There’s just something about the vibrant allure of the red-eyed tree frog that makes it especially attractive to exotic pet lovers. Its eye-popping blood-red binoculars paired with a beautiful pale to lime green body and electrifying orange feet make this cautious species especially satisfying to observe and care for.
Thanks to its dazzlingly decorated exterior, the red-eyed tree frog has become exceedingly popular among eager pet owners looking to expand their horizons. But if you’re buying one of these beauties simply because you like how it looks, then you might need to take a moment to think of the specifics.
Before you head on down to your local pet shop in search of a new little red-eyed friend to take home with you, it helps to understand the kind of care these contemplative tree frogs need.
Despite their playful color, the red-eyed tree frog is anything but jolly, preferring to hide in thick vegetation and other organic elements throughout most of its juvenile and adult life. Recluse and private, these frogs require thoughtful care that might call for quite a bit of your daily time.
Their highly specific habitat needs mean that most of your effort will have to be spent perfecting their little enclosure. But once you get the hang of it, these gorgeous frogs can be a real treat to guide to maturity.
Basic Red-Eyed Tree Frog Care and Fact Sheet
|Scientific name||Agalychnis callidryas|
|Size||Males: approximately 2 inches; females: approximately 3 inches|
|Diet||Carnivorous (live insects)|
|Temperament||Nervous, cautious, recluse|
|Temperature||75°F – 85°F (24°C – 29°C)|
What’s a Red-Eyed Tree Frog?
Also called the red eye leaf frog or monkey frog, this dazzling critter is identified in the animal kingdom as the Agalychnis callidryas. It’s best known for its beautiful bright red orbs that stand out in stark contrast against its vibrant light green body. Its thighs and belly are often a light teal, capped at the ends with bright orange feet.
The rainbow-colored frog’s aesthetic make it especially attractive to exotic pet owners seeking to expand their growing collection of peculiar creatures, and that’s likely what you felt when you first laid eyes on this gorgeous species. But there’s far more excitement to the red-eyed tree frog than just its vibrantly painted exterior.
Native to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, this nocturnal amphibian is partial to the typical Neotropical rainforest climate. Most of the day, monkey frogs climb into trees to sleep, keeping their bright red binoculars shut to keep hidden from their predators.
In the wild, they find their place in the circle of life as the natural prey for creatures like bats, snakes, tarantulas, toucans, and even young alligators. On the other hand, they prove to be formidable hunters with a strictly carnivorous diet that centers on the consumption of live prey such as flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and yes, even the occasional frog – as long as it’s smaller.
You might be wondering – what’s with the vibrant color? Most of nature agrees that creatures with such bright hues are sorted as poisonous, and should not be meddled with. So with its stunning color combination, the red-eyed tree frog fends off some animals who might be leery of its potentially poisonous properties.
But you don’t have to be fooled. While the bright colors might work to protect the frog against certain predators, that’s all they really are – a ruse. For you, that means zero risk of the potential hazards of handling a pet with nasty secretions.
The Red-Eyed Tree Frog’s Life Cycle
Understanding what your new red-eyed friend needs depends largely on how well you know its life cycle. As frogs, these evolving critters will have varying needs throughout different points in its maturity, requiring your timely adaption to ensure an appropriate habitat and sufficient care.
The mature female red-eyed tree frog will lay a clutch of eggs on the underside of an overhanging leaf with water directly below it. Within just a week’s time, these eggs should be ready to hatch. As they crack and break, the little tadpoles fall into the water beneath. In their natural habitat, this tiny amphibian can survive a drop of over 1 meter in height with ease.
The red-eyed tree frog’s tadpoles prefer swimming around the edges of their pool. Here, they’ll feast on fruit flies and pinhead crickets. With proper care, they should start developing their lungs within a week after jumping into their pond habitat.
Legged Tadpole Phase
After about 6 to 9 weeks, your little tadpoles should start sprouting legs. The hind legs appear first, with the hind legs emerging fully right before it reaches the end of the phase. You might also notice is mouth widening into the quintessential frog appearance.
