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What Is a Horned Frog?

A horned frog, despite its name, isn't a frog at all! It's actually a lizard, known for its horn-like protrusions. These creatures, native to the deserts of North America, boast a unique defense mechanism and a fascinating diet. Intrigued by how they survive in such harsh conditions? Join us as we uncover the secrets of the horned frog's resilience.
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

The horned frog, also known as the ceratophrys, is a genus of South American frog. There are many species of this type of frog, but only two species are commonly kept as pets. These are Ceratophrys ornata, also known as the Argentine or ornate horned frog, and Ceratophyrs cranwelli, also known as Cranwell's horned frog. These frogs are typically rather large, reaching lengths of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) and weighing up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms). These frogs may be green, orange, yellow or brown with black or red splotches, and albino horned frogs are also available.

These frogs are often known as Pac-man frogs, because they typically have very large mouths. In the wild, these frogs normally hunt by secreting themselves under leaves, grasses or moss on the forest floor and snatching prey as it walks by. They normally feed on insects, worms, small reptiles, small mammals, and other frogs, even other horned frogs. They can usually be sustained in captivity with a diet of worms, crickets, small mice, and small fish. Horned frogs will often feed indiscriminately if allowed, and can become overweight without dietary controls.

Horned frogs in captivity are often fed crickets.
Horned frogs in captivity are often fed crickets.

Caring for a horned frog usually involves keeping it in a temperature- and humidity-regulated tank, at an ideal temperature of 77 to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 28 degrees Celsius). This species of frog normally regulates its own body temperature by burrowing beneath the soil when it becomes too warm or dry. A tank lined with chemical-free soil, paper towels, coconut husk, or peat moss can provide an adequate habitat for the captive horned frog. Misting the tank's lining with fresh, chlorine-free water every few days can help provide the moisture the frog needs to keep itself cool and its skin moist.

These frogs generally can't swim well, but like to wet themselves regularly, so most people who keep them as pets provide a shallow container of water for the frog's convenience. Many frogs will use this bowl of water as a toilet area, so horned frog enthusiasts are generally advised to change the water daily. Cleaning the tank itself is generally advised every 60 to 90 days. These frogs can absorb toxins through their skins, so it's considered important to rinse the tank thoroughly after cleaning to remove all chemical residues from the environment. Handling these frogs is generally considered threatening to their well-being, since dirt, residue, and skin oils on the hands can harm them.

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    • Horned frogs in captivity are often fed crickets.
      By: viter
      Horned frogs in captivity are often fed crickets.