Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Also known as Red-Eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

Author: John Wellington

Updated: June 27, 2018

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Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are likely the most well-known frogs in the world. Certainly among treefrogs, to say the least. With their big red eyes, orange feet, and bright green skin with blue sides, it’s no wonder they’re so popular. They make great pets too. I don’t recommend them for beginners but they’re not extremely difficult to care for either. That’s what this guide is for, showing you how to properly care for Red-Eyed Tree Frogs.

In this care sheet, I’ll recommend cage sizes, show you all the supplies you need, explain how to best feed them, and teach you how breeding them. Before I get into that, I encourage you to read the “In the Wild” section to learn where RETFs (Red-Eyed Tree Frogs) comes from how they behave in their natural environment.

In the Wild

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs (Agalychnis callidryas) are part of the Agalychnis Genus which inhabit regions of Central and South America. They’re apart of the Hylidae Family which means they’re considered true tree frogs. Treefrogs are arboreal species which, as the name implies, spend the majority of their lives in trees. As for their Genus, Agalychnis, it contains 6 species. All of which are very similar in appearance to that of the RETF, but with slight differences.

As for the RETF, they can be found from Veracruz through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Northwest parts of South America. They inhabit rainforests where the average day-time temperature remains between 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re nocturnal, spending most of their time awake during the night. During the day, they sleep on leaves in such a way as to hide their bright colors.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Cage Setup

Setting up a RETF terrarium is fairly simple. You need a tall terrarium, one that is at least 18″ in height. I recommend an 18″ x 18″ x 24″ terrarium if possible, which will hold up to 4 treefrogs. A 12″ x 12″ x 18″ will work too, holding between 1 – 2 frogs. Treefrogs are social creatures, so it’s best to keep at least two of them together in the same enclosure.

Here is a list of all the items you need to set up a terrarium for Red-Eyed Tree Frogs.

  • 12″ x 12″ x 18″ or 18″ x 18″ x 24″ terrarium
  • heater – heating mat or basking lamp
  • small, shallow water dish
  • hygrometer thermometer
  • branches, sticks, logs
  • plants and/or vines
  • substrate
  • calcium and vitamin supplements


That should cover the basics. When setting up the enclosure, place branches strategically to give your frogs lots of climbing space. Live or fake plants are welcome, depending on your preference. Also, some “jungle vines” would be helpful as well. Between the vines, plants, and branches, your main goal is to provide lots of claiming areas.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

A young RETF resting on a plant.

These tree frogs love to sleep on leaves. Mine tend to prefer thin leaves, but I’ve seen them sleeping on basically all the plant leaves in their enclosure at one point or another.

Related: The 3 Best Starter Kits for Tree Frogs

Place a small, shallow water dish in the cage. They’re not fantastic swimmers and they don’t require a lot of water. In terms of the water dish, I suppose anything will due, so long as the water is shallow. I’m using an extra-large Exo Terra water dish because it’s all I have available at the moment. Just be sure to keep the water shallow within the dish. They will drink water droplets that collect on the leaves within the terrarium, the water dish is just for soaking their skin.

Lighting

Since these frogs are nocturnal, a special UVB lighting is not required. UVB may provide small benefits for vitamin D3 but I’ve yet to find a study that proves this. So, RETFs don’t need UVB. They do, however, require a constant day and night cycle. Should you happen to place their enclosure in a room with little or no sunlight from a window, then you need to give them a light. A day and night cycle can consist of 12 – 14 hours of light and 10 – 12 hours of dark.

Another reason you may need a light is for live plants. Again, special lighting is not needed for the frogs but certain plantlife needs a grow light. I recommend a low powered LED grow light. UVB is fine so long as it’s low-powered; I wouldn’t use anything over 2.0 personally.

Temperature

The recommended temperature ranges from the upper 70’s to the mid 80’s during the day. At night time, the heat can fall to the low 70’s without any worry. This means you need a heater. Currently, I’m using an old basking lamp I had laying around. It makes the top portion of the terrarium around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Towards the bottom of the enclosure, the temperature drops to the upper 70’s. At nighttime, I switch the basking light off and let the room temperature drop their enclosure to the low 70s. This is only temporary until I get a heating pad.

