What Do Toads Eat?

As a child, I knew that toads are insectivores, and as an adult with the same passion for these amphibians, I learned that they can actually be ferocious carnivores. Carnivores are animals whose food and energy requirements derive from animal tissue or meat.

Toads are obligate carnivores meaning that they cannot survive without meat in their diet. Adult toads eat insects, small mammals, small amphibians, small fish, and small birds. Toads are omnivores as tadpoles and transform into carnivores as adults.

Let’s have a deeper look at what meat toads eat and how they choose their prey depending on their lifecycle stage with a particular focus on adult toads eating habits. Toads are frogs so they eat similar things. Feel free to check out the video below to get a quick overview of what toads like to eat.

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Toad Diet Depending on Lifecycle Stage

Toad Life Cycle StageDietWhat They Eat
TadpoleOmnivoreAlgee, Plants, Phytoplankton
Toadlet & Smaller ToadsCarnivoreBugs, Fish, Toads
Large Adult ToadCarnivoreMammals, Birds, Lizards

Tadpoles are omnivores, feeding primarily on plants (algae) but also on small phytoplankton and other tadpoles. However, once they become toadlets and adult toads, the vast majority of toads are only carnivores.

Learn more about the full frog (and toad) life cycle in the video below:

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What Toad Eggs Eat

At the stage of eggs, toad eggs feed on the yoke from their egg. They cannot move and have no mouths so they rely on their own storage of naturally-formed yoke to survive.

What Toad Tadpoles Eat

Tadpoles primarily eat algae, plants, small insects, and phytoplankton. They are omnivores that may also eat smaller tadpoles if their location lacks other nutrients for them to feed on.

In captivity, you can feed tadpoles rinsed or boiled lettuce, spinach, or broccoli. However, once they pass the stage of being tadpoles, toads are no longer omnivores and should be fed live meat-based prey.

What Baby Toads Eat

Baby Toads, or Toadlets are carnivores and eat small bugs, small fish, and smaller toads. They may eat crickets, flys, mosquitos, fruit flies, guppies, minnows, small moths, small snails, small worms, tadpoles, and other toadlets.

It can take toadlets 6 to 9 weeks to become adults, and depending on the species they could start to eat much larger prey once they get bigger. You can also learn more about the different stages of the frog life cycle here. Now let’s focus on what adult toads eat.

What Adult Toads Eat 

Adult toads eat invertebrates, small mammals, small lizards, small freshwater shrimp or fish, and smaller toads. These include beetles, cockroaches, dragonflies, grubs, larvae, minnows, moths, roaches, slugs, small birds, small toads, small bats, small snakes, and smaller toads.

Toads are carnivores that typically only feed on live or moving prey. If it is large enough for the toad to see and small enough to fit into its mouth, the toad will probably eat it.

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Toads Eat Bugs

Carnivores eat meat, which consists of muscle. Insects have muscles to jump, crawl, climb and move. Therefore, insects are considered meat and they make up the main part of a toad’s diet.

Toads eat a wide variety of bugs including ants, bees, beetles, cockroaches, crickets, dragonflies, earthworms, earwigs, flies, grasshoppers, grubs, larvae, mosquitoes, moths, roaches, slugs, snails, termites, and worms.

A toad I saw eating a small fly

Toads will eat any bugs that are live and fit into their mouth. It is common for small toads to feed on bugs because of their small bodies. Toads will eat larger prey as they grow.

Toads Eat Small Mammals

Large toads like Cane Toads eat small mammals including rats, mice and bats. If the prey is moving and smaller than the toad, it will wrap the mammal up into its tongue and swallow it whole, live.

Toads use their eyes to push it down into their stomachs. If the toad has teeth, they may bite, swallow and use their teeth to keep the prey back.

Toads Eat Small Amphibians

Toads eat smaller amphibians including salamanders, caecilians, as well as other toads and toads. All toads are cannibals, but larger toads were found to eat a greater proportion of other toads.

Toads are cannibals meaning they will eat other toads from different or the same species. 

“Large invasive frogs that live in forests with high anuran diversity are most likely to have a higher proportion of anurans in their diet.”

Findings of a 2015 study led by G. John Measey

Toads will also eat tadpoles, even their own tadpoles that they laid in the pond themselves! And this cannibalistic nature comes into play very early in the lives of toads, as tadpoles may also eat other tadpoles if the environment does not contain enough plant-based food for them to feed on.

Toads Eat Small Reptiles

Toads eat smaller snakes, turtles, crocodiles, alligators, geckos, and lizards. Although most reptiles are predators to toads, if the predator is live and smaller than the toad, it will gladly eat the reptile.

This may come as a surprise but large toads like Cane Toads will eat some of their biggest predators if they are smaller than them in size. 

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I must admit, I was surprised when I learned this. Cane Toads are ferocious predators that hunt at night and can eat baby alligators in Florida for example. They like to sit, wait, and lunge at anything that moves past them and is big enough to fit into its mouth.

Toads Eat Small Fish

Toads enjoy eating small fish including brine shrimp, goldfish, guppies and minnows. Therefore, do not keep toads in a tank with other aquatic animals that are smaller than them since there is a chance the toad will eat them.

It is a bad idea to keep your pet toad in an aquarium with other small fish because your toad will gladly eat your other pets. Toads do not eat fish eggs since they like to eat live and moving prey and fish eggs are immobile, but they can eat fish offspring once they hatch.

Toads Eat Small Aves

Large toads may eat smaller birds of any species that get too close to them. These include common birds such as bluejays, robins, woodpeckers, bluebirds, finches, sparrows, and chickadees.

Generally, if the prey is moving, is large enough for the toad to see, but small enough to fit into its mouth, the toad will try to eat it (CTNF).

List of What Toads Eat

Toads eat invertebrates, small mammals, small reptiles, small amphibians, small freshwater shrimp or fish, and smaller toads. Examples of these include:

  • Ants
  • Bees
  • Beetles
  • Cockroaches
  • Crickets
  • Dragonflies
  • Earthworms
  • Earwigs
  • Flies
  • Fruit Flies
  • Grasshoppers
  • Grubs
  • Guppies
  • Katydids
  • Larve
  • Minnows
  • Mosquitos
  • Moths
  • Roaches
  • Rodents
  • Slugs
  • Salamanders
  • Small Alligators
  • Small Bats
  • Small Birds
  • Small Toads
  • Small Mammals
  • Small Snakes
  • Small Turtles
  • Snails
  • Springtails
  • Termites
  • Wood-Lice
  • Worms

Smaller toad species such as Oak Toads tend to eat smaller prey. For example, they eat certain ants which helps them produce their natural poison. Cane Toads are large and commonly eat bigger prey such as large spiders and small mice. 

Toads may also eat their own skin. This is very common for amphibians and is a process called “sloughing.” Toads naturally shed and eat their skin which contains nutrients and protein. They do so to stay healthy and their tracks from predators.

Toads do not eat dead bugs unless they are starving.

How Do Toads Eat?

Toads eat by quickly launching their long, sticky tongue at their prey to catch it off guard and snatch it up. Toad prey gets roped up in the toad’s tongue and sticks to their saliva. Toads then retract their eyes into their sockets to swallow their live food. 

Toads can be lazy or active hunters, but overall they are big eaters. Some toads are ambush predators. They hunt by sitting and waiting for their prey to come to them. Other toads are active hunters and will hunt down their prey.

Find out everything there is to know about how toads eat in our complete guide on our blog.

More About What Toads Eat

Be sure to feed your toad a varied diet if you have a frog in captivity and be kind and gentle while observing frogs eating in the wild. 

Learn more about what frogs eat and how in these guides on our blog:

Common Questions About What Toads Eat

What Human Food Can Toads Eat? Toads are carnivores that eat live, moving food. Humans generally do not eat live, moving food and so toads cannot eat human food. Do not feed a toad fruits, vegetables, or table scraps.

Can a Toad Eat a Mouse? Large toads such as Cane Toads can eat small mammals including mice and other rodents, small bats, small birds, small snakes, salamanders, and small alligators.

Do Toads Eat Lettuce? Toads do not eat lettuce. Toads are carnivores that eat live, moving food. Therefore, human food including lettuce is not adapted to toads. Tadpoles however, may enjoy lettuce or spinach, but prefer algee.

How do Toads Drink? Toads “drink” water by absorbing the humidity around them through their skin. This is one of the main reasons why it is so important that toads live in a humid environment.

Can Toads Choke? If a toad ate prey that is too large for its body, it may choke or experience intestinal issues. Toads eat their own skin which may look like choking to humans. But sloughing is a natural process that toads carry out regularly, often in the morning.

Do Toads Eat Dead Bugs? Most toads will starve before they eat anything not moving like a dead insect or dead mammals. Toads are carnivores that prefer to eat live, moving food. 

Do Toads Eat Everything? As a general rule, toads will eat anything that is moving, is large enough to see, but small enough to fit into its mouth. So toads may attempt to eat everything that moves and is smaller than them.

How do Toads Hunt? As a general rule, depending on the species, toads hunt two different ways: passively or actively. Toads can ambush predators and employ a passive “sit-and-wait” technique where they wait for food to come to them. Other toads actively hunt, chase, and eat their prey.

What do Toads Eat? Toads eat invertebrates, small mammals, small lizards, small freshwater shrimp or fish, and smaller toads. As a general rule, if the prey is moving, is large enough for the toad to see, but small enough to fit into its mouth, the toad will eat it.

Learn about how toads breathe in this post on our blog.

Sources

Nutrient Requirements: Carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science.

Mammals: carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science.

Measey GJ, Vimercati G, de Villiers FA, Mokhatla MM, Davies SJ, Edwards S, Altwegg R. 2015. Frog eat frog: exploring variables influencing anurophagy. PeerJ 3:e1204 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1204 

Frugivory and Seed Dispersal by Hyla truncata, a Neotropical Treefrog, August 1989Copeia 1989(3):781–783. DOI:10.2307/1445517 Project: Amphibians and reptiles of Brazil.

Altig, Ronald. Whiles, Matt R., Taylor, Cindy L.: What do tadpoles really eat? Assessing the trophic status of an understudied and imperiled group of consumers in freshwater habitats, Freshwater Biology (2007) 52, 386–395.

Chesne, Corinne. La Grenouille. Artémis éd., 2009.

Parsons, Harry. L’univers Des Grenouilles: Amphibiens Poseurs. Éditions Du Trécarré, 2000. 

Grenouilles, Crapauds Et Rainettes: Morphologie, Comportement, Alimentation Et Reproduction …, by S. Caratozzolo, De Vecchi, 2008.