Other common names: Argentine wide-mouthed Frog; Escuerzo, Ornate Horned Frog; Bell’s Horned Frog; Pac Man Frog; Pac-Man Frog; Pacman Frog
Scientific name: Ceratophrys ornata
This huge, colorful frog is likely the world’s most popularly-kept amphibian. If attention is given to diet and tank hygiene (and one’s fingers are kept out of their reach!), the Argentine Horned Frog makes a fascinating, long-lived and relatively low-maintenance pet.
The Argentine Horned Frog is found in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil. Terrestrial except when breeding, this sit-and-wait predator inhabits pampas/grassland regions and irrigated farm fields.
Appearance / Health:
The Argentine Horned Frog is absolutely rotund in build, often being wider than its 5 inch snout-vent length. The legs are tiny in comparison to the body, while the head is noticeably large (earning it the popular name of Pac-Man Frog). The upper body is generally dark green or brownish-green in color, and marked with numerous brown, yellow and red spots and blotches. A huge array of “designer” color morphs and hybrids with related species have been developed by breeders.
These hardy frogs have reached 18+ years of age in captivity. Metabolic bone disease invariably develops if a calcium-poor diet is provided. “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections resulting from poor water quality and soiled substrate are perhaps the most common causes of death in captive animals. Horned Frogs swallow whatever enters their huge mouths along with meals, and are prone to intestinal blockages from gravel and other substrates.
Behavior / Temperament:
Argentine Horned Frogs have a “confident” attitude and are quite sedentary. They adjust well to relatively small enclosures and exhibit none of the stress-related behaviors seen in more “typical” large frogs.
The Horned Frog’s powerful jaws are equipped with tooth-like bony projections known as odontoid structures, and bite readily in self-defense. They will not distinguish a hand moving in their vicinity from a potential meal. As is true for all amphibians, Argentine Horned Frogs should be handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. Amphibian skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth.
Argentine Horned Frogs fare well in small enclosures. An adult may be kept in a 15-20 gallon terrarium. A bare-bottomed aquarium, tilted on one side to create a small water section, is ideal, as it can easily be dumped and cleaned. Alternatively, a water bowl can be utilized.
Horned Frogs do not require plants or other furnishings and are quite content without much of a hiding spot. They feel secure if able to nestle into sheet moss or push below a plastic plant.
Bare-bottomed terrariums or washable cage liners are best means of preventing substrate ingestion. Sphagnum or sheet moss may be used, but feeding should be done via tongs (never with fingers!).
Ammonia from waste products is extremely lethal, and should be controlled by daily water changes and frequent substrate replacement or cleaning. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used in aquariums. Liquid preparations that work instantly are available at pet stores.
A temperature range of 72-85 F suits them well. A sub-tank heater under one section of the terrarium is the simplest means of provide a healthful temperature gradient. Horned Frogs do not require UVB light, although low UVB levels, and UVA, may be of some benefit. Daily misting and a water bowl will provide adequate humidity.
Juveniles have insatiable appetites and invariably try to swallow even like-sized tank-mates. Adults may co-exist, but should be fed separately to avoid feeding “accidents”.
In some parts of the range, vertebrates, especially other frogs, make up 95+% of the Argentine Horned Frog’s diet. Birds, invertebrates, lizards, snakes and small rodents are also taken.
Given the high proportion of vertebrates in their natural diet, it follows that Horned Frogs require a great deal of calcium. Whole fishes and pink mice are ideal calcium sources; crickets alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not sufficient.
Horned Frogs do well on relatively simple fare…fish, earthworms, roaches, locusts, and crickets can make up most of their diet. Goldfish as a steady diet they may lead to health problems, and pink mice should be used less often than fishes (once each 7 days). While some success has been had by feeding adult mice to Horned Frogs, over-use of rodents may lead to liver problems and fur impactions. Crayfishes, hornworms, butterworms, silkworms and other commercially-available species should also be provided regularly.
Food (other than pinkies, crayfish, and fish) should be powdered with a Calcium/Vitamin D3 supplement. A multiple vitamin/mineral supplement may be used 2-3 times weekly.
Youngsters do best when fed daily or every-other-day. Adults require only 1-3 meals per week.