  • Daytime: 78 – 85 ° F
  • Nighttime: 68 – 75 ° F

Whether you use a basking lamp or a heating pad, just do your best to create a temperature gradient within their enclosure. This will give your Red-Eyed Tree Frogs the option to move to a warmer or cooler portion of the terrarium as they see fit.

Substrate

Choosing a substrate really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. For a basic RETF setup using fake plants, I recommend using a coco fiber substrate. Adding coco husk chips and sphagnum moss into the coco fiber substrate is another option but certainly not required.

Should you decide to set up a vivarium, where live plants are being utilized, I recommend trying an ABG mix; something designed for growing plants. Using an ABG mix works best when you include microfauna and leaf litter, which is by no means a requirement in caring for Red-Eyed Tree Frogs. If this interests you, I recommend checking out the vivarium substrate section in my frog enclosure substrate guide and doing further research on this topic.

Water Quality

As with all amphibians, the quality of water used in their enclosure is important. Frogs have semi-permeable skin, allowing them to absorb things through their skin. That means the chemicals lingering on your hands can be transferred to your frog while handling them. Not only that, chemicals in water affect your pet as well.

Tap-water is often-times treated with chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and chloramine. They’re intended to clean the water, making it more suitable for human consumption. Unfortunately for amphibians, it can be harmful to them. So, I recommend checking out a safe-water guide for amphibians or, if nothing else, use a water conditioner like ReptiSafe. These agents dechlorinate the water and make it safe for frogs.

All your RETF needs is a small, shallow water dish filled with clean, dechlorinated water. Be sure to change out the water as it becomes dirty.

Humidity

The humidity can fluctuate throughout the day. Many people argue these frogs do better in high humidity while others claim a moderate humidity with occasional spikes is most suitable. I tend to agree with the latter. For mine, I do my best to never let the relative humidity drop below 50%. Mist twice each day, or as much as you need to keep the humidity within the recommended levels.

  • Humidity between 60% – 85%

From my experience, Red-Eyed Tree Frogs enjoy a moderate humidity level with a nice spike in humidity once a day. That means raising the humidity up to 80% or 90% each day. You don’t need to keep it that high all the time though. Nowadays you can automate this process by getting misting systems or installing foggers with a separate Hydrotherm to start and stop the device as needed. Unless you’re having a hard time keeping the humidity within the recommended parameters, these products aren’t needed. A simple spray bottle will suffice.

I suggest investing in a quality hygrometer thermometer and watching the temperature and humidity throughout the day. Mist as often as you need to keep the humidity above 50% at all times. Each day, provide a heavy misting to raise the humidity to around 90%.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Diet

Feeding a Red-Eyed Tree Frog in captivity is simple, yet tricky. In the wild, of course, they feed on a variety of insects including crickets, moths, flies, etc. It’s just not plausible to provide them with such a diet in captivity. Likely, what you’ll be doing is feeding them the insects you can readily obtain from a local pet store.

Crickets

This is where it gets tricky, kind of. You see, RETFs are very picky eaters. They won’t eat mealworms or waxworms, at least mine never have. I remember running out of crickets one day and all I had were small mealworms and waxworms. So I gave them a quick dusting with supplements, placed them in a shallow dish and set them in the terrarium. I assumed, since it had been 48 hours since their last cricket feeding, they would happily eat the mealworms. Nope. They didn’t touch them. They held out for 4 days without eating anything. This is due in part to their stubbornness and an online order of crickets what went bad. So, I went to the pet store and got them more crickets.

What does it all mean? While they probably can and will eat a variety of insects, they’re picky eaters that prefer crickets. Provide them with appropriately sized crickets. Juvenile Red-Eyes will readily eat small or pinhead crickets while adults can eat medium to large crickets. I feed mine 2 – 3 crickets each, every other day. Gutload the crickets a few days before feeding and dust them with calcium and vitamin supplements.

