Pet frogs have always been popular among children, but plenty of adult frog lovers like to have their own amphibious pets, too. African bullfrogs are not your everyday White's tree frog or dwarf clawed frogs, but their care is quite similar. These are large, classic-looking frogs that are native to Africa but found in homes across the world.
Be advised that these pets aren't cuddly; African bullfrogs have a well-earned reputation for being ornery. If left unbothered, they'll be fine, but if you want a pet you can handle and play with, this might not be the option for you.
Scientific Name: Pyxicephalus adspersus
Common Names: African bullfrog, pixie frog.
Adult Size: Males are larger than females and can grow to be over 4 pounds and 10 inches long. Females typically weigh in around 2 pounds and don't get any larger than about 6 inches long.
Life Expectancy: Up to 35 years.
Behavior and Temperament
African bullfrogs can be fun to watch in their tanks but aren't really much for handling due to their sensitive skin. Make sure you are able to commit to such a long-term amphibian before taking the leap to frog ownership.
These frogs have sharp teeth and have been known to bite humans, especially when being handled. They croak loudly to let you know when they are feeling stressed. Male bullfrogs will guard—and sometimes eat—their tadpoles in the wild.
These frogs make fine pets as long as the owner knows the parameters. Don't mess with them or provoke them, and don't expect them to cuddle with you. In return, you'll have a handsome, easy-to-care-for amphibian with a fairly long lifespan.
Pet frogs are simple to care for, but you must ensure that your habitat is set up correctly. Humidity is very important when caring for amphibians due to the nature of their skin. Bullfrogs require a damp tank and plenty of water for them to swim in. The larger your frog, the larger your tank needs to be.
You can use small, smooth rocks for the bottom of the tank. Fill it about a third of the way with water and then use progressively larger stones to build up one side of the tank to create a beach. This will give them something they can easily climb onto and allow them some time out of the water when they want to dry off.
A container of dirt can also be provided in the event your bullfrog wants to burrow. In the wild, African bullfrogs burrow their entire bodies into the dirt and hibernate for up to two years to escape the dry season. In captivity, though, we can control the temperature and humidity that our frogs live in, making it unnecessary for them to hibernate.
Keep the water in your tank clean and do not use treated water. Dechlorinizing solutions are available in the fish department of your pet store, or you can let tap water sit overnight to remove the chlorine from the water.
The amount of lighting your bullfrog requires depends on what the room temperature is where it is living in your house. A room that doesn't drop below 75 F should be appropriate for your bullfrog. If you find it isn't very active or isn't eating much, try increasing the temperature to create a warmer home.
Simple water heaters designed for fish tanks and heat lights made for reptiles can be utilized to create an ideal environment for your African bullfrog.
Coco fiber, made from coconut husks, is a good organic option for substrate—the bedding that lines the bullfrog's enclosure. Peat moss is another option; basically, you're looking for something to retain heat, ideally organic in nature.
Avoid using any soil that has been treated with insecticides or other chemicals. Be sure it's clean and change it frequently; African bullfrogs are known to eat the substrate in their cages, so any material lining the enclosure should be easily digested.
Food and Water
These large frogs are quite the carnivores. One African bullfrog in a zoo even supposedly once ate 17 baby cobras. African bullfrogs will eat whatever is available to them, but you should provide a healthy diet.
A healthy bullfrog diet consists of gut-loaded crickets, mealworms, and other available insects, as well as small rodents (like mice and baby rats called fuzzies), and even other smaller amphibians. Stay away from grocery store meat like chicken and beef. This muscle meat does not provide bullfrogs the same vitamins and nutrition the whole-prey items offer.
Common Health Problems
Although these frogs live a very long time, they don't need much in the way of health care. If their environment is warm and damp enough, your frog shouldn't have any skin issues. Bacterial and fungal infections of the skin and eyes are common, though, in pets that live in less than ideal conditions.
Intestinal parasites, like the ones reptiles get, can be an issue with pet bullfrogs as well. If your tank temperatures are warm enough and your frog still isn't eating well, try bringing your frog into an experienced exotics vet to rule out parasitism. A yearly fecal sample should also be checked to make sure your frog doesn't have an overgrowth of normal parasites.
Also be on the lookout for ammonia poisoning, which occurs when the frog is left in an enclosure that has not been cleaned of waste.
Choosing Your African Bullfrog
A healthy African bullfrog has olive-green skin with skin ridges and clear eyes. An adult male has yellow coloring on the throat. Males grow to be much larger than females, so if the size is a concern, you may want to choose a female of the species. But don't expect a petite, docile pet; the females are just as voracious and sensitive to being handled as the males.
Similar Species to African Bullfrogs
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Otherwise, check out all of our other frog breed profiles.