Colorado River Toad Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name: Colorado River Toad
Scientific Name: Incilius alvarius
Life Span: 10 to 20 years (in captivity)
Size: From 3 to 8 inches
Habitat: Deserts, mountain canyons, mesquite-creosote bushlands
Country of Origin: Central Arizona to Southwestern New Mexico, Sinaloa, and Mexico. Also present in Southeastern California

Image Source

Physical Description

Known as one of the largest toads in Native America, the Colorado River Toad is a beautiful species that can grow from 3 to 8 inches. Their color can vary from green to greenish-gray. Meanwhile, the underside of these toads can vary from pale to creamy white. They also have that distinct white wart near their jaw. And just like any large toads that you’ll find today, it has large parotid glands, smooth leathery skin, some warts or large lumps on their hind legs. Their throats are unique to other toads that are found in North America because of its thick callosities that are dark in color. 

The eyes of these toads have an amazing color that ranges from orange to golden. These toads have horizontal pupils. You’ll also easily spot newly metamorphosed toadlets. It’s green in color, with some orange shade and apparent red spots on the dorsal surface. Also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, they are one of those species that can secrete toxic venom. One of their defense mechanism is to release mild venom which contains bufotenin and 5 MeO DMT. There have been reports of dogs that have been paralyzed or even fell dead after attacking the toads. Raccoons have found out the best way to eat these toads, and that is by biting and pulling the back leg of the frog, turning it on its back and feed on its belly. Also, these toads are known for their weak and low-pitched hoot calls. 

Life Span

Colorado River Toad can live 4 to 10 years in the wild. But their longevity can extend up to 20 years in captivity – provided that proper environment or habitat has been given. To extend their lifetime and encourage them to breed, replicating their natural environment is a must. These toads instinctively gather around pools and streams to breed. They usually breed during summer or warm season. The female Colorado River Toad can lay strands of black eggs that is about 7,000 to 9,000 in numbers. What females do is they lay their eggs in slow-moving streams of water. 

After mating, it takes about 1 to 4 days before the female begins to release the eggs in pools or man-made waters. Both in captivity and in the wild, the eggs should hatch within 2 to 15 days. Their pollywogs start metamorphosing after a month or two. They become juvenile frogs or toadlets. You should breed these toads from May to July. Also, you can adjust the temperature inside the enclosure to motivate them to breed or mate. 

Eating Habits

These toads are very easy to feed since they can eat almost anything that fits inside their mouth. Colorado River Toads are also voracious eaters since they can eat a mouse or 2 to 4 pinky mice in just a weak. Young toads can be given 20 to 25 live crickets every 5 days. It’s also advisable that you give them calcium supplements to boost their health and growth. And aside from feeding them with mice and crickets, you can also give them mealworms like hornworms, earthworms, and super worms. It’s also recommended that you give them dubia roaches once in a while. 

Since they have a diverse diet, Colorado River Toads can survive in the wild without any problem. They can eat different kinds of insects, lizards, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, snails, and even centipedes. They can also eat other toad or frog eggs. Their pollywogs eat algae or aquatic plants. One of their nature is to wait for their prey and struck once they see it within their range. 

Sleeping Habits

Colorado River Toads are nocturnal toads. They hunt and stay active during night time. During the daytime, they love to burrow underground to avoid heat. These toads rest or sleep during the day, and you shouldn’t handle them during this time. In the wild, the toads venture during the night not only to look for prey but also to search for their breeding partners. 

Development and Reproduction

Mating between male and female Colorado River frogs occur when rainfall seasons start to come. It begins 2 or 5 days after the rainfall measures more than an inch. These toads find permanent water when mating. If you want to breed them in captivity, then you have to remember that their breeding instincts are triggered once the rainfall season comes. These toads can breed in ponds, cattle tanks, backwaters, pools, reservoirs, and even in backwaters. Any shallow water would suffice. 

It’s the male Colorado River Toad that calls the female. The female then responds to the call of the male toad, which sounds like a whistling ferry boat. It’s also important to note that these females can be quite choosy. Improper husbandry can lead to unsuccessful breeding. But once the female is pleased with her partner, then the breeding mating begins. What female toads do is they deposit their stingers in ponds, pools, or shallow waters. She can lay up to more than 8,000 eggs is neat strings. Once you see the egg in the enclosure, you must separate the parents since these toads may also eat their eggs. 

