Acquired: Online breeder / seller,
Rescue / shelter organization,
Worked with pet (didn’t own)
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted Jun 17, 2013
The first Suriname toad I saw was in a large pet store display aquarium and not for sale. When I finally had the chance to acquire some (captive-bred young) I took the opportunity.
Suriname toads are cryptic animals, made to blend in. It took me a while to find the best display technique for them, but when I did, it was worth it. I kept a large aquarium (30 gallon long) on a high stand, so that the bottom of the aquarium was just under eye level. Being able to watch the toads from both above (as they lie on the bottom) and below (as they swim) is key to enjoying them -- the belly pattern is interesting.
Use a large aquarium, 30 gallons or more. They are large and strong as adults, especially the females. They will uproot plants, move ornaments, and even smash glass heaters -- so keep the water column devoid of any obstacles and keep heaters in external filters or in trickle filter reservoirs.
Suriname toads are completely aquatic and prefer a full tank. They do not require hauling-out areas and won't typically use them. A substrate of brown creek sand/ all-purpose sand worked very well for me. I used two external filters to keep the water extremely clear, and performed weekly 25% water changes with dechlorinated water. Heat is essential, and I kept the water at 78-80 F with a submersible heater inside one of the external filters. I also added in some driftwood on the bottom -- horizontal pieces that laid right down on the sand (so to not interfere with the swim area). Some strands of floating plants and a few large dry leaves (Indian almond works well) made for good hiding places.
Suriname toads look like dead leaves, and whilst it can be difficult to see them amongst dead leaves, I think adding a few makes their display more interesting. There's a great "Wow!" moment when a person realises they're not just looking at another leaf. They will often hang motionless in the water column, floating around like a dead leaf, waiting for prey.
Suriname toads can be fed goldfish and other smooth fish without spines, large earthworms, and sometimes they will take dead prey. The star-shaped appendages on their fingertips are sensory organs for locating food. When they do find food, they inflate the body with water, sucking the fish in, then often block the fish's escape by putting their fingers over or into their mouth. Quite a spectacle. I fed mine 2-3 medium feeder goldfish (for large adults) weekly offered all on one day and they did very well on that diet. There were also usually small fish available for them, often aquarium breeder's cast-offs or feeder livebearers.
I didn't keep a hood on the tank at first, but later did cover it with a soft screen top. A word of caution regarding both my screen and open top method, and an aquarium hood method: When diving, their large feet can displace an incredible amount of water, and can kick it right up into the air and into the electric workings of a lighted hood (not safe) or right out of the tank and onto your face, or your mother's couture blouse (Mom wasn't thrilled about that!). Keep this habit in mind especially when plugging anything in nearby, or situating the tank. Don't situate the tank director over a wall socket and be sure all cords nearby have "drip loops" (make sure the lowest point of the cord's slack is lower than the outlet, so any water running down it drips to the floor, and doesn't run into the socket). If you do keep a heater in the tank, check it frequently and always unplug it before working in the tank. I strongly recommend using a heater only in a trickle filter reservoir or in an external filter.
Suriname toads breed well in captivity given the room. I observed amplexus but never egg production in mine; this can be brought on by gradually lowering the water level over several weeks, leaving it low for several more, and then bringing the water level up quickly and lowering the temperature. Males are considerably smaller than females and although I never had any problem with cannibalism, it could happen if sizes are too different.
Not a pet to handle, they make wonderful display animals but are best handled only using a large, soft aquarium net. Their setup requires some investment to keep the water clean and clear, but after that, they are relatively low-maintenance.