Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Frogs as Pets
Keeping frogs as pets is a rewarding experience for some people. For others, not so much. In this post, I’ll go over the pros and cons of caring for frogs, give you a list of the things you’ll need, and tell you how to get started!
Before You Buy a Frog
There are a number of things you should consider first, before buying a frog. Where will you keep the frog, how will you feed it, and are you okay with the croaking sounds it makes? These are all great questions to ask yourself. Also, most frogs and toads don’t do well with handling. It’s stressful for them and, if your hands are dirty, it can be harmful too.
Perhaps the most important step to take is to learn about the type of frog you want. Many popular species are available at local pet stores and breeders, so they’re fairly easy to acquire. Because of this, most people don’t stop to consider where the frog comes frog.
It’s important because you need to familiarize yourself with the type of environment they need to survive. Some frogs live in arid regions with moderate temperatures while others inhabit tropical jungles, requiring high humidity. In short, do your research first. Look for care sheets to find out what type of habitat you should aim to provide.
Are frogs the right choice for you?
Frogs are delicate amphibians. Their skin is semi-permeable, absorbing what comes into contact with it. This is how they’re able to breathe underwater (kind of). Oxygen in the water is absorbed through their skin, allowing them to stay underwater for long periods of time. They absorb chemicals from toxic water or from whatever is lingering on your hands.
For this reason, it’s best to leave frogs alone. They’re more of a display pet, which are great for looking at but not-so-good for playing with. If you’re looking for something to hold, I suggest finding another pet.
Learn about the species you want
Learning about the specific type of frog you plan to keep is the best thing you can do. Frogs come from varying climates and conditions, so their enclosure should match their native habitat. Whether it be special UVB lighting with a day and night cycle or providing the correct substrate for burrowing, it’s all important.
Thankfully, people have been keeping frogs as pets for years and there is a wealth of information online. Once you’ve narrowed down a list of 2 or 3 potential frog pets, read some care sheets about each one of them. This will give you an idea of what to expect, how to set up their cage, what they eat, etc.
The best and worst frogs for beginners →
And of course, plan accordingly. If you don’t have time to mist your frog’s enclosure, find one that doesn’t require as much attention or consider installing an automated misting system.
The Pros & Cons
Since you’re on this page, reading a beginner’s guide for frogs, I’ll assume you’re at least a little bit interested in buying one. That’s awesome! But keeping frogs isn’t for everyone! I want to provide you with the best information I can, in hopes of helping you make an informed decision. So, without further ado, here are some pros and cons.
List of Pros
- Frogs make great display pets
- Some species sound beautiful
- Relatively low maintenance
- After the initial start-up cost, caring for them is inexpensive
List of Cons
- It can get expensive*
- They’re not the best pet for handling
- Not great for kids
- Wild-caught frogs can be very dangerous*
- They can be noisy & so can their food (crickets)
*It can get expensive. This largely depends on the species and your desired tank setup. You can likely buy a bumblebee toad, a large faunarium and everything you need to care for them for $100 or less, which is inexpensive compared to my next example.
If you want a bio-active vivarium with 3 Vietnamese mossy frogs, you’ll spend over $500 to get everything set up. The frogs alone cost around $100 each while a 24″ x 18″ x 18″ terrarium is roughly $125. Then, of course, you’ve got to add in the cost of all the other equipment.
*Wild-caught frogs can be very dangerous. Poison dart frogs are deadly, a few toads have bufotoxins in their parotoid glands, and all frogs can carry salmonella, which is spread through their droppings. I do not suggest keeping frogs or toads you catch in the wild.
They don’t adapt well to captivity and they can be dangerous. If you want a frog, please, seek out a local breeder or pet store! Captive bread frogs pose far less risk and they’re already adapted to captivity.
Supplies for Keeping Frogs
There is a seemingly endless supply of products for frog enclosures. The necessities largely depend on the species you’re keeping but I’ll do my best to cover the basics for each one in the section below. As I mentioned from the previous section, find out everything you need to properly care for the species you want.
Obviously, you need a container for your frog to live in. You can go as cheap or as expensive as you want, but the cages I suggest on this website are usually reasonably priced. Whether it’s an aquarium or terrarium, there are plenty of brands all competing to make the best product at the best price.
They offer multiple sizes and often cater to the reptiles and amphibians. Also, terrarium starter kits contain many of the things you need to set up your pet’s enclosure, all in one package.
