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Monkey Tree Frog

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

waxy monkey tree frog care sheet


Abundant in dry areas of South America, these amphibians are small, calm, slow-moving creatures who look like frogs but do not hop like frogs. Instead, they  use their opposable thumbs and prehensile (able to grasp) hands and feet to crawl from treetop to treetop like monkeys. They spend nearly all of their time in the trees. They are called “waxy” monkey tree frogs because they have a gland on the skin on their elbows that secretes a waxy substance that they rub all over their bodies to help prevent water from evaporating. This coating allows them to live in drier and hotter environments than other frogs since they are better able to retain moisture. Waxy monkey tree frogs include different species such as orange-legged (or tiger-legged), giant waxy, painted-bellied and Chacoan frogs.


Typical appearance and behavior

  • Nocturnal (active during the night); move around and feed more at night
  • Love to climb and will perch on branches during the day
  • Have wide mouths and prominent, bulbous eyes
  • The common waxy monkey tree frog has bright green skin with white markings on the abdomen and sometimes around the mouth. Other waxy monkey tree frogs have green skin on the top of their bodies and light brown on the bottom
  • Handling is not recommended due to stress, which can make them too frightened to eat and may damage their delicate skin. If handling is necessary, always wear moistened disposable gloves
  • Females are usually larger than males
  • Will reach adult size in 12 to 18 months, depending on the species and under ideal conditions



Care Difficulty Intermediate
Average Life Span 8 to 10+ years with proper care, depending on species
Average Adult Size 2-3 inches long, depending on species and sex
Diet Insectivore
Minimum Habitat Size 20-gallon tank for one adult




Habitat size

  • A 20-gallon tank is adequate for one adult waxy monkey tree frog
  • These frogs can be kept in groups of two to eight, as long as the habitat is large enough
  • For every additional frog in a habitat, the habitat size should increase by 15 gallons
  •  Habitats should have a tight-fitting screen lid to prevent escape but allow ventilation. Habitats with adjustable slots to control ventilation are ideal, especially if you live in a dry climate, as they retain humidity better than a screened top


Building your habitat

  • Habitat - Provide large driftwood branches and either artificial plants or nontoxic live plants such as ficus, hibiscus, pothos and schefflera placed directly below the basking lamp so that frogs can perch there to bask. Maintain humidity between 40 and 60% by misting at least once a day, as needed, or install an automatic mister instead and monitor humidity with a humidity gauge
  • Substrate - Use damp sphagnum moss or coconut fiber, as these substrates will retain humidity and are soft so won’t injure frogs’ delicate skin; avoid gravel and artificial turf, which are rough and can injure their skin
  • Temperature – Provide a temperature gradient (85 to 90°F in the basking spot at the warm end and 75 to 80°F at the cool end).-Temperature should fall no lower than 70°F at night. Ensure there are at least two thermometers (one in the hot zone and the other in the cool zone) to monitor temperature
  • Lighting – Ensure full-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) light for 10 to 12 hours a day to provide UVB rays so that frogs can make vitamin D in their skin to absorb dietary calcium. An incandescent day bulb can be used to provide heat and light for the basking area during daylight hours, while a ceramic heater or black or red incandescent bulb can be used to provide heat at night


Cleaning your habitat

  • Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week:
  • Place frog in a secure habitat
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile/amphibian habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse thoroughly with hot water so no residue remains. It is imperative that all traces of the cleaner or bleach solution are gone
  • Dry the tank and furnishings completely and add fresh substrate before placing frog back in the habitat




What to feed your waxy monkey tree frog

  • A well-balanced waxy monkey tree frog diet consists of:
  • A variety of insects, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, roaches, mealworms, calci-worms, small hornworms and waxworms. These frogs are more apt to accept crickets as food and sometimes reject worms


Things to remember when feeding

  • Fresh, clean, filtered, dechlorinated water should be available at all times in a water dish big enough for frogs to climb into to soak and stay hydrated (they absorb water through their skin). Do not use distilled water, as it lacks the minerals and salts needed for frogs to maintain their hydration
  • Feed juveniles daily, adults two to three times per week. Do not feed anything larger than the width of the frog’s head
  • Sprinkle food with calcium supplement containing vitamin D every other day and a multivitamin supplement once or twice a week
  • As these frogs are nocturnal, feed in the evening if possible



  • As frogs have very delicate, porous skin that can get damaged easily and that absorbs bacteria and oils from our skin, don’t handle unless necessary; always wear moistened, non-powdered gloves when handling your frog. Also, amphibians secrete toxins from their skin to ward off predators. Do not allow frog’s secretions to contact your eyes, mouth or open wounds, as it can be very irritating.


Where to buy

In-store only Waxy monkey tree frogs are available for purchase at your local Petco location. Please call ahead to check availability.




Habitat mates

Waxy monkey tree frogs are social and can be housed together in groups of two to eight if their habitat is large enough.Do not house different amphibian or reptile species together




Signs of a healthy frog

  • Maintains weight
  • Active and alert at night
  • Clear eyes, nose and mouth
  • Skin free of sores, wounds or discoloration
  • Clear vent
  • Plump, rounded body
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Perches and climbs
  • Hunts prey actively


Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Bloated abdomen or other body parts
  • Skin lesions or discoloration
  • Distressed breathing
  • Weak movements
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dull reactions
  • Excess hanging shed skin
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth


Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueChemical intoxication Symptoms or CausesCaused by exposure to soap, detergent, pesticides or other chemicals that are absorbed through porous skin. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and protect your amphibian from exposure by handling only with moistened, gloved hands and removing all cleaning products from habitat.
Health IssueIntestinal obstruction Symptoms or CausesMay be caused by swallowing substrate such as gravel or by eating a large number of hard-shelled insects. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian; surgery may be required.
Health IssueNutritional deficiencies/metabolic bone disease Symptoms or CausesWeak hind legs, lethargy, weight loss, broken bones, lighter or darker skin color. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure a varied diet; use vitamin and mineral supplements and ensure proper UV lighting.
Health IssueSkin problems/discoloration Symptoms or CausesMay be due to abrasions/trauma or bacterial and fungal infections. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian.



  • How big does a waxy monkey tree frog get? Waxy monkey tree frogs can grow to be 2 to 3 inches long depending on their species.
  • What does a waxy monkey tree frog eat? Waxy monkey tree frogs benefit from a varied diet that includes insects such as crickets, roaches, mealworms, calci-worms, small hornworms and waxworms.
  • Can you hold a waxy monkey tree frog? They have very delicate skin that can be damaged easily and they secrete an irritating secretion from glands in their skin. For these reasons, they should be handled as little as possible and only while wearing moistened disposable gloves.


Additional care sheets


Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associateabout Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all frogs are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your frog and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing and/or caring for a frog and should consider having a pet other than a frog.

Go to for more information about frogs and disease.

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The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.