Tropical Tree Frog Care Sheet & Guide

Tropical Tree Frog Care Sheet & Guide

Welcome to the Tropical Tree Frog care sheet section, this area is divided in to several separate sub sections – the introduction (this page), the housing Tree Frogs page, temperature and humidity, feeding Tree Frogs and breeding Tree Frogs sections.

Tropical Tree Frog Care Sheet

Tree frogs (Hylidae) consists of around 600 species which can found in almost all temperate and tropical regions of the world including Europe, the Americas, Australia.

The majority of tree frogs are nocturnal and they can often be heard well before they can be seen.

There are a great many tree frogs kept in captivity and these vary in complexity from very easily kept ones through to some quite difficult to keep ones.

There are also many different habitats that treefrogs come from, some even come from desert type environments so before you decide to buy a treefrog as a pet you should always buy a book about your selected species.

The information contained in this section is a basic introduction to some of the more commonly kept ones and should not be considered suitable for all.

Tropical Tree Frog Care Sheet By far the most commonly kept one is the Whites Tree Frog of Australia, this is a large green tree frog with a white belly and some yellow spotting. It is a large frog which gets very tame and will readily feed from your hand.

It has the appearance of being formed from wax which has melted a little!

Not all tree frogs are large like the Whites, in fact some such as the Red Eye Tree Frog only get to a couple of inches when fully grown but often the smaller the frog the brighter the colours, some have fiery red eyes such as the aptly named Red Eyed Tree Frog whilst others are brightly spotted and streaked.

Keeping Guides for specific frogs
Red Eye Tree Frogs – Agalychnis callidryas
Green Tree Frog – Hyla cinerea
Flying Frogs – Rhacophorus leucomystax

If you are buying these amphibians via mail order then you should ask how they will be sent. As they come from tropical and sub tropical regions they will need a minimum temperature of around 18°C (65°F) and a maximum of 24°C (75°F) whilst in transit, they will also have to be packed in appropriate packaging such as damp sphagnum, soft damp foam or other inert moist packing.

The outer package should have enough air holes to allow the frogs to breath and should be waterproof – to prevent the absorption of the moisture from the moss etc.

If your chosen supplier can’t provide these safe packaging measures then you may be disappointed when you frogs arrive, they may be limp, dehydrated, weak and may even be dead

In order to preserve the natural population you should buy captive bred frogs when ever possible, no one wants a world without these fantastic creatures and keeping them at home is too high a price to pay for their extinction –  always ask the supplier before making a purchase.

Immediate Aftercare

Once your tree frogs have arrived safely it is advisable (if you have a colony) to keep them separate from your existing frogs to make sure that they have no diseases or parasites.

You should keep your new frogs in a separate tank for about 2 weeks and monitor them closely if they are feeding well and are healthy then you can introduce them in to your colony.

If you are just starting and these are your first frogs then you can place them strait in to their new home once they arrive. 

Next, we move on to the housing section of this Tropical Tree Frog care sheet.

Housing Tree Frogs

As we mentioned earlier tree frogs vary in size from tiny frogs to quite large ones and will require a tank or vivarium around 20 inches x 20 inches x 36 inches high, this will be large enough to maintain a small colony of around 4 to 6 small tree frogs or a pair of larger ones.

Some are highly territorial frogs and each one (particularly males) will patrol their chosen living area, if the tank is too small then they may become stressed by the invasion of other frogs in their territory.

Conversely, if it’s too large they may never meet each other and breeding will be affected. As they thrive on humidity the tank and contents will need to be sprayed 2 or 3 times a day with clean water, if your tank is too large then keeping the humidity level up will be difficult.

The tank for tree frogs, unlike traditional tanks, needs to be taller than either the width or depth. This is because tree frogs are normally arboreal and will spend much of their time living well off the floor on plants and or branches.

Setting up the tank or vivarium for wet living tree frogs

Whether you’re using a fish tank or a tailor made vivarium the basic internal set up will be the same, here is a list of items you will need:

  • The tank – see above
  • Under tank heater and thermostat – preferable to overhead heating
  • Sphagnum moss or other substrate – for base
  • Water container – 1/4 of the tank floor x 2 inches deep
  • Some rocks for effect
  • Some bogwood or driftwood logs for effect and hiding places
  • Some smooth branches for climbing on
  • Some suitable broad leaved plants either real or artificial

The actual set up of the tank should be as simple as possible because it will need completely cleaning out and everything removed for washing every week or two, this is because although most tree frogs are small they excrete a lot of waste which needs to be removed regularly otherwise bacteria will quickly develop in the warm moist atmosphere.

