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What Do Frogs Eat?

Updated on August 10, 2012

Pet amphibian diet, what do frogs eat?

Keeping amphibians as pets is becoming more common, and an increasing number of species is being bred in captivity making them easily available. Knowing what your frog pets eat is essential to provide them with the correct diet. The vast majority of frogs are insectivores, in the wild they eat any suitably sized insect, or spider available. They generally need to be fed live feeder insects, since it is the motion of the prey that elicits feeding behaviour. A frog presented with a dead insect simply does not recognize it as food.

Having said that, there are a few frogs that can eat food that does not move. The fully aquatic Xenopus frogs can be happily kept on a diet of trout or turtle pellets, they will also be grateful for supplementation with some beef heart, or another cheap source of food. They will also enjoy worms, such as earthworms.

ugly crickets are one of the most common insects that frogs eat in captivity
ugly crickets are one of the most common insects that frogs eat in captivity

Crickets and other feeder insects

Other frogs basically require insects. Truly big pets such as the horned frogs from the Ceratophrys family, also known as pacman frogs, can also eat pinkie or even adult mice, although many people dislike seeing rodents being eaten. That is fine, they will do ok on invertebrates. The most common staple food of amphibians or reptiles kept as pets are crickets. They are easy to breed, can be obtained from many pet stores or even ordered online, and are easy to keep.

Fire bellied toad eating cricket

Alternatives to crickets for frogs

Some keepers are concerned about the monotony of their pets’ diet and like to introduce some variety. Roaches and flies can also be bought, as well as worms such as wax worms, phoenix worms and silk worms. I have had mixed results feeding worms to frogs. Some of my pets ate them with gusto, others completely ignored them, feeling that they did not move enough to be worthy of their attention. I have also waited for the worms to metamorphose into moths or flies and used them to feed the frogs which they greatly enjoy.

Certain amphibian keepers feel that their frogs benefit greatly from being fed “lawn sweepings”, basically insects collected from the wild be sweeping a butterfly net through grass. Some people claim that they have much better results breeding dart frogs when they feed them on a variety insects collected from the wild. However if insects are collected from an area sprayed with pesticides, they could seriously harm the frogs. Because it is increasing difficult to find areas where you can be certain chemicals were not used, I feel that it is safest sticking to insects that are specifically raised for feeding pets.

What size of insects will frogs eat?

The size of the feeder insects has to be adjusted to the size of the frog. Big frogs will not generally bother to hunt insects that are too small. On the other hand, swallowing insects that are too big can seriously harm a frog, since it could lead to intestinal compaction. Finding prey small enough for certain small frogs, like the thumbnail dart frog species, can be a big challenge. These frogs need a constant supply of tiny insects such as fruit flies, aphids, newly hatched crickets or springtails.

Thumbnail poison dart frogs require suitably tiny feeder insects
Thumbnail poison dart frogs require suitably tiny feeder insects | Source

Gut loading and dusting of insects for frogs

Crickets and most other feeder insects do not provide all the nutrition needed by frogs. In the wild most insectivores derive a lot of there needs from the gut contents of their prey which feed on vegetation. To simulate that in captivity, the food must itself be fed, or gut loaded, with fruits or vegetables a few hours before being fed to the frogs. Carrots are traditionally used for this purpose, but apples, leafy vegetables or even commercial gut loading formula.

Crickets and most of the other common feeder insects do not have sufficient calcium, although they contain plenty of potassium. Since calcium is necessary for healthy bones, and to avoid metabolic bone disease, its levels have to be supplemented by dusting the crickets with a calcium powder. Most supplements also contain vitamin D3 which is essential for calcium absorption. When feeding adult frogs mineral and vitamin supplements should be added once a week. This is usually achieved by placing the crickets in a platic cup, adding a pinch of supplement and shaking. Mineral powders are now designed so they stick to the insects.

How often to feed your pet frogs

Some frogs can be taught to eat the crickets from the cup, or even they can be fed by hand. Although this ensures that there are no loose crickets left in the enclosure, which can bother or even bite the frogs, and that the crickets are eaten while still covered in the mineral supplement, I feel that allowing the frogs to exhibit natural hunting behaviour is beneficial to them.

Juvenile frogs should be fed on daily. Adult frogs need to eat three to four times a week. The largest frogs, which will gorge themselves on large food items, can be fed twice weekly. It is best to put the feeder insects into the enclosure of nocturnal frogs after the lights are switched off, while diurnal frogs should be fed in the morning. For some reason animals become accustomed to crickets or other insects that have been in the enclosure for a while, so if they don't eat them straight away, they will usually ignore them afterwards. For this reason any leftover crickets should be removed and a fresh feeding given after a couple of days.

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    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great Hub aa. Great advice and tips for anyone considering Frogs as a pet. I love the photo of that Thumbnail poison dart frog, just beautiful. Great video of the frog feeding on the cricket. What kind of frog is that, green with dark green spots, beautiful?

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