White's tree frog is a green or blue-green frog native to Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. It's a popular pet because of its petite size and its facial "expression," which includes sleepy-looking eyes and a "smiling" mouth.
Its skin has a waxy coating that allows it to tolerate more arid conditions than its fellow tree frog breeds.
- Names: White's tree frog, Litoria caerulea, dumpy tree frog
- Lifespan: Typically up to 15 years, although 20 years has been reported
- Size: Four to five inches long
White's Tree Frogs Behavior and Temperament
White's tree frogs are quite sedentary and docile and can become fairly tame and tolerate handling. Remember, however, that amphibians have very sensitive skin that absorbs chemicals easily, so extreme care is needed when handling.
Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and rinse well; natural oils and salts found on human skin can be damaging, as can any soap or lotion residue.
These frogs are nocturnal, which means they are more active in the evening and night hours. A White's tree frog is a good choice for a beginning frog owner.
Housing the White's Tree Frog
White's tree frogs in the wild spend most of their time in trees and need an enclosure with lots of climbing room. A minimum 25-gallon aquarium is recommended, and the arboreal type (tall rather than wide, often hexagonal) is better.
A tight-fitting lid is essential, as these frogs have footpads that will let them easily scale the side of an aquarium. More than one can be kept in a tank or pond, as long as they are of similar size; otherwise, the larger ones may eat the smaller ones.
Provide lots of branches, large pieces of cork bark, and foliage for climbing, keeping in mind that they need to be quite sturdy to support these stocky frogs. Live plants can be used, although they must also be sturdy and free of fertilizer or pesticide residues on the plant or in the soil. Live plants in the terrarium can be kept in small pots to make cleaning the tank easier.
Placing a large piece of bark diagonally across the cage, a couple of inches from the back wall will allow the frog to hang from the back of the tank under the cover of the bark to sleep during the day. Alternatively, any sort of thick plant cover or hide that allows the frog to hide during daylight hours can be used. Covering the back surface of the tank with dark paper helps the frog find a secluded and dim area to sleep during the day.
A piece of paper a couple of inches tall placed around the bottom of the tank may help if the frog tends to rub its nose along the glass to attempt to get out.
Your frog's cage should probably be spot cleaned every day, wiping off any large bits of waste matter from the plants and bottom of the tank. The water in the dish should be changed daily, or at least every other day.
As always, use a thermometer to confirm that appropriate temperatures are provided. Lighting should be subdued, and if needed at night, use a nocturnal bulb. A regular light-dark cycle should be used; 12 hours light and 12 hours dark should be acceptable.
These frogs are nocturnal, so there are no special lighting requirements. Exposure to UVB is not necessary, although some exposure won't hurt. A basking light or heater should be provided, though, specifically outside of the cage to provide a gradient of 80 to 86 F (27 to 30 C) during the day, with a drop to 72 to 78 F (22 to 25 C) at night.
Food and Water
A diet of primarily crickets can be fed to White's tree frogs. Other items for their diet can include moths, beetles, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and earthworms. Fully grown White's may even take pinkie mice on occasion. Insects can be placed in the cage or offered using blunt-tip forceps.
The amount of food your frog needs will vary somewhat, but keep in mind that White's tree frogs tend toward obesity, so do not overfeed. As a very general guideline, feed large frogs (greater than three inches long) a few larger crickets every two to three days, adjusting based on the frog's behavior and body condition.
Smaller frogs can be offered about three-week-old crickets every two to three days, and juveniles should be fed daily.
The best way to judge how much to feed is by looking at the frog's body condition. Look for ridges just above the frog's eardrum. If there are no noticeable ridges, the frog is likely underweight and should be fed more or more often. If the ridges become prominent and start to sag or fold over, then the frog is obese and should be eating less.
The insects fed to the frog should be gut loaded. In addition, the food should be dusted with a calcium-vitamin supplement, daily in very young frogs, once or twice a week for mid-sized frogs, and once a week for mature frogs.
Larger pieces of bark, large-sized gravel, or soil can be used and covered with sphagnum moss, which helps retain moisture for humidity. Avoid small-sized gravel or bark that the frogs may accidentally ingest. Some keepers prefer a barer approach, simply lining the tank with paper or paper towels to facilitate cleaning. It is a bit harder to maintain the appropriate humidity this way, though.
Other Environmental Concerns
Humidity should be maintained at about 50 to 60 percent. The tank should be misted daily with dechlorinated or bottled (not distilled) water. A dish of water should also be provided.
Frogs like to get into the water to rehydrate and soak, so it should be large enough that the frog can comfortably sit in the dish, but not too deep that there is a risk of drowning since tree frogs are not strong swimmers.
Do not use fresh tap water with frogs and other amphibians, due to the chlorine used in the water purification process. Water provided in the dish and used for misting should be allowed to sit in an open container at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, and ideally treated with a dechlorination kit (available at pet stores). Alternatively, bottled water can be used, but do not use distilled water.
Common Health Problems
The most serious threat to the White's tree frog's health is a disease known as chytridiomycosis, which is caused by the chytrid fungus. This fatal disease can spread quickly in the wild and has caused a large decline in the amphibian population. It's characterized by lethargy and weight loss, and few reliable treatments are available for it.
This is the main reason it's important to buy a White's tree frog only from reputable breeders who can verify that your pet is captive bred and free of disease.
Choosing Your White's Tree Frog
As with any exotic pet, White's tree frogs bred in captivity are safer options, since frogs caught in the wild may not handle captivity well. They may also have parasites or other infections. Reptile shows and online breeders are a good place to start looking for your new pet.
Try to avoid buying a frog you haven't had the chance to see in person, however; ideally, you should watch it eat to make sure it has a healthy appetite, a sign of good health.
Similar Species to the White's Tree Frog
If you're interested in comparing other frog breeds, here are a few frogs that are similar to the White's tree frog: