There are over 1200 known species of treefrogs, many of which make excellent pets. Some are brightly colored while others blend perfectly with their environment. They may be smaller than a dime or larger than your hand. Many possess fascinating adaptations to their arboreal lifestyle, and a large number are available as pet trade staples, with other uncommon species showing up occasionally in the hobby. The following information can be applied to most species commonly kept in captivity, although details may vary.
Treefrogs are found on every continent except Antarctica and are found in a wide variety of habitats. Some deposit their eggs on leaves over water, while others breed in tree hollows. The tadpoles of one species feed upon tree bark, while those of another species actually subsist on their father's skin!
Many popular species are found in the genus Hylidae
, which contains over 800 species. Several have skin flaps that allow them to glide from tree to tree. Some native North American frogs, such as barking treefrogs and green treefrogs, make fine pets and an excellent introduction to keeping amphibians. Smaller species reach one to three inches in length, while Cuban and Haitian treefrogs get large enough to eat small snakes.
Many treefrogs are known for their color-changing abilities. Coloration usually depends upon temperature or stress rather than blending in with their background.
Treefrogs will be more likely to exhibit the full range of their natural behaviors if kept in a naturalistic terrarium or vivarium. Many species are nocturnal, and most of their activities will only be viewable with a low wattage red or black night bulb
Frogs should not be handled as a rule, as their thin skin is covered with a protective coating that can be easily damaged. If they must be handled be sure your hands are clean and wet. With care, treefrogs can live many years, and some species can even be bred in captivity.
Setting up the terrarium
Treefrogs are highly arboreal and will benefit from taller enclosures. Branches, plants, and vines should be provided. Live plants are preferable- many common houseplants will do well in a vivarium and benefit the frogs by adding humidity and creating natural hiding places. Plants in turn benefit from the frogs' waste, and a well-planted vivarium can often remain a nearly self-contained ecosystem in many cases.
Soil-like substrates may be used. To prevent soil from sticking to the frogs damp moss or dried live oak, sea grape, or magnolia leaves can be placed on top. Using a drainage layer of some kind is necessary if setting up a permanent vivarium.
Light, Heat & Humidity
Treefrogs do not require UVB lights, but standard aquarium or reptile fluorescents (T5 and T8 tubes or compacts) can be used to provide natural light for 12 to 14 hours per day. The intensity of the light is more important to the type of live plants used than it is to the frogs.
Temperature requirements vary among species. Average room temperatures are suitable for temperate frogs or those that originate from high elevations. Many lowland rainforest frogs prefer temperatures closer to 80°F. Incandescent bulbs may be used in cooler situations, but may dry out enclosures. When using incandescent bulbs use the largest enclosure possible to provide a heat gradient. Fluorescent bulbs
, especially power compacts, may provide enough heat for most species. Treefrogs prefer moderately high humidity
levels and ample air circulation. Enclosures with open screen tops should be misted at least twice daily for most species. Covering a portion of the top with plastic will also help retain moisture without disrupting air flow. If glass canopies
are used, portions of the plastic back strip should be cut out and covered securely with fine mesh. A small computer fan placed over one of these openings and pulling air out of the tank will help create a gentle flow of fresh air without sacrificing too much humidity.
Treefrogs need only a simple water dish
, which should be cleaned daily. Chlorine and chloramines must be removed by treating the water with a water conditioner
. A more elaborate vivarium or paludarium with large water features should be supplied with filtration and a portion of the water should be changed regularly.
A highly varied diet is desirable for most reptiles and amphibians. Crickets that are fed nutritious foods and dusted with calcium supplement
or mineral supplements
are the most suitable staple feeder insect. Other invertebrates such as small roaches, earth worms, wax worms, and freshly molted mealworms should be offered regularly.
Wild insects can also be offered provided they are not toxic species and are collected from areas that are free of pesticide use. Canned insects can be offered to larger treefrogs via feeding tongs
, and burrowing insects and worms can be placed in a cup or bowl. Most treefrogs can be fed three times per week, or roughly every other day.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check your treefrogs regularly for wounds. Injuries such as broken skin can become infected. Discoloration, ulcers, and other abnormal skin conditions require immediate attention as they may indicate bacterial or fungal infections that can be fatal if left untreated.
Daily care includes misting, removing waste and dead insects, and providing clean water.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations
for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our reptile room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1246 or [email protected]
or peat moss
to hold humidity & moisture
or glass canopy
Small water dish
& Reptile mister
Multi vitamin powder