquatic plant or two, and plenty of food is pretty much all that is needed.

Top view of Pipa pipa
The top view of Pipa pipa shows that it has weak front arms, powerful hind legs for swimming, a blocky triangular head, and beady little eyes.

Because they lack tongues, the Suriname toad is an ambush predator. Unlike a typical frog which will can extend its sticky tongue to catch food, this toad will sit unmoving until prey gets near it. Then it moves very quickly and snatches up anything small enough to fit in its mouth. They are happy to eat small feeder fish and earth worms which are readily available at any pet store.

Overall, the Suriname toad is a very quiet animal and will simply sit on the bottom of its tank for most of the day. From time to time, they swim to the surface of the water for air, but unless it’s feeding time, you can expect them to be very predictable pets.

If you want to own one of these “ugly cute” frogs for yourself, Backwater Reptiles has Suriname Giant Toads for sale.