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Choosing a White's Treefrog

By: R.D. and Patti Bartlett

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White's tree frogs, also known as dumpy treefrogs, are placid, large bodied frogs whose mouths appear fixed in perpetual smile. They are fun to watch as they proceed along their branches, hand over hand, and show obvious satisfaction as they use their tongues to lap up crickets. Because of their simple housing and food needs, long lives and attractive appearance, they make easily maintained pets.

Reasonably priced at $20 to $25, White's treefrogs are readily available in most pet shops that sell reptiles and amphibians. Tens of thousands are purchased as pets every year.

Origin and Lifespan

White's are originally from Australia and Indonesia. In the early 1960's, these frogs were imported into the United States when little was known about their captive care needs. Through trial and error, much was learned about the White's treefrog and today, their captive care needs can easily be met. They can live ten to 20 years in captivity.

Appearance

The usual White's treefrog ranges from the green color of oxidized copper through olive green to dark brown. Some have a distinct blue tinge, which may be due to genetics or to a lack of carotene in the diet. The belly and chin are white, and frequently there are smaller white spots along the sides and back. The eyes are large and dark.

They are large frogs at adulthood. Females sometimes reach a body length of almost 5 inches. Males are rarely more than three inches from snout to vent. They have expanded toepads that look like circles at the end of each toe, and provide considerable gripping power. When well fed, these frogs develop a rounded ridge over each eye. In a large specimen, the skin falls in a loose fold along each side of the body.

Housing

White's tree frogs do best in a tank that is taller then it is wide because they like to climb. The tank should be appointed with interlaced tree branches that allow the frog to choose the best spots for temperature regulation and observation. A constantly replenished shallow water dish is a necessity.

A single adult can be kept in a 20-gallon tall tank but a 30-gallon tall tank would be better. Provide wide horizontal perches; these frogs aren't particularly heavy but they are a bit clumsy. A larger branch is easier to grasp. Sections of giant bamboo are particularly useful, if parts of the side are removed allowing the frog to secrete him inside. In larger cages, White's seem to find secure hiding places in the axils of banana plants.

One of the keys to keeping a White's treefrog is sufficient ventilation. A typical aquarium hood with lights is not recommended for this frog; instead, use a screen clip-on terrarium top with a light in a dome reflector. During warm weather, an outside enclosure of wood and wire mesh can provide both space and exposure to rain and the sun. But make sure your frog still has an area that can serve as a shaded refuge from the heat.

In any caging, keep in mind that constant moisture is neither necessary nor desirable for frogs like this. Allow a couple of days between mistings. Use a spray bottle, filled with water. Point the bottle upwards over the cage so the water will fall like rain on the frog and its surroundings. Mist enough to put a fine sheen on the frog's skin and on its surroundings.

In smaller cages, substrate, or the covering for the bottom of the cage, can be as simple as paper towels, which are easy to place, and easy to replace when dirty. Newspaper works as well, although it isn't as attractive. Kraft or brown paper looks neat and is easy to change. Cypress mulch or a layer of dead leaves also provides an acceptable substrate. Experiment and use whatever works best for you.

Although White's will sun while in nature or in outside cages, they can control their body temperatures by moving to cooler areas. In a smaller inside cage, they don't have that option. If the area where the cage is kept is cooler than the 77 to 86 degrees that the White's prefer, you can carefully provide access to additional heat/light by using an incandescent light at one end of the tank or cage, or an undercage heating pad (available at your local pet store, from pet catalogs, or on-line) under one end of the tank. Heating just one end of a tank gives the frog the ability to select its optimum temperature.

Feeding

White's treefrogs consume a variety of live foods, from silkworms to mealworms to crickets to moths, pinkie mice or smaller frogs. They do not distinguish between smaller frogs of other species or smaller White's treefrogs, so do not house two widely different sizes together. The smaller frog(s) may well get eaten.

Be sure to dust food items with a vitamin/mineral supplement that contains calcium and vitamin D3. Calcium supplementation is particularly important in preventing metabolic bone disease. Place the feeder insects in a small jar with a pinch or two of the supplements; cover the jar and shake it to coat the insects with the powder.

The frequency and amount of feeding depends on the size of the frog. Frogs that are an inch long should be fed a half dozen fly-sized crickets three times a week. Adult frogs can eat a dozen adult crickets per feeding twice a week.

Handling

White's treefrogs are laid back frogs that won't panic when you pick them up. Their skin is not toxic and they don't bite, reserving their jaws for crickets and the occasional mouse or waxworm. They are easy to handle, but you must do so properly. Because of their absorbent skin, they are more a pet to be admired than handled.

The most common reason for picking up a White's is to clean its tank. It is important that you thoroughly wash and rinse your hands before touching your frog. White's have sensitive skin that absorbs dampness and impurities. Substances on your hands, such as soap residue, could make them ill while traces of insect repellent could be fatal.

Finally, wash your hands thoroughly after handling your frog to protect yourself from the possibility of contracting salmonella, bacteria that is often carried by reptiles and amphibians and which can cause illness in humans.

Medical Issues

  • Metabolic Bone Disease

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