American Toad Breeding Behavior

Asked February 11, 2019, 9:59 PM EST

I have two Eastern American Toads we rescued from a neighbor's pool filter this past fall. They eat 2-3 gut loaded crickets daily. I have them set up in a 10 gal aquarium with coconut husk substrate so that they can burrow, a hollowed out log for shelter, and a shallow dish that holds about 10 of bottled water. All of their behavior has been relatively normal until this month. 7 days ago one began sitting on the other's back with its arms grasped around the bottom one. I'm assuming this is breeding behavior - the small one on top is the male and the bottom is the female. Everything I'm reading says that it lasts anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Is 7 days normal? The female has been eating normally. She hops around the tank with the male on her back eating both her and his share. He hasn't released from holding her nor eaten in a week. I've tried adding a larger and deeper dish of water. (Still shallow enough so they won't drown) Should I be concerned? Or just sit back and appreciate the biology lesson?

Pennsylvania toads

1 Response

This is normal toad breeding behavior (called amplexus) & there's nothing to be concerned about. The male is probably thrilled that he has no other males to compete with, since in nature it is normal for multiple males to court the same female (the female may be less thrilled about this, depending on the quality of this particular male).

Given a large enough water dish, she might eventually lay some eggs in there. Toads have external fertilization, so the eggs will only be fertilized if the male is amplexing & releasing sperm when the female is laying. Toads lay thousands of eggs & most of the babies will die no matter what you do. This is normal & cannot be avoided. For this reason, you might want to consider releasing them eventually, ideally far enough from the neighbor's pool that they will find some other water body to breed in.