American green tree frogs are native to the southeast U.S. from Florida to Virginia, and as their name indicates, they are a bright green color, which helps them camouflage in the wild with the surrounding foliage. They have a light white or cream-colored stripe from the side of the head down to the flanks. American green tree frogs are small; their skin is porous and not recommended for much handling, but they are one of the easier frogs to care for even for a novice. Maintaining the right environment for these hardy amphibians is not too difficult, but you will need to devote at least an hour each week to clean out the habitat.
Common Name: American green tree frog
Scientific Name: Hyla cinerea
Adult Size: Up to 2 1/2 inches long
Life Expectancy: 2 to 5 years
American Green Tree Frog Behavior and Temperament
These small frogs are timid and do not tolerate handling; they are squirmy and will resist it. Some frogs, after many years in captivity, may grow to accept it. But like most frogs, their skin is delicate and continuous hand contact can damage their skin.
Do not plan on keeping this frog's habitat in your bedroom. As nocturnal creatures, the males are especially active and vocal at night. American green tree frogs are not cuddly pets, but they are fun to watch. Their big eyes seem to look longingly at a spot, and their mouths always appear to be perpetually smiling.
Click Play to Learn More About the Cute and Shy American Green Tree Frog
Housing the American Green Tree Frog
A minimum 10-gallon tank is suitable as a terrarium for green tree frogs, although larger works well too. Frogs are arboreal, spending most of their time in trees. The height of the cage is more important than the floor space, so a tall tank is best. Get a secure mesh or wire cover to prevent escape.
Climbing is essential for this species. Provide a variety of branches, live plants, or artificial vegetation. Ensure any wood collected from the outdoors is pesticide-free. You will need to treat or sanitize harvested wood to remove harmful bacteria or bugs. Driftwood and cork bark also make suitable cage furnishings.
Unlike many other frog species, the American green tree frog doesn't require any special heating considerations, unless it drops lower than 70 F in your home. It's entirely nocturnal, and no supplemental ultraviolet light is needed. It will, however, need a humid environment.
Thoroughly clean the enclosure once a week. Do not use soap as detergents can kill your frog. Make sure your hands are clean (but not recently soap-cleaned) or use latex-free gloves. Gently place the frogs in a small container.
Take everything out, rinsing and scrubbing under hot water. The tank itself will need to be cleaned too (with hot water, no soap). As for the bedding, use washable liners, such as reptile carpeting or washable coconut fiber mats. You can use a gentle laundry detergent for the liner, but it must be rinsed thoroughly with cold clean water. To cut your cleaning time, have two pieces of tank liners, so when one is dirty, you will always have a clean one ready for use.
The temperature needs of this frog are similar to humans; they thrive at temperatures from 70 to 75 F. As these creatures are cold-blooded, they need to regulate their internal body temperature. They do this by moving around in their cage to cool down or get warm. Provide a thermal gradient or range of temperatures in the cage. You can do this by putting a ceramic heat emitter in one corner or end of the cage. The temperature should not exceed 82 F in that warm spot.
This animal is nocturnal and will likely sleep during the day. It does not require lights, but a UVB fluorescent light tube (5.0) can be beneficial but not necessary for this species. The invisible ultraviolet rays may help your frog metabolize calcium.
Humidity should be around 50 to 60 percent during daytime and spike to 80 to 100 percent at nighttime. Never let the humidity level fall below 50 percent at any time. A hygrometer or humidity gauge will help you check moisture levels. Automated misters and foggers can provide moisture on a timer if you are not home to mist your cage regularly with a spray bottle.
Substrate is the bedding or lining for the bottom of your pet's cage. The safest, easiest, and most economically efficient choices are reptile carpet or a coconut fiber mat. These are easily washable and safer since your frog cannot mistakenly ingest it.