Naturally-colored males may be distinguished from females by their mottled throats. Color morphs can be difficult to sex. Females may be a bit larger and stouter, but this varies greatly among individuals. Potential breeders should be subjected to a cooling off period of 6-8 weeks at 62-65 F (after a 10 day fast). A commercial rain-system or rain chamber, or increased misting, is useful in stimulating breeding behavior.
Gravid females produce 500-2,000+ eggs, which are deposited at and just below the water’s surface. At 78 F, the tadpoles hatch within 3-5 days. Amazingly, the tadpoles can emit distress calls above and below the water, and seem not to prey upon siblings (unless other food is not available!). The carnivorous tadpoles may be reared on a diet of blackworms, chopped earthworms, pre-killed minnows, and commercial turtle pellets. Metamorphosis usually occurs within 3-6 weeks.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
large appetite, great beginner pets, entertaining, beautiful colors, healthy, low maintenance
territorial species, sharp teeth, aggressive, strong jaws, real loud, fungus, health issues
big head, voracious eaters, moist substrate, color morphsI, necessary slime coating
Fat little frogs
What do you get when you cross Jaba the Hut and a garbage disposal? The answer to that bad joke is of course the pac-man frog. I bought my first pac-man about ten years prior to writing this review, and while I definitely love the little guys, they can be a handful. My oldest frog, which I named in poor creative taste, is Packy. He's reached maturity and is now about the size of a small dinner plate. Although they grow to prodigious sizes, I have come to realize they don't need much space.
Packy is also the first (and might I add last) amphibian to ever bite me, and incase you were wondering these guys DO have teeth. They are tenacious eaters who bury themselves in their enclosure's bedding, waiting for anything they can fit in their mouths to cross in front of their field of vision. These guys don't differentiate between bugs, mice, or even stray fingers. As tough as they may sound however, there are health issues that need to be addressed with this species. I once had two of my frogs die of the dreaded red leg fungus. Over all these little guys are a fun amphibian to keep, but they do take a little more work than you're average reptile. If you are willing to put in the time, effort, and money, these guys can make a good addition to your collection..
From derek12261984 Feb 19 2015 11:52PM
Simple, but a little boring.
I love pacman (named for their shape) frogs, but they really don't do much at all. In the wild these frogs will dig down into the earth, creating a dark, moist hole, often covering themselves up. Then they will sit there, and wait. They will wait forever, until a prey item happens to walk up and then they will simply spring up, open their mouths, hope that the creature falls into it and back to their hole. In captivity, they are pretty similar.
You can dig them out and hold them, but otherwise you're not going to be seeing much happen. If you want to make it more interesting, you can feed them (but use tongs!) and watching them eat is quite interesting. I feed babies live locusts; but most of my adults will eat defrosted mice instead. I call them the dustbins of my collection. If a snake doesn't want to eat that week, one of my horned frogs will always eat the leftovers.
Don't be tempted to give them a large enclosure with a large water area. This frog can't swim - and will actually drown if it accidentally wanders into the water area and can't manage to get out. They have tiny legs, and walking or hopping is quite difficult for them. Giving them lots of space is admirable, but all you'll get is multiple holes in different locations and the frog may very occasionally move between them.
Very simple to look after, but not really that rewarding - this could actually make them quite suitable for children who don't want to give them much time & attention, but want to be able to get him out and hold him and feed him. Just bear in mind that this frog does still require specific temperatures and humidity - so you will need a reptile enclosure with the right heating and it needs to be sprayed with the right amount of water, so parents will need to ensure the setup is correct and supervise..
From Athravan Jun 14 2015 4:41AM
Owning a Horned Frog
I was drawn to owning one of these frogs after watching the countless amusing video's of the 'Pacman' frog on youtube, what's cooler than a screaming frog that can eat whole mice the same size as them?!
In reality, the life as a horned frog owner is not that amusing, I never braved picking up my frog, therefore cleaning was a bit of an arduous task, and for me there wasn't much reward in frog ownership.
There were always mice thawing on the counter, always a mess to clear up in the tank, all for a pet you couldn't have a cuddle with? I think I would choose a hamster over a frog any day!.
From Owlabilly Jan 11 2016 1:47PM