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Albino and Leucistic American Bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana (Lithobates catesbeianus): a Request for Your Input


Albino BullfrogsAlbino and leucistic American bullfrogs are becoming quite popular in the pet trade.  The two females that I’m holding in the accompanying photograph are approximately 1 year old, and were received as tadpoles.  The other photograph shows two others in an exhibit I prepared for the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut (note the pumpkinseed sunfish…bullfrogs usually do quite well with predatory fish).

Basking Platforms

Albino Bullfrogs in ExhibitThe frogs in the exhibit photo are resting upon an R-Zilla Basking Platform.  I use these extensively, both at home and in the zoo/aquarium exhibits that I design.  The platforms are very realistic in appearance, especially when surrounded by real or artificial plants and with a light covering of algae.  They are equipped with a stick built into the surface – you can wedge a bit of R-Zilla Beaked Moss below this for extra effect.  I also favor the Zoo Med Turtle Dock.  One end of this platform slopes below the water, providing easy access to metamorphosing frogs, newts and other creatures that might need a bit of help exiting the water.  I’ve also used this model for a spotted turtle that lost his rear legs in an accident…the gentle slope allows him to easily climb on board.

In most situations, I prefer suspended platforms to rock piles, as the former leave the water below clear for swimming.  Cork Bark works well also, but floats freely or must be cut to fit the tank and wedged into place.

An Un-cooked Chicken!

Most visitors to the aquarium remark favorably upon the albinos, which live in an exhibit with normally colored bullfrogs.  I did, however, overhear one gentleman respond to his companion’s “Aren’t they interesting?” with a definitive “They look like un-cooked chickens”!

Unusual Physical Traits (in addition to their color, or lack thereof!)

Albino bullfrogs behave in all respects as do normally-colored individuals, and like them vary greatly in their dispositions.  The two in my collection are incredibly shy, while a male on exhibit frequently calls during the day, in full view of the visitors.  However, I noticed that mine lacked the solid “feel” that I associate with bullfrogs, and seem not to have very good muscle tone.  They move slowly, and “slide” more than jump from basking sites when disturbed.  Those at the aquarium, and in the possession of a colleague in Louisiana, exhibit similar characteristics.

All were raised on well-proven bullfrog tadpole favorites (kale, algae, algae tabs, Tetramin fish flakes and bits of fish) and since metamorphosis have been fed a varied, high calcium diet that has always yielded robust frogs in the past – crayfish, minnows, earthworms, well-fed crickets, roaches and wild-caught cicadas, grasshoppers and other insects.


Field notes on albino bullfrog tadpoles in the wild are detailed in an article posted at:


A visitor to the aquarium exhibit mentioned in this article has posted a video about it, see below

A Survey of Amphibians, Reptiles and Insects Suitable for Maintenance in Outdoor Ponds – Part I, The American Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana (Lithobates catesbeianus)

Albino BullfrogsAn outdoor pond or other such habitat will expose you to facets of your pets’ behaviors that are difficult if not impossible to observe in indoor terrariums. I am a great fan of naturalistic, outdoor enclosures and from time to time will write about some of the many creatures that will thrive in them.

Surprising Colonizers
In most cases, the animals within our terrariums have been put there on purpose. However, if you establish an un-fenced outdoor pond, you may be in for a few pleasant surprises, even in densely populated areas.
Surprisingly, creatures that seem incapable of moving great distances, such as frogs, salamanders, snakes and turtles, are actually quite adept at sensing the presence of new water sources and traveling to them.

Especially skilled in this regard are bullfrogs, leopard frogs, pickerel frogs, grey tree frogs, American toads, water snakes and snapping turtles. There is an incredible amount of pressure on young animals (in the form of territorial and hungry adults) to leave their natal homes, so it makes sense that they would be equipped with keen abilities to find new habitats. So surprising is the arrival of frogs at isolated ponds that, in earlier times, people believed they rained down from the sky or were spontaneously generated from the mud!

An Impressive Pond Resident
The American bullfrog, Rana catesbeianus, is the largest North American frog and a truly spectacular addition to the garden pond. Bullfrogs do not like to be crowded – most backyard ponds will support but 1 male and 1 or 2 females. Bullfrogs have large appetites and have been known to consume small birds, bats and mice, and especially favor smaller frogs (related or otherwise!) If you move about slowly and cautiously when the frogs are out sunning, they will soon accept your presence and will reward your patience by swallowing earthworms or crickets tossed nearby.

Introducing Bullfrogs to Your Pond
If you decide to add bullfrogs to an unenclosed pond, be sure to start with tadpoles – frogs introduced to a strange area will nearly always leave, apparently in search of their original homes. Tadpoles that mature in your pond will be quite content to stay nearby.

Bullfrog Tadpoles
The large tadpoles may take up to 2 years to mature. The tadpoles will eat whatever algae and dead insects they may find. However, they require a good deal of food for proper development, and should be given supplementary green vegetables that have be soaked for a few minutes in hot water (this breaks down the tough cell walls, which are indigestible) and held below water by rocks . Vegetables such as romaine, kale and dandelion are necessary foods when fish are about, as fish will out-compete the tadpoles for food items such as flakes and algae tablets.

Frogs in Winter
Green Frog in my backyard pondAlthough bullfrogs and other temperate species can be over-wintered in the pond, it is safer to bring them indoors. They should be kept in a large aquarium with a good deal of cover in the form of floating plastic plants and enough water in which to submerged themselves, along with a smooth rock or piece of wood on which to rest. If kept at temperatures of 50 F or so (i.e. in a basement, if available), they will be fairly calm and will require but 1 weekly feeding. The Green Frog, Rana clamitans, and Leopard Frog, Rana pipiens, can be kept in small groups in outdoor ponds, as they are far less territorial than their larger cousin.

The accompanying photo shows 2 female albino American Bullfrogs. Albino bullfrogs are striking additions to the outdoor pond, but will quickly be captured by predators if the pond is unenclosed. The animals pictured here are yearlings, and have a good deal of growing left to do.


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