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Frogs and Toads


African Dwarf Frog   |   Bumblebee Walking Toad  |   White’s Tree Frog


African dwarf frogs… I didn’t really know what I was getting when we decided to go for these little critters. We’d had toads, long ago, but never frogs. These little dudes were so cute, though, and I wanted something a bit exotic. And these frogs are pretty easy to care for– they’re fully aquatic, so you don’t need a complicated wet and dry setup, for starters. So we went for it.

And it turns out African dwarf frogs are pretty cool. They sing, sometimes, although not very often- but when they do, it’s so neat. And they float around and just generally look very cool… when you can see them. Seriously, I love having these frogs– they are awesome– but they are not the world’s most exciting pet. They’re nocturnal, for starters. So unless you’re up at odd hours with the lights on, tough luck spotting them. Sometimes I look in the aquarium and it looks absolutely empty. Sometimes I don’t see all of my frogs for days on end. So, yeah, having these frogs is fun. If you’re looking for seriously entertaining active pets, though, these aren’t the critters for you. But if you’re just enthusiastic about frogs, this is a good place to start…

Aquarium Requirements
African dwarf frogs, which are grey-ish green in color and have kind of a flat appearance, grow to only about 1.5 to two inches long. For this reason, each frog needs only about one gallon of space to be happy. Of course, if you can, the frogs would prefer to have more room. These critters are social, so you should try to keep a couple. A five gallon aquarium, which can be pretty cheap, is a good size for two or even three. A ten gallon could hold four or five easily.
I suggest one gallon per frog, but suggest a smaller percentage of frogs to aquarium size because, unlike with most fish tanks, you’re going to want to keep the water kind of low. These frogs won’t drown in deep water, but anything too deep can be a struggle. A few feet is probably fine, but 12 inches is better. I suggest nine inches because African dwarf frogs like to grab on to a plant and kind of float on the top of the water. Floating plants work well for this, but I use regular silk artificial plants, and it can be hard to find any over nine inches tall unless you want to spend the big bucks. So, if you fill a standard ten gallon aquarium to nine inches, you’re actually only using about seven gallons of water.
That brings me to aquarium décor. As I said, you want some plants, either tall or floating. Live plants are fine. If you go with artificial ones, make sure they’re soft. These frogs also really love places to hide. You can go with a fancy cave, or just overturn an un-painted flowerpot and stick it in a corner. The frogs just need someplace to go so they can feel secure.
You can use any substrate, as long as you find it easy to clean. A blank bottom or a few pretty pebbles are fine, as is gravel or sand. Just remember that gravel and sand are both basically evil and will make cleaning your tank your worst nightmare. If you do decide to go that route, though, ensure that any gravel or pebbles you use are large enough that an adult frogs won’t suck them into its mouth while eating.
As for filtration… Some people will tell you that the vibrations from a filter bother the frogs. Personally, I found the frogs to be seriously messy. I’ve never seen them get stressed out over the small, quiet overhang filter I use, and honestly, I can’t imagine not using it. Filtration is a must. Also, it's a good idea to suck out waste (I use a turkey baster to do this, it works really well) as often as possible.
Specialized lighting isn’t necessary. Just make sure that the frogs are getting a period of light and a period of darkness. You can do a light on a timer for exact twelve hour periods, but if the frogs are in a room that gets natural light and darkness, that schedule will work just fine.
Like most frogs, African dwarf frogs are extremely capable jumpers, so you’ll need a strong lid with absolutely no gaps. Even the smallest hole is a potential escape route for one of these little guys. &lparWell, to be honest, I’ve heard this, but I’ve never had any of my frogs try to jump. Better to be safe, though.)

Water Parameters
African dwarf frogs are pretty flexible when it comes to water parameters, as long as everything stays clean and stable. Make sure that your tank is fully cycled before you add any frogs. Any water that goes into the tank should also be totally dechlorinated. A pH of 7.0 to 7.2 is ideal, but these frogs can really adapt to a wide range of pH levels, as long as the pH remains stable. Temperature is similar- anywhere between 70oF and 82oF is acceptable, although the mid to high 70s are better.

One of the best things about these frogs is that they don’t require live foods. Frog or tadpole pellets or frozen or dried bloodworms or brine shrimp will work just fine. As long as the food sinks, the frogs will eventually eat it. Try placing the food in the same spot every time. African dwarf frogs are pretty clever and will learn to come to that spot when it’s feeding time. )Or so I’ve heard. I think my frogs, much as I love them, are maybe not the brightest bulbs on the tree. It takes them a loooong time to find their food.:rpar; Feed young frogs every day and mature frogs every other day.