Breeding Instruction

The key to successful breeding is by mimicking the natural habitat of these toads. Also, it’s very important that you only choose the best male and female toad. Try to check their health and whether or not they are fit to breed. Checking the age of the toad is also critical. Find out whether or not they already have reached their sexual maturity. The enclosure should also be prepared. Place some shallow water bowl or water dish for the female to lay her eggs. Make sure as well that the enclosure is clean. 

The patient is required when it comes to breeding Colorado River Toads. There are some essential adjustments that you have to make. When breeding, you have to first gradually change the temperature. Try to increase the temperature replicating the month of March. Be sure that you also feed them with healthy meals. Then after several months, it’s then time for you to stimulate them to breed. You can do this by heavily misting the cage or terrarium. You have to do this at least twice or thrice a week. 

Check the health of the female and inspect whether or not they are already suitable for mating. Grab the female and try to palpate their abdomen. You need to feel their bellies and check if it already contains adequate egg. Once everything is set, and you think that you already got the best male, then it’s time for you to place them in the same enclosure. Inside the enclosure, you have to make sure that you create a rain chamber. You can do this by just creating 2 submersible filters and 2 plastic totes. Also, you’re going to need 2 small size recirculating pumps. Never used strong pumps since this can destroy or damage the eggs. Place the pump in each of the plastic totes. 

Creating a small cage around the pump that you’ve placed is also a must. Remember to place the filter. It’s also advisable that you place a fine mesh on the main chamber. This acts as a cover. The water cascading above the tote should replicate the sound and activity of falling rain. Allow this process to continue and make sure that there is no spillage of water cascading on the enclosure. Make sure that the water doesn’t go beyond 6 inches. Also, it’s recommended that you place items such as stones inside the enclosure. Don’t place sharp items inside the cage since this can injure your toads. These items should serve as something they can hold on to when they become exhausted during the mating. 

After mimicking the activity of rain, try to observe the behavior of your toads. If you’ve provided them the right environment, then you can expect the male toads to create a call. This is where the amplexus begins. Check if you see any eggs in the water. And as soon as you see their eggs, then it’s time for you to transfer the male and female toad to their respective cages or enclosures. Never forget to remove the toads since they would most likely eat their eggs. After a few days, the tadpoles should start emerging. You can feed them using algae, aquatic plant, and even flaked fish food. 

You have to maintain the cleanliness inside the enclosure. Try to get rid of any leftovers. Frequently check for rotten foods inside the enclosure. Also, it’s important to note that cleaning the water daily helps boost your toads’ health. Daily water changes also prevent them from acquiring diseases. Although these toads are quite easy to breed since they can recognize their keepers, you have to be very careful when handling them since one of their defense mechanism is to secrete venom. 

Common Health Problems 


One of the most common health problems that toad encounter is dehydration. Physical symptoms include drying and wrinkling of the skin. You must regularly monitor the temperature inside the enclosure. You also have to provide these toads the right humidity. Also, the lack of water inside the cage can lead to dehydration as well. To treat dehydration, it’s vital that you mist or soak your Colorado River Toads. You should also clean them and the enclosure to prevent bacteria, parasites, and other opportunistic infections. 

Internal Parasites

Parasites can be deadly to your pet toads, and they come in different forms. Commonly seen parasites in Colorado River Toads are tapeworms. These parasites invade the internal organs of the species and will start wreaking havoc in their system. There are instances wherein there are no noticeable physical symptoms of internal parasites. Check if your pet is experiencing dramatic weight loss, loss of appetite, and even regurgitation. You can palpate the body or the skin of your pet to check for subcutaneous parasites. It’s also essential that you go to your vet and let the professionals do fecal and blood analysis to confirm the diagnosis and advice proper treatment. 

Fungal Infection

Fungal infection can invade your pet’s body the same as parasites. Physical symptoms of fungal infections include slimy and whitish threading on skin. You’ll also notice that their skin begin to look fuzzy – discoloration can also happen. Their white tissues start to swell or inflamed and become color read. Cleaning your water is very important since fungus and fungal spores thrive in dirty water conditions. Also, another cause of this infection is poor husbandry. Fungal infection can be transmitted from one toad to another. The best treatment solution is to go to the nearest veterinarian in your area. 


