Becky works as a biological science technician in endangered species conservation, and has a passion for biology and wildlife conservation.
The Pacman frog, also called the ornate horned frog, is a popular pet amphibian known for its beautiful coloration and large size (it grows to be five or six inches long). As a result of years of careful breeding projects carried out by hobbyists, there are now numerous Pacman frog color morphs available, including bright green, brown, albino, bright yellow, pink, and even blue!
It can live 10–15 years if provided with proper care, and it has a voracious appetite and loves to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. However, because it catches food by sitting still and waiting for its prey to walk by, some pet owners may find this particular frog species a bit boring, as it spends most of its time partially buried and as motionless as a statue. (For owners who want an active and lively pet, fire bellied toads may be a better option.)
The Pacman Frog: A Good or Bad Pet for You?
Care requirements are very simple.
Can be a boring species for a beginner frog keeper. It spends 95% of its time burrowed in the dirt, out of sight, doing absolutely nothing except waiting for food to walk by.
It needs very little space.
Again, it doesn't need much space because it spends all its time buried and/or sitting still.
It can be fed a variety of unique foods.
Diet consists of LIVE feeder insects, which involves handling live bugs and very routine visits to the pet store to purchase bugs (unless you breed your own).
The enclosure will be like having a tiny piece of nature in your home.
The temperature and humidity will need to be closely monitored.
Technically, this species can be picked up and held, but...
...ONLY AT YOUR OWN RISK! This species can be considered "aggressive" because it treats everything that moves as food, including your fingers. Bites can cause bleeding.
In the wild, the climate of the Pacman frog's natural habitat goes through drastic seasonal changes, routinely switching between the wet rainy season and the arid dry season. During the rainy season, it lives near ponds and other bodies of water, and spends its time eating and reproducing. But during the dry season, it burrows underground and aestivates (hibernates) in order to outlast harsh, unfavorable conditions.
In a captive setting, the goal is to recreate the ideal habitat for a pet Pacman frog. Based on its natural climate, a sub-tropical cage setup works perfectly. Use an enclosed cage, such as an aquarium, with a tight-fitting screen lid that allows for ventilation. Plastic storage tubs also work as an enclosure and are a cheaper alternative, though they may not be as aesthetically pleasing. Ten, 15, or 20 gallons of space is sufficient for one frog (15–20 is best though).
The Pacman frog is best kept alone. Yes, by itself. Don’t house multiple frogs together, and don't mix species in the same enclosure. Remember, this frog literally tries to eat anything that moves, including other Pacman frogs!
A proper Pacman frog habitat includes clean substrate, access to fresh water, and a good hiding place or lots of deep substrate for burrowing.
- Use a substrate which holds humidity but won't mold.
- Provide several inches so the frog can burrow into it and feel secure.
- Best option: coconut fiber bedding (sold in the reptile section of most pet stores).
- Another option: potting soil containing no fertilizers.
- Avoid bark and large bits of moss because, during the excitement of ambushing prey, the frog may swallow bits of substrate. Moss and bark are too large and chunky and may cause a life-threatening intestinal obstruction if swallowed. NEVER use any sort of pine or cedar bedding, as these types of wood contain harmful resins that will kill a frog.
- Provide fresh, clean water in a water dish both wide and deep enough for the frog to soak in. However, this species does not swim, so the water shouldn't be very deep.
- More often than not, the water dish becomes the frog's toilet, so be prepared to clean it often.
- Using distilled water is unnecessary and actually lacks important minerals. Normal tap water is fine to use as long as it has been sitting out for 24 hours or if it is treated with a water dechlorinator (sold in the reptile and fish sections at the pet store).
Lighting, Humidity, and Temperature:
The Pacman frog is nocturnal, and while it spends most of the day sleeping, it still requires a normal day/night cycle, with 10–12 hours of light per day. Supplemental lighting isn't necessary if the enclosure is located in a room that receives normal, ambient lighting during the day.
Use a thermometer and hygrometer to monitor the temperature and humidity of the habitat.
- The substrate should be damp (but not wet), and the overall humidity should be about 60–80%. A spray bottle can be used to lightly mist the tank.
- The daytime temperature should be 75F–85F. During the night, the temperature should be allowed to drop slightly, to about 68F–78F, but no lower than 65F.
