Named for the dark spots on their backs, leopard frogs are small, semiaquatic frogs. The Northern leopard frog is bright green with brown spots, while the Southern leopard frog is more olive green or light brown with dark spots. The Plains leopard frog, also known as Blair's leopard frog, is brown with dark spots.
- Names: Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens (Northern Leopard frog), Rana utricularia or Lithobates sphenocephalus (Southern Leopard frog), Lithobates blairi or Rana blairi (Plains Leopard frog); also called the meadow frog
- Lifespan: Approximately 5 to 8 years
- Size: Approximately 3 to 5 inches
Behavior and Temperament
These cute frogs sometimes come out during the day but are primarily nocturnal. While they may try to eat anything they can swallow (which also includes other frogs), their main diet consists of insects. They're somewhat timid, hiding below the water when they feel threatened.
Be advised they can jump up to 3 feet due to their powerful hind legs. Frogs that have been domesticated aren't as likely to do this, but it's not out of the question if they feel endangered.
Leopard frogs are naturally wired to hibernate, so they will slow down and may stop eating in the winter, roughly about three months. If possible, the tank can be cooled to between 37 and 39 F for the winter months to mimic the frog's natural environment.
A 10-gallon tank is sufficient for a single leopard frog, but if you are keeping more frogs, the tank size must increase, keeping in mind that floor space is more important than height. Leopard frogs are semiaquatic and need a land area as well as a large enough body of water that they can submerge their bodies.
A half-land, half-water tank is an excellent choice for leopard frogs. These can be set up in several ways. It is easiest in the long term to separate the land and water areas with a piece of plastic or Plexiglas placed across the aquarium and then sealed with aquarium-grade silicone sealant. This allows the use of soil (or a combination of soil and peat moss, covered with reptile bark and sphagnum moss) on the terrestrial side to allow the frogs to burrow.
A dense piece of wood such as driftwood can be placed partly in the water and partly on land to provide a smooth transition from water to land. This also provides a sweet basking spot. Alternately, gravel can be sloped in the aquatic side to provide a ramp out of the water.
The depth of the soil on the terrestrial side should be at least 2–3 inches to allow burrowing. A layer of gravel can be used on the aquatic side. It is imperative to use smooth gravel to prevent skin abrasions and injuries, and ideally, the gravel should be large enough that the small frogs cannot swallow it. Plants and driftwood can be used for climbing, hiding spots, and basking.
The tank can be kept at room temperature between 68 and 75 F (20–24 C), although a temperature drop at night is a good idea, down to about 60 F (about 16 C). Leopard frogs live all over the United States and Canada, so they are relatively hardy amphibians.
UVA/UVB light is recommended to create a day/night cycle as well as to provide the essential invisible rays that allow your frog to metabolize calcium. Some people feel this light is not necessary but is not harmful and is more likely to be beneficial to your frog.
Just make sure the frog can't jump onto the lamp; make sure your mesh screen lid is secure. Avoid making the enclosure too bright, however, as the frogs may hide if the tank is very brightly lit.
Other Environmental Concerns
The water used in a leopard frog tank must be dechlorinated. Use a product from the pet store designed to remove chlorine and chloramine, if your water supply is treated with it, to be safe.
Filtration is not a necessity, but doing a 50 percent water change regularly (at least twice weekly, perhaps more) is necessary. Some experts believe that constant water vibrations from a filter cause sensory overload in frogs and should be avoided.
Food and Water
Leopard frogs should be fed a variety of invertebrates, such as crickets, wax worms, fly larvae, and earthworms. A meal of three to four crickets daily is a good starting point, although some experts recommend feeding mature frogs only every other day. Variety seems to be key with frogs.
Crickets can make up the bulk of the diet but should be supplemented with a variety of other insects and worms. Prey items should be gut loaded (fed nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dog food, fish food, or cricket gut loading formula) before being given to the frog. Once weekly, dust the crickets with a reptile calcium powder.
Keep an eye on your frog's body shape. Remember that overfeeding is likely more of a problem than underfeeding, so ensure that your frog is not getting too round. Cut back on feeding if necessary.
Common Health Problems
Like many captive frogs, pet leopard frogs are susceptible to red leg disease. A parasite causes this, and it displays as the name suggests, with a reddening of the legs. A frog with this ailment will be apathetic and sluggish, and while entirely treatable if caught early, red leg disease does require a visit to an aquatic veterinarian.
Leopard frogs are also prone to fungal infections, which appear as inflammation or a cottony-looking substance on the skin. Again, when caught early, this is treatable, but consult a medical professional. Submerging a frog in any solution without a veterinarian's supervision could be fatal.
Choosing Your Leopard Frog
Leopard frogs are excellent pets for inexperienced frog owners. They're relatively low maintenance, as long as you don't handle them frequently. Look for frogs with clear skin and eyes that aren't cloudy. While these frogs may not be overly active, that's not a cause for concern; they frequently remain still to avoid predators, or whenever they're feeling nervous.