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How Big Do Toads Get? Records, Tips, & FAQ

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

close up of a cane toad

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between toads and frogs. Both animals are amphibians, but the similarities end there. Toads, for example, have dry skin and warts, whereas frogs have wet skin and no warts. Toads also create and secrete poison to defend themselves from predators, which most (but not all) frogs do not.

One question you might have is how big toads get. While there’s no definitive answer, the cane toad (Rhinella marina or Bufo marinus) is considered the largest in the world and can reach 9 inches (about 23 centimeters) in length and weigh upwards of 4 pounds!

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What Is the Largest Toad on Record?

Cane toads are native to Central and South America and can also be found in the southern half of the United States. They are typically 4 to 6 inches long and weigh between 2 and 3 pounds.

Cane toads were purposefully introduced to Australia sometime in the early half of the 20th century to control beetles. Today, however, they are considered an invasive species. Cane toads are voracious eaters and, in Australia, have no natural enemies.

These conditions have helped the cane toad grow to much larger sizes and spread quickly in Australia. Toadzilla”, a cane toad found in Conway National Park in Queensland, Australia, was found in 1981 and tipped the scales at 5.95 pounds!

Although slightly smaller, a pet cane toad in Sweden named Prinsen (“the Prince”) is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as weighing 5.81 pounds, which is also quite impressive.

hands holding a cane toad
Image Credit: reptiles4all, Shutterstock

Do Toads Get Bigger than Frogs?

Frogs are typically longer than toads due to their surprisingly long legs. For example, the largest frog species, the Goliath frog, can grow longer than 1 foot. Compare that to the Cane toad and its 9.4-inch length, and the Goliath frog is nearly 25% longer.

It’s important to note that, while longer, frogs usually weigh less than toads. Toads don’t jump long distances like frogs, so they are typically stouter and, thus, heavier.

What Is the Smallest Species of Toad in North America?

The Oak toad is the smallest species and usually attains a length of about 1 ¾ inches. You can find Oak toads in the southern half of the United States, typically in pine barrens. One interesting fact about the oak toad is that, unlike most species, they are active during the day rather than at night.

an oak toad on sand
Image Credit: stephen curah, Shutterstock

Do Toads Make Good Pets?

While some people might find their outward appearance repugnant, toads can make good pets under the right circumstances. However, it’s helpful to understand that toads are a bit like aquarium fish; they’re much better to look at than handle.

The are several reasons why you shouldn’t handle toads. First, they secrete toxins through their skin that can make you sick. Also, when toads get stressed, one of the first things they do is urinate. Picking up a toad is stressful for the animal and usually results in a handful of urine.

Toads can also carry salmonella, which, if you touch them, can be transferred to you and others and cause you to become ill. If you handle your pet toad, you should wash your hands thoroughly when you’re finished before touching anything else.

However, toads are known to recognize their owners, or at least recognize that they probably have food when they approach them. Cane toads, American toads, Oak toads, Tomato toads, and several others are regularly kept as pets.

What was the Biggest Toad Ever on Earth?

In 1993 in Madagascar, paleontologist David Krause from New York’s Stony Brook University discovered the bones of a toad so large that it might have been able to kill and eat baby dinosaurs! Estimates have the toad weighing upwards of 10 pounds and being 16 inches in length! It was so big that the toad was named Beelzebufo, or “devil toad.” Like the dinosaurs, the toads no longer exist.

closeup of a cane toad sitting in the grass
Image Credit: Johan Larson, Shutterstock

Is it Safe to Eat Toad Legs?

In Australia, where the Cane toad is a pest that they’re trying desperately to control, they’re looking into eating them. According to Professor Philip Hayward from Southern Cross University, eating the cane toad is safe if the toxic parts are removed. The eyes, shoulders, ovaries, and eggs are the most toxic.

Some chefs have published safe methods for preparing the Cane toad for cooking, which include freezing them first so that toxins don’t spread through its body.

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Tips on Keeping Your Toad Healthy and Happy

Below are a few excellent tips to help you keep your pet toad happy. Although the size and species of toads vary, our tips can be used for any species.

Ensure the Tank Is Large Enough

Toads like the Cane toad can get, as we’ve seen, quite large and will need a larger area to live and stay in healthy condition. The Oak toad, however, is tiny and can survive in a much smaller tank. Between 10 and 20 gallons should be fine for most toads.

Get the Correct Substrate

You don’t want to get gravel or small bark chips for your toad since they’re too rough. Also, if they ingest these substrates, it could cause your toad intestinal blockages. The best substrates are coconut fiber, cypress mulch, and dampened sphagnum moss.

Keep the Humidity Around 50% to 60%

Anything higher, even 70%, could be harmful to your toad. Anything less could dry out their skin. You can increase humidity by misting your toad’s tank with water.

oriental fire bellied toad on the substrate
Image Credit: worldswildlifewonders, Shutterstock

Use the Right Lighting

Most toads need between 10 and 12 hours of daylight per day. Of course, that’s nearly impossible inside your home, so low-level UVB lighting is recommended. You should also provide a place or two in your toad’s tank where they can hide to escape the light source when needed.

Keep Your Toad’s Tank Clean

You should thoroughly clean your toad’s living space once a month using a 3% bleach solution. When you do, remove the toad and put them in a secure holding area. After thoroughly cleaning and rinsing, dry everything and add fresh substrate before placing your pet back inside.

Ensure the Temperature Stays in the 70s

Most toads do well when the temperature is in the mid-to-upper 70s. The easiest way to provide heat is with an under-tank heating pad. However, the heating pad should only be under half the tank so that your toad has a place to cool off when necessary.

Image Credit: Jay Ondreicka, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

While not the biggest amphibians on Earth, toads can get surprisingly large. Although they don’t grow as large as frogs, some are heavier than frogs. The Cane toad weighs 3 to 4 pounds and is almost 10 inches long! That’s the size of a small cat, a rabbit, a chicken, or a guinea pig! Toads make good pets for those intrigued by amphibians, but they won’t you cuddle with on the sofa!

Featured Image Credit: Patrick K. Campbell, Shutterstock

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