Most toads are ambush predators and will sit quietly while waiting for prey to pass.
Once prey is near a toad will leap forward and use its sticky tongue to catch it. It will then scoop the food into its mouth using its front feet like a shovel and eat.
Toads are carnivorous and despite their slow movements make good predators of most insects. Sometimes they even eat small vertebrates.
Interested in what toads do eat and how you should feed them?
Keep reading to learn more about their diet and feeding them.
What Do Toads Eat?
All toads are carnivorous and most of their diet is made up of insects. Though the diet of a toad varies depending on the species most of them eat:
- Insect larvae.
- Small vertebrates such as rodents, amphibians, reptiles, frogs, and fish.
Toads are ambush predators which makes them visual feeders. They will only eat live prey. They will never feed on dead animals or lifeless insects, though some pet toads may be enticed by dead food items if it is ‘wiggled’ in front of them with forceps and made to mimic the movement of a living animal.
Cane toads are one of few species that will eat objects that do not move. But they will quickly spit food out if it is unsuitable.
Much of the information about feeding frogs is also applicable to toads because all toads are frogs.
There are approximately 7,400 species of frogs of which 350 species are considered true toads (Bufonidae family).
The term ‘toad’ is used for certain types of frogs that have leathery and rough skin, visible “poison” glands, short legs, and a walking rather than hopping gait. Despite these differences, frogs and toads still eat similar diets.
A toad’s diet can be varied and depends on their habitat and food availability.
Toads are native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica. While their diet depends on what kind of food is available, regardless of where they live, insects make up a majority of their diet. Some of their favorite insects include beetles, worms and crickets.
The majority of species are terrestrial (live on land) or fossorial (live underground). They do not have the long legs or sticky toe pads that enables some frogs to live a life in the trees!
Fossorial and terrestrial species often live in areas close to a water source such as creeks or rivers.
Terrestrial toads spend most of their life on the ground.
They are often found walking and hiding amongst the leaf litter in search of prey that also uses the leaf litter for cover. It is normal for toads to eat cockroaches, spiders and crickets.
Fossorial species go a step further. They cover themselves in soil or even dig tunnels to spend their time in. These toads are more likely to eat other insects that dig in the soil, like worms, or species that take cover in tunnels like ants, termites, or even small snakes!
These species often have upward-facing eyes, pointed heads, and spade-like back feet.
Their upward facing eyes allow them to watch approaching prey, while a pointed nose and spade-like back feet help them push through and shovel soil. The Mexican Burrowing Toad (Rhinophrynus dorsalis) is a perfect example of this and is well adapted to an underground lifestyle.
Both terrestrial and fossorial species also vary in size.
Younger and smaller species like Oak Toads (Anaxyrus quercicus) eat smaller prey like gnats and insect larvae.
Larger species such as Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) will eat anything that fits into their mouth. This can include spiders, snails, small rodents, reptiles, mammals, and even other cane toads.
How Do Toads Hunt?
All toads are ambush predators and will hide themselves in logs amongst leaf litter, or under soil while waiting for their prey. Many use camouflage to help ambush prey, but also as a means of defending themselves from predators like reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Upon seeing approaching prey, or sensing vibrations, they will launch towards it and catch it with their sticky tongues.
The tongue of a toad is generally shorter than other frogs, but it is still covered in sticky saliva that acts like a glue. It can also eject and retract its tongue in as little as 15 to 22 milliseconds.
Their long-fingered front feet are also important during the hunt. Toads will often hold or push prey into their mouth with their front feet to ensure prey does not escape.
They are opportunistic, meaning they will attempt to eat anything that will fit in their mouths.
You may be wondering how toads are able to swallow large prey, especially snakes and rodents!
While a toad’s especially flexible throat definitely helps, the answer to this question lies in their eyes. When swallowing they will force their eyes back into their sockets. This pushes food down their throat and acts like an extra muscle!
Many species are also able to undergo torpor, a form of hibernation. This hibernation slows down their metabolism so they do not use too much energy.
