Keeping Frogs as Pets

Poison Arrow Frogs

Poison arrow frogs – also known as poison dart frogs – get their name from the natural poison toxins secreted by their skin as a defensive mechanism.  The poisonous toxins from certain species are traditionally used by local tribes on the ends of their arrows and darts that are used to kill prey.  These frogs are popular as exotic pets not only for their striking bright colours, but because they are active during the day.  Many amphibians are nocturnal, making it harder to observe their behaviour.  They are very small frogs, generally measuring around an inch long when fully grown.

The skin secretions are actually made toxic by the poisonous insects the frogs eat in the wild.  So in captivity, when fed on an adult diet, the skin secretions are safe.  Be aware that frogs caught in the wild and sold as pets will remain toxic and dangerous for some time, so it is advisable to buy captive bred frogs for pets.  They aren’t the easiest of amphibians to keep as pets and are better for experienced pet keepers rather than beginners.  Among the easiest and most popular species to keep as pets are the Striped, Black Legged, Green and Black, Bumble Bee and Dyeing poison arrow frogs.

Habitat & Feeding

Poison arrow frogs need a humid and warm environment to thrive, as a substitute for their natural home in the forests of South and Central America.  It depends on the species, but generally the temperature should be 25-28C during the day, 21C at night, with humidity of 70-100%.  They need a spacious terrarium with a suitable substrate such as bark chippings and plenty of places to hide.  Exotic pet shops sell a range of accessories for decorating your tank, such as model waterfalls.  Several frogs can be kept together in the same tank, but they can get territorial when fully grown, so the tank needs to be large enough to give them all room.

Because they are such small frogs, they need small prey such as aphids, baby woodlice and small crickets.

Clawed Frogs

The African clawed frog (xenopus laevis) is the most commonly kept species of this aquatic frog, which comes from South Africa.  Its body and head appear flattened and it gets its name from the sharp claws on its hind feet.

Habitat & Feeding

You will need to keep your clawed frogs in an aquarium.  The water temperature should be around 20C, so many pet owners don’t heat their tank, just keep it in a warm place.  These frogs don’t like sudden changes in temperature, so be careful when doing partial water changes, which you should do often.  Gravel can be used on the base of the aquarium, as long as it’s large enough not to be ingested by the frogs.  You can add plants if you wish, but it’s not necessary and the frogs are likely to uproot them.

Clawed frogs aren’t generally fussy about what they eat.  Fully grown ones can be fed earthworms, maggots and bits of raw fish.  Younger frogs can eat tubifex, whiteworm and bloodworm.

Tree Frogs

As the name suggests, tree frogs naturally live in trees rather than on the ground or underwater.  There are many varieties that can be kept as pets, such as the African Green, the African Big Eyed and the Red Eyed tree frog.  Their size varies according to the species, with the large Cuban tree frog growing up to 15cm long, the White’s or “Dumpy” tree frog from Australia measuring around 10cm and the smaller European tree frog being around 5cm long.

Habitat & Feeding

Tree frogs in captivity need to be kept in a terrarium that is large enough for them to move and jump fairly long distances, with bark or sphagnum moss on the floor.  Like any type of frog, tree frogs will need places to hide, so large pieces of cork back or shop bought accessories can be used.

Tree frogs will need a small bowl of water, which will help with the humidity as well.  It’s important to keep the tank clean and free from mould, so you should clean it out every 3 weeks or so.  Because tree frogs come from warm places in the wild, the terrarium should be heated to about 25C during the day and 20C at night, depending on the particular species you choose.  If you use a lamp to heat your tank, make sure it has a guard to protect your pets from burns.

Tree frogs can be fed a variety of live food, depending on their size, such as crickets, earthworms and insects collected from a garden.