Best known for their eye-catching yellow and red-orange colors, tomato frogs can inflate themselves as both a warning as well as to deter any predators, including snakes. When they're blown up, they tend to resemble tomatoes and become nearly impossible to be swallowed. They can also release a toxic secretion through their skin when threatened.
These frogs have an off-white underside and sometimes also have black spots on their backs. Unlike some other species of frogs, their forefeet are not webbed.
COMMON NAME: Tomato Frog
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Dyscophus antongilii, insularis, and guineti
ADULT SIZE: 2.5-3.5 inches
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 6-8 years
Tomato Frog Behavior and Temperament
Tomato frogs use their distinctive vocalizations throughout the evening when they are most active. You can expect your tomato frog to spend the majority of its time burrowed (they prefer to hide under leaves and mud in their native habitat).
Like most frogs, the tomato frog does not like being handled. Though it won't harm your pet to transport them from one enclosure to another (such as to clean their cage), frequent handling can cause a great deal of stress for your pet. If your frog begins to secrete a white substance from its back, it means you have stressed out your pet (it's what they do when they feel threatened). You'll also want to be sure to wear gloves when handling your frog, as anything on your hands can be absorbed into their skin (from soap to lotion), and potentially harm your pet.
Housing the Tomato Frog
Potential tomato frog owners should know that these frogs live (and breed) in freshwater pools. Found exclusively in Madagascar along the eastern rainforest belt of the island, tomato frogs live in rainforests and swamp forests in the wild, where they gravitate towards slow and even stagnant ponds and other waterways. They can also be found in rivers and marshes, as well as rural and urban areas.
In order to create the preferred environment for a tomato frog, you'll want at least a 10-gallon terrarium as well as a shallow water dish (they don't require a lot of water). You should also have a thermometer to monitor temperature and humidity, plant decorations (they can either be live or fake), as well as places for your tomato frog to hide, such as cork bark flats, branches, and hollow logs. The bigger the tank, the better.
Due to the fact that they are terrestrial, tomato frogs generally benefit from a greater amount of horizontal space (instead of vertical). These frogs like to burrow, so their substrate should be at least two inches deep.
When breeding, female tomato frogs lay hundreds of sticky black-and-white eggs on the water's surface, and tadpoles will emerge about 36 hours later. They will develop for about two months before reaching sexual maturity between two and four years of age.
You may want to use a small heating pad or basking lamp to help keep the environment warm enough for your tomato frog, although it will depend on the temperature of the room that you're keeping your frog in. Be sure to keep the temperature between 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, as anything above or below can cause injury or even death to your frog.
The tomato frog is actually pretty easy to care for as a nocturnal species. They don't require any special lighting, but their habitat should be high in humidity. A full spectrum bulb should be more than enough to keep any plants alive, and won't impact your pet frog--consider a low wattage 2.0 or 5.0 UVB/UVA light set on a day and night cycle.
The humidity level within your frog's habitat should also be kept around 65 to 80 percent, which can be done by misting each day as well as by using a high-quality hygrometer.
Because of their tendency to burrow, a loose substrate (think plantation soil, eco earth, or other coco fiber) is recommended when housing your tomato frog. Try to aim for at least two inches of depth to give them enough room to burrow. Topsoil can also be used, as long as it's free of pesticides and fertilizers and safe for amphibians.
Keep in mind that your frog's burrowing may cause any live plant’s roots to become exposed. As a result, many tomato frog owners opt for fake plants instead of real ones.
Food and Water
Tomato frogs primarily eat insects like beetles, flies, mosquitos, insect larvae, and worms. These frogs are considered to be ambush predators -- which means they mainly hunt at night. Because it may not be possible to provide your frog with the insects they would normally eat in the wild, many tomato frog owners will supplement their primary food source (such as crickets) with calcium and vitamin supplements. Some other potential food sources include mealworms, waxworms, superworms, and pinkie mice.
Your tomato frog will require clean, dechlorinated water, since any toxins in the water can be absorbed through their skin. Frogs prefer soft-to-medium water hardness with a neutral pH level. Despite the fact that they're amphibians, tomato frogs actually can't swim very well.
Common Health Problems
The most common disease that affects Madagascar's frog populations is chytridiomycosis (commonly known as chytrid fungus), which is caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This disease is a significant threat to the species.
Choosing Your Tomato Frog
The tomato frog is becoming one of the most popular frog species, and for good reason. These hardy frogs are relatively easy to care for and, providing their needs are met, actually do make great pets. Keep in mind that these are solitary creatures that can exhibit cannibalistic behaviors and should generally only be kept one per enclosure. You may be able to house two tomato frogs together provided they are given plenty of space to move around and create their own burrows.
If you're a first-time tomato frog owner, you may want to start with a younger, captive-bred frog, which are less likely to be carrying parasites or dormant diseases.
Similar Species of Frogs
If you are interested in other pet frog species, why not check out:
Otherwise, check out other types of reptiles and amphibians that can be your new pet!