At around 10 weeks, your tadpoles are now called froglets. Their legs should have fully erupted at this point, with the tail slowly receding into their body until it’s completely gone. Having the right organs for life on land, these juveniles should also start to voyage onto dry land, spending more time in trees and shrubs than in the water.
Give your little friend about another 3 weeks to mature, and you’ll have a full-grown adult tree frog. Its pale orange juvenile eyes should now be the signature bright red color that the species is known for.
How to Set-Up a Red-Eyed Tree Frog Tank
Now that you’re familiar with the different stages of a red-eyed tree frog’s life, you should be better equipped to set-up a tank with the various provisions that your frog will need throughout its life cycle.
From the store, you’re likely to have purchased adult or juvenile frogs, with habitat needs that are fairly similar. Mimicking their natural environment as closely as possible should help them ease right into their new home.
- Tank – Glass tanks are the best enclosure for red-eyed tree frogs for several good reasons. The glass is especially effective at retaining heat and humidity which helps keep the frog’s skin moist and healthy. As a general rule, each adult frog in your care should have 15 gallons-worth of tank space to itself. If you’ve got two frogs, then you need a 30-gallon tank. For three, you’ll need a 45-gallon tank.
Another thing you’d want to keep in mind is the height of the tank. Monkey frogs – as their name suggests – don’t really care for crawling around the forest floor. They like hanging around in tree branches and plants, so they’ll spend most of their time off of the containment substrate. That said, you’ll want a taller tank with more vertical space for plants and other perches.
- Substrate – Your substrate of choice should provide enough moisture to keep the habitat highly humid, since your frog needs the atmospheric moisture to stay healthy and to breathe. Some good choices include peat moss, coconut husk fibers, cypress mulch, or clean dirt. If you live in dry areas where humidity tends to be tricky to maintain, consider adding a layer of moist paper towels to the base of the tank before placing your substrate.
- Water – Keeping a small pond-like set-up at the bottom of the tank should help maintain humidity and give your frogs a suitable source of clean water. Since your frog will also use the bowl as a latrine, make sure you choose something that’s easy to clean. Avoid materials that tend to absorb bacteria when left wet for too long, like clay or terracotta.
- Perches and wood – Red-eyed tree frogs spend most of their adult lives – and daylight hours – hidden in shrubbery, trees, and other areas where they can climb and hide. Real pieces of wood or fake vertical logs can be good choices. Make sure they’re secured so they don’t fall over as your little pet climbs onto them. If you’re looking for real organic material to put in your tank, consider bamboo, cork bark, or driftwood.
Maintaining Your Red-Eyed Tree Frog’s Habitat
There’s more to keeping your red-eyed tree frog healthy than simply piecing together a pretty looking containment. On the contrary, there are very specific measures and habitat qualities that you need to carefully calibrate to meet your frog’s environmental needs. Fail to match up to what his natural ecosystem provides, and you risk giving your frog up to disease and a short-lived existence. Yikes.
- Humidity – Being that they are amphibians, the red eye leaf frog’s skin requires high levels of humidity to stay healthy. Without the moisture, a frog would struggle to breathe, causing a slow painful death. The ideal humidity level for the containment of a red-eyed tree frog is the subject of heated debate.
The general consensus however is that the level should be somewhere around 70%. During breeding season, cranking it up to 90% should provide the perfect conditions to encourage your pets to procreate.
Unless you’ve got the power to estimate humidity simply by sticking your hand in an enclosure, you’re going to need a hygrometer. These are available at your local pet shop and work to tell you how humid your vivarium is.
If you notice that levels tend to fluctuate throughout the day because of external conditions, then you should be ready with a misting bottle. Spritz the inside of the vivarium twice a day every 12 hours to maintain moisture. Alternatively, if you’re not home to do it yourself, you can cop an automatic misting machine at your local pet supply shop.
- Temperature – Moderately warm temperatures during daylight hours can mimic the Neotropical conditions that these frogs are accustomed to. Temperatures ranging from 75°F – 85°F (24°C – 29°C) during daytime should keep your pets nice and comfortable throughout the morning.
