Pacman Frog Care Sheet, Diet, Housing & Lifespan

Pacman frogs are a large and colorful species that make an excellent beginner pet.

These frogs are low maintenance, cheap and easy to feed. Their greedy appetite makes feeding them entertaining and fun.

Outside of feeding time these amphibians are generally very sedentary and lazy. They won’t provide much entertainment in the form of activity and behavior. Luckily they make up for this with their adorable faces and many different colors and patterns.

Pacman frogs are available from most pet stores, regardless of where you live. They are great for kids and adults who want to try their hand at keeping amphibians…

About Pacman Frogs

Pacman Frog

Pacman frog (Ceratophrys) is the common name given to any species of frog from the genus Ceratophrys. This group of frogs has eight species which are all native to South America.

The three most common pet species of the genus Ceratophrys in rank order are:

  1. Cranwell’s horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli)
  2. Surinam horned frog (Ceratophrys cornuta)
  3. Argentine horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

The ease with which Pacman frogs can be bred and the large number of offspring produced has led to many more subspecies. These Pacman morphs vary in color and pattern and mesmerize anyone who looks at them! Regardless of which species or morph you buy, the care and husbandry required for each is virtually identical.

These frogs are also known as South American horned frogs.

“Horned” comes from the hornlike projections extending above their eyes. These horns act to help camouflage them by mimicking the edge of a leaf on the forest floor.

“Pacman” refers to their large mouth and round body, similar to the video game character Pac-Man! The connection to the video game character Pac-Man is even more obvious when you watch these frogs eat. Their large jaws and greedy appetites mean they eat just about anything they can fit in their mouth.

Like most amphibians this species lives an extremely lazy lifestyle. One of the main reasons for this is their poor anti-predator adaptations. They are almost defenseless against the bears and snakes that hunt them.

Another reason for their sedentary lifestyle is their hunting style. They are a sit and wait predator which means they can go hours (and sometimes days) without moving. Luckily for new keepers this behavior and lack of activity means they can be raised with very minimal effort.

Pacman frogs are exclusively terrestrial and only live on dry land. They are designed to burrow into loose soil or moist leaf matter. Unlike most other frogs you will not find them in water. In fact the structure of their legs and feet is very poor for swimming.

Species Overview

  • Common Names: Pacman or South American horned frogs
  • Scientific Name: Ceratophrys
  • Range: South American dense forests and humid rainforests
  • Size: 2 to 5 inches long
  • Color: Base color of green, yellow and brown
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Diet: Carnivores – crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms and mice
  • Tank Size: 20-gallon tank for one adult
  • Temperature: 75°F to 82°F
  • Humidity: 60 to 80%
  • Price: $20 to $100

Fun Facts

  • Pacman frogs have two different types of teeth, maxillary and vomerine. Maxillary teeth closely resemble what most people think of as teeth and are easy to spot along the edge of their upper jaw. They also have two more vomerine teeth in the roof of their mouth. These teeth are typically hard to spot as they are covered by a mucous membrane.
  • These amphibians are considered nocturnal. This means they are most active during the night and rarely move during the day. They can sometimes go days without moving.
  • The Pacman Frog does not sleep in the same way humans sleep. While they may close their eyes and “rest”, they do not have a REM form of sleep. Very little is known about sleep for animals outside of mammals.
  • These frogs can and will bite your hand if they mistake it for food. Because of this you should not extend fingers or hands near their mouth.
  • Pacmans should never be held or handled unless it is absolutely necessary. As a general rule handling any pet amphibian is something that should be avoided as much as possible. Amphibians have extremely sensitive skin that can absorb potentially toxic chemicals like soaps and oils from your hands. If you need to pick them up make sure to wash your hands with hot water before and after and wear non-powdered vinyl gloves.
  • You may not be able to handle this species, but that does not mean you cannot develop a bond with them. Developing an appreciation for their stunning colors and patterns requires no physical touch.

Appearance and Colors

Pacman Frog colors

The two most eye-catching features of this frog are their intricate patterning and hornlike projections. Pacman frogs use their horns, patterns and colors as a type of camouflage to look like leaves on the forest floor. They rely on this camouflage to escape potential predators as they do not have long distance jumps!

Their horns mimic the texture of leaf edges. Their red, orange, yellow, green and brown colors also help them blend in with the various fallen leaves on the forest floor. Pacman frogs will often burrow the lower half of their body into the soil, while leaving the upper half exposed.

Most types of Pacman frogs look relatively similar, but there are a few key differences that set them apart.

Wild type specimens of the three most popular pet species (Cranwell’s, Surinam and Argentine) typically have a base color of green, yellow and brown. They will also all have small black or gray markings that can be found on their white undersides.

While these three species all have a similar color, they differ in the size and shape of their horns, as well as in the size and shape of their markings:

  • Argentine horned frogs have very dull and short horns that do not extend far above the eye. They also have small circular spots that extend down either side of the spine.
  • Surinam horned frogs have much longer horns that come to very dramatic points. Their markings are less like spots and more like oblong markings that extend down the spine and sometimes continue past the eyes to the nose.
  • Cranwell’s horned frogs have horns that fall somewhere in between the other two species. Their oblong pattern and markings are similar to the Surinam species.

