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Red-Eyed Tree Frog - The Ultimate Care Guide

Did you know that amphibians can give us a whole range of peptides, which help science discover a range of medical cures for many illnesses and diseases? These cures are already being used for things like painkillers, high blood pressure medication and even HIV medication! Despite their importance, around 40% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction.



There might not be a lot the average person can do to help with this, other than donating to foundations that are trying to prevent it from happening. However, if you think amphibians are cool (they definitely are) then there’s a whole bunch of them you can keep in your home! Amphibians make great eye-catching pets that are sure to spice up any room you put them in, they’re also characters in of themselves and aren’t too hard to look after!


Let’s start with the Red-Eyed Tree Frog. Famous for its vibrant green skin, it features bright blue accents on its legs and ribs and has yellow bands running down its sides. In contrast to the green are its huge red eyes for which it gets its name. They make excellent display pets due to how colourful they are! They grow to around 3 inches at max length but average around 2 inches and they can live up to 5 years in captivity.


In the wild & History as pets

Red-eyed tree frog belongs to the family Hylidae (tree frogs). It can be found in the wild in southern parts of Mexico, Central America and in the northern parts of South America. Red-eyed tree frogs inhabit lowland tropical rainforests and major threats for the survival of these guys in the wild are habitat loss (due to accelerated deforestation) and climate change. Luckily, the number of red-eyed tree frogs in the wild is still large and stable so these animals are not on the list of endangered species.

Enclosure

To bring a red-eyed tree frog home you’re going to need an enclosure for it. Glass terrariums are great at allowing heat to escape, which ensures that the enclosure stays cool enough. Because of this, your red-eyed tree frogs will be a great match for a glass terrarium. Wooden enclosures such as the ones we recommend for snakes are insulators so they keep the heat in, something that snakes need.


In terms of sizes, we recommend at least a 450mm wide by 600mm tall terrarium. It needs to be big enough for your frogs to hop around and explore but it also needs to be taller as frogs are arboreal animals meaning that they like to climb and live their lives in trees. By getting a taller terrarium this will give you space to add plants and tree decorations which mean that your little hopper friends will be able to explore new heights!



Heating

The red-eyed tree frog requires a near constant air temperature of 75 degrees F which is best achieved by attaching a large heat mat to one side of the glass enclosure. Place a thermostat close by to help regulate the temperature, and place a stick on thermometer either on the other side, or centrally to the tank if you can. This helps to ensure the air is consistent in temperature inside the terrarium. One point of having the mat on only one side is that because the glass is only being heated on one side, this also creates a small temperature gradient within the enclosure thus allowing the frog to warm itself up or move away to cool down if it needs to.


If your enclosure isn’t able to get up to the right temperature with the heat mat on it’s own then you may be able to use a small basking bulb to get it up to temperature, just make sure you don’t exceed 75-80F as this will become detrimental to your frogs health.



Red-eyed tree frogs are arboreal frogs from Central America and animals that inhabit these jungle regions do have some natural cover but still receive a fair amount of UV light. Their UVB source should reflect this and in this kind of enclosure, the lights are generally held in a canopy above the mesh ceiling. In this canopy you can either implement a 5-6% UV tube or the equivalent compact light.


Red-eyed tree frogs in particular require this UVB light in order to synthesise vitamin D3 inside their skin. The vitamin D3 helps the frog to absorb calcium which is absolutely crucial for bone structure and growth. This is why reptiles can suffer from metabolic bone disease (MBD) when not provided with adequate UVB.


As a rule of thumb it is recommended that t5 tubes are replaced every 9 months and compact lamps are replaced every 6 months.


Decoration

On to decorations now and you Red-eyed tree frogs should be kept on a slightly moist substrate, this will help both increase and maintain the humidity inside the vivarium. Whilst any loose substrate definitely has the potential to be accidentally swallowed, it should be noted that this is not a problem with coarse orchid bark in particular, it’s also very easy to clean! If the humidity is not high enough with just this substrate then we would recommend adding a small amount of moss to the enclosure, and any live plants will also help keep the humidity up. When picking out your enclosure, opt for a lidded one instead of mesh, as the mesh will let the humid air escape.


Red-eyed tree frogs are an arboreal frog as we’ve mentioned several times and this means that they do like to climb on top of things to survey their surroundings. The terrarium should be decorated with various pieces of wood or vine to enable them to do this.



The tree frogs vivarium can be decorated with artificial plants for a more natural look or live plants if you’re up for the challenge. Natural wood ornaments look very effective and also provide further perches for the frogs. Trailing plants are very good at disguising electrical wires and equipment, as well as providing cover for the shy young amphibians!


Feeding

Moving over to feeding now and Red-eyed tree frogs are carnivorous, they have a diet consisting of mainly live foods. The core of the live food diet should be high in protein and relatively easy for them to digest. Brown crickets typically are the most readily accepted, but you can also use black crickets or locusts (hoppers) as well if these are available to you. On occasion, for variation you can offer other bugs such as mealworms, waxworms or calci worms to keep things exciting for them.


The vivarium should be misted with water every morning to provide hydration. A water bowl may also be introduced as a source of freshwater.



Supplements

To provide the red-eyed tree frog with optimal nutrition and to keep them in the best of health, they will require diet supplementation in the form of calcium, vitamins and minerals. These are most commonly available as powders like the one we’ve listed below. Any live food for your froggy friend should be 'gut-loaded' with insect food. This basically involves feeding the livefood a nutrient rich diet before they are fed to the red-eyed tree frog.



