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Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

Agalychnis callidryas

Introduction: Red-eyed tree frogs are colorful, arboreal frogs native to the rainforests of Central America. Their bright colors have made them popular in the pet trade, and they can be located from many different sources including breeders, reptile dealers, reptile shows, and specialty pet stores. Their most apparent physical feature is their red eyes. Certain southern populations have burgundy-colored eyes, and have been labeled by pet dealers as ruby-eyed tree frogs. Their dorsum and legs are green, and the sides of their body are striped in blue and yellow. The tone and amount of blue or yellow varies between populations. In addition to their bright red eyes, they also have bright orange feet with large toepads that they use to climb with. The ventral side of red-eyed tree frogs is a solid white or crème color. They are a medium-sized tree frog, and adults usually range in size from 2 to 3 inches (5 cm to 7.6 cm), with males being smaller than females. Mature male frogs also call. Red-eyed tree frogs are completely nocturnal and are not active during the day unless they have been disturbed or happen to notice food. They are also commonly called red-eyed leaf frogs.

When selecting a red-eyed tree frog, purchase one born in captivity over those that are wild-caught. Captive-bred red-eyed tree frogs are generally healthier, less stressed, and easier to care for initially. Avoid purchasing captive-bred frogs that are are smaller than ¾ inch (1.9 cm) in length because these small juveniles are very sensitive. Unfortunately, captive-bred red-eyed tree frogs are not always available, and in some situations it may be necessary to purchase wild-caught adults. When selecting a wild-caught frog inspect it well for health problems. Do not purchase frogs that have a patchy coloration (their dorsal side should be uniformly green), and pass up any frog that displays unusual behavior, such as sleeping on the ground. Also avoid frogs with open wounds, such as severe rostral abrasions, as well as any other unusual bumps, soars, or rubs. Bacterial infections and internal parasites are two common problems associated with wild-caught red-eyed tree frogs that may need the attention of a trained veterinarian.

Cage: Red-eyed tree frogs need to be provided with an enclosure that offers plenty of space. They are arboreal and benefit from cages that offer a reasonable amount of vertical room. A standard 20 gallon aquarium that measures 24 inches long by 12 inches wide by 16 inches high (61 cm by 30 cm by 40 cm) is large enough for two to four adult frogs, although more room is better. Young frogs should be kept in smaller enclosures. A secure cover is essential to prevent escapes.

Possible substrates for the cage include coconut husk fiber (bed-a-beast, forest bed, eco earth, etc.) or other safe soil, sphagnum moss, moist foam rubber, or moist paper towels. Coconut husk fiber works well because it holds moisture and is usually safe if swallowed. Red-eyed tree frogs can also be kept in living terrariums that contain a safe soil mixture and live plants. For more information about creating one see tropical terrariums. Foam rubber and paper towels can be used in simple setups that are cleaned often. They are particularly useful for young frogs and for adults that are being quarantined. It may be helpful to add a few small clumps of moist moss in simple setups to help maintain high humidity levels. Gravel and small pieces of bark should be avoided because they can cause problems if accidentally swallowed while the frog is feeding.

Agalychnis terrarium

In addition to a substrate, red-eyed tree frogs should be provided with perches and hiding areas. Driftwood, cork bark tubes, vines, bamboo poles, and pieces of PVC pipe work very well for perches. Live or fake plants can be used to furnish the cage. These can be draped over perches to form arboreal shelters for the frogs. In the wild, red-eyed tree frogs spend much of their time hiding on exposed large green leaves, so providing a plant that has large, sturdy, green leaves is ideal. An aquarium background or black poster board can be taped to all but one side of the cage to reduce stress and make the frog feel secure.

Temperature and Humidity: Red-eyed tree frogs are native to tropical rainforests in Central America and the temperature and humidity level that they are kept at should mimic this environment. During the day the temperature should range from 75F to 85F (24C to 29C). At night the cage can be allowed to cool. Avoid drafty conditions where the temperature fluctuates. A small infrared light bulb can be used to heat the terrarium during both the day and night if necessary.

Maintain moderate to high humidity levels. This can be accomplished by misting the cage with water daily. In particularly dry households, you may find it necessary to restrict ventilation by taping a piece of glass or plastic wrap over part of the screen cage cover, but in most situations this is not necessary. Avoiding stagnant conditions by providing good ventilation is more important than maintaining high levels of humidity.

Water: A source of clean water should be available at all times. If tap water is used it should be treated with a tap water conditioner to remove all chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals. Bottled spring water can be used instead of tap water. Change this water daily.

Food: Red-eyed tree frogs primarily eat soft-bodied invertebrates. In captivity they can be fed a diet that consists largely of crickets. Mealworms, wax worms, and small silkworms can be offered instead of crickets occasionally, and should be placed in a small feeding dish to prevent them from burrowing into the substrate. Moths, houseflies, and other flying insects can also be offered. Adult red-eyed tree frogs can be fed three to six food items every two to three days. Juveniles should be fed on a daily basis. Adults should have their food coated with high quality reptile vitamin and mineral supplements once every two to four feedings, while juvenile’s should have their food dusted with supplements at every feeding. It's best to feed at night when red-eyed tree frogs are active and on the hunt.

Last updated 11.19.07

Online Resources
AmphibiaWeb: Agalychnis callidryas
Animal Diversity Web: Red-eyed Tree Frog
Bowling Green University - Red-eyed Tree Frog Care - Red-eyed Tree Frogs
Honolulu Zoo - Red-eyed Tree Frogs
Living Underworld: Agalychnis callidryas
Red-eyed Tree Frog Care Sheet by Frogland
Red-eyed Tree Frog Company Care Sheet