Gray Tree Frog (Hyla Versicolor & Hyla Chrysoscelis)

By Snaketracks / August 10, 2020

Gray Tree Frog (Hyla Versicolor & Hyla Chrysoscelis) Care Sheet

There are two species of Gray Tree Frog which can be individualized by their scientific names: Hyla Versicolor and Hyla Chrysoscelis.

Both Gray Tree Frog species inhabit a wide range from southern Ontario and Maine, westward to central Texas, northwest to Manitoba, and northern Florida. An isolated colony is also noted in New Brunswick.

The two species appear physically identical, and consequently, more studies are necessary to delineate where the species overlap (Collins and Conant, 1998).

However, they can be distinguished from their more southern, genetically disparate relative, Cope’s Gray Tree Frog.

They are small, nocturnal, arboreal, and are variable in color owing to their ability to camouflage themselves.

It is awesome how Hyla Versicolor can change from nearly black to nearly white. However, they change in color at a slower rate than a chameleon.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience level: Beginner
  • Family: Hylidae
  • Scientific Name: Hyla Versicolor & Hyla Chrysoscelis
  • Habits: Nocturnal
  • Size: Adult male Gray Tree Frogs are around 1.25-2 inches (32-52 millimeters) in length. Females are typically slightly larger than males. They are the smallest arboreal frog in this list and probably the quickest too
  • Other Physical Features: Ectothermic, Heterothermic, bilateral symmetry
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Gray Tree Frogs varies due to predation. One captive Gray Tree Frog lived for over seven years in captivity. The potential lifespan in captivity and the wild is unknown. (Harding, 1997)
  • Predators: Gray Tree Frogs are a source of food for a wide variety of predators, such as skunks, opossums, raccoons, and snakes. These predators vary depending on where the frogs live.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern on IUCN Red List

Why Should You Choose A Gray Tree Frog As A Pet?

Because they have a warty appearance, they are easy to care for, easy to find and are very hardy.

What Does A Gray Tree Frog Look Like?

Cope's Gray Tree frog (Hyla Chrysoscelis) sitting on leaf
Cope’s Gray Tree frog (Hyla Chrysoscelis) sitting on leaf

The upper surface of the body has a blotchy pattern that resembles lichen. But the most interesting part of the Gray Tree Frog is the golden yellow-orange coloring on the inner parts of the back thighs.

The upper surfaces of the legs feature a dark, banded pattern, which contrasts starkly with the bright yellow or orange undersides of the legs. Scientists believe the bright coloration serves as a warning for predators not to attack.

The Gray Tree Frog has webbed hands and feet. The enlarged tip of each digit produces an adhesive fluid that allows this species to better grip trees and improves its climbing abilities.

Additionally, they have a white patch under each eye that makes them a little more distinctive from other frogs.

Gray Tree Frog Reproduction

Grey Tree Frog (hyla versicolor)
Grey Tree Frog (hyla versicolor)

Males begin the mating call in early spring, shortly after emerging from hibernation. It is a loud, musical call, that can last as long as four hours and whose purpose is to establish a breeding territory and to find a mate.

They might vocalize competitively at the height of breeding periods.

As this is a strictly nocturnal species,  mating calls and chorusing are most frequent at night. But individuals often call during daytime in response to thunder or other loud noises.

Gray Tree Frog Mating Call Videos

Females do not call but they instigate mating by approaching a calling male and touching him before rotating 90 degrees.

In the mid-range areas, males begin calling in late April to early May. Males call to females from trees and bushes that are usually close to, or overhanging, streams or standing water.

The exact timing of breeding varies based on temperature and their location throughout the range. Most reproduction takes place early on, although the calling season lasts from late April to early August.

Individuals may mate up to three times in a season.

Males are very territorial and will fight other males to defend their area. Fights may last 30 to 90 seconds and consist of wrestling, shoving, kicking and head butting until the subordinate male retreats.

The individuals engage in amplexus, a mating position in which the male grasps the female with his front legs, as the female deposits 1,000 to 2,000 eggs which are externally fertilized by the male.

Source: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/gray-tree-frog

Mating System: Polygynous

Breeding Interval:  Breed once yearly

Eggs Laying

Clutches include  1,000 to 2,000 eggs. Since mating occurs while the frogs are floating in the water, eggs are deposited into the water in small clusters, which attach themselves to structures via a transparent, mucous outer layer.

Eggs Hatching

Hatching begins about after three to seven days, depending on the water temperature.

About 10 minutes to an hour before hatching, the embryo has to release fluid to help break down the wall of the egg.

Tadpoles Development

Tadpoles have rounded bodies (as opposed to the more elongated bodies of stream species) with high, wide tails that can be colored red if predators are in the system.

Tadpole development depends on water temperature with metamorphosis typically occurring in 45 to 65 days.

When a Gray Tree Frog is young and newly metamorphosed, it usually remains near the forest floor. As it ages, it may transition to living in the forest canopy.

Gray Tree frogs become sexually mature after two years.

Gray Tree Frog Habitat

Cope's Gray Tree Frog (Hyla Chrysoscelis)
Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla Chrysoscelis)

Enclosure Requirements

Due to their size, they can be housed comfortably in a relatively small enclosure  The minimum size terrarium for 1 or 2 frogs is only around 30 x 30 x 45 cm.