There are three basic types of cages you should familiarize yourself with; Arboreal, terrestrial, and aquatic. I’ll quickly cover each one in the sections below.
These cages are mostly for tree frogs. Arboreal species spend a great deal of time in trees. As such, they prefer vertical space over horizontal space. When finding a cage to suit tree frogs, your best option, in my opinion, is a terrarium. Terrariums are similar to aquariums except they allow airflow through vents near the bottom. They also have doors in the front which gives you easy access to everything inside.
A terrestrial cage is an enclosure focused on more horizontal space than vertical space. The inhabitants of these enclosures are generally toads or burrowing frogs. Species that don’t climb well or jump very high.
You can use a terrarium or an aquarium for terrestrial frogs. Just be sure, if you’re using an aquarium, to fit the top with a screen lid so your pet can’t escape.
Believe it or not, there are actually aquatic frogs and they’re very popular. For the fully aquatic species, the obvious choice is an aquarium. The dimensions of the tank largely depend on how many frogs you’re keeping but almost any 10-gallon aquarium will work.
A common practice for housing multiple frogs is to follow the 10-gallon per frog rule. For African Dwarf Frogs and African Clawed Frogs, the size of the tank can be as large as you want, so long as the height is no more than 12″.
Lights and Heating
All frogs require a certain temperature range to remain healthy and active. Some, in fact, require UVB lighting as well. In order to provide a healthy environment, you’ll need to find a way to heat their enclosure and, if needed, provide special lighting.
There are many options available for both. Heating pads are popular among amphibian owners. They can be placed under the enclosure or on the side, out of sight.
Another option is basking lamps, which are placed over the top of the enclosure. They’re great for creating a nice temperature gradient.
Should you be placing a frog or toad enclosure in a room with little or no natural light from a window, you need to provide them with a light so they can have a day and night cycle.
If you simply need a light for reason alone, I recommend the Exo Terra Day & Night LED. It’s a simple light you can usually find for $25 – $30 dollars, it sticks to the side of the cage and has a daylight mode and nightlight mode as well.
The best way to increase humidity in a terrarium is by misting. Whether you install an automated misting system, a fogger, or simply by misting the cage with a cheap spray bottle, you’ll need to do this often. How often depends on the species you’re keeping. Poison dart frogs, for example, require high humidity while common toads don’t require nearly as much.
Either way, you’ll need to plan ahead. Since this article caters to beginners, I’ll assume you’re not familiar with misting systems and foggers.
It’s an interesting topic, one you should look in to eventually. But to start with, I suggest buying a cheap spray bottle from your local big-box store or perhaps a $10 – $15 Mr. Mister spray bottle.
Substrate & Decorations
The bottom layer, aka ‘substrate’, can be anything like soil, coco fiber, coco-husk fiber, sand, etc. It’s important to select the proper substrate for your pet. Particulate substrates like sand and tiny pebbles, by themselves, can have a significant impact on frogs. If you’ve done any research already, you’ve likely heard someone mention impaction.
Impaction occurs when your frog, or other reptiles, accidentally consume something they cannot digest. Over time, it builds up in their stomachs and causes a lot of damage, usually resulting in death.
For this reason, I always recommend non-particulate substrate. There are mixes that combine soil, coco-husk fiber, sphagnum moss, and sand. The sand is nicely mixed in together. With these mixes, you generally won’t have problems with impaction.
Should you decide to place live plants in your frog’s enclosure, substrate mixes like ABG mix are well suited for growing. Another issue you’ll run into is water drainage.
For this, use a water-retaining layer on the bottom (like hydroballs), a substrate barrier (screen mesh), and then the substrate on top. This type of setup will keep your substrate from getting soggy.
As you can imagine, there are hundreds of decorations available. Anything from hiding holes to waterfalls and everything in between. Among the most popular decorations are tree branches and logs.
Whether real or fake, they provide climbing, hiding, and shade. You can sterilize certain types of wood for terrariums, which helps decrease the setup costs. If not, buying something from the pet store is another option.
Food & Supplements
Not only do you need to consider how you will acquire your frog’s preferred foods, you need to familiarize yourself with “dusting” with vitamin and mineral supplements.
In the wild, frogs consume a wide variety of insects to meet their nutritional needs. In captivity, however, it’s just not feasible to feed them everything they would normally find in the wild. This is why vitamin & mineral supplements are used.
