Surinam / Suriname Toad Care Sheet

Suriname Toad

Scientific Facts 

Common Name:Surinam Toad / Suriname Toad
Scientific Name:Pipa pipa
Life Span:8 to 12 Years in captivity
Size:8 inches (adults)
Habitat:Murky ponds and swamps
Country of Origin:Eastern region of South America, and Trinidad


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The world is full of wonderful animals, including amphibians and reptiles. Various species are intriguing colors, behaviors, and shapes. This frog, which belongs to the genus Pipa, is a strange miracle. They have got a strange shape and very unconditional ways to propagate. In addition, they do well in their aquarium. 

This genus is a part of Family Pipidae. It has 7 species. Of all these species, P. pipa and P. Parva are the most represented in man’s hobby.

  • P. arrabali, 
  • P. myersi, P. parva, 
  • P. snethlageae
  • P. aspera, 
  • P. carvalhoi, 
  • P. pipa e

Physical Description

Surinam Toad has a strange appearance making them attractive to keepers. This animal is very flat, and the shape of its body is nearly square. In addition, its jaw is very wide, and its head is flat as well and triangular in shape. The eyes are comparatively small and have black color, which is beadlike and lidless.  All over its body and around the mouth, it has brills and kinds of frill. This is useful for camouflage. 

The females are distinguished from the males by a swelling found at the cloaca that is ring-shaped. it can only be seen when they are ready for breeding. Averagely, male pipa pipa grows up to 10 to 15 centimeters long and female is 14 to 17 centimeters. Pipa pipa is one of the largest species that belongs to the tongueless frog. The body color is grey or irregularly brown. 

Their hind legs are very powerful and long. Their toes are equipped fully with webbing found between their toes. Their forelegs are nearly extended along with their faces while their fingers are stretched out. Each finger has an organ that is a star shape. It shows sensitivity to change in pressure at the end of the fingers. This organ sets them apart from the other species.

They move across their habitat. Once prey is spotted, they open their mouth quickly and make a suction effect. This way, the prey is entirely swallowed. They make use of their legs in front to clamp the prey, let them slide inside their mouths. 

Natural Origin and Habitat

Pipa pipa is largely distributed in and around the Orinoco River Delta and the Amazon. They can also be found in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Suriname, Tobago, Venezuela, Trinidad, and Tobago as well in the north and middle of South America. 

They live in rivers, lakes, pools, streams, creeks, and small waters. For this species, clean water is so important. During the dry season, when there is not enough water, they dig themselves under the mud to wait for the rainy season. 

The waters in the areas mentioned are poor as caused by the tannins that come from leaves in the water and rotten wood. Underwater vegetation is moderate to absent. They hide in the bottom between the branches, leaves, and stems that sunken. The water there is soft, and pH values vary depending on the range that is 4.5-6 pH and season.

Life Cycle of Surinam Toad

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Stage 1: Tadpole

After fertilization, remove them from an adult’s home. The eggs will hatch in about 2 weeks. When hatched, they will look like small fish and get air through their gills and not lungs.

Stage 2: The Maturing Tadpole


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The tadpoles continue to grow and eventually change in the next few weeks. External gills become internal as their lungs are being developed. Their hind legs will be developed too. They will need an aquarium that has land and water area this time.

Stage 3: Toadlet

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More changes happen. Lungs are developed, and so with the forearms. They spend more of their time on land. By 3 months, it is now a toadlet. The tail is gone. It can breathe oxygen. They are smaller versions of their parents and eats by grabbing the food. give them some food with adults like crickets. keep them in another tank. 

Stage 4: Adult Toad


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Within twelve to sixteen weeks, toadlet becomes an adult. After a year, surinam toads are ready to mate.


Pipa pipa is still and quiet. They rest on each other, not causing any disturbances. They keep lying on the bottom, going back to the surface every half hour. Voluntarily, they don’t leave the water. At first, the young may find difficulty in diving and stay near the water’s surface. They can start snapping food right away. After a month, they can swim and dive like adults. 