Torpor allows toads to conserve their energy in colder months when food is not readily available. This is important to know, as pet toads will often eat less food during periods of cold temperatures.
Feeding during cold periods can often cause health problems. It can also encourage your toad to be active when they should be sedentary.
Feeding Toads: What Can You Feed Them?
Toads eat a wide range of foods in the wild, so it is important to provide a pet toad with a variety of foods too. This not only provides great nutrition, but also gives them enrichment and hunting experience.
All species should be fed live prey. This is especially important if you find and care for a garden toad that will later be reintroduced to the wild.
Garden toads should be fed live food to prevent them learning bad habits that will lead to unsuccessful hunting. In the wild they must hunt for their own food, so you should not encourage them to eat dead prey.
Pet species can be trained to eat dead prey offered with forceps. However, most experts agree that feeding live insects is best.
Some of the best foods for toads include:
- Small snails (they can easily digest the shells of small snails).
- Fruit flies.
Whatever you feed a toad it is important to provide a variety of foods.
You should also feed toads in a way that encourages their natural hunting and feeding behaviors.
Is your toad a burrowing species? Perhaps provide a deep layer of soil so that they can ambush the prey as it would in the wild.
Does your toad prefer to hide in leaf litter? Provide some leaves, coconut husk, or peat moss for them to hide beneath before feeding.
You should be careful to choose prey that will not harm your toad. This might include insects that are too big, too spiny, or ones that can bite or sting! Fanged spiders or crickets with spiny armour are prey to avoid.
Feeding prey with forceps is considered the safest way to feed them. Forceps help to prevent injury to your toad and ensure that they eat the food.
Food like worms and certain insect larvae can be placed in the tank so that your toad can eat in a more natural way. Just be sure to check that your toad eats the food after a few hours. If not remove the food and try again later.
Remember that a toad’s diet will vary depending on its species, size, and even the time of year.
|Tadpole||Algae accumulated on leaves and sticks left in water, broccoli, baby spinach, lettuce (not iceberg), zucchini, green peas, green grapes, spirulina, crumbled hard boiled eggs, brine shrimp and bloodworms.||Throw in small amounts of food until the tadpoles stop eating. Do not overfeed as excess food in the water can cause nitrogen poisoning.||Twice daily.|
|Baby||Small wingless fruit flies, pinhead crickets, springtails, insect larvae, gnats and mosquitoes.||4-5 items per session.||Twice daily.|
|Toadlet or Juvenile||Small to medium beetles, worms, mealworms, insect larvae, crickets, flies, snails, slugs and spiders.||5-7 items per session.||Daily.|
|Adult||Large beetles, worms, mealworms, insect larvae, crickets, flies, snails, slugs, spiders and thawed pinkie mice.||5-7 items per session.||Every 2-3 days in warmer months.
Once a week in colder months.
Toad Diet By Age
A toad’s diet will change depending on its age.
Below you will find guidance on how much and how to feed a toad based on their age. These guidelines may change depending on what species you have, how active it is, as well as what physical condition it is in.
When a toad is in its tadpole life stage it is an herbivore.
Tadpoles live in water where food like algae and moss are easy to find. Due to their small size and soft body they are not well-suited to hunting live prey.
Instead tadpoles happily eat dead insects or animals that fall into their pond.
Tadpoles will eat algae, water weeds, and moss. They can also be fed shredded vegetables such as broccoli, baby spinach, zucchini, green peas, green grapes spirulina discs and tropical fish flakes.
Vegetables and fruits should be washed before being fed to tadpoles to make sure they are pesticide-free.
After washing, tear or cut it into small pieces about the size of your fingernail and then throw them into the tadpole’s pond. Tadpoles will come to the surface to feed as it sinks to the bottom of the pond.
Baby toads have only recently transitioned from a herbivorous diet as a tadpole to the carnivorous diet of a toad. Babies are in a state of fast growth and development so require daily feeding.
They should be fed more regularly, but in smaller amounts while they get used to their new diet.
Feeding a baby toad twice daily with 4-5 food items is ideal.