It’s important for them to get extra calcium since they don’t receive much natural sunlight in captivity. A low powered UVB bulb might be beneficial but I don’t recommend it. Just dust the crickets with a calcium powder with each feeding and you should be fine. As for the vitamins supplements, mine get that 2 – 3 times per week.

Reproduction

Just like so many other frogs, replicating their natural environment is most often required in order to get them to breed. This is accomplished by mimicking the winter months and eventually transitioning into spring-time, which is breeding season. With any luck, your Red-Eyed Tree Frogs will mate, leaving you with the rewarding experience of raising tadpoles.

Sexing

The first step in the whole process is to ensure you have both male and female treefrogs. This should only be attempted with adults, as it’s near impossible to tell the difference in juveniles. Full grown females are bigger and bulkier than males. A female will grow up to 3 inches in length while males typically grow between 2 – 2.5 inches. Another way to tell is by the nuptial pads; males have brown nuptial pads. They are located at the base of the pads; what could essentially be described as their thumbs. Last but not least, males call or croak whereas females remain silent.

Breeding

Recreating the natural environment for a RETF is only difficult during the rainy season. This is best accomplished by placing them in a rain chamber with a full water bottom. Tropical plants should be placed above the water and plenty of land areas can be added in case the frogs fall into the water; cork bark flats work perfectly for this. Also, the water doesn’t need to be very deep. What’s important is to simulate rainfall, hence the need for the ‘rain chamber’.

Start by replicating the winter months for anywhere between 30 – 60 days. Decrease the temperature in the enclosure by 5 degrees and stop misting as often. Allow the humidity to drop during this time. Also, if possible, decrease their daylight hours by 1 – 2 hours each day and cut back on feeding. Be careful not to overdo this; always examine your frogs to ensure they’re healthy.

Once you’ve done this for 1 – 2 months, it’s time to start the rainy season; this is where the rain chamber comes in. Ensure the water temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to, get a cheap aquarium water heater. With the rain system installed and running, add the males and females to the enclosure. The temperature should be back to normal, between 75 – 85 °F during the day. Their feeding should go back to normal as well. Mating most often occurs when there is competition from other males. When possible, use 2 males for each female.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Eggs

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Eggs

With any luck, the males will begin calling within the first few days. Breeding should take place within a week. If not, take the frogs out and place them back in their normal enclosure for a few days. During this period, increase the amount of food you’re giving them.

Females lay their eggs on leaves overhanging water. This is why it’s important to have plenty of tropical plant leaves within the breeding enclosure. Perform partial water changes throughout the entire process to ensure the water is clean.

Once you see the eggs, you should remove the adult frogs and place them back into their normal enclosure. The eggs will develop and tadpoles will wiggle free within 7 days.

Tadpoles & Froglets

Once the tadpoles drop into the water, they will remain motionless for several days. As they begin moving around, you should start performing partial water changes. Keep the water temperature around 75 °F. The water can be between 2 – 3 inches deep. Feed the tadpoles fish flakes, aquatic frog & tadpole food, lettuce or cabbage. Just a pinch each day. Sprinkle the food on top of the water and watch the tadpoles over the next 3 – 4 hours. If the tadpoles eat everything you give them the first time, give them a little more food next time. Otherwise, remove the leftover food.

When their front legs develop and little pads are noticeable, fit their enclosure with a screen lid. It won’t be long before they can climb the walls of their enclosure. Another good idea is to place a piece of cork bark in the water. Soon they will be able to walk on land.

As their tails completely disappear they can be placed into separate containers. Transition them into an enclosure with a water dish and high humidity; don’t allow them to get too dry. They can be fed pinhead crickets or flightless fruit flies. Dust their food with calcium and vitamin supplements. After a few weeks, move the juvenile Red-Eyed Tree Frogs into their final terrariums.

Handling Red-Eyed Tree Frogs

Holding A Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Frogs are delicate amphibians; I don’t recommend holding them. The occasional handling won’t hurt but it’s best to just watch and observe. Their cage will need occasional cleaning, which is not an issue.

