The pixie frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) is a 5-10” long, diurnal, terrestrial amphibian from southern Africa. They prefer savanna and shrublands for habitat, usually close to a body of water. This species is also known as the giant African bullfrog.
Pixie frogs have bulbous round bodies, relatively small heads, stubby limbs, and bumpy skin. They are generally olive green in color, with a cream or yellow body, and may have blotches of orange at the arm and leg pits.
Pixie frogs are fairly hardy as far as frogs go, but they are extremely large and have uniquely sharp teeth, which makes them at least an intermediate-level pet amphibian. However, with good care, they can have a 30+ year lifespan.
Minimum terrarium size for pixie frogs
36”L x 18”W x 18”H is a good starting point for housing one pixie 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 and need enough room to properly thermoregulate.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple pixie frogs in one enclosure) is not recommended, as they are known to eat other frogs.
Do pixie frogs need UVB?
Pixie frogs can survive without access to UVB, 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 pixie 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 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter. This mimics natural seasonal cycles and likely promotes better long-term health!
Best temperature for pixie frogs
Like other amphibians, pixie frogs are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. If they get too cold or hot, they will enter a kind of hibernation to survive adverse conditions, so it’s important to provide the right climate.
Ambient temperature in a pixie frog enclosure should stay between 75-90°F during the day, and may drop down to no lower than 68°F at night. The warm side should have an air temperature of 90°F and the cool side should have an air temperature of around 75°F. Make sure you’re maintaining an appropriate temperature with digital probe thermometers, with probes placed on each side.
To warm up the terrarium, use a couple of low-wattage heat bulbs on dimmers or a thermostat to make sure they don’t make things too warm. If they’re not warm enough, you’ll need a higher wattage bulb.
Best humidity levels for pixie frogs
As amphibians, pixie frogs can’t live without plenty of water. Ambient humidity should average around 60%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Here are some ways to maintain humidity:
- misting the enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle or automatic misting system
- use a moisture-retentive substrate
Pixie frogs also require a small “pool” in their enclosure, large enough to fit the frog’s entire body and allow them to submerge up to their chin.
Water used for spraying and soaking should either be bottled from a spring or treated from chlorine and chloramines with amphibian-safe water conditioner. Never use untreated tap, distilled, or reverse-osmosis water, as this is harmful to amphibians!
Best substrate for pixie frogs
Providing at least 4” of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and accommodates your frog’s natural burrowing instincts. We recommend the following substrates for pixie 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 pixie frog terrarium
Although pixie frogs may not seem to 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 décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Décor options for pixie frogs include:
- leaf litter
- seed pods
- hollow logs
- cork bark
- artificial plants
- misc. ornaments
Always make sure your frog has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy.
What to feed to a pixie frog
Pixie frogs are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat a variety of animal-based foods in order to get the right nutrition. For young frogs less than 3” long, offer food daily. For older frogs, they can be fed 2-3x/week. Each feeding session should primarily consist of insects, and last 15 minutes.
An appropriately-sized mouse can be offered as a meal no more than once every 2-3 weeks. Feeders should be at least slightly smaller than the frog’s head.
Food options for pixie 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 pixie frog
Amphibians generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, but pixie frogs seem to tolerate handling better than most frogs. Handling still shouldn’t be frequent, as it’s still stressful. For best results, wear a pair of nitrile gloves, grasp the frog’s body securely but gently, and keep handling time fairly short. Note: these frogs have sharp teeth and can bite hard!
One good way to bond with your frog outside of handling is to offer food via soft-tipped feeding tweezers.
*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!