If you are intending to create an ecosystem in the tank which includes all living plants and mosses then with care you can leave the tank longer between cleaning as a well planted tank can sustain itself for some considerable time.

Typically the base of the tank should be covered in 3 inches of vermiculite or pebbles with 10% activated charcoal pieces in it, topped with fresh moss around 2 inches deep, rocks, logs and leaves for effect and hiding places should be positioned on the surface. This is the basic set up.

For a more permanent tank the same vermiculite or pebble mix should be topped with 2 inches of a mixture of orchid bark, sphagnum moss and potting compost which can be planted up with living broad leaves plants and the surface should be decorated with logs, rocks etc.

With correct care and planting this tank set up can last up to 3 months or more.

In either case there should be a water area which covers around 1/4 of the floor space and is 2 inches deep, the easiest way to accomplish this is to use a water dish/rock pool which as a removable insert.

The water in this dish will double as drinking water and bathing water so it should be changed on a daily basis.

The final alternative is a substrate of just smooth pebbles. The tank base should be covered in a layer of 3 inches of small (1 inch diameter) smooth pebbles and some tall smooth branches should be added for the frogs to climb on and a water dish.

This set up is the easiest to clean but doesn’t look as good as a well planted jungle tank.

The heating for all the set ups is up to you but you can use either under tank heat mats or cables, overhead heating or a combination of the two – see heating.

Cleanliness in a warm, moist tank

Cleanliness is next to godliness and your tank or vivarium is no different. This will need emptying of contents regularly and the rocks, logs etc will need thoroughly cleaning to remove the waste from the frogs.

The moss should either be replaced or it can be thoroughly rinsed through with clean water. It must be replaced completely every three weeks at least otherwise it will harbour bacteria and health problems can occur.

Probably one of the easiest substrates to use is smooth pebbles, these will help evaporate moisture and are easily rinsed in clean water as well as looking good.

If you are using living plants in your tank or vivarium then these too will need to be wiped down to remove the droppings. Good plants include Phalaenopsis orchids, bromeliads and ferns.

You will also need to clean the inside of the tank by wiping it with a clean cloth soaked in a non toxic anti bacterial liquid, remember that frogs skin is very, very thin and will absorb whatever it comes in contact with so it is important to use a non toxic cleaning agent such as Dettox.

The tank and any items which have been in contact with the Dettox should be thoroughly rinsed with clean water to remove any traces before re introducing the frogs.

The water in the dish should be replaced with fresh water at least once a day as this will become contaminated with the droppings of the frogs.

Next, we move on to the temperature and humidity section of this Tropical Tree Frog care sheet

Temperature and Humidity

Lighting Tree Frogs

Most tree frogs are night living (nocturnal) frogs which means that you will not need to provide artificial lighting for them except for aesthetic reasons and to keep any plants growing strong.

The full spectrum (daylux) fluorescent lighting which comes fitted to most fish tank and vivarium hoods is ideal for this purpose.

Heating

Tree frogs in the main are frogs which although live in what could be considered the ‘tropics’, don’t actually need tropical conditions. Most of the commonly kept species are happy with a temperature around 21°C (70°F).

As a result tree frogs don’t require ‘tropical’ heating but will require a temperature of between 18°C (65°F) and 24°C (75° F), this varies between species.

The best method to use for heating your tank is a combination of under tank heating sheets or cables these are very similar to the propagator heaters used by gardeners and offer very flexible and accurate temperature control. This bottom heat should be combined with heating units housed above the tanks.

It is not a good idea to use heat lamps inside the tank as any frog that touches it wall almost certainly die as a result.

Tree Frog Feeding Requirements

Adult tree eat nothing but insects in one shape or another, under natural conditions they would have hundreds of varieties of tiny insects to choose from but in captivity they are limited to what you decide to feed them.

You should give as wide a variety of different insects as possible which will include the various minerals and essential oils that a single insect species would not offer.

The variety of insects should include: crickets, small flies, flightless fruit flies, small spiders, blackfly, greenfly, small moths, ant larvae, small wax worms and small mealworms (heads removed).

