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Argentine Horned Frog

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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

The Basics:
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.

Housing:
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”.

Diet:
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.

Breeding:
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

wonderful

large appetite, great beginner pets, entertaining, beautiful colors, healthy, low maintenance

challenging

territorial species, sharp teeth, aggressive, strong jaws, real loud, fungus, health issues

interesting

big head, voracious eaters, moist substrate, color morphsI, necessary slime coating

Health Tip

Argentine Horned Frog

From Jun 14 2015 4:41AM

5/5

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