They are active between sunrise and sunset. At daytime, they spend time hiding the vegetation and between leaves. They just move when they have to go to the surface to breathe or when disturbed. They are indeed ambushed, hunters. They rely on the good camouflage they have and wait for prey. They only hunt when they are really hungry. They swim very well in the water as they are powerful swimmers. However, when on the land, they move awkwardly due to their poor sight and physic.

As a mating call, males use a series of quick clicking sounds. When females are not ready, they quiver to show rejection. After the reproduction, both sexes separate. The young pipa pipa emerges generally from their pouches with their own power, but the mother can extend pressure to force her young to emerge. 

In the aquarium, mothers don’t eat their young even when they close near their mouth or touch their hands. To challenge territory or fights, the male makes a single clicking sound. There in the aquarium, they are seen to charge each other, bite, kick and butt heads. 

Food and Feeding Habit


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These frogs are aquatic omnivores. Their favorites include blackworms, earthworms, insects, crustaceans, guppies, mollies, shiners, and more. Vary the food you give.  They use their sensitive and long fingers found on their forelimbs to look for food on the pond’s bottom because they lack tongue. In addition, they use their forelimbs to serve their food, going to their mouth. 

When under captivity, they are not the type of picky eaters. The specimens caught in the wild need time to adjust and adapt. They can be fed with the light turned off. This species is the most active but less shy. They readily accept fish. Feed them also with soft shrimps, mussel, and tubifex. Offer them 4 times a week average. Note that these frogs have an enormous diet and appetite; thus, it is advised to house those of the same size. Otherwise, the small ones will serve as a portion of food to the big ones. 

You can let the fish stay with the frogs as they tend to eat only at night when it has acclimated, but make sure to adjust the fit to the temperature of the water in the aquarium. This way, your frogs don’t get a disease from the stressed fish. 

When you use earthworms, put them in a tank at night. These worms can survive for eight hours under the water. put just one worm first. Remove it when it remains uneaten. Often times, these frogs tend to swallow gravel when eating. Thus, your aquariums should be bare-bottomed. If the substrate is used, don’t feed them with blackworms give earthworms use a plastic tong instead. Once your Surinam toads get well habituated, they eat prawn as well as other non-living food. Start with live food; then, you can integrate canned snails or shrimp. 

Skin and Colouration

These toads are brown, grey, and olive in terms of color. Their skin has a warty protuberance cover. There are also small tentacles from their chin and in the corners of their jaw. Some have a dark grey line that is extended from the middle of the throat down to their abdomen’s end. This line is called the seam. There is a horizontal bar that runs across their chest, which meets the top of the seam. This produces a ‘T’ shape. Generally, these toads are like dead or decaying bodies because of their flat body, drab color, and motionless state on the pond’s bottom. Nonetheless, it very vital for hunting.

The Life of a Surinam Toad

Pipa Pipa is totally aquatic despite moving to the land during the rainy days. It swims to the surface to breathe but stays for more hours under the water. They don’t have teeth or tongue. They probe sediments for their food using their fingers. They sweep their prey into their mouths or suction to eat. Like fish, these toads have a lateral line on both sides of their bodies. This line is a way to adapt to aquatic life. Additionally, it helps toads to detect animal movements in the water. that is definitely a tool to detect prey. 



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Despite their size, they don’t require a large tank or aquarium. 70 liters for each animal is enough. This is because of their inactive type of lifestyle. A good size aquarium would be 100x50x50cm.


Once well-habituated, your frogs can adjust and tolerate different water values. It is preferred to have an average pH of 6.5 to 7. If it goes too high, it will lead to skin problems. To reduce the hardness, add elder buds, dead leaves, and sphagnum. These materials contain bacterial and fungal inhibitory effect. Change it every week to fourteen days on an average of twenty to thirty % of water. It is done to prevent too much contamination. Use a water preparatory to neutralize the possible harmful substance in the tap water before you add them to your tank. 

These animals excrete waste when eating, so use an external filter having a big filtering area. These frogs don’t require a particular water flow. You can heat your tank with a thermostat at 25 to 26 C. don’t let your frogs go near the thermostat to avoid getting burned. Put cover as protection or separate the heater. 


