Pet Care Guides Reptile

Horned Frogs

The Argentine horned frog, Ceratophrys ornata, is one of the most popular frogs available in the pet trade. These large amphibians are often colorful in appearance and personality, and their care in captivity is very simple.

Despite their size horned frogs are relatively inactive and require only modest enclosures. They are an ideal choice for those seeking a personable and easy to maintain pet that may reach 20 or more years of age.

Argentine horned frogs inhabit savannas in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil near shallow bodies of water. They are voracious ambush predators capable of tackling invertebrates, snakes, rodents, and other frogs. Their large mouths enable them to engulf prey nearly their own size, an ideal attribute for a relatively immobile creature.

These frogs are also known for a unique reproductive behaviors: horned frog tadpoles are the only amphibian larvae known to communicate with one another by sound.



Average Size

4 to 6 in


up to 6 years


Horned frogs and African bullfrogs are not very active, but when prey is introduced into the tank or held in front of them with forceps they will quickly launch themselves forward, grabbing the food in their mouths and often shoving it in further with their front legs. These frogs may use their giant mouths for defense as well, so caution should be used if handling is necessary for any reason. They can be safely grasped by the waist in front of the rear legs.


Setting up the Terrarium

As ambush predators, these frogs seldom move unless it is necessary. Generally a 15-20 gallon aquarium should be large enough for an adult. As large frogs produce large amounts of waste it is important to maintain a clean terrarium. Ease of cleaning should be a priority when setting up a tank.

Horned frogs and African bullfrogs will swallow whatever enters their mouths along with their meals. Because of this, intestinal blockages can occur. Soil-like substrates or sphagnum moss can be used with caution, but if your frog is ingesting large amounts of bedding it may be a good idea to move the frog to a bare tank for feeding or permanently, so long as it is tilted to allow one side of the tank to function as an easily cleaned water source.

Light, Heat and Humidity

Frogs generally do not require UVB radiation, and these frogs are no exception. A 12-14 hour day cycle should be provided using a standard daylight aquarium fluorescent.

The relative humidity of the cage should not be a major concern so long as a clean water source is provided. An occasional misting and slightly damp bedding are all that is needed to ensure that your frog has access to enough water. If using tap water, be sure to use a dechlorinator such as Reptisafe.

Temperatures between 72-85°F should be maintained. Incandescent bulbs and ceramic heaters can cause excessive drying and should be used with caution. Usually a small heating pad can be placed on the side or bottom of the tank to provide a slightly warmer temperature in one area.


Juveniles have insatiable appetites and invariably try to swallow even like-sized tank-mates. They are best housed singly. Adults may co-exist, but should be fed separately as bites are frequently inflicted during feeding accidents.


Both horned frogs and African bullfrogs eat a large proportion of vertebrates in the wild and therefore should be provided with plenty of calcium. Minnows or guppies, pinky mice, and crayfish are ideal. Crickets powdered with a calcium supplement are also beneficial but will not suffice on their own. Earthworms and other feeder invertebrates such as roaches, waxworms, and silkworms may be used as well. Care should be taken to avoid feeding these frogs mice with fur, as this practice can lead to health problems. Any feeder animals should be given a nutritious diet prior to being offered to your frog. A multivitamin or mineral powder may be used occasionally on feeders as well.

Adults should be fed 1-2 times per week, while juveniles can be fed daily or every other day.

Water should be changed daily and treated with a water conditioner.

Daily Care and Maintenance

Water changes are important to protect against bacteria and ammonia that may build up from waste. Terrarium cleaner or diluted bleach (1 cup per gallon of water) can be used to clean water dishes and tanks as long as they are thoroughly rinsed. If substrate is used, waste should be removed regularly and the bedding should be changed often.

Frogs are prone to bacterial and fungal diseases of the skin. In addition to regularly cleaning the enclosure, frogs should be checked regularly for signs of redness, ulcers, or other abnormalities. Any illness should be diagnosed and treated promptly as some can be fatal if allowed to progress.

Health Considerations

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. 1240 or

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