Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata) Caresheet
by Liz Burnett & Richard Brooks
Ornate Horned Frog Taxonomy
Ornate Horned Frog - © Melanie Milliken
Ornate Horned Frog Introduction
The horned frog is commonly referred to as the "Pac-Man" frog because of its appearance to the classic arcade character.
Pac-man frogs are fairly popular within the pet trade. Their appetites and body size are equally matched, and frog lovers have been drawn to this species for this very reason. While they may not be the most active species of frog, they certainly do make interesting animals to observe and care for.
Ornate Horned Frog Region
Pac-man frogs are native to the rainforest floors of South America. This species is most dominating in Argentina, but can be found in other parts of South America, such as Uruguay and Brazil.
Ornate Horned Frog Description - Characteristics
These frogs are very "plump" in appearance and their width is often equal to their length.
Their mouths are as wide as their head is and they have little to no "neck" upon visual inspection. (This is another characteristic that has assisted in them being referred to as "Pac-man frogs".)
The color of these frogs can vary, and include vibrant greens, reds, oranges, yellows, and black markings.
There are also albino Pac-man frogs available on the market. These frogs are defined by their yellow coloration. (This too has likely aided in their being called "Pac-man frogs".)
Their bodies are covered in a series of warts giving them a "bumpy" texture.
The bumpy texture and coloration help them to blend into the rainforest floors leaf litter.
They have what appear to be short, powerful, stubby legs in comparison to their immensely large bodies.
Ornate Horned Frog Enclosure
The horned frog is not an active species and requires a small enclosure in comparison to its own body size and other species on the market.
It is not uncommon for people to use a 10 gallon tank for this species their entire life. It is however suggested to use larger enclosures when you can.
A 15 or 20 gallon enclosure would be ideal for this species.
Note: Horned frogs should be housed independently. Smaller frogs have and will be eaten by larger frogs. Unless you are breeding, keep your frogs separated regardless of sex and size.
Ornate Horned Frog - Water
Pac-man frogs are from the rainforests of South America. Their native habitat is moist and their water dish is something your frog will likely use a great deal.
For this very reason, you should offer a shallow dish that is large enough to allow the frog to soak itself.
The water MUST be shallow because these frogs are not avid swimmers and WILL drown if they can not easily enter and exit the water.
You should also offer de-chlorinated water. Frogs have very sensitive skin that absorbs air and anything else it comes into contact with. If you have high levels of chlorination in your tap water, you would be wise to use filtered water.
The water should also be changed daily, or several times a day if you find it evaporating rapidly. Failure to change the water can result in the water becoming stagnant. Since frogs absorbs through their skin, this can make your frog very ill.
Placement of the water dish is also crucial to this species. You want to place the dish in the warmest location in the enclosure. This is likely the place your frog will spend most of its time, so this is the most idealistic location.
Feeding Ornate Horned Frogs
Medium sized ornates can be offered large gut loaded crickets as a staple with small pinkie mice (frozen/thawed and fed with tongs) being offered once every two weeks as a supplement. Worms, super worms, roaches, wax worms (on occasion), and mealworms can also be offered. Guppies are also a prey items that can be used to offer some diversity. These prey items can be fed every other day. Feeding daily, in small amounts will not hurt your frog, but alternating days will help to control obesity.
Adult horned frogs can be fed every 3-4 days and their diet can include any of the insects listed above, as well as frozen/thawed fuzzies and small adult mice.
Albino Horned Frog - © Grosscha
When feeding anything that requires "dangling", you should use forceps, tongs, or tweezers. These items should be made of plastic and have a rounded end. The reason for using these items is because your frog will be lunging toward its intended prey. It will not be able to differentiate between where the prey ends and your fingers begin!
The above guide is just that, a guide. When feeding, base the amount and frequency off of the size of your frog. If you find your frog to be getting larger than it is long, cut back on the frequency in which you feed. Keeping an eye on your frogs’ size is the best way to curb obesity.
