Home | Amphibians | Frogs (page 21)

Category Archives: Frogs

Feed Subscription

Contains articles and advice on a wide variety of frog species. Answers and addresses questions on species husbandry, captive status, breeding, news and conservation issues concerning frogs.

The Unique, Endangered Panamanian Golden Frog or Harlequin Toad – Part 1

The Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) is one of the world’s most highly endangered amphibians, but has entered the pet trade from time to time and is sometimes seen in private collections. I’ve had the good fortune of working with these Neo-Tropical gems at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos, and would like to highlight their amazing natural history and desperate plight here.


Golden frogs reach a mere 1.4 – 2.5 inches in length, with individuals inhabiting dry forests being 2/3 the size of wet forest dwellers (please see “Habitat”, below).

Slim and long-legged, golden frogs are clad in bright gold, brilliant to pale yellow, or greenish-yellow. The black markings they sport range from random blotches to small spots, or may be entirely absent. The head is longer than it is wide, and the snout is pointed.

Sub-adult frogs are very different from adults in appearance, being vivid green with black markings. This color scheme provides excellent camouflage among the moss-covered boulders of their streamside habitat.

Most people are surprised to learn that this species is classified in the family Bufonidae, along with the familiar American toad. It usually moves with a peculiar, ambling walk.


Golden frogs are known only from the Cerro Campers-Valle de Anton region of western Panama.


Golden frogs are restricted to the margins of swiftly flowing streams on the montane slopes of Panama’s Central Cordillera rainforests and cloud forests, at elevations of 335-1,315 meters above sea level.

There are 2 distinct habitat types, wet forest and dry forest. Animals within wet forest habitats congregate on streamside boulders, to a height of 9 feet above the ground; dry forest frogs forage mainly on the ground. In both habitats, females move into the forest with the approach of the rainy season, while males tend to remain in the territories that they have established along the streams.

Communicating by Sign Language

The Panamanian golden frog has evolved a number of adaptations that allow it to breed in swiftly flowing streams, which are relatively hostile environments for small amphibians.

Males utilize hand waving and foot movements, known as “semaphoring”, in order to advertise their presence to females and to discourage other males. This communication system has apparently evolved in response to the deafening noise of the waterfalls in the streams where these frogs reproduce…vocal signals from such a small animal would be ineffective.

Males that intrude on another’s territory are attacked, and a wrestling bout ensues.


A single egg strand, containing 200-650 eggs, is laid by each female. The egg strand is attached to a large rock, which protects it from fast currents. The eggs hatch in 7-10 days.


The tadpoles are dark with golden flecks and have an adhesive disc on the ventral surface that allows them to cling to rocks in fast-moving streams. They feed by scraping algae and diatoms from the surface of submerged rocks, and congregate at the edges of pools below cascades.

In captivity, tadpoles transform over an unusually variable time period…75-265 days.


Newly transformed frogs differ greatly from adults in appearance, being vivid green with black markings. They also differ in behavior – whereas the adults are diurnal and quite bold, young golden frogs hide among moss covered streamside boulders.

It is believed that sub-adult frogs lack the potent skin toxins of the adults, and therefore rely upon camouflage for protection.


Further Reading

You can read about golden frog conservation projects at


Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Jeff Kubina.

Breeding White’s Treefrogs and White-Lipped Treefrogs – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information on other aspects of breeding the White’s treefrog (Litoria infrafrenata): distinguishing the sexes, preparation for breeding and egg-laying.

The Tadpoles
At 80-85 F, White’s treefrog eggs will begin to hatch in 24-40 hours. The tadpoles remain largely inactive for the first 1-3 days, during which time they should not be fed. Once they begin moving about, food should always be available.

While some have raised White’s treefrog tadpoles on simpler diets, I have been most successful when using a variety of food items. In some cases, tadpoles raised on 1-2 foods develop normally, but the froglets expire within a month or two of transforming. I feed White’s treefrog tadpoles tropical fish flakes, algae wafers, and kale, romaine, dandelion and other greens that have soaked in hot water for 10 minutes or so.

Well-fed tadpoles will transform within a month or so of hatching. Some will invariably lag behind, and may remain within the tadpole stage for an additional 4-6 weeks.

The tadpole rearing tank should be well-stocked with live floating plants such as water lettuce, water hyacinth and pothos, and lit by a Reptisun 2.0 bulb (please see Part I of this article). The plants, and a gently sloping reptile basking platform will provide the metamorphs with easy egress from the water.

