Despite their oddly enticing name, tomato frogs do not taste like tomatoes.
However, they are a frog species that are gaining steady popularity within the pet trade.
With their tomato-red bodies and round builds, they have earned their name. But these unique frogs are more than just appealing to look at — they are easy to care for, hardy, and a great conversation starter.
The question, though, is whether they are the right pet for you! Today, we’re going to cover all the care requirements for tomato frogs to help you decide.
|Common Name:||Tomato frog|
|Scientific Name:||Dyscophus guineti|
|Adult Size:||2.5” to 3.5”|
|Lifespan:||6 to 8 years|
|Enclosure Size:||24” x 18” x 18”|
The tomato frog (dyscophus guineti) is a hardy, somewhat toxic species of frog that’s native to Madagascar. This large (compared to many frog species) red species of amphibian is a known burrower, preferring to spend most daylight hours burrowed deep under leaf litter and other substrates. Tomato frogs are nocturnal and most active at night.
The tomato frog reaches an average adult size of between 2.5” to 3.5” inches and requires a relatively small enclosure when compared to other amphibians and reptiles. The enclosure should be humid, warm, and offer plenty of opportunity for burrowing and exploring.
Although it looks like it would be too small to take down any substantial food items, the tomato frog has an impressive appetite and is a carnivore, feasting on invertebrates and other small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
Tomato frogs can learn to tolerate handling and human interaction, but should be left alone most of the time.
A 10-gallon terrarium or aquarium is sufficient for a single adult tomato frog. However, tomato frogs (like all other living beings) will appreciate being given as big of an enclosure as you can manage to provide them. Typically, you’ll want your enclosure to be longer than it is tall, as tomato frogs spend most of their time on the ground.
This being said, if given the space and opportunity to climb, tomato frogs can and will explore vertical space.
Whether you provide your tomato frog with space to climb or not, be sure to use an enclosure that has a tight-fitting lid — it’s truly amazing how adept these chunky little frogs can be at escaping when there’s an opening!
The temperature in your tomato frog’s enclosure should be kept between 75 and 80 degrees. This can be achieved by using a heat pad or mat, a heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter, or heat tape.
Place your heat source on one side of the tank and also include a thermometer so that you can monitor how hot the tank is getting.
Since the air temperature of your tomato frog’s enclosure should be no more than 80 degrees, you likely won’t need a heat source with a ton of wattage. Keep in mind, though, that the wattage you’ll need to achieve the desired temperature will depend on things like the location of your terrarium, the type of terrarium you have, if your terrarium receives sunlight, etc.
Feel free to play around with your heat source to find the right fit.
The humidity level in your enclosure should fall between 65 and 80 percent. The humidity level can be maintained by providing frequent misting – either manually or with an electric misting system- and by providing a large water dish.
Like temperature, you should also monitor your humidity. This can be done by purchasing a hygrometer — a specialized tool that measures the amount of water in the air.
A tomato frog will thrive in an enclosure that is as naturalistic as possible. This means decorating your frog’s space in a way that mimics their natural habitat.
Do this by using branches, logs, vines, rocks, and caves. You can use both real and artificial decor as you see fit. In terms of wood, be mindful of what kinds of wood you’re using in your enclosure — some types are more likely to go moldy in high-humidity areas.
When using any artificial decor, be sure that it’s not sharp and that it won’t harm your frog. Also, if you’re using vertical space, ensure that your frog has a safe way to get from point A to point B. Use sturdy bridges and large pieces of wood to bridge gaps between different areas.
With plants, like other decors, real and artificial varieties can suffice. Tomato frogs are rather large-bodied, however, and are known for crushing live plants.
Tomato frogs don’t require any specialized lighting. They do, however, benefit from a full spectrum lightbulb that is switched on during the day and turned off at night.
In fact, when considering lighting in regard to your frog, it’s important to be aware that leaving a light on during the night can harm your frog. They need a day/night cycle to stay healthy, and it’s impossible to have a proper cycle with a light on 24/7. It’s because of this that we’d recommend investing in a heat source that doesn’t produce light for the nighttime hours, such as a ceramic heat emitter or a heat pad.
The substrate you choose to use for your enclosure should be something that is readily available to you and easy for you to access, as you’ll need to clean and swap out your substrate regularly. You’ll need to use at least two inches of substrate each time you do one of these swaps.
Why? This is due to the tomato frog’s love of burrowing. Your frog will be happiest if you provide substrate that is deep enough for your frog to burrow into.
Substrates like coco choir, Eco Earth, and plantation soil are great options because they retain water well and are loose when applied, making burrowing easy.
You could make your own substrate by mixing any combination of the above or by mixing one of the above substrates with damp sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss makes for a unique texture and can also do wonders for boosting your enclosure’s humidity if that’s something you’re struggling with.
