Your First Frog
So, you want to get a pet frog....
Before you run out to the nearest pet store or pond there are several things you should consider.
Getting a frog shouldn't be considered all that different from getting a cat or dog. It can be a lot of work, and you need to think about what you're going to do when you skip town for a week, and so forth.
Also, frogs aren't like goldfish in that they can live for a very very long time! Don't believe me? check out some of these statistics of longevity of frogs in captivity!
You may need a special license to keep frogs in some countries. I hear that in Australia it is actually very difficult to obtain an amphibian license, and people who keep frogs without such a license can get fined heavily for it. You should definitely check to see if there are any special laws pertaining to keeping frogs in your area before you get one as a pet!
Here's a few things to consider when making choices:
Frogs Can Be a Lot of Work
Frogs need to be fed on a regular basis. Keep in mind where your food source is going to be. Generally speaking, this isn't going to be as easy as picking up a package at your local grocery store! In addition, if you get a frog that eats live bugs, expect to have a few stray bugs running around the house now and then! The larger frogs can be even more work...Many of the larger species feed on mice and this can be a less than fun experience if you aren't prepared for it! Frog tanks need to be well cleaned to prevent illness. For more information on this topic, visit the Frog Doctor page to read about frog health. Also, keep in mind that each pet has special needs for Housing. You can read about setting up a terrarium for your pets in the Housing Your Pet Frog page.
Probably one of the biggest mistakes I hear about is people who go out and buy a "cool-looking" frog which then proceeds to eat, sleep, and generally sit like a lump of clay. The reality is, a lot of frogs don't really do much, and they aren't exactly something you can snuggle up with either, so you need to keep that in mind when choosing an appropriate pet. Frogs may be cute or grotesque, but you can't teach them tricks, take them for walks, or make them speak on command. Frogs which aren't particularly active will quickly become a boring pet. The novelty will wear off and you'll be left with a blob that eats a lot. When looking for a pet frog, particularly for the beginner, I strongly urge you to choose ACTIVE breeds. This means, search for a species that doesn't just sit around all day. Aquatic frogs, certain treefrogs, and the less "fat" frogs are better choices.
Never get a Frog You Don't Know
There are many many species of frogs, and many have very individualized pet care needs. Some frogs need to hibernate during the winter, others do not. The pet care needs will change everything from what you need as far as tank set-up to what you have to feed them. In addition, many frogs look really really cute in the stores, and then you bring them home and in a few months they've grown in monstrous proportions and it isn't nearly as nice as you thought it was going to be:
A personal example:
I saw the cutest little frogs in the pet store called "Pixie frogs"- wow! They were these tiny little green things (almost an inch long in size) and even their name was cute....
The next day I went to an Annual Reptile and Amphibian show that took place at out local Science And Industry Museum...there I saw that those same sweet little frogs that I saw in the pet store the day before GROW to become these incredibly FAT frogs about 8 inches long!!!!! That means those cute things would have been eating mice and big ol' bugs and such...something I was utterly UNprepared for!!!
The Pixie Frog is a nickname for their Latin name, (Pyxicephalus adspersus), Their common name turns out to be The African Bullfrog.
So, the moral of this story is, find out about the frog you want to get BEFORE you get it!
Your frog, if well cared for, should live for a very long time! That means you're going to run into the same problem everyone with pets runs into whenever they go out of town for vacations..."Who's gonna care for my pet while I'm away??"
Unlike feeding a few flakes to a goldfish, the idea of live bugs isn't very appealing to most people who haven't been as enlightened about frogs as you and I have! In some cases, you can convince a "frog sitter" to care for your frogs if they don't actually have to touch the bugs. (You can read about how to make ick-free cricket containers on my Dealing With Bugs page.) So, if you plan on getting a frog, plan ahead as to how vacations will be handled.
