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Different Types of Frogs

Updated on August 8, 2013
My pet Amazon milk tree frogs, Trachycephalus resinifictrix
My pet Amazon milk tree frogs, Trachycephalus resinifictrix | Source
Type of Frog
Popular Example
Poison dart frogs e.g. P. terribilis
Horned frogs e.g C. cranwelli
African clawed frogs e.g.
Semi aquatic
Fire bellied toads
Tree frogs
Red eyed tree frog
Different Types of Frogs with Examples

There are Many Types of Frogs to Consider

There are over 4000 species of frogs spread out across all the continents except for Antarctica.

That number also includes toad species, scientifically, all toads are frogs. Generally they have a more warty skin (although you can't catch warts from them!), and usually live in a drier environment.

Rather than writing about the different scientific families of frogs, I will describe the different types form the point of view of their habitat requirements and personality. This is something you would want to consider if you are thinking about keeping them as pets.

Semi-aquatic frogs, the fire bellied toad

A very easy frog to keep as a pet. is the semi-aquatic fire bellied toad, Bombina orientalis. It has a lovely pale green and black dorsum and a brilliantly coloured orange belly with black splodges, which it displays to warn predators that it tastes bad, and is slightly toxic.

Despite being called a toad, B. orientalis spend a lot of time in water and should be housed in an aquarium which is divided into a land area and a water area.

It is a very active and amusing frog which is very easy to care for and can live for up to 10 years in captivity. In the wild it is found in rice paddies in Asia.

Fire bellied toads, Bombina orientalis, are actually frogs and spend a lot of time in water.
Fire bellied toads, Bombina orientalis, are actually frogs and spend a lot of time in water. | Source
The golden Phyllobates terribilis, the most toxic frog.
The golden Phyllobates terribilis, the most toxic frog. | Source

Toxic Dart Frogs and Mantellas

The vast majority of frogs secrete substances from their skins that protect them from bacteria and fungi. Some secretions are psychoactive, the giant waxy monkey frog plays a big part in Shamanic hunting rituals of certain Amazonian tribes.

However, some frogs are seriously toxic. The most famous, of course, are the poison dart frogs of South America.

These animals are described as toxic rather than venomous, because they don't bite or sting their victims. The most poisonous species is the golden poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, also known as the Colombian. Secretion of one of these relatively small amphibians are enough to kill 10 grown men.

They get their common name because hunters in the Amazon used them to poison the tips of their blow darts. They generally produce a mixture of different toxins, the most powerful produced by P. terribilis is batrachotoxin which causes paralysis.

Only wild specimen are poisonous. They produce the toxins by concentrating alkaloids from tropical plants which are eaten by ants, their favourite food. Frogs that are kept in captivity and fed on fruit flies and carrot gut loaded crickets are perfectly safe.

These small frogs are very colourful, to advertise their dangerous properties to potential predators.

Similar to dart frogs and occupying the same ecological niche, are the mantelas of Madagascar. They are generally less toxic than their Amazonian equivalents, but are also very colourful.

Mantellas are only found in Madagascar, but are similar to the dart frogs of the Amazon jungle.
Mantellas are only found in Madagascar, but are similar to the dart frogs of the Amazon jungle. | Source
Ceratophrys ornata
Ceratophrys ornata

The horned pacman frogs and relatives

The most common South American horned frog is Ceratophrys cranwelli, which is commonly referred to as a Pacman frog, for basically being ‘a mouth with legs’. Other representatives of this family are Ceratophrys ornata, and the comically sinister looking C. cornuta.

All three species of the horned toads are large (females approach 10cm in length), have huge mouths and matching appetites, and like to burrow in leaf litter or loose soil.

They will sit there with only their heads sticking out, which are usually well camouflaged among the leaf litter. They are ambush predators and generally move very little until an unsuspecting prey approaches them, when they leap on it and devour it.

Adults will eat full sized crickets and locusts, but also small mice. They will also be very interested in their owner’s fingers, which they mistake for food, care must be taken when feeding them or cleaning their enclosures to avoid a painful bite. They are also cannibalistic and must only be housed singly or the bigger animal will try to consume its tank mate. The tadpoles are also carnivorous and mainly eat other tadpoles.

