Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys sp.)

Horned Frog or Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys sp.) Care Sheet

The Pacman Frog also known as the horned frog is a strictly terrestrial amphibian from South America that is a very poor swimmer. Instead, they spend most of their time in a humid environment among damp leaf litter.

They have horn-like projections above the eyes which resemble the petioles of leaves. “Horns” provide ideal camouflage on the forest floor.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience level:  Beginner
  • Family: Ceratophryidae
  • Habits: Nocturnal
  • Size:  When fully grown this frog can grow to around 8 inches in length. Females are larger than males.
  • Lifespan: They can live to be over 15 years in captivity but live an average of 10 years. But in the wild, they just live 1 to 5 years

Why Choose A Pacman Frog As A Pet

They are awesome looking with at least 18 popular color morphs. The color morphs range from strawberry color, to red and yellow, mint green, albino, and many more.

They are easy to care for. The set up required is extremely easy compared to other species and their diet isn’t very complicated.

However, for people who like their pets to be active or interactive the Horned Frog may not be a good match, as it is not the best pet for handling

What You Should Know Before Getting A Horned Frog

What Does A Pacman Frog Look Like?

Regular And Albino Horned Frogs
Regular And Albino Horned Frogs

Horned Frogs are commonly sold in a variety of color morphs like Albino, ‘Tri-color’, or ‘Fantasy”.

The name “Pacman” comes after their disproportionately large mouth that reminds of the video-game.

Pacman Frog Reproduction

Horned Frogs reproduce with male frogs approaching females both on land and shallow water. They clasp on to the female, in a variation of axillary amplexus. In other words, called “neck amplexus”.

Breeding is triggered by heavy rainfall. After successful fertilization, the female carries fertilized eggs (on her back) until she finds a suitable place for the incubation.

Breeding

Horned Frogs aren’t difficult to breed in captivity. Before breeding, the pair requires a 60-day hibernation period in a dry, cool environment.  

After this hibernation period, the pair should be stimulated by simulating a moist, rainy season. Rain is made by using misters inside the cage or a spray bottle.

Within a few days of the onset of the rain, Pacman Frogs will lay up to 1,000 eggs.

Video On How To Breed Pacman Frog

Eggs Laying

A female can lay up to 1000 eggs at a time.

Eggs Hatching

Once laid, eggs hatch into tadpoles within two to three days (sometimes more).

Tadpoles Development

Tadpoles are aggressive from the moment of birth and they often attack each other in the water. Within three to five weeks, the tadpoles will begin their metamorphosis into little froglets.

Once the tadpoles grow legs and absorb the tail, they can eat food suitable for a juvenile frog.

Pacman Frog Habitat

Albino Ceratophrys ornata or Pacman Frog
Albino Ceratophrys ornata or Pacman Frog

Enclosure Requirements

Horned Frogs can be settled up either in an aquatic or in a semi-aquatic habitat. 

An aquatic set up can be made in a plastic storage box container with 1 square foot to 3 square feet of floor space permanently flooded with about one-quarter to one-half inch of water.

The water level should not be higher than the frog’s mouth. As with the husbandry of all amphibians, use only dechlorinated or bottled spring water. The water must stay very clean. 

Substrate

An alternative kind of enclosure is a 20-gallon aquarium with a screened lid, and cypress mulch, orchid bark, or organic topsoil for the substrate.

Keep the substrate damp but not wet.  They do not need much space as they are not very active.

A cage top is recommended to help maintain temperature and humidity but Horned Frogs are not known to be at risk of escaping. 

The substrate should be misted daily to help keep the tank humidity over 50 percent.

Horned Frogs must be kept individually to prevent them from eating each other.

Video On Terrarium Setup

Temperature

You should maintain the temperatures between 75° and 80° F (24° to 27° C.) during the day and drop a few degrees at night. 

Heat is best supplied by using an under-tank heater as overhead incandescent bulbs can be too drying for your frog.  

You can use Zacro Reptile Heat Pad or VIVOSUN Reptile Heating Pad.

Humidity

An appropriate level of humidity is a must. In fact. these frogs should be misted daily to ensure proper humidity.

In case you are not in for hand misting, you can use a reptile Humidifier/Fogger which has a very good quality/price relationship.

You should also provide a shallow bowl of water, one that allows the frog to drink and hydrate without drowning.

Lighting

Horned Frogs should be kept out of direct sunlight. For lighting, regular room light may even be enough.

But a 12-hour light and 12-hour dark cycle should be maintained. Thus, some owners recommend providing a UVA/UVB light for this 12-hour cycle. 

Moreover, a low UVB light will help your Horned Frog to convert some of its food intake into vitamin D3.  The exception to the UVB bulb is Albino Horned Frogs.

