The pacman frog is a South American horned frog that is known for its large mouth and stomach, and a variety of beautiful colors. Its scientific name is ceratophrys. Its nickname “Pacman frog” was inspired by the large and round shape it shares with the character in the Pacman game. There are about 8 species of the Pacman frog. They include;
- Ceratophrys cornuta, most commonly known Surinam horned frog and is native to the northern part of South America.
- Ceratophrys testudo, most commonly known Ecuador horned frog and is native to Ecuador.
- Ceratophrys stolzmanni, most commonly known Stolzmann’s horned frog and is native to Ecuador and Peru.
- Ceratophrys ornata, most commonly known Argentine horned frog and is native to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay..
- Ceratophrys joazeirensis, most commonly known Joazeiro horned frog and is native to Brazil.
- Ceratophrys cranwelli, most commonly known Cranwell’s horned frog and is native to Gran Chaco region of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
- Ceratophrys calcarata, most commonly known Colombian horned frog and is native to Venezuela and Colombia.
- Ceratophrys aurita, most commonly known as Wied’s frog or the Brazilian horned frog. It is native to Brazil.
The female Pacman frog is usually larger than the male one and doesn’t croak as frequently as the male does. If you want to tell whether a Pacman frog is male or female, take a look at their chest. Male ones usually have spotted chests. They also tend to develop spots on their fingers at about a year of age. During the mating season, the male may develop subtle pads on their front legs.
Popular Pacman Frog Morphs
The Pacman frog can be bred into a wide variety of colors and designs. This is known as morphs. Here are some of the most common Pacman frog morphs;
- The green Pacman frog- these have bright green colors with brown spots. Of all the morphs, they are the most common.
- The albino Pacman frog- the albino Pacman frog has a skin tone that is yellow and orange, and also has red eyes due to lack of pigmentation.
- The strawberry pineapple albino Pacman frog- the name for this morph is inspired by the colors of the fruits it looks like. They have duller pink tones on their skin because of the lack of skin pigmentation. They are albino. Their eyes are also red as they lack the pigmentation to hide the blood vessels in their eyes.
- The chocolate mint Pacman frog- while they are a pale greener than the green Pacman frog, they also have lighter accent spots that are less harsh brown.
- The high red ornate Pacman frog- unlike the other morphs of the Pacman frog, the high red ornate Pacman frog has a very vibrant skin with a very noticeable red color. They have a stunning visual appeal that makes them pleasing to look at.
Keeping a Pacman Frog as a Pet
The Pacman frog usually has a lifespan of up to four years. When kept as a pet under a controlled diet and care, which is becoming relatively common, the Pacman frog can even live up to six years and beyond. Some have been known to live for more than 10 years. In the wild, their diet mainly consists of small mammals such as mice, insects, fish, small reptiles, and even other frogs. The female Pacman frog can easily feast on grown rats.
Though they are mostly found in the mashy jungles of South America, more and more Pacman frogs are finding themselves in captivity and are being kept as pets across the world. They can live in a 10-gallon tank without any problems. They prefer just sitting around in the water or hiding in the substrate so you don’t have to worry about the height of the tank.
The prices of captive Pacman frogs for keeping as pets vary from one pet store to the other. However, you can get one for as low as $15. Before purchasing a Pacman frog, it is advisable to find out what your local regulations say about the ownership of such pets.
Setting Up A tank for Pacman Frog
Unlike the video game Pacman, the Pacman frog is quite the opposite and is very inactive. A 10-gallon tank is enough to house them. It is advisable to keep a single Pacman frog in each tank as they may try to eat each other up. Since they are quite inactive, there is very little risk of them escaping. The tank should, however, be kept covered so as to help in maintaining the humidity and temperature within the tank.
You should ensure the tank has some moss or leaf litter so that the frog can have a place to hide in or burrow. Besides that, it should be misted daily so that the humidity stays at over 50%. You can also line the tank with smooth rocks or paper.
There should be a bowl of water inside the tank for drinking and frolicking. To avoid the water getting too cold, keep the bowl in the warmer part of the tank. It should, however, be shallow enough not to drown the frog. On very humid days, the Pacman frog will spend much of its time in the water bowl so it is advisable to keep plants around the bowl. This helps the Pacman frog to feel more secure.
During the day, maintain the temperatures in the tank at around 82 degrees Fahrenheit while they can be dropped to about 78 Fahrenheit degrees at night. If you have to supply artificial heat to the tank, it is advisable to use an under-tank heater. Using overhead incandescent bulbs can have a drying effect on the Pacman frog. However, a red incandescent bulb can be used for supplemental heat during colder periods.