The Argentinian horned frog, Ceratophrys Cornuta
The Argentinian horned frog, Ceratophrys Cornuta | Source
The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis is completely aquatic
The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis is completely aquatic | Source

Aquatic frogs like Xenopus laevis

African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) are so named because 3 digits on their hind limb end in black claws, which is quite unusual for frogs. The scientific name Xenopus also translates to “strange foot”.

They come from South Africa, and have been used extensively in biological research since the fifties. One little known fact about them is that females will lay eggs when injected with urine from pregnant women. These frogs were used to test for pregnancy in the Fifties before simpler methods became available.

They are fully aquatic and should be housed in aquaria with no land area. However a few floating islands, or artificial plants are useful, to give them a chance to rest out of water. The frogs are quite large, females reaching a snout to tail length of 11cm, although the males are considerably smaller, and need a large aquarium. .

Xenopus are an extremely hardy and easy to maintain species and have the advantage of not requiring live food. They will readily eat pellets such as those used to feed turtles, which they will push into their mouths with their forelimbs. They do however appreciate pieces of meat such as beefheart and earthworms.

An interesting fact is that the 2012 Medicine and Physiology Nobel prize was given to Sir John Gurdon for work he did on Xenopus embryos.

The Surinam toad must be the most bizarre looking amphibian ever!
The Surinam toad must be the most bizarre looking amphibian ever! | Source

The Surinam toad, another aquatic type of frog

Another type of a frog that spends all of its time in water is also one of the most bizarre looking amphibians, the Surinam toad, Pipa pipa . It is rather dull coloured and frankly looks like it has been squashed by a bus!

I guess although not pretty it does have excellent camouflage as it sits at the bottom of the river.

What it lacks in looks the Surinam toad makes up for in a truly interesting life cycle. When the female lays eggs and they are externally fertilized by the male, they roll onto the her back where they are absorbed into the skin, and stay there in little pockets until the toadlets are fully developed, and claw their way out into the water.

Surinam babies 'hatching' out of their mother

Red eyed tree froglet
Red eyed tree froglet | Source

My Favourite Type, Tree Frogs

Tree frogs are some of my favourites. I love the way their sticky pads on their toes allow them to stick to terrarium glass. Some species are incredibly colourful, probably the most famous being the red eyed tree frog (RTF)from the Amazon rain forest of South America.

Like many other tree frogs it is nocturnal and spends most of the day curled up so its bright eyes and blue flanks are hidden and is actually well camouflaged among the greenery. If a predator approaches it will unwind displaying its big red eyes, orange feet and blue flanks, startling the snake or bird for long enough that it can escape.

Another huge favourite is the Australian White's tree frog, it is incredibly relaxed, with a voracious appetite and quite prone to obesity. It will get to know its keeper and greet his entry into the room with loud calls, hoping that a feeding of crickets is on its way.

Related to the RTF are the waxy monkey frogs from the genus Phyllomedusa. Rather than hopping they climb trees by grasping branches with their hands. They generally move very slowly and purposefully and excrete a variety of toxins.

They are referred to as "waxy" because of the substance they secrete from glands behind their ears which they spread all over their bodies to waterproof themselves so they can sit in the sun without drying out.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My giant waxy monkey tree frog, Phyllomedusa bicolor, also known as ZoidbergThe Buddha like White's tree frog, Litoria cerulean
My giant waxy monkey tree frog, Phyllomedusa bicolor, also known as Zoidberg
My giant waxy monkey tree frog, Phyllomedusa bicolor, also known as Zoidberg | Source
The Buddha like White's tree frog, Litoria cerulean
The Buddha like White's tree frog, Litoria cerulean | Source

monkey frogs waxing themselves


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    • profile image


      5 years ago


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I named the Ceratopphrys frog «Clint»

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Hi Brian and thanks for reading. The three frogs you mention are all tree frogs, so they need tanks that are taller than they are wide. For a White's tree frog I would use a minimum 20 gallon tank for one frog, and 30 gallon if you want to keep more than one. For the red eyed frogs and waxy monkeys I think you can put 3-4 individuals in a 20 gallon tank. I've used exoterra for all my frogs (I think I had 36" tall tanks with 18"x18" bases). Except for the giant waxy monkey frog (P. bicolor) which need a well ventilated mesh tank. These are different from waxy monkeys (P. sauvagii).

