Anyone who has ever seen toads and frogs in their natural habitat knows that toads are insectivores. But only a few people have seen them become ferocious carnivores in the wild. The fact is that toads are obligate carnivores, i.e., their food and energy requirements can only be fulfilled by animal meat and tissue. They can’t survive if there is no meat in their diet. That is why adult toads can easily eat small fish, birds, mammals, and even other amphibians.
But baby toads, i.e., tadpoles, are omnivores and slowly turn into tiny meat-eating beasts as they grow up. Let’s take an in-depth look at the kind of things toads can eat and how they choose their meals depending on where they are in the lifecycle.
Tadpoles And Their Diet
Tadpoles are baby toads that remain confined to waters because they haven’t yet developed legs and lungs. Their very first meal is the yolk from the egg sack from which they hatch. They grow in big clusters of eggs with thousands of other tadpoles. And it can take them 3-5 days to grow big enough to hatch, depending on the weather conditions and the actual species of the toad.
They can’t breathe the air just yet, and that confines them to the pond where they hatch. At this stage, they are completely aquatic creatures. Once they are out and about in the water, tadpoles eat:
- aquatic plants
- algae and
- decaying botanical matter in the pond or lake.
Sometimes, bigger tadpoles may even attack and eat other smaller tadpoles, so meat-eating is clearly built into their DNA. But they aren’t fully carnivorous just yet. They are omnivores and eat small insects, phytoplankton and sometimes small worms too.
Cannibalism among tadpoles is a rarity. It only happens when there is absolutely no vegetation in their natural habitat. If there is an adequate supply of aquatic foliage, you don’t have to worry about cannibalistic tadpoles.
What Is the Diet of Young Or Juvenile Toads?
It takes nearly two months for tadpoles to grow legs and functional air-breathing lungs, turning them into toadlets or young toads. This is when they are ready to try solids.
If you have pet toadlets that you want to feed, don’t start throwing meaty things at them. They still don’t know how to chew food and swallow it whole, so they can choke if they eat large prey like rodents. Start small. But do feed them every day. They can eat:
- Grain moths
- Pill bugs
- Small moths
These small insects can be eaten easily by toads. If you plan to raise young toads as pets, make sure they get a good dusting of calcium and vitamin powder to give them the nutrition they need to grow into big, healthy toads.
They have a raging appetite as they turn full-scale carnivores, eventually becoming adults.
What Do Adult Toads Like To Eat?
As young toads grow up, they continue to eat various insects. But the frequency of meals slows down considerably. Adult toads need to eat only 2 to 3 times a week. Really, that’s enough!
The size of the insects can be much larger than what you can feed a young toad. Experts suggest letting your pet toadies’ catch’ their own food. Don’t worry; this doesn’t mean leaving them out in the wild. All you need to do is leave food in the cage for no longer than 15 minutes. If they don’t catch and eat some or all of it within this time, remove it.
The good news is that adult toads can eat just about anything they can swallow. They are not picky eaters, so serve up any reptiles or even small mammals you can get your hands on. Know the kind of toad you have and the kind of foods found in their habitat, and that’s all the info you need to feed your adult toad.
Typically, they can eat the following:
- Small Fish
- Other toads and frogs
So, for example, you could give four to six wax worms, super worms or crickets to your adult toad every two days. Make sure everything is just big enough for the toad to swallow, keep the diet as diverse as possible, and ensure they don’t have access to harmful or poisonous insects.
What Do the Toads Eat in the Wild?
Did you know that there are over 550 species of toad?
Wild toads will eat anything they can catch, and their everyday diet depends on what’s there to eat in their vicinity. This means that toads in streams in South America will have different foods than those in Africa. So, while food options may differ worldwide, toads eat more or less the same things all over the globe.
Toads usually live on land, but it’s almost always close to a body of water. They are fully carnivorous now and prefer live prey. They usually have easy access to spiders, worms and crickets, and they’ll eat many of these every few days.
However, they will grow at most 5 or 6 inches, so anything bigger than that is a no-go. So large living creatures are off the menu. But larger toad species do exist. For example, cane toads can devour large rodents easily. So, the larger the toad, the bigger its meal will be.
Expect adult toads to eat the following in the wild:
- Aquatic animals
As you can see from the list above, adult toads in the wild don’t worry about choking on their food. Young toads might stick to pinhead crickets, mosquitoes, ants and flies, while tadpoles have to make do with decomposing dead bugs in their lakes and pools, or decomposing leaves.
But toads that live in and around gardens can spot prey and get their fill easily. But those in the wild never have certainty if and when they get something to eat next. So they usually don’t have appetite control and will keep eating until there’s nothing left.
How Do Toads Hunt for Food?
Every living thing requires an excellent nutrition-filled diet to survive. Toads are no different; they need food to grow stronger and live.
If you have a few of them as pets, you can feed them and call it a day. But how do toads attain food without human help?
Well, for starters, they have excellent eyesight and a perfect sense of smell and use these keen senses to search for food. Toads don’t have to touch or taste their next meal to know if it’s something they want. They can locate food in pitch black and see colors even when completely dark. They can even find their prey and follow it as it moves in these challenging conditions.
To top it all off, their powerful nostrils aren’t just used to search for food but also to mark out their territories and help them figure out if the food isn’t good enough or potentially dangerous for them.
Other than this outstanding feature, toads possess a powerful sense of smell. However, research shows that toads hardly rely on their sense of smell to search food; rather, they use it to mark out territories.
Foods Toads Can’t Eat?
Just because a toad will eat any creepy crawly doesn’t mean it should.
Toads in the wild usually have such fine-tuned senses that they can tell what they can and should eat. But if you have pet toads, the decision and due diligence rest on you.
For one thing, don’t ever feed them rice or bread. These processed foods are dangerous for the poor amphibian, so it’s best to leave the seasoned, salted and sugary foods for the human-only dining table. These foods can unsettle their tiny guts and may lead to dehydration. A good rule of thumb is that if it can’t be caught in the wild, your toad doesn’t need to eat it.
Toads should not be fed human foods such as leftovers or artificial meals. Furthermore, salt and seasoning may affect their gut and lead to dehydration.
The trouble is that toads will eat pretty much anything, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a check on what your pet is devoring on. Here is a quick list of foods that can be very dangerous for your toads and must be avoided at all costs:
- Seasoned meat
- Expired goods
- Processed food
Since they are hardcore carnivores, toads prefer to eat living prey. So don’t give them dead meat and let them kill their own food. When nothing else is available, they will eat some fruits and veggies but won’t be happy.
We’ve mentioned this earlier and don’t mind repeating it: never offer human food to your toad. It can be downright detrimental for your pet toad. Lastly, talk to your pet about the necessary supplements and vitamins to keep them healthy and happy.