Can Toads Swim?

Although most frogs begin their lives in water, not all frogs remain there, including toads. As adults, most toads live on land. There were always toads in our backyard so I never really wondered if toads could swim until I met my first aquatic frog as a child.

Generally, toads can swim but are not very good swimmers. Unlike aquatic frogs, instead of webbed feet to propel them in water, toads have pointy digits to help them dig. Toads reproduce in water but spend very little time there.

Toads, unlike aquatic frogs, cannot swim efficiently. This is mainly because their physical traits differ greatly from aquatic frogs, as toads are not made for swimming or to spend their lives in water. Aquatic frogs and toads have different physical adaptations to survive in their respective environments.

Why Toads Are Not Good Swimmers

Unlike aquatic frogs that have webbed feet, are excellent swimmers, and live in water their entire lives, toads have digits or spaded feet to help them navigate land, dig and burrow underground. Toads reproduce in water but spend very little time there.

All frogs are amphibians and thus spend part of their lives in water and land. Toads are born in water but live on land near marshes, swamps, forests, and even in urban areas. They do not need to live in or near water to survive like aquatic frogs or tree frogs.

As tadpoles, toads live and feed in the water, breathing through gills. And so, as tadpoles, toads are excellent swimmers. But once they reach the toadlet stage of their lives, they no longer have a tail nor need to live in water. As toadlets, toads lose much of their swimming skills. Therefore, toads spend most of their adult lives outside of the water on land.

Here is a look at different types of frogs, their main body features, and skills:

Type of FrogCharacteristicsSkills
Arboreal (Tree)Suction-Cup Fingers
Small Bodies
Climbing
Holding
Aquatic (Water)Webbed Feet
Long Hind Legs
Swimming
Leaping
Terrestrial (Toads)Spaded Feet
Pointy Digits
Digging
Hopping

As Einstein said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Einstein

The same goes for toads. If you judge toads by their swimming capabilities, you may think they are “stupid,” but if you judge them by their ability to dig a hole, burrow underground, and navigate tough terrain, and you will think they are geniuses.

Why Can’t Toads Swim Like Aquatic Frogs?

Toads are unable to swim like aquatic frogs because they do not have long, powerful hind legs or webbed feet made to propel them in water. Toads have short legs, stubby bodies, and digit-like toes to help them dig. 

Aquatic frogs have distinct anatomical features including webbed feet, very long and strong hind legs that sit like a spring and that allow them to swim and leap with ease. These limbs are used for swimming, navigation, and balanced landings.

Baby American Toad Playing Dead-min
A little toad I found with yellow hands and fingers

Toads, on the other hand, toads have short stubby bodies and cannot jump very far. They can hop quickly but may also tire faster than aquatic frogs since they have to use more energy to escape predators when jumping. Toads have digit-like toes on their feet, and, even though they are short, have strong hind legs that help them push soil out of the way so they can burrow.

Toads reproduce in water so they have some ability to float and swim in order to successfully lay their eggs. However, they do not remain in the water after they reproduce. Toads cannot swim in the same way as aquatic frogs can due to physical limitations. They swim slowly and are much less agile in water compared to aquatic frogs (CTNF).

How do Toads Stay Hydrated?

Frogs breathe and drink through their skin and toads are no exception. However, contrary to aquatic frogs that remain hydrated and oxygenated by sitting in water, toads absorb the humidity emitted by the soil around them to breathe,

Aquatic frogs require direct access to H2O to drink, breathe, and survive. They spend most of their time in the water during the day, relaxing, breathing, and remaining hydrated. Although they can safely exit the water and live on land, while breathing through their lungs, they can only do this for very short periods of time.

However, toads are terrestrial, which means they live on land and generally burrow underground to avoid predators. To keep their skin hydrated, they do not generally swim or sit in water like aquatic frogs. They breathe and drink by absorbing the humidity around them emitted by the soil and trees. They are less dependent on direct access to water compared to aquatic frogs.

Do Toads Lay Eggs in Water?

All frog species including toads, tree frogs, and aquatic frogs require access to freshwater to lay their eggs. Adult toads lay their eggs in water even if they are not very good swimmers compared to aquatic frogs since the larval stage of their lives is completely aquatic.

Aquatic frogs have no trouble mating or reproducing in water since this is their main habitat. Frogs reproduce by amplexus and deposit their eggs at the water’s surface, around vegetation, or underwater. Most toads and arboreal frogs do the same thing, even if they are not as good swimmers as aquatic frogs.

What Toads Look Like Eggs-min

Toads, like other frogs, live and feed in the water after transforming into tadpoles until they metamorphose into toadlets with lungs allowing them to breathe and live on land. Here is how they breathe underwater:

Throughout their larval stage, toad tadpoles breathe through their gills. By the time the tadpoles transform into froglets, they develop lungs to breathe on land. As adults, toads can breathe through their lungs or skin.

The anatomical and physiological respiratory functions of toads are the same as those of other frog species. Adult toads have well-developed lungs and can also breathe through their skin in aquatic settings (CTNF).

More About Toads

Learn more about toads and how they swim in the guides on our blog below:

Common Questions About Toads Swimming

Can toads drown? Toads, just like any other terrestrial animal, can drown. Frogs have lungs, despite being able to breathe through their skin as well. When these lungs fill up with water, they can drown. Insufficient oxygen in the water makes the frog unable to absorb enough oxygen for survival. 

Can toads go in water? Toads can go in the water and generally only do so to reproduce during mating season. Toads live near water but do not live in water since they are not anatomically fit swimmers and prefer to dwell on land.

Are toads good swimmers? Generally, toads can swim but are not very good swimmers. Unlike aquatic frogs, instead of webbed feet to help them swim, toads have digits to help them dig. Toads reproduce in water but spend very little time there.