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Large Terrestrial Frogs Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Care recommendations cover a variety of species, including:

  • Leopard frog (Lithobates spp.)
  • African pixie frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)
  • Asian greenback frog (Rana erythraea)
  • Red-legged walking frog (Kassina maculate)
  • American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
  • Tomato frog (Dyscophus guineti)
large terrestrial frog

Overview

This group of terrestrial (land-dwelling) frogs includes several different species of amphibians from different geographic locations and with very different appearances. Leopard frogs are nocturnal (active at night) and can be found near water throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, plus parts of Central America. African pixie frogs, also called giant African bullfrogs, are very large, nocturnal frogs native to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. Asian greenback frogs (also called green paddy frogs) are small amphibians found in marshes, rice paddy fields and slow-moving streams in Asia, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malasia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Red-legged walking frogs are arboreal (tree-climbing) amphibians found in Africa and Madagascar. American bullfrogs are familiar frogs that live in reservoirs, lakes, rivers and ponds in the eastern and central U.S., Nova Scotia and Mexico. Tomato frogs also are large nocturnal frogs native to Madagascar, where they live in wetlands and rainforests.

Table of Contents

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Leopard frogs
    • They come in a variety of sizes, depending on species, but all have dark spots on their backs, making them look leopard-like
    • Most species grow to be 3–5” long
    • Depending on their species, they can be bright green to olive green/brown with spots
    • Males are typically smaller than females
    • These frogs are generally shy and not aggressive; they are easily startled and don’t like to be handled
    • They have long legs that enable them to jump 3 feet into the air when threatened and can easily hop out of a habitat when a lid is opened
    • With adequate space, they can be housed with others of the same species; however, they will eat smaller frogs, so they should only be kept with habitat mates of similar age and size
  • African pixie frogs
    • These frogs are semiaquatic, so they need access to water
    • They are the second largest frog behind Goliath frogs
    • Males are much larger than females, reaching 4.5–10” long; females only reach 3.5–5.5”
    • Males have larger heads than females and make low rumbling sounds, while females are quiet
    • Both males and females are olive green with white bellies and orange on the inside of their legs; males may also be yellow around their throats
    • Females can be housed together, but males should be housed separately; they are territorial and will fight
    • They have strong back legs for jumping and can easily be injured if they jump when being held
    • While they may hiss when threatened, they are generally calm as pets
    • They spend much of the daytime inactive, buried under substrate, and often come to the surface only when it is very damp
  • Asian greenback frogs
    • These frogs are small and green with brown, yellow or tan stripes down their backs and brown mottling on their limbs.
    • Males are smaller than females, reaching only 1.25–2” long, while females grow to 2–3" long and have rounder bodies than males
    • Males make chirping sounds at night, while females are silent
    • While mainly nocturnal, these frogs will also be active at dawn and dusk
    • They spend most of the day buried under substrate
  • Red-legged walking frogs
    • These frogs are gray with dark black spots or ovals in patterns that look like eyes
    • They are medium-sized, reaching a body length of about 2.5”
    • They are generally quieter than other frogs, making only occasional calls that sound like repetitive clapping noises
    • They get their name from their walking, rather than hopping, movements, which make them different from other frogs
  • American bullfrogs
    • These frogs are believed to be the largest frogs in North America, growing up to 9” long
    • They have green to brown bodies with dark spots or patches on their backs and sides
    • Their bellies are white mottled with brown blotches, and their limbs, with webbed hind feet, are spotted with darker colors
    • Their eyes are gold to red, and they have broad, flat heads with big mouths,
    • Males typically have yellow necks, while females have white necks
    • Males have large ear drums (which look like circles on the sides of their heads) compared to those of females
    • Males have a characteristic baritone, moo-like call heard both day and night
    • These frogs generally live alone except when breeding
    • While they take short rests throughout the day, they don’t actually go to sleep
  • Tomato frogs
    • As adults, these frogs have red-orange skin and round bodies, making them resemble tomatoes
    • Juvenile tomato frogs have yellow-brown backs and gray-brown sides that eventually change to their adult red color
    • Females are larger than males and reach as long as 4”, while males only grow as long as 2.5”
    • Females tend to be redder, while males are more yellow/orange
    • With adequate habitat space, they may be housed in groups with males and females together
    • When stressed, they secrete a white, sticky, irritating liquid from their skin as a defense mechanism against potential predators
    • Adults have been known to eat juveniles, so if tomato frogs are housed together, they should only be kept with habitat mates of similar size and age

