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Budgett's Frogs - The Ultimate Care Guide

Budgett’s frogs are also known as the Paraguay horned frog, they’re very distinct in appearance and they come from areas in Southern America including Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Typically they are a light olive green colour and they can have some light grey or yellow mottling on areas of their skin. They will grow to around 4-5 inches in length so they’re not the smallest frogs we’ve written guides for, with females growing larger than males. They have a rounded flattened body with eyes quite high on their head giving them a strange shapeless appearance. They are highly intelligent but be warned that they’re generally aggressive. They’re also completely aquatic so their set up is similar to that of axolotls and the African Clawed frog.

The Budgett’s frog is becoming increasingly popular as pets. They also go by Hippo Frogs and another name for them is the Freddy Krueger frog, due to their long fingers and aggressive behaviour. They’ll live for 15 to 20 years in captivity. Visually they’re pretty easy to identify due to the funny looking appearance. They’re large bodied, big mouthed and pretty silly looking, making them an unusual looking pet sure to grab attention from guests and make good conversation starters.

Let’s start with a little bit of history - The Budgett’s frog was first described as so by it’s namesake John Samuel Budgett in 1899. It comes from the Gran Chaco and this relatively dry region of southAmerica stretches from the south-eastern corner of Bolivia into western Paraguay and southward into Argentina as far as Santa Fe.

Budgett’s frogs share many similarities with others in the Ceratophryinae family, which includes two other species of Lepidobatrachus and the closely related horned frogs (Ceratophrys and Chacophrys). A loose, blue-gray vocal sac and nuptial pads, which develop during the breeding season, can distinguish adult males, as can the piercing shriek they make to advertise their presence to any potential mates in the area.

During the wet season, these frogs are sit-and-wait predators found feeding and breeding in temporary pools formed by heavy rains. Their large, flattened, gray-colored bodies are marked with irregular olive spots that become a more apparent reddish-brown color after dark. Their undersides are pale cream to white in coloration and unmarked. Their limbs are short and their hind feet webbed; their eyes are positioned on top of the head, allowing them to rest in shallow water with just their eyes protruding above the surface, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Younger specimens have a green coloration that surrounds the eye and extends down the back as additional camouflage. This usually fades away in adults but is kept by some.

As the winter nears and the pools dry up, Budgett’s use their hard, metatarsal tubercle spade to burrow into the mud, where they avoid desiccation during the dry months by encasing themselves in multiple layers of dry skin. They remain cocooned like this until the warm rains return, allowing them to come back to the surface to feed and breed once again.

When threatened by a predator, the Budgett’s frog will raise up on its legs and try to look as large as possible. It may also lunge for the perceived threat, make noises and bite.

Budgett’s Basics

Okay so moving on to the care of them and despite being so large, Budgett’s frogs do not require huge enclosures. This is a big advantage when maintaining more than one of these frogs, as their aggressive nature means that they should ideally be kept separately to avoid potential cannibalism. If you want to keep more than one, go for small tanks you can keep together. We’ve seen setups where the filtration system treats the different tanks as one tank, and another, larger tank has all the filtration systems set up. Juveniles are especially cannibalistic and won’t hesitate to eat tankmates. Adults show less of a tendency to cannibalize, and adult animals of similar size may be kept together successfully if well fed. However, the risk is always present.

Usually, the Budgett’s frogs found in pet stores are juveniles and at this size, they can be maintained in enclosures measuring 12 inches long, 10 inches wide and 10 inches tall, with a water depth of 2 to 3 inches. All water must be dechlorinated before use by using something such as Tetra’s Aquasafe or Seachem Prime. An average-sized adult can be happily maintained in a glass aquarium measuring 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 15 inches tall, with a water depth of 6 to 9 inches. Contrary to popular myth, these frogs are strong swimmers, and water of up to 12 inches deep will be no problem for an adult.

Frogs kept in cool water will feed poorly and are more likely to develop illnesses. Ideally, a temperature of 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit should be maintained using an aquarium heater with built-in thermostat. The frogs can easily dislodge heaters from their mountings while swimming and digging. To avoid this, choose a heater with an automatic cut-out in case it is accidentally moved above the water line.

Pay special attention to providing clean water. Filtration is advised, but it should cause little water movement and minimal disturbance to the animals. Air-powered box filters set to bubble gently or sponge filters are a good choice for young animals, but for adults an internal or external power filter with the outlet diffused by a spray bar is required. Budgett’s frogs produce large amounts of waste. The better the filtration system you have in place, the less maintenance will be required, and water changes can be kept down to a minimum.

In terms of lighting, artificial lighting is not strictly necessary, but we recommend having a light set up so that you cna give your frog a defined day and night cycle and generally just so you can actually see your frog well. Ultraviolet or other special lighting is not required, so a low-wattage, fluorescent tube designed for freshwater aquaria and set on a 12-hour cycle will do nicely. Providing a light will also help to keep any plants alive if you’re going for a planted tank.

Small substrates and gravel should be avoided as these can be ingested. Stick with decorations such as rocks, driftwood, terracotta pots and plastic pipes which should be arranged to provide hiding places and terraces in the aquarium, so the frog can choose a suitable resting position at its preferred water depth. Hardy aquatic plants, such as Amazon sword and java fern, along with cuttings of hydroponically grown devil’s ivy, can also be used to further decorate the aquarium. A platform allowing the frog to completely leave the water should also be provided.

Big Eaters

Young Budgett’s should be offered some food daily. Their diet consists of a mixture of live insects, including earthworms, crickets, roaches and wax moth caterpillars. Small, live-bearing fish may also be fed from time to time to provide additional variety. Young frogs should be allowed to consume as much as they will take in a sitting, this may be several invertebrates or in the case of larger prey may only be a single item.

Adults can be fed less often, only requiring a good meal two to three times a week. Adult Budgett’s will often feed whenever given the chance, and as such, it’s easy for them to overfeed which will lead to health complications. A healthy adult should be longer than it is wide; for individuals prone to overfeeding, you should offer food less often. Suitable foods include large Lumbricus worms, locusts, roaches and de-shelled African land snails. Fishy foods, such as prawns, sardines and whitebait, may be offered for variety. Fish must be warmed to destroy the thiaminase enzyme and allowed to cool before feeding.

Budgett’s frogs will eat both in and out of the water; place live foods on the land platform or drop them onto the water’s surface. Inanimate prey may be offered by tongs. Be careful when putting food into the enclosure, as these frogs are aggressive feeders and will often launch themselves out of the water to catch their approaching prey. Due to a row of very sharp maxillary teeth running along the upper jaw and a pair of large odontoid projections in the center of the lower jaw, a bite will hurt and will often draw blood.

Pre-killed rodents may be fed from time to time, but frogs fed large numbers of rodents tend to be sluggish and lethargic. If feeding rodents, offer a hairless strain of mouse and wait for the frogs to defecate before feeding again — this could be 10 to 14 days after a large meal.

Usually a couple of days after feeding, the frogs will defecate. When you notice waste in the water, siphon it out immediately and perform a partial water change to keep the water quality high.

Young frogs grow rapidly and have the potential to reach adult size in as little as six to nine months. Due to this rapid growth, they require a good supply of calcium and vitamin D3 in their diet to ensure healthy bone development. Ideally, a high-quality calcium and multivitamin supplement should be dusted over food at every other meal. You may cut down the frequency of supplementation as they mature. Adults maintained on a varied diet should only need supplements on one feeding every other week. Except for during breeding season, these frogs should be kept separately, as this species does have a tendency to be cannibalistic.

Outstanding and Odd

The Budgett’s frog is an outstanding amphibian. Its wide face, odd proportions and comical appearance, coupled with its aggressive nature and big appetite, make for a fun and fascinating pet. In recent years, these frogs have become more readily available from commercial breeders thanks to the use of hormones. With the increased availability has come a drop in price, bringing them inline with the price range of other hefty frogs.

Due to the aggressive nature of these frogs we don’t recommend a novice keeper buying them, there’s still quite a bit to discover about optimal care so having experience in keeping frogs will stand you in good stead when looking after these little beasts!

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