In the wild, this frog loves to climb and lives high in the trees for much of the year, and therefore, they appreciate a tall, vertical aquarium that lets them get to a higher vantage point.

A good option is Exo Terra All Glass Terrarium Kit, for Reptiles and Amphibians.

As suggested, the selected enclosure should be enriched with lots of climbing facilities. Reptile Vines and Driftwood are two good accessory options.

They do well with plenty of live plants and other things for them to climb, such as wood and rocks.

Cleaning

To clean the enclosure you can use TetraFauna AquaSafe Reptile & Amphibian Water Conditioner.

Temperature

Depending on the ambient temperature in your home, the Gray Tree Frog may not need any supplemental heating.

It lives in a variety of conditions in the wild so is fairly durable to diverse temperatures, but stability will make them more comfortable.

If your house is a little on the cool side, adding a low watt heat lamp. Aim for 77°F to 80°F at the highest point.

Humidity

Mist the cage twice a day to maintain humidity and make sure they have access to chemical-free (un-chlorinated) water.

Use a hygrometer inside the tank to measure the relative humidity.

Feeding

Grey Tree Frog (hyla versicolor) on tree
Grey Tree Frog (hyla versicolor) on tree

Gray Tree Frogs happily eat mealworms (create a mealworm farm), crickets (create a cricket farm), and wax worms(create a wax worm farm). Feed them just before you turn off the lights for the night.

Insects can be gut loaded in advance. Products like Zoo Med Reptivite can offer your Gray Tree Frog calcium to ensure healthy bone growth with the correct 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio together with the amino acid complex all the vitamins and minerals your frog requires to grow and stay healthy.

Temperament & Handling

They are one of the less interactive frogs on this list.  They are a little difficult to catch and handling can be stressful for the frog.

These frogs do excrete a toxic substance that causes extreme discomfort to sensitive skin.

If you must handle your frog wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after.

Health Concerns

Grey tree frog (hyla-versicolor) perched on mushroom
Grey tree frog (hyla-versicolor) perched on mushroom

In general,the majority of diseases of amphibians maintained in captivity will relate directly or indirectly to husbandry and management.

This is partly due to the high permeability of their skin; they are very susceptible to toxic insult, and a variety of chemicals may be problematic in wild or captive animals.

Some of the more common amphibian diseases with bacterial etiologies include bacterial dermato septicemia or “red leg syndrome,” flavobacteriosis, mycobacteriosis, and chlamydiosis.

The most common viral diseases of amphibians are caused by ranaviruses. Mycotic and mycotic-like organisms cause several diseases among amphibians, including chytridiomycosis, zygomycosis, chromomycosis, saprolegniasis, and ichthyophoniasis.

Protozoan parasites of amphibians include a variety of amoeba, ciliates, flagellates, and sporozoans.

Common metazoan parasites include various myxozoans, helminths (particularly trematodes and nematodes), and arthropods.

Commonly encountered non-infectious disease etiologies for neoplasia, absolute or specific nutritional deficiencies or overloads, chemical toxicities, and inadequate husbandry or environmental management.

Of the specific dietary problems that affect amphibians, some of the more commonly encountered challenges are the vitamin and mineral imbalances related to metabolic bone disease.

Specifically, these imbalances include the failure to ingest or adequately process vitamin D3, calcium, or phosphorus to maintain them in the proper ratios.

Elevated levels of vitamin A may also interfere with the normal metabolism of vitamin D and contribute to metabolic bone disease.

Most often, however, the metabolic bone disease is caused by low levels of calcium or improper calcium: phosphorus ratios in the insect prey (Wright and Whitaker 2001).

Many insects used as food or prey, including mealworms, waxworms, earthworms, and fruit flies, have low levels of calcium or imbalanced calcium: phosphorus ratios (Barker et al. 1998).

It is possible to correct this calcium deficiency by feeding the insects calcium-rich food or by dusting the insects with a calcium-rich powder.

Source: Diseases of Amphibians Christine L. Densmore, David Earl Green ILAR Journal, Volume 48, Issue 3, 2007, Pages 235–254, https://doi.org/10.1093/ilar.48.3.235

Signs Of A Healthy Gray Tree Frog

  • Hides often
  • Eats vigorously
  • Clear eyes and smooth skin

* keep in mind that this is a nocturnal species, therefore it is more active during night-time

Red Flags

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hazy or cloudy eyes
  • Does not scape away from capture
  • Weight loss

Interesting Facts

The Gray Tree Frog hibernates in the winter by taking refuge in trees.

It survives freezing temperatures by producing glycerol to “freeze” itself while maintaining interior metabolic processes at a very slow rate.

Price and Availability

Gray Tree Frogs are available at Back Water Reptiles for $9.99 (captive breed), at Underground Reptiles from $7.99 to $19.99 (field-collected) and at Reptile City for $19.99.

Gray Tree Frog Handling Video

Conclusion

The Gray Tree Frog is one of our top frogs when it comes to choosing one as a pet. They are easy to care for, not picky eaters, and just look cool.

Other cool frogs which also make great pets include the Red-eyed Tree Frog, Oriental Fire-bellied Toad, and of course the Pacman Frog. Be sure to check out our best pet frogs article to see all of our favorites!

What frog do you own or plan on getting? What made you choose that or them? We love hearing from you so let us know in the comments below!

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