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Gray Tree Frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis and H. versicolor)

Gray Tree Frog
(Photo By Herschel Raney)

Introduction: Gray tree frogs are medium-sized, arboreal frogs native to eastern North America. They are common in much of their range near small bodies of water, and are often encountered by humans during the breeding season in spring. If you capture one in the wild and keep it in captivity, do not release it.

There are two species of gray tree frog: Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor, both of which look identical and can only easily be told apart by their call. In captivity they both require the same care. Adults reach a size of around 2 inches (5 cm). As their common name suggests, most are predominantly gray, although their ventral side is a light white, and on the inside of their hind legs there are two bright orange or yellow flash marks. Gray tree frogs have the ability to change color depending on temperature, humidity, light intensity, and the color of their surroundings. They can range from bright green, to pale white, to dark brown, although most of the time they remain gray. Juveniles are generally green in color and develop their gray adult coloration as they mature.

Gray Tree Frog  Gray Tree Frog  Gray Tree Frog  Gray Tree Frog
A gray tree frog showing green coloration
Photographs by Tom Streich

Cage: Although gray tree frogs are nocturnal and usually remain motionless during the day, at night they become active and will use all of the room they are provided with in captivity. A 15 gallon high aquarium that measures 20 inches long by 10 inches wide by 18 inches high (51cm by 25cm by 46cm) is large enough for two adult frogs, although more room is better. A tight-fitting screen cover is essential to prevent escapes. It may be helpful to cover all but one side of the aquarium with black poster board or aquarium background to help reduce stress and make the frogs feel secure.

Main components of the cage include a substrate, perches, and hide spots. Suitable substrates include coconut husk fiber (bed-a-beast, forest bed, eco earth) or other safe soil, moist paper towels, foam rubber, or large river rocks. Avoid using aquarium gravel, small pieces of bark, reptile cage carpeting, or sand, because these substrates can cause health problems if accidentally ingested by the frog while feeding. Gray tree frogs are arboreal and need a number of good perches and climbing branches. Driftwood, cork bark tubes, bamboo poles, or PVC pipe segments can be positioned at different angles in the cage to provide varying perches. Live or fake plants can be draped over these perches to provide cover. Cork bark flats can be placed against the side of the cage to provide additional shelter.

Gray Tree Frog Housing      Gray Tree Frog Housing

Temperature: In captivity, gray tree frogs can tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F (10°C) and as high as 90°F (32°C) temporarily without harm. Ideally, the cage should be kept between 68°F (20°C) and 78°F (26°C) during the day, with a slight drop in temperature at night. A low wattage light bulb can be placed above the cage on cool days to provide a slightly warmer area. Gray tree frogs are not tropical amphibians and do not require high humidity levels. Several times a week, mist the cage with water to temporarily increase the humidity.

Water: Provide a large water dish for soaking. The water should be changed every day or when it appears to be dirty. Treat tap water with tap water conditioner before using it in the frog's cage to remove chlorine, chloramines and hard minerals, or use bottled spring water.

Food: Gray tree frogs have a large appetite. They accept most soft-bodied invertebrates, including crickets, moths, flies, waxworms, small silkworms, and earth worms. The majority of their diet should consist of live crickets. These can be offered every two or three days, in quantities varying between three and six feeders at a time depending on the size of the frog and the size of the cricket. Every few feedings, a different type of food can be substituted for crickets. Juvenile frogs should be fed more frequently than adults, as often as every day. The food should be coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements every two to four feedings. Juvenile frogs should have their food supplemented more often.

Last updated 05.23.05

Online Resources
AmphibiaWeb: Hyla versicolor
Animal Diversity Web: Hyla versicolor
Frogland's Gray Tree Frog Care Sheet
Frogs of Georia - Gray Tree Frogs
Tree Frog Care