Odd Behavior
African dwarf frogs do a couple funky things that you should be prepared for. The first is that they float, sometimes for hours. People are often worried that their floating frog is dead because it’s staying so still. This is called burbling, technically, although I’ve usually heard it referred to as the Zen position. If your frog is actually dead, it will probably be very bloated and obvious, so don’t worry about floating frogs.
Sometimes these frogs lie on their backs on the bottom, as well. Usually, this only lasts a few minutes.
In addition, African dwarf frogs shed their skin, much like a snake does, every now and then. Seeing it and not realizing what it is can be pretty disturbing, since it looks like the frog’s skin is peeling off. Which is actually exactly what’s happening. Just remember that it’s totally natural. My frogs usually eat their skin as they shed it, so I never see it floating around in the tank.

It can be kind of hard to tell the difference between male and female African dwarf frogs, but it can be done. Female frogs tend to be a little rounder than the males. They also have a more pronounced tail region, which looks somewhat like a bump. Male frogs, on the other hand, have little white bumps under their forearms.
It’s nice to know the gender of your frogs because these critters do occasionally breed in the aquarium. If you see your frogs in kind of a hugging position, they are probably mating. (The one on top, hugging the other, is the male.) If you find eggs and you decide that you want to keep them, they’ll need to be very carefully and quickly removed to a separate aquarium. Parent frogs sometimes accidentally eat the eggs when searching for food. Frog eggs also require specialized care, separate from the normal care of the adult frogs.

Don’t handle your frogs. I’ve heard some keeper say that you can, but seriously, it’s not good for the frogs. These, like most aquarium critters, are look– don’t– touch pets. The only time I’d ever handle mine would be to move them from one aquarium to another, and a net is still probably best for this job, anyway.   -SEL


I’ve never actually kept these, so I’m not an expert here, but I’ve thought they were really fascinating toads ever since I came across them doing research for another article. These toads are really pretty. Keeping them would be like having a little piece of the rainforest right in your house, which is, you know, pretty neat. Bumblebee walking toads are somewhat delicate, so they’re not ideal for amateur amphibian keepers, but anyone that’s had some experience with reptiles or amphibians will probably be fine.
Bumblebee Walking Toad drawing by Kyle LaPan
Appearance and Behavior
Bumblebee walking toads are really little. Males grow to about an inch long, not including the legs, and females can sometimes make it to an inch and a half. There are generally two sub-species that are sold as bumblebee walking toads. One sub-species is a little smaller and has more black and less yellow. Luckily, these toads both have the same care requirements.
Bumblebee walking toads are not territorial and tend to like being around their own species, so a group of toads is the best bet. These toads, which can live for ten years, are also active during the day, so you’ll be able to see everything they do, which is pretty cool.
Because of their bright coloring, you may be wondering if these toads are toxic, like poison dart frogs. The answer is yes and no. In the wild, these toads are toxic, but captive bred frogs tend to lose their toxicity. They won’t make you sick, but I wouldn’t lick my fingers after sticking my hand in their tank. Then again, I wouldn’t do this with any reptile or fish– would you? (On that same note, these frogs aren’t a pet you’re going to want to handle much. It’s just not good for the frogs.)

Habitat Requirements
Bumblebee walking toads are originally from an area where it’s more like a grassy plain than a jungle, but these little guys are very adaptable. Make sure that your terrarium is at least five gallons in size for the first frog, with another two to three gallons in space for each additional frog. A ten gallon could comfortably hold between one and four toads. You could probably do more, but if you can afford more of these somewhat-expensive toads, you can probably also afford a larger habitat.
Choose a substrate that’s kind of cushy. There are a lot of different ways to go with this, and some amphibian keepers can get kind of nutty about their substrates. Ultimately, you need to pick whatever works best for the climate and humidity in your area. Some of the easiest ways to go are coconut fiber, which can be mixed with soil, with or without layers of some type of moss, such as sphagnum moss.
Make sure that the terrarium has lots of little hiding places for the toads. They need small caves or overhanging leaves to hide behind in order to feel safe. You can also plant the terrarium with live or artificial plants. Stuff the toads can climb on seems to be a favorite for them, although they are not the world’s best climbers. They’re called walking toads for a reason.
The temperature and humidity range for these critters is wide, as long as it stays pretty stable. Anywhere between 65oF and 80oF has been reported by keepers to work well, but the mid 70s seems to be the best bet. Humidity should be between 60 and 80 percent- never lower. Again, a humidity level in the 70s works best. Maintaining a high humidity level may seem difficult, but even in the desert where I live, it’s not very hard. Keep the substrate somewhat moist, mist the habitat frequently using a spray bottle, and keep a dish of water, and you’re good to go.
Bumblebee walking toads aren’t the world’s greatest escape artists, but a cover on the habitat it a good idea. I like a screen top because it’s easy and affordable. To keep humidity in, I cover ¾ of the top of the habitat with a piece of plastic wrap, then put the screen cover down over that.

