The Terrestrial Tank
This type of tank best suits the dryer climate preferring toads and frogs.
It basically consists of a large tank with substrate and a water supply,
usually in the form of a bowl of water or some sort of small pool. Pet
stores often house frogs that will not be happy in the long run in such
an environment. (Particularly species like Oriental Firebellied Toads!)
It is important that you do not depend on the setup used in the pet store
as a guideline for setting up your tank at home. Your best bet is to look
up your frog and see what sort of environment it comes from.
The size of tank you will need largely depends on the type of frog you will be housing in it.
Smaller anurans do well in smaller sized tanks, but as the number of specimens increases, so
does the tank size requirement.
For example, small treefrogs can do well in as little as 20 x 20 x 30 inch (50x50x75 cm) tank.
As a general rule however, most species do really well in a 20 gallon tank.
This is still a subject of a lot of debate. Generally speaking, most experts say that unlike lizards, turtles,
and snakes, and other herps, frogs don't need what's called "full spectrum lighting" to be healthy. Full
spectrum lighting aids some animals in producing Vitamin D3. Frogs get this vitamin through their diet, so
only ordinary light is required. Not that this type of light, which can be provided by using special types
of light bulbs available in most pet stores, will do any harm as long as it's limited to a maximum of about
4 to 5 hours a day.
Generally speaking, though, the best rules of thumb are:
Don't use a light that's too bright or you could damage the frogs' vision. Even if it's not bright enough
to damage their vision, a light that is too bright for their comfort will mean frogs that hide all the time,
which fairly boring for the keeper.
The most suitable type of artificial lighting for most frogs is fluorescent. For one thing, they tend not to
produce too much heat. A lot of frogs will end up jumping on to the light bulb, which can be very damaging if
the bulb is really hot. If the type of lighting you choose tends to get very warm, make sure to find a way to
keep the frogs from landing on the bulb.
Some frogs use daylight to know what time of year it is etc...just as they would in nature. A good daylight
period is around 12 hours. Of course, it's even better if the tank gets some sort of daylight in the room.
You probably don't want to have direct sunlight on the tank though, especially since it means algae is going
to go rampant on your aquarium walls, and make cleaning the tank a real pain. (not to mention the fact that
it will need the cleaning much more often)
The easiest option is to use gravel. It's easy to clean and comes in lots of different colors
and sizes, and it's re-usable. Make sure to clean the gravel really well before lining your tank!
Frogs have been known to accidentally swallow the occasional gravel stone, but this is harmless and generally
the stones just pass right on through. You gotta figure if everything frogs eat crawls on the ground then
they're bound to get some ground every now and again anyways!
You can also find nice stones to line your tank. The main
requirement is that the stones aren't sharp, leaving areas where frogs can scrape
against them and wound themselves.
Sand also works well and makes a nice soft setting. This is especially good if the animal requires a
slightly dryer environment, like many toads. It's cheap, and you can always compliment it with a few rocks.
Common potting soil is a pretty good option as well. It's disposable, easy to find, easy to keep moist, and
isn't expensive. The coolest thing about it is that you can plant real live plants in it and it will be really
close to natural surroundings for your pet.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that if a frog feels dry they'll hop over to the water supply and take
a dip. Much as I love the critters, you can't give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this type of
intelligence. Some species are very dependant on a humid environment. This can be achieved in several
ways. First of all, get a spray bottle!! Keep stale water in it and spray down the tank regularly. Spray
everything! Live plants are especially good and retaining the water for some time, though if you have plastic
ones it certainly doesn't hurt to spray those too.
(Note: this is not always necessary for certain types of toads which prefer dryer climates)
The other thing to do is to put down moss down moss and keep it wet, wet the soil, or if you don't have soil,
you can obtain a moisture retaining product called vermiculite at most garden stores which works really
A secure tank top that keeps
the tank from drying up, while still allowing for ample ventilation is a really good idea. Some tank set-ups
get a nice green-house like quality which is ideal for certain species of frogs. This, however, is pretty
unlikely to happen in a terrestrial tank, so if your frog requires a lot of humidity you should look into either
the Half-and-half tank setup or Arboreal set-up.