      If this is your first time keeping frogs, I think the white's tree frog is considered easiest, although I'm sure you'll succeed with any of them if you make sure you read up on the species requirements before you get them. The waxy monkeys need drier conditions than is typical for frogs.

      I did occasionally take out my giant waxy monkey frog, and my Amazon milk frogs, and it never hurt them. At the same time, it's not great fun because you can see they are a bit scared and you have to make sure they don't hop away. Make sure you wash your hands very thoroughly before, because oils and impurities from your hands can be absorbed through their skins. Also wash your hands afterwards because all frogs can secrete irritants and there is a slight danger of salmonella.

      Although the frogs didn't enjoy me holding them, the Amazon milk frogs would sometimes hop on my arm when I was doing something in their tank. It was really difficult to get them off too, they have sticky pads. I don't think it was a sign of friendship, I just don't think they thought my arm was a branch.

      White's tree frogs are supposed to be quite friendly. Apparently they get to know their owners and vocalise when they seem them hoping to be fed. So again if you want a "friendly frog" you might want to go for that species.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hey, I have never had a pet frog before and don't know very much... But if you wouldn't mind, could you tell me the cage size requirements for these three frogs:

      White tree frog

      Red eyed tree frog

      Waxy monkey frog

      And can these frogs be held once or twice a week? I know they can't be held all the time but can these be held at least a few times a week?

      And great blog by the way!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Voted up for this! I used to keep Fire-bellied Toads and Xenopus when I lived in Cardiff and was sad to have to find new homes for them because I had had them for several years and had bred the Bombinas.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      the tree frog is so cute!!!!!

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks moonlike, this hub has actually worked quite well for me, in terms of Google ranking and getting traffic. I'm probably less good at identifying 'garden frogs' rather than exotic coloured ones. The most common frogs that are in the States I think are bullfrogs and leopard frogs. There are also little green tree frogs. It does depend on where you live I guess.

      Appreciate the vote up!

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      I was looking for types of frogs on google and your hub popped up right away. Interesting hub enjoyed reading. We use to have frogs as pets when we were kids. The frog I'm looking for you don't have listed but it wouldn't make a good pet just a little frog in our yard. While I'm here I voted uP!

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      7 years ago from Austin, TX

      Frogs as pets? I never thought of that before. A very interesting hub, btw. Maybe someday I will keep one, they quite have cool colors. :)

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks idigwebsites, I do think that the Surinam is quite ugly, but it makes up for it with its maternal duties. I wonder if it hurts it when the little ones come out.

    • idigwebsites profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      This is well prepared blog. The Surinam toad for its appearance motsly because it's the most unusual shaped frog I've seen. Two thumbs up for this.

    • profile image

      andrew goding 

      7 years ago

      hi i love reading especially about frogs.... although i already know how to care for albino cranwelli and my dumpy whites and firebellys i have had all of them for over two yrs... all in separate rooms in there own environment even tho pac man and dumpys are similar climates... but this articke makes me want even more of an exotic uncommon frog the surnam toad looked awesome also i have thought about red eyed tree frogs.... after my two pacs are done breeding and froglets are dispensed to my local shop i supply.right now they are estivating and then ready for rain chamber but when that's done and i have more time i think i need a new project after reading this

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Another brilliant hub that I have voted up for! I used to keep Xenopus and Fire-bellied Toads.

    • editorsupremo profile image


      7 years ago from London, England

      I had no idea there were so many different species of frog. I love frogs and have done from childhood when I used to collect tadpoles in the garden pond and put fully grown frogs in my sister's bed!! I was always in trouble and often asked 'Why can't you keep a proper pet?'

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      7 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Oh wow! I will definitely keep this article!!!

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks very much, it is always nice to meet new frog lovers. I have been somewhat obsessed by frogs since childhood, and am now keeping a giant waxy monkey tree frog, named Zoidberg.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      7 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is so cool. We love frogs I will share this!

    • aa lite profile imageAUTHOR

      aa lite 

      7 years ago from London

      Thanks for your comments, I have actually kept a couple of the frog species so I do know a lot about them. Although this hub is not really detailed enough for people to learn how to keep frogs, it's more about some of the possibilities out there.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Collins 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you for sharing this Hub. I have seen so many people try to keep pet frogs, but they choose frogs that are not good pets. This is a well researched blog!


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