The rule is that your ornate should be no "fatter" than it is long.
Ornate Horned Frog Diet Supplementation
Your ornate horned frog will require extra calcium added to his diet. Calcium dusted prey must be offered twice a week for juveniles and albino frogs, once a week for normal adult frogs. Without proper calcium, your frog will develop metabolic bone disease.
Lighting Ornate Horned Frog
A 2.0 UVB light should be used with this species, though some will argue that. Albinos should receive NO UVB light, and should be given extra calcium supplement instead.
Heating Ornate Horned Frog
Under tank heaters are ideal for this species and should be placed on one end of the enclosure, on the side of the glass. They should never be placed underneath, for these frogs burrow and could get burnt. Remember, their instincts tell them to burrow to get cooler. A heater under the substrate will confuse them. These can be left on at all times.
Ideal Day-time Temperature: 80F - 84F
Ideal Night-time Temperature: 76F -79F
Under tank heaters are ideal for this species and should be placed on one end of the enclosure. These can be left on at all times.
You may need to add supplemental heating to the enclosure to maintain the proper temperatures. This can be done with a "red" or "blue/black" nocturnal light. This is especially true during the cooler months of the year, or in rooms where the air conditioner may be running.
It is crucial that you monitor the temperatures in the enclosure. Ideally, a digital thermometer with an external probe should be used.
It would also be wise to use a hygrometer to measure and maintain the enclosures humidity. A humidity level of 60-80% is suggested to keep your frog from drying out.
Ornate Horned Frog Substrates
While your frog is small, a simple substrate of paper towel or shredded coconut husk (Bed-a-Beast, Eco-earth) can be used. The paper towel or coconut husk will help retain moisture, reduce impaction, and will allow you to easily maintain and clean the enclosure. You should replace the paper towel every 2-3 days to maintain a clean enclosure. Sphagnum moss should NEVER be used. Its often sold under something called "frog moss."
The substrate for a naturalistic enclosure could include shredded coconut husk (Bed-a-beast, Eco-Earth), organic potting soil or peat moss. Substrate with large chunks should be avoided.
You should spot clean these substrates daily. Remove any dead insects you find as well as any feces you notice. The substrate itself should be replaced every 2-3 months, or on an as needed basis, depending on where your frog decides it wants to do its business. A frog that relieves himself in the water dish will need less frequent changes, than a frog that does not.
Planting - Ornate Horned Frog
Artificial and live plants will help to create an enclosure that your frog will feel secure in. Not only are these enclosures more aesthetically appealing, but they have additional benefits like creating "hide" spots for the frog as well as helping to keep the humidity up. (Live plants aid with the humidity.)
Since your frog will likely keep to the water bowl area, planting some live plants around the water bowl will help to keep your frog feeling secure. Additional plants can be scattered throughout the vivarium.
Rocks also add a nice touch to the tank as does a nice piece of driftwood.
These frogs are not great climbers, so the mere purpose for anything "large" would be for aesthetics and to help create "hides".
Handling Ornate Horned Frogs
The handling of any frog should be very limited. These frogs are best viewed and not handled at all.
Frogs absorb through their skin, and the natural oils in your hands can harm them.
If you MUST handle the frog for any reason, wash your hands with JUST water before you do so. If you use any type of soap, and fail to remove any of it when washing, you could cause your frog serious problems.
Cleaning Ornate Horned Frog
Cleaning agents should not be used within the enclosure of your frog. Frogs absorb through their skin and any remnants of chemicals could cause them health issues, and even death.
When cleaning the items within the enclosure, boiling seems to work best. Boiling water bowls and fake plants will help kill any bacteria.
If cleaning solvents must be used, like when cleaning the interior of the enclosure itself, use mild dish washing detergents. They should be rinsed several times and thoroughly dried before the tank decor is re-added. Failure to remove any and all remnants of any chemical will cause your frog illness or death. Be vigilant in rinsing everything off. No short cuts can be used to speed up the process. Your frogs’ life is dependant on you doing a thorough job.