Bumblebee walking toads eat a wide range of live foods, such as little crickets, meal worms or fruit flies. Just remember that they’re little, so their foods should be little too. They seem to eat a lot for their size, so be ready for larger feedings than you expect. The exact amount to feed is a bit ambiguous and varies from toad to toad. If you see that the toads are a little thin or fat, feed more or less, or more or less frequently.
Keep a dish of water in the habitat. This doesn’t need to be deep, but the toads can swim, so maybe a half-inch depth wouldn’t be a bad idea. Not only will the toads be able to drink from this, but it will help to keep the humidity level high enough.   -SEL


White’s tree frogs… another frog I’ve never kept, although I remember doing a ton of research and articles on these guys. They’re pretty popular, probably because they are wicked cute. And I live to provide info, of course (that’s a joke– humor comes across so weirdly on the internet– but really…) so I thought I’d pour out my knowledge of these frogs here for you.
Appearance and Behavior
Also sometimes known as dumpy tree frogs, these are small arboreal frogs native to Australia and some surrounding areas. These frogs are placid and attractive, with a bright green coloring over most of their bodies. White’s tree frogs can be handled occasionally (please limit your frog handling, though, really), and, although they’re pretty inactive, they look cool, and can be fun to watch during meal times. They only grow to between three and five inches long. These traits make them a pretty good choice for a beginner reptile or frog enthusiast.

White’s Tree Frog drawing by Kyle LaPan

Habitat Requirements
White’s tree frogs don’t require as much space as a lot of other frog and toad species. A ten gallon aquarium/terrarium, per one frog, is enough room. However, a 15 or 20 gallon aquarium will make the frog that much more comfortable. These frogs are social, and can live together, but with each extra frog, you’ll need to add extra space. (Only place the same species of frog in one habitat. Mixing species is a big no-no- cannibalism, territorial fighting, and the mixing of inter-frog germs is just not cool. Also, try to keep frogs of the same size together. No one ever said these were the brightest little bunnies on the block, and if they see a meal, they go for it.) Since these frogs are arboreal naturally, meaning they climb through and live in the trees, vertical space is a good way to go. You can create vertical space by adding reptile logs and tree branches. Also, remember that since these frogs climb, they can also climb out. A secure screen top for the terrarium will provide an enclosed area, as well as needed ventilation.

A substrate is also necessary for your tree frog. White’s tree frogs often ingest small pieces of their bedding, so choose something froggy friendly, such as coconut fibers. Change out the bedding at least once a month, or whenever it seems overly soggy or dirty. You’ll also need to scoop up any frog waste that you see, using a paper towel or something, as often as you see it.

Because White’s tree frogs are jungle critters, they prefer a moist environment, as well as somewhere to bath or soak, or whatever it is little frogs do. Although they might like to soak, White’s tree frogs don’t swim well. The water bowl provided for them should be shallow, with not enough water to cover the frog, and easy to get into and out of. Mist the habitat daily, and install a hygrometer, which measures humidity. These frogs like a humidity near 50%.

Lighting and heat are usually an important part of a pet reptile/amphibian’s health. White’s tree frogs require UVB lighting, in order to absorb the correct amounts of vitamin D, and a habitat temperature between 70 and 85 degrees. I’ve read in some places that the temperature can be a little lower, but I’d say not to go there often. You need to put a thermometer in the habitat and keep a close eye on the temperature. If your frog thermometer is reading low, you’ll need to invest in some type of heating device. I like the ones that are kind of like a patch, which you can slap on a side of the tank, or beneath it, but a heat light will work, too. A light will also provide a day/night schedule for the frogs.

The trickiest part about keeping most types of frogs is their diet. White’s tree frogs are carnivorous, and require a diet mainly consisting of insects. Crickets, mealworms, and waxworms are generally the way to go. Crickets and mealworms can be raised easily and kept in their own little habitats. Waxworms can be kept in the fridge- warm them up before feeding. Some owners prefer to gutload their frog food before feeding- this means they feed the insect a nutritious diet before feeding to the frog. Makes sense to me. You can give the frog a few insects a few times a week. If the frog starts to get a little tubby, cut back to a couple insects a couple times a week.
Some people also feed pinky mice, which just strikes me as really creepy.   -SEL

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