by Carol McCarthy
Before you add a frog to your family, sit down and first plan out a menu. Frogs are carnivores—and predators—so you will need to be ready to offer a steady supply of fresh prey to your frog. But feeding a frog is more than just dumping a baggie of crickets into the terrarium. Your frog’s diet will be specifically based on species, age, total in the group, and breeding status.
“What do frogs eat?”
All adult frogs need a regular diet of fresh insects; some frog species also need small vertebrates (think pinkie mice) and/or fish to stay healthy. And by “fresh,” we mean really fresh, as in “alive.”
In the wild, frogs are opportunistic feeders—eating whatever comes their way—so you want your frog food to duplicate that experience at home as best you can. And proper nutrition requires a bit more work than dropping random insects into your tree frog’s enclosure, notes Dr. Emi Knafo, DVM, and a clinical assistant professor of zoological companion animal medicine at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
“Because frogs are so diverse, there is no ‘one size fits all’ feeding program,” she says.
While crickets are the most common frog food, it is important to offer your frog a varied diet, including grasshoppers, locusts, mealworms, and, for some larger species, small mice. You can buy live prey food at your local pet store to feed your frog, or you can raise your own crickets to cut down on cost.
How Much and How Often Do I Feed My Frog?
“Some species are very high energy (e.g., dwarf frogs) and need to have live food items available at all times,” Knafo says. “Others are more sedentary (e.g., White’s tree frog) and only need to be fed a few times a week or, in some cases, every other week.”
Frogs—not unlike their human companions—are at risk of obesity from overeating. Frogs will keep eating until they are out of food, which can make them seriously ill. Offer mice and other calorie-dense foods in moderation.
As a general rule, feed your adult frog 5-7 crickets or other insects several times per week, Knafo says. However, froglets—those under 16 weeks old—should be fed every day.
Does My Frog Need Vitamins or Supplements?
It is important to be sure the frog food you choose provides enough Vitamin A, which a frog’s body cannot produce on its own. To do so, include a variety of live insects that are “gut loaded”—insects that have spent more than 24 hours feeding on vitamin-rich foods, such as sweet potato or commercial gut-load food that is dusted with vitamin A and calcium/phosphorous supplements. Include this enriched frog food in approximately every other feeding, Knafo says.
What About Accidental Ingestion?
Remember that as your little tree frog gobbles a grasshopper, he also might consume some gravel or other matter on the floor of his habitat, so it is important to have surface matter that is digestible or not easily eaten in the course of feeding. Astroturf and felt make safe substrates, Knafo notes.
What Size Prey Should I Get for My Frog?
When it comes to ideal frog food, size matters. “Feed only insects that are smaller than the width of the head, otherwise the frog’s intestines can become impacted,” says Dr. Knafo.
What Should I NEVER Feed My Frog?
Because frogs are strictly meat eaters, don’t feed your frog fruits or vegetables, and never feed your frog human table scraps, commercial pet food intended for your other critters, live prey that is too large (a big bug can bite your frog), or wild-caught insects, which pose a risk of pesticide or parasite exposure.
What Do Frogs Drink?
Your frog’s menu is not complete without including plenty of fresh, clean water that has been de-chlorinated. Tap water is also OK, as long as you have treated it to remove the chlorine. You can find appropriate de-chlorinators online or at aquarium supply stores.
Also, check with your municipal water supplier or test your well periodically to be sure it is free of harmful elements that could sicken your frog.
And don’t expect your frog to sip from a water bottle. “Frogs do not drink the way we typically think of with mammals,” Knafo says.
Rather than drinking water with their mouths, frogs absorb water through osmosis (i.e., through the skin). “They have a patch of skin on their abdomen through which they can absorb water,” said Dr. Knafo.
One method of supplying water to your frog is to spray the tank to help ensure adequate hydration, as well to keep the humidity high.
It takes some forethought, but knowing what a frog needs for optimal health and providing a complete, whole diet goes a long way toward ensuring your frog remains a healthy part of your family for several years.