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Fowler's Toad

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Scientific name: Anaxyrus fowleri

The basics:
Like the somewhat similar American Toad, this alert little creature lives in close association with people, and consequently provides many with an introduction to amphibian-keeping. It makes a hardy, interesting pet for novice and experienced keepers alike.

The natural range covers much of the eastern USA, from Maine to Michigan in the north and south to the Florida Panhandle and eastern Texas.

The Fowler’s Toad prefers drier habitats than does the American Toad, and is typically found in sandy woodlands, sparsely-vegetated scrubland, and coastal sand dunes, yards, and parks.

Appearance / health:
The Fowler’s Toad has a squat body and an average length of 2-3.75 inches. There are large parotoid (poison) glands behind the eyes, and numerous smaller ones on the back. Most are gray or brown in color, and flecked with black spots, but olive and reddish specimens sometimes appear.

These hardy amphibians may reach 15+ years of age with proper care. Nutritional concerns such as “Short-Tongue Syndrome” (related to a Vitamin A deficiency) and digestive tract blockages that result from feeding large insects, are the most commonly-encountered health problems.

Behavior / temperament:
Fowler’s Toads are primarily nocturnal, but often become active by day in captivity. They are quite confiding, and usually pay attention to goings-on near their terrarium in hopes of a meal.

They should be handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. Amphibian skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth.

Housing:
Fowler’s Toads do well in groups. A 20 gallon tank makes a good home for 3-5 adults.

A mix of sand and top soil covered with dead leaves works well as a substrate. Cork bark rolls or plastic caves should be provided, but most individuals will burrow below the sand when retiring.

Fowler’s Toads fare best when kept at 68-75 F. The terrarium should be misted twice daily. They need only a shallow water bowl, which should be changed daily. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water via liquid preparations available at pet stores. 

Diet:
A highly-varied diet is essentialCrickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, will not support long-term health. Earthworms, roaches, sow bugs, crickets, butterworms, calciworms, silkworms, and other insects will all be readily accepted. Mealworms have been implicated in digestive system disorders, and should be avoided.

Most meals should be coated with a powdered Calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement. A vitamin mineral supplement may be used 2-3x weekly.

Breeding:
Males may be distinguished from females by their loose, gray vocal sacs, thickened thumbs, and smaller size. A cooling-off period of 4 weeks at 50 F may spark breeding activity. A commercial rain chamber, or increased misting, is useful in stimulating breeding behavior.

Gravid females deposit strings of eggs on the water’s surface. The tadpoles hatch within 3-5 days and may be reared on a diet of fish food flakes and commercial tadpole pellets. Metamorphosis is achieved in 40-60 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio