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What equipment do you need to keep pet frogs?

Updated on August 20, 2012
Giant waxy monkey tree frog in a naturally furnished enclosure
Giant waxy monkey tree frog in a naturally furnished enclosure

Keeping frogs as pets is an increasingly popular hobby. There is a huge variety of beautiful frogs and toads that can are easily available from specialist shops or private breeders, some of these are good beginner species, some are more challenging to keep well in captivity. Amphibians make the perfect pets for people who cannot keep dogs or cats because of allergies, and do not get lonely if left by themselves while you are at work. Since they are contained within their enclosures, they do not cause damage to your home and might be allowed in rented accommodation, where other pets are forbidden.

Nonetheless keeping a pet frog happy will require a small amount of daily care. The most important work to ensure your amphibian pet is healthy and lives out its natural life span happens before you get it. You have to research the requirements of the particular species you plan to keep and purchase the proper equipment.

Amazon milk frog
Amazon milk frog | Source

Equipment for keeping frogs

  • Terrarium
  • Substrate
  • Background (optional if you get the exoterra tank, but there are nicer ones you can buy)
  • shallow water dish
  • spray bottle
  • lights for the terrarium (especially important if you have live plants)
  • Reptile caves, or coconut shell halves (for some frogs)
  • Branches, bark, moss and other decorations depending on the species
  • Hygrometer and thermometer
  • Spray bottle
  • Artificial plants (optional, I prefer live plants)

tree frogs require tall aquariums furnished with vertical branches
tree frogs require tall aquariums furnished with vertical branches | Source

Frog Enclosures

On the right is a general list of the things you need to buy if you want to keep frogs. This is not sufficient in itself, the exact type and size of the enclosure and the furnishings will vary depending on the species, but it will give you an idea of the things that you will need to purchase.

The most important piece of equipment of course is the terrarium in which your pets will live. Frogs require a high humidity environment, hence generally a glass terrarium is required. However, it is important for the frog to have good ventilation, to prevent stagnant conditions which will lead to bacterial or fungal blooms. At least one side of the enclosure, usually the top, most be screen. I particularly like exoterra terrariums for my cold blooded friends, they also have ventilation holes in the front of the tank, ensuring good air circulation. However there are several other brands on the market that are also suitable.

Another option is to have an enclosure hand made, however with a variety of tanks available on the market for reasonable prices, I think it is easier to buy it yourself. The exact dimensions of the terrarium you get will depend on the type of frog you will be keeping. Tree frogs require tall enclosures, since they will usually spend most of their time climbing and will utilise vertical space well. Other frogs will need enclosures that are longer than they are tall.

The size of the tank will need depend to a certain extent on the size of the species, and how many individuals you are planning to keep, how territorial they get. Again you should research each species, some frogs require a larger tank than suggested by their size. Others like the horned frogs of South America, grow to a large size but are quite sedentary and do not require a huge tank.

Exoterra even sell complete habitat kits. I personally prefer to choose the furnishings for the terrarium myself, but it might be the right tank for you. The exception to these tanks, would be the fully aquatic frogs, such as Xenopus or the surinam toad, in which case your really need an aquarium, or you could investigate turtle habitats. Although most frogs like very high humidity, some of the frogs in the waxy monkey, Phyllomdusa family do better with lower humidity and really good ventilation, and you should look into screen enclosures such as those by zoomed which are also sold by Amazon.

Amazon milk tree frogs on a bromeliad
Amazon milk tree frogs on a bromeliad | Source
Some waxy monkey frogs might do better in a screen enclosure.
Some waxy monkey frogs might do better in a screen enclosure. | Source

Substrate and background

A variety of substrates are available to cover the bottom of the terrarium, from topsoil, to coconut husk, moss or orchid barks. The substrate has to be absorbent so it can help maintain the high humidity in the tank. Horned frogs like to burrow, so a deep layer is particularly desirably for them.

The danger with substrate is that it can be swallowed together with crickets. Orchid bark is fine for small frogs, but should not be used with ones that are big enough to swallow a piece. If ingested substrate can cause intestinal impaction which might prove fatal.

Backgrounds covering one or two sides of the tank increase the security of their inhabitants. Although the exo terra tanks already come with foam based backgrounds, I think they are quite ugly and prefer to buy coco fibre based panels which can be cut to size and attached to the glass with aquarium sealant.

water bowls, hiding places and thermometers.

Terrestial frogs require fresh dechlorinated water which is changed daily. Frogs do not drink, instead they absorb water through their skins. Many frogs don't swim well and only need some shallow water in a small bowl.

Maintaining the terrarium temperature and humidity at the levels needed by your pets is essential to their wellbeing and should be measured accurately with a thermometer and hygrometer, respectively.

Certain amphibians, especially poison dart frogs require hiding places. They will refuse to breed and feel insecure unless provided with caves. Coconut halves, with a small entry hole cut out of them look very good too.

Many people choose to place live plants in the enclosure. They help maintain a high humidity and create a natural environment for the animals. However they are more difficult to clean than plastic plants which are an alternative.

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