If you can’t offer this wide variety of insect food then you should dust what you have with a vitamin and mineral powder before feeding them to you frogs. Even if you can provide the full ‘menu’ you can always add some vitamin and mineral powder now and then – it all helps.

whites-treefrog-night When feeding your frog it is better to give 3 to 4 small feedings rather than just one a day, this will encourage them to move around their home in search of food and meet other frogs along the way – interaction between the frogs is important to their well being.

This interaction will also help with breeding tree frogs – if they don’t meet a potential mate how are they going to breed

 

Above: Whites tree frogs are mostly nocturnal feeders, this photo was taken at night using IR lights.

You can purchase live food from our other site Global Live Food (UK only).

Next, we move on to the breeding section of this Tropical Tree Frog care sheet

Breeding Tree Frogs

Sex Differences

With any creature measuring just 60mm in length when adult this is always going to be a difficult process and it’s just the same with tree frogs.

Here are a few basic guidelines but some species are easier to identify than others.

  • Males are generally smaller than females
  • Males appear more ‘angular’ than females
  • Males are usually more colourful than females
  • Males may have a ‘baggy’ throat due to croaking

These are only guidelines and some species have more distinct differentiations, see the species pages for more details

Breeding Conditions

Once you have established (with luck) that you have a pair of tree frogs they will gradually become acclimatised to their new surroundings and their natural territorial instinct will begin to develop.

Males will show more marked territorial signs and will fight off any unwelcome visitors to their patch of log or rock by pushing and shoving them away.

A happy frog is a croaking one and once they begin send out their whistles, clocks and other noises you will know that they have settled in.

The purpose of the noises is both to warn other males that this spot is taken but it is also attractive to the females, the louder the noise the stronger the potential mate.

In their natural environment there would of course be more than just two frogs and if possible you should have a colony of frogs rather than just two, in the wild the females are outnumbered by around 4 to 1 so for every female you should if possible have 3 or 4 males.

This will give you the best chance of breeding and also you’ll hear more of their calling sounds as they compete.

If your tree frog seems reluctant to croak then there may be a problem with their diet and or habitat. Make sure you give a wide variety of insects to ensure the correct and varied vitamin and mineral supply, also make sure that the thermostat is set correctly as they will be uncomfortable if kept too warm or too cold.

Many of the tree frogs require distinct seasonal changes before mating will occur, the environment in your tank needs to mimic their natural habitat.

Some only breed after the rainy season, some before it and others only when a cool wet period is followed by a hot dry one. Check your frogs specific requirements and try to imitate this.

Tadpole Care

The newly hatched tadpoles will need to be kept in water at a fairly constant temperature of 70°F (depending on species) to ensure even growth.

The water itself should be fresh tap water which should be boiled the day before using. Every day 25% of the water should be removed to prevent the build up of waste. 

The nursery tank should have a base of small pebbles covered with around 2 inches of the prepared water to start with rising to around 4 inches as they develop,  a small beech should also be build at one end of the tank using more pebbles and moss.

The water will need aerating with a small aeration stone and some aquatic plants such as eel grass which will also be eaten by the small tadpoles as they develop.

Mantella tadpoles are herbivores and will begin feeding on the algae that will eventually begin to grow on the tank walls and surface of rocks but until this occurs they will require feeding with fish food such as flakes, trout pellets and small pieces of lettuce should all be added to the water. 

Metamorphosis & Froglets

You can expect to see the first signs of hind legs at between 2 weeks and 26 weeks depending on the species, the cooler growing highland species tend to be slower to develop as they have a lower metabolic rate than the warmer growing lowland species.

Front legs will begin developing between 6 and 35 weeks. During this period they will retain their tails which will begin being absorbed at 7 weeks to 35 weeks. 

This is the time that the froglets will begin to crawl out of the water on to the small moss covered beech.

Once the froglets are seen emerging on to the beech they should be removed and placed in to small jars filled with sphagnum moss which should be kept at around 70°F until full metamorphosis is compete which can be between 8 weeks and 12 months, again depending on species.

At this stage they will begin eating the tiniest of insects and these include small greenflies and springtails, other insects will be too large for the tiny frogs to cope with and you should be prepared for a high mortality rate, this can be as high as 70%.

The first signs of colouration will begin at around 10 weeks and full maturity is typically achieved at 12 months.

 

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