Getting a new pet can be an exciting adventure, especially if it’s an animal that is less conventional than something like a dog or cat.
Reptiles, amphibians, and insects are popular with the more adventurous pet owner and are fascinating creatures to watch.
When deciding to get an exotic pet it’s important that you thoroughly research the animal to ensure you can properly care for it.
Exotic animals tend to have more specialized needs and specific habitats, such as the red-eyed tree frog.
In this article, we will give you a comprehensive guide on how to care for a red-eyed tree frog.
What Is A Red-Eyed Tree Frog?
A red-eyed tree frog is a species that belongs to the genus Agalychnis.
The full scientific name for the frog is Agalychnis Calliddryas, which is derived from the Greek words for ‘beautiful’ and ‘wood nymph’, certainly fitting for these tree-dwelling frogs.
Known for their red eyes and colorful bodies, these frogs are amongst the most colorful of all frog species.
These frogs are naturally found in the Neotropical rainforest of Central America, with a small population also found in South America.
Dwelling in the tropical lowlands and montane forests that have plenty of cover, these frogs like to be near water sources such as rivers and ponds.
These areas are humid with temperatures ranging from 24℃ to 29℃ in the daytime and 19℃ to 25℃ in the night.
Their bulging red eyes are the distinguishing feature of these frogs, which also serve a purpose in defending themselves from predators.
When their eyes are shut, the lids are green and blend into the environment but when they quickly open them it startles predators and allows them time to escape.
The main body of the frog is a bright lime green and there are hints of yellow and blue on its legs.
Their underside is white and their feet are a bright orange/red color.
It’s easy to spot one of these frogs, if not by their red eyes but also by their suction-cup feet. These footpads are what make the frogs such great climbers.
In terms of size, they aren’t very big, reaching only around 2.5 inches at full maturity for males and 3.5 inches for females.
You’ll normally find these frogs on the forest canopy as they are an arboreal species.
During the day they utilize their suction-cup feet to hang on to the underside of foliage and sleep. This allows them to camouflage against the leaves and avoid predators.
At night, these frogs bounce into action using their long sticky tongues and large eyes to catch their prey.
Male tree frogs will bounce up and down on leaves to attract the attention of a female and hopefully mate.
The bouncing motion signals their presence to prospective mates which is reinforced by a ‘clucking’ sound that the male makes every 8-10 seconds.
An interesting fact that you may not know about these tree frogs is that they can change color depending on their mood.
Experienced owners and experts will be aware of these changes and be able to tell how a particular frog is feeling.
The main reasons a tree frog will change its color are to attract a mate, avoid predators, or thermoregulate their bodies.
When they are looking to attract a mate, the male frogs will turn a bright color which makes them stand apart from other male frogs.
To avoid predators, the frogs have the ability to change their color to blend in with their backgrounds.
Stress and disease are also factors that can influence color change in these frogs. The byproducts of hormone secretion due to stress have been known to stimulate a color change.
The lifespan of a red-eyed tree frog is relatively short in the wild, spanning on average 5 years.
In captivity, these frogs have been known to live for up to 12 years when properly cared for by a knowledgeable owner.
There are four distinct life cycle stages that a red-eyed tree frog goes through. They follow a very similar cycle as any other frog – tadpole, tadpole with legs, froglet, and adult frog.
Female frogs will lay their eggs on the underside of a leaf near a pond or water source, meaning the tadpoles will fall into the water once the eggs hatch.
Tadpoles start to grow their legs when they are around 6-9 weeks old and will become a froglet at around 2-3 months old.
At the froglet stage, they will start to climb trees and live a life similar to an adult frog, however, they are brown in color and have yellow eyes until they reach full maturity.
Due to their small size, these frogs are quite susceptible to a number of predators.
These include snakes, spiders, birds, and bats but this typically depends on the region they live in.
They can camouflage themselves in the day by hiding under leaves and closing their eyes to blend in and opening them to scare off predators.
Although they are typically good at this, it isn’t always enough.
Creating The Right Habitat At Home
As mentioned above, tree frogs naturally occur in rainforests where the temperatures are warm and the humidity is extreme.
As a result, these conditions need to be replicated in their enclosure to help them live a long and happy life.
To mimic their natural habitat you can use a tall terrarium.
It is recommended that this be at least 18 inches in height, obviously, the frogs will benefit from a larger enclosure but this is the minimum requirement to keep happy frogs.
There are different size enclosures that are suitable for larger groups of frogs. As they are social creatures, it’s recommended that there are at least two in one enclosure to give them company.
To give two to three adult tree frogs enough space, it’s recommended that the terrarium be at least 18 x 18 x 24 inches big. For groups of four or more frogs, consider a 24 x 18 x 24-inch tank.
