Houston Toads: Caring for 2,000+ Houston Toads

Interested in finding out what it is like taking care of 2,000+ Houston toads? In this week’s blog post we are going to take you through a typical day here in the Houston toad facility.

Like most of the animal departments here at the zoo, our day starts at 7AM sharp. The first order of business is to clean all 144 tanks in the quarantine building – that’s a lot of tanks! Each tank is divided into two sections: a dry portion that has a deep layer of moss for burrowing, and pool area, where toads can soak and drink. After the water from the previous day is drained from each tank, the tank is sprayed down and any leftover food or fecal matter is removed. After cleaning, the tank is filled up again with clean, reverse osmosis water (just like the fancy bottled water you pay big bucks for!)

Remember that in the last post we mentioned that toads prefer living in sandy soil. There are several reasons that we don’t keep our toads in sand in captivity. The first reason is that the sand is very difficult to clean; therefore waste products quickly build up in the tank which could potentially make the toads sick. Also, have you ever tried to move a wheelbarrow of wet sand? It’s heavy! A tank full of sand is very difficult to move, which would overly complicate our daily cleaning regime.  Sand is also somewhat pricy, so for as often as we disinfect each tank, it would get very expensive to continue to buy new sand.

Instead of sand we use a moss from New Zealand that is collected from an area where no amphibians are found. This is important because it reduces the possibility that this moss could have an amphibian disease that could be transmitted to our toads. This moss is also slightly alkaline (basic) which reduces bacterial growth.  The moss is light weight very easy to use. We make sure each tank has a deep layer of moss so that the toads can burrow down into it just like they would in sand in the wild.

In conjunction with cleaning and refilling each tank, we also collect fecal specimens to be submitted to the veterinary clinic.  This routine health screening ensures that our captive colony toads are free of parasites.  After the morning husbandry is done, we then spend time feeding the toads.  Feeding occurs on a regulated schedule, because like most captive animals, we don’t want to feed them too much to maintain their health! We mainly feed the adult toads large crickets, but we also supplement this cricket diet with waxworms and mealworms. The younger toads eat smaller crickets, fruit flies, and bean beetles.

After the toads are fed, the remainder of the day is spent taking care of the bugs that we use for food (we grow the small crickets, flies, and beetles ourselves), building new or fixing old tanks, performing medical treatments, or working on our own research projects or the helping out with the projects of our collaborators. Occasionally we get out for a Houston toad keeper chat, so check the zoo website in the next few weeks if you are visiting the zoo and want to catch us!

Like all conservation programs, teamwork is absolutely required for its success. Not only do we rely on our external partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas State University, we also get tremendous support internally from the zoo. The aquarium provides us with most of our water, the vet staff gives us an incredible amount of medical support (it’s a lot of work to keep 2,000 toads healthy!), and keepers from Herpetology and the Children’s Zoo regularly lend us a helping hand with the day-to-day husbandry. We have also had a fantastic group of interns and volunteers whose enthusiasm and hard work continues to inspire us to make our program better. Thanks to everyone who has lent us a helping hand, we couldn’t do it without you! Stay tuned next week for a “guest blog” from one of our current interns, Jacquelyne Brauneis!

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.


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Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂


Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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We've heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing? ... See MoreSee Less


Weve heard of stalagmites but is stalagmice a thing?


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Ok, it took me a minute to get this. I was literally zooming in to try to find the mouse. 🤦🏻‍♀️🙄😂

Cindy Christina Angela Ramirez see I told y’all! Lol

“Baby it’s cold outside!”

That's nothing! Talk to keepers from the northern states or Canada!

i was honestly looking for a mouse lol

Annecia Wesley but where is the ice bacon? Lol

Wow,that is so neat!

Two words. Pipe insulation.

That’s awesome!

Ana Rivers Smith cool!


Pauline Ervin

Denise Daigre

Ashley Nguyen

Vicente Gonzalez

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Brrrr. It’s cold out there! We have made the decision to close the Houston Zoo tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 17. Don’t worry, the animals are safe and warm in their night houses!

A limited number of staff from departments like Animal Programs, Safety and Security and Operations/Facilities will be onsite to perform essential services and have the Zoo ready for us to reopen Thursday morning.

A big ol' high-five to our awesome team members who braved this icy cold to come in and care for our animals and zoo facilities.
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Safety and welfare of the animals first! Thanks guys for all you do.

Yes thank you for everything yall do to keep the animals safe .. y'all keep safe and warm

Thank you for taking good care of our animals!

Thank u for keeping those Babies safe and warm!❤️

Thank you for all you do!

Thank you for ZOO LIGHTS. it was amazing this year!

Thank you, zoo team. Stay safe!

Mandy Rinker— really? Too cold? You’re from the Midwest girl


thank you for all you do and keep the furry babies warm


Thank you for taking care of our precious animals that we love to come see!

Thank you for keeping those beautiful animals safe. 💕

Thank you for making sure the animals are safe and warm.

Thank you for all you do for these amazing animals!!

Go, Erika!!!

Thank you 💕


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