The gray tree frog is a diminutive species with duller colors. However, this small frog packs a great punch in terms of pet potential. It is docile, easy to care for, and offers great entertainment value. It is an active climber and males are often vocal at night. They are easy to source and inexpensive. This makes them ideal for beginners who want to get into the amphibian and reptile trade, but who are wary of the expenses that can go alongside it.
|Gray Tree Frog
|Eastern North America
|Females: 1.5 – 2.5 inches Males: 1 – 2 inches
|10 – 15 Years
|15 Gallons (Minimum)
The gray tree frog is fairly simple in terms of coloring, diet, and care requirements.
It is usually a mottled gray or green, although that color shifts to yellows and whites on the legs and belly. However, these colors may vary depending on breeding; the frog may have more browns on its body, or less color on its legs.
Their diets consist of easily-sourced insects like crickets and mealworms, all of which are available at most commercial pet stores. They may be given other insects, such as superworms, as treats.
In terms of care, these frogs require a 15-gallon enclosure, at a minimum. Temperatures need to range from 70 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while humidity levels need to remain around 50%.
Lights should include both a day and night cycle, and use UVB lighting.
These components of the enclosure – heat, lighting, and humidity – are perhaps the most difficult part of owning a frog. However, timers can ensure the enclosure stays on a schedule no matter how busy the owner is.
As its name implies, the gray tree frog is typically composed of varying shades of gray, green, and brown. This blotchy pattern is meant to act as camouflage, mimicking the moss or lichen found in its native habitat.
Sharply contrasting the rest of its skin, the undersides of this frog’s legs are colored yellow or orange. This fades into a creamy white on the belly.
Males will have a black throat, although this may only be revealed when it is making mating or threat calls.
These frogs also commonly feature a white spot underneath its eyes and dark strikes running from the back of its eyes toward its front legs. The legs often have a banded pattern.
However, it is possible for this frog to change color depending on the enclosure temperature or their activities. For example, your frog may appear darker during the daytime or lighter during the nighttime.
This trait is actually what it is scientifically named for: versicolor means ‘variable color’ in Latin.
It is a stouter frog, though not flat. Its skin feels coarse to the touch, unlike some species which have smoother skin.
It features webbed feet with enlarged tips, which allows it to easily grip and climb.
Females of this species are larger than males. Females typically range from 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, while males are typically 1 to 2 inches long.
Price & Availability
Gray tree frogs tend to cost between $10 up to $50. Price can vary based on the coloring, gender, and age of the frog.
Purchasing from a pet store is likely to be less expensive than sourcing directly from a breeder.
This frog is not threatened or vulnerable; its conservation status is currently ‘Least Concern.’ However, all interested owners should still source their frogs from captive-bred populations.
Wild-caught specimens may carry diseases or parasites. They are also more prone to stress, which can affect their eating, activity, and overall health.
Also be careful not to accidentally purchase a Cope’s tree frog instead of a gray tree frog. They look extremely similar, but are in fact different species.
Behavior & Temperament
Gray treefrogs are nocturnal and will therefore be most active at night.
If you want to see your frog’s activity, consider implementing a ‘reverse’ light cycle. This means that the 12-hour ‘night’ period would happen during your day, while the 12-hour ‘day’ period would happen during your night.
These frogs are not overly vocal, but males do often emit loud calls. Typically, they become more noisy at dusk and nighttime.
These calls are meant to establish territory, fend off competitors, and attract a mate. Male frogs can intermittently call for as long as four hours at a time.
Gray frogs typically live between 10 and 15 years in captivity. However, their lifespan is greatly impacted by their care.
Ensuring your frog has the proper diet, enclosure, and medical care will help them live as long as possible. Without these crucial elements, the frog will have a significantly shorter lifespan.
Breeding also plays a factor in their lifespan. Prior to buying a gray tree frog, research the store or breeder you will be purchasing from to see if they are reputable.
This is another reason to buy a captive-bred specimen instead of a wild-caught one. Wild-caught frogs tend to have much shorter lives than captive-bred pets.
The grey tree frog is an arboreal species, so it will need ample climbing room. Enclosures should be at least 15 gallons, although your frog will always appreciate more room.
The enclosure should have more vertical space than horizontal space.
Their natural habitat ranges from the eastern U.S. to southeastern Canada, so it is fairly versatile. This frog has been found in environments ranging from forests to swamps, but all had two critical elements: trees and water.
Because of this, climbing opportunities and access to water should be the primary focus of your enclosure. Ensure your frog has lots of branches, driftwood, and other materials to interact with.
These frogs also greatly enjoy foliage, such as leaves and other greenery. This can be artificial or live.
Try to incorporate a lot of hiding places for your frog. They enjoy hunkering down in tree holes or roots, under logs and leaves, and even under protruding bark.
For water, you can either include a waterfall feature or simply place a drinking bowl at the bottom of the enclosure. Either way, there should be some access to water from the forest floor.