For most frogs, a calcium supplement is dusted on their primary food source with every feeding. In addition to that, the vitamin supplement can be given 1 – 2 times per week. Again, this is just starting point. How often you give your pet frog supplements depends on the species and the individual frog.
The term “dusting” is something you’ll often hear in the reptile & amphibian world. It refers to the ‘dusting’ of insects with the supplement powders I mentioned above. The most common method is to place a few crickets inside a small bag, add the supplement powder, and finally, shake the bag for a few seconds. The supplements with cover the crickets aka ‘dusting’ them.
Aside from the dusting, you should also consider the noise factor. The most common food source is crickets, and they’re noisy. Will you buy crickets or breed them? Also, will you or the people you live with be bothered by noisy crickets?
All amphibians have semi-permeable skin. This means they absorb things which come into contact with their skin. Take water, for example, amphibians absorb oxygen found in water.
This is why most can stay submerged underwater for great lengths of time and some can stay in water indefinitely; aquatic frogs. Frogs swimming in chlorinated tap-water will absorb the chlorine as well. Along with any other toxins in the water. Due to this, careful attention should be made to provide frogs with safe, quality water.
Amphibians prefer toxin-free water with natural minerals and a neutral pH level. If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to check out our safe water guide for amphibians.
Ultra clean water such as distilled water lacks the minerals they would typically be exposed to in nature. Fortunately for us, there are water conditioning agents readily available online and at your local pet store. Products like ReptiSafe should be added to tap-water before using.
Perhaps one of the most valuable products you can purchase for your frog’s enclosure is a thermometer hygrometer. They’re well worth the $10 -$15 you’ll spend on them. I suggest finding a digital thermometer hygrometer combo, which will display the temperature and humidity level. After all, what’s the use of misting your pet’s enclosure if you don’t know what the relative humidity is? Likewise with the temperature.
Why Frogs Make Great Pets
Frogs are awesome; they’re fantastic display pets. If you’re the type of person who enjoys nature, including plants, flowers, moss, and frogs, a naturalistic vivarium with colorful tree frogs might be perfect for you. Go crazy with their enclosure.
Me personally, I just finished building a bio-active vivarium for three red-eye tree frogs. It has two beautiful pieces of Mopani wood sticking out of the background with a small waterfall, eight different plant species, and real moss. I’ve just introduced isopods and I’m waiting for the springtails to arrive.
I’m going to a ReptiCon this June to (hopefully) find three red-eye tree frog. It was a fun build and I love looking at it! If that sounds fun to you, then I bet you’ll love keeping frogs too.
While most frogs shouldn’t be handled, there are a few species that will tolerate it. The white’s tree frog (dumpy frog) is one of the most popular species because of this reason. Also, they look really cool and get quite large. But, for the most part, frog’s shouldn’t be handled very often. They’re just really fun to watch.
Hello, Last October I brought a hanging ivy in the house, it is now February in Iowa. I decided to transplant the vine today, but stopped when I found a tree frog in the moist soil under the plant. It’s gray with spots, I can see it breathing. Is it hibernating? The room stays around 60. How do I care for it until I can put it outside.
I am considering getting a small species of froglet that will grow no more than 3 inches and wanted to know if I could do a bioactive set up in a 16-litre tank and if the frog would be happy in there it would only be for 4-6 months but I don’t want to do this if it will not be good for the frog.
That’s a small tank. So long as they will be transferred to a larger enclosure in a few months, it should be okay.
Hi!!! My name is Alina and I just got a whites tree frog for Christmas. I kinda wanted to hold her but she looked terrified and I felt so bad 🙁 So I left her alone. But I really want to get her to be comfortable with me. Do I just give her time to get comfortable or is there another way I can get her to come to me?
White’s tree frogs are one of the only frog species that occasionally tolerate handling. Just give her some time and, when you do handle her, be gentle and only do this for 5 – 10 mins at a time, perhaps once or twice a week.
Heyyy, so i’m really curious about Wood frogs, I have heard they make good pets and I have 3 questions for you:
1. Do they make good beginner pets?
2.How long do they live?
