How To Care For A Pacman Frog? Lifespan, Size & Setup

Reptiles & Amphibians May 8, 2022
Written by | Updated Sep 13, 2022
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How To Care For A Pacman Frog? Lifespan, Size & Setup

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Pacman frogs (also known as horned frogs) can make good pets for the right person. In terms of care, they are easy amphibians to keep. They have great color patterns and unique “eyebrows” that make them fun to watch. This article will help you understand their special needs and decide if they’re the right pet for you.

Care

The care of an amphibian includes providing an enclosure that meets all the physical and mental needs of your pet. It needs the proper temperature, lighting, humidity, substrate, and size. Good care also involves feeding the proper diet.

Pacman Frog Lifespan

Pacman frogs can live 7 years or more in captivity if they have good care. Proper care creates conditions similar to their wild habitat, since they’re well adapted to that world.

Pacman frogs in the pet trade most often would be native to humid forests in South America. However, there are actually several different species of horned frogs living in different areas, so depending on the species, the habitat could look a bit different. These general guidelines will cover you for most of the pacman frogs in the pet trade. 

It’s important to choose a captive-bred animal for your pet. Taking a horned frog from the wild is bad for the ecosystem. Additionally, it can introduce disease from the wild into other animals in your home. One of the most serious concerns is Chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that has been devastating wild amphibian populations

Cage Size and Setup

Adult pacman frogs are fairly large. A full grown Pacman frog males will be 4-6 inches long, and females may be up to 8 inches long. They aren’t the most active frogs, but they still need a decent sized habitat to feel comfortable. They seem less active because they hunt by waiting still and waiting for insects to go past, then ambush the prey.

Because of this behavior, many care sheets say that a 10-gallon aquarium is adequate for an adult. Despite the fact that you won’t see them move much, they will feel far more comfortable in an aquarium twice that size. They’re nocturnal frogs, and they’ll move around the enclosure at night. When they do, they’ll appreciate the size. 

Substrate

Leaf litter or moss will allow better burrowing and help maintain humidity better but need to be changed 1-2 times per week to avoid mold growth.

Substrates should always allow natural behaviors. For the bottom of the cage, it’s best to use 3-4 inches of sterile potting soil or coconut fiber to allow burrowing. Leaf litter or moss will allow better burrowing and help maintain humidity better.

Moss and leaf litter needs to be changed 1-2 times per week to avoid mold growth. Some people also use pebbles to help better drainage. If they’re used, the pebbles should be large enough to deter swallowing. 

Plants should be provided to offer hiding areas an enrichment. Live plants are best for maintaining a healthy habitat, but if you’re not good at keeping plants alive, then you can use artificial plants. In addition to plants, wood tunnels can be offered for hides. 

They should also be provided a water bowl for soaking. The frog should be able to fully submerge in the water. With amphibians, it’s important to use water that has been treated to remove chlorine, chloramine and other potential contaminants. Using reverse-osmosis water is another good option. Their skin absorbs toxins very easily, so untreated water can be very bad for them.

Temperature

Enclosures should have a temperature range between 70 and 85 F, with a gradient across the enclosure. Much higher than that temperature range can cause heat stress. A weak heat lamp or a heat pad on the bottom or side of the cage can provide the needed heat source. Make sure either is placed in a way that wouldn’t allow direct contact. If they get too close to the lamp or they get in direct contact with glass over the under-cage heater, then they can get severe burns. 

Lighting

Provide a low-intensity UV light for 10-12 hours a day. Be aware that the UV spectrum wanes long before the light burns out, so it should be replaced every 6 months. Use lights with similar intensity to those for Leopard geckoes as described in our related article on choosing the best light for your leopard gecko. Hides on either end should be provided to let them escape the light when desired.

Humidity

The humidity needs in the enclosure are high. They require levels of 65-85%, verified by using a hygrometer. Most enclosures will require the use of a misting system to maintain this level of humidity. For more information on humidifiers, see our article on the best humidifiers for reptiles currently on the market. Alternatively, you can spray the enclosure 2-3 times per day as long as the humidity stays in the desired range. Again, use treated tap water or reverse osmosis water for the humidifier or spray bottle. 

What Do Pacman Frogs Eat

Pacman frogs in the wild feed on insects and small vertebrate prey items. 

They should not be provided foods designed for other animals. 

Mealworms, crickets, earthworms, and waxworms are all good choices for insect food items. They should be fed good quality vegetables for several days prior to being offered. Additionally, they should be dusted with a calcium supplement (without D3) when fed to your pet. Insects and invertebrates have higher levels of phosphorus than they do calcium, and the dusting gets that back to a positive ratio for proper utilization of calcium.

Weekly, the calcium supplements are replaced by a multi-vitamin supplement (with D3).  Young animals should be fed daily, but as the frog matures and growth slows, the insects should be offered 3-4 times per week. 

In addition to the insects, you can feed feeder goldfish on occasion, or even small mice as a rare treat. 

Temperament

It is safe to hold a pacman frog, but they don’t enjoy being handled and it will cause them stress and possibly damage their health.

Pacman frogs don’t enjoy being handled and it will cause them stress. Their skin is very sensitive and permeable. Oils from your skin can damage them easily. Nicotine on a smoker’s hands, lotions, perfumes, and other substances are toxic and can cause serious health problems for frogs. 

Health Concerns

All amphibians should be seen regularly by a veterinarian. The most common health concerns that you may see include:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Fungal or bacterial skin infections
  • Abscesses
  • Parasites 
  • Chytrid fungus
  • Sepsis (“red leg”)

It’s also good to get an annual health exam for your frogs. If you need to find an experienced reptile and amphibian veterinarian, start your search here

Summary

Pacman frogs can be great pets for someone willing to make the commitment to the care they require. Just be aware that they can’t be handled much and they’re most active at night. They are beautiful and interesting frogs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you touch a Pacman frog?

It’s safe for you to touch them, but it’s not good for them. Their skin is very sensitive and easily harmed by the oils on our skin. 

Is a Pacman frog a good pet?

They can be great pets as long as you’re not expecting them to be cuddly and interactive. They don’t do well when handled and they’re active at night.

Are Pacman frogs poisonous?

No, they aren’t toxic to humans. 

Do Pacman frogs bite?

Despite the large mouth that makes them look like Pacman from the video game, they aren’t prone to bite people. They are ambush predators, so with a sudden movement, they may mistake movement for food, so approach slowly just to be safe. That’s also where they get the nickname “horse killer,” for biting horses’ lips when the horses are grazing. 

How big do pacman frogs get

The average adult size of a Pacman frog is 4-6 inches, the female adult size is 4.5-8.5 inches.

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Mike Corcoran is a 2008 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (Go Cougs!). His practice history has included small animal emergency medicine and exotic animal exclusive practice, including being an associate at Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital, and starting and managing a referral practice for exotic animals at Bulger Veterinary Hospital in the Boston area. He is a certified aquatic veterinarian and a board-certified specialist in Reptile and Amphibian Practice with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr. Corcoran has served on the board of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) for more than 5 years, including 1 year as President of the organization. He is currently the chair of that group’s Legislation and Animal Welfare Committee. Dr. Corcoran currently resides in sunny Southern California and is practicing part-time while acting as a consultant for numerous practices and remaining active in teaching and lecturing.
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