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Pacman Frogs (Ornate Horned Frogs) as Pets

Introduction and Care

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pacman frog

Pacman Frog

Lianne McLeod
Important Note: Frogs can make lovely pets, but frogs in the wild are facing population declines and extinction largely as a result of human activities. Unfortunately, the pet trade is likely contributing to the amphibian extinction crisis and the spread of an devastating infection by Chytrid fungus. For this reason, you should only buy frogs that you are sure are captive bred locally and tested to be free of disease. It may be impossible to find frogs which meet these conditions, but otherwise, pet frogs may be contributing to the decline of wild frog populations.

Pacman Frogs
This frog is relatively common in the pet trade, and gets its common (pet trade) name from the popular video game. The frog's generally rounded appearance and huge mouth led to the cute name. The frog's scientific name is Ceratophrys ornata, and it is also known as the ornate horned frog.

Pacman frogs are native to South America, and are terrestrial in nature. In fact, they are very poor swimmers and care must be taken that they do not drown in their water bowls.

These frogs are quite large, and can reach around 6-7 inches in length (15-17 cm), although males tend to be quite a bit smaller than females. They are generally about as wide as they are long, so are quite hefty for a frog. Their appetite matches their size, and they will pretty much eat anything that moves.

Pacman frogs have a reputation for being somewhat aggressive, which is largely undeserved. While they do sometimes bite, it is usually a case of the frog feeling threatened or simply confusing a finger with a food item.

Housing
Pacman frogs, despite their large size, are not very active and do not need a large cage. A 10 gallon tank is fine for one of these frogs. Because they will often try to eat cage mates, they should be kept singly. A cage top is recommended -- although they are not a huge risk for escapes, a cage top will help maintain temperature and humidity.

In the wild they spend much of their time in damp leaf litter. In captivity, the cage can be lined with paper or smooth rocks, as long as leaf litter or moss and some plants (live or artificial) are provided that the frog can burrow/hide in. They come from a humid environment so the substrate should be misted daily to help maintain humidity. In addition a shallow bowl of water should be provided. The dish must be fairly shallow (e.g. a ceramic saucer from a plant pot) to minimize the risk of the frog drowning.

Depending on how humid your tank is, the frog might spend much of its time in its water dish, so providing plants around the dish will help your frog feel secure. The water dish should also be in a warmer part of the cage.

The temperature should be kept around 82 F (28 C) during the day, dropping to around 78 F (25 C) at night. Heating is best supplied by an under tank heater as overhead incandescent bulbs can be too drying (although a red incandescent could be used if supplemental heat is needed at colder times).

For lighting, a fluorescent fixture can be used, although they might prefer more subdued lighting and regular room light may be enough. A 12 hour light - 12 hour dark cycle can be provided. The use of full spectrum lighting for amphibians is somewhat controversial but probably isn't strictly necessary if a balanced diet is provided. The tank should be away from direct sunlight, to prevent overheating.

Feeding
Pacman frogs are pretty easy to feed in that they are not usually fussy eaters. Smaller frogs can be fed insects such as crickets or other common pet store prey insects such as mealworms, wax worms etc. These should be gut loaded prior to feeding (see "Raising Crickets for Food"). As they grow, they can be fed pinkie (newborn) mice, and larger mice can be fed as the frog grows. Eventually they may take a medium sized mouse or pinkie rat. Guppies, a variety of insects, and even small frogs can also be fed. While small pacman frogs (eating insects) should be fed daily, larger frogs can be fed mice or feeder fish every 2-3 days. Adult frogs can probably be fed less frequently - the best guide is to feed based on your frog's body condition (if your frog is getting too round and fat, cut back how often it is fed).

Conclusion

Pacman frogs are not terribly difficult to care for, so can make a good pet that is quite attractive and interesting. However, people who like their pets active or interactive may get tired of caring for a pacman frog. Considering a these frogs can live for 7 -10 years, getting one of these frogs amounts to a long term commitment.

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