Frogs and toads may not come to mind immediately as the perfect pets. But in many ways, they are ideal household pets. They are small and easy to take care of, cheap to feed and entertaining to watch. These curious little creatures are becoming more and more popular as pets in the United States, as well as abroad.
As with any animal which is kept in captivity, one of the first questions you need to answer is: what am I going to feed them?
What do frogs and toads eat? Cheat list:
- Crickets—easy to buy, and can even be kept at home. If in doubt, crickets are your best bet.
- Worms—also readily available, worms are nutritious and pulpy, and are great feed for frogs and toads.
Frogs and toads are playful, curious animals. Setting up an enclosure is straightforward and affordable, and their habitat requires relatively little maintenance and attention. Much like snakes, frogs and toads are happiest if they’ve got a substrate into which they can burrow, a water bowl in which they can fully submerge themselves, and plenty of moisture in the air. When it comes to feeding, here’s what you need to know…
There are a bunch of different things you can feed frogs and toads. In many ways, they are not picky eaters at all—like pigs or rats, they will eat just about anything.
However, if you want to really look after your pet, and make sure it’s getting the best out of every meal, receiving all the nutrients it needs for its body size and maturity, and eating in the best environment, it’s important to know what, how and when to feed your pet.
In this guide, I’ll be talking about:
- The differences between toads and frogs, including differences in their respective diets;
- What frogs and toads like to eat in the wild, as opposed to what is best to feed them in captive environments;
- The advantages and disadvantages of a whole list of possible foodstuffs, from crickets to flies to worms and even small fish;
- How old a frog or toad should be before you start feeding it each of the foods;
- Whether frogs and toads can eat fresh vegetables and fruits, and if they’re as good for them as they are for us;
- Which foods you should avoid when feeding your pet frog or pet toad;
- How to go about feeding—in a separate tank, all at once, etc.—and how often to feed;
- And finally, how frogs and toads take on water. Hint: it’s not quite the same as us!
So, if you’re a frog or toad owner, want to be, or are just plain curious about how these amphibious creatures sustain themselves, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s dive in. Read on to find out more!
What are the differences between toads and frogs?
Everyone has a theory about what distinguishes frogs from toads – frogs are slick, toads are barnacled; frogs are venomous, toads are harmless; frogs ribbit, toads croak; frogs are bright colored, toads are dull brown; and so on.
So here’s to dispelling myths. It is true that in many ways, frogs and toads are very similar, and can be hard to tell apart. They are both amphibians, they both have the same long, hinged hind legs and shorter, thinner front legs, and they both like a lot of moisture. However, there are some important things to know when identifying frog from toad, or toad from frog.
- Technically speaking, toads are a classification of frog. By which I mean, toads are a kind of frog.
- Frogs like to live near or in water, whereas toads often find their way into gardens and yards.
- Frogs tend to have moist, slimy skin, while toads are drier, bumpier skin.
- If you manage to spot some frog or toad eggs, you can tell them apart quite easily: frog eggs are laid in a mass, recognizable as frogspawn, while toads lay their eggs in a chain formation. Neat, huh!
Do frogs and toads eat different things?
Frogs, and the sub-classification toads, are carnivorous, generalist and opportunistic predators. They happily eat just about anything, from arachnids to butterflies. Larger animals will eat larger prey, and some of the largest will even take on vertebrates, like mice!
Like I said, frogs are more likely to spent time in or around bodies of water, so larger frogs are more likely to take on fish than toads. But basically, their diets are the same as each other’s.
What do frogs and toads eat in the wild?
Frogs are not fussy. The most important thing is that they almost exclusively eat live prey. The only time when they do not prefer live prey is immediately before and after hatching. They first consume the nutritious yolk of their egg casing, and then spend a short time feeding on plant matter.
As a rule, juveniles sustain themselves on insects. Young frogs and toads are still very small, so they can only take on similarly sized prey.
Larger, more robust adult frogs and toads with larger appetites will contend with heavier prey. This is when they move onto the more serious meals. Here is a list of the most common prey animals of frogs and toads in the wild:
- Small insects like flies and mosquitoes;
- Larger insects like moths, locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches and dragonflies;
- Worms of all kinds;
- Mollusks, such as snails and slugs;
- Small mammals, including mice and other small rodents;
- Even small fish – depending on if their particular water body is inhabited by fish.
This list contains a stark contrast in size and texture, and reflects frogs’ and toads’ eating patterns over a whole life cycle, and for frogs big and small.
The three basic stages in the life cycle of a frog or toad are tadpole, juvenile and adult. A tadpole is not likely to try and take on a mouse in the wild, so you should not put the two together in captivity!