I recommend scooping them into a separate plastic container and setting them aside while performing heavy cleaning. Putting them in a separate container is not required for light cleaning though. Just do your best to avoid stressing your pet frog and they will be just fine!

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Infographic

Red-Eyed Tree Frog Infographic

References

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke / Wikipedia, Careyjamesbalboa / Wikipedia, Geoff Gallice / Wikipedia

13 Questions & Answers

    • John Wellington

      Mixing different species of frogs is usually a bad idea because they all have different toxins on their skin. While its usually undetectable to humans, another small amphibian could be harmed by it.

    • John Wellington

      I recommend checking Facebook for local breeders. They’re your best bet. Also, reptile/amphibian conventions is another great place to check!

  • Kristen Jarz

    Hello! I have two RETF and I believe they are both male. I would like to get a couple more RETF because I have a large tank, but wasn’t sure if I should get female or male tree frogs. I’d rather them not mate, but if they do that is also ok. I just want them to be happy! Would it be ok if I got two female tree frogs? Or should I get two additional males?

    • John Wellington

      Male or female is fine. Just make sure they have enough room and that they’re close in size to one another (don’t put baby RETFs with adults). Kristen, I know you said you’d rather them not mate and I understand but raising little tadpoles is very fun!

  • Jess

    I have a red eyed tree frog the got injuries a couple of days ago he had jumped into a fan it sliced the skin in between his arms but didn’t do much other then that he seems to be be doing a lot better the last couple of day he’s moving around a lot and climbing the sides of the empty tank I have him in do you know if it will heal properly and do you think he will be okay from this? I can’t seem to find anything on if they will heal fully or not

    • John Wellington

      I’m not sure to be honest. I never had a RETF get injured like this. I did, however, see a Gray Tree Frog missing a leg last year. He shrugged a little trying to climb the side of my house but he seemed to be doing fine. I actually saw him multiple times. Despite moving a little slower, he survived losing one leg. So I think its possible for your RETF to make a recovery but I just don’t know. If its a dire situation I recommend taking him to your local vet. Good luck my friend!

  • Ellie

    Hey! Im purchasing 2 female RETF, i dont want them to breed and i would kinda like to handle them sometimes or just be able to hold them/teach parents how to hold when cleaning. What should I do if i am handling a froggie? thank u 🙂

    • John Wellington

      You may find this post helpful. You can wear non-powdered vinyl gloves. Washing your hands is fine too. The problem here is that any left over soap residue can be harmful.

      Also, you can always put them in a little container (like tupperware) while deep cleaning their enclosure.

      I hope this helps! Good luck with your little red eyes!

  • Amaya

    Hi! I have a grey tree frog and a red eyed tree frog. (They live together) My red eyed tree frog is definitely male, because I can hear him croaking. I think my last tree frog died (a green tree frog) because he was croaking and we didn’t get him a friend or a mate. Should I get a female RETF? I just don’t want him to be sad like my last tree frog. Him and my grey tree frog don’t seem to hate each other, I was just wondering if he needed a friend more like him. I hope you respond to this, thanks! -Amaya

    • John

      Hey, Amaya! Sorry for not replying sooner. There can be a few problems with housing different species together. The most obvious problem is their environmental needs (temperature, humidity, etc). RETF inhabit different climates than Gray tree frogs. Having said that, Gray tree frogs can tolerate the temperature and humidity range required to keep a healthy RETF. So that’s not a huge issue.

      The big problems most people don’t think about are the toxicity and diseases. Most amphibians are at least mildly toxic. Humans usually aren’t affected by it but smaller animals can be – including different species of frogs. Diseases are a problem too. Catching a wild Gray Tree Frog, for example, and placing it into a RETF’s enclosure is problematic. The Gray tree frog may go unharmed by a local disease while the RETF will not. I encourage you to do some more research on this topic!

      So, I wouldn’t recommend keeping the different species together. As for keeping your tree frogs in pairs (having a “friend”), I think it’s a great idea!

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