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Ornate Horned Frog - Pacman Frog

Ornate Horned Frog - Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys ornata) Care Sheet

(Ceratophrys ornata)

  • Kingdom:
  • Animalia
  • Phylum:
  • Chordata
  • Class:
  • Amphibia
  • Order:
  • Anura
  • Family:
  • Leptodactylidae
  • Genus:
  • Ceratophrys
  • Species:
  • ornata

Ornate Horned Frog
(Ceratophrys ornata)

Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

Ornate Horned Frog

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.


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.

Temperament - Handling

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.

Habitat - 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.


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 ideal location.


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 (Ceratophrys ornata)
Albino Ornate Horned Frog


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.

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.


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.


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 and monitored with a quality digital thermometer and rheostat.

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.


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.


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 be avoided as it is easily ingested as a result of its long, stringy composition. 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.


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".


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.


Sexing horned frogs can be tough if you only own one. Females are significantly larger than males and this can be difficuly to perceive when you don't have another horned frog to compare it to. The female horned frog rarely, if ever, calls out. Males, the smaller of the sexes, have no issue calling out and can be induced to do so by spraying them with water. When they are looking for a mate, their calls can be persistent to the point of becoming aggravating, so enclosure placement should be a factor when breeding. Males also have nuptial pads on the toes of the front feet.


Estivation (aestivation) is a state of animal dormancy, similar to hibernation, characterized by inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate. This hibernative state in the wild is a prelude to the breeding season. Captive horned frogs with regulated temperatures do not typically enter the estivation state. If your intent is to breed your horned frogs, you will need to induce this this state by reducing the temperatures (referred to as a cooling period) to 70° and lowering the humidity in the enclosure for a period of two months. Following the hibernative state you will need to increase the temperature back to 80° over the course of two weeks. You should also increase the humidity during this two week period.


Warmer temperatures in the horned frogs native habitat also brings with it rain. Mimicking this behavior will help induce the breeding response in your frogs. A rain chamber or mist system can be used for this purpose. You can also spray your frogs at an increased rate to help stimulate them.

If you are a "do-it-yourself" kind of person, you can also create a Drip Watering System. If you create several of these drip systems you can run several splitters to have "rain" falling consistently within the tank. You will need to create an overflow tank to ensure the water doesn't rise beyond the height of the frogs. This should be created within the rearing tank, as described below.


If your male begins to call out in the hopes of attracting a female, he is interested in breeding. You should have a breeding tank set-up that will be used to rear the young in. Since the young are going to be tadpoles, you will want to create an enclosure that has 2-3 inches of water on the bottom. It is easiest to not use any type of gravel in this tank. The depth of the water will ultimately be determined by how large your frogs are. You will want your frogs to be able to stand in the water with all of their limbs capable of touching bottom. You will also need to add some live or artificial plants and rocks for the female to attach her eggs. A large rock or other surface should be added to this tank so that your breeding frogs have a place to exit the water.

Once the female has deposited her eggs, the parents should be placed back in their respective enclosures. The eggs will hatch quickly and normally don't take more than several days (2-7 days). With the parents removed, the tadpoles can then stay in this tank and be reared here. Tadpoles, like their parents, will eat whatever they can fit in their mouyths, including each other. There should be plenty of structure for the tadpoles to use as hiding spots. This will help decrease the amount of cannibalism the tadpoles are experiencing. You can also remove tadpoles and house them individually to further increase your success rate.

Tadpoles can be fed a diet of minced up earthworms, black worms, or tubifex worms.

Metamorphosis typically occurs within 3 to 5 weeks. Once the frogs have absorbed their tails, they should be treated as juvenile horned frogs. Their diet can be increased to include other prey items more suitable to their size.

You will want to set-up individual enclosures for your froglets. This will prevent cannibalism and allow you to ensure that each frog is eating and growing into a healthy specimen. Apprpriately size plastic bis and jars are ideal for rearing the offspring.

Interesting Facts

The captive lifespan for the horned frog is 10-15 years.
Horned frogs will eat anything that can fit in their mouths, including other horned frogs.
Horned frog tadpoles are just as cannibalistic as adults are.
Horned frogs enter a hibernative state called estivation (aestivation) in the wild.
The skull of an ornate horned frog appears to be out of proportion to the rest of its bone structure, as displayed below.

Skeletonized Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)
Skeletonized Horned Frog


Authors: Liz Burnett - Richard Brooks
Ornate Horned Frog Main - © Melanie Milliken (Submission)
Albino Ornate Horned Frog - © Grosscha (Submission)
Skeletonized Horned Frog (modified)- © Mokele [CC-BY-SA-3.0]