Glass allows the heat to escape from the enclosure which regulates the temperature, they are easy to clean, they allow for ventilation, and they are hard wearing.
Red-eyed tree frogs prefer to live in slightly cooler temperatures of around 75-80℉ (24-27℃) during the day.
This is quite an easily achievable temperature for a normal, well insulated home and it may mean that you don’t have to purchase additional heating equipment.
If you find that your house is generally a cooler place or you don’t live in a very warm country yourself, then you may need to buy a heating pad to help them stay warm.
In the evening, temperatures can drop to a cooler 65-70℉ which may mean you can leave the tank to cool naturally with your home.
To recreate the humidity of the rainforest you’ll need shallow pools of water along with misters, humidifiers, and rainmakers.
As a general rule, humidity levels should be somewhere between 60% – 85% with a spike that features once a day.
This can all be done automatically, but misting twice a day will help to keep them moist and happy.
There are inexpensive options that can create the right humidity such as a simple mist sprayer, but it will require you to constantly monitor the humidity with a hydrometer thermometer throughout the day.
On the more expensive end of the scale, you can buy a rain simulator that will reproduce a tropical rainstorm in the terrarium.
For best results, aim to keep the humidity above 50% at all times to create the right environment for your pets.
The substrate in the terrarium is the bottom layer and can impact the well-being of the frog and how things can grow in the enclosure.
There are substrates that mimic the floor of the rainforest available from pet supply stores that are ideal for the red-eyed tree frog.
This substrate needs to be kept slightly moist as this helps to increase the humidity, misting or using a device to create the humidity should be enough to keep this layer suitable for the frog.
There are two options when it comes to what to put in a terrarium, live or fake plants. If you choose the live plant route then you’ll need to replace the foliage as it decomposes.
We would recommend this as you will see the full extent of the frogs’ unique natural behaviors, especially as they sleep on leaves.
Natural mosses, bioactive soil, coco husk chips, and broad leaved plants such as Golden Pathos and Ficus are great things to include in your terrarium.
Tree frogs benefit from dense vegetation where they can climb and hide just as they would in their natural habitat.
As these frogs are natural climbers, including branches, sticks, and logs will help to mimic their natural environment and give them plenty of climbing opportunities.
Vines are another great option as they can use these to climb between objects.
Place these items strategically to provide height and obstacles for the frogs to climb over.
Although these don’t have to be real, they do provide the frog with a more natural enclosure which will keep them happier.
Red-eyed tree frogs are nocturnal creatures so it’s important that their enclosures are placed in suitable environments with the help of additional lighting if needed.
Placing their enclosure in a room with plenty of light is preferable.
If this isn’t possible you’ll need to use a light source to recreate a day and night cycle. This could be 12-14 hours of light and 10-12 hours of dark.
Some lighting is also important for live plants as it allows them to photosynthesize and grow. Low-powered LED growing lights are a great choice for these situations.
Frogs such as these need to get enough vitamin D3, which comes from sunlight, in order to keep their bones strong and healthy.
With a diet consisting mostly of insects, these frogs are carnivores that prefer to eat live foods.
They like to eat crickets, flies, grasshoppers, and moths. Occasionally they have been known to eat smaller frogs and tadpoles.
When feeding these frogs at home, they should maintain a diet that is high in protein and is easy to digest.
Although they’ve been known to be somewhat fussy creatures, they often accept brown crickets, black crickets, and locusts.
It’s likely that you will have to experiment with a number of different insects to find something they like, each animal is different just like humans and they will have their own preferences which you’ll need to figure out!
Larger frogs that measure up to 3 inches in length should be fed every 2-3 days as a general rule. Juveniles will need extra nutrients to help them grow and should be fed every day.
Similarly, those under 3 inches in length should also be fed either every day or every other day.
It is also recommended that these frogs have a calcium supplement added to their food on a weekly basis and a multivitamin supplement every 2 weeks to keep them super healthy.
How To Handle Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
Many amphibian experts will tell you that these frogs don’t like to be handled, which is the same for most amphibians.
Frogs aren’t pets that you want to ‘pet’ necessarily, but when it comes to having an animal we want to form a connection with it no matter how small.
There are times when you may need to handle it, such as to clean out its enclosure or if you need to check the frog for medical reasons.
To avoid stressing out the frog, only handle it when absolutely necessary, and make sure you have wet hands when you do so.
As they are extremely delicate, it’s important to be as gentle and careful as possible.
If you need to move your froggy friend to really give the enclosure a deep clean then try and scoop them gently into a clean plastic container whilst you go about this task.
Just make sure they can’t hop out and get lost!
These aren’t beginner frogs so it’s important that if you decide to take on this amphibian as a pet that you are aware of the complicated processes and expensive costs that are associated with keeping them.