To replicate a natural day or night cycle, you may use a fluorescent light to illuminate your tank. Do it 11.5 to 13.5 hours daily based on the type of season you are creating. Don’t forget to put a lot of hides and shades. They don’t like bright lights. Use more plants or cork bark to have more shades. 


Again, it is recommended to keep your bottom bare due to the fact that these are somehow chaotic when eating. As said earlier, they tend to eat the gravel on the substrate. Eating gravel or other objects leads to problems in the gastrointestinal or GI tract. This method of housing them doesn’t need much maintenance. Therefore, giving enough shelters is important. An option is to use a layer of dried leaves, but if you insist on using sand, use, the soft one doesn’t mix pebbles and sharp gravel.  


Your Pipa Pipa loves hiding so much, so let them be. Give them a lot of chances. Use tropical woods as well as plants for decoration and hiding. They love hanging themselves between submerged plants and roots.


It is somehow not good to combine fish with Pipa Pipa. A lot of big fishes bring damage to the frog and eats newborn frogs during the reproduction. In conclusion, it is not wise to mix fishes with amphibians. 


Never ever handle them using your bare hand. Our hangs can contain substances that can be absorbed by the frog’s skin and cause harm to them. Thus, wearing latex gloves and changing them for handling another frog is a preventive measure for viral spread and contamination. 

These frogs don’t like being picked up and swims quickly when threatened. When they are handled, they move back and forth, which can result in damaging themselves with their rough movement. Get them using a fishnet. This will let you lift it quickly. They have powerful legs and can jump, so be cautious of it. 



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As 18 to 24 months pass by, your frogs are now sexually mature and can go reproduction in the wet season, having high water level and low water temperature. You can mimic the season by an increase in the temperature to 27 degrees Celsius and decrease the water up to 40 cm. do the same with the ph level. Extend your lighting to 13.5 hours. 

Then after stimulation, mating can happen, and as their mating activity goes up, add the water level to 80 cm. this is required for their mating position. Lower the temperature to 24 or 25 C. the ph level goes back to an average level and lessens the illumination to 10.5 to 12 hours daily. 

The males call is heard in the night and is similar to a metallic clicking sound. The paired females will have a thick layer of skin on their backs during this time. this is where the eggs will be stored as their cloaca will swell up. 

Put a male and more than one female to avoid the female being injured by many male frogs. Amplexus tend to start so turbulently but goes back to normal after fertilization. While mating, they swim in a vertical loop. When finished, the female deposits 1 to 10 eggs. These eggs are fertilized in the thickened skin layer found at the female’s back. Each clutch has forty to a hundred eggs. After mating and the female’s back closes, take the male out to give the female enough time to rest. 


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The eggs will go through development, and larvae will hatch. Let them stay on the back of there until they change to young frogs. When these young frogs are ready, they crawl out from their mother’s back and go swimming to the surface to breathe. Egg’s development takes fifteen to eighteen weeks, but that all depends on the water temperature and feeding of the young. Add waterfalls and rotifer on the last stage of the young frog’s development.

Raising the Young

The two main elements are sufficient food and clean water. separate the young in plastic container or aquarium having a ten-centimeter depth of water. a small tank will teach them to find food easily. Include dead leaves and floating plants for them to hide. Use a simple air cotton filter to clean the water. cotton filters the fine waste is coming from the young. Change the water weekly. You get some water from the mother aquarium.

These young pipas eat so much, so they grow fast. They are fed on live foods such as water fleas, young little fish, and more. later, they will learn how to eat a thawed type of food. Groups should be of the same size to avoid eating the small ones. When they are growing, transfer them to a larger home. They can get the same care as their parents get. 

Population Status

Surinam Toads are classified as Least Concern. Their population is threatened by loss of habitat due to deforestation, water pollution, agriculture, and pet trade. On the red list, it is endangered. At the moment, their population seems to be okay.

Interesting Facts 

1. They look like a mottled brown leaf. 

2. They have very small eyes. 

3. They don’t sit using their front limbs. They are in a splayed position. Their arms and legs are pointed outwards.

4. Their toes are star-shaped. 

5. They suction their food since they don’t have teeth or tongue. 

6. For a long time, they hold their breath. They stay under the water for an hour. 

7. Their skin has bumpy projections.

8. Their call when their mate is different compared to other frogs. They don’t attract the females using croaks. 

9. They execute somersault mid-coitus.

10. Egg incubation happens on the female’s back. Mother’s skin grows up, forming pockets like a honey-comb. That is where eggs are kept. 

