Lizards are my passionate interest, but they aren’t the only herps I’ve kept and bred.
I’ve always found red-eyed treefrogs interesting. One of my sons was particularly interested in frogs as a teenager, so I acquired a group of Red-Eyed Treefrogs (Agalychnis callidryas), with the intention of breeding them, as a fun project that we could enjoy together.
For breeding, keeping several individuals in a group with more males than females is said to be preferable. Supposedly males become competitive during periods of breeding, increasing the odds of success. We had 4 males and 2 females in our group.
Adult females are larger and more heavily built than males. Adult males in breeding condition have nuptial pads on their thumbs.
We successfully bred the frogs several times over about 18 months, resulting in hundreds of tiny froglets. The following guidelines are based on that experience.
Red-Eyed Treefrog Care
Red-eyed treefrogs can be housed in large glass terraria that have been created as beautiful displays of plants.
Because we wanted to limit our variables and focus on the frogs and how to breed them, we opted for a much simpler habitat: a 73 quart clear plastic storage container. For ventilation, I used a soldering iron to melt holes every couple of inches in a grid on 2 sides of the tub.
Dry paper towels served as a substrate. A shoebox sized clear plastic storage container half-filled with water served as a pond. A second identical container served as a deep food dish that kept in prey items. In the pond grew a large pothos vine. The vine was purchased in a 6″ pot, and then the pot was removed and all soil washed from the roots and the leaves thoroughly washed as well. This type of vine grows very well directly in water without soil. The vine gave some interest to the frog habitat and was something for them to crawl on. The roots gave the treefrogs easy access to the water in the pond without risk of drowning.
These frogs are not great swimmers– water depth should be shallow enough prevent accidental drowning.
This frog needs adequate ventilation and medium humidity.
Constantly damp, humid, low ventilation conditions are not good for these frogs.
We found that misting the enclosure or keeping a damp substrate was not necessary or desirable and can have a strong negative effect on the frogs. This is significant as many care guides we found on the Internet were incorrect and recommended high humidity levels of 80-100%. Those levels are too high, at least when combined with limited ventilation.
As long as there is a pond available for soaking, the frogs will hydrate themselves as needed, and the respiration of the pothos vine provides adequate ambient humidity in our situation.
In our home, ambient room temperature is about 67 on cold days and nights in the winter on up to about 78 in the summer. The room we kept the frogs in tends to warm up a few degrees more than this during the warmest part of the day. At these temperatures, these frogs thrive. We used the winter/summer temperature difference to help cycle the frogs when first breeding them. Later we found this was probably not necessary. Babies do best with temperatures kept in the mid to upper-mid 70s.
If the room is well-lit and the frog enclosure is kept near a well-lit window (but out of direct sunlight which could cook the frogs), then no further lighting is needed.
All the usual food insects may be offered. Our primary feeder was dubia roaches. Occasional mealworms and crickets helped to round out the diet. Calcium was dusted on prey items every feeding and a multivitamin with d3 is used once every week. We offered 5 insects per frog and it usually took 2 or 3 days for all the insects to be consumed. Because of the deep food dish we offered food in (a plastic shoebox style container) food items did not wander about the terrarium and attack frogs before being consumed. Baby frogs were fed fruit flies, baby mealworms and baby crickets.
Red-Eyed Treefrog Breeding
We started breeding by allowing our frogs to overwinter at our cooler room temperatures. We also cut back on the amount fed quite a bit, until late winter. Spring came, the frogs warmed up, and we fed to fatten them up, waiting for the first rains.
We built our rain chamber to breed the frogs in.
And we waited.
That year was a dry spring.
Frogs are said to be sensitive to barometric pressure, so attempting to breed them when it is actually raining outside is supposed to improve the chances of success significantly.
Finally the rains came and we put our frogs in the chamber and turned on the pump.
Our rain chamber was simple to construct. A couple of 73-quart plastic storage containers– one placed upside down over the other, served as the terrarium. I cut a several inch wide strip of plastic table cloth and the boys and I taped this to the outside of the top enclosure most of the way down and then tucked this into the bottom enclosure to keep water from leaking out onto the floor during the rain. You can get a better idea of this “rainskirt” by looking at the rain chamber in the middle of the picture above. I have no doubt there are better ways to do this, but we were using materials we already had on hand without buying anything.
I used a small pond pump and ran the water line from the pump up to the ceiling of the chamber and fastened it there. This consisted of clear tubing. I made a circle of the tubing that was nearly the diameter of the top of the rain chamber. I drilled many little holes in all directions in the tubing and bent the end over and fastened it down so the water was forced out of the little holes when the pump came on. I also hung a big pothos vine by its roots up there, so the vines dangled down to the bottom of the chamber and into the water, allowing the frogs a way out of the water so they would not drown. Enough water was added to just cover the pump. A timer was set on the pump so that it came on 4 times in 24 hours: a short time in the mid-morning, a short time in late afternoon (short times about 30 minutes), a long time in the late evening (4 hours), a medium time around 2 am (2 hours). This was very effective. The frogs always paired off and produced eggs within 48 hours.
As time went on with a little experimentation, I found that the winter cooling was not necessary, nor was spring or summer weather, nor the rainy weather outdoors. The frogs would breed any time of year. When I felt the females looked plump enough, I put them in the chamber, even in the winter when temperatures were cooler and daylight hours shorter.
The females would sometimes lay eggs on different nights rather than all on one night. To avoid frogs climbing on and damaging the eggs, I preferred to cut the leaves with the eggs stuck to them from the vine and tie them on strings over water in another storage container where they developed and hatched, the tadpoles dropping into the water below several days after the eggs were laid.
Watching the eggs develop was a lot of fun. The eggs are clear, like living jewels, so the developing embryos inside are clearly visible, wriggling around in the eggs.
Red-Eyed Treefrog Tadpole Care
Caring for the tadpoles is really easy. We used a soft foam style aquarium filter which prevents tiny newly hatched tadpoles from being harmed. When setting the tub up as an aquarium, I added a handful of java moss and a few java ferns from our fish tank. This provides beneficial bacteria that helps keep the water pure and tiny life for the tads to feed on when they first hatch. Tadpoles can be treated like aquarium fish for the most part– they eat tropical fish flakes of all sorts, and I made sure to feed spirulina flakes or pellets every couple of feedings.
A simple and inexpensive sponge filter connected to an air-pump kept the water clean and oxygenated. The indirect sunlight from our window was all that was required to keep the plants healthy.
Caring for Red-Eyed Treefrog froglets
Once the tadpoles develop back legs, front legs can come on really quickly, so be prepared when those back legs come in. Front legs are kind of amazing– almost like they develop inside and then pop out suddenly. We found the safest thing to do is transfer late stage tadpoles into a transition terrarium. This is a very simple setup. A thin layer of aquarium gravel with water filling nearly to its top. A little puddle is made in the middle of the gravel by digging out a very shallow pit with gently sloping sides. This works far better for transitioning froglets than other setups we tried (floating vegetation, a big rock to climb out on, tilting the whole container slightly to create a gentle beach).
For a day or two after leaving the puddle, red-eyed treefrog froglets climb and stick to the walls of their terrarium and just sit and absorb their tails.
Once the tails are gone, the tiny red-eyed treefrog froglets are transfered into rearing terraria; smaller enclosures with slightly damp paper towel substrate that is changed daily. They need to be kept in the mid to mid upper 70s and fed plenty of tiny insects as described already.