The Young Frogs (Metamorphs)
Rearing a large number of froglets can be quite a challenge. Overcrowding, especially in situations of limited air flow, rapidly leads to highly contagious fungal infections of the skin. Screen cages  provided with numerous perching sites make ideal rearing enclosures.

Young White’s treefrogs usually feed vigorously, taking ¼ inch crickets, small waxworms, roach nymphs and similarly sized insects. If you are raising a large number of frogs, consider culturing flightless houseflies (available via biological supply houses). These insects are ideally sized, readily digestible and reproduce rapidly. The Zoo Med Bug Napper Insect Trap  can be employed to help provide the frogs with important dietary variety in the form of wild-caught insects.

All insects offered the frogs should be powdered with vitamin/mineral supplements  for the first few months following transformation.

The White Lipped or Indonesian Giant Green Treefrog (Litoria infrafrenata)
Native to extreme northeastern Australia, New Guinea, Timor and the Solomon Islands, this striking relative of the White’s treefrog inhabits swamps, rainforests, farms and suburban yards. It is the world’s largest treefrog, reaching a snout-vent length of nearly 6 inches.

White-lipped treefrogs tend to be high strung, and do not take well to handling. They should be housed in a large, well-planted terrarium provisioned with numerous perches and arboreal hideaways. This frog is less cold-tolerant than its plucky relative; ambient temperatures of 78-82 F by day and 74-76 F by night suit it well.

White lipped treefrogs may be bred as has been described for White’s treefrogs, but during the cooling-off period temperatures should be kept at 70 F during the night, and 74 F during the day.

Dietary variety for both adult white-lipped treefrogs and their tadpoles seems to be of even greater importance than is the case for other frogs. The metamorphs invariably develop skin problems if crowded or kept without adequate air circulation.

Further Reading
You can read more about the natural history and captive care of the white-lipped treefrog on the web site of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by PicTrans.

Distinguishing the African Clawed Frog from the Dwarf Clawed Frog

For as long as I can recall, distinguishing between young African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) and adult dwarf clawed frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri or H. curtipes) has been problematical for many frog keepers (and pet store employees!). The question is more than academic, because both are exceedingly common and popular in the pet trade, and their care differs radically.

Distinguishing the Species

Both are members of the frog family Pipidae, a group of 32 species of aquatic, tongue-less and thoroughly engaging creatures. Included the Pipidae is the bizarre, back-brooding Surinam toad (Pipa pipa) and its 5 relatives.

The two can be easily distinguished by closely examining the front feet. If the fingers are webbed, then the frog is a dwarf clawed frog. If they are not webbed, then it is a baby African clawed frog. Both have webbed feet.

There are subtle differences as well – dwarf frogs are even more flattened in shape than their larger cousins, and have somewhat pointed (as opposed the African clawed frog’s rounded) heads.

Lifestyle and Care Differences

African clawed frogs are boisterous, hardy beasts that eat most anything, prepared foods included, and are easily trained to feed from the hand. Captive longevity approaches 30 years.

Dwarf clawed frogs are live food specialists. Tiny and slow moving, they incessantly search the substrate for worms and other invertebrates, and do best in warm, densely-planted aquariums. A breeding group makes for an enchanting display.

Frogs and Fish?

Unfortunately, both are often sold as “oddities” for tropical fish aquariums. This situation rarely works out…African clawed frogs consume all but the largest of fishes, and dwarf frogs are inevitably out-competed for food and perish in short order.

There are major differences in the care of both species, which I’ll cover in detail in the future. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.

Further Reading

I’ve long been fascinated by aquatic frogs, and have bred a number of species. Please see my article African Clawed Frog Behavior  for some unusual observations upon which I’m seeking the comments of other frog enthusiasts.

Both frogs can be bred in captivity, and their tadpoles have a most unusual feeding strategy. For more information and a video clip, please see Suction Feeding in H. boettgeri.

Dwarf Clawed Frog Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Mwatro

Breeding White’s Treefrogs and White-Lipped Treefrogs – Part 1

Since their arrival in the US in the early 1980’s, White’s treefrogs (Litoria caerulea) have become one of the most popularly kept of all frogs.  Although longevities of 25 years are known, captive breeding remains surprisingly uncommon.  The white-lipped treefrog (Litoria infrafrenata), a large, attractive relative, is also infrequently bred by hobbyists.  Considering how little we know about amphibian reproduction, and the precarious state of many species, I suggest that interested frog-keepers hone their breeding skills on the relatively robust White’s treefrog.

Distinguishing the Sexes

White’s treefrogs reach sexual maturity by age 2.  Mature males are smaller than females, have loose, slightly dark skin about their throats and, when in breeding condition, sport thickened nuptial pads (used to grasp females during amplexus) on their thumbs.  Only the males call.

