Tree Frog Terrarium

How to Set Up a Tree Frog Terrarium

Author: John Wellington

Updated: June 19, 2018

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Tree frogs are arboreal, which means they spend most of their time in trees. In captivity, they don’t have access to trees but branches, sticks, vines, and plants will keep them happy. Vertical space is a must. Terrariums at least 18 inches in height will suffice.

The overall size (width, depth, and height) depends on the number of frogs you’re keeping. As for the setup, well, that’s what this post is for. I’ll explain everything you need to set up a great tree frog enclosure; from terrariums sizes and brands to helpful tips for decorating, and everything in between.

Basic Cage Setup for Tree Frogs

Setting up a tree frog enclosure consists of creating climbing areas in a vertically oriented terrarium. Through the usage of branches or sticks, vines, and plants, a person can create the ideal habitat for any arboreal species. So, without further delay, let’s get into it.

It’s important to remember, this guide won’t work for every type of tree frog. Each one is different, requiring different temperatures and humidity levels. The basic build will get you started, but it’s up to you to learn the precise conditions needed to keep your pet treefrog happy and healthy. This can be accomplished by reading care sheets. Find out the recommended temperature, humidity level, and whether or not your special lighting is required.

These factors will determine whether or not you need more equipment like automated misting systems, foggers, UVB lighting, a heating mat, etc. Use this guide as a base example on how to set up a treefrog terrarium.

Step 1: Choosing Your Terrarium

Exo Terra and Zilla Terrariums

Before you can do anything, you need a terrarium. Chances are, you’ve already got one but if you don’t, I’ll point you in the right direction. As I already mentioned, you need a tall terrarium. That is, something taller than it is wide. As for the terrarium size, well that depends on the number of frogs you’re keeping and their overall size once they’re full-grown.

A 12″ x 12″ x 18″ terrarium will house 1 – 2 treefrogs. Again, this depends on the type of tree frog and how big they get. You can put 2 full-grown Red-Eyed Tree Frogs in a terrarium this small because they’re not very big. On the other hand, White’s Tree Frogs grow much larger, so two of them would need a larger enclosure.

An 18″ x 18″ x 24″ terrarium can hold 3 – 4 tree frogs. So it really comes down to the full-grown size of the frogs you’re keeping, and how many you want in the same cage. Keep in mind, you can use just about any size container 18″ in height or taller. However, the two sized mentioned above are the most common sizes for tree frogs. They’re also relatively inexpensive compared to larger terrariums.

Related: The Best Tree Frog Terrarium Kits

So, here are my recommendations. If you’re a first-time amphibian owner, I recommend getting a tree frog terrarium kit. Exo Terra, Zoo Med, and Zilla all have kits that work well for arboreal frogs. You will probably still need to buy a few items, but as a whole, it comes with most of the things you need to get started. Otherwise, if you’re not a new herpetoculturist and you’ve got some extra supplies lying around, you may opt for getting just the terrarium itself.

Image Description Amazon
Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit
Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit, Small
This is an excellent starter kit. It’s 12x12x18, which is great for 1 – 2 tree frogs.
Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit
Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit, Large
My favorite starter kit. Its 18x18x24 which is great for 3 – 4 tree frogs.
Zilla Vertical Tropical Kit Zilla Tropical Vertical Kit
An awesome starter kit from Zilla. It’s 12x12x18 – great for 1 – 2 adult tree frogs.

I did a review of the various frog terrarium starter kits and, in my personal opinion, the Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit offers the best deal. Especially at the time of writing this guide, the small habitat kit is on sale for $85.06 on Amazon, plus free shipping if you have Prime. I don’t know how long the sale will last, but it’s worth checking the link to see if they’re still on sale. As for the Zoo Med Naturalistic Terrarium Frog Kit, it’s kind of hard to find. They’re sometimes available in pet stores but I wasn’t able to find one online. Anyway, once you’ve got your terrarium, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Preparation

Exo Terra Terrarium 18" x 18" x24"

Once you’ve purchased your terrarium and you’re ready to set everything up, place the terrarium in the spot you want to keep it. When everything is set up, the terrarium will be heavy. Heavy enough you won’t want to be moving it anywhere. It’s a good idea to do the set up where you plan to keep it forever. Or at least for a while.

