Caring for Frog & Toads
Frogs and toads are probably two of the most instantly recognised characters in the British countryside, but while our native species aren’t really suited to life in the terrarium, there are plenty of others to choose from which can make good pets.
Housing Frogs And ToadsAs always, the type of home needed depends on where the animal comes from and the sort of life it naturally leads. As a result the frog or toad tank may have to be a water-filled aquarium, a replica of a rainforest floor or a passable imitation of a pond and wetland and range from a cool room temperature to 25 degrees C (77F) or more.
The common name of an animal can often give a clue as to the type of housing needed; “frogs” tend to be applied to more active animals which need both water and land, while “toads” generally are less jumpy and live more terrestrial lives. However, it isn’t fool proof – and falls down with two of the most commonly kept examples; the Clawed “Toad” (Xenopus laevis) is entirely aquatic, while Tree “Frogs” (Hyla sp.) obviously live a climbing life. Never-the-less, it can sometimes be a bit of a guide, especially for a species which is new to you – but don’t rely on it completely!
Good research is the key to making sure you provide appropriate housing for your frogs and toads.
Heating And HumidityWith these engaging amphibians found across the world, and from northern Europe to the equator, as you might expect, there’s considerable variance when it comes to how warm their tank needs to be. Your supplier should be able to give you appropriate advice both in terms of the most suitable temperature range and the best kind of heating system for achieving it – if required. Unlike reptiles, frogs and toads don’t go in for much basking, so there’s seldom any need to provide a hot-spot.
Although there are sometimes desert species available, in general the frogs and toads sold as exotic pets need moist surroundings – and in some cases, excessively so! Provide a water dish, ideally large enough for the occasional swim, mist regularly and most of these amphibians will be happy. However, since like most of their brethren, frogs are prone to both fungal and bacterial infections, don’t overdo things and keep a careful eye out for any signs of mould. Keeping your tank clean and fungus-free is one of the biggest factors in ensuring your pets stay healthy – and it can be a challenge.
Food And FeedingFrogs and toads are fully-paid up carnivores and like the rest of their amphibian relatives, it’s the movement of the prey which attracts them. The size of the food obviously depends on the animal – and although some species are a bit specialised in what they eat, the ones seen in pet shops tend to be fairly easy going in their tastes.
Typical standbys such as crickets, locusts and mealworms will normally be taken happily, though it’s a good idea to augment their diets with as many wild-caught worms, woodlice, slugs and insects as you can – but do be careful only to hunt in areas you know are free of pesticides.
However, some of the larger species will need bigger meals. For the big boys of the frog world – the likes of the African Bullfrog (Pyxiecephalus adspersus) or any of the many kinds of Horned Frog ( Ceratophrys sp.) – dead “pinkie” mice can be used, but you’ll probably have to wave them in front of your frogs with a set of blunt tweezers to get them to bite.
A word of warning about Ceratophrys; these animals have a frightening appetite, a wide taste in prey and a mouth like a flip-top bin. They’ll happily eat anything smaller than themselves, so keep them singly – they are not above making a meal out of each other!
Like the rest of their relatives, frogs and toads don’t make great pets for handling, but the larger and drier kinds do tolerate being handled a little – though since they are often equipped with defensive skin secretions, washing your hands afterwards is a must. Never-the-less, with one or two notable exceptions, such as Ceratophrys, they make gentle subjects for the vivarium – and even the Horned Frog redeems himself with those wonderful markings.
Frogs and toads have an endearing quality all of their own – and if they appeal, there’s no shortage of types to choose as your next exotic pet.