- If the ambient room temperature is not adequate, provide heat via a heat mat (found in the reptile section of the pet store) which, when set up on the side of the frog’s tank, should stretch over 1/3 of the enclosure. Leaving a 2/3 portion of the habitat uncovered provides the frog with a temperature gradient and a cooler area to retreat to if it so chooses.
NEVER place the enclosure in direct sunlight. It will overheat and potentially kill the frog!
Diet and Nutrition
The Pacman frog must be fed primarily live food, especially insects. The feeding schedule depends on how much is fed each time, how big the frog is, and type of food. A younger frog should generally be fed daily, while full-grown adults can be fed every few days or even once per week (if the food item is large).
Variety is the spice of life! Offer different types of foods to ensure your frog gets all the nutrition it needs:
- Thawed (purchased frozen) pinky and fuzzy mice
Food items like pinky and fuzzy mice usually need to be hand-fed to the frog because they are no longer alive and will not attract the frog's attention. Any time a Pacman frog is hand-fed, use long feeding tongs. Do not put hands near the mouth of a hungry frog. The risk of being bitten is real!!!
Calcium and Other Supplements: A Pacman frog's food must be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements (sold in the reptile section of the pet store) once per week. This prevents life-threatening health conditions such as metabolic bone disease.
Other Miscellaneous Care Notes
- Enclosure Maintenance: Water dishes should be kept clean, feces should be spot-cleaned daily, and the substrate should be changed periodically to prevent mold, bacteria, and mites. The entire cage should be emptied and cleaned at least once per year.
- Handling: The Pacman frog should not be handled. It will always consider a human hand as food, and being bitten is a risk. Also, an amphibian's skin is permeable and extremely sensitive to the oils and chemicals found on human hands.
- Shedding Skin: Like other amphibians and reptiles, the Pacman frog sheds its skin periodically. During this time, it may yawn a lot, and it will actually eat its old skin.
- Croaking: A male frog will sometimes croak when its cage is misted. Both a male and a female will make a screaming sound if when scared and threatened.
15-20 gallon aquarium
at least several inches of coconut fiber reptile bedding
Daytime: 75F-85F, Night: 68F-78F
wide enough to allow frog to soak, but only a couple inches deep (Pacman frogs do not swim)
Live crickets, earthworms, waxworms, and mealworms. Thawed pinky and fuzzy mice (hand-fed with long feeding tongs)
I appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I would absolutely love to hear from you! Do you have any fun stories to share about your pets? Are there any articles you'd like to see in the future? Please leave a comment or contact me. And if you have a moment, browse through my other articles.
© 2017 Becky
Kate on August 23, 2020:
My Pacman lives in a vivarium with a crested gecko. They co-habit extremely well and have done for a few years! My pacman presents as very healthy. He eats well and appears alert and as normal; however he has developed a large water filled wart on his face. He has always had 3 warts on his face which have never altered until this week. I'm concerned that it may be the result of bite from live feed that he hasnt eaten straight away. Before I take him to the vets are you aware of what this may be caused by?
Faith on June 13, 2019:
Do you know any places to get a pac man frog or should I just get one online
ella on February 11, 2019:
leah your pacman frog is not getting enough moister from the soil
Leah on July 18, 2018:
Is it normal for my pacman frog to hang out in his pool for long periods of time?
Cotton on September 13, 2017:
Thank you for your fruitful article, it's very detailed and good to learn. However, may I just know more about its mature or breed age as I now have 2 pacman frogs with 4 months age. I just want to get myself ready for further step of cares. Your kind advice or suggestion will be much appreciated.
The Pacman Frog scientific name is Ceratophrys , a genus that belongs to the family Ceratophryidae . There are eight species of South American horned frogs of the Ceratophrys genus. In captivity, the most popular species are Ceratophrys cranwelli (Cranwell’s horned frog) , Ceratophrys ornata (Argentine horned frog) and Ceratophrys cornuta (Surinam horned frog).
The albino Pacman frog is a captive-bred hybrid between Ceratophrys cranwelli and Ceratophrys cornuta .
The common trade name “Pacman frog” stems from the well-known maze arcade game Pac-Man. The frog’s body shape is just a pretty much accurate resemblance of the game’s protagonist.
