Pixie Frogs - The Ultimate Care Guide
The Pixie frog is another … distinct… frog. They’re commonly referred to as the African Bull Frog which is probably a better suited name for it, as it’s the largest frog commonly found in South Africa. They live in open grassland and can be found there within shallow ponds and puddles, during the dry season they create burrows and live mostly underground similar to the Budgett’s frog. This frog will eat insects, fish, mice, lizards and other frogs as well as anything else that will fit into it’s massive mouth!
They can grow from 4-10 inches in length with males being larger than females and can weigh up to 2kg. They are a dull green colour with yellow throats and a cream coloured underbelly. Pixie frogs can be expected to live 15-25 years under optimal conditions, and have been known to live over 30 years.
The set up for these large frogs is very simple as you can tell just by looking at them that they’re fairly inactive. This means that a single frog can be kept in a 15 gallon or larger tank, we recommend going as big as either your space or budget will allow as it makes cleaning up after them a lot easier. Pixie frogs will also utilize a large, easy to enter water dish for soaking, opt for something heavy such as porcelain or you’ll be refilling it every time your frog knocks it over. Moist coco fiber is an ideal substrate; there should be enough substrate to allow the frog to completely bury itself the way it would in its natural habitat.
Speaking of which, Giant African Bullfrogs are native to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. They are best kept between 75-90 degrees F with a 5 degree drop at night. Coco fiber should be kept moist but not soaking and a vented or screen lid should be used so it doesn’t become too humid while also allowing air to flow - stagnant air can lead to bacterial infections among frogs. A low wattage incandescent light can be placed at one side of the screen lid to reach desired temperatures. If kept too dry, these frogs may enter a state of dormancy called aestivation while they wait for the “upcoming rainy season”.
Pixie frogs are voracious eaters and do best with a wide variety of food items. Juveniles should be fed appropriately sized crickets daily. They will soon grow into monsters that can eat larger prey 2-3 times per week. Adult Pixie frogs eat adult crickets and can also be fed earthworms, hornworms, silkworms, and the occasional thawed frozen rodent, absolute monster frog.
Appearance and Size
Fun fact: Pyxicephalus adspersus (The Pixie Frog) is the second largest frog after the Goliath Frog, Conraua goliath, which can grow up to 13 inches. Like most species of frogs, the males and females show differences in size. However, unlike most frog species, the males tend to grow much larger than the females instead of the other way around. Males can reach 4.5-10 inches compared to the females which grow from 3.5-5.5 inches. Both sexes are an olive green color with white undersides and orange where the limbs meet the body, however males tend to have yellow around the orange coloring often extending down their sides and up the sides of their throat. So if you can’t decipher gender by size, you should be able to by colouration. Also, the females do not call, so if your frog’s making some noises towards another, more silent frog, you know who’s who.
Males of this species can be territorial and aggressive towards other males and should be housed alone whereas the females can be housed in groups with no problems. Care should be taken when handling, as these frogs have powerful legs but wouldn’t fair well with being dropped from hand height. In captivity, they generally have an even temperament but are known to hiss when provoked.
Breeding Pixie Frogs in captivity is not a common occurrence and we don’t recommend it for beginner keepers. However, like most other animals, the best way to go about it would be to mimic their natural environment’s seasonal changes. Make sure your frogs are healthy and feed them like kings for a few weeks while making sure they’re also well hydrated, then make them undergo a 3 to 4 month dry period with no misting, also reduce the amount of water in their bowl or have none at all to force them into aestivation (where they build up layers of skin like a shell to keep in their water content).
Next, rehydrate them with heavy misting and pouring water into their substrate. Once the frogs have shed the layers of skin that they have built up as a water retaining “cocoon,” begin feeding heavily for a few days to a week and then place in a large rain chamber with approximately 3 inches of water and surfaces for the frogs to exit the water. Water level should not be kept too much higher than this because mating takes place while standing on the bottom and fertilization of eggs takes place above water. It’s a bad idea to have multiple males being placed in the rain chamber simultaneously as this could result in aggression and injuries and is therefore not recommended. The introduction to the rain chamber should be timed with a low pressure weather event in order to increase the chance of spawning.
If you’ve managed to get your Pixie frogs to breed, then congratulations. You’re a grandparent to up to 4,000 eggs of these absolute mammoth frogs. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good or bad thing. The eggs will hatch within three days in 75-80 degree water, let them chill at the bottom of the tank for a few days while the yolks are consumed, then start feeding them as they start to swim. Tadpoles are omnivorous and can be fed a variety of flake food such as shrimp flakes. Metamorphosis can take place as quickly as 30 days at which point froglets should be kept individually in order to prevent any chance of them injuring each other, best of luck housing 4000 froglets separately - a bulk order of some tupperware might be in order!
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