The physical symptoms of dropsy include bloating and softening of the abdominal skin. Mode of transmission can be poor hygiene which leads to bacterial infection or poor husbandry. To treat this health problem, you have to consult with a reputable veterinarian. The professional will carefully aspirate the body fluid inside your pet’s body and disinfect the punctured wound. 

Metabolic Bone Disease

This health problem is not only found in toads but also reptiles. A toad that is affected by this disease suffers from calcium deficiency. Their bones become more brittle and break very easily. If left untreated, Metabolic Bone Disease can lead to paralysis and even death. To detect whether or not the toad has acquired this disease, you have to gently squeeze their jaw. If you think that it easily “gives” or is too soft to squeeze, then most probably your toad is suffering from it. Also, toads look more bent and lethargic. Their limbs also start to swell. To treat this disease, you have to make sure that you provide proper diet and nutrition to your pets. It’s also recommended that you expose them to sunlight. But to ensure that your toad will not suffer any serious complications, you have to go to your nearest veterinarian. 

Burns, Cuts, Scrapes

Burns can happen to your toads if they are exposed to too much heat. It’s mostly localized, and you’ll notice that their skin becomes redder. You’ll also notice blisters in the affected area. To treat this, you have to consult your veterinarian and rinse them with povidone-iodine solution. Injuries can also happen even in captivity. Make sure that you don’t place any sharp objects or surfaces inside the terrarium. You should also make sure that the rocks and screens are smooth. If cuts and scrapes happen, clean the affected area with povidone-iodine solution and go to the nearest veterinarian before it gets worse. 

Preventing Diseases and Illnesses 

To prevent these diseases, you must always provide the right environment for your Colorado River Toads. This is why you must do some reading or research first before you adopt a pet. Try to find out what habitat you need to mimic and how you’ll adjust the temperature and humidity. Providing improper habitat can make your toad sick. If you’re a beginner, then you should ask for tips and advice from people you know who have raised and bred these kinds of toads before. You can also join online forums where people gather together and share insights on how to healthily raise Colorado River Toads. 

Going to the veterinarian and having your toads checked once in a while is also a good practice. This can also effectively prevent diseases and illnesses. But before you go to a particular veterinarian. You have to make first that they indeed specialize in treating and handling Colorado River Toads. You must ask them about their background history and try to find out whether or not they have adequate experience. The more experience they have, the more efficient they are providing care and treatment to your beloved toads. Don’t forget to also ask for tips from your fellow toad keepers about which vet you should trust. 


These toads are not aggressive but once threatened, they will secrete a milky-white substance from there under their jaw, which is the paranoid glands. Toxins or venoms coming from these toads can cause vomiting, nausea, and dizziness. Without medical intervention, the victim may die. Colorado River Toads are also nocturnal, and they love to burrow underground during the day. They love occupying habitats that are damp and moist. This is why you can mostly find them in both woodlands and grasslands. 

They love hiding beneath crevices and rocks. Anything that provides cool shade is a great place for them to rest and hide from the scorching heat of the sun. As the night approaches, the toads become hungry, and this is where they begin to hunt for prey. As mentioned earlier, Colorado River Toads have an incredible appetite, hence they grow in a very rapid rate in the wild. Their breeding season starts at May and can extend up to August. Male toads are smaller than the female ones. When mating, the male exhibits amplexus where he firmly embraces the female toad. 


The toads are equipped with a deadly defense mechanism. The secret 5-MeO-DMT, which is a very powerful psychedelic tryptamine. These secretions have a psychedelic effect just like psychedelic mushrooms or magic mushrooms. They only secrete these toxins only when they feel like they are trapped, cornered, and threatened. 


We could not emphasize more how important it is for you to provide these toads the right environment. Make sure that everything is set and that you already set up the terrarium or enclosure before acquiring the toad. Remember that these toads are deadly and as much as possible, you want to make sure that you avoid handling them. Here are some of the few guidelines that you need to follow to provide your toads the right environment or habitat.  