Cleaning

Clean the enclosure weekly, and provide them with fresh water either when you’re cleaning the enclosure or if the water bowl drops to a low level. When cleaning, rinse decorations in hot water only - never use any type of soap to clean anything to do with your frog as even the smallest amount of diluted soap will be a big problem for their skin!


Breeding

Lastly, let’s talk about the birds and the bees, or the frogs and the other frogs… Red eyed tree frogs have the potential to reproduce nearly year round, but there's quite a bit of prep work you need to do with these guys, including setting up a rain chamber to mimic tropical rain. There’s several other things you can do to increase the odds of a successful reproductive event too.


Start out a month or so before you plan on breeding your frogs by increasing the food intake of your animals by roughly 25%, making sure to offer feeder insects, such as crickets, that have been gutloaded and fed quality foods, such as carrot, sweet potato, and collard greens. Feed the insects this enhanced diet for 2 days before they’re fed to your frogs and make sure to dust all insects with a quality vitamin/mineral supplement, regardless of if you’re breeding them.


In addition to the change in diet, by raising the temperature of the enclosure a few degrees (still making sure to stay under 80F), and misting the enclosure more frequently you can replicate a coming rainy season which gets your frogs instinctually in the mood to make some tadpoles. It should be noted here that the increase in humidity is much more important than a temperature increase, so if you’re already running at a high temperature, just stick to the extra misting. Alternatively, you can decrease ventilation to increase humidity but you’ll want to be careful with this, as stagnant air can lead to bacterial infections.


Male red eyes are nearly always in breeding condition (surprise surprise) or will be within a couple days of being added to the rain chamber. Females should begin to take on a swollen/full tummy appearance as they develop their eggs. Large females with eggs swell out at the sides and it looks almost as if their backbone is sunken in. Eggs are sometimes visible through the belly too. Assuming you have both sexes that are in breeding condition, it’s time for the rain chamber.


Red Eye Tree Frogs are bred in rain chambers, which are specialized enclosures that mimic the jungle during a torrential rainstorm. You can either buy one online or even construct your own! When possible, try adding red eyes to the rain chamber with a storm front. The drop in barometric temperature really seems to help encourage successful mating.


Let the rain chamber run for a couple of days and then introduce your frogs to it, this will ensure that everything is running properly and that it’s stable. You don’t want to get your frogs in the mood then have to take them back out because of something not working. Have the rain chamber run mainly at night while they’re most awake, with a couple of hours break somewhere in the middle. A good set up would be a 12 hour night schedule (6pm til 6am or 8pm til 8am, your choice!) where the rain chamber is set up to run for 3 on, 2 off, 3 on, 3 off, 1 on. You can also have it set up to run for 15 minutes every 3 to 5 hours to help maintain the humidity levels. Bare in mind that the frogs should not be fed while in the rain chamber and may remain residents for up to a week, so it’s important that the frogs are well fed beforehand!


In general, choose the largest, plumpest females red eyes you can. Larger males are generally more successful at amplexus (the “position” your love birds) than smaller males, but if you’ve got several males then the more the merrier! You might opt to have 2 to 4 males for each female. If you’ve only got a couple of frogs though just put them together and let them have a go.


Make sure there are plenty of perches for the red eyes to lay and hang out when they are inactive – both in and out of direct water spray. You’ll also want to ensure the frogs can easily exit the water if they fall in, which they will!


Remove the red eyes after the eggs are laid, as the adult red eyes can easily knock or dislodge egg masses into the water, where they will drown. You’ll typically find eggs 2-4 days after the frogs are introduced into the rain chamber.



Frog baby care

After you’ve got the eggs, the waiting begins! Eggs will typically hatch 10-14 days after they are laid and you’ll see development in the egg clutch quickly too. After a few days little green tadpoles will become visible and they’ll steadily grow in size until they hatch out of the egg and fall into the water.


Occasionally a mass of eggs might be infertile - If the eggs start to fall apart or mold, after not showing any signs of development for several days, then dispose of them. Infertile clutches are common with new breeders, or when the red eyes have laid recently beforehand.


You’ll typically see a few infertile eggs in a healthy egg mass though, just ignore them unless the infertile eggs begin to mold as this could spread and ruin the entire clutch. If you spot molding eggs then remove them with something like a turkey baster.


After the tadpoles hatch, allow them to remain in the water at the bottom of the rain chamber until they are actively swimming – something that generally takes 3-4 days as they’ll just sit and feed off of their yolk. At this point, their yolk should be absorbed, and it’s time to move the tadpoles to a rearing tank and begin feeding.


Tadpole care is actually pretty easy. In general, you want to maintain great water quality and feed them often. Keep them in a tank with a sponge filter so they can’t end up there and be hurt. Afterwards, tadpoles are fed 4-6 times a day. A good option for food is Brine Shrimp Flakes as well as specific tadpole food. You’ll also want to remove all visible waste and uneaten food from the tadpoles at the beginning of each day.


The tadpoles will quickly grow to about 1.5 inches and develop back legs in about 5-6 weeks. Within 2 weeks from this they’ll also develop their “wings”, where the front legs are visible under the skin. Now is the time to ensure the tadpole tank has a screen cover to prevent the escape of newly morphed froglets, and make sure you have a firm grasp on froglet rearing!


Most froglets will climb up the sides of the glass after morphing, but providing a few floating pieces of cork for easy egress from the water is always a good idea. Do not offer food to baby red eye tree frogs until the tail is fully absorbed – the newly evolved frog will feed off of this for several days after leaving the water!


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