At first your baby toad may be a bit awkward while trying to eat their food. They may miss the food, or accidentally bite something else nearby! Try to help by using forceps and waving the food directly in front of their nose.
As your baby grows bigger you can begin to offer it larger prey like small to medium beetles and mealworms.
Juveniles still require daily feeding as they are growing at an exceptionally fast rate. In the wild juvenile are still learning how to hunt and so are quite active and hungry!
Most juvenile can be fed medium-sized versions of an adult’s diet, apart from pinkies. Pinkies are too large and protein-rich for young toads.
Beetles, worms, mealworms, insect larvae, crickets, flies, snails, slugs and spiders are all okay to feed.
Juveniles are old enough to begin learning a feeding routine.
Toads are typically nocturnal feeders, so it is best to choose a feeding time before dawn or after dark. Picking a feeding time will encourage them to be active and ready to eat at this time.
A majority of experts agree that feeding adult toads daily can cause problems like obesity and prolapse. Feeding an adult 2-3 times a week is considered ideal, with approximately 5-7 food items being provided each time.
Beetles, worms, larvae, crickets, flies, snails, and slugs can all be fed to adults.
Large species can also be fed thawed pinkie mice with forceps. Never feed live mice to your toad, as mice bites and scratches can easily injure them.
If you have a pond near your garden you are very likely to have wild toads living in your backyard.
Having garden toads is a great sign as it means there is plenty of vegetation for insects to feed on and insects for toads to eat. This food chain is healthy and makes for a healthier, happier garden! It also reduces the number of plant-eating slugs, snails and beetles.
However, there is a lot to learn about feeding toads and mistakes are easily made.
We have listed a few of the common mistakes made by new keepers below to help you avoid them!
Overfeeding can cause obesity, intestinal blockages and even rectal prolapse. It normally happens with first time owners who feed adults more than 2-3 times a week.
Remember they are not like mammals. Amphibians and reptiles are different. They do not produce body heat, a function that requires a lot of energy, and so do not need food every day to survive.
If your toad is exhibiting signs of overfeeding such as rapid weight gain, lethargy, or even rectal prolapse, then gradually start to reduce the amount of food you are feeding. You can use our feeding table for feeding guidelines.
Lack Of Variety
Feeding any animal the same food for its entire life will almost always cause health issues.
This is a very common mistake first-time owners make when feeding bearded dragons. First-time toad owners are no different.
A poor diet will cause problems such as physical inactivity and disease.
If you think your toad is suffering due to lack of diet variety, begin to introduce suitable new foods.
It is best to introduce new foods gradually. Start feeding with 90% of the original diet and 10% of the new diet. In each feeding session, increase the amount of new food by 10% while decreasing the same amount of the original food.
Feeding Dangerous Food
Toads may seem robust and like they can eat anything, but this is not true.
No matter what stage of life your toad is at make sure to feed only food items that are shorter than their mouth is wide. This will prevent choking and injury.
There are also several foods that you should never feed your toad:
- Any plants, including fruits and vegetables.
- Red meat (occasional thawed pinkie is safe).
- Live prey that can bite, scratch, or sting.
- Any venomous snakes.
- Insects collected from your garden.
They are carnivores so they should not be fed any plants. Their intestines are not capable of digesting plant matter. Additionally, they are mainly insectivorous so regularly feeding toads red meat will cause health problems.
You should also make sure that the prey you feed is healthy and has adequate nutrition. This will prevent the spread of disease and parasites.
Toads are voracious carnivores. Their ambush hunting style and sticky tongue makes them a good predator of most insects. However, they are not insectivores like Leopard Geckos and also eat small vertebrates.
Both in the wild and as pets the majority of a toad’s diet should be made up of insects. Some of their favorite insects includes beetles, worms and crickets.
To keep your toad healthy and active a variety of insects should be fed. You can also include roaches and mealworms in their diet.
Adults should be fed two to three meals a week. Baby and juvenile individuals should be fed daily.
Feeding a toad in their tank, with the right diet, will encourage natural feeding habits and keep them healthy and enriched.