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.
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!
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.
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.