How to keep frogs and toads as pets

How to keep frogs and toads as pets

Snakes, iguanas, tortoises and lizards are all wonderfully exotic pets but can be rather expensive to buy, house and maintain. The pet I suggest is cheap, easy to keep, breathes through its skin and, in my opinion, very cute. It’s a frog! (Or a toad).

Frogs and toads are very underrated as pets. Many are quite easy to look after and do not need as much attention as mammal pets like cats and rabbits. Frogs and toads can be a cheaper, low maintenance option: perfect for students or those who have a busy life. Some are endangered and should not be collected from the wild. Please buy your pet from a registered pet shop.

Although they can’t cuddle you or do tricks, and it’s a risk trying to get them to sleep in your bed at night, frogs and toads exhibit interesting behaviour and come in a variety of colours, shapes, sizes, and patterns. They also vary from land animals to aquatic amphibians.

Amphibian pets that are easy to keep

An easy beginner’s amphibian, such as the Oriental Fire-bellied toad, can cost from £5 upwards, and needs nothing more than a tank with a secure lid and good ventilation, some substrate (mine prefers gravel, you can ask the sales assistant which is suitable for your amphibian), water, and a couple of rocks to sit on and hide under.

The Oriental Fire-bellied toad is attractively patterned in green and black, with a black and orange/red belly (hence its name) and grows to about 2 inches. They eat a variety of insects (not mealworms as they are hard to digest). I feed my Oriental Fire-bellied toad a live cricket every couple of days. They need regular cleaning, generally once a week, which involves changing or washing the substrate. They are a very good frog for the beginner as they are hardy animals and, unlike their more delicate cousins such as the Poison Dart frog, will not be killed off by the slightest variation in temperature or the acidity/alkalinity of their water. The main disadvantage of an Oriental Fire-bellied toad is that it is slightly poisonous, so it is best to handle it with gloves and not to house other amphibious species with it. Other Oriental Fire-bellied toads should be fine.

Other amphibians that are easy to keep as pets are White Tree frogs, Pacman toads, Tomato frogs (land amphibians) and African Dwarf Frogs (semi aquatic/aquatic amphibians).

Some of the most vividly coloured frogs and toads, such as the Poison Dart frog mentioned above, are attractive and interesting but not necessarily the easiest to keep.

The beginner is often confused as to the identity of their amphibian. What is a frog and what is a toad? It’s a grey area, as many frogs with toad-like features are classified as frogs, and many toads with frog-like features can be classed as toads. Personally, I’m not too worried about the classification. They’re all equal amphibians in my eyes. But if you want to be specific, frogs are in a order called Anura which means ‘without a tail’ whereas toads are are in an order called Bufo, the common toad being Bufo Bufo.

There are five basic differences which can be easily observed when it comes to the classification of amphibians: you can try them out on the frogs and toads you might find in your garden or a nearby pond.

The difference between frogs and toads

• Frogs tend to hop whereas toads can’t and crawl on their bellies.

• Frogs capture food with extendible tongues, whereas toads stalk, and pounce on their prey.

• Frogs tend to have longer back legs in proportion to their front legs, for hopping and swimming, whilst toads have stubby back legs.

• Frogs like moister conditions, whereas toads prefer dryer ones.

• Frogs tend to be smooth skinned; toads tend to have wart-covered, dry skin.

Five rather fascinating amphibious facts

• Frogs and toads make up 90% of the class Amphibia: others included in this class include newts, salamanders and caeclians. These latter are burrowers and therefore rarely seen, they are similar in appearance to earthworms or snakes.

• The word ‘Amphibian’ comes from Greek and means ‘with a double life’

• The two smallest frogs in the World are equal to each other in size, one lives in the Southern hemisphere and the other in the North. The smallest frog in the Southern hemisphere the Gold Frog, or Brazilian Psyllophryne Didactyla, whilst the smallest in the Northern hemisphere frog is Eleutherodactylus iberia which, as far as I know, has no common name. Both frogs grow as adults to only 9.8 millimetres or 3/8 of an inch in body length.

• Some frogs have adapted to live in a dormant state known as ‘torpid’ (a kind of hibernation) to survive harsh winters.

• Frogs and toads use their eyes to swallow their meals: when they have caught their prey they push their eyes right into their socket which is the equivalent to humans using our trachea as part of our swallowing mechanism.

Amphibians and the environment

Sadly, many amphibians are among the endangered species of the planet.

They are sensitive to the degradation of their environment. As amphibians have very porous skin and breathe through it, when their ecosystem becomes polluted they are often the first to be affected. Additionally a recent outbreak of a fungal disease is endangering the amphibian population. This is thought to be due to climate change creating more favourable conditions in which the fungal disease can prosper. Consequently, frog populations in particular are being decimated and biodiversity amongst these amphibians is at risk.

Is it important to call your amphibious pet Hypnotoad?

If you’re a Futurama fan, of course it is! It’s very important! Though not if your pet is a frog – it might get an inferioty complex. Naming a pet is always fun; my pet frogs and toad are called Freddo, Freidrick, and The Hypnotoad; I hope these do not breach any copyrights of either a chocolate manufacturer or a cartoon network.

Frogs and toads are amongst the most cute, unusual and fascinating creatures out there. Feel inspired to consider these delicate and intriguing animals as pets – or to look for more information on my favourite animal. You will be well rewarded. Though not by the frogs and toads in questions, as their money pouches are very, very tiny.

One of these toads is fictional. But can you guess which?