Moss makes an excellent compliment for the land portions of your terrarium. My firebellies have a gravel substrate
in their tank, but I cover the gravel with dried moss that can be bought in most pet-stores and which was wetted
in clean stale water. I just have to make sure that the moss stays a little moist and check that there isn't any mold
growing on it, but the frogs absolutely LOVE it!
Plastic plants and decorations can be obtained from most pet stores. Particularly cool are plants with
suction-cups for sticking to the glass. Re-arranging the decorations when you clean seems to make the frogs
happy...(I guess even frogs get bored)
Hollow rocks or logs that give your frog pal a place to hide are very recommended. I have a giant hollow squid
in my Firebellied Toads' tank and they hide there all the time!
If you're really energetic, you can plant some live plants and make your terrarium totally awesome! Go to your local
plant store and start looking for nice plants that will do well in your tank! It's a bit more work, but it can have
really impressive results. (I have never read in any of the guides which plants are good and which are not, but I
imaging the list is quite huge. Your best bet is to use common sense, i.e. don't try planting prickly cactus, and it
will probably be just fine.)
The main issue with finding an appropriate covering for your tank is 2-fold.
On the one hand, preventing the escape of a beloved frog pal is the ideal, and on the other,
good ventilation is necessary for the health of your pet.
First of all, soft screening is really good! I strongly recommend it for 2 reasons. One, the soft kind (i.e.
not the kind that doesn't bend a little bit when you push on it) will prevent
a lot of overactive frogs from getting injuries when hopping up against the ceiling. The other reason, of
course is that the screen provides great ventilation. There are a number of screen cage lids that are available
in your local pet stores that are perfect for frogs. Make sure the lid is on very secure...not to make the
frogs sound like Superman, but you'd be amazed at the amount of letters I get about frogs hopping up so often
that they actually opened it and got out!
The best option for temperature control is simply to warm the room to the appropriate temperatures.
If this isn't an option, you have a few other possibilities.
One is to get a Heating Lamp. These seem to work ok, as long as the lamp isn't inside the tank. If you
place the bulb in the tank, you will need to customize it to make sure your critters don't fry themselves
on it when they jump on it (as they seem to inevitably do in these cases.) You'll probably want to keep a
regular timing schedule with the heat lamp to maintain the usual fluctuations that would normally occur.
Another option is to get a Heating Pad. This basically is a pad that you put under or around some part
of the outside of the tank which warms it. You don't want it to cover the entire underside of the tank
as the frogs need to be able to escape the heat if they want to.
There are several things you need to keep in mind here. The main thing is that despite the fact that this
can be an annoyance, it's not something to procrastinate on. A dirty environment is almost always the cause
of illness in frogs, and once your frog gets sick it can be very difficult to save it.
Regular tank maintenance includes a scrub-down of all the items in the tank (excluding the frogs) with warm
water. Yes, that means the plastic plants too...frogs leave residue on everything, including the glass walls,
which for some species can be toxic when it builds up. Make sure the glass gets cleaned regularly as well.
The other thing to look out for is mold, particularly in moss etc, and dead bugs. Moss is really really cool
for frogs because it's soft, retains moisture, and is pleasant
to hang out in, (well, if you're a frog anyways) but it needs to be cleaned regularly! You can clean it with water
(preferably stale water) Though it may be worth the extra buck fifty or whatever the package costs to
simply replace the stuff every now and then.
Of course, it goes without saying that the water should absolutely be clean!!! Your best bet is if you make sure
to use stale water, which is water that has been sitting out for at least 24 hours, AND has been
dechlorinated. (You can buy chlorine treatment drops at your local pet store.)
It is strongly recommended that you check out some of the books in the Recommended
Reading list for more info.
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