How to Care for an Ornate Horned Frog

Three Methods:Buying Your FrogSetting Up Your Frog's HabitatCaring for Your Frog

The Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata) is a large, carnivorous frog. They're called “horned” frogs because they have little fleshy points over their eyes that look like horns. They are often referred to as Pac-Man Frogs, because when they lunge at their prey they appear to be “all mouth.” Ornate Horned Frogs are usually the size of a silver dollar when purchased, but they can grow as large as 6 inches within 5 months.

Method 1
Buying Your Frog

  1. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 1
    Buy from a reputable pet store. If you can, visit a couple of different pet stores before you decide on a frog. Stores have different quality standards of care, so some stores will have healthier frogs than others. Buy the healthiest, most robust specimen you can find – it will be easier to care for, and is likely to live longer.[1]
    • Only buy a frog if its tank is clean, with no feces floating in the water. Poor sanitary conditions lead to sick frogs.
  2. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 2
    Look for a healthy, clear skin. Skin that appears clouded may be a sign of illness. A milky or cloudy looking skin might simply be a sign of recent shedding, as these frogs shed and eat their skin periodically. But to be on the safe side, start with a clear-skinned frog.[2]
    • Ornate Horned Frogs are usually medium to dark green or yellow in color, with patches of red and black.
    • Cranwell's Horned Frogs – a specialized variety bred in captivity – can also be brown, beige, orange, yellow, and even albino.
  3. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 3
    Choose a lively, animated specimen. Approach the frogs, and pass your hand near them in front or on top of the tank. A healthy frog will react by rapidly moving the sac under its mouth, and may make a “mooing” sound. If you don't get a reaction, the frog is probably unhealthy.[3]
    • Look for frogs that seem alert and have clear, bright eyes.
  4. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 4
    Wear gloves when you handle your frog. A frog's skin is a delicate membrane that acts as a secondary breathing organ. The oils on human skin can be harmful or even toxic to a frog's skin.
    • Pet frogs are for looking at – they don't want human love or affection.
    • Frogs don't like to be held, and will sometimes make loud distress calls to let you know they are upset.
    • Ornate Horned Frogs will try to eat anything that comes near their mouth, and they will bite your finger.
  5. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 5
    Always buy captive bred (CB) frogs. Wild caught (WC) frogs are unsuited to captivity, and suffer from stress. Therefore, it is considered cruel to keep them.
    • Wild caught frogs often carry parasites or diseases, which will infect your other frogs.
    • Wild caught frogs are often old, so you won't have as much time to enjoy your frog.
  6. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 6
    Keep only one frog in the tank. Most frogs are cannibalistic; large frogs often eat smaller frogs. It's dangerous to put more than one Ornate Horned Frog in the same tank. One is very likely to eat the other, especially if they are different sizes.[4]
    • Never mix different types of frogs in one tank, as each species of frog has its own particular care needs.