Pacman frogs are similar to other burrowing frogs in terms of their body appearance. They have much shorter and less muscular hind legs than other common species like Bull and Green Frogs. They are also much wider than most other species.

Size

horned frog

Pacman frogs begin their life as a tadpole.

These tadpoles start out close to the size of a pencil eraser and grow until they are about the size of a thumbnail. Once they reach this size they will metamorphose into frogs.

Juvenile frogs continue to grow very quickly after they emerge from the water. Within about six months your pacman frog should have reached its adult size of between two and five inches.

How big does a pacman frog get will depend on their species, but most males are around two inches and females are much larger at five inches. Their exact size will vary slightly based on their subspecies, care and nutritional intake:

Species Size (Female) Size (Male)
Cranwell’s 5.1 inches 1.7 inches
Surinam 4.7 inches 2.8 inches
Argentine 4.9 inches 4 inches

The adult size of Pacman frogs is often considered giant! They are very large relative to other species, especially females that can typically reach twice the size of males.

Interestingly most amphibians are indeterminate growers. This means that their growth may slow down after reaching adult size, but they will continue to grow until they die.

Pacman Frog Care

Pacman Frog Habitat

Pacman frogs have very simple care needs.

Misting and spot cleaning are the only daily care requirements these pets need. They do not need to be fed daily.

Because of their sedentary lifestyle and burrowing habits they also do not need a complicated tank setup. They require very minimal décor and do not require an elaborate lighting setup or specific thermal gradient.

These traits make them an excellent pet frog for someone who does not have a lot of time on their hands or does not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy tank set up.

Enclosure Size

Pacman frogs do not require a large amount of space to be happy.

Juveniles can easily be housed in a 10-gallon glass tank.

After about six months your juvenile should have reached its adult size and can be moved into a larger glass tank. The best pacman frog enclosure for an adult is 20-gallons in size and made from glass. Juveniles can also be housed in a 20-gallon enclosure from the beginning.

Tank Setup

Wild pacman frogs like to burrow into the moist leaf litter of South American dense forests and humid rainforests. The setup of a pacman frog tank should copy their natural habitat and allow them to burrow.

The best way to setup their enclosure is to fill the entire floor of the tank with four inches of shredded coconut fiber.

Alternatively you can fill the tank with smooth rocks or paper and then use a wide dish approximately four inches tall and fill it with shredded coconut fiber. If you decide to use a wide dish then make sure your frog has some sort of ramp to easily move in and out of the soil.

Some beginners choose to use a bowl because it makes cleaning and substrate changes much easier. You can simply remove the dish and replace the coconut fiber, instead of moving your frog to a temporary enclosure while you replace the substrate.

Regardless of which substrate option you choose you will need to mist the enclosure daily.

Misting is done to mimic the rain water they would get from the rainforests. It also increases humidity levels. Make sure you do not mist your frog with normal tap water. Tap water contains chemicals that your pet will absorb through its skin that can prove fatal over time.

There are several good ways to get healthy water for misting. Boiling and cooling tap water, using spring water or treating tap water with commercial products.

You will want to keep humidity between 60 and 80%.

A plastic tank top will help to maintain a more constant humidity level. Avoid using mesh lids as they let too much humidity escape.

You should also provide them with a shallow water dish. The dish should be deep enough for them to comfortably soak in, but not deep enough for them to swim. Once again make sure this water is properly treated before using it in their water dish.

Finally Pacman frogs also enjoy some form of hide on top of their substrate. Sterilized wood or rocks can be used. Live plants also make a good option and help to maintain humidity.

Lighting

UVB lighting for pacman frogs is widely debated.

Given that these frogs are nocturnal they encounter very minimal UVB light in the wild.

Regardless of whether your light source emits UVB rays or not we recommend you provide a 12 hour day night cycle.

Pacman frog tank temperatures should not exceed 82°F during the day or fall below 75°F at night. Under tank heat mats can be used to increase the temperature if it begins to dip too low at night.

Diet

Argentine species

Pacman frogs are exclusively carnivores and will eat almost any animal that can fit in their giant mouths!

RELATED: What Do Frogs Eat? Feeding Chart, Food List & Diet

How often to feed pacman frogs depends on their age.

Juveniles under one year old should be fed anywhere from one to six crickets every other day. The amount of crickets they eat will depend on the size of the cricket. A pacman frog diet can also include various feeder insects like:

  • Roaches
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms

As your frog grows they will begin to eat larger animals such as pinkie mice and fish. Full grown Pacman frogs will even be able to eat pinkie rats. Adults only require one meal each week that is the approximate size of a pinkie rat.

Both juveniles and adults should be given nutritional supplements that can be lightly dusted on their food before feeding. Use a calcium and multi-vitamin powder once a week, Vitamin D3 every two weeks and vitamin A once per month.