11. They have a dull color on their upper bodies, including the body. 

12. They have no lids in their eyes. They have a star-gazing look. 

13. Their hind legs are large and muscular, making them powerful swimmers. 

14. They are sexually dimorphic. Both sexes show differences. Males are smaller than females. 

15. Their eyes are designed to look at all directions detecting threats. 

16. They are collected often from the wild and used for pet trading. Those in thrives are safe.

Housing and Husbandry-Related Conditions

Water Quality 

For most amphibians, water sustains their life. Small changes in the quality of water lead to diseases or death. Take a water sample when you take your toad to the vet. Dissolved oxygen, ammonia, chlorine, pathogens, and others have to be tested. You can treat chlorine toxicity with sodium thiosulfate baths or freshwater baths.


Many amphibians are aquatic, but the terrestrials should have proper humidity, or else they can experience chronic dehydration and desiccation. All types of amphibians can survive some degree of dehydration with no damage, but it could lead to kidney damage when it lasts longer. 

Symptoms are sunken eyes, change in color, thick slime coat, and dry skin. Feeding and activity will decrease. Treat by putting them into water that has no chlorine and much oxygen. Supplemental fluids could be given in difficult situations. Go to your vet. 


Again, their skin is sensitive and delicate. Bags or abrasive nets can cause harm to their skin. Furniture in the tank causes damage and infection. In addition, bite and fight wounds as well as nose rubbing on-screen or glass can be a reason for infection.thus, you should cover the glass with paint or change the metal screen to soft nylons and separate the small from the large or the aggressive ones. Address the injury with first aid or antibiotic.

Hypothermia or Hyperthermia

Hypothermia will not cause death if diagnosed early. Rewarm your toad to the proper temperature. Don’t expose to cool temperatures for a long time. as a remedy, do immune suppression. 

Signs are incoordination, hyperactivity, and lethargy. Put them in chlorine-free and freshwater. they need corticosteroids and fluids. 


They are so sensitive to toxins from the environment. This is because of the permeable skin and body ratio. Iodine, ammonia, chlorine, and others are toxic. Plastic containers can absorb these toxins. Therefore, glass or stainless steel is ideal. 

Symptoms are skin redding, blood spots, increased mucus on the skin, breathing difficulty, tremors, diarrhea, vomiting, death, and more. cigarette smoke and pesticides are seen to be toxic too. Keep them from all these toxins.

Nutritional Diseases

Amphibian Nutritional Metabolic Bone Disease (NMBD)

This is commonly known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This is the result of a deficiency in UV light, calcium, and vitamin D3. This is seen as the second disease among amphibians in captive. 

Spastic tetany is a common sign. Then it will progress to changes like gastrointestinal stasis, deformities in the angular limb, and spinal deformities. Correct the underlying reasons and administer medical needs. They need calcium supplements even with the not so affected amphibians. 

Hypovitaminosis A

This condition is a result of having low vitamin A in your toad’s diet. it creates a condition termed as squamous metaplasia that leads to the inability to produce mucus on their tongue. As a result, the prey does not stick to the tongue, so the prey might getaway. Conjunctive around their eyes can swell to as well as the bladder and kidney. Treat by giving vitamin A and change their diet. 

Foreign Body Ingestion

Small rocks or gravel can be accidentally ingested when the toad misses the prey, and these objects stick to the toad’s tongue. Not all can regurgitate these objects out. It needs surgery or reaching it using forceps. 

Gastric Overload

This condition is brought out by overfeeding them or giving too large food in just a short time. the toad will be bloated, making it hard for them to breathe. Large food tends not to be properly digested, leading to the growth of bacteria, illness, and death. Forceps can be used as an intervention or surgery when the case is severe. 

Corneal Lipidosis

Whitish plaques are results of cholesterol deposits in the toad’s cornea. This is blamed for a high level of cholesterol in the blood that resulted from a high-fat diet. correct the diet, and don’t let it worsen.