Characteristics

Care difficulty Intermediate
Average Life Span 5–15+ years with proper care, depending on species
Average adult size 2–9 inches long, depending on species
Diet Insectivorous or carnivorous, depending on species
Minimum habitat size 10 gallons or larger, depending on species, for one adult

Habitat

Habitat size

Provide an appropriately sized habitat to accommodate the species’ normal behavior and exercise. A single leopard frog may be housed in a 10-gallon tank, at minimum, and a single African pixie frog can be housed in a tank with a minimum of 15 gallons. As smaller frogs, Asian greenbacks may be kept in groups of 2–4 in a tank that is at least 10 gallons. Since red-legged walking frogs like to walk, rather than hop like other frogs, they need a horizontally oriented habitat; a 20-gallon long tank is appropriate for a single red-legged walking frog. As a very large frog, a single American bullfrog needs a minimum size tank of 55 gallons. A pair of tomato frogs can be housed in a habitat that is at least 20 gallons.

Large terrestrial frogs will reach adult size in 2–3 years under ideal conditions, depending on species.

Building your habitat

  • Décor -
    • Provide several hiding places to help frogs feel secure and decrease territorial behavior
    • Live and artificial plants, commercially available branches, driftwood, leaf litter and cork bark can be provided to help frogs feel safe and to provide stimulation
    • An open, shallow dish of dechlorinated water large enough for frogs to soak in should be available
    • Terrestrial frogs may be housed in semiaquatic terrariums, where part of the habitat has large gravel (too large to be consumed) pushed to one side of the tank and covered in dry substrate, sloped on an angle down to a shallow area of dechlorinated water; semiaquatic terrariums are best kept clean with small submersible, low-flow water filters
  • Humidity -
    • Maintain habitat humidity at 60–80%, depending on species, by misting with dechlorinated water daily, as needed
    • An open bowl of shallow water will help maintain humidity through evaporation
    • Monitor humidity with a humidity gauge
    • Live plants will help maintain humidity at appropriate levels
  • Substrate -
    • Because terrestrial frogs typically live in moist areas, the ideal substrate for their habitats should hold moisture to maintain humidity; moist sphagnum moss and coconut fiber work well
    • Substrate should be at least 2” inches deep so species that naturally dig can do so
    • Some recommend placing substrate over a drainage sheet—composed of a sheet of mesh screen layered over large gravel—to aid in drainage so that substrate doesn’t become moldy
    • Bedding made of small particles, such as sand or small bark chips, is not recommended; it is indigestible, so it can lead to life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction if accidentally consumed
  • Temperature -
    • The optimal temperature range for large terrestrial frogs varies slightly by species, but in general, they do well with a temperature gradient from 70°F in the cool zone to no higher than 80°F in the warm zone; nighttime temperatures can fall into the high 60s°F
    • Exposure to temperatures higher than 80°F for even short times can be deadly to these frogs
    • Monitor temperatures with at least two thermometers
    • A low-wattage incandescent bulb, an under-tank heating pad or a ceramic heat emitter can be used as a heat source, as long as appropriate humidity is maintained
    • Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures; thermostats are especially important with heating pads, which can get hot and cause burns through the tank floor if not regulated properly
    • Hot rocks should not be used as a heat source, as they can burn amphibians’ delicate skin
    • Amphibians not kept at the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick
  • Lighting -
    • Terrestrial amphibians do not require ultraviolet (UV) light to survive, but a low-level (2.0 or 5.0) UVB bulb is recommended to encourage natural behaviors and can be used with a low-wattage incandescent bulb to help establish a normal 10–12 hour day/night cycle
    • Be sure the tank does not get too hot, and provide hiding places for frogs to avoid light, as needed

Cleaning your habitat

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect water bowls daily. The habitat should be spot-cleaned daily to remove droppings.
  • Thoroughly clean the remainder of the habitat at least once a month:
  • Place frog in a secure habitat, handling it gently so as not to damage its delicate skin
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with an amphibian-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse thoroughly with hot water so no residue remains; it is imperative that all traces of the habitat cleaner or bleach solution are gone
  • Dry the tank and furnishings completely and add clean substrate before putting the frog back in the habitat