But as you would expect, temperatures don’t stay stagnant in their natural environment as nighttime settles in. That said, a drop of between 5-10°F in the evening should be factored into your tank maintenance effort.
To maintain your vivarium’s temperature at just the right level, consider using a heating pad. Calibrate the pad so that it meets the ideal conditions for your tank. To make sure you’ve got it at just the right level, use a thermometer to observe and monitor the environment in the tank.
- Lighting – This particular frog species is nocturnal, which means lighting plays an important part in their circadian rhythm. Keeping them in a basement or garage that gets minimal or no natural light can mess up their routine and compromise their health.
In the wild, the red-eyed tree frog is mainly arboreal, enjoying its days in the comfortable shade of the canopy of trees above it. But even was it hides in the cool shadows, this frog gets its fair share of UVB – an important factor that triggers the production of vitamin D3. With the right amount of UVB light, your red-eyed tree frog can develop strong bones and steer clear of a host of potential diseases.
Low-output UVB lamps placed in a canopy above the mesh cover of your frog’s tank can be more than enough to provide your pet the UVB he needs. Other than that, red lighting can be a smart source of 24-hour lighting and warmth for your frog.
Also called ‘nocturnal light’, red light isn’t as perceivable to your frog’s eyes which means you can illuminate their vivarium with red bulbs and keep your frog relatively undisturbed.
Keep in mind though that excessively bright, red lamps will be easier to see. If the bulbs are positioned too close to your pet, then they’d be able to perceive the bulb itself and its brightness.
Feeding Information and Tips for Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
This frog species is predatory, feasting on live bugs and insects common to its ecosystem. Providing your frog quality food should keep it in good health and prevent a variety of digestive problems and diseases. But don’t think you can stick any random fly into the vivarium and call it a day. Here are some feeding basics to keep your frog happy, healthy, and satisfied.
What Can Red-Eyed Tree Frogs Eat?
A monkey frog’s diet should consist mainly of protein-rich insects. Most owners have found that brown crickets are often received with much gusto, but you don’t have to limit the selection to just those.
Hoppers (also called locusts) and black crickets also work well as a main food source for your frog. If you’re interested in giving your pet a few other options, you might want to try offering calciworms or mealworms.
Most red-eyed tree frog owners also provide their pet with a broad selection of more common insects. Things like flies, grasshoppers, and moths can be easy to source and cheaper to provide as a long-term food source.
But keep in mind that they aren’t quite as rich in protein as crickets. To offer the best diet, consider rotating all the viable food choices for your frog. Giving all of the options on a routine schedule means your pet gets the holistic nutrition it needs from a range of choices that each offer something different.
Feeding Tips for Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
- Supplements – Frog owners who are especially invested in their little critter go the extra mile to make sure their pets are given the best nutrition available. That includes giving the amphibian an added dose of supplements to make sure you’re meeting all of its nutritional needs.
But because red leaf tree frogs only eat live specimens, how can you squeeze in a supplement? Dust your insects, of course. Supplements for red-eyed tree frogs are available in the form of powder, and can be used to coat its live prey before being placed into the vivarium.
Want to take it a notch higher? Veteran red-eye owners care for and feed their own crickets, dusting the prey’s food with the predator’s supplements. Yup, adding your frog’s supplements to the food that you offer your crickets can make them even more nutritious for your prized amphibian.
- Schedules – Watching your predatory amphibian in action might be one of the most satisfying sights you’ll behold as a pet owner. But don’t overdo it! For as entertaining as it might be, feeding your red-eyed tree frog too often than necessary can result to obesity – a common issue among most pet frogs.
Juvenile tree frogs that measure less than 3 inches should be fed daily or every other day. Adult frogs exceeding 3 inches should do just fine with feedings every 2-3 days.
Smaller frogs should be given 4-6 crickets per feeding, while larger ones should be offered 6-8 crickets. If you’re feeding your frog other insect varieties, aim to meet the same volume as the recommended cricket count.
