Description: Pac Man Frogs (Ceratophrys ornata) are essentially just a round, fat body with short legs attached to a large mouth, which is what has earned them their name as they somewhat resemble the iconic arcade video game character Pac Man. These three things are clues to the lifestyle of C. ornata, which is largely sedentary. Pac Man Frogs are ambush predators, preferring to wait in a secure location for an unsuspecting prey item to wander in range of their large, sticky tongue. Indeed it is quite amusing to watch them go from being completely still for hours only to suddenly burst into a fury of activity in an attempt to catch a cricket.
To facilitate their plan of attack, Pac Man Frogs possess beautiful coloration consisting of bright greens and browns arranged in irregularly shaped spots. This serves as excellent camouflage that conceals them not only from prey, but also from predators. This is vital as they are neither strong swimmers or runners, and have no means of escaping predators or pursuing prey over a distance. Due to their popularity in the hobby, however, there are many other color morphs available ranging from more yellow-colored individuals to some that are even bright pink!
It is worth noting that there are other frogs in the genus Ceratophrys, or Horned Frogs as they are more commonly called, that are available in the hobby including C. cornuta (the Suriname Horned Frog), and C. cranwelli (the Chacoan Horned Frog) to name a couple. These other examples of Ceratophrys spp. strongly resemble Pac Man Frogs in many ways, and indeed their husbandry is also very similar. We will only discuss C. ornata here, but their relatives can be cared for in many of the same ways.
Male Pac Man Frogs can reach a maximum size of around 4 inches long, whereas females can sometimes grow up to 7 inches in length.
Native Range: Swampy areas within the grasslands of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil
Lifespan: 15 years
Diet: Pac Man Frogs will try to eat literally anything that moves in front of their mouth. Crickets, worms, mice, small lizards and even other frogs are all fair game for them. A captive Pac Man Frog should be fed a diet largely consisting of insects, however a small mouse may be offered occasionally (no more than once a month as they are quite fatty). I will reiterate that they will try to eat anything that moves in front of them, and that their eyes are often much larger than their stomachs. For this reason, it is important that you select prey items that are of an appropriate size for your frog, as they will not make that distinction for you, and feeding prey items that are too large can result in impaction. As a general rule of thumb, only feed things that are about as long as the distance between their eyes (although this rule is less important for soft-bodied insects such as hornworms and silkworms). Additionally, do not overfeed your Pac Man Frog, as they will readily eat to excess if given the opportunity. Obese Pac Man Frogs can suffer from a condition called fatty liver disease, which can significantly decrease their lifespan. To judge whether your Pac Man Frog is a healthy weight simply keep an eye on its appearance. A healthy Pac Man Frog should be round, but not wider than it is long. In the wild Pac Man Frogs gorge themselves when food becomes available, and then wait out long periods where it is not. Pictured above is a Pac Man Frog that has likely done just that, and if your frog looks like that, then it is probably time to cut back on feeding for a while.
Housing: Male frogs can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium, however females may require something as large as a 20-gallon tank. You will just have to keep an eye on the size of your frog and make a judgement call on this. To furnish your cage, you will want at least three inches of humid substrate for the frog to burrow down into. Keeping the substrate moist will also allow your frog to hydrate, as frogs do not drink water but absorb it through their highly permeable skin instead. A small water dish should be provided, and buried so that the top is level with the surface of the substrate so that your frog can easily get in and out of it. The water dish is not for drinking, but will also help the frog hydrate, and shed its skin. Additionally, make sure that your water dish is not deep enough to fully submerge your frog, as they are not strong swimmers and can drown in deep water.
Other things to include in your frog’s enclosure would be pieces of bark and/or live or fake plants to hide under. Leaf litter also affords a very natural hiding space for your frog. Make sure that your frog has at least two places to hide, one on the hot side of the tank and one on the cool side, but the more the better.
Temperature and Lighting: Your enclosure should range in temperature from no more than 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) on the hot side to no less than 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) on the cool side. UV is not required, so any lighting scheme that achieves this temperature gradient should be adequate.
Additional Notes: Due to the aforementioned permeability of their skin, Pac Man Frogs should only be handled when absolutely necessary. This is because their skin is quite sensitive, and can be irritated by things like dirt, soaps, perfumes, oils or cosmetics that may be on human skin. If must handle your frog, wash and thoroughly rinse your hands before hand. It is also worth noting that Pac Man Frogs do have teeth, and can draw blood if they decide to try and eat your finger, so use caution when handling them, and approach them from the sides rather than the front.
Overall Pac Man Frogs make an interesting pet whose lifestyle is quite different than our own. They have relatively basic needs, and modest space requirements, and for these reasons they are considered to be a good “beginner” species. Adopting an animal should never be taken lightly, however, and if you decide to purchase a Pac Man Frog make sure that you are fully prepared to provide for all of its unique needs.
-Zilla Critter Cage 10 gallon
-Exo Terra Plantation Soil
-Zoo Med Cork Bark
-Exo Terra Jungle Plants
-Exo Terra Water Dish Med
-Exo Terra 50 W Halogen Basking Bulb
-Exo Terra 14 cm Light Dome
by Andrew Cumming