Method 2
Setting Up Your Frog's Habitat

  1. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 7
    Buy a 10-gallon glass aquarium. Ornate Horned Frogs are native to tropical and mountain rain forests, so they need an aquatic/terrestrial habitat. Glass aquariums are easy to clean and you can watch your frogs through the glass.[5]
    • These frogs aren't jumpers, so you don't strictly need a screened lid on top. However, a lid is still a good idea because it helps keep the tank warm.
  2. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 8
    Provide a deep substrate for your frog to burrow in. Your frog feeds by “ambushing” its food, meaning it will hide in the deep substrate until prey comes near, then jump out and attack. Be sure the substrate is slightly moist at all times, never soggy or completely dry.[6]
    • Good substrate materials include coconut husk fiber (Bed-a-beast, Eco-earth, Forest Bed, or similar products.)
    • Soil is a good option because it stays moist and allows your frog to dig. It looks natural, as well. Be sure to purchase safe soil that does not contain pesticides, vermiculite, perlite, or any other harmful chemicals.
    • Cypress mulch, sphagnum moss, and leaf litter are not generally recommended, because your frog can choke on a piece of bark or moss. If you use these items, you'll need to feed using tweezers or tongs.
    • Never use sand, gravel, or fir bark as substrate.
  3. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 9
    Provide a water bowl. Add a large, shallow bowl to the tank, which should be filled with water at all times. Always use de-chlorinated water – tap water will harm your frog.[7]
    • Glazed ceramic trays that come with flowerpots make excellent water dishes.
    • Most frogs defecate into their water dish, so be sure to replace the water at least daily.
    • Place little stacks of rocks next to the bowl and in the water, so your young frog can climb in and out.
  4. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 10
    Add foliage for decoration. Horned Frogs don't need foliage to hide, because they burrow into the deep substrate on the bottom of the tank. But you can add artificial or real plants, if you want to make the tank look nice.[8]
    • Real plants can be difficult to grow indoors, and will need to be thoroughly washed and disinfected before you add them to the terrarium.
    • Artificial plants are easier to keep clean, and you can buy a wide variety of these online or at a pet store.
    • Air plants are living plants that do not require soil or water, apart from an occasional misting. Keep them away from harsh sunlight and heat lamps, or they will dry out.[9]
  5. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 11
    Add a heat source. Position a low-intensity (15 watts) heat lamp over the terrarium, above the highest point in your frog's habitat. Be sure there is a screen lid to the tank between your frog and the heating bulb.[10]
    • Don't use under-tank heaters or heated rocks in your Ornate Horned Frog tank.
  6. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 12
    Moderate tank temperature. Horned frogs will thrive in a fairly large range of temperatures, and do not require careful humidity adjustments like most amphibians. Their tank should be between 75°F (24°C) and 84°F (29°C) during the day, and a few degrees cooler at night.[11]
    • Hang store-bought temperature strips on the side of the tank to measure environmental conditions.

Method 3
Caring for Your Frog

  1. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 13
    Feed your growing frog insects and worms. Juvenile Horned Frogs will enjoy small earthworms, crickets and wax worms. They need to eat live prey, so this may not be the pet for you if you are squeamish.[12]
    • Feed juveniles 2-6 food items, at least 2-3 times per week.
  2. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 14
    Feed your adult frog larger prey items. Adult horned frogs can handle larger foods such as night crawlers, roaches, superworms, silkworms, earthworms, locusts, crickets, mealworms, feeder fish, slugs and snails.[13]
    • Adults can be feed once per week, or even once every two weeks, if you provide large quantities of food items.
    • During aestivation periods, adult Horned Frogs will go as long as four months without food, if fed heavily beforehand.
    • You can feed pre-killed pinky or larger mice to your frog occasionally, but they should not be a regular part of your frog's diet. Do not feed your frog live mice or other vertebrates.
  3. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 15
    Supplement their diet. In addition to a well-rounded diet, rub calcium and vitamin D3 supplement powder onto their food. You can purchase amphibian vitamin supplements online or at your local pet store.[14]
    • Juvenile Horned Frogs should get supplement powder at least 2-3 times per week.
    • Adult frogs should get vitamin-dusted meals at least once per week.
  4. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 16
    Watch your fingers. Ornate Horned Frogs are not picky eaters, and they will bite anything you put near their mouth including your finger. Although they don't have teeth to speak of, they have strong jaws and their bite can be very painful.[15]
    • If your frog bites you, resist the urge to jerk away. You may accidentally fling your frog across the room and injure him.
    • If your frog does not let go within a few seconds, try running cold water over him until he releases his grip.
    • Clean your finger with antiseptic and apply a bandage.
  5. Image titled Care for an Ornate Horned Frog Step 17
    Keep the tank clean. Once a month, remove your frog from its tank and place it in a small holding tank. Thoroughly wash all surfaces with hot water. Wash the items in the tank with hot water as well, and let everything cool before you put it back.[16]
    • Use gloves when moving your frog to a holding tank. The natural oils in your skin are very harmful to frogs.
    • Never use chemicals to clean. When cleaning the frog's enclosure, never use chemicals. Even trace amounts of chemicals can burn or kill your frog.


  • Ornate Horned Frogs are a good choice for beginners, because they are easy to care for and rarely get sick.
  • An Ornate Horned Frog has a typical lifespan of 6-7 years in captivity, but they have been known to live as long as 10 years.
  • Horned Frogs tend to sit motionless, unless they are feeding. If you're looking for a frog that is entertaining to watch, you might consider a more active variety of frog.


  • Horned Frogs bite. They have strong jaws and their bites can be very painful.
  • You'll be feeding your frog live prey (except for mice, which should be pre-killed.) If you are squeamish, you may want to consider a different type of pet.

Article Info

Categories: Frogs