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Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)

Cuban Tree Frog
(Photo by Frank Henke)

Introduction: Cuban tree frogs are common in the North American pet trade. They are an invasive species in Florida, originally introduced accidentally by hitchhiking aboard boats carrying produce. They have had a large impact on other Florida amphibians because they are more adaptable than the native species. They also have a large appetite and can eat other frogs. In addition to those two advantages, Cuban tree frogs are also poisonous and have few predators. Their adaptability and large appetite, although disadvantages for the native wildlife of Florida, are good qualities for a captive amphibian, and they can make excellent first pet frogs. It is imperative that those who live in a climate that could potentially sustain a population of Cuban tree frogs act responsibly while keeping them. Do not allow pets to be released or escape into the environment.

Cuban tree frogs are the largest tree frog found in North America. Females can grow to almost 6 inches (15 cm) in length, while males generally stay smaller. Like many other tree frog species, Cuban tree frogs have the ability to change color depending on their surroundings. Most can change from a solid bright white to a dark chocolate brown. Some frogs can even turn dark green. They are nocturnal animals and are rarely active during the day unless there is food around or they are disturbed.

Cage: Although Cuban tree frogs sleep during the day, they are extremely active at night and will use all of the room provided to them. A 20 gallon extra high aquarium that measures 20 inches long by 24 inches high by 10 inches wide (50 cm by 61 cm by 25 cm) is large enough for two or three adult frogs, although more room is better. A secure screen cover is essential because Cuban tree frogs are excellent climbers and will escape without one.

The substrate in the cage can be cypress mulch, coconut husk fiber (bed-a-beast, eco earth, forest bed, etc.), sphagnum moss, moist foam rubber, or moist paper towels. Large branching pieces of driftwood or long cork bark tubes can be positioned at an angle to provide perches. Cuban tree frogs are arboreal so they spend most of their time hanging out high in the cage. Artificial or live plants can be draped around these perches to provide shelter.

Temperature and Humidity: Cuban tree frogs are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures which is one reason why they make good captives. The ideal temperature during the day will range from 78°F to 88°F (26°C to 31°C). The night time temperature can drop to 65°F (18°C) without harm. Days where the temperature is outside of that range are tolerated well by healthy animals. A small infra-red incandescent reptile heat bulb can be positioned over part of the cage for heat.

The humidity can remain high (60-90%) during most of the year because Cuban tree frogs are native to tropical climates. A daily misting or two will keep the humidity high enough. Plastic wrap or glass can be placed over part of the screen section of the cover to lower the amount of water that evaporates from the cage if the humidity falls too low.

Water: A large bowl of clean water should be available at all times. Cuban tree frogs often soak in it during the night. The water should be changed every day or when it appears dirty. If tap water is used, make sure to treat it with tap water conditioner to remove all of the chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals. Bottled spring water can be used instead of tap water.

Food: Cuban tree frogs are not picky eaters. They will attempt to eat pretty much anything that moves and might be able to fit into their mouth. Crickets can make up the majority of their diet. Other food items such as wax worms, moths, earth worms, house flies, silkworms, roaches, and slugs can be offered instead of crickets every few feedings. Adult Cuban tree frogs can be fed two to five food items every two to three days. Juvenile frogs should be fed everyday. These frogs have been known to eat small lizards and frogs, including other Cuban tree frogs. Adults should have their food coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings. Juveniles should have their food supplemented more often.

Last updated 05.22.05

Online Resources
CBS News: Cuban Tree Frogs Found In Georgia
Frogland's Cuban Tree Frog Care Sheet
Michigan University - Cuban Tree Frog
New York Herpetological Society - Cuban Tree Frog Care