Tomato frogs are carnivores that feast on small insects like worms, burrowing insects, and snails. In captivity, tomato frogs are often fed small to medium-sized crickets as staples. In addition to crickets, they should also be fed a variety of worms like wax worms and nightcrawlers. Large nightcrawlers may need to be cut into pieces before they can be safely offered.
You should also include a calcium supplement in your frog’s diet — calcium supplements come in the form of a powder that can be dusted onto prey items.
It should go without saying that in addition to food and calcium supplements, your frog should always have access to a dish of clean water.
Before tomato frogs can be successfully bred in captivity, it is thought they first need to be ‘cycled’ — that is, put through a cycle that includes an extensive dry period followed by a period of rain and rising humidity. This cycle should also be paired with heavy feeding.
After the cycle, the frogs should be put into a rain chamber (an enclosure designed to simulate the rainy season of the frog’s natural habitat). Here, the female will lay up to 1,500 eggs that will hatch within three days. The emerging tadpoles will take roughly a month and a half to metamorphose.
If breeding is successful and your female lays eggs, you’ll want to remove them as soon as possible because tomato frogs are known for eating their eggs and tadpoles. Because it’s much easier, we’d recommend moving the adults to a different enclosure versus attempting to relocate the extremely fragile eggs.
Once you have tadpoles and they have reached a quarter inch in size, it’s time to separate them into different containers. You don’t have to do this, but it’s a good way to monitor each tadpole’s health.
Tomato frogs have a moderately long lifespan for an amphibian, with many well-care for tomato frogs living for longer than 10 years. In their natural habitat, of course, their lifespans are generally shorter.
While you can technically handle tomato frogs – they don’t have particularly big teeth and won’t poison you on contact- it’s generally recommended not to handle them unless you have to.
Transferring them from container to container for cage cleaning purposes is about as much human contact as your frog should be getting. These frogs are easily stressed and handling is a major stressor for them.
When cleaning their enclosure, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your frog. Human hands can contain traces of soap and other chemicals that, upon contact with your frog, can soak into their extremely porous skin.
In addition, it’s best to hold your frog as close to a surface as possible to mitigate any injuries if your frog were to jump. Jumping from a height that is too great can result in injury or death for your frog.
You’ll know you’ve stressed your frog out if he or she secretes a white substance from their back. This is a defense mechanism that is used in the wild to scare away snakes and other predators and, for the most part, it’s also a mechanism that’ll have you quickly putting your frog back down, too, since this substance is irritating to the skin. It causes mild allergic reactions.
Amphibians are prone to both fungal and parasitic infections. Fungal infections tend to appear physically on the frog’s body, typically in the form of dark gray to light tan-colored nodules.
Symptoms of fungal infections include:
- Discolored nodules on the skin
- Abnormal behavior
Parasitic infections are often first noticed in the feces of the tomato frog when live or dead parasitic worms can be seen.
Symptoms of parasitic infections include:
Metabolic bone disease is common in reptiles and amphibians. It’s caused by vitamin D, phosphorus, and calcium deficiencies. MBD results in soft and brittle bones that are easily damaged.
This disease can be easily managed and prevented by supplying your frog with supplements and a UVB bulb that mimics natural sunshine and boosts the body’s production of vitamin D.
Symptoms of metabolic bone disease include:
- Leg abnormalities
- Issues defecating
- Spinal aberrations
- Bone fractures
- Reluctance to move
The temperature of your frog’s enclosure must be carefully monitored to avoid hypo and hyperthermia. Hypothermia can occur when your frog’s enclosure is too cold, while hyperthermia occurs when your frog gets too cold.
Both cases can be deadly.
Symptoms of hypothermia include:
- Less movement
- Refusing food
- Cold to the touch
- Stiff body
- Unresponsive when touched or handled
- Eyes may appear sunken
- Skin may wrinkle
Symptoms of hyperthermia include:
- Less movement
- Rapid breathing/panting
Obesity can happen to frogs much the same way it happens to humans. It happens when a frog is offered large meals more often than is necessary or if it is fed particularly fatty meals on a regular basis. One fatty meal to only give as a treat is the ever-popular wax worm.
Obesity can cause problems with your frog’s bones and organs, as the heart has to work harder to supply the body with oxygenated blood.
The number one sign of obesity in your tomato frog is your frog looking thick around the middle or bulges at the sides.
Tomato frogs are unique amphibians. From their tomato-red skin to their primary defense mechanisms and large, varied appetite, they are truly special pets.
Caring for them is fairly simple, requiring only basic research and a good understanding of reptile/amphibian care.
This article is a great starting point when researching tomato frogs before purchasing one of your own.
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