Horned Frogs – also known as Pacman Frogs due to their shape and large mouths – are an excellent frog to keep in captivity if you like a low maintenance and easy to care for animal. There are eight different species and colours of horned frog but the care remains the same for the majority. 

The three main species you’ll encounter in captivity include

Ceratophyrus ornata – Argentine / Ornate Horned Frog

Ceratophyrus cranwelli – Cranwell’s Horned Frog

Ceratophyrus aurita – Brazilian Horned Frog

The last is the fantasy horned frog, which is in fact a hybrid between the first two species, created in captivity because it has enhanced yellow/orange colours, but it has no ability to reproduce. Argentine Horned Frogs are also readily available in albino and strawberry form, with more colour morphs looking probable in the future. Let’s meet the Horned Frog!

Meet the Horned Frog

Horned frogs can grow to a considerable size with females being larger than males. Argentine / Ornate Horned Frogs reach 5-6”, Cranwell’s reach 4-5” whilst the most recent captive bred Horned Frog, the Brazilian Horned Frog, can reach an impressive 8”.

Horned Frogs have enormous mouths and are highly predatory animals. They will attack, engulf and consume in single bites any prey that walks near their hiding places. They will typically dig holes into the substrate, cover themselves up for safety and detect prey via vibrations and movement rather than sight. They move very little and do not need a lot of energy to live healthily, but are known to be opportunistic and greedy and will often overeat. They have gained a reputation for being lazy – but in truth, they simply have the most efficient and effective hunting plan!

The lifespan of a Horned Frog on average is around 6-8 years, with some individuals in captivity now living for 10 years or more.

Housing your Horned Frog

In captivity you do not need a large space to house an adult horned frog. Although it is a very large frog it will very rarely move. Because of the need for a high humidity and moist environment plastic or glass enclosures are suitable. Horned Frogs cannot climb nor jump very high, but a secure lid should still be used to avoid livefood escaping and will help keep the enclosure damp.

We would recommend a large flat faunarium for younger frogs, and sell this in a Horned Frog Starter Kit. If you want a display for adults, a 45cm or 60cm Exo Terra is ideal and allows for some excellent lighting. You can put your young frog directly into a large display enclosure and feed on tongs. It may not use a lot of the space, but it can make an absolute stunning display for you if you use live plants.

Heating for your Horned Frog

The temperature of the tank should be between 77 – 83 F (25 – 28 C ) and can drop at night. If your room temperature is below this you can use a small heat mat under one third of the tank, ideally attached to a thermostat to regulate the temperature. A thermometer will be useful to read the temperature of the tank.

Lighting for your Horned Frog

Horned frogs will benefit from UVB in the enclosure. Whilst it’s not considered mandatory, it definitely has benefits. If you have an Exo Terra Tank then you can fit a compact UVB into the hood, or you can suspend a UVB tube depending on your enclosure. A low percentage UVB is fine as these spend most of the time burrowed or underneath things in the wild, so wouldn’t naturally get a lot of sunlight. 

Horned Frog Water Requirements and Humidity

Provide a shallow water dish – these frogs are not swimmers, and can drown if they cannot climb out of the water! Water depth big enough to cover half the frog is adequate. In the wild these will not enter large bodies of water. Mist the enclosure daily, and ensure the substrate is damp – but it shouldn’t be water logged.

Substrate and Decor

The enclosure should be as natural as possible, a soil or coco brick or moss based substrate will enable burrowing and retain the moisture. Plants, bark and decor will make an environment look more natural.

Horned Frogs are ideal for a bioactive setup, which involves a drainage layer of clay balls, mesh and then a natural and organic bioactive substrate, with a clean up crew of springtails and isopods. Along with a plant light, this will allow you to plant out the enclosure for a stunning display. Live plants will improve the oxygen quality and filter toxins not just in the tank, but in the room too! Try to plant out the edges of the enclosure as your Horned Frog may dig up the plants otherwise.

You should provide natural places for the frog to hide such as cork bark, log rolls, moss and plants.

Diet

Horned frogs will start off eating livefood and work their way up to defrosted rodents depending on the size of the frog. They will also eat fish and in the wild have even been known to take small birds! You must be careful when feeding adults and it is recommended that you use tongs to feed defrost rodents, they are not very accurate feeders and have been known to accidentally bite fingers or anything else that is dangled in front of them. Do not feed your frog as much as it will eat as it will become overweight. 

Baby frogs can be fed a small insect daily, juvenile frogs can be fed large insects or a small rodent every 2-3 days. Babies and juveniles should have calcium and vitamin D3 supplements two to three times a week. Adults can be fed a medium to large sized rodent every 5 days or so, depending on the body condition of your frog and should have calcium and vitamin D3 supplements once a week.

Social needs and Housing Horned Frogs together

You should never house more than one horned frog together unless you are pairing up adults for breeding. You should never house horned frogs with any other species of animal, including other frogs. They will consume anything that walks in front of them if they believe it will fit in their mouths. They will consume their own species and other frogs – keep them solitary!

Handling

Generally amphibians in general aren’t particularly handleable. They don’t enjoy being handled, and can actually find it quite stressful. In addition to that they have quite thin skin and are susceptible to absorbing toxins. Horned Frogs can be cupped from underneath if you need to move or examine them, but be aware of the size of their mouths. If you do get bitten by a horned frog, don’t forcibly try to remove your finger as this can damage the jaw. Instead, run the frog gently under lukewarm water until it lets go.

Horned Frog Colour Morphs

There are a variety of morphs available in captivity. Care should be taken with albino morphs as they have very sensitive eyesight, so use lower percentage UVB and avoid bright lighting with them.

Below you can see albino, brown, green and strawberry.

Aren’t they amazing?

Sexing your Horned Frog

Sexing Horned Frogs can be challenging and best done when the frog is sexually mature. Males are smaller than females and will call during mating season. They also have darker throats and will develop nuptial pads. The easiest way of sexing is to listen out at night once your frog is fully grown – if you have a male you’re likely to hear it!

Horned Frog Breeding in Captivity

Breeding Horned Frogs in captivity is challenging, but is now being done with some success. Horned Frogs need a cooling period of two months to put your frog into Estivation. You then need to simulate the rainy season either using a rain chamber, or an automated misting system. You need to be careful that you have a good drainage layer in your tank if doing this in their regular tank so the ground doesn’t become waterlogged and cause bacterial problems. You’ll need to make sure there are ample sturdy plants (artificial or real) for the female to attach her eggs to.

The female can lay up to 2000 eggs, but both the male and the female can eat them, so once laid, separate the adults from the eggs. To complicate things, once the eggs are developed into tadpoles, the tadpoles can be very aggressively cannibalistic. Most breeders will raise tadpoles in small individual tubs – so that’s a lot of tubs you’ll need to be prepared to set up and monitor! If you’re not willing to do that, make your tadpole tank as large as possible with plenty of cover and expect to lose some. The tadpoles need to be fed tubifex or finely chopped earthworms daily.

Within about 3-5 weeks your Horned Frog Tadpoles will go through metamorphosis and become froglets, growing legs and absorbing their tails. They can then start to eat a regular juvenile Horned Frog diet.

Do be aware that if you’re successful you could potentially have hundreds of healthy Horned Frogs that you’ll need to find homes for! I’d recommend discussing this with a livestock wholesaler or pet shops in advance, so you know you’ve got options for selling them.

Hopefully this Horned Frog Care Guide has given you all the information you need to decide whether a Horned Frog is the right pet for you. If you still have some questions after reading this caresheet, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and we’ll answer any question!

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