Pacman frogs prefer more subdued lighting so regular room lighting might just be enough. If you have to install lighting in the tank, always go for fluorescent lighting fixtures. The light and dark cycles should be regularly rotated every 12 hours. If you can get the Pacman frog a UVA/UVB light, the better.
Feeding Your Frog
You won’t have to worry much about what to feed your Pacman frog as they are not usually fussy eaters. However, they tend to have a fierce appetite and will eat almost anything within their reach. They are carnivores and feed on roaches, crickets, grasshoppers, fish, and various worms. You can also find Pacman frog bites at some pet stores.
You should feed the frog only once a day. Any excess food should be removed from the tank once the frog is full. If it is a full-grown Pacman frog, then you can give it a treat of mice once every two weeks. Start with newborn mice before upgrading to larger mice. You can always cut back on meals if the frog is getting too fat and round.
Some of the common diet for Pacman frogs include;
- Waxworms and mealworms
- Locusts and grasshoppers
- Brine shrimp
The frog should always be fed food that is not wider than its head. Feeding it food wider than its head can have an impact on its intestines. Whenever you can, always purchase gut-loaded insects as they will provide your frog with the much-needed Vitamin A. otherwise, you can dust the food with nutritional supplements. The frog should not be fed scraps from the table, veggies, fruits, or insects caught from the wild. The insects may have been exposed to pesticides, which will harm your frog upon ingestion.
Ensure that the frog also has constant access to water that is clean and dechlorinated.
Pacman frogs are also likely to refuse food when they are feeling cold and dry. They will go into brumation state to preserve the little heat they have in their body.
You should be careful when feeding the Pacman frog as it has teeth and can draw blood. Don’t try to feed it from your hand.
Breeding Pacman Frogs
You can also breed your Pacman frogs. As long as you can tell the difference between the male and the female. The males can be up to three inches smaller than the female Pacman frog and will be very vocal when sprayed or handled.
The Pacman frog will, however, need to hibernate in a dry, cool environment for 60 days before breeding. During this period, even though the pair may drink and eat little, it is important to ensure that they have plenty of food in the tank so that they don’t try to cannibalize each other when they become active and hungry.
The female frog will lay eggs and hatch within four days after the hibernation. Spraying the frogs several times during the day to simulate rain helps with this. The tank should have aquatic plants where the eggs can be attached.
After the eggs have been laid, you can return the frogs to their respective tanks and add water into the tank containing the eggs. The eggs usually hatch within three days. After hatching, you can separate the tadpoles so that they don’t eat each other up. Even if there is plenty of food in the tank, some of them are likely to eat up the others.
Some of the common health problems Pacman frogs experience
Unlike other pets, your Pacman frog will not typically require a lot of medical attention. However, they may at times develop bumps, lumps, or growths that can be quite difficult to explain. It is for the benefit of your pet frog not to dismiss anything unusual on its skin. What may seem like a small, harmless bump may turn out to be a parasitic infestation or a serious infection.
Some of the most common infections your Pacman frog is vulnerable to include fungal and bacterial infections. They are quite common in amphibians. Symptoms may include swelling, redness, or pus on the skin. Keeping it in the tank without enough humidity can also lead to respiratory infections resulting in drooling, wheezing, and lethargy.
You should also be on the lookout for ammonia poisoning caused by failing to properly clean the frog’s tank. Here are some common health concerns that you should watch out for;
Your pet frog is likely to experience two types of parasites– those that try to burrow their way into the skin and those that are trying to burrow their way out. When you feed your frog worms, especially tapeworms, they may end up ingesting the eggs of the worm. The egg will hatch in the intestinal tract and turn into larvae. The larvae will move to the muscles or the skin layer of the frog, creating an uncomfortable growth or lump on the outer skin of the frog. The infestation is very traumatizing to the frog and can harm it if left untreated.
If your frog gets wounded, the wound may end up getting infected. This may lead to the formation of an abscess. This is a pocket full of chunky white substance (a mixture of bacteria and white blood cells) known as pus that accumulates under the skin. If enough pus builds up under the skin, the abscess usually bursts on its own and drains out. Otherwise, it will need the attention of a vet. Either way, the lump will need to be cleaned out and treated to avoid further infection.
Your Pacman frog is also vulnerable to various types of tumors just like other animals. However, not all tumors are dangerous. It all depends on the type of tumor it is and where it is growing. Some can result in both benign and malignant cancers. If you notice any tumors on your frog, it is advisable to raise it with your vet immediately for further diagnosis.
