The pacman frog (Ceratophrys ornata) is a 4-6” long, diurnal, terrestrial amphibian from certain parts of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. They prefer moist grasslands for habitat, where they use their classic camouflage coloring to blend in and ambush unsuspecting prey.
Pacman frogs have squat, round bodies, with small limbs, protruding eyes, and unusually large heads and mouths. In fact, it’s their enormous mouths that gave them their name! Pacman frogs typically have a mottled pattern of green, brown, black, white, yellow, and/or orange, although selective breeding efforts in captivity have produced other colors and patterns.
Pacman frogs are very popular in the pet trade, as they’re fairly hardy and require relatively little space. This beginner-level amphibian can be expected to live 10+ years with good care.
Pacman frogs are also known as horned frogs, which make up the genus Ceratophrys. This care sheet is specific to the C. ornata, but can be generally applied to all species of pacman frog. However, it is best to research the particular needs of your specific species of horned frog in order to provide the best possible care to your pet.
Minimum terrarium size for pacman frogs
30”L x 12”W x 12”H is a good starting point for housing one pacman frog, but larger is appreciated and used. They’re rather sedentary, which is why some sources recommend much smaller, but they do move around their space, as they dislike sitting in their own poo.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple pacman frogs in one enclosure) is not recommended, as they tend to eat one another.
Do pacman frogs need UVB?
Pacman frogs can survive without access to UVB wavelengths, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting as part of the setup. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and provides other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for pacman frogs are:
- Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
- Arcadia ShadeDweller
For best results, use a bulb roughly half the length of the enclosure and housed in a reflective fixture. The frogs should be able to get no closer than 8” to the bulb. UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Lights should be on for 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter. This mimics natural seasonal cycles and likely promotes better long-term health!
Best temperature for pacman frogs
Like other amphibians, pacman frogs are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. They overheat easily, and if they get too cold, they can’t digest their food, so it’s important to provide the right climate.
Ambient temperature in a pacman frog enclosure should stay between 75-80°F during the day, and may drop down to no lower than 65°F at night. Temperatures should never get higher than 85°F, as this is lethal to them! Make sure you’re maintaining an appropriate temperature with digital probe thermometers, with the probe placed in the middle of the enclosure.
If you need to warm up the vivarium a bit, stick a heat mat on the side or back of the enclosure. It’s best not to put it on the base.
If the room you plan on housing the frogs in does not have a reliable means of staying under 85°F, a pacman frog is not the pet for you.
Best humidity levels for pacman frogs
As amphibians, pacman frogs can’t live without plenty of water. Ambient humidity should average between 60-80%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Here are some ways to maintain high levels of humidity:
- misting the enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle or automatic misting system
- use a moisture-retentive substrate
- plant live plants
Best substrate for pacman frogs
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for pacman frogs:
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Peat moss
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
- Sphagnum moss
Layer with leaf litter for best results. Substrate should be totally replaced every month if you are not running a bioactive setup.
How to decorate a pacman frog terrarium
Although pacman frogs don’t really do much compared to other frogs, it’s still important to offer a varied landscape within the terrarium so they have freedom of choice. A bare-bones enclosure makes for a bored frog, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet engaged with its environment with the strategic use of decor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Decor options for pacman frogs include:
- leaf litter
- seed pods
- mopani wood
- cork bark
- live or artificial plants
- misc. ornaments
Always make sure your frog has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy.
What to feed to a pacman frog
Pacman frogs are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat a variety of animal-based foods in order to get the right nutrition. Live insects should be offered every other day. Appropriately-sized mice can be offered no more than every other week, and should replace that week’s insect offerings. Feeders should be at least slightly smaller than the frog’s head.
Food options for pacman frogs:
- Black soldier fly larvae
- Discoid roaches
- Dubia roaches
You will need to keep calcium and multivitamin supplements on hand to help prevent your pet from developing a nutritional deficiency, helping it live healthier. Feeder insects should be dusted with Repashy CalciumPlus LoD at each feeding for juveniles, and 1x/week for adults.
How to handle your pacman frog
Amphibians generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and pacman frogs in particular are a hands-off pet. If you absolutely have to grab your frog, wear a pair of nitrile gloves, cup its body firmly but gently, and keep handling time to an absolute minimum.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!