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Pacman Frog (Ornate Horned Frog) Care

Updated on March 22, 2017
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The Pacman frog, also called the ornate horned frog, is a popular pet amphibian known for its beautiful coloration and large size (it grows to be five or six inches long). As a result of years of careful breeding projects carried out by hobbyists, there are now numerous pacman frog color morphs available, including bright green, brown, albino, bright yellow, pink, and even blue!

It can live 10-15 years if provided with proper care, and it has a voracious appetite and loves to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat... However, because it catches food by sitting still and waiting for its prey to walk by, some pet owners may find this particular frog species a bit boring, as it spends most of its time partially buried and as motionless as a statue. (For owners who want an active and lively pet, fire bellied toads may be a better option.)

Did you know?

In the pet trade, the term "pacman frog" actually includes several species, with the most common ones being Ceratophrys ornata and Ceratophrys cranwelli. Both require the same care.

The Pacman Frog: A Good or Bad Pet for You?

Pros:
Cons:
Care requirements are very simple.
Can be a boring species for a beginner frog keeper. It spends 95% of its time burrowed in the dirt, out of sight, doing absolutely nothing except waiting for food to walk by.
It needs very little space.
Again, it doesn't need much space because it spends all its time buried and/or sitting still.
It can be fed a variety of unique foods.
Diet consists of LIVE feeder insects, which involves handling live bugs and very routine visits to the pet store to purchase bugs (unless you breed your own).
The enclosure will be like having a tiny piece of nature in your home.
The temperature and humidity will need to be closely monitored.
Technically, this species can be picked up and held, but...
...ONLY AT YOUR OWN RISK! This species can be considered "aggressive" because it treats everything that moves as food, including your fingers. Bites can cause bleeding.
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The Enclosure

In the wild, the climate of the Pacman frog's natural habitat goes through drastic seasonal changes, routinely switching between the wet rainy season and the arid dry season. During the rainy season, it lives near ponds and other bodies of water, and spends its time eating and reproducing. But during the dry season, it burrows underground and aestivates (hibernates) in order to outlast harsh, unfavorable conditions.

In a captive setting, the goal is to recreate the ideal habitat for a pet Pacman frog. Based on its natural climate, a sub-tropical cage setup works perfectly. Use an enclosed cage, such as an aquarium, with a tight-fitting screen lid that allows for ventilation. Plastic storage tubs also work as an enclosure and are a cheaper alternative, though they may not be as aesthetically pleasing. Ten, 15, or 20 gallons of space is sufficient for one frog (15-20 is best though).

The Pacman frog is best kept alone. Yes, by itself. Don’t house multiple frogs together, and don't mix species in the same enclosure. Remember, this frog literally tries to eat anything that moves, including other Pacman frogs!

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Habitat Requirements

A proper Pacman frog habitat includes clean substrate, access to fresh water, and a good hiding place or lots of deep substrate for burrowing.

Substrate:

  • Use a substrate which holds humidity but won't mold.
  • Provide several inches so the frog can burrow into it and feel secure.
  • Best option: coconut fiber bedding (sold in the reptile section of most pet stores).
  • Another option: potting soil containing no fertilizers.

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  • Avoid bark and large bits of moss because, during the excitement of ambushing prey, the frog may swallow bits of substrate. Moss and bark are too large and chunky and may cause a life-threatening intestinal obstruction if swallowed. NEVER use any sort of pine or cedar bedding, as these types of wood contain harmful resins that will kill a frog.

Water:

  • Provide fresh, clean water in a water dish both wide and deep enough for the frog to soak in. However, this species does not swim, so the water shouldn't be very deep.
  • More often than not, the water dish becomes the frog's toilet, so be prepared to clean it often.
  • Using distilled water is unnecessary and actually lacks important minerals. Normal tap water is fine to use as long as it has been sitting out for 24 hours or if it is treated with a water dechlorinator (sold in the reptile and fish sections at the pet store).

Lighting, Humidity, and Temperature:

The Pacman frog is nocturnal, and while it spends most of the day sleeping, it still requires a normal day/night cycle, with 10-12 hours of light per day. Supplemental lighting isn't necessary if the enclosure is located in a room that receives normal, ambient lighting during the day.

Use a thermometer and hygrometer to monitor the temperature and humidity of the habitat.

  • The substrate should be damp (but not wet), and the overall humidity should be about 60-80%. A spray bottle can be used to lightly mist the tank.
  • The daytime temperature should be 75F-85F. During the night, the temperature should be allowed to drop slightly, to about 68F-78F, but no lower than 65F.
  • If the ambient room temperature is not adequate, provide heat via a heat mat (found in the reptile section of the pet store) which, when set up on the side of the frog’s tank, should stretch over 1/3 of the enclosure. Leaving a 2/3 portion of the habitat uncovered provides the frog with a temperature gradient and a cooler area to retreat to if it so chooses.

NEVER place the enclosure in direct sunlight. It will overheat and potentially kill the frog!

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Diet and Nutrition

The Pacman frog must be fed primarily live food, especially insects. The feeding schedule depends on how much is fed each time, how big the frog is, and type of food. A younger frog should generally be fed daily, while full-grown adults can be fed every few days or even once per week (if the food item is large).

Variety is the spice of life! Offer different types of foods to ensure your frog gets all the nutrition it needs:

  • crickets
  • earthworms
  • waxworms
  • mealworms
  • roaches
  • thawed (purchased frozen) pinky and fuzzy mice

Food items like pinky and fuzzy mice usually need to be hand-fed to the frog because they are no longer alive and will not attract the frog's attention. Any time a Pacman frog is hand-fed, use long feeding tongs. Do not put hands near the mouth of a hungry frog. The risk of being bitten is real!!!

Calcium and Other Supplements: A Pacman frog's food must be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements (sold in the reptile section of the pet store) once per week. This prevents life-threatening health conditions such as metabolic bone disease.

Other Miscellaneous Care Notes

  • Enclosure Maintenance: Water dishes should be kept clean, feces should be spot-cleaned daily, and the substrate should be changed periodically to prevent mold, bacteria, and mites. The entire cage should be emptied and cleaned at least once per year.
  • Handling: The Pacman frog should not be handled. It will always consider a human hand as food, and being bitten is a risk. Also, an amphibian's skin is permeable and extremely sensitive to the oils and chemicals found on human hands.
  • Shedding Skin: Like other amphibians and reptiles, the Pacman frog sheds its skin periodically. During this time, it may yawn a lot, and it will actually eat its old skin.
  • Croaking: A male frog will sometimes croak when its cage is misted. Both a male and a female will make a screaming sound if when scared and threatened.

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Care Summary

 
 
Enclosure
15-20 gallon aquarium
Substrate
at least several inches of coconut fiber reptile bedding
Temperature
Daytime: 75F-85F, Night: 68F-78F
Humidity
60-80%
Water Dish
wide enough to allow frog to soak, but only a couple inches deep (Pacman frogs do not swim)
Food
Live crickets, earthworms, waxworms, and mealworms. Thawed pinky and fuzzy mice (hand-fed with long feeding tongs)

Enjoy caring for your Pacman frog!

Feedback

I appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I would absolutely love to hear from you! Do you have any fun stories to share about your pets? Are there any articles you'd like to see in the future? Please leave a comment or contact me. And if you have a moment, browse through my other articles.

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      Cotton 2 months ago

      Thank you for your fruitful article, it's very detailed and good to learn. However, may I just know more about its mature or breed age as I now have 2 pacman frogs with 4 months age. I just want to get myself ready for further step of cares. Your kind advice or suggestion will be much appreciated.