As a last note on feeding schedules, try not to offer insects during daylight hours. Providing food when your pet is active should give you the opportunity to observe and make a note of any pertinent feeding behaviors that shed light on your frog’s health status.
- Tadpoles – If you’re caring for a pool of tadpoles, then expect feeding needs to change drastically. Each tadpole should get 10-12 fruit flies 2-3 times a week. Fruit fly cultures can be purchased through pet supply stores that offer products for exotic pets like frogs and other amphibians.
Similar to the insects you would feed juveniles or adults, you can dust your fruit flies with a supplement powder to support your tadpole’s health.
Step-by-Step Guide to Breeding Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
No doubt, caring for a red-eyed tree frog right in the comfort of home can be exceedingly rewarding in its own right. But witnessing the intricacies of breeding can make ownership even more satisfying, giving you a little more insight regarding the curious world of these fascinating creatures.
If you’re interested in becoming a red-eyed tree frog grandparent for the first time, give this simple, step-by-step guide a try.
Initiating the Mating Process
- Meet population requirements – In the wild, the red-eyed tree frog will breed all at the same time. This means that if you’ve only got a pair – male and female – in your containment, then they might not feel quite as compelled to breed. To achieve the ideal conditions, ensure that there’s 2 males for every 1 female. This encourages healthy competition between the male specimens, and promotes a more natural situation to entice them to breed.
- Reduce mist – To initiate the breeding process, start off by reducing the mist you provide each day. If you were misting the tank twice daily, cut back to as little as two to three sprays every week. Simultaneously, you’ll want to reduce the temperature by up to 5°F. Maintain these conditions for up to a month.
- Feed less – During this time of lessened misting and reduced temperature, you’ll want to feed your frogs less. At this point of the mating process, red-eyed tree frogs in the wild tend to reduce their intake of insects, in preparation for what lies ahead. Hold back by offering 2-3 crickets less than what you would typically provide for each frog.
- Return to normal conditions – After the month-long period, you can crank up the temperature back to the normal setting. Mist the vivarium heavily – twice or thrice daily – to help your pets pick up on the change. Feed your pets heavily, offering a broad range of insects for them to feast. At this time, you should notice your males starting to get pretty noisy as they initiate mating calls. Females should swell up with eggs, ready to be fertilized by a worthy companion.
Moving to a Rain Chamber
In the wild, red-eyed tree frogs will breed during or shortly after a period of rain. So as an owner-slash-breeder, your responsibility would be to replicate these conditions in their vivarium to encourage frogs to mate.
However, because your standard vivarium might not be equipped to handle the changes, it would be wise to set up a separate rain chamber. These specialized vivariums provide your frogs with the natural conditions they would experience in the wild, helping to trigger their natural instincts towards successful mating.
- Replicate rain – Your rain chamber should be able to replicate the rainy conditions of the Neotropics to promote healthy breeding. Inside the vivarium, set up the same substrate, live plants, wooden pieces, and other decorative elements to give your frogs a comfortable ecosystem for the process. But aside from all of that, you’ll have to install a spray bar.
A spray bar works like a fountain, with a pump submerged into 3 inches of water at the bottom of the tank. The pump turns on and delivers water to a perforated bar that suspends from the top of the containment. When turned on, the set-up replicates rain and should cover the entire vivarium floor area.
Set the rain bar to go off several times throughout the night when your frogs are active. Make sure there’s enough water below, with lots of live plants’ leaves dangling just above to give your pets the ideal conditions for egg-laying.
- Transfer your pets – When your rain chamber is ready, your males are singing, and your females are swollen with eggs, it would be high time to transfer your frogs to their temporary mating enclosure. Time the move so that the frogs are introduced into space during a simulated thunderstorm.
Move the males first – about 2 days prior to adding the females – to help them get accustomed to the space. Then, once the females are introduced to the enclosure, take time to observe their behaviors. Males will mount the females in an attempt to mate, and eggs should be laid one to two days after the process.
