If you’ve somehow avoided the popular videos of giant frogs eating, then we suggest the best one we’ve seen yet. A giant amphibian who gets pissed at not being able to catch the prey items on an iPhone game. It then takes its frustrations out on the owners thumb! Way to go my warty friend!
Frogs, Toads, & Amphibians
I want to be clear about what we are talking about and why. Amphibians are vertebrates which can occupy both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Most amphibians spend their lives around water, or at least moist environments. Toads tend to be the exception, often taking to drier land surfaces and exploring away from aquatic environments. Both require water to deposit eggs. Toads deposit eggs in strands, whereas frogs tend to deposit eggs in clusters, somewhat resembling a bunch of grapes. They also tend to have a drier skin with bumps (warts). As children growing up we are often (erroneously) told that if we touch a toad, the toads warts will then get on our hands. Frogs are more often smooth-skinned and require constant moisture. If they are an aquatic species they will have webbed feet in most cases. Two of the three species we are talking about today didn’t follow the “dictionary definition” of what a frog and a toad are supposed to look like. They got it backwards!
Pixie Frog African Bullfrog
The African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) or Pixie frog as it is known in popular terms is indeed a frog of the Ranidae family. Pyxis is Latin for “small box” or “toilet box.” and cephalus is reference to the head, if I’m not mistaken. So, literally translated, it would be “small box” or “toilet box head frog.” This of course makes me giggle. I know, I’ve got a juvenile sense of humor, (just the word ‘fart’ makes me smile) what do you want?
The genus of (Pyxicephalus) has in it three species of frogs, only two of which I have ever seen in herpetoculture. Of those, (Pyxicephalus adspersus) is the most often kept. (Pyxicephalus edulis) are sometimes seen as Dwarf African Bullfrogs. They are truly known in common parlance as “Edible Bullfrog.” The last species is known as “Calabresi’s Bullfrog.” (Pyxicephalus obbianus), and to my knowledge this species has never been offered in herpetoculture.
African Bullfrog (P. adspersus) are huge frogs, with males reaching up to nine inches and weighing in at two pounds! Greenish olive is how I would describe the coloration of the “dorsum,” or back area. The throat is sometimes orange or yellow in males, while females are much smaller than males and lack the coloration of the throat. They both have these ridges of skin that run down the back as well.
Juveniles are more colorful than the adults, which some would say are drab in comparison. Juveniles are striped with yellow or white lines running down their back. Oh, let’s not forget that shovel! This species has a metatarsal tubercle used for digging, but it can also be used to spear an unsuspecting keeper as well.
Here’s the kicker! Remember we talked about frogs and toads and the differences? Yeah, well, African Bullfrog (P. adspersus) didn’t read that book. This ‘frog’ species lives in the sub-Saharan! Yeah, no rain for years at a time, with ambient temps into the one hundred degree range. Did we mention that in the winter it can drop below freezing? These frogs build an estivation chamber and hibernate, essentially, until more favorable conditions come along. Then come up live and wild while the water is there, then go back to underground.
With the African Bullfrog (P. adspersus) being so large, you can imagine they would need a good-sized enclosure. You’d be right! Pixies do well in a twenty-gallon enclosure. As far as substrate goes, some sites will recommend paper towels to save the risk of impaction , etc. We’ve still found that when providing a naturalistic vivarium and accurate diet, there is a significant decrease (read “nil”) in impactions in captive reptiles and amphibians.
With that said, drop in some organic potting soil, (perlite-free, of course) to about a depth that will allow your frog to bury itself completely. If you’re still scared of the non-name brand route, then the best ones I’ve found are “Bed-a-Beast,” “Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate, 8 Quarts,” and Exo Terra Coco Husk, 7.2-Quart (Affiliate Links). A couple of sites have mentioned the risk of impaction from sphagnum moss, sometimes used to raise humidity. We’ve never encountered this with any of the African Bullfrogs we’ve cared for in the past. We also recommend a couple of pieces of cork bark be added as well, not only as a decor item, but as an enrichment and security item as well.
As with everything in herpetoculture these days, there are numerous opinions on how to maintain the necessary 78-82 degrees F. with a night-time drop to 75-78 degrees F. The best thing we have found to work is a Zoo Med ReptiCare Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter 60 Watts over one end of a large water bowl. I know what you might be thinking;
“Won’t the African Bullfrog dry out?”
Yes, this is a risk; however, we have found an increasing number of reports which say that under-tank-heaters (UTH) lead to burns in burrowing species of frogs. To remedy this, some would say that we should stick the UTH to the side of the tank. That can work, but the thing is this, when used like that, the UTH is inefficient, as it is designed to heat the glass and substrate. You should also use a thermostat with ANY heating device, as well as a Zoo Med ReptiTemp Digital Infrared Thermometer(Affiliate Link) to check the temperatures.
Now, humidity is another thing we have to deal with when it comes to keeping amphibians, and this becomes even more of an issue when keeping the giants. About 80-90% humidity is great, and of course this can be measured with either an Exo Terra Hygrometer (affiliate link). (I have yet to hear any reports of the humidity range in need of such accurate measurements to warrant digital hygrometers.)
This is of course everyone’s favorite topic when it comes to the African Bullfrog. These things will literally eat anything they can get their mouth around and consider prey. Roaches, crickets, earthworms, and of course when they get large enough they will take frozen then thawed mice. Always offer mice using forceps to avoid a bite. Basic regimen for feeding, is to feed insect or worm prey every two to three days, with a mouse being offered every two to three weeks. This will insure that the frog doesn’t become obese. I know it sounds funny, but it’s true! They can become obese and develop health issues!