This is because, as adolescents, gray tree frogs will remain near the forest floor. They will only become confident climbers as they mature.
Temperature & Lighting
Grey frogs need a temperature of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they will also need an area that is slightly warmer, closer to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Establish a temperature gradient in the tank, so that there is a ‘warm’ area and a ‘cool’ area. This will allow your frog to manage its temperature, moving as needed to establish its ideal body temperature.
At night, these temperatures can dip to mimic natural conditions, but not by much. The ‘cool’ side of the tank should not drop below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, at the lowest. The ‘warm’ side of the tank should not drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, at the lowest.
To monitor your enclosure’s temperature, use a thermometer. It is recommended to place one thermometer in the upper portion of the tank and one in the lower portion. This will allow you to monitor the temperatures on the ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ sides of the tank.
Under-tank heaters (i.e., heat mats) and heat bulbs are appropriate sources of heat. However, you should make sure that the glass near these heat sources does not get hot enough to burn your frog.
Along with a heat gradient, you should also establish a light cycle, as noted in an earlier section.
You will need to use UVB lighting in your enclosure. This provides your frog with the D3 vitamin.
The UVB lighting can also double as a heat source, or it can only be a light source. Similarly, if you choose to use a night bulb, it can either be only a source or light or it can double as a heat lamp.
If you decide to imitate your frog’s natural habitat and introduce a ‘winter’ period, be aware that your frog will enter into hibernation. The frog will not move and will begin producing glycerol to artificially ‘freeze’ itself.
Gray tree frogs need a humidity level of roughly 50%. This humidity level needs to be consistent.
Use a hygrometer to measure humidity levels in your enclosure.
There are several things you can do to try and help with maintaining humidity. One is to use a glass enclosure instead versus an acrylic enclosure.
Another is to use a substrate that will hold humidity, such as one that is made with coconut fiber. You can also add sphagnum moss and other types of moss to the enclosure, which will hold water and increase humidity.
A common method to maintain humidity levels is to mist the enclosure daily. Alternatively, you can install a misting system.
However, you should not mist when the tank is in its ‘night’ period. This is because cooler temperatures combined with water can cause respiratory infections.
The diet of the eastern grey tree frog primarily consists of insects. However, they may also snack on smaller amphibians or arachnids, such as other tree frogs and spiders.
In the wild, their diet includes mites, lice, ants, snails, and slugs. But in captivity, more appropriate meals include crickets, mealworms, beetles, and flies.
Waxworms, hornworms, and superworms can also be used as treats. Keep in mind, these should be fed sparingly, as they are not protein-rich.
Always ensure your insects have been gut-loaded prior to feeding time. You should also check to make sure the food is captive-bred versus wild-caught, to prevent accidentally passing on diseases to your pet.
To help with your frog’s diet, you can also use vitamin and diet supplements. Common supplements include calcium and vitamin D3.
Supplements can be mixed into water sources. More commonly, the insects are dusted with the supplements just before feeding time.
Because this frog is nocturnal, it prefers to be fed in the evening or at night. This is when it naturally hunts for food.
Potential Health Issues
Like most frogs, gray tree frogs are mostly prone to respiratory infections and fungal infections. The best way to prevent infections and other health concerns is to keep your enclosure clean and within the correct parameters.
Regular veterinary checkups and preventative care is also a good idea. Check with local veterinarians to see if any specialize in amphibians and reptiles.
Like other pets, an annual checkup is a good idea. To reduce stress, try to minimize handling during these periods.
If you want to breed your eastern gray tree frog, you will first need to induce hibernation. Then, you can trigger a ‘springtime’ period, which is when these frogs mate.
You can either transfer your frogs to a specific breeding tank or alter your frog’s current tank. Whichever you choose, there will need to be a large body of standing water.
The foliage in the tank should be close to the water, preferably hanging slightly over it. Males will use these trees and driftwood to send out their mating calls, hopefully attracting a female.
However, the actual mating will take place in the water. You will know if mating occurs if a female approaches a male, initiates physical contact, and then allows him to mount her (this mating position is called ‘amplexus’).
The female will then lay the eggs, which will be fertilized by the male. Clutches can consist of up to 2,000 eggs and typically come out in small groups.
Tadpoles usually hatch within three to seven days. Maturity into a frog takes anywhere from 45 to 65 days, although full sexual maturity takes roughly two years.
The tadpoles will greatly differ in color to adults. They will initially be red or orange, with only darker black or grey speckles. As they age, this bright color will retreat to their legs and they will take on their darker adult coloring.
The gray tree frog, also known as the eastern tree frog, may be small and drab-looking. But despite this, it is an entertaining and docile pet that is enjoyable for both beginners and advanced keepers alike. For beginners, this is a great starter amphibian. For advanced keepers, this is a laidback pet with easy care requirements, especially when compared to some more high maintenance species. No matter your experience level, you will be delighted by this frog’s nocturnal adventures and vocal chorus.