Depends on the species, South American horned frogs are known as Pacman frog, Pac-man frog, Pac man frog, Ornate horned frog, South American horned frog, Cranwell’s horned frog, Argentine horned frog, ornate Pacman frog, and Argentine wide-mouthed frog, Brazilian horned frog, Colombian horned frog, Surinam horned frog, and Stolzmann’s horned frog .
There are even more names, but these are the most common ones.
Pacman frogs are endemic to South America, and they proudly share all the amazing colors of their native grasslands and rainforests. As there are 8 species in the genus Ceratophrys, colors vary, but most of them are sharing the camouflage-alike green pattern with red, yellow, and brown colors. An albino form boasts the bright yellow-to-orange main color with a touch of green spots.
6 to 7 years in the wild, 10-15 years in captivity. Some sources are reporting that South American horned frogs can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Hunting Behavior and Diet
Pacman frogs are voracious carnivores, so veganism is definitely not their cup of tea. Sit-and-wait predators, they burrow into the substrate, remaining motionless, and waiting for prey.
The Pacman frog will attack and eat anything that fits in its mouth and moves within a striking range. A natural diet includes insects, small rodents (mice, rats), and even spiders. In captivity, It all depends on the size of your frog and your ability to provide it with diverse nutrition. But it is easy to recreate their natural feeding habits.
The PacMan Frog Lifestyle
PacMan frogs bury down into the leaf litter on the jungle floor with nothing but their eyes above ground. They patiently wait for an insect or small animal to pass by for a meal. They use their large, powerful jaws to clamp down on food until the prey stops moving. At this time, the PacMan frog swallows the food whole in a couple big gulps. PacMan frogs will eat almost anything it can swallow in the wild – from large insects to baby mice. Providing a nutritious and varied diet is very important for these little eating machines. We will get into the foods of a PacMan frog a little later.
PacMan Frog Characteristics
Size - Adult Males: about 4-5 inches in diameter | Adult Females: about 6-7 inches in diameter
Coloration - Colors range from green, brown, yellow, red, and orange
Life Span - A life span of 10-15 years is possible with optimal living conditions
Experience Level - Beginner
PacMan frogs generally live a sedentary life and do not move around much. They like to stay buried in one spot for days or even weeks at a time. Since PacMan frogs are terrestrial and not very active, they are relatively simple to care for.
This ease of care is one reason they make great first-time pets. PacMan frogs only need a simple terrarium, or small storage container for good housing.
PacMan frogs don’t have elaborate care demands, but it’s important to replicate their native environment as much as possible. Proper housing, heating, and diet should be provided for successful PacMan frog husbandry.
Now that we know a little basics of the PacMan frog, next we will discuss their housing requirements!
Surinam horned frogs or also called as Cornutas are pretty common in the villages of the Amazon. This wonderful PacMan frog species also averages 13 centimeters in size. The Cornuta is particularly aggressive and has some sneaky tactics when it comes to eating its prey.
What they do is they either use leaf litter for hiding or dig themselves into the substrate, with their head protruding. Once the prey comes around, they jump out, open their mouth wide and swallow it as whole.
In terms of patterns and color, males are a bit more eye-catching with their dark green or lime theme. Female Cornutas are always tan, which makes it easy to distinguish them from males. Their expected lifespan is around 10 years if kept as a pet.
They are pretty similar to Cranwellis in size and weight as well, weighing about 0.5 kilograms.
Tara W. - Posted on June 14, 2018 - 9 Comments -
Caring for a Pacman Frog is easy. They are great for beginners and one of the most popular frogs kept as pets. This is mostly due to their unique appearance and eating habits, but also because they’re so easy to care for. That is exactly what this guide is for how to care for a Pacman Frog.
Before we get into the guide, it’s important to know what a Pacman frog is and where the name came from. Well, the common-name “Pac-Man Frog” actually represents 8 different species from the Ceratophrys genus. Each species is slightly different, mostly in colors and patterns. As far as where they got the common name they look remarkably similar to popular arcade game character Pac-Man especially while eating. They have large a mouth and a plump, round body.
Another interesting aspect for these frogs is their color morphs. As of writing this article, I was able to find at least 18 popular color morphs ranging from a strawberry color, to red and yellow, a mint green, albino, and more. Depending on the particular species, they can grow to nearly 8 inches in length and live up to 10 years or more.