Red Eyed Tree Frog Care

Agalycnis callidryas

Red Eyed Tree Frog

Red eyed tree frog by brian.gratwicke

The red eyed tree frog, Agalycnis callidryas is a striking tree frog which inhabits the rainforests of Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. The scientific name Agalycnis callidryas, translates to mean ‘beautiful tree nymph’ which as I’m sure you’ll agree, is a rather fitting name.

Red eyed tree frogs are a medium to large species of tree frog, with females reaching up to 77mm (snout to vent) with males being somewhat smaller maxing out at 59mm. They are characterized by their large distinctive eyes by which they get their names. Their flanks are also covered in very attractive blue and white-cream markings.

In the wild red eyed tree frogs live in tropical lowland and montane forest where there is a continuous forest cover. They are an adaptable species which also do well in logged areas throughout their range. That said, the population is said to be declining (IUCN) and at threat from habitat destruction.

These amphibians are a popular pet species and rightly so. They make a great display species and a fantastic talking point.

Red Eyed Tree Frog housing

Red eyed tree frogs are, as you would imagine, arboreal and as such height is more important than floor space in their vivaria. I would recommend at least a 18x18x24in (Length x Width x Height) vivarium for 1-3 individuals. Red eyed tree frogs are communal and do well when they have company, I would therefore always recommend housing them in pairs or small groups over housing them individually.

When designing the red eyed tree frog vivarium and thinking about the decor try to be nice and creative. Make use of a variety of branches, perches, and cork bark tubes. Use fake and real plants to create hides, retreats and overall a natural looking vivarium. Not only will having a natural looking vivarium look good, setting it up in this fashion will result in having a variety of retreats, hides and shelters of various heights and sizes.

For the substrate you can use something sterile and clinical such as tissue paper which due to the moisture you will have to change at least every other day. This is recommended for youngsters and quarantined individuals because it makes them very easy to monitor and carries the lowest impaction risk of any substrate. For older individuals you can use something a little more natural looking. Peat moss, untreated compost or, my personal favourite, coconut fibre are all good options for red eyed tree frog substrate. They all allow you to anchor plants in them which opens up further avenues for your creativity.

Avoid using bark chips and other large particulate substrate in your red eyed tree frog vivarium, they carry a risk of impaction as the frog can ingest them whilst overzealously lunging for food.

A water bowl from which to drink should be available at all times. Despite being frogs they aren’t great swimmers do ensure the bowl isn’t too deep and there are easy entrance and exit points. Water for the water bowl should be dechlorinated, the best way to do this is to leave water out on the side for 24h after which the chlorine will have evaporated. Alternatively you can use bottled spring water.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

Red eyed tree frog by Roland & Sonja

Temperature and humidity

 Red eyed tree frogs don’t need it particularly hot and do well at temperatures of 74-78f which you can achieve using a heat mat attached to the side of the vivarium (on a thermostat!). You can also use a heat emitting bulb or a light bulb but be cautious as these do dry the air out so you will need to keep a closer eye on humidity and compensate for the drying effect. Bulbs need a guard and thermostat, no exceptions.

Humidity should be kept at about 70%, this is easily achieved by keeping the substrate damp and giving them a good misting once a day. Make sure ventilation is high so the air does not stagnate (I prefer to have one side of the vivarium to be completely composed of mesh).

Lighting, now here is controversial subject.

There are many conflicting opinions, people against using supplementary UVB lighting for red eyed tree frogs say they are nocturnal and therefore would not come in to contact with day light and therefore do not need it. Those for using supplementary lighting claim that they will still be exposed to the light during the day and they claim to have seen benefits regarding the health of their animals when using UVB.

That said, the jury is still out, and will continue to still be out until somebody does a proper randomized study looking at the affect of UVB on red eyed tree frog health using some proxy such as growth rates or fecundity.

My opinion on it is simply that it doesn’t hurt, so why not use it? It carries other advantages too, a well lit vivarium is a more attractive vivarium so that is reason enough to use it. Also, if you wish to have live plants in there as I do then you will need a lighting tube or else they won’t grow. With this in mind I tend to use a weak UVB light tube (somewhere in the region of 2%, however I often use spares so may use up to 5% UVB on occasion) in all of my red eyed tree frog vivariums.

Feeding Red Eyed Tree Frogs

Red eyed tree frogs are insectivorous and as such do well on a variety of gut loaded insects. Make the staple of your red eyed tree frogs out of crickets, locusts and cockroaches (Cuban burrowing cockroaches or lobster roaches make a great option). You should gut load these with a commercial gutload or a diet of cheap dog food, oats and cereals.

To add variation to the diet you can offer flies, moths, waxworms (and waxmoths), silkworms, etc. To get flies easily purchase some maggots from your local fishing tackle shop, leave them in a warm space to pupate then pop the pupa in fridge and viola a steady supply of flies to feed to your frogs.

Feed juveniles as much as they’ll eat daily, and adults as much as they’ll eat every 2-3 days.

Food should be dusted with calcium and a good vitamin/mineral supplement such as nutrobal. Calcium is difficult to overdose on so can be used regularly whereas you need to be more careful with the other supplements. As such I like to dust with my vitamin powder once a week in adults and twice a week in juveniles. Dust all other food with a pure calcium powder. To clarify, whenever you are not dusting with vitamins, dust with calcium powder as you can overdo it with vitamins/minerals, but not with calcium.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

Red eyed tree frog by teague_o

Handling Red Eyed Tree Frogs

Generally you shouldn’t handle your red eyed tree frogs, they should be treated as a look but don’t touch pet as they don’t really enjoy being handled in the way something like a bearded dragon or leopard gecko does.

If you do need to handle for whatever reason be very gentle and ensure you use a dampened hand (better still a powder free latex glove) as a dry hand saps the moisture from the frogs skin and can cause what appear to be burn marks.

Breeding Red Eyed Tree Frogs

Red eyed tree frogs are stunning pets which make a great display species. Spend time crafting their enclosure to make it look natural and you will have a centre piece for the room. Keep them relatively warm (74-78f) and humid (70%) and feed them a diet of gutloaded insects.

Enjoy!

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