- Observe the eggs – Assuming that your attempt was successful, there should be a clutch of eggs underneath one of the leaves overhanging the water below. Upon closer inspection, you should see the faint outlines of a tadpole in each egg. Those without the tadpole are infertile eggs and should be removed if they pose a threat to the health of the rest of the clutch. This includes the development of mold which typically happens to infertile duds.
The eggs should hatch 10 to 14 days after being laid. The tadpoles will fall to the bottom of the tank, into the simulated pond you’ve set up below. Keep the tadpoles in the same rain chamber 3 to 4 days after they hatch. At the end of this period, they should have absorbed their yoke, moving actively around the water.
When you observe this healthy development, move your tadpoles to a rearing tank. Here, you’ll want to maintain optimal water quality, keeping the ecosystem clean throughout the rearing process. Once your tadpoles metamorphose into juveniles, then you can take them into their own vivarium.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog Health and Signs of Disease
No matter how careful and particular you might have been throughout the care process, it’s not impossible to have a few sick frogs here and there. Red-eyed tree frogs can fall ill for a number of reasons, many of which have something to do with improper environmental conditions inside their vivarium.
Here are some of the signs of disease and illness in a red-eyed tree frog:
- Inactivity or odd behavior – Listless frogs that aren’t as active during nighttime hours should be carefully observed. If you notice that your red eyes are spending more time in the water or on the vivarium floor instead of perched in branches or on leaves, then you might be dealing with a sick frog.
- Weight loss – It’s normal for frogs to slim down during breeding, but watch out for untimely weight loss. Sick frogs will lose weight gradually or rapidly, sometimes without cutting back on their food intake.
- Bloating – Inspect your frog’s abdomen. Is it looking a little fatter than usual? Unless you’re caring for a female ready to lay eggs, or if you’ve been feeding them a little more than necessary, bloating can be a major sign of illness.
- Cloudy or hazy eyes – In red-eyed tree frogs, cloudy, hazy eyes can be especially easy to detect. This is a sign of a depressed immune system and may be the result of poor tank conditions. Change the water, clean the tank, and replace the substrate to keep their ecosystem free from harmful bacteria.
- Skin changes – Blotches, bumps, and other inconsistencies on the body of monkey frog can stand out against its smooth, vibrant skin. Red blotches on the abdomen and thighs could be Red-Leg – a parasitic infection made worse by insufficient humidity, poor diet, and stress. White fuzzy spots on the body are indicative of fungal infections.
Common Red-Eyed Tree Frog Diseases
- Red-Leg – Characterized by red discoloration underneath the thighs and abdomen. Contagious and fatal – isolate any frogs suspected of the disease. If caught in its early stage, the condition can be treated with a sulfamethazine bath (15mL for every 10 mL of water) or a 2% copper solution. Bathe daily for 2 weeks. If the condition doesn’t improve, consult a vet for antibiotic treatment.
- Fungal infections – Seen as white or red patches on the skin. Isolate the infected pet since these infections are highly contagious. Bathe the animal in a 2% solution of malachite green or mercurochrome. Perform the process for 5 minutes every day for 3 days. If the condition doesn’t improve, consult a vet.
- Dropsy – Either caused by bacteria or poor environmental conditions. It isn’t contagious but is highly fatal to affected frogs. Dropsy is characterized by soft dermal abnormalities, and can’t be treated at home. Consult a vet for sound medical intervention.
When to Take Your Frog to the Vet
While your local vet is likely well-equipped to manage and treat your sick frog, there are a few things worth considering. For starters, veterinary care can be particularly expensive, easily costing up to 10 times the price of a new red-eyed tree frog all together.
Secondly, there’s the very real possibility that a sick frog might not make it through treatment, given the stress they might experience under the strange, new conditions in a cold veterinary clinic.
Take your frog to the vet if your particularly invested in that specific pet. Otherwise, consider adjusting the conditions of your vivarium first since most illnesses in frogs are caused by improper an ecosystem.
If you’re still unable to bring your frog to health by attempting to optimize its space, and you’re not against the idea of trying again with a different frog, then consider a human process of euthanasia to limit your diseased pet’s discomfort.
