Schismaderma carens, commonly known as the Red Toad, is a moderate to large-sized toad. Males can reach 88 mm, and females can reach 92 mm in snout-vent length. This toad has a less warty back than many toads of the same size. A distinct dorsolateral glandular ridge runs from above the tympanum to the hind leg. The outer part of the dorsolateral ridge is darker on the lower edge. The tympanum itself is large and round, with a diameter approximately equivalent to that of the eye. Parotoid glands are not visible. A tarsal fold is present. Breeding males have vocal sacs, as well as nuptial pads on their first three fingers for amplexus (Channing and Howell 2006).
The back is characteristically marked by a pair of small dark brown spots on the lower back and another pair of markings on the shoulders. Dorsal coloring is reddish, hence the common name of Red Toad. The ground color is pale brown and even pinkish at times. The flanks are either pale or very dark. The underside is speckled with gray (Channing and Howell 2006).
The tadpole has an unusual horseshoe-shaped flap of skin on the head (Channing 2001).
The specific name carens is Latin for "lacking" and refers to the lack of parotoid glands (Channing and Howell 2006). Other common names include the Red-backed toad, African split-skin toad, kazoli in Lwena and Manganja, conga in Sena, naliwonde in Yao, rooiskurwepadda in Afrikaans, and zonde in Chewa.
Biochemical evidence suggests that S. carens has been separated from other toads evolutionarily for approximately 55 million years (Channing 2001).