Skeletal deformities are quite common in frogs. They can be as a result of birth defects, traumatic incidents, husbandry problems, and poor nutrition. While most are able to live normal lives even with such deformities, others may experience a poor quality of life. This is especially the case if the deformity is on the legs.
Cysts are non-cancerous and usually doesn’t bother the frog much. However, they can interfere with the aesthetic value of your frog. Just like abscesses, cysts may burst out on their own or you may need to have your vet lance them out.
Sometimes, your frog will ingest things that will protrude inside it and give the appearance of a lump. At times, the foreign object will migrate out of the body and form an actual lump. Dirt, moss, and sticks among other objects are known to make the frog bulge on one side. Pine needles and other sharp objects may create an actual lump by penetrating through the intestines into the body of your frog. While soaking the frog in warm water usually encourages the frog to pass out the foreign object, it is always advisable to take the frog to a vet first. They will be able to advise whether the frog needs an incision to pull out the object.
No matter how simple something may look, it is not advisable to try home remedies for your frog. Always have any health concerns checked out by your vet so that they advise on the best way to go about it. If the temperatures within the tank are normal but your frog still isn’t eating well, it is better to engage the vet as soon as possible. Early detection helps solve problems before they become serious and life-threatening to the frog. It is also recommendable to take a fecal sample yearly to check out for any overgrowth of normal parasites.
Signs and symptoms that the Pacman frog is having health problems
It is not uncommon for Pacman frogs, just like other pets, to develop health problems. Unless you are a qualified vet, it is often difficult to tell when they are having health issues. You can always lookout for the following signs and symptoms;
Lack of appetite
Pacman frogs have large appetites so the first sign of trouble to look for is how often and how much it eats. If you notice that it has slowed down on the food, then there could be trouble. Loss of appetite is usually caused by low humidity, improper temperatures, and insufficient exposure to UVA/UVB light. Stress can also be a cause of appetite loss, especially in new environments. Besides ensuring that the tank is fully operational before you get the frog, it is also important to provide it with a hiding place until it feels secure.
Runny or discolored stool
The runny stool is usually a sign that the frog is under a poor diet or a possible infestation of internal parasites. The discolored stool is also a sign of poor diet though it could also mean that the frog is having digestion issues. If you notice that the frog is having a runny or discolored stool, it is advisable to take a sample to a vet for fecal tests to be done on them.
Drooping jaw and unable to latch onto prey
The metabolic bone disease results in a drooping jaw and the inability to latch onto prey. Metabolic bone disease is an infection in which the skeletal system of captive amphibians and reptiles become affected, resulting in weak and brittle bones. Besides bone deformation and bones easily breaking, the metabolic bone disease can eventually lead to death. It is important for early diagnosis and treatment.
Calcium powder, high-quality multivitamin, and mineral supplements in the frog’s diet can help prevent Metabolic Bone Disease.
Abscesses on limbs
It is possible for an abscess to form on the hind legs of the Pacman frog, especially when it goes into brumation. While they are not a cause for worry in the initial stages, you should constantly monitor them and report any change in color or size to your vet for advice. Severe cases of an abscess may require antibiotic treatment to prevent infections.
It is important to keep the frog tank clean and sanitary at all times. The water should always be clean and fresh and change the substrate at least once every month. Substrates that are heavily soiled should be changed more often. If you notice any stench in the tank, then it is recommendable to have the tank disinfected.
Dry skin cocoon
Dry skin can lead to the death of your frog. When the tank lacks enough humidity, the frog usually forms a dry, skin-like cocoon as a way of conserving its skin moisture. If the condition does not improve soon, the frog could lose its moisture and die eventually. Always ensure that the humidity within the tank stays at a minimum of 60% for the good health of your Pacman frog.
Film over the eyes
If you notice that your frog has a milky, opaque film over one eye or both eyes, then you should be worried. It can be a serious health problem for the frog. Film over the eyes is usually a sign of low humidity levels, high-fat content in the frog’s food, or unclean water conditions. Too much fat in the diet can lead to the build-up of lipids on the eyes, just as cataracts do with humans. Besides watching what you feed the frog, always ensure that the water is also fresh and dechlorinated.
The appearance of cloudy eyes in the frog could also be a pointer to Toxic Out Syndrome, which can be very fatal.
Such eye problems could make the frog lose its sight. If left untreated, they could also lead to the death of the frog.