What should you feed frogs and toads in captivity?
Every species of frog has its own set of specific nutritional guidelines. However, it is easy enough to generalize when it comes to frog and toad diets. The list is basically the same as what wild specimens eat, except some are easier to buy than others. Most frog owners rely on crickets and worms, because they are the easiest to find in stores.
Size guide: When it comes to the food list below, it is vital that you do not feed your frog anything too large. They have delicate intestines, which can be impacted by anything too big, or too sharp.
The width of our frog’s head is a good gauge—anything wider than the width of your frog’s head could be harmful to its digestive tract, and too hard to mash up before swallowing.
Softer animals, such as earthworms, can be larger than this. Because they are softer and pulpier, they are less likely to damage the internal organs of the frog. Frogs can take on earthworms up to a length of 2 or even 3 times their head width. Any bigger than this, and it might just be too big for your frog’s stomach!
- Small insects: flies and mosquitoes
- Flies build up around the home, but can be tricky to funnel into your frog’s enclosure. If you can find a way of getting live flies and mosquitoes within range of your frog or toad, then go ahead. Otherwise, this might not be the most convenient foodstuff for your pet.
- These will likely form the backbone of your pet frog’s diet. This is not because they are the healthiest or most nutritious, but because they are the easiest to buy. They’re cheap, too. It is also easy to raise and keep crickets at home. So, if in doubt, get some crickets!
- Crickets can be introduced straight to your frog’s enclosure, as they will roam visibly and be caught swiftly.
- Grasshoppers and locusts
- These are not so readily available, but they provide some much needed nutritional variety to your frog’s diet. If you have to travel a little further to get your hands on live grasshoppers or locusts, consider it an investment in your pet’s nutritional wellbeing!
- The tough exoskeletons and long bodies of cockroaches make them suitable only for larger adult frogs.
- Worms, caterpillars and brine shrimp
- Mealworms and waxworms are a great, tasty snack for larger juvenile or adult frogs. Like crickets, they are easy to purchase at pet stores, and can be kept at home without any difficulty. They are also available for purchase at fishing supply stores, because they are used as bait.
- Caterpillars are becoming increasingly easy to find in pet stores. One thing to watch out for is the size of the caterpillar – make sure you’re not giving your pet more than it can chew!
- Bloodworms, brine shrimp, blackworms, and a variety of other small worms provide great sustenance for aquatic frogs, and are closer to what your aquatic frog would be eating in the wild anyway.
- Remove your frogs from their enclosure and introduce them to the worms in a separate location, without any burrowing substrate. This is because the worms will hide away and not be caught for a long time.
- Slugs and snails
- These are nutritious and readily available, but can be a bit of a mouthful for a juvenile frog. Best wait until your pet has reached adulthood before giving it something of this caliber.
- Larger, stronger and bonier, mice must only be fed to a frog or toad of sufficient size. Examples include Pacman frogs and African bullfrogs. As your frog grows, first give it ‘pinkies’—these are newborn mice. This way, you will be able to gauge your frog’s ability to take on mammalian prey, without endangering it!
- Bear in mind that most frogs will not eat frozen/defrosted prey—this includes mice.
- As your frog approaches adulthood, try giving it a ‘fuzzy’, or juvenile mouse. If it takes care of the mouse without any difficulty or risk to life, try giving it an adult mouse. Good luck!
- Smaller frogs, snakes, and baby turtles
- Yes, some frogs are cannibalistic. Like I said, they are not picky animals. As long as it’s alive, they’ll eat it. I’ve put this in this list to make it closer to exhaustive, but realistically this is not a sustainable food option for your pet frog. Rather, a larger, wild frog will sometimes take on one of the animals in this item.
- Aquatic frogs use their long tongues to snatch fish as they swim in rivers or ponds. If you can find a pet store which sells small, live fish, put some in your frog’s water bowl and see how quickly they get eaten!
Top tip: Use gut-loaded insects where possible—these are much more nutritious for your pet!
Gut-loaded insects have spent more than 24 hours feeding on vitamin-rich foods, like sweet potato. It basically makes them plumper and juicier for your pet frog.
If you can’t find any gut-loaded food, your frog may be at risk of Vitamin A deficiency. A handy way to get around this is by dusting your frog’s food with a supplement before feeding. They need calcium in their diet, which can be supplemented easily, with store-bought calcium/phosphorous supplements. Add this on every other feeding, if you’re using it.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ feeding program for frogs and toads, but hopefully you now have enough to get started! If in doubt, gut-loaded crickets should do the trick.