Pacman Frogs/Ornate Horned Frogs
This is another of the available giant frogs. Whichever common name you know them by, the important name to remember is (Ceratophrys sp.). There are 8 species of (Ceratophrys sp.). The two which we see in herpetoculture are the (C. cranwelli) which is known as Chacoan Horned Frog and (C. ornata), Argentine Horned Frogs. These frogs are home in the New World continent of South America. (C. ornata) is native to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, in what is known as the Pampean Region. (C. cranwelli) is also in Argentina, as well as Bolivia and a few areas in Brazil and Paraguay.
Captive South American Giant Frogs
We recommend no less than a twenty-gallon long enclosure Reptohabitat – Reptile Enclosure 20 Gallon Long (30×12)(affiliate link) for these species of frogs. While it may not look like an active pet, it in fact is an active amphibian when kept in the proper conditions. Once again, as we said above, the same substrates can be used for this species as well. Remember earlier when we spoke about the decor as an enrichment device? With this species it’s a “must” to have some false terrarium plants for cover, as well as Cork Bark(affiliate link) for them.
These frogs have some slightly different temperature requirements than their African cousin. As always, temperatures should be measured with an infrared temperature gun (affiliate link). Maintain these frogs at 80-85F during the day with a nighttime drop of 10 F. Keep them at the 80% humidity mark. A shallow water dish is a must as well. These frogs cannot swim but need access to water, so the Reptile Water Dish(affiliate link) must be able to be climbed into and out of with ease. Keep the same diet regimen we recommended for the African Bullfrog and you’re good to go.
Budgett’s Frog (Freddie Krueger Frog)
Not a lot of folks are familiar with the Budgett’s Frog (Lepidobatrachus laevis). There is also the Dwarf Budgett’s Frog (Lepidobatrachus asper), which is sometimes available. Budgett’s Frogs (Lepidobatrachus sp.) are native to South America and are a completely aquatic species.
We’ve always kept this species in a 15-gallon aquarium, with proper decor and filtering etc. Proper decor with the Budgett’s frog is really easy. We have kept them as we would a basic turtle set-up, with water depth being the length of the frog plus a few inches, and some flat rocks (such as flagstone) placed inside so they can pull themselves out of the water. Plants and other decor seem to be ignored, so what we have done in the past is used aquarium silicone (affiliate link) to glue small rocks beneath the larger flagstone piece, creating an area where the frog can swim under if it likes. Also, DO NOT, for any reason, attempt to put substrates in the enclosure. There’s too much risk of impaction.
As far as heating, we kept our Budgett’s at about 80 degrees F by using a submersible aquarium heater (affiliate link) with a Turtle Guard (affiliate link) on it so as to prevent any burns.
This can be the most difficult part when it comes to keeping Budgett’s Frog. As we all know from owning other species; what goes in one end comes out the other. I would compare this species to Goldfish. For some reason, they are able to take in a meal and then produce about double that meal in waste material. That said, we can see this is not conducive to a clean environment, so we have to use a quality aquarium filter (affiliate link). We like using the submersible types of turtle filters (affiliate link) available, as the “hang on the back” filters sometimes cannot reach the necessary depth of the water, and the canister filters are expensive. Canister filter (affiliate link) would be the first choice if you have the funds to do so. If not, a submersible turtle filter will work just fine. We recommend getting one rated for twice the size of enclosure you have. Therefore, a 15-gallon enclosure would require a 30-gallon per hour aquarium filter.
Feeding is the same as above with the other species. In my research, I’ve not seen anywhere where it’s said how much to feed in one serving. When it comes to crickets and other insect-type prey, I would feed as much as they will eat in about ten minutes.
Freddie Krueger and Frogs?
Maybe one of our readers can explain this because, well, I just don’t see the connection. For some reason, this species is occasionally known as the “Freddie Krueger Frog.” It’s said that this is due to its vocalization, because when handled, it emits a kind of ‘scream’. What screaming has to do with Freddie Krueger, versus say, Hannibal Lecter, is unknown. To me, Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter is far more reason to scream, but we will let you judge for yourself. See video here.
It’s recommended that Budgett’s Frog be allowed to aestivate in captivity, and this practice apparently extends their life in the captive environment. In order aestivate this species, I recommend the Fall season of October or November. Begin by doubling up on feeding for about a month. About a week or so, before shutting down the heat, stop feeding completely and allow the frog to empty it’s gut. After the week is up, fill a container with organic potting soil and push into the container a small depression with the heel of your palm. Place the frog into the depression and moisten the soil with dechlorinated water every hour or so, and the frog should dig itself a chamber. Once the frog buries itself, mist the soil lightly every other day, for 3 months.
At the end of three months, very carefully dig the frog out and place it into another container, and pour cool, dechlorinated water over the frog, filling the container until the water is just below the frogs nostrils. Here comes the long part. Throughout the day, continually scoop and pour the water over the frog until it wakes and eats the cocoon-like substance surrounding it. Doing this will cause the frog to evacuate stored urine etc., so be prepared to change the water every few hours. In a few days your frog will want to eat, and will be voracious! Resume normal feeding and you’re all set.
Giant Frogs as Pets
Giant Frogs, as they are sometimes known, are great pets to have in the captive environment, especially for those who’ve kept other amphibians, and are looking for the next big leap (pun fully intended). You’ve taken the right actions already if your reading this before getting one.
You’ll notice I didn’t include anything about handling, and there’s good reason for that. You shouldn’t ever handle any amphibian species outside of a few minutes to move it to another enclosure while you’re cleaning. Amphibians have very porous, delicate skin, that can be damaged the oils on our hands. Therefore, if handling is necessary, we recommend using latex gloves moistened with dechlorinated (affiliate link) water.