Once their enclosure is set up they are relatively low-maintenance but the costs of getting this right can put people off.
When keeping more than one tree frog, they can be kept in mixed sex groups and are generally social animals that like to have company.
However, if they do reproduce it’s important that you don’t keep young and juveniles in the same enclosure as a larger adult.
Although the risk of the frogs developing health issues is far less likely when they aren’t in the wild, they aren’t completely immune to bacterial infections.
These are likely caused by pathogens in the environment and can cause skin or internal health problems.
As the frog’s enclosure is warm and moist it is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
To avoid bacteria building up, spot clean any messes you see on a daily basis and perform a thorough clean of the enclosure once a month.
Keeping an eye on the color of your frog is really important as it can signal that there is something wrong.
As mentioned previously, color changes can be signifiers of stress or disease.
Establishing the difference between this and the frogs changing color to blend in with their surroundings is something you’ll learn over time by getting to know your pet.
Cleaning The Enclosure
Keeping the enclosure well-maintained and clean is important for your frog’s health and will also keep them happy and stress-free. After all, a clean house makes us all feel better so why wouldn’t it them?
Once you’ve securely placed your frog in an appropriate container such as a plastic box you can begin cleaning.
Washing the contents with warm water that is chlorine-free is important to help kill the bacteria and keep your frog healthy.
Remove the main structures in the enclosure to allow you to wipe down the glass on the inside. Any plastic logs, rocks, or plants must be removed and cleaned with amphibian-friendly products.
These can be picked up at any good pet store. Live plants also need to be cleaned, wiping down the leaves to remove dirt and bugs is sufficient enough.
Substrate, moss, and other perishable items need to be replaced on a regular basis. For example, moss should be replaced weekly, and is fairly inexpensive to do so.
Check for mold and mildew within the enclosure as the humid environment encourages this. It’s important to keep your frogs away from these as they can hurt their sensitive skin.
Red Eyed Tree Frog Checklist
When setting up a new enclosure for your green friend, there are a number of things you need to buy which we have put in this handy list for later:
- Vertical glass terrarium (18” x 18” x 24”)
- Heat source – mat or lamp
- Shallow water bowl made from easy to clean materials
- Hygrometer thermometer
- Rocks, branches, logs
- Plants and foliage
- Food source – crickets, mealworms
- Supplements such as calcium and multivitamins
Many pet stores and online retailers will sell starter kits that are perfect for tree frogs and will help save you money in the long run.
It’s important to research these kits thoroughly before purchasing them to ensure that they contain everything you need.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog Facts
If you aren’t already in love with these colorful little guys, then have a look at these fun facts.
- Red-eyed tree frogs are often used in advertising and are highly symbolic of the rainforest
- When the egg sacks of these tree frogs are disturbed by predators they can hatch early to protect themselves, this is called ‘phenotypic plasticity’
- These are not the only red-eyed frogs on the planet, there is also a species native to Australia that shares these scary eyes
- Male tree frogs are known to be territorial, to defend their territory they can mark it in an odd way. If another male enters the frog’s territory the male will begin to shake, creating vibrations that can travel up to two meters
- The quick and agile frogs can jump 20 times their length, in human terms, this is the equivalent of being able to jump across two basketball courts in one leap!
- Every red-eyed tree frog has three eyelids. The third eyelid is known as the nictitating membrane and helps protect their eyes whilst still allowing them to see
- It takes these frogs two years to reach adulthood which is quite a long time for a species that only lives for about 5 years in the wild
The Bottom Line
Red-eyed tree frogs are fascinating and beautiful creatures that require specialized care to keep them healthy and happy.
If you are considering taking on this responsibility, be aware of the time and energy it may take.
If you are ever concerned with the care or health of your tree frog (Also check out What Are The Most And Least Forgiving Frogs For Beginners) then it’s best to seek professional advice from a vet or amphibian expert.
Reptile centers are usually good places to go to seek the information you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Red-Eyed Tree Frogs Drink Tap Water?
When misting your tree frog enclosure or filling up its water bowl it’s important that you use dechlorinated water.
If your tap water has been dechlorinated chemically, it’s perfectly safe to
use. Chlorine, ammonia, and other chemicals are often found in tap water sources and are extremely toxic to amphibians. Prolonged exposure can even lead to death.
How Often Should I Change My Frog’s Water?
Changing the water frequently is good practice to keep your frog healthy.
If there are live plants in the enclosure or some sort of filtration system then this can be done more infrequently.
A good rule to follow is to change the water on a daily basis as sometimes the frogs will use the bowl as a toilet.
How Much Do Red-Eyed Tree Frogs Cost?
These little frogs can cost around $50 for a standard frog and you can find these either from a local breeder or a pet store.
The more rare morphs will cost as much as $150, so be careful that you aren’t being overcharged.