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Horned Frog

(Ceratophrys cranwelli) & (Ceratophrys ornata)


Horned frogs are large bodied terrestrial frogs that get their name due to of their horn-like upper eye lids. In comparison to their legs, they have a large body & a large mouth. 
The Horned Frog is also commonly referred to as the Pacman Frog due to their resemblance to the computer game ‘Pac-man’ where the character is basically all mouth & chomps down on anything in front of him.

Although there are many different species of Horned Frogs, the two most common found in the pet trade are:

The Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

Ornate Horned Frogs are usually a medium to dark green or yellow colour with red and black patches in their patterning.
Ornates tend to get a little larger than the Cranwells, reaching up to 13-15cm (5-6 inches). Females generally get larger than males.


The Cranwells Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli)

Cranwells Horned Frogs usually start out a bright green colour, but this will change as they grow into various combinations of brown, beige, green, orange and yellow.
Cranwells tend to get up to around 10-13cm (4-5 inches). Again Females generally get larger than males.

Colour & Pattern Morphs – As well as the natural colours of these frogs, breeders have now been able to produce different colour & pattern mutations. These include Albino, Strawberry, Apricot, Patternless Albino, 4 eyed Albino, Mint Green, High Reds, Leopard, Mosaic & the commonly seen now Hybrid Fantasy Horned Frog which ranges from a Brownish to Pink colouration, amongst many more.


Origin & Habitat:
Horned Frogs originate from South America. 

Ornate Horned frogs can be found in Northern Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, whilst Cranwells Horned Frogs originate from the Chacoan regions of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Horned Frogs spend a lot of time buried just below the surface of the ground. They stay there camouflaged amongst the undergrowth and wait for prey to come to them. They are not very active and can grow a cocoon of skin around themselves in cool temperatures to help keep moisture in whilst they hibernate. This is called Estivation (see section below).


In captivity Horned Frogs can live up to 10 years old, but on average they will reach around 4-6 years old.


Horned Frogs are a hardy frog that are relatively easy to care for making them an ideal beginners amphibian to own.
They do have predatory tendencies. They will generally eat anything that moves, including other Horned Frogs, so should be housed on their own. That said, be careful where you put your fingers. If they mistake your hand for food they have a very powerful jaw and grip, so it can be quite painful to experience.

If you are bitten by your Horned Frog it is unadvisable not to pull your hand away from the bite as you can damage to your frogs jaw. Instead by holding the frog under running water should encourage it to let go.

Feeding & Supplementation:
Juvenile Horned Frogs should be fed daily. Their diet will include foods such as crickets, locusts, waxworms, cockroaches, pinky mice. Calcium & pre-balanced multi-vitamin with some D3 Supplements should be added to their meal 2-3 times weekly.

Adult horned frogs can have larger prey items of the above foods (mice size will be from fuzzy to large mice). Adults should be given supplements a least once a week.

Horned Frogs are fairly inactive so do not need really large enclosures. They will grow quite big though so adequate space should be provided to meet your Horned Frogs needs.

A glass tank, plastic faunarium, plastic RUB (really useful box) or a terrarium such as the Glass Exo Terra ones make good homes for Horned Frogs. They prefer a woodland type set up within their housing.

Obviously enclosure sizes differ with the type & brand used but rough measurements for enclosure sizes:
Small Adults should be kept in enclosures approx. 18-24”L x 12-18”D x 12-18”H.
Juveniles can be housed in smaller enclosures, approx. 12-18”L x 10-18”D x 8-12”H.

Provide a substrate that is easy for horned frogs to burrow in, such as Coconut Fibre, Eco-Earth, Sedge Peat. Avoid using soils that contain vermiculite, perlite, or fertilizers. The moisture content of the substrate is important, and it should never become waterlogged or completely dry. Spraying the tank daily should achieve the correct substrate moisture content. Moist paper towels or foam rubber can be used instead of soil, but must be replaced or washed frequently. Cypress mulch, sphagnum moss, and leaf litter are other suitable substrate options, although it’s recommended that frogs kept on these substrates be fed from tweezers or tongs to prevent them from swallowing a piece of bark or moss that could cause health problems. 

Furnish the enclosure with plants, pieces of curved cork bark, and driftwood if desired. Hide spots aren’t needed if there is a deep substrate in which the frog can burrow.
Live Plants are usually recommended as horned frogs burrow & can quickly uproot your plants.


A large but shallow water bowl should be available at all times. Many horned frogs end up using this as a toilet as well as a place to hydrate, so the water should be replaced regularly. Horned frogs are not good at swimming so the water dish should be no deeper than the frogs mouth. If tap water is used, it should be treated with water conditioner such as Exo Terra’s Aquatize to remove chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals.


Temperature & Heating:
Horned frogs are tolerant of a range of temperatures, but should be kept between 75°F (24°C) and 82°F (28°C) for the most part.

Heat should be provided using an under tank heat mat with an appropriate thermostat. Heat mats should only cover between a third and a half of the wall or floor space to allow your Horned Frog to thermo-regulate. 


Horned Frogs shed their skin at regular intervals as they grow. The old skin is pushed off with the hind legs and the skin peels off from the back end. The skin should come off in one piece and is normally eaten by the frog. The skin is pushed forwards using its legs towards the mouth.


Handling your horned frog should be avoided.
Amphibians have delicate, absorbent skin and the oils and salts on our skin can cause them harm. 
If you have to handle your frog for example, for cleaning the enclosure, then it is advisable to wear latex gloves or wash your hands before you do so.


Estivation is the term given to the period of hibernation that wild Horned Frogs usually go into during the cooler months. They create a cocoon from old skin that helps to seal in moisture whilst the frog buries itself in the ground to wait for the summer to come.

Your Horned Frog is unlikely to go into estivation if temperatures are controlled successfully, but if you experience a drop in temperatures or humidity within your terrarium, your Horned Frog may start to estivate.

You should not feed or disturb your Horned Frog during estivation, but fresh de-chlorinated water should always be available.

Bring your Horned Frog out of Estivation by slowly raising the temperatures or creating higher humidity over a few days. This should awaken your Horned Frog and bring them back to normal activity.

The easiest way to determine the sex of your Horned Frog is by listening. Males will call during the mating season. They will also develop nuptial pads and tend to have darker coloured throats.

Females are usually larger than males and usually have a more rounded body shape.

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