3. Can you make a page on this website on how to take care of a wood frog? (I looked and couldn’t find much about wood frogs)
Hello, Kai! Wood frogs are certainly neat. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept them as pets and I don’t live in an area where I can get them! With the help of another hobbyist, I’d feel comfortable making a care guide. Perhaps I will create a guide soon.
im getting a white tree frog and i did a lot of research but there are a few questions…
1. how much time would you get to hold them everyday since they can tolerate handling?
2. how active are they? (day and night)
also any tips would be taken happily as i have never had a frog!
I would start by holding them only twice a week and only 5 or 10 minutes at a time. If they do well with this, you can gradually handle them more frequently. White’s tree frogs are really active at night. They will sleep most of the day! Pro tip: make sure to get a thermometer & hygrometer and make sure the temperature and humidity are within the recommended range!
Hi, I have been doing research for about 3 weeks and decided I wanted to get a Whites Tree Frog. Originally I was going to go bioactive.
Last night I started reading that bioactive set ups can Harbour spiders…and I have serious fear of spiders. I was wondering if this is true and if going with a steril set up would prevent this. I know bioactive is better self sustaining but I’m scared of spiders more than cleaning a tank.
I suppose this could happen! Don’t worry, Janae! Frogs eat spiders!
Hi John, recently my father said I could get a frog or frogs and i was concidering getting a white tree frog and was wondering if 1.Where should i keep the terrarium i was considering my bedroom it’s dark and cold is that okay? 2.Can i get two females?
that’s all my questions thank you John!
1. White’s tree frogs can be loud at night! Consider this when deciding where to place the terrarium! Also, don’t place it too close to a drafty window. I recommend reading a care guide for white’s tree frogs. You’ll want to keep them within a recommended temperature and humidity range, as well as provide a day and night cycle. You can accomplish this by using a heat lamp or heat pad, lights, spray bottle, etc.
2. Yes you can!
Hey! 🙂 I have been thinking about getting a Pac-Man frog but I was wondering….do they HAVE to eat mice?
lol! Great question. No, they absolutely do not have to eat mice. In fact, it’s probably best they don’t eat mice. Stick with crickets, worms, etc.
I am planning on getting an American green tree frog. I have done lots of research, and I have found almost all of the information, though I do have a few questions.
1. While, from what I have found, the American green tree frog is more of a display pet and is not meant to be handled a lot. Though, is there a way to be able to hold them if you need to transport the frog?
2. Do you have to feed each cricket individually to the frog, or can you release the number of crickets they eat into the terrarium and let the frog eat it from there?
3. What plants and decorations do you recommend inside the American green tree frog’s cage?
Hi, Isabella! Good questions.
1. You can handle them while in the process of transporting. Make sure your hands are very clean and damp. This post might be helpful. You can keep them in a small, plastic terrarium (Like “Imagitarium” or even a “cricket keeper”) while you clean their enclosure or if you need to transport them somewhere.
2. You can feed 3 or 4 crickets at a time. Simply set free the crickets into your frog’s enclosure! I tend to do this in the evening as that’s when most tree frogs become active and start feeding.
3. Golden Pathos is a hardy vine plant. Great for frog habitats. Bromeliads are great too!
How long does it take for a white’s tree frog to grow into its full adult size?
Most tree frogs mature in 6 – 18 months. Usually around the 1 year marker or a little less!
Hello, Panda! I assume you have your parent/guardian’s permission to be here and get a pet tree frog? So long as you do your research and have all the equipment required to maintain the environment in the enclosure, you’ll be fine! It sounds like you’re off to a great start by doing your research. The temperature and humidity are very important. A healthy diet, of course, is very important.
I am a minor and in need of advice. I was thinking of getting a Whites Tree Frog, but i am a first time owner and have no experience. i have read literally every article i can, but have questions.
1. I have 2 cats and a dog. i plan on putting the cage on a desk. is this safe?
2. Where do you advise keeping live food?
3. Is it okay to take the frog out of the cage?
4. What breeders do you suggest?
First off; thank you for doing so much research! I think you will be a great frog keeper because you’re spending time doing your research.
1. Cats and dogs are fine! My cat used to hop on top of terrariums. Just make sure to get a terrarium with a locking screen lid!
2. Get a cricket keeper or something similar!
3. Most frogs don’t like being held. White’s Tree Frogs tolerator handling better than most. Be sure your hands are clean and your cats/dogs aren’t around.
