Over the last few decades reptiles and amphibians have become ever more popular pets. There are a number of reasons for this surge in interest, not least that keeping tree frogs and other exotic pets can provide you with a “window into nature” within your home.
Indeed, for those pet owners who appreciate the natural aesthetic, tree frogs represent one of the very best pets possible. With a little time and money it is possible to create a beautiful naturalistic vivarium which looks just like you’ve brought a small piece of the rainforest into your home. Within the confines of the tree frog vivarium lives a “jungle in miniature” in which your tree frog can hunt, explore and behave as it would in the wild.
Tree Frog Vivariums: Naturalistic Vs Artificial Vivariums
As with most reptiles and amphibians there are two different ways to keep tree frogs. One of those is the so-called “naturalistic” vivarium which is designed to mimic the wild habitat of your tree frog. The other is the artificial vivarium, which is set up for practicality and ease of cleaning, with minimal natural features.
The “artificial” set-up typically is quite a barren and “practical” option. Here cage furnishings are kept to a minimum to make catching, observing and cleaning your tree frog easier. Equally, while practical, these vivariums are hardly attractive to look at and, arguably, won’t encourage natural behaviour in your tree frog.
As the name would suggest the naturalistic vivarium is designed to give an impression of “the wild”. The substrate might be compost or bark chips or suchlike. Then there may well be sterilized pieces of wood or bark on which your tree frog can climb. Lastly there will normally be live or artificial plants to provide cover and give a feeling of the rainforest.
Naturalistic vivariums for tree frogs are generally more complex and expensive to put together, because of all the additional cage furnishings. This is especially so in the case of live plants, which require specialist care within the confines of a vivarium.
The flip side to all this extra work, however, is that these cages really help your tree frog to feel at home. More natural behaviours are likely. Furthermore such vivariums are visual works-of-art, and can really provide an incredible focal point for your home.
It is difficult to claim that either setup is necessarily “better” than the other, though in reality the vast majority of people opt for the more naturalistic design.
Tree Frog Vivarium Dimensions
By definition, tree frogs are typically arboreal amphibians. They feel far less safe on the ground and, given a choice, will typically live well off the ground. If you have plants and wood within a vivarium most tree frogs will spend their nights clambering around off the floor; they may even climb effortlessly up the inside of the vivarium.
What this means is that height is very important for tree frogs. Put another way, whatever vivarium you select for your tree frog should allow him or her plenty of vertical space to explore.
In reality this means that most tree frog owners opt for a vivarium which is much taller than it is wide or deep. In this way they are able to provide plenty of climbing places for their tree frog.
These days vivariums may be made from an assortment of materials. Popular examples are plastic vivariums, old glass fish tanks or purpose-built glass tree frog vivariums. There are of course strengths and weaknesses of all these options:
Plastic cages for reptiles and amphibians are typically much lighter than glass cages. This can make them easier to transport home from the pet shop and also has less of an effect on where you will site them. They are also typically quite tough; they are less likely to break than a glass tank if knocked or dropped.
Despite these many benefits you might be surprised to hear that very few tree frog keepers actually opt for a plastic vivarium. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, very few plastic cages are currently available on the market, limiting one’s choices.
Secondly, fitting electrics like heaters and lights to plastic vivariums can be much more difficult. Plastic vivariums may warp and melt under artificial heat and trying to thread electrical wires through the sides can be problematic.
Lastly note that plastic typically scratches much more quickly than glass. This means that within months the visibility of the vivarium can start to decline, as increasing numbers of scratches obscure your view.
Glass Fish Tanks
In the past glass aquariums have been used for keeping a wide range of reptiles and amphibians. They are widely available, reasonably priced and can be quite practical.
Unfortunately glass fish tanks can also be heavy. They also require a specialist reptile-safe lid to prevent escapees – which can significantly increase the cost of this solution. Lastly, of course, most aquariums are designed on a horizontal plane, meaning far less room for your tree frog to climb.
Glass Tree Frog Vivariums
Lastly there are a number of manufacturers of specialist reptile and amphibian vivariums. These are typically made of glass so they do not scratch easily, have moving doors to make access easy and are designed with electrics in mind. Fitting a heater and/or lights becomes simplicity itself. There are also models designed to be tall – perfect for keeping your tree frog happy and healthy.
It is for these reasons that such cages – like the range from Exo Terra – are most commonly used to successfully house tree frogs. The only real downside, if there is one, is that that these vivariums are far from cheap. Indeed they can prove to be eye-wateringly expensive when compared to the other vivarium solutions, though is reality the practicalities they bring still make them worthwhile.
No discussion of tree frog vivariums would be complete without very briefly assessing some typical tree frog vivarium décor. Indeed for the exotic pet owner looking to create a naturalistic vivarium such elements are essential to create the desired look as well as allowing natural behaviour.
Like all amphibians, tree frogs like a moist, humid environment. One of the easiest ways to create this is to spray the inside of your tree frog tank two or three times a week. The water droplets will evaporate within the warm confines of the cage, producing a pleasantly moist environment for your tree frog.
Note that stuffy, stagnant air should be considered just as bad as overly arid air. Such an environment can become a breeding ground for mould and other unpleasant pathogens.
The perfect solution, therefore, is a healthy combination of warmth, ventilation and spraying with a house plant spray gun.
You should also be aware that an assortment of household chemicals can be harmful – or even deadly – to amphibians. When you have bought your spray gun then, label it carefully and keep it only for fresh water you will be spraying into your tree frog tank.
In addition to the humidity produced by spraying water droplets into the cage, another handy tip is to include a bowl of fresh water.
Not only will some of this water evaporate to keep the humidity up but it also means your tree frog can drink whenever it feels thirsty.
Lastly, some tree frogs enjoy “soaking” in their water bowl, as though they are bathing and keeping their skin clean and supple.
Note when choosing a water bowl, therefore, that it is not only big enough for your tree frog to get into, but also easy enough for your tree frog to climb out of at a later time. The last thing you want is your tree frog drowning because it is unable to climb out of the “bath”.
As mentioned previously, tree frogs feel most comfortable when off the ground. Providing items to climb should therefore be considered very important.
To avoid the risk of introducing parasites or pathogens into your tree frog vivarium it is generally best not to simply swipe things from nature. Instead buy items from your local reptile store which have been properly sterilized.
Examples of suitable climbing equipment for your frog can include chunks of wood and bark, not to mention plants.
To complete the overall effect of your cage you will likely want to include some plants. While live plants can be used – and sometimes are – there are a number of potential problems. For example live plants in a vivarium will require specialist lighting and watering. There are risks that they could bring unpleasant chemicals into the tank and they also may not live long with a tree frog happily clambering about it all night.
So while live plants can be used by those with patience, the reality is that most exotic pet owners opt for artificial plants.
These days fake plants have moved on a long way from the tacky plastic aquarium plants of your childhood. These days the artificial plants on offer from your local reptile shop look very realistic indeed and can do a perfect job of creating a “rainforest feel” in your home.
They’re also sturdy, reasonably priced and can be easily cleaned to keep your tree frog vivarium clean and hygienic at all times.