How to Keep Narrow-mouthed Toads in Captivity

Posted by Nancy on 2/8/2018 to Reptile Care Sheets

Question:  I recently discovered Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toads near a pond by my house.  I am thinking about collecting some and then try to breed them.  Do you have any advice about this species?

Answer:  Before you start collecting the toads, be sure you are able to feed these little anurans.  Their diets consist mostly of ants.  Ants are often hard to get and collecting ants can be dangerous because of the fire ant infestations found in your area of Alabama.  You may be able to get them to adapt to pinhead crickets and some will eat locally caught termites.  Not all of the toads will adapt to the new diet.  That being said well-fed specimens should breed easily.

To set up a terrarium for them use a 10 gallon aquarium. Cover the bottom with Coconut husk to keep the humidity at the correct level.  Then add hiding spots with moss packed loosely inside to increase the humidity for them.  Keep the floor relatively moist by misting regularly.You probably have heard the Narrow-mouthed Toads while they are calling from their breeding congresses, which assemble in debris and grassy edges around temporary ponds and flooded ditches.  It will be easy for you to find the males as they sit in shallow water and call their characteristic bleating.  The females are silent, so the search for them will be more difficult.  The males have black throats and are about an inch in length.  The females are larger up to 1 1/2 inches long and are more slender.

To start the breeding process, feed your specimens heavily in the spring. These anurans breed from April to September after heavy rains. To simulate this use a 10 gallon aquarium with 2-3 inches of water in the bottom.  Add some floating pieces of wood for hiding places.  Place one male with several females in the tank.  You will know that you have successfully set up the tank if the male starts calling.

The male will crawl on the female's back and grasp her behind the front legs. The male has special adhesive glands in his belly which will allow him to adhere himself to the female.    The mating may take place for several days.  The female will lay up to 850 eggs in flat packets of 50 to 100 eggs.  The packets will float on the surface and will hatch in about two days.  The males will be able to mate with many females, but once the female lay eggs they should be moved back to the terrarium.

It would be my suggestion that you do not try to raise all the eggs.  Simply remove one or two packets of fertilized eggs to a new aquarium where they can safely develop.  The tadpoles will grow to about an inch long.  They are flattened, a blackish color with a black band on the side of the tail.  They often have an orange mottling on the belly.  These tadpoles do not have the horny jaws most tadpoles have.  They do have an upturned mouth and can suck finely ground aquarium fish food.  They should mature in 20 - 40 days depending on the temperature.  Room temperature should be fine.

The toadlets will need to be fed tiny insects. I would suggest fruit flies, springtails or fruit fly maggots.  As they grow you can move up to pinhead crickets.  These toads reach sexual maturity in two to three years.

I want to emphasize that you need to be willing to find food that these interesting anurans will eat.  Plan the feeding program before you collect any of these toads.  If you do, you should be rewarded with fat, happy toads that will breed for you.

Why not celebrate your interest in amphibians with a reptile T-shirt, a reptile coffee mug, or a reptile sign?

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