How to Prevent Illness in Red-Eyed Tree Frogs
There are a number of things you can do as a frog owner to reduce the risk of your pets getting sick. Many of these involve their environment, while others may have to do with improper handling.
- Quarantine new frogs – Before introducing new frogs into your vivarium, quarantine them for a few days and observe. Place its temporary tank right next to the main containment to familiarize the frog with the others in your collection. If it appears healthy after 1-2 weeks of observation, then transfer the frog into your established community.
- Avoid sudden changes – There are times when you’ll have to make changes to your tank, but avoid any sudden adjustments that might leave your frogs stressed out. Rapid, significant fluctuations in humidity, temperature, light, and other factors in the tank can induce illness in your frogs.
- Maintain cleanliness – Unlike in the wild where Mother Nature herself takes care of all the cleaning, an isolated tank will breed a variety of bacteria and contaminants that your frogs might not encounter in their natural habitat. Clean your vivarium regularly, replace the water daily, and change the substrate at least once every two weeks to maintain proper hygiene.
- Offer a broad food selection – In the wild, frogs will have a wide choice of insects to feast on, so don’t limit your frogs to just a single type of food. Offer anything and everything they might consume in the wild to meet their nutritional needs and avoid micronutrient deficiencies.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog FAQs
Can I hold a red-eyed tree frog?
Yes, red-eyed tree frogs can be held and handled, but not without special considerations. If you know your frogs well, you’ll know which ones have the right personality for being handled. Keep in mind that these frogs will actually prefer to be left alone, so try to minimize handling only when necessary. Use a pair of gloves to avoid skin to skin contact which may introduce bacteria to your pet’s delicate exterior.
How can I tell if a red-eyed tree frog is male or female?
Adult males will be generally smaller – a full inch shorter – than their female counterparts. They typically grow up to 2 inches in length, versus the females which reach 3 inches when fully mature. During mating, they also develop a brown spot at the base of its thumb called a nuptial pad.
Are red-eyed tree frogs noisy?
They can be. Mature males will make quite a lot of noise as they seek a suitable mate. Females will be relatively quiet, which is also another way to figure out which ones are male and which are female.
Can a red-eyed tree frog jump?
Well, they’re not called monkey frogs for no reason. These pets can jump fairly high, and can easily escape its vivarium when left uncovered. Make sure to keep a mesh lid to secure your containment and prevent frogs from hopping out of its ecosystem.
How can you tell if a red-eyed tree frog is ready to mate?
A red-eyed tree frog should be ready to mate a year after reaching the juvenile state. For males, maturity can be determined by the presence of nuptial pads. In females, the production of eggs during the initial process of breeding should tell you whether or not it’s mature enough for reproduction.
Can I keep other animals as tank mates for my red-eyed tree frog?
Unfortunately, no. In the wild, red-eyed tree frogs will encounter a vast array of other creatures that they might even live harmoniously with. But within the contained, controlled environment of a vivarium, there might not be enough room for other species to thrive alongside your frogs. Avoid keeping any other type of creature in your tank to guarantee the health of your red eyes.
How much do red-eyed tree frogs cost?
Some red-eyed tree frogs sell for as little as $25 USD, but that price isn’t set in stone. Depending on the quality of care that it took to raise a specific adult frog, some sellers can raise prices to as high as $60 USD per frog.
Over to You
Curious and colorful, there’s a lot to love about the recluse red-eyed tree frog. These mysterious creatures can easily dazzle with their enigmatic behavior and clever personalities. Needless to say, you’ve probably found interest in these rainbow-colored frogs, if not for the way they look, then for the rewarding process of care that they require.
Red-eyed tree frogs need lots of room to climb, clean vivarium conditions, and lots of yummy, vitamin-packed insects to stay healthy and happy. And although you might not be able to hold and snuggle them the way you would a reticulated python, they’re no less rewarding to care for – even from behind the glass of a vivarium.
Get started on your own little red-eyed tree frog community and discover the satisfaction of being a pet-parent to this distinct, eye-popping amphibian.