Frogs can make great pets for the right person, but frogs in the wild are facing population declines and extinction largely as a result of human activities. Unfortunately, the pet trade is likely contributing to the amphibian extinction crisis and the spread of a devastating infection by Chytrid fungus. For this reason, you should only buy frogs that you are sure are captive-bred locally and tested to be free of disease whenever possible. Avoid capturing wild frogs and keeping them as pets.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pyxicephalus adspersus
COMMON NAME: Frog
ADULT SIZE: 2 to 5-1/2 inches
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 4-15 years
Caring for Pet Frogs
Frogs in captivity are quite long-lived (with proper care) so be prepared for a long-term commitment. Average life spans are typically four to fifteen years, although some frogs have been known to live longer.
Some of the smallest frogs you might see in a pet store grow into giants. Sometimes their name adds to the confused expectations (e.g., “pixie” frogs, which sound like they should be small, are actually African bullfrogs which grow to be eight to nine inches long and very fat). They get their cute name from their Latin name, Pyxicephalus adspersus.
Some people might find pet frogs to be boring, but some of the smaller frogs are actually quite active. However, many of the larger frogs are sedentary and don’t move around much. Frogs are not a pet that should be handled regularly due to their special, sensitive skin.
If you travel often and tend to leave town for more than a couple of days at a time, keep in mind that it can sometimes be difficult to find someone to care for your frogs.
Setting up a tank with everything your frog needs before bringing them home should be done to ensure a proper environment with appropriate water, humidity, and heat requirements. Some frogs hibernate and you will have to provide certain conditions to make sure your frog does so safely.
Make sure you know the right kind of tank your frog will need (i.e. aquatic, terrestrial, arboreal, or semi-aquatic). A half land and half water environment is probably the trickiest to set up but is also one of the most common types of the tank needed for frogs.
Keeping a frog enclosure clean can be a lot of work. Many frogs have fairly simple light, temperature, and humidity requirements but they are very sensitive to contaminants and waste in their environment.
Food and Water
Your frog’s diet will vary based on its species, but generally speaking, frogs are carnivores who eat live prey. Many frogs eat insects, including crickets, worms, caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers. Some of the larger frogs will even eat pinky mice. You can purchase live prey at your local pet store.
Be sure that fresh and clean water is available to your frog at all times.
Good Frog Species for Beginners
As with any other kind of pet, doing lots of research prior to deciding on the type of frog that best suits your needs is the best way to make sure you and your frog will be happy.
- Dwarf Frogs: These are small, active, completely aquatic, and are among the easiest of frogs to keep in captivity. They are very popular pet frogs.
- Oriental Fire Bellied Toads: These are semi-terrestrial frogs that are fairly active and relatively easy to keep as pets.
- White’s Tree Frog: White’s are terrestrial tree frogs that are docile and easy to keep but they do tend to be fairly inactive so some people find them boring as pets.
- African Clawed Frogs: These are aquatic frogs that get quite large (be careful not to confuse young African clawed frogs with the much smaller dwarf clawed frogs) but their care is not that difficult.
- Green Tree Frogs: These tree frogs are another species that are suitable for beginners.
- Pacman Frogs: Mostly terrestrial, pacman frogs are pretty easy to care for but get quite large and are pretty sedentary.
Before bringing home any new pet, it’s important to understand what they eat. Frogs can be beautiful and interesting additions to your home, but only if you can feed them properly. So, what do frogs eat?
Frogs are predators that can’t just eat pre-packaged kibble the way dogs do. That makes things trickier. In the wild, frogs eat a wide variety of insects. Frogs are predators that will generally only eat things that are moving—which means feeding your frog live insects!
General Frog Food Guidelines
Frogs are truly generalist predators—they’ll eat just about anything that comes their way in the wild. They’ll eat spiders, grasshoppers, butterflies, and just about anything else that fits in their mouth. Aquatic frogs eat a variety of aquatic invertebrates.
Each species of frog has specific nutritional guidelines, but in general, your pet frog will eat a mix of the following.
- Crickets. These will form the backbone of your pet frog’s diet. That’s not because they’re the healthiest—it’s just because they’re easiest to purchase or raise at home.
- Mealworms and waxworms. These are another tasty snack for frogs. Like crickets, mealworms are pretty easy to find at pet stores or raise at home. You can also purchase them at bait stores for fishing, but those won’t be gut-loaded.
- Locusts and grasshoppers. These can be a bit trickier to find in pet stores or purchase for your frog, but they add much-needed nutritional variety to your pet’s diet.
- Caterpillars or worms. These are getting easier to find in pet stores for purchase. Be sure to purchase caterpillars that are the correct size for your frog, as they can be quite large!
- Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and blackworms. These, along with other small worms, will be the main diet for aquatic frogs.
- Mice. These are part of the diet for large species of frogs such as Pacman frogs and African bullfrogs. As your frog grows, start feeding “pinkies,” or newborn mice. You can purchase these frozen or live—but keep in mind that most frogs won’t eat the frozen ones. Bigger frogs will eat “fuzzies” or even adult mice. If this grosses you out, pick a smaller frog species.
Be sure to feed your frog food that’s less wide than the frog’s head, or your frog’s intestines can get impacted. Try to purchase gut-loaded insects whenever possible, as these are far more nutritious for your frog! If you can’t purchase gut-loaded food, your frog is at risk of vitamin A deficiency. Some people prefer to “dust” their frog’s food with a nutritional supplement before feeding their frogs, especially if they raise their frog’s food at home.
Avoid feeding your frog any fruits or veggies, human table scraps, or wild-caught insects. The wild insects pose a serious risk of pesticide exposure, which can be very dangerous for your frog.
How Much and When to Feed Your Pet Frog
The exact feeding schedule and amount for your frog depends on your frog’s species, age, and activity level. Just like humans, frogs can become obese if overfed. It’s important to feed your frog the right amount to keep your pet healthy and fit.
- High-energy frogs (such as dwarf frogs) and young froglets (under about 16 weeks) should have frequent access to food. Feed young frogs and high-energy frogs every day or even twice a day. This might mean leaving a bit of food, such as fruits or veggies, in the tank for the insects to eat.
- Medium-energy frogs should be fed every other day to every third day. In general, they should be fed about five crickets per meal. Ensure that you feed enough that your frog doesn’t finish eating within seconds, but don’t feed so much that you’re seeing crickets the next morning!
- Larger frogs should be fed less often. The large mouse-eating frogs might eat as infrequently as once per week or once every other week.
Your pet frog should have constant access to clean, dechlorinated water. You can purchase a de-chlorinator at most aquarium stores. Either provide a pool of water in the tank or mist the tank regularly—or both. Frogs don’t drink with their mouths, so it’s important to keep the humidity up. They “drink” by absorbing water through their skin!
Frogs eat a wide variety of things in the wild. Feeding your pet frog should include a mix of different gut-loaded insects to ensure proper nutrition. Make a plan for how you’ll store these live insects before bringing your new frog home!