Clown Tree Frog

Clown tree frog on driftwood

Common Name

Clown tree frog

Size

Adults typically measure 1 to 1 ½ inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) in length. There is a size difference between males and females, with females slightly larger than males.

Appearance

Clown tree frogs naturally occur in different colors and patterns. The ones in the pet trade originate from Suriname and are burgundy in color with cream or tan wrapping around the head. The legs and back are also patterned in this light color, forming a dark red hourglass shape on the back. The ventral side of clown tree frogs is a vibrant red.

Frequently photographed, the “giraffe phase” clown tree frog has a net-like pattern of yellow or tan over dark red. Though striking in appearance, it is not available in the pet trade.

Clown tree frog on glass

Clown tree frogs are small arboreal amphibians native to the Amazon Basin.

Distribution, Habitat and Behavior

Found throughout the Amazon Basin, the clown tree frog has a large distribution in South America. Here they live in rainforests and are found in vegetation around ponds and open flooded areas. Clown tree frogs are nocturnal and sleep above ground during the day. Males call loudly at night. Reproduction takes place at forest ponds, flooded river banks and other bodies of water.

Availability

Seasonally available, most clown tree frogs in the pet trade are imported from Suriname. Occasionally they are also bred in captivity. If possible, take your time to search for captive-bred clown tree frogs. Frogs sourced from the wild are not always sold in the best condition so be cautious about purchasing wild-caught frogs, which need to be monitored carefully while acclimating to captivity. Fortunately, clown tree frogs are resilient amphibians and tend to adjust well to captivity once acclimated.

Housing

Although clown tree frogs are small in size, they require ample space to move around in at night. A 20-gallon aquarium that measures 24 x 12 x 16 inches (61 x 30 x 41 cm) is large enough for a group of four or five frogs. Vertically-oriented enclosures with front-opening doors are even better housing options. Whichever route you go, make sure to provide adequate ventilation with a screen cover rather than glass. Stagnant conditions are not tolerated well.

Clown tree frogs can be kept on a simple substrate of moist paper towels or in more natural conditions with sphagnum moss, coconut husk fiber or a soil mixture. Whichever substrate you use, consider placing leaf litter on top of it. Although arboreal, clown tree frogs often jump towards the bottom of the enclosure when disturbed. Leaf litter provides cover for frogs to dive into when startled.Use live plants to provide perches. Plants such as pothos and philodendron can be grown in pots and placed on top of the substrate. The pots allow plants to easily be removed during maintenance. In addition to plants, cork bark slabs and driftwood can also be used to offer shelter and perches. Clown tree frogs are also good candidates for a tropical terrarium.

See the article about creating a tropical terrarium for ideas about this type of housing.

Temperature

Clown tree frog on pothos leaf

Clown tree frogs often spend the day asleep on leaves. Though not required, live plants are usually the best way to provide cover and perches.

Maintain a daytime temperature between 75°F and 85°F (24°C and 29°C), with the warmest conditions at the top of the enclosure near lighting and cooler conditions below. At night, the temperature can decrease to around 65°F (18°C).

In most situations, lighting used grow live plants will produce ample heat. If additional heating is needed, consider using a low-wattage heat lamp. It is important, though, to check the temperature in the enclosure before making any adjustments. Use a good quality thermometer to take readings throughout the cage, both during the day and at night, to make sure it is not too hot or cold.

Lighting

Although clown tree frogs do not require any special lighting, the plants in their enclosure will. One or two fluorescent bulbs that run the length of the aquarium provides enough light for most common tropical plants to be grown. In especially tall enclosures, LED or power compact fluorescent lighting may be better. Plug all lights into a timer to provide a photoperiod of 10-12 hours.

There is also increasing evidence that ultraviolet light is beneficial to amphibians, especially for tree frogs. While clown tree frogs do not require access to UV-B radiation to live, using a light that provides low levels of UV-B is not a bad idea.

Water

At night, clown tree frogs regularly soak in water. The easiest way to provide water to them is with a large water dish. Change the water in the dish daily. Tap water can often be used, but a day before use it should be treated with an aquarium water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines so that it is safe for amphibians.

Diet

Clown tree frogs eat a wide variety of live foods. Small crickets can form the staple diet. Feed around 3-6 crickets per frog several times each week. Pay attention to the condition of frogs and adjust the quantity of food as needed.

House flies are also a great food source for clown tree frogs. House flies are purchased as maggots (sometimes called “spikes”) from feeder insect companies. Allow the maggots to pupate into house flies at room temperature in a well-sealed but ventilated container. Once most have turned into flies, store the flies in the refrigerator to keep them immobile so they can be fed to frogs without flying away. Clown tree frogs will also eat the larger flightless fruit fly Drosophila hydei. Some may also accept worms and grubs offered in a feeding dish. Clown tree frogs are best fed at night, though they may also learn to wake up during the day if food is available.

Use a nutritional supplement designed for reptiles and amphibians before feeding clown tree frogs. The powder should be lightly dusted onto crickets at most feedings. Juvenile clown tree frogs should have their food supplemented at every feeding.

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