Before we begin adding things to the enclosure, it’s a good idea to clean the glass with a towel and distilled water. The only point in doing this is to remove any lingering dust. Be mindful not use to chemical cleaners as it might be harmful to your delicate amphibians. Also, tap-water high in calcium will eventually lead to calcium build up. To avoid this, use distilled water instead.

Step 3: Add the Substrate

Eco Earth Substrate

Now we’re ready to start adding everything into the enclosure. The first thing is the substrate. In most cases, this will be coco fiber or similar substrates. Because tree frogs are arboreal, they won’t be spending much time on the ground. Either way, it’s best to give them a non-particulate substrate to save them from impaction. Eco Earth and Plantation soil are both great options. They’re cheap and come in compressed bricks like the one in the picture above. Follow the directions to prepare the substrate for use.

Depending on the requirements of the treefrog you’re keeping, it might be wise to set up a drainage layer. Typically this is only required when dealing with a lot of water. A custom waterfall, misting systems, etc. High humidity is a requirement for some frogs, but not all. If you know you need a drainage layer, keep reading the rest of step 3. Otherwise, you can fill the terrarium with 2 – 3 inches of substrate and continue to step 4.

Hydroballs

For setting up a drainage layer, you need a filter medium. Most people use hydroballs, which are great. I, on the other hand, recommend something else. Matala Filter isn’t designed specifically for terrariums, but it’s one of the best products I’ve ever used for a drainage layer. So first, fill the bottom of the enclosure with 1.5 – 2 inches of hydroballs or use a custom cut piece of Matala filter. On top of that, add a substrate barrier; a mesh screen. It should allow water to flow through but keeps your substrate above the first layer. On top of the mesh screen, add your substrate.

Step 4: Add Branches, Sticks or Logs

Grapewood Branch

Treefrogs and other arboreal species appreciate vertical climbing space. In the wild, they spend most of their time atop trees and other vegetation. As such, it’s recommended that you provide several climbing opportunities in the form of branches, sticks, or logs. Which type of terrarium wood you choose is entirely up to you. High humidity enclosures would benefit from a hardwood, something that can be waterlogged without becoming moldy or breaking apart. Should the enclosure not require super high humidity, a large grapevine will look nice. Regardless of the conditions, cork bark is always a good option.

You should strategically place the branches and sticks in a way to allows your treefrog several different climbing and resting areas in different heights of the enclosure.

Step 4: Add Plants and Vines

Live Plant

Plants are a must-have for tree frogs. Not only do they provide more climbing options and great hiding locations, but they prefer to sleep on leaves. My red-eyed tree frogs have their favorites, but most often I find them on the long, thin leaves that seem to wrap around them perfectly. Whether the plants are real or fake, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, with real plants, you will need a low-powered grow light. Something designed for terrarium usage, with no greater than 5.0 UVB.

Another thing plants provide is a storage place for water. Frogs drink water droplets from plant leaves more often then they do from a water dish. It’s a good practice to mist the plants especially to ensure there are drops of water all over the terrarium.

Aside from live or fake plants, adding vines is a great way to create more climbing places. I personally haven’t tried all the different brand’s of terrarium vines, but I’m sure they all do a good job.

Step 5: Add the Small Water Dish

Water Dish

Even though tree frogs are amphibians, they’re not the best swimmers. They enjoy shallow water. So a dish small, shallow water dish will suffice. Having said that, the size of the water container doesn’t really matter. What matters is the depth of the water. It’s important to note that tree frogs won’t spend a great deal of their time in the water. They’re more likely to drink water droplets left on leaves from the last misting. If no droplets are available or they simply want to soak their skin, they will find their way into the water dish.