Feeding

huge green pacman frog seen in front isolated on a white background
huge green pacman frog seen in front isolated on a white background

Horned Frogs have a big appetite and will eat anything they can, even if it doesn’t fit properly in their mouth. They will easily become engorged or overweight if their food sources are not managed.

Juvenile Horned Frogs should be fed daily with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements added to the meal 2 to 3 times a week. Juveniles will eat small earthworms, pinkie mice, crickets, and waxworms.

Adult Horned Frogs can handle larger prey items such as earthworms, locusts, crickets, cockroaches, mealworms, fuzzies to large mice, feeder fish, slugs, and snails. Adults should be given supplements a least once a week.

Culturing your food source is an interesting part of being an amphibian keeper. Earthworms, mealworms, and crickets are all relatively easy to culture and simple to keep. Check our article “How to keep crickets alive!

Temperament & Handling

Green Fantasy Horned Frog
Green Fantasy Horned Frog

Horned Frogs are docile pets. But they do not tolerate much handling.  Their counterparts in the wild have been known to bite if they feel threatened.

If you happen to be bitten by your Horned Frog it is unadvisable to pull your hand away from the bite as you can damage your frog’s jaw that way.

Holding the frog under running water should encourage your Horned Frog to let go and a simple antiseptic should be applied to the bitten area.

Horned Frogs are sedentary, burrowing into the substrate and lying in wait to ambush prey, much like Pac-Man lurking in the corners of the video screen, waiting patiently to ambush the unsuspecting ghost.

Despite this passivity, their appetite matches their size, and they will attempt to eat anything that moves within striking distance of where they sit on the ground. Thus, if you need to hold them, you should do it from behind.

Health Concerns

Yellow Fantasy Horned Frog
Yellow Fantasy Horned Frog

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 dermatosepticemia 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, zygomycoses, chromomycoses, 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.   

Dietary Problems

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.

In addition, elevated levels of vitamin A may also interfere with the normal metabolism of vitamin D and contribute to metabolic bone disease. However, most often 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).

But, 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 Horned Frog

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

Red Flags

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hazy or cloudy eyes
  • Weight loss

Interesting Facts

There are 8 recognized species of Horned Frogs:

Scientific nameCommon NameDistribution
Ceratophrys aurita (Raddi, 1823)Brazilian Horned Frog or Wied’s frogBrazil.
Ceratophrys calcarata Boulenger, 1890Colombian Horned FrogColombia and Venezuela
Ceratophrys cornuta (Linnaeus, 1758)Suriname Horned Frogthe northern part of South America
Ceratophrys cranwelli Barrio, 1980Cranwell’s Horned FrogGran Chaco region of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil.
Ceratophrys joazeirensis Mercadal de Barrio, 1986Joazeiro Horned FrogBrazil.
Ceratophrys ornata (Bell, 1843)Argentine Horned FrogArgentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
Ceratophrys stolzmanni Steindachner, 1882Stolzmann’s Horned FrogEcuador and Peru
Ceratophrys testudo Andersson, 1945Ecuador Horned FrogEcuador.

Although Horned Frogs can swallow animals almost half their size, they sometimes attempt to eat things larger than they are.

Their teeth, as well as bony projections in the front of the jaw, can make it difficult for them to release prey after taking it in their mouth. Consequently, even leading to death by choking in some cases.

They love to burrow into soil or moss. They do not actively chase prey like some frogs. This inactivity comes from their instincts to burrow in the substrate and patiently wait for prey to go by.

Large individuals have bite forces comparable to those of mammalian predators.

Source: Lappin, A. K., Wilcox, S.C., Moriarty D. J., Stoeppler A. R., Evans, S. E., Jones, M.E.H. (2017). “Bite force in the horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) with implications for extinct giant frogs”. Scientific Reports. 7 (1): available at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-11968-6

Moreover, Horned Frogs have a very sticky tongue which they use to catch prey and pull it into their jaws.

Source: Kleinteich, T., Gorb, S.N. (2014). “Tongue adhesion in the horned frog Ceratophrys sp”. Scientific Reports. 4: 5225. doi:10.1038/srep05225 available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24921415/

Predators

Natural enemies of Horned Frogs are birds and snakes. However, and strangely, they are their major predators. Horned frog tadpoles frequently battle it out with each other immediately after birth. Adult specimens also routinely dine on tadpoles

Conservation Status

Horned Frogs are Near Threatened on the endangered species list. So they aren’t an immediate concern but still should be watched. Like all amphibians, changes in the environment and pollution can hurt the species because of their delicate skin

Price and Availability

Horned Frogs are available in different morphs from $24.99 on at Josh’s Frogs.

Horned Frog Care Video

Conclusion

The Pacman 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 Pixie Frog, Whites Tree Frog, and of course the dart 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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