Do Toads Like Water?

All toads are frogs, and so toads are sometimes confused with aquatic frogs. Yet, there are many differences between frogs and toads, and one of them has to do with water.

Toads are born in water which they require as eggs and tadpoles, but once they become toadlets, they live on land. Adult toads need water to survive but only return to freshwater bodies to reproduce during the mating season.

Toads are amphibians, meaning they begin their lives in water and can live on land as adults. But contrary to adult aquatic frogs that spend most of their adult lives in water, toads spend most of their adult lives on land. This is a big difference between toads and other frog species that I will explain in more detail below.

Toads Are Born in Water

Toads are born in water and require pollution-free, freshwater to successfully develop as eggs and tadpoles. Once toads reach the toadlet phase of their development, they leave the water to live on land and only return to water to reproduce once they reach sexual maturity.

Like most frog species, toads lay eggs in water. Toads require freshwater as eggs and tadpoles to successfully develop. As tadpoles, toads breathe and drink through their gills and skin. They have no legs to walk on land, and no lungs to breathe out of water. Therefore, toads generally spend the first 16 weeks of their lives in water (CTNF).

Depending on the species, after about 16 weeks, toads have legs, feet, lungs, strong bones, and their tail has been absorbed by their bodies. They have everything they need to be able to live on land. Once toads reach the toadlet stage of their development, they leave the water and only return once they reach sexual maturity and can reproduce as adult toads a few years later.

Adult Toads Avoid Water

Once toads reach adulthood they live on land and generally avoid being submerged in water. Toads live in grasslands, marshes, near bogs, conservation areas, and forested areas adjacent to bodies of freshwater. They are also commonly found in urban areas such as backyards.

Adult toads spend their days burrowed below ground, hidden under mud, piles of leaves, beneath branches on the ground, and in near damp locations. Toads are commonly observed in people’s yards, fallen in window wells, beneath garbage bags, compost, tarps, plastic objects, or damp plants. Toads are drawn to backyards because of the abundance of bugs, dampness, and refuge.

There were many toads that lived in our yard when I was a kid and I often found them under rocks, branches, and plastic objects on the lawn like my toy slide. Toads enjoy cool, humid locations during the day, but generally avoid direct submersion underwater.

Small American Toad-min
I love looking for toads in the wild and I can always find them on land

Adult toads are especially active at night when they search for food. They are ambush predators meaning they sit and wait for food to come to them. This is one of the reasons why you will often find toads sitting in well-lit urban areas at night. The lights attract bugs, so toads can easily just sit there and suck them up.

Like all living things, toads require water to survive. However, toads do not require direct contact with water like aquatic frogs or other amphibians (salamanders). Adult toads generally live 1km or half a mile from their native birthplace, and only return to the water where they were born to reproduce during mating season to lay eggs.

During reproduction, toads avoid currents and saltwater. Toads prefer calm, current-free freshwater to lay their eggs. Saltwater can dry out their skin and kill their offspring, although many toad species are adapting to saltwater and harsh environments due to human activity (climate change, deforestation, urbanization, and pollution among other things).

Toads Require Water For Survival

Toads do not live in water as adults, yet they need water to survive. Toads drink through their skin as adults and choose damp, moist, humid locations to spend the day out of the sun, generally burrowed underground.

Although toads do not live in water like aquatic frogs, they need water to survive. Toads have thin, delicate skin despite their rough, prominent warts. The best way for toads to stay hydrated and safe is to avoid direct sunlight.

This is one of the reasons why most toads burrow underground in holes, ditches, and tunnels throughout the day. Burrowing allows them to avoid direct sunlight and stay cool and hydrated. Some toads may come out when it rains since there is little sun and abundant water for them to stay hydrated in rainy conditions (CTNF).

More About Toads And Water

Toads spend all of their time in the water during their early stages of development, as eggs and tadpoles. When toads are still in the tadpoles phase, their respiratory system consists of gills. As such, they need water to breathe and stay alive. 

To conclude, I guess you could say toads like water as eggs and tadpoles because it is required for their survival. Adult toads generally only return to the water body where they were born to reproduce. Therefore, adult toads only need direct, partially submerged access to water during mating season. 

Learn more about toads on our blog:

Common Questions About Toads And Water

Do toads like water? Toads like water as eggs and tadpoles because they are born in water and require freshwater to drink, breathe, eat, and survive. However, adult toads live on land and only return to the freshwater body in which they were born to reproduce during the mating season.

How do toads drink water? Toads drink through their skin as adults and choose damp, moist, humid locations to spend the day out of the sun to stay hydrated, generally burrowed underground. Some toads may also drink water through the drinking patch on their underbelly.

Do toads live in water? Toads are born in water and live there until they successfully develop from eggs to tadpoles to toadlets. Once toads reach the toadlet phase of their development, they leave the water to live on land and only return to water to reproduce once they reach adulthood, or sexual maturity.

Do toads live near water? Toads do not live in water but generally live within 1 kilometer or ½ a mile of their native birthplace which often consists of a freshwater body. Toads can generally be found in water during the mating season, but live on land during the rest of the year.