Fill the water dish with clean, dechlorinated water. The water should be free from toxins. Tap-water often contains chemicals like chlorine, which are harmful to frogs and other amphibians. So, if you chose to use tap-water, I recommend treating it with ReptiSafe or a similar water conditioning agent. For more information on this topic, check out my safe-water guide for amphibians.

Step 6: Add the Lights, Thermometer, and Hygrometer

Exo Terra Day & Night LED Light

At this point, you’re nearing completion of your tree frog terrarium. All that’s left is to add any remaining gadgets you need. These items depend on the individual needs of the treefrog you’re keeping. Should your frog or live plants require special lighting, you can install that now. Other products include automated misting systems and foggers.

Those items, as I mentioned, may or may not be required depending on the species you’re building the habitat for. For all frogs, I recommend a nice digital thermometer hygrometer. Thermometer hygrometers are fairly inexpensive and they measure the humidity level and temperature inside your terrarium. With this information, you can manually adjust the temperature by use of a heating pad or basking light. As for humidity, well, simply mist the enclosure using a spray bottle.

A hygrometer thermometer combo can be placed in the top corner while an additional thermometer can be placed in the bottom. Checking the temperature at the top and bottom of the enclosure gives you a better understanding of what’s going on in the terrarium. This is ideal for checking a temperature gradient, where the top of the enclosure is meant to be warmer than the bottom. Achieving a temperature gradient like this is most effective by the use of a basking lamp, which is positioned above the enclosure. Anyway, don’t worry about doing this unless it’s a recommendation for your tree frog.

Step 7: Mist the Enclosure

Mistr Lizard Misting Bottle

Now that you’re finished with the setup, it’s a good idea to thoroughly mist the entire terrarium; the substrate, branches, leaves, and everything else. Don’t be shy, get the entire enclosure wet. This is a great opportunity to ensure you’re hygrometer is working. If you notice the humidity level is dropping too fast, you might consider covering a portion of the screen lid with a piece of plastic or custom-cut piece of glass to increase the humidity in the terrarium. After this, you’re ready to introduce your frog to his or her new home.

Introducing Your Tree Frog to its New Enclosure

Tree Frog Enclosure

It’s always a good idea to be gentle and patience when introducing your frogs to a new home. In most cases, your pet will be in a small, plastic container, especially if you just bought one from a pet store. Otherwise, you may be transferring them from an old terrarium to the new. Either way, open the plastic container and set it inside the new enclosure.

Allow your pet to hop out of the plastic container on their own. Once you’ve noticed they’re venturing out into their new home, gently remove the plastic container and close the terrarium doors.

All done! I hope this guide has helped you in setting up the perfect enclosure for your tree frogs.

34 Questions & Answers

  • grace

    So I have purchased a 12 x 12 x 18 terrarium from zoomed and was hoping to get one RETF to put in it. I was advised this was too small after I had bought it but I was wondering what you think? Also what exact bulbs are recommened? I bought a heat mat and I have a UVB coil light above and a temp and humidity reader but was wondering if this was incorrect?

    • John Wellington

      That is a bit small but it could work for a while. Something bigger is preferable but you wouldn’t be the first person to keep a single from in a 12x12x18. A 5.0 UVB bulb can be used during the day time but you should provide plenty of hiding places. Branches, plants, etc

  • Cheyenne

    So I have a treefrog that lives in my shower. Unfortunately it lost a hand somehow and can’t get around very easy I noticed. The last 2 days I have caught some flies to feed it. I’m thinking about turning my old lizard tank into a home for it for now since it has been getting very cold. What so you normally feed them since the flies will be gone soon due to the weather?

    • John Wellington

      What type of frog is it? I found a tree frog once that was missing one of its frog legs and it did just fine. He was able to climb the side of my house and catch bugs near a light. Setting it free into the wild is probably the best bet 🙂

  • Sara

    I got a tank thats 20in x 10in x 10in will that be ok? And I put in a lot of leaves and sticks how do I clean the tank?