It is important to not overfeed your pet. Pacman frogs are known to eat themselves into obesity! Frequently check for signs of obesity like fat deposits around the belly and adjust the amount you feed if you spot any obesity.

Feeding Pacman frogs is simple, but never attempt to do it by hand. These frogs have teeth and a bite that can be painful.

Most beginners should use tong or dish feeding. Tong feeding is as simple as grasping the prey with tongs or tweezers and feeding it directly. Depending on the prey you can also place it directly into a shallow dish and let your frog find it on its own.

Lifespan & Health

Handling a Ceraotphrys

Wild Pacmans have a very short lifespan of one to five years. With proper care pet species can live much longer at between 10 and 15 years. Even with their increased lifespan these individuals are still vulnerable to some common health problems.

Obesity

Most amphibians, excluding axolotls, are prone to eating themselves into obesity. If they are full it is not uncommon for them to turn away from food, but they will still eat every day if food is offered. Using a feeding guide and monitoring their food intake is very important to prevent obesity.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Frogs lacking vitamin A can show symptoms such as dry or rough skin, puffy skin around the eyes and fluid buildup in the hind legs. Vitamin A needs can easily be met with a nutritional supplement or by gut-loading their diet.

Bacterial Infection

The humid environment required to keep your frog happy is also the perfect place for bacteria to grow. This bacteria can cause health problems such as red-leg disease. You should perform a total substrate change every two months to prevent the buildup of potentially harmful bacteria.

Untreated Water

Using untreated tap water for misting and water bowls can be toxic to your frog. Amphibians absorb chemical compounds directly through their skin and the concentration of chemicals deemed safe for humans in tap water is often too high for amphibians.

Behaviors

Argentine Horned Frog

Pacman frogs are generally very sedentary and lazy animals.

Do not be surprised if your frog doesn’t move for days at a time.

These frogs are excellent ambush predators. In the wild they will often wait for days for an unsuspecting insect or mouse to wander within striking range.

Their color, pattern, and horns all aid in this sit and wait hunting style as they can easily camouflage themselves. Their appearance and color mimics the color and texture of fallen leaves on the forest floor. It allows them to go unnoticed by both predators and prey.

When they do decide to move Pacman frogs are extremely territorial. Males will not hesitate to bite or even eat other species that hops into their territory.

Males can also be surprisingly vocal. You can expect daily croaks from males after six months of age.

Beginners often pick males for their small size, but do not know about their loud screams and mating calls. Their range of vocalizations includes grunts, chirps, croaks, and occasionally screams. These noises can serve many purposes ranging from being surprised to mating calls.

Are Pacman Frogs Good Pets?

Pacman Frog Close Up

There is no such thing as a bad pet frog!

If you are looking for a colorful, fun pet that has a greedy appetite and cute, large mouth then they make a great choice. Pacman frogs make excellent pets for keepers who want a simple, low maintenance pet they can enjoy looking at, but not touching.

Pros Cons
Very low maintenance and simple to care for. They only require a small 20-gallon tank with minimal setup and décor. You cannot handle them. Frogs have extremely sensitive skin that can absorb potentially toxic chemicals and hard them.
They come in many beautiful colors and patterns with an adorable round body and cute face. They may try to bite you if they mistake your fingers or hand for food.
Cheap to buy as most pet shops will sell them for less than $30. Males will keep you up at night while calling for mates and croaking.

If you are looking for a pet that you can pick up and handle then any type of frog is not a good pet for you. Instead take a look at some popular pet lizards like bearded dragons or leopard geckos.

Pacman Frogs Cost

Pacman Frog Face

Pacman frogs are very cheap compared to other pet reptile species like snakes.

Many pet shops will sell these frogs for less than $30. However some people advise against commercial pet stores due to the poor housing and sourcing conditions they provide their animals.

There are many private breeders due to the popularity of this species and the ease with which they can be bred. They are also one of the most common species at reptile conventions and expos. Purchasing from one of these more reliable sources is likely to result in a more healthy pet, even if it does cost more than one from a pet store.

Pacman frog prices from breeders vary based on the species, color and age of the individual:

Species Price ($)
Cranwell’s 20 – 90
Surinam 65 – 100
Argentine 20 – 45

Summary

Anyone can care for a Pacman frog, regardless of their previous experience caring for reptiles.

Misting and spot cleaning are the only daily care activities these pets demand. They do not need daily feeding or a complicated tank setup with lots of décor.

These frogs are extremely lazy and do not provide much entertainment in the form of activity. But they are beautiful to look at and males may even croak and sing to you at nighttime!

No matter which type of pacman frog you are looking at, their adorably round bodies and cute facial expressions are sure to put a smile on your face.

About Nigel Robert

Nigel Robert Nigel is the managing editor at More Reptiles. He is a lifelong reptile lover, biologist and wildlife consultant who brings a decade of experience working in reptile conservation and consultancy. He joined our team in 2020 and when he’s not reviewing reptile care sheets, he’s out looking for reptiles in the wild!

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