The Argentine Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornate) is known by several other names, including the Argentine Wide-Mouthed Frog, the Ornate Horned Frog, the Bell Horned Frog, and perhaps the cutest name of all, the Pacman Frog. These handsome, rather large amphibians are so named because they resemble Pacman, the chomping hero of the popular video arcade game, when they eat. And eat they do! In the Wild
Native to the rain forests of South America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, these frogs are known as ravenous eaters. The most common species of the horned frogs, these amphibians are considered mostly terrestrial animals but are usually found near areas of shallow water. When the temperatures are cooler or when the air is very dry, Pacman Frogs will burrow into the decaying vegetation and mud found on the floor of the rain forest. They have been known to stay underground for long periods of time, even up to six months. These frogs are very inactive, even in the wild, and they hunt by staying still and waiting for prey to come near before attacking. Their normal diet in the wild includes large insects, small fish, large spiders, small birds, small mammals, lizards, and other frogs, including other Pacman Frogs! When they eat, they will swallow their prey whole, and they have sometimes been known to asphyxiate trying to eat something bigger than themselves! If threatened, the Ornate Horned Frog will puff up, trying to make itself look bigger, and it will also sometimes make a noise that sounds like a scream. With a reputation for being aggressive, the frog will jump at an attacker that is much bigger and more powerful, even humans. The Argentine Horned Frog reproduce through sexual mating, and the female will drop her eggs, somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 of them, in shallow, standing water, where they will grow into tadpoles in a couple of weeks and mature into young frogs in about a month. Physical Appearance Argentine Horned Frogs usually are bright green with black or red markings. In the wild, they can sometimes be darker, with less green and many black markings. Occasionally, tan and brown, green and brown, and albino versions have been found. These frogs are generally very large (as far as frogs go). Males are usually about 4.5 to 6 inches (11.5 to 15 cm) in length and width and are generally smaller than their female counterparts. The females are often 5.5 to 9 inches (14 to 19 cm) and can weigh up to one pound (480 g). What a big girl! The estimated lifespan of the Ornate Horned Frog varies greatly, from 6 to 15 years; however, the average life span for one in captivity is 8 to 10 years, as long as it is given proper care. The most noticeable physical feature of the Pacman frog is its mouth, which is as wide as its head. This has caused them to be nicknamed the “mouths with legs.” Their bodies are large and round so they are often as wide as they are long. The Ornate Horned Frog have teeth and pointy eyelids, which give them the “horned” look for which they are named. Sexing the Pacman Frog can be difficult unless he or she has reached adulthood. By then, the difference in size is quite noticeable, and in maturity, the males have “beards,” or patches of dark pigmentation on their throats,” as well as nuptial pads on their thumbs. Pacman Frogs As Pets These frogs can be great pets as long as you don’t mind watching them sit around and do nothing. Remember, though, that they have a lengthy life span compared to many other caged pets, and they represent a long-term commitment to take care of them. Housing Since Pacman Frogs aren’t very active, they really don’t need a very large terrarium, in spite of their large size. Generally, a 10-gallon tank is a perfect fit for one of them. Because they are known to be cannibalistic, you should only keep one frog in the cage unless you are trying to breed them. Even then, they should be separated after mating, and the babies definitely must be taken away. Although they are not known as escape artists, it is advisable to keep a top on the terrarium, simply because it helps to keep moisture in and helps to keep the temperature steady. Many pet owners cover the bottom of the terrarium with gravel so the frogs can get a better grip for moving. You can also place some stones inside if you like. Because they are used to burrowing into the moist soil, you should include a substrate of moist bedding, such as peat moss or pulverized coconut husk. This bedding should be moist, but never wet. Monitor the moisture level in the terrarium frequently since the terrarium should have about 60-70% humidity. When the bedding is beginning to dry out, mist the substrate with distilled water in a small spray bottle. You should also include a small pool of shallow water, perhaps in a small bowl or saucer, but you need to be cautious. Because these amphibians are notoriously poor swimmers, you need to be sure the water is shallow enough that the frog won’t drown. Use only spring water or de-chlorinated tap water in the frog’s pool. Many owners will include terrarium or aquarium decorations or even live plants in the frog’s cage. This is okay, but you need to be careful with placing these, since the frog may move them around or knock them down when it moves. This could possibly injure your frog. Lighting and Temperature Never put the frog’s cage in direct sunlight! Often these frogs do just fine with the indirect light from lamps in the room. If you decide to use a light in the terrarium itself, use a fluorescent light, rather than an incandescent one that will dry the frog’s skin. Pacman Frogs seem to prefer a cycle of 12 hours of light/12 hours of darkness since that most closely resembles their natural habitat. Many times the frogs do fine in normal home temperatures of about 72 degrees. The very best temperatures, however, are about 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and many owners will use a heater for the terrarium. If you choose to do so, get an under-tank heating pad, which is designed specifically for reptiles and amphibians. Cleaning It is essential that you clean and maintain your frog’s habitat regularly. The Pacman frog must always have clean, fresh water. All amphibians, including frogs, are very sensitive to environmental toxins. Stagnant water that is polluted with feces or uneaten food must be replaced to prevent your frog from becoming ill. If your frog doesn’t have clean water, it could develop a fatal infection from bacteria in the old water. In addition to changing the water, you should also rinse any gravel or stones that you have placed in the frog’s cage. Feeding
Argentinean Horned Frogs are not fussy eaters and can be fed a variety of items. These include earthworms, mealworms, roaches, grasshoppers, caterpillars, feeder fish, snails, silkworms, and crickets. More experienced owners may choose to begin raising crickets on their own. Younger frogs can be fed newborn or “pinky” mice, small fish such as guppies or goldfish, and large insects. All food items should be dusted with vitamins, and they should be fed every day, especially if they eat mostly insects. Adult frogs can be given medium-sized mice or pinky rats, larger goldfish, and even other frogs. They should be fed two or three times a week at the most. Their food should be dusted with vitamins about once a week. It is recommended that frogs be given mice and rats sparingly. Frogs who eat too many rodents are often unhealthy, tending to be obese and showing signs of fatty liver disease and calcium deficiency. The fat build-up can also cause blindness and even death. Handling Pacman Frogs, like most frogs, should not be handled anymore than necessary. All frogs have delicate skin that must stay moist, and handling can dry and tear their skin. As a general rule, frogs don’t even like being handled, and they will often bite, especially when startled. These bites can be very painful so the frogs should be handled only by responsible adults and definitely kept away from small children! For this reason, Argentine Horned Frogs are classified as an “observation” pet.