Gout is caused by uric acid. This is due to infection, kidney failure, purines, and dehydration. Crystals are formed in the liver and kidney and stones in the bladder. 

Infectious Diseases


Amphibians are prone to many viral diseases. One common is the herpes virus that leads to kidney tumors. Toads start to lose weight and can die. In addition, Iridoviruses are also responsible for some deaths. 


Amphibians have bacteria in their bodies like Proteus and E. coli, and the like are normal, but if your toad is immunosuppressed because of disease, these bacteria become pathogens that will give rise to disease. 

Dermatosepticemia is the red-leg disease caused by pathogens. It will result in a red flush in the skin, hemorrhages, and red-purple on the skin. Death can happen as a worse case. Give treatments immediately and aggressively. Kill the septicemia. Give antifungal fluids and antibiotics. 


Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is the reason for chytridiomycosis. Signs are sudden death, belly reddening, lethargy, and more. early diagnosis and treatment are effective. 

Give your toad treatment and clean its environment, and don’t give stress. 


Amphibians are loved by parasites like nematodes, protozoa, and more. it can be treated with early diagnosis. Quarantine your toad so as not to affect the others. 


Amphibians are vulnerable to neoplasia like tumors and cancers in the kidney, liver, gonads, and skin. Do the right diagnosis and treatment. 

Availability: Where to Get One?

To purchase your Surname Toad or Pipa pipa, you can get them at pet stores selling amphibians or check some online sites for amphibians selling or check out some reputable captive breeders too. 

How to Care

  • Housing: your aquarium or tank should be 100x50x50cm in measurement. Give 70 liters of water. 
  • Diet: they are fed on worms, small fishes, shrimps, and others. 
  • Water: Use filtered water free from harmful substances.
  • Temperature: give 72 to 78 degrees F or 22-25 degrees Celsius. Night temperature would be 18- 23 degrees Celsius. 
  • Light: Use UVB fluorescent and incandescent
  • Substrate: Large marble or gravel to avoid ingestion
  • Notes: Needs driftwood and aquatic plants for shading and hiding. 

Difference Between Frogs and Toads

1. Frog’s eyes can look at all directions, while toad’s eyes face forward.

2. Frogs lay eggs in floating films, clumps, and singly. Toads lay eggs in long strands.

3. Frogs have long legs for leaping and slim bodies. Toads have fat bodies and short legs for hopping

4. Frogs have long tongues with good aim. Toads have short tongues and excellent aim. (although some species don’t have tongue or teeth).

5. Frogs have no separate glands for toxins. Toads have toxic parotoid glands on the back of the head or skin.

6. Frogs live near or in the water. some toads live on land

7. Frogs are smooth and slimy. Toads are dry and have warty skin.

8. Frogs have small upper teeth. Toads have no teeth

FAQ Section

What is unusual about the egg development of the Surinam toad?

After the male and female mate, the male puts the fertilized eggs on the back of the female. These eggs sink and get embedded in the spongy, pocket-like skin. It is like a honeycomb. Each chamber contains an egg. 

What do Surinam toads eat?

They eat crustaceans mostly and worms as well as other invertebrates. They use their fingers to move the food into their mouths. They don’t have teeth and tongue.

Where does the Surinam toad live?

They live in rivers and turbid streams in the whole of South America. 

Are toads harmful to humans?

Yes. They have toxins in their skin. The toxins can cause eye and skin irritation. 

What happens if you touch a toad?

There is a myth that touching amphibians give you warts. No amphibians do that. However, when you handle them, use gloves not to harm them. They don’t like being picked actually. 

Do toads like being pet?

Yes, they do. Take note, handle them gently so it will not hurt itself by moving back and forth on your hand. 

How many babies do toads have at once?

That depends on the species, but generally, a female toad produces thirty thousand eggs in her whole life. 

How do Toads give birth?

Like frogs, they lay eggs in water. they need undisturbed water to lay eggs. 

How do you tell the difference between frogs and toads?

You can tell it by the appearance of their legs or skin. 

How quickly do toads grow?

Commonly, they hatch within three to twelve days. After 40 to 70 days, they turn to adults. sexual maturity is from two to three years. 

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