How to Care for Your American Bullfrog
(photo credit Tulsa World)
American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus or Rana catesbeiana: varying spellings of both names have been observed in the literature) are large (up to 8” for females; males are smaller) terrestrial amphibians native to the eastern United States, though they have been introduced within the last hundred years to the western United States as well. They are green with a camouflage pattern on their backs and have white bellies. Albino American Bullfrogs, which are pale yellow, have been produced in captivity as well. They are best housed individually since they can be cannibalistic. Although they are liable to bite and do not tolerate much handling, American Bullfrogs are considered to be a beginner level pet.
American Bullfrogs have powerful hind legs and are known to jump a distance of several feet. For this reason, they require a large enclosure. A 20-gallon tank (30”x12”x12”) or equivalent sized plastic tub is the absolute minimum size for a single American Bullfrog; a larger enclosure is preferred. Although American Bullfrogs don’t climb, it’s important that the enclosure has a lid to keep other animals or curious children out. In order to provide the high humidity needed, coco-fiber or mulch substrate is preferred. The cage should have a large aquatic area which should be deep enough for the frog to completely submerge itself. American Bullfrogs may have a hard time in a standard aquarium due to the transparent walls and may injure themselves trying to escape. They will benefit from multiple hiding areas in the terrestrial part of the enclosure and may require the back and sides of the enclosure to be covered. American Bullfrogs can thrive in plastic tubs with their limited visibility of the outside. The water should be cleaned of feces regularly, and a filter can be used in the water as long as it doesn’t result in a fast-moving current. The substrate and cage should be kept moist rather than soaking wet through judicious misting 1-2 times a day, and humidity levels of 60-80% should be maintained. The water in the aquatic area should be appropriately dechlorinated and kept clean of feces or other items that can foul it. Water conditioner products designed for turtle enclosures will work well for treating tap water. Distilled water should not be used.
Heating and Lighting
American Bullfrogs benefit from a full-spectrum light, which can be a 2.0 fluorescent, as well as a warmer basking light. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels. American Bullfrogs are most comfortable at a temperature range of 72-85F with a nighttime drop to the low to mid 70’s. Most of the year they can be maintained at room temperature without additional heat. In climates where additional heat is necessary, it’s best achieved with an under tank heater (UTH). A UTH will require a thermostat or a rheostat to regulate the temperature. An aquarium heater can be used in the water as well to maintain temperatures in the mid to upper 70’s.
Food and Supplementation
American Bullfrogs will eat anything they can fit in their mouths. They primarily eat a variety of bugs and worms, including but not limited to mealworms, crickets, silkworms, hornworms, super worms, Dubia and other roaches. They may be fed small mice on occasion, though this should not be a frequent occurrence since they are high in fat. They can also eat fish which can be released into the aquatic area. Most captive American Bullfrogs are fed a staple diet of mealworms, crickets, or Dubia roaches. Young frogs can start with ¼” crickets or Dubia Roaches, or small mealworms and progress to full-sized mealworms and crickets, and adult Dubia Roaches. As mentioned above, American Bullfrogs will thrive on a variety of other bugs and worms including, small superworms, hornworms, silkworms, NutriGrubs (black soldier fly larvae, also known as phoenix worms), and locusts. Care should be taken to feed appropriate sized prey and not to leave prey in the enclosure for long periods of time.
American Bullfrogs require calcium to build strong bones, vitamin D3 to metabolize the calcium and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Even if full-spectrum lighting with UVB is provided, they can receive additional vitamins and minerals through powdered supplements, which are commercially available. Dust their prey twice a week with calcium, vitamin D3, and other vitamins.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to American Bullfrogs, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.