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A Turtle Basking Platform that Doubles as a Frog-Feeding Device

Green FrogI apologize for the awkward title, but try as I might this was the best I could do!  Today I’d like to propose a new use for the Penn Plax Turtle Pier, a wonderful product that was originally designed as a resting/basking area for turtles, newts and frogs.

Problematical Habitats and Habits

Many semi-aquatic frogs, often thought of as “typical pond frogs” by people living within their ranges, make interesting and attractive pets. However, due to the habitats they prefer and, in some cases, their relatively shy natures, it is often difficult to provide captives with the varied diets they require.

I’m thinking here of American Bullfrogs, Green Frogs, Fire-Bellied Toads, European Marsh Frogs, Edible Frogs, Leopard Frogs, Pickerel Frogs, Pig Frogs and similar species.  These are best housed in aquariums with relatively large, deep areas of water and resting sites in the form of platforms and floating plants.

The Problem

Frogs that feed from tongs are easily supplied with dietary variety.  But not all will (American Bullfrogs, for example, are often very shy) and in large collections hand-feeding is not always an option.  Crickets survive well in largely aquatic situations, clinging to plants and cork bark until they are captured.  Crickets alone, however, even when supplemented with vitamin powders, are not a healthful diet for frogs long-term.

In typical frog set-ups, many of the most valuable food animals invariably fall from land areas into the water within minutes of being placed in the aquarium.  Unlike African Clawed Frogs and other completely aquatic species, those mentioned above cannot catch food underwater unless the water is only 1-2 inches in depth (most need much deeper pools in order to feel secure).

Earthworms, minnows and other fishes (which are vital calcium sources for Bullfrogs and several others), caterpillars, sowbugs, beetles, moths and other important foods are, therefore, often nearly impossible to use in typical semi-aquatic aquariums.

Devising Feeding Areas

My solution had been to construct land areas from plastic storage boxes – cutting away most of one side of the box but leaving a lip of plastic to help retain earthworms, fishes and other food animals.  In essence, the boxes were used as “holding areas” for active food items that might otherwise wind up underwater before being captured by the frogs.  However, these were not very attractive (and could not be used in zoo exhibits) and did not always work out, size-wise.

Turtle PierEnter the Penn Plax Turtle Pier.  Its large, flat surface provides an excellent “table”, and the slight lip around the rim helps retain foods such as dry-docked fishes.  For frogs that will not feed on cue, I believe it represents a very important means of providing a healthful, varied diet with a minimum of effort.

A Useful Tadpole Ramp

The Turtle Pier’s sloping ramp also provides a simple means by which transforming tadpoles can exit the water.  It adjusts to the water level in your tank, and so can be used for tadpoles that can exit relatively deep pools (i.e. American Bullfrogs, Green Frogs) or those that require shallow water (i.e. Poison Frogs, American Toads, Painted Frogs).



Further Reading

For further ideas and information on related topics, please see Feeding Large Insectivorous Reptiles and Amphibians.

Not all frogs are shy – please check out the video of a ravenous Green Frog in my article on Tong-Feeding Frogs.


One comment

  1. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Couldn’t find a good really recent article to place this question but it relates marginally to the above I s’pose.

    Do you have any experiences/advice on Entamoeba invadens? It apparently is an amoeba that can be deadly to various reptiles yet lives as a commensal in others(notably many trutles and crocodilians). Many of us maintain mixed collections including turtles alongside of more suspectible animals. My current precautions are little more than working with snakes/lizards/amphibs prior to working with the turtle(only a single small musk turtle-which I’ve considered taking him back to my folks house and keeping only “clean dry” animals in the apartment). I’m sure many people are more cautious than I am. On the other end of the spectrum I saw an exhibit at the SD zoo with European pond turtles living in the pond section of an outdoor exhibit that housed jeweled lacertas and Sheltopusiks(observed one of the sheltopusiks drinking the pondwater). I’d appreciate your thoughts on this and quarantine procedures in general.


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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