    • John Wellington

      That’s pretty small. It may work for a single, small tree frog. What species did you have in mind?

  • MattNLeo

    We have a White’s Dumpy frog in a 20gal terrarium . . . can we set it up near a window so long as we are keeping his humidty and temperature even? My thought is that it would better help regulate the day/night cycle and provide natural sunlight? Please advise.

    • John Wellington

      I see what you mean by regulating their day/night cycle and this is a good question. The only concern is with the window. I had to move one of my enclosure away from a window because some cold air was getting through. Also, if the sun is shining directly through the window it can cause the temperature in the enclosure to raise too high. Pay very close attention to the temperature and humidity!

  • Andrew Ballard

    Is it okay if I put one tree frog in a big 18x18x24 terrarium or do u recommend a smaller terrarium for just one frog

    • John Wellington

      That’s fine! Do you mean 24″ in height or width? Either way, that’s a nice size for a tree frog. You can go smaller if you’re keeping a single frog in there but you certainly don’t have to. It will be fine, by itself, in that size of enclosure.

    • John Wellington

      How tall is it? I’ve seen people do this and they will likely be fine, so long as there are plenty of climbing spots. I do recommend a vertical terrarium though.

    • John Wellington

      Little black zip-ties work on branches. Part of it was buried. If you’re using expanding foam for the background you can anchor one end in that.

    • John Wellington

      It’s possible so long as the environment suits their needs. You’ve got to make sure they’re not too hot or too cold and that the humidity is suitable.

  • Anabelle

    Hello! I was wondering how I can clean the water so it can be safe for frogs, do I get a container and try to filter out the water?

    • John Wellington

      It depends on your setup. If you’re able to take out their water dish you can simply change out the water. If you have a full water bottom you may have to get a small pump or a cup to scoop out some of the water and perform a partial water change. That’s when you remove a portion of the old water and add new, fresh water.

  • Max Wood

    hi! I have an 8 gallon tank set up and I was wondering how many frogs I cant put in. I am planning on having Whites Tree frogs. Thanks

    • John Wellington

      A 15 gallon vertical-style terrarium would suffice for one (maybe two) white’s tree frogs.

  • Andrew C Jones

    I have a 90 gallon vivarium I’m building that will be in my basement. My basement is about 70 degrees and I’m using LED lights. What’s the best way to warm my vivarium for red-eyed tree frogs? I’d prefer a heating mat or heating cables. Any suggestions?

    • John Wellington

      I’ve had bad experience with heating mats. They don’t seem to warm the enclosure enough to keep the right temperature. A heat lamp/bulb is what I recommend. And definitely get a thermometer/hygrometer to check the temperate and humidity.

  • Jai

    I have just introduced two Australian green tree frogs to their new terrarium. At first they were very active, exploring around. Now they have buried themselves in the leaf litter. I tried to get them to come out to eat but they don’t seem to want to. Temp is gradient of 23-26°C with RH of 65%. I am thinking maybe they are just a bit timid because new environment, but also worried something is not quite right.

    • John Wellington

      Do you have a quality hygrometer and where did you place it? My initial thoughts are the humidity isn’t high enough and they’re in the substrate trying to get some humidity.

  • christian udesen

    Hello how do you do the drainage layer I wanted to do it anyways but I’m a little confused any example pictures would be great 👉👈

    • John Wellington

      Hey there! The bottom layer is hydro balls or masala filter media, the next layer is a mesh screen (to keep the substrate from getting into the bottom layer), and the top layer is the substrate – your soil, cocohusk fiber, ABG, or whatever you’re using.

      Here is an example picture (photo credit: Exo Terra)
      Terrarium Drainage Layer

  • donna price

    Hi,
    Total beginners looking to set up a frog habitat. Any advice on which frogs would be suitable? We have a large tank (3 foot by 2 by 2)

    • John

      You could get some Dumpy Tree Frogs (White’s Tree Frogs). They’re probably one of the easiest tree frogs for beginners.

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