The Dormancy Period

A cooling off period, preferably in late winter, is critical to breeding success. Cease feeding the frogs 7-10 days prior to the cooling period and place them into an aquarium furnished with a substrate of moist sphagnum moss and cork bark shelters.

Gradually reduce the temperature to 65 F during the night (a basement is ideal) and 68 F during the day (use a small incandescent bulb to raise the temperature) and maintain this schedule for 4 weeks.  Thereafter, hold the temperature at 65 F round-the-clock for an additional 2 weeks.  The terrarium should be kept in the dark throughout this time, and the frogs should not be fed.

Preparing the Frogs for Breeding

After the 6 week “winter”, warm the frogs to 80 F over a 2 week period, and feed them heavily for 3-4 weeks.  Novel prey animals, such as wild-caught or canned insects, should be offered at this time.

Thereafter, move the frogs into an aquarium filled with 4 inches water and provisioned with live floating plants (i.e. water hyacinth, water lettuce, pothos) and basking platforms.  Use an aquarium heater  to warm the water to 82-85F, and add a florescent bulb to encourage plant and algae growth.  I recommend the Reptisun 2.0  bulb, as its UVB output is ideal for amphibians and plants…avoid strong reptile UVB bulbs.

Using a small submersible water pump, create artificial rain by pumping water into a perforated plastic container or PVC tube placed on the terrarium’s screen cover.  Allow the “rain” to fall for 6-8 hours nightly, beginning at dusk.  This step is vital in inducing spawning, and will usually result in reproduction within a week or so.

The Eggs

If all goes well, you will one morning find yourself in possession of thousands of eggs.  It is wise to plan ahead and arrange for friends or nature centers to take some of the eggs, as crowded conditions can cause the loss of the entire clutch.  Remove the adults and install an air pump driven sponge filter that provides mild water circulation.

In contrast to what is commonly recommended for some other frogs, I suggest raising White’s treefrog tadpoles in plant and algae filled aquariums as opposed to bare, sterile containers.  I have even added green pond water to several tanks with good results.




Further Reading

You can read about White’s treefrog breeding in the wild, and hear recordings of the males’ calls, at http://magneticisland.s4space.com.au/L.caerulea.html.

Amphibian Husbandry: Tong-Feeding Canned Insects to Frogs

I frequently promote the use of canned insects as a means of providing a balanced, varied diet to amphibian and reptile pets…in my experience, very little is as important as this one factor. Free living reptiles and amphibians consume dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of prey species, and rarely fare well on a captive diet consisting of 2-3 types of insects.
Canned invertebrates are convenient…some people even rely on them in place of readily available insects such as crickets and mealworms.  However, their true value lies in providing us an opportunity to add difficult-to-obtain food animals to our pets’ diets.  Other canned species that are valuable in this regard include grasshoppers, snails and fresh water shrimp.

Insect traps, such as the Zoo Med Bug Napper will also assist you in adding a variety of species to your insectivorous pets’ diets.

Feeding Tongs – Plastic vs. Metal

When looking at the video, please note how hard the frog strikes the insect…this is common, and a very good reason to use Zoo Med Plastic Feeding Tongs with these ravenous little fellows.  Metal tongs, which can injure delicate mouth tissues, are best reserved for pets which feed gingerly or take large food items.

Green and Bronze Frogs as Pets

Green frogs are wonderful but over-looked terrarium pets.  The normal seasonal changes throughout most of the USA are sufficient to spark breeding, even among animals housed indoors, and their colors are quite attractive and variable.

Populations living south of the Carolinas have been classified as a distinct subspecies, and are popularly known as bronze frogs (Rana c. clamitans).  The individual pictured here is part of a group I established for a new amphibian exhibit at the Maritime Aquarium  in Connecticut.

Green frogs also do well in outdoor ponds (please see photo), but be sure to introduce tadpoles if your pond is unfenced – adults that are relocated often attempt to return to their home territories.

Video #2 – Small Frog vs. Large Finger

The second video shows a yearling green frog attempting to swallow my finger.  This animal was received as a tadpole (as was the adult, now 3 years old), mixed in with a shipment of feeder minnows.  Although amphibians are thought to operate largely upon instinct, learning, as you can see, plays a role as well… my hand should send this frog diving for cover.  Interestingly, those captive-raised frogs that I have placed into outdoor ponds quickly regain their “common sense” and become difficult to approach.

Further Reading

Please see my article Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptile and Amphibian Pets  for further information.


Scroll To Top