South American horned frogs are also known as “pacman frogs” due to the size of their mouths and abdomen, hence they are said to resemble the video game Pac‐Man. They are called “horned” due to the triangular prolongation of the edge of the upper eyelid. This actually just a flap of skin but may function to make the head appear even wider than it is and therefore less attractive to potential predators.
They belong to the genus Ceratophrys in the family Leptodactylidae.
Generally, they are considered to be relatively easy to keep in captivity as long as the basic environmental and dietary requirements are met but bear in mind that they spend most of their time sitting around, so if you are after a dynamic active pet, perhaps think about a different pet?
They can grow to 100‐150mm and weigh up to 2kg when adult and average lifespan in the wild is reported to be between 1 and 4 years while in captivity, depending on diet and conditions, they may live up to 10 years – all significant considerations prior to purchase.
They are not particularly aggressive towards humans, but have been known to bite when threatened or when they mistake fingers for food!
Handling should be avoided if possible since it often results in stress. If you do have to handle them then ensure you have clean hands or use latex gloves to prevent damage to the delicate and highly absorbent skin.
In the wild, they have voracious appetites. Foods eaten include insects, small mammals, fish, other frogs and small reptiles.
They are not particularly active frogs, preferring to camouflage themselves among leaves and debris on the jungle floor, waiting for suitable prey to walk past and ambush them.
They have large mouths which enable them to swallow prey almost half their own size. A row of teeth in their upper jaw helps them to catch and retain prey. However, the fact that they make it difficult to release prey after taking it into their mouths has occasionally led to death by choking.
In captivity, the recommended diet includes crickets, earthworms, silkworms, mealworms, waxworms, small fish (eg guppies) and pinkies. Crickets should be gut loaded before feeding with Growing frogs should be fed daily while adult frogs can be fed every other day. Care should be taken not to overfeed the frog since they will often just keep eating, whatever you put in front of them!
Horned frogs can be kept adequately in small aquariums – around 40 litres is considered appropriate for most
species. A hood is advised to help maintain temperature and humidity.
They should be kept singly as they will often eat cage mates.
They should have access to shallow water (about half the depth of the frog) and hiding places.
Avoid the use of tap water if possible. Instead, use bottled drinking water or alternatively remineralised reverseosmosis (R/O) water.
A loose substrate, such as coconut husk fibre, is recommended, however soil or peat substrates are also suitable, but should be deep enough for them to burrow into. Rooted moss can also be added to the vivarium to cover some of the substrate and will improve the attractiveness of the vivarium as well as help maintain humidity.
A few stones dotted around and fine gravel added to the bottom of the water bowl are also recommended.
Horned frogs will often cover themselves with substrate and spend most of their time in water. Planting plants
around the water bowl helps to provide a sense of security for your frog.
Relative humidity within the tank should be at least 70% and they they should be misted daily with water to help ensure proper humidity conditions. Relative humidity meters are recommended to visually track humidity levels.
Temperatures in the vivarium should be maintained at between 80 to 85oF, dropping to around 75oF at night.
Recommended heat sources include a small bulb above the vivarium and a heat mat underneath with an appropriate thermostat. Heat mats should only cover a maximum of half the floor area of the vivarium.
Never use heat lamps or basking lamps as these can result in dehydration.
Care must be taken not to allow the substrate to dry out. It should remain moist at all times but not waterlogged. If the vivarium becomes too dry, the frog will bury itself in the substrate and cover itself in mucous.
Subdued lighting is generally preferred for the vivarium and a 12 hour light – 12 hour dark lighting cycle should be maintained with the use of mechanical or digital timers. A low level UVB or full spectrum reptile/amphibian fluorescent light is also suggested.
Allow access to direct sunlight only with extreme care to help prevent overheating.
Avoid the use of UVB lighting and access to sunlight with all albino Horned frogs.
The vivarium should be cleaned out completely on a weekly basis. Use an amphibian safe disinfectant to clean the tank and prevent the build up of bacteria. Ensure that all disinfectant is rinsed away thoroughly.