Erratic jumping and stretching out of the hind legs
If your frog has an erratic jump and stretching out of the hind legs, then it could be suffering from the Toxic Out Syndrome. The Toxic Out Syndrome is usually caused by the absorption of toxins through the skin of the frog when the frog sits in foul water or substrates. The syndrome can lead to the death of the frog.
The good news is that you can remedy the Toxic Out Syndrome by placing the frog in clean, fresh, dechlorinated water. This is done until the symptoms of the syndrome subside. The water should be changed every few hours until the frog returns to normalcy. If nothing changes, then you should consult your vet as it may be severe.
This is known as the Red Leg Syndrome. It is a bacterial infection that results in the underside of the abdomen and the legs to turn red. It is often caused by contaminated and soiled living conditions within the frog’s tank. The Red Leg Syndrome might result in weight loss, lethargy, anemia, bleeding on the nose or tongue, and open sores that do not heal.
Besides blood tests, the liver and other organs also undergo checkups for bacteria that causes the syndrome. Treatment usually involves the administration of antibiotics.
No stool, and a hard lump in the belly
If your frog is impacted, then it may experience a loss in appetite, and instead of pooping, you may find a hard lump in the abdomen. Being impacted simply means that the frog is experiencing a blockage in the digestive system. This can be as a result of the frog swallowing an object that it could not digest and it, therefore, becomes lodged in the digestive tract. If the object is not removed early enough, it could lead to the death of the frog. Always seek vet advice immediately you notice that the frog may have swallowed a foreign object.
Pacman frogs blindly lurch at food when feeding and it can therefore easily grab loose moss, pebbles, and other small objects. Avoid placing small objects that can be potentially swallowed within the tank.
Even though Pacman frogs do not like being handled, gently massaging its sides can help in bowel movement and passing out the hard stool. Since they have very sensitive skin, it is important to first wear a glove so that your skin oil does not burn them.
Some people have difficulties telling overweight and obese frogs since they are naturally chubby. Your vet can be able to tell whether your frog is overweight by examining its weight in relation to its age. Furthermore, blood tests that help in determining the fatty content in the frog’s liver can also be conducted.
You might be wondering how a pet that feeds mostly on insects become overweight, but it will surprise you to learn that some of the insects have high-fat content. The other food, such as mice and wax worms, may also have high levels of fat. It is important to maintain a balanced and varied diet for your frog. Regular blood tests and checkups will also help keep your Pacman frog in healthy conditions.
Safety tips when handling a Pacman frog
You should be careful when handling Pacman frogs. They are one of the few types of frogs that have teeth and could bite you. First of all, only handle the frog when it is absolutely necessary. They don’t like being handled, and they have very sensitive skin. Here are some common safety tips for handling the Pacman frog;
- Always clean your hands thoroughly before and after handling the frog. You should also wash your hands before you clean its tank and after the cleaning.
- When there is a scarcity of food or the humidity is too low, the Pacman frog is known for going into brumation. During this period, it will bury itself underground without any movements and its skin will turn into a hard shell. Do not mistake the frog for dead and try to handle it. Instead, keep the tank moist and humid and wait for the frog to break out of its hard skin. They usually eat the skin after breaking out of it.
- The frog maybe a pet, but you shouldn’t let your children play around with it. What your children may consider play may seem like a dangerous situation to the frog and it could react by biting or scratching. Always make sure that the children are supervised around the frog. If the frog has been handled by a kid, you should help them to thoroughly wash their hands.
- The frog may also be a potential carrier for contagious viral, fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections to humans. Watch how you interact with the pet to avoid contamination or infection.
How to choose your pet frog
When at a pet store, it shouldn’t be a hard task settling on which Pacman frog to carry home. First of all, look for an active frog that is very alert. Its skin should be free of any blemishes and it should have clear eyes. If possible, ask the store to feed the frog and watch it eat. There are very few instances when a Pacman frog will say no to food unless it is ill.
Some of the other signs to look for in an ill frog include lethargy or trouble breathing, and a bloated abdomen.
To avoid all these troubles of buying an ill pet, always make your purchase from a reputable breeder or pet store. This way, you can have a complete history of your new pet’s health. It is also better to go for captive-bred Pacman frogs instead of the ones caught from the wild as the captive-bred have little chances of having been exposed to parasites and other risks from the wild.
Should You Keep A Pacman From As A Pet?