Feeding

A well-balanced large terrestrial frog diet consists of:

  • A variety of insects and worms, including gut-loaded (recently fed) crickets, mealworms, calci-worms, waxworms, superworms, earthworms, roaches, hornworms, Phoenix worms, silkworms, fruit flies and freeze-dried blood worms
  • Prey should be smaller than the width of the frog’s mouth; which insects and worms larger terrestrial frogs will eat varies slightly, depending on the frog’s size and species
  • Some larger terrestrial frog species, such as African pixie frogs and American bullfrogs, also will occasionally eat a small frozen/thawed mouse

Things to remember when feeding your large terrestrial frog:

  • Fresh, clean, chlorine-free water should be available all the time
  • These species tend to be hardy eaters
  • Terrestrial frogs generally enjoy hunting for prey, so only live insects and worms should be offered
  • Feed juveniles daily and adults every other day
  • If your frog looks like they are getting overweight or leftover food is found in the habitat, decrease the frequency of feeding
  • Sprinkle food with a calcium supplement daily and a multivitamin supplement once a week
  • Feed frogs as many insects as they will eat in 15 minutes
  • Vary diet as much as possible to keep frogs interested and to provide complete and balanced nutrition
  • Remove uneaten insects so they don’t chew on or injure frogs’ skin
  • Do not feed frogs live rodents; they can bite frogs and cause life-threatening injuries
  • Do not use a microwave to defrost frozen rodents, as microwaved rodents can have hot spots that can burn frogs’ mouths when they eat them
  • Do not prepare frozen rodents for feeding in the same area that you prepare human food; if it is unavoidable, be sure to thoroughly disinfect the area afterward 

Care

Don't handle a frog unless necessary; always wear moistened powder-free gloves when handling a frog. Bacteria and oils on your skin can be absorbed through the frog’s delicate, porous skin and harm them, plus terrestrial frogs have small glands in their skin that secrete irritating toxins to scare off predators. Do not allow a frog’s secretions to contact your eyes, mouth or open wounds. Use a soft, appropriately sized, small-mesh net to move or block the frog while doing habitat maintenance.

Where to buy a pet frog

Large terrestrial frogs are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.

Supplies

Habitat mates

  • Most large terrestrial frogs should be housed individually
  • Leopard frogs, Asian greenback frogs and tomato frogs can often be housed in pairs or small groups, as long as habitat mates are of similar size and age, and the habitat is large enough
  • Do not house different amphibian species together

Health

Signs of a healthy frog

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes, nose and mouth
  • Skin is free of hanging shed skin, sores, wounds and discoloration
  • Clear vent
  • Plump, rounded body
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Hops and moves freely
  • Hunts, stalks and catches prey actively
  • Maintains body weight

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

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

Common terrestrial frog health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Chemical intoxication Caused by exposure to soap, detergent, pesticides, oils on human skin, etc. Consult with your veterinarian and protect your amphibian from exposure
Intestinal obstruction Lethargy, decreased appetite, bloating; caused by swallowing gravel or other indigestible substrate or by eating too many hard-shelled insects Consult with your veterinarian; surgery may be required
Nutritional deficiencies/ Metabolic bone disease Weakness, fractured bones, decreased appetite, change in skin color Consult with your veterinarian and ensure a varied diet; use vitamin and mineral supplements
Skin problems Lesions, sores, discoloration of skin; caused by bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections Consult with your veterinarianAdditonal Care Sheets

FAQs

  • How long do frogs live? The lifespan of a frog depends on its species. Large terrestrial frogs can live 5–15+ years if properly cared for, depending on species.
  • How do you take care of a pet frog? Pet frogs need an appropriately sized and shaped habitat to accommodate their natural behaviors; they also need to be housed within specific temperature and humidity ranges (which vary by species) and be fed species-specific diets, which typically include a variety of insects (and sometimes small rodents) supplemented with calcium and vitamins.
  • Where can I buy a pet frog? You can buy a frog at Petco; however, call ahead to check availability.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about 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 the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about frogs and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.