However, you can still use other substrates, such as cypress mulch or organic soil, moss, cork bark, or smooth gravel. You can try to clean small gravel every week, but it would require boiling to sanitize it adequately, so it's best to replace it entirely every week. If your frog seems to be eating some of its substrate with its insect meal, consider switching to a reptile carpet or a coconut fiber mat which can prevent health issues down the road.
When selecting plants for your frog's cage, get plants that thrive in a similar climate: temperatures in the 70s F, high humidity, and lower light. Also, make sure your plant selections are not toxic to amphibians. Your best options will be sturdy ferns or philodendrons.
Food and Water
Green tree frogs are generally good eaters and exclusively eat insects. Crickets can make up the bulk of a green tree frog's diet. The crickets should be gut-loaded—fed a high-protein, nutritious meal before being offered to the frog—and dusted with a calcium and multivitamin supplement a couple of times a week. Fruit flies, houseflies, moths, worms, and other insects can also be fed to your American green tree frog if available.
Tree frogs will likely eat more in the spring and summer months than in the winter. Feed smaller frogs daily, while larger frogs can be fed daily or every other day. Expect to feed three or four insects per feeding. Do not overdo it. Frogs are opportunistic feeders and can grow obese. If it appears that your frog is getting obese, cut back on the number of feedings per week. If your frog appears overweight, it could also benefit from more space to move around and get exercise.
Provide a large, shallow, sturdy water dish with dechlorinated water; it must be shallow since these frogs are not good swimmers. Mist the cage daily with dechlorinated water to maintain humidity. Frogs absorb water from the habitat's ambient moisture through their skin. They also may drink water droplets on plants or tank walls.
Common Health Problems
As with most amphibians, bacterial and fungal infections of the skin and eyes are common ailments. Pus (which may look cheesy), swelling, or redness are signs of disease. Although less common in frogs than in other reptiles and amphibians, respiratory infections can occur in frogs that have enclosures with inadequate or too much humidity. Symptoms of a respiratory infection include wheezing, drooling, and general lethargy.
If your frog is not eating well and shows no other apparent symptoms, it may have a parasitic infection. Usually, this needs to be diagnosed by an exotics veterinarian who specializes in reptiles and amphibians.
The vet should take a yearly fecal sample to check that your frog doesn't have an overgrowth of usual parasites. Also, pet frogs are susceptible to ammonia poisoning, which is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when wastes accumulate in an animal's enclosure. Ammonia build-up can be prevented by regular, weekly cleaning.
All of these ailments can be treated by a qualified vet if caught early.
Choosing Your American Green Tree Frog
Frogs can make lovely pets, but frogs in the wild are facing population declines and extinction due to human encroachment. If you take in a wild-caught frog as a pet, it may have diseases or health issues.
Buy a locally captive-bred frog from a reputable breeder and make sure it tested free of disease. You can usually find a breeder through an exotics veterinarian, another frog owner, or a reptile expo. Reptile shows typically have amphibians on display and for sale, too. Most American green tree frogs cost about $10.
Look for an active, alert animal that has clear eyes with skin that looks free of bumps or cuts. If you can watch it eat before deciding, that's ideal; most frogs will not refuse food unless they're unwell. Likewise, if the frog you are considering seems lethargic or is having trouble breathing, or if its abdomen seems bloated, these may be signs of illness.
Similar Species to American Green Tree Frogs
If an American green tree frog interests you, you may want to look into related species:
Otherwise, check out all of our other frog profiles.
Llewelyn, Victoria K. et al. Permeability Of Frog Skin To Chemicals: Effect Of Penetration Enhancers. Heliyon, vol 5, no. 8, 2019, p. e02127. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02127
Infectious Diseases Of Amphibians. Merck Veterinary Manual, 2020
McNamara, Sean et al. Husbandry, General Care, And Transportation Of Xenopus Laevis And Xenopus Tropicalis. Methods In Molecular Biology, 2018, pp. 1-17. Springer New York, doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-8784-9_1