Frog Sitters in the Lansing, Michigan area
Recommended Frogs for Beginners
For the first frog encounter, I strongly recommend the African Dwarf Frog. These guys are small, active, cute, and about as difficult to maintain as a tank of goldfish. You also don't have to deal with live bugs and they can be kept in the same conditions as goldfish for extended periods of time...(as long as there is a cover!) Dwarf frogs are very easy to take care of once they've become used to their new home. As with all fish, expect the first couple of weeks for adaptation time (many times pet stores will sell frogs that are already sick, or that are very very small and which may be a bit fragile in the first couple of weeks.) My sister had terrible luck with the baby frogs until she learned to wait for 2 weeks before she names her new pet (Usually, by then you can tell if the frogs will make the long haul) The best recommendation here is to get them at a decent size. Avoid really skinny ones or ones that are as small as your pinky-nail. In addition, if the frog doesn't give the pet shop owner a really hard time when the net goes into the tank, it may indicate some initial signs of being in less than perfect condition.
Don't confuse these with African Clawed frogs, which look very similar when small. The clawed frogs get quite large and actually are illegal in some states (Like in Oregon and California!)
For a beginning frog owner who wants to get the full terrestrial frog experience, Oriental Firebellied Toads are an excellent choice. These guys are fairly simple to care for, in so far as they can survive fairly well off crickets with vitamin supplements, and they are incredibly active critters. They also don't get too large. Finally, there are no hibernation requirements for this species and they do well in temperatures that people generally are happy to have in their homes. Unless you live in an icebox or in extremely hot climates, this species of frog won't need special climatization for it's terrarium. You'll need to find someone who can handle crickets when you go away on vacation for a week or more to take care of them though, but keep in mind crickets are much easier than frozen mice! (Finding a frog sitter for my Firebellies proved to be fairly difficult for me, until I found a friend who actually works at the pet store where I buy the crickets and he was nice enough to take care of them for me while I was out of town!)
A good Tree Frog for beginners is the White's Tree Frog. This frog has a funny personality and seems to be quite a popular pick. It should be warned however, that some children bore of the whites tree frog despite its funny personality, simply because they tend to just sit around a lot. (Once I even got a letter that said "Whites Tree Frog-What a blob of nothing!") Much of the behavior of the frogs however, can be traced to how much they eat (and how fat they get!). In addition, the Whites Tree frog is one of the few frogs that is fit to occasionally be handled, and it certainly has warmed the heart of many frog enthusiasts!
In addition to dealing with crickets, the Whites tree frogs need a little more care than the Firebellies need, simply because they live best with humidity and are happiest when the tank is sprayed with water once or twice every day. However, as far as Tree-Frogs go, they are by far one of the easiest to deal with and hardiest species available to be kept as pets!
Frogs NOT Recommended for the Beginner
Poison Frogs are absolutely NOT a beginners frog. Even though these frogs lose their toxicity in captivity, their care is very complicated and these fragile beings have very specific requirements for healthy captivity. I don't even want to write up any care sheets because I myself am not expert enough to tackle the complicated procedures for proper care of such breeds.
Expensive frogs in general should not be a frog considered by the beginner because a frog that costs over 50 bucks is a high investment to make when you are still learning about frog care. Even if you've read all there is to read about frog care, you really ought to start with an easier breed before taking on the more expensive breeds like Red-Eyed TreeFrogs and such.
Frogs captured in the wild should be a frog that you KNOW, otherwise you take the risk of not knowing the proper temperatures, diet, etc. I often am asked about frogs that naturally appeared in an outdoor pond where weather patterns lead to pond ice-overs. I don't think it's a good idea to "save" frogs from an environment where they naturally occurred in the first place. I suspect that the types of frogs that appear in such climates probably hibernate in the colder months.
Frogs that get FAT, like Horned (Pacman) frogs, Budgettes Toads, and Bullfrogs can get to be pretty boring as pets for the beginner. The Budgettes toad can also pack a good wallop of a bite when it's full grown, so watch those fingers! This doesn't mean you absolutely should not get some of these for pets, (Pac Man Frogs, for example, while somewhat "boring" to some, are also very hearty and not as prone to the usual frailties of other types of frogs) but I'd really think carefully about how long you're going to retain interest in this type of frog before you've made any sort of commitment by going out and getting such a pet....
Be sure to read Some Common Questions before you set up that first tank too!
Back to Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Frogs.
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