If you are still undecided on whether to own a Pacman frog as your pet, here are the pros of having such a frog as your pet;
i) They are easy to maintain
Unlike other pets such as cats and dogs, the Pacman frog is very easy to maintain. It is a low maintenance pet. The diet is simple and mostly consists of live insects. You will only have to worry about cleaning its tank once every two weeks, and the substrate can be changed once every month unless they become heavily soiled.
ii) You won’t have to withstand any noise
You are probably worried about the frog’s loud irritating croaks especially at night when everything is silent. Pacman frogs are quite different. They are relatively silent and won’t make much noise around the house. You can enjoy your quiet evenings and night without the fear of your peace being disrupted.
iii) No funny smell around the house
The cat or puppy can sometimes do its business behind hidden corners and leave the house reeking in a pungent smell. Not with the Pacman frog. Besides being silent creatures, the Pacman frog doesn’t have any smell too. If you notice any smell, it might be from the tank and may be caused by dead insects or a generally dirty tank. This can be remedied by regularly cleaning the tank.
iv) Available in various fantastic patterns
The Pacman frogs have different color combinations that make them beautiful to look at. Their amazing color patterns contribute to the aesthetic value of your home.
v) It is fun watching them lay an ambush
If you have lazy evenings and you need to take your mind off your busy life, watching the Pacman frog ambush and hunt their prey within the tank could make an interesting pastime. It is very exciting. They usually hide for some time, waiting for the perfect time to pounce on their prey. Besides that, your children could learn a thing or two for their biology class.
However, you should also be aware of the cons of having a Pacman frog as your pet. Some of the things that you may find a turnoff include;
i) It is difficult to feed them
Pacman frogs mostly feed on live insects such as crickets. Their diet may be simple, but feeding the frog could take getting used to. This is usually the deal-breaker for most people. Some people find it difficult to throw live insects and mice to their death. They have a soft spot for anything living. It is also difficult to keep the insects live for long as they have a tendency of dying at the slightest provocation.
ii) Pacman frogs don’t like being handled
If you are looking for a pet to cuddle and play with, the Pacman frog is not the pet for you. They absolutely hate being handled and may react by scratching or biting. Besides that, they have very sensitive skin and your skin oil may end up being very toxic to it. Pacman frogs are just for seeing, and that’s where it ends.
iii) They are naturally nocturnal animals
The Pacman frog is nocturnal in nature. It can be very active at night. This means that you may also see very little action if any if you try to observe it during the day. This is not a concern for most people. But if you are looking for a pet that will close its eyes when you go to bed, then you may have to reevaluate your choice of pet.
iv) It is risky to leave children around the frog
Your Pacman frog is as dangerous to your children just as they are to it. They may harm it, or it may harm them. In most instances, it is both. It is not advisable to leave your children unsupervised around the frog. If you can, keep the pet out of reach of children. Children should not, at any time, handle the frog. Since they play around in the dirt, their hands may contain toxins that can harm the frog.
Pacman frog fact sheet
Here’s a summary of facts about the Pacman frog;
- They can grow up to 8 inches. The females are usually larger than males.
- They have a lifespan of up to 5 years.
- Their name was inspired by their resemblance to the Pacman character in a 1980s arcade game.
- The Pacman frog is one of the few types of frogs with teeth.
- They prefer living alone, as they can eat each other up.
- Pacman frogs are nocturnal and therefore more active at night.
- They don’t like being handled and have very sensitive skin.
Pacman frogs are very inactive pets so you won’t require a lot of space to keep them. There is also no risk of them escaping. You will only need a lid on their tank in order to maintain the humidity within the tank. When inactive, especially when in hibernation, you can easily mistake them to be dead. However, they bounce back once they rehydrate and usually eat up the outer skin that they used to preserve their skin moisture when under hibernation. While you don’t want to underfeed your pet frog, you also don’t want to run the risk of overfeeding it. Obesity isn’t good for the Pacman frog and could result in health concerns.
The frog doesn’t drink water. Instead, it absorbs moisture through the skin. This is why it is important to have a shallow bowl where it can walk in and soak itself. However, the frog also can’t swim. This means that if the bowl is too deep or the water too much, it may end up drowning. They only enjoy live food, so feeding them dead insects might not work. They enjoy laying an ambush.
It is quite easy to care for a Pacman frog as a pet. All you have to do is feed it live insects in moderation, clean its tank, give it clean dechlorinated water, and schedule regular checkups with your local vet. You should not be scared out of owning a pet Pacman frog if that is what you want. You don’t even have to schedule morning and evening walks as you would do with your cat or dog. Pacman frogs are the easiest pets to own and look after.