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Do Toads Drink Water? Vet-Approved Science & Info

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

toad in the water

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Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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Toads do consume water but they technically don’t drink it. Instead, these animals have a hidden superpower: permeable skin! This enables them to absorb water from their surroundings directly into their bodies. That said, they still need access to a water source at all times to meet their hydration needs.

Did this surprising behavior of toads pique your curiosity? Read on as we explore in more detail how these warty charmers manage to quench their thirst!

frog divider hepper

How Do Toads Drink?

Toads do not drink water. Instead, they absorb it through their skin, which they must keep hydrated to survive. Amphibians like toads (and frogs) have a high rate of water loss, which can be deadly if that water is not replenished quickly. This is why they prefer to stay near bodies of water most of the time – though notably, toads venture slightly farther away from water than frogs do.

Fortunately, many species of toads and frogs have a unique area on their ventral skin called a seat patch (or “drinking patch”), which enables rapid water absorption. The size and location of this patch vary among species and are associated with behavioral and physiological adaptations for water intake.

cane toad in the water
Image Credit: Gualberto Becerra, Shutterstock

How Does a “Drinking Patch” Work?

When these amphibians come across a wet surface (like a small pond), they will position their bodies to press their seat patch against it, enabling them to absorb water. This position is called the “water absorption response.”

These animals also have physiological adaptations that help control how quickly they absorb water. This is done through specific hormones, which can affect the permeability of the seat patch in various ways, including changes to skin conductance, blood flow, and seat patch water potential. However, the exact mechanisms behind these adaptations are not yet fully understood.

Do Toads Need a Water Bowl?

Yes! Toads need access to a fresh water source for daily soaking and replenishing their water losses. But it’s essential to keep a couple of things in mind when selecting the water source for your pet toads:

  • First, ensure that they can easily enter and exit the bowl. Toads are not great swimmers and need to be able to climb out of the bowl whenever they wish. Alternatively, you can place toads in a paludarium with an area of shallow water (no more than 1-2 inches in depth for most toad species). Ensure your toad can comfortably sit in the water with their head comfortably above the water surface.
  • Second, the water must be changed daily to prevent bacterial growth, which could make your toad sick. It’s also essential to dechlorinate the water, which can be done with a good water dechlorinator.
cane toad in water bowl
Image Credit: Huaykwang, Shutterstock

Tips for Keeping Your Toad Hydrated

Here are other tips to make sure your toad stays hydrated:
  • Choose an appropriate substrate for their tank. A good substrate must be able to hold moisture well. Coir, sphagnum moss, or a mixture of the two can be excellent choices for toad habitats. These substrates retain water, helping to maintain a comfortable level of humidity.
  • Get rid of all chemicals. Make sure the water that you provide your toads is free of harmful chemicals, such as chlorine or pesticides. Toads are incredibly sensitive to these, precisely because of their ability to absorb water through their skin.
  • Mist their tank. Spray your toad’s environment regularly to keep the humidity level at an optimal level (ideally around 65% to 80%).

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Final Thoughts

Toads have mastered the art of quenching their thirst due to their permeable skin. Some species even have a unique vascular area on their belly called the seat patch, which enables them to make the most of any moist surface that they encounter.

That said, you still need to provide a bowl of fresh, clean water for your friendly pet toad, even though they won’t use it for drinking—at least not the way that you do!

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Featured Image Credit: viktori-art, Shutterstock

Genevieve Dugal

Authored by

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the prou...Read more

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