4. I suggest finding local breeders via Facebook or reptile conventions. I need to make a post about this; it’s a common question. Find a local reptile convention. Even if there isn’t a convention event soon; most conventions have a website where they list the vendors participating in upcoming events. Visit the vendor’s web page or social media account. Ofc, if there is a convention coming soon I recommend that! While most reptile cons are centered around reptiles, you’ll find many vendors selling amphibians as well.
I hope this helps. Chloe, if you have more questions feel free to respond to this comment, join the forums, or email me.
Hello again John!
I’ve been looking around my local pet shops and such and it seems they are all out of stock with the tree frogs. So, i went looking online and found a website called “Josh’s Frogs”. I was wondering if you knew if this place was alright to order from? I’ve heard certain websites are not good, but i haven’t heard anything about them. What do you think?
Hey, Chloe! I haven’t personally ordered from Josh’s Frogs but I can tell you they have an outstanding reputation in the community. If you were to buy a Frog online, I would start with them!
My daughter “lost” her toad this morning. It is a very young western leopard toad.
1. Can toads climb glass to get out of the tank?
2. Do they burrow so that they will be completely out of site?
Its hard to whether or not it could get out. Toads won’t climb a piece of glass like a tree frog but they’re capable of jumping. If there was a tree branch, for example, it could jump on which would make it possible for him/her to jump out; that’s a possibility. They do burrow, actually. That’s much more common.
Hello I have a southern leopard frog and It’s currently 40-60 degrees Ferin height outside and i have a heat lamp over him but he just won’t move I’ve pushed him and he just screams at me what do I do? Also I have a few worms, earwigs, cockroaches but he wont eat pls help 🙁
If you catch him from the wild? Sounds like he’s scared for his life. This probably isn’t what you want to hear but I recommend letting him go back into the wild and acquiring a captive bred frog from a local breeder!
Hello again! I don’t know if I missed this but can I have a heat lamp for a white tree frog? And could I have a thermometer in there? Like a stick on kind. Thanks! Please responded. Thanks again!
Yes, in fact, that’s preferred over a heat mat because you’ll be creating a temperature gradient (from top to bottom) within the enclosure. Just be sure to closely monitor the humidity because heat lamps tend to dry out the enclosure quickly.
Hello Im thinking about buying a whites tree frog, what size should the enclosure be? and is ok to keep it im a bedroom? or will it be too loud
Hi, Cecilia! I recommend checking out this page about white’s tree frog care. It should answer your question and provide you with more information! White’s tree frogs can be loud lol. Some people enjoy it while others don’t.
I have a wood frog that I hatched from an egg and since hes small I only have him in a critter keeper. Do you know what size thank I should move him to for when hes full sized?
I’m not sure. I haven’t kept a wood frog! I like to think “bigger is better” when it comes to setting up frog enclosures. Though I wouldn’t go any smaller than 15 gallons. I recommend doing some more research and getting advice from someone who has successfully kept them before.
I was wondering if I could use blue leds at night to light the tank for my viewing pleasure without disturbing the frogs?
This is one of those topics where you’ll receive different answers for each person you ask. Exo Terra makes a night light (blue LED) which I used for a long time. The lights themselves worked great but I wasn’t impressed with the mounting system (read my review here). Anyway, yes, you can use blue LEDs as a night light to view your beloved frogs! I recommend turning the blue lights off when you’re no longer watching the frogs though. Some people argue the lights can have a negative affect on them. I didn’t notice an impact on my RETFs but if you’re not using the lights you may as well turn them off.
We have caught some tadpoles and during our lockdown period the kids are going to watch them transform. We have one already will back legs just wondering if we can keep these kinds of frogs and if so what is the best environment to create for them.
It’s certainly possible. Knowing the type of frog/toad you have is the first step in learning what their needs are. The environment should be fairly simple – I assume you caught them locally so their enclosure should mimic your environment. Things like temperature, humidity, etc. This guide should be a good step in getting you started.
I have a wild/caught toad and he isn’t eating. I’ve had him for six days. I use natural garden soil, dry leaves and outdoor playground flooring as substrate. I have a plastic container for his terrarium so it can hold in moisture in the soil, and I try to feed him ants and pieces of dried crickets. (He’s an inch and a half so still a baby)
Hey, Maggie! Wild toads have a hard time adapting to captivity. There are two main reasons he isn’t eating. One, he’s stressed. He isn’t used to living in a cage. And two, he needs live crickets, worms, grubs, etc. Check out this post about what toads eat.