Tree frogs have an enviable reputation; even people that turn white just thinking about keeping pet tarantulas or snakes seem to fall in love with tree frogs. Something about their big round eyes, bulbous toes for climbing and rounded little bodies seems to endear them to people of all ages.
If you’re considering keeping tree frogs for the first time this guide aims to introduce you to the basics of keeping tree frogs as pets. By the end of this article you should have a realistic view of how to keep these fascinating little amphibians in captivity.
The Basics of Keeping Tree Frogs
Tree frogs typically hail from warmer parts of the world. They may be found in Southern Europe, in the Americas, Africa and in Asia. While the “classic” tree frog may be the well-known red-eyed tree frog, there are actually dozens of species of tree frog which may be encountered in the pet trade.
Most of the more common tree frog species are surprisingly easy to keep once their vivarium has been set up correctly. That said, while many tree frog species are nocturnal – and so seem to spend much of their day hiding away motionless – at night they can be surprisingly active. For this reason tree frogs require generously-proportioned cages in order to give them suitable space to climb about and jump from one plant to another.
They may live for some years in captivity, and tend to do best in “naturalistic” cages – that it to say ones that have at least a passing resemblance to their wild territory. Such cages can provide a fascinating focal point for the home.
Tree Frog Cages
Tree frogs require a moist environment if they are to be happy. For this reason glass reptile tanks tend to suit them best. If the name wasn’t enough of a clue, tree frogs also like to spend time off the ground; most commonly sitting in trees and other foliage.
For this reason it is critical that a tree frog cage is tall enough to allow the inclusion of some plant material in which they can climb, explore and hunt.
However whilst tree frogs require a moist environment, their cage shouldn’t be allowed to get too wet on a consistent basis. Doing so can allow mould to grow within the tank, and can lead to respiratory problems in amphibians.
The best cages for tree frogs are consequently those composed primarily of glass, which fascinates excellent visibility and humidity control, but which also has a mesh area. Excess moisture can then evaporate through these vents, allowing air circulation.
Tree Frog Cage Furnishings
As mentioned tree frogs tend to do best in naturalistic vivariums, so some effort should be put into making their cage seem as much like a jungle as possible. The use of compost or bark chippings as a substrate is a good start.
Second to this, one should endeavour to provide a range of objects for your tree frog to climb and hide in. Reptile-safe bark and branches can form the basis for this, supplemented with artificial plants for a real rainforest feel.
Lastly many tree frogs will appreciate a shallow dish of water on the floor of their cage. This not only provides drinking water on demand but can also help to raise the ambient humidity in the cage. It is not usual to find some species bathing in their bowl from time to time.
Tree Frog Maintenance
The two biggest factors for success when keeping tree frogs as pets are the levels of warmth and moisture present in the cage. As most tree frogs are from the tropics, they will almost always require artificial heat. This is most easily provided by a reptile heat pad, which can be attached to the outside of the vivarium, generally attached to one of the walls.
By placing the heat mat on the wall this will create a “thermal gradient” – the area closest to the mat will remain considerably warmer than the other end of the cage. As a result your tree frog will be able to move about and find an area of heat that suits him or her at the time.
In terms of humidity the easiest solution in the purchase of a houseplant spray gun. Once every day or two simply gently spray the inside of your tree frog tank. This will not only serve to raise the ambient humidity, but will also allow your tree frog to drink from the water droplets present on the plant material.
Feeding Tree Frogs
Tree frogs are carnivorous; which means they will need to eat meat in captivity. Most commonly this comes in the form of live insects, which can be bought by the tub either online or from your local reptile shop.
Common examples of insects fed to tree frogs include crickets and locusts. Before feeding all livefoods should be supplemented to ensure that they contain the right mixture of vitamins and minerals. Probably the easiest of the various supplements available is a fine powder. Simply scatter some of this onto the livefood before placing it into your tree frog tank.
Note that over time crickets and locusts will carefully groom off the powder on their body, so it is important to offer only as much food as your tree frog will eat in a short space of time. Most larger tree frogs will feed daily in this way, though can go a few days without food on occasion.
Handling Tree Frogs
Generally speaking, tree frogs are not suitable pets for people looking for an animal that they can handle. Tree frogs have very sensitive skins, which can be easily damaged by rough handling. In addition, most tree frogs won’t become “tame” and are liable to make unpredictable leaps of faith when held, through which injuries can occur.
As a result of these problems the best way to transport tree frogs – even a short distance – is to coax them into a damp Tupperware box. Placing the lid on top ensures that your tree frog cannot escape, where it can be gently transported to its new destination.