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Treefrog Facts – An Introduction for Pet Keepers

The world is home to a mind-boggling assortment of fascinating treefrogs, many of which make wonderful pets.  Included among the 1,200+ species that have adapted to life above-ground we find tiny, colorful gems, giants that will feed from one’s hand, gliders that sail through the treetops and a host of other delightfully unique frogs.  Some, such as Red-Eyed and White’s Treefrogs, are pet trade staples.  New species become available frequently…in recent years, for example, the bizarrely-beautiful Amazon Milk and Mossy Treefrogs have become “must haves” among serious frog enthusiasts.

White’s, Red-Eyed, Lemur, Green, Reed, Waxy Monkey, Mossy, Cuban, Asian Flying, Barking, White-Lipped and dozens of other treefrogs are available in the pet trade.  An understanding of their natural history – how they live in the wild – is the first step in learning to provide them with proper care in captivity.  This article will introduce you to their habits and habitats.  The articles linked below provide specific information on their care and habits of some unusual species.  Please be sure to post questions about the care of specific species below.


Waxy Monkey Treefrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Brocken Inaglory

Treefrogs are found on every continent except Antarctica, and have adapted to rainforests, temperate woodlands, arid semi-deserts, human dwellings and many other habitats.  I’ve found Gray Treefrogs in the heart of Manhattan and Cuban Treefrogs in downtown Miami, where their favorite “habitat” earned them the now-dated name “Phone Booth Frogs”.


Treefrogs that Break the “Frog Breeding Rules”

Some treefrogs deposit their eggs on leaves over water, while others breed in tree hollows in the forest canopy.  It was recently discovered that the tadpoles of India’s Brown Leaping Frog live on tree limbs and eat bark, while those of the Fringe-Limbed Treefrog actually devour their father’s skin (no worries…it grows back!).  Please see the articles linked below for more information on these two bizarre creatures.


A Fruit-Eating Treefrog?

Treefrog lifestyles and habits are so diverse that picking a “most unusual species” is an impossible task.  But Brazil’s Izecksohn’s Treefrog (Xeohyla truncate) is a good candidate.  Of the world’s 6,200+ frog species, only the Marine Toad and the various African Clawed Frogs are known to consume meals that are not alive and moving, and even these oddballs are, like all other frogs, carnivorous.  Herpetologists were justifiably shocked to discovered that Izecksohn’s Treefrog eats berries and small fruits, and likely assists in spreading their seeds!


Color Changes

These “chameleons of the frog world” are known for their color-changing abilities.  Skin color usually depends more upon temperature (and possibly stress levels) than the color of the frog’s perching spot, but also serves to hide treefrogs from enemies and potential meals.


Treefrogs as Pets

You can expect to see many interesting behaviors from your treefrogs, especially if they are kept in naturalistic terrariums.  Waxy Monkey Treefrogs and other nocturnal species can easily be viewed with the help of a red/black reptile night bulb.

Amazon Milk Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Crusier

Many species popular in the pet trade, such as the Red-Eyed Treefrog, are found in the family Hylidae (800+ species).  Wallace’s Flying Treefrog (Genus Rhacophoridae) and several others have extra skin flaps that allow them to glide from tree to tree.  Barking, Green, Squirrel and Grey Treefrogs, native to the USA, are not often kept but make fine pets.  Smaller species reach only 1-3 inches in length, but the Cuban Treefrog, now established in Florida, gets large enough to consume small rodents, snakes, lizards and other frogs.

Handling stresses most frogs, but the always amiable White’s Treefrog will gladly hop onto your hand for a meal.  In general, frogs are best handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands, so that the skin’s protective mucus covering is not removed.

With care, some treefrogs will live into their 20’s, and may even reward you with eggs.  While many treefrogs are quite hardy, all have specific needs which must be met if they are to thrive.  Please post your questions on the care of individual species below.


Green Treefrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Brian Gratwicke



Further Reading

Skin-Feeding Treefrog Tadpoles 

Keeping the Asian Flying Treefrog

 Land-Dwelling, Bark-Eating Treefrog Tadpoles


  1. avatar
    Judith M. Smith

    Can you provide any information on the breeding of Leptopelis Uluguruensis from Tanzania? They have not been successfully bred in the USA, and very little is known about their breeding habits….perhaps with your circle of acquaintences you, or they, can give me some information. They are also called “Ruby-eyed, Moon eyed and perhaps other nicknames”. I have two mature females and six males to have a breeders. Hopefully you can help…thanks, Judy S

    • avatar

      Hello Judith,

      Unfortunately I can’t find any record of their being bred; a co-worker worked in Tanzania with Nectophrynoides ; I’ll emial re this species, but I do not believe he had any experiences with it. A rain chamber would be helpful if they breed during the rainy season, but other than that I can’t offer much, sorry. The genus is so large that experiences with related species may not be useful, but I’ll keep alert for any info that might be of use. In case you haven’t seen these, the following links have some basic info, along with references to other sources mentioning this species:

      Amphibia Web


      Please keep me posted, good luck, Frank

  2. avatar

    Hello Frank,
    Once again and as always, I enjoyed reading this.
    I’m sure our members on Frog Forum will find it very useful as well.
    Thank you for posting it !

    • avatar

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Lynn. I have plenty posted on treefrogs, can’t always post as often as I’d like but let me know if you have any subjects in mind that members might enjoy and I’ll send links. Here’s one I’ve been meaning to post http://bit.ly/cp7CbZ.

      Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    I just acquired a “green tree frog” that turned out to be a random tree frog from an imported (Brazillian) box of bananas. Could you tell me where to look for tips on identifying this little guy so I can properly care for him?

    • avatar

      Hi Angela,

      Unfortunately there is no comprehensive field guide to the amphibians of Brazil; treefrogs are especially difficult to ID visually, as many are quite similar. See if your library can get you seral books on Latin American amphibians; there are a few photo galleries of amphibs of Brazil on line…you may get lucky.

      You can follow the general care guidelines in this article; if your home drops below 70F in winter, you’ll likely need a heat source. Please let me know if you need inf on this, best, Frank

  4. avatar

    Hi, Frank.

    I thought I’d update you. It turns out my little frog isn’t so exotic after all. He appears to be a male Hyla squirella, Squirrel Treefrog. A bit out of his normal range (I live in Kansas!), so he probably did hitch a ride somehow, though likely not on imported Brazillian bananas. I’m in the process of updating the viv he came with now that I know what he is, and figuring out how to vary his diet a bit. I raise dubia & mealworms for my geckos, but I’m guessing that won’t be enough variety/interest for the little guy.

    • avatar

      Hi Angela,

      Squirrel treefrogs in the Kansas wheat fields!…Interesting thanks; Such travelers were more common years ago…as a boy in the Bronx, I was often called to the local supermarket to capture hitchhiking frogs, lizards and spiders (in fact, the common name of 1 species is the banana spider); once a mouse opossum showed up, and even as late as the mid-90’s I was called to a Manhattan truck depot to collect a hitchhiking rattlesnake.

      Squirrel treefrogs specialize in feeding upon small, soft-bodied arboreal and flying insects. Don’t use mealworms, as they are difficult to digest, linked to several health issues. The information in this article on Red Eyed Treefrogs is applicable. Commercial housefly cultures are useful. Use only very small crickets and roaches. earthworms good but most treefrogs to not accept..try offering via tongs.

      Here’s another article on frog diets (link to Part I is in text) with additional ideas.

      Please let me know if you need more info, enjoy, Frank

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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