It’s recommended that you place your toads in a tank or enclosure that has the 20-gallon capacity. Be sure as well that the lid is secured since these species are great escapers and they are super fast and strong. You should also make sure that you provide them the right substrate where they can burrow. Some breeders prefer vermiculite while some prefer coconut husk. You can also see enclosures that use sand or soil as a substrate. Although you can also use aquarium gravel, you are advised to avoid them since these gravels might be swallowed by the toad. 

Regularly misting of the substrate is also crucial. Be sure that you always keep it moist. A dry terrarium or enclosure can lead to different kinds of illnesses and diseases. Also, don’t forget to set up a water bowl or water dish with filtered water. It should be deep enough for the toad to soak or sit on the bottom. Be careful not to put a very deep water dish since these toads are not good swimmers and drowning is a possibility. Replace the water every other day or every 3 days. 

Light and Heat

Keeping the right temperature is also crucial if you want your toads to live a happy and healthy life. It’s recommended that the enclosure or terrarium has a temperature between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. These toads don’t need any supplemental light source since they are nocturnal. Using low powered or low watt bulb is also recommended since it doesn’t disrupt their circadian rhythm. 


Since these toads are nocturnal, it’s recommended that you feed them during night time to retain natural feeding pattern. You can feed them with spiders, snails, grasshoppers, beetles, and centipedes. You can also give them small lizards or mice once in a while. Worms are also their favorites – feed them with waxworms and mealworms. And to ensure that they have strong bones and muscle, it’s recommended that you give them calcium powder. 


Proper handling is truly critical when owning this kind of toad. Remember that these toads can produce toxins that can kill a human being. This is why it’s only recommended for breeders or keepers who have adequate experience in handling poisonous or venomous species. There are already countless reports about dogs, and human beings get paralyzed because they ingested the toxin that’s coming from the paratoid glands of these toads. When handling them, be sure that you always wear your gloves. Don’t touch your face until you thoroughly washed your hands with soap. You should wash your hands before and after handling them. 


You shouldn’t use tap water since they usually contain chlorine. Fill the water dish with water that is either filtered or de-chlorinated. You can also use spring water. It’s worth knowing that these toads do not drink water but what they do to stay hydrated is they absorb water through their skin. And again, make sure that you don’t provide them water that can get over their head. The bowl or dish should be shallow enough for them to soak. Also, don’t forget to change the water frequently to avoid bacterial and fungal infections. Clean water can also help prevent parasites inside the terrarium or enclosure. 

How to Care for Colorado River Toad

Providing the right environment and proper space ensures that your toad will be able to live a fit and healthy life. You want to avoid overcrowding, and you want to make sure that the enclosure is large enough for them to do various activities such as mating, burrowing, jumping, eating, and roaming. You should always make sure that you also maintain cleanliness inside the enclosure. Cleanliness is important if you want your toads to remain healthy. Regular cleaning and maintenance is a must if you want the toads to avoid acquiring different kinds of sickness and diseases. 

Replicating their natural habitat can also help in extending their longevity. Again, always conduct online research before you decide on owning a particular species. You should also make sure that you provide them the right amount of nutrition. Malnutrition and nutrient deficiency can happen if you don’t properly feed the toads. Also, you have to be very careful when it comes to overfeeding them. And more importantly, apart from providing care to your toads, you should also make sure that you practice safe handling since these toads can paralyze or kill both humans and animals through their toxins. 

FAQ Section

How do you identify Colorado River Toad?

These toads have smooth skins, and their color varies from brown to olive-green. They have cranial crests and have paratoid glands that secrete toxins. 

Where do these Colorado Toads Live?

 They love semi-arid areas, although there are also reports where these toads are seen roaming in the desert. These toads are rampant in Colorado River and Gila River. These toads can also be found in Mexico, New Mexico, and California. 

Is it legal to own a Colorado River Toad?

Yes. It’s legal to own or pet this kind of toad. However, there are some states where carrying them across the border is illegal. 

What happens if you touch or lick the Colorado River Toad?

Licking the toad can be very deadly and fatal since they secrete toxins that can affect your heart. These toxins can also paralyze both human and animals?

Are they considered as endangered species?

No. They have a very stable population. 

Collared Lizard Care Sheet

Common Musk Turtle Care Sheet