Food to avoid
- Anything too large – see the Size Guide box above.
- Frogs are at risk of intestinal impactions if their food is too big, or if it is sharp enough that they can’t mash it up sufficiently, in which case it could pierce their intestine walls.
- Fruits and vegetables, especially those which are too large (see below)
- After they graduate from tadpole to juvenile, wild frogs are carnivorous. This means they only eat meat, and preferably live meat. Some frog owners find that their pets enjoy occasional vegetal morsels, but in order to be sure that they are getting all the nutrients they have evolved to require, it is best to leave them on a predominantly carnivorous diet.
- Human table scraps.
- While the food off your own plate might seem luxurious for you, it is simply not what frogs like to eat. They are hunters, and like going after live prey. This is how they have evolved to live over many millions of years. Their preferred habits should be respected!
- Wild caught insects
- These pose a risk of exposure to pesticides, sadly, which can be life-threatening for your pet.
Can pet frogs and toads eat vegetables and fruits?
Pet frogs and toads have been known to eat fruits and vegetables, but it is fairly uncommon. The main thing to ensure is that you give them appropriately sized pieces. Giving an apple to a juvenile frog is pointless, because it cannot even pierce the skin. Even a grape is much too large for many frogs.
Try cutting a sweet potato or a banana into pieces just a few millimeters in diameter. If your frog eats it with delight, great! But it is more likely to prefer something meaty—or, at least, alive.
Feeding frequency: How much, and how often, do you feed them?
Frogs do not know when to stop. Much like their human owners, they are risk of obesity from eating too much. They will keep eating as long as there is food available. Sadly, though predictably, this can lead to serious illness! So, if you’re feeding your frog every day, be prepared to have a pretty overweight pet. Don’t worry though; these hungry animals just need some regulation.
Offer food in moderation, especially calorie-heavy meals, such as mice and fish. A good rule to go by is to feed your pet frog or toad every 2 or 3 days—or a few times per week. Adult frogs can easily get through 5-7 crickets in one feeding. Adjust this for the size of your frog, and the size of the crickets, or whichever other food you are working with.
‘Froglets’, or juveniles—frogs under 16 weeks—should be fed on a daily basis. Just remember not to give them meals which are too large to handle!
The good news is that even if your frog does get a bit fat, this is not necessarily injurious to its health. It will just lollop and waddle around a bit, until you reduce its feeding schedule to a more appropriate amount.
Good to know: Sometimes a frog will accidentally gobble up some of its substrate when shooting for a grasshopper. This is collateral, and not intentional, but it is part of what happens in the wild. To prevent any problems relating to accidental ingestion, keep your frog in an enclosure with a substrate that will not harm it.
For example, felt is a good base level substrate, as it does not separate. Bark and gravel are appropriate burrowing substrates, as they are naturally occurring, and either too large or heavy to be swept up into a frog’s mouth. Small bits of bark are soft enough to not be damaging.
How, and what, do frogs and toads drink?
A menu is not complete without something to drink. Every animal needs plenty of hydration, and frogs are no exception. They require fresh, clean and de-chlorinated water. Tap water is OK, especially if it is from a fresh spring. If not, it must be treated to remove the chlorine that is extant in most residential water pipe networks.
You can find de-chlorinators online or in aquarium supply stores. They are inexpensive and an essential investment into the health of your pet frog. If you’re in doubt about which one is appropriate, check the reviews or ask for advice.
If you’re serious about keeping a healthy frog, check with your municipal water supplier to find out what other chemicals might be floating about in your water supply—you never know until you check. Or, if you get your water from a well, test for any elements that could harm your frog.
Frogs do not drink
At least, not in the way we do. Instead, they absorb water through their skin, by a process called osmosis. We also perform osmosis, but only within our bodies, not from the outside to the inside.
Frogs have a patch of skin on their abdomen which absorbs water when it comes into contact with it. In order to ensure your frog is sufficiently hydrated, do the following:
- Supply a water bowl large enough for your frog to fully submerge itself.
- Spray the inside of the enclosure regularly with a mister.
- Install a hygrometer to test the humidity level. Frogs like a high level of humidity—toads like it slightly lower, so consult a specific guide for your frog to find out the optimum level.
I hope you have learned all that you need to learn, and that you come away from this guide with a greater appreciation for the humble frog!
As pets, they tend to be relaxed and easy to keep. They are curious and cute, adventurous and often social creatures. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below. We are always happy to receive your feedback and read your stories!
Thanks for reading. As always, share this guide with anyone who might find it useful. And good luck on your journey into the land of frogs!