American bullfrogs are part of the family Ranidae (the
“true frogs”) and are frequently kept as pets.
Many times people will catch small frogs or tadpoles and
raise them to adults. Keeping
wild caught amphibians is never recommend due to the stress of
captivity, parasite infestations, and other diseases that can be
spread to humans and/or other pets.
People interested in these pets can find them easily at
most pet stores and there are many breeders who breed for specific
colorations such as albino.
Reptile rescues and nature centers are constantly asked to
accept relinquished Bullfrogs and most no longer accept these
animals. Because of
the large volume of amphibians requiring homes and inadequate room
at rescues, many people release these animals back into the wild.
Never release a captive amphibian!
Bullfrogs in most areas are invasive and can have serious
detrimental effects on the ecosystem.
Introduced populations compete for food with native species
and their populations can spiral out of control. Please,
if you are considering this kind of pet consider adopting one from
a herpetile rescue.
The original distribution of the American bullfrog was
along the eastern seaboard from
. The species was
introduced into the west 19th and 20th century for cooking
purposes and are now common in many streams, rivers, ponds, lakes,
and wet lands across the nation.
The tell tale bellowing call of the male at night can be
heard in late summer into early fall.
’s largest species with a broad flat head and a total length
reaching up to 8 inches. These
frogs have green backs with netlike patterns of brown or gray.
The underside is white with gray mottling and a yellow
color on the chin and hind legs.
The back legs are powerful and long; made for jumping large
distances between 3 and 6 feet!
Most bullfrogs will live 3-5 years.
Males are easily identified by their yellow throat and
large tympanum (ear drum). The
tympanum of the male is twice as large as its eyes.
During breeding season the nuptial pads are seen on the
front limbs as an engorgement of tissue.
This species requires lots of space, especially wild caught
individuals, as they tend to jump repeatedly into glass.
Visual barricades such as newspaper or decorative back
drops for aquariums can be used to reduce stress and rostral
abrasions (skinned noses). The
minimum cage provided for this species should be a 20 gallon
aquarium with an additional 5 gallons per additional animal.
This ensures there is plenty of room and hiding spots to
prevent territorial aggression and subsequent cannibalism.
A semi-aquatic environment works best. The
aquatic portion should occupy a large portion of the cage and be
permanently partitioned off by sealing a piece of Plexiglass with
aquarium grade silicone. Tap
or spring water can be treated with a dechlorinator or left to sit
uncovered for 24 hours. Never
use distilled water as this will cause bloat and eventual death
due to lack of minerals. Feces
and uneaten food will need to be removed daily from the water.
An appropriate size filter is invaluable for the aquatic
portion of the enclosure but may aggravate wild caught bullfrogs.
If a filter isn’t used, a 50% water change should be
performed twice a week and a full cleaning once every 3-4 weeks.
Aquatic vegetation such as Salvinia auriculata will help to
maintain water quality.
Hide areas in the water and on land are
essential to minimizing stress and allowing this high strung
species to relax. A
basking log or rock should be made available.
Driftwood is a great transition from water to land and
makes for an excellent basking spot.
Air temperatures in the cage should range
between 77 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fluorescent lights or ceramic heat emitters should be used
for basking spots. Under
tank heaters can be used for substrate and water.
If the aquatic portion is too large or deep, a submersible
heater can be used but isn’t generally needed. The
water temperature should be maintained in the mid 70’s. Two
thermometers are recommended; one for the warm basking spot and
one for the water. It
is also recommended that the enclosure has a 2.0 UVB bulb.
be kept to a bare minimum. When
catching the animal from the cage you can use a soft net.
Make sure to always have control of the back legs!
Gently grasping behind the head and the front legs with one
hand and around the rear legs with the second hand is an
appropriate method of restraint and safe handling.
Adults have a strong sense of sight and will eat anything
that fits in their mouth. Captive
adults are frequently fed earth worms, crickets, meal worms,
goldfish (this should be limited), crayfish, and mice (feed
are prone to obesity. Large
adults should only be fed 2-3 times a week in moderation.
Younger frogs can be fed size appropriate food every other
It is not recommended to feed bullfrogs from your hand as
they can have a painful bite.
Placing the food in a dish or on a rock is a better option.
Feeding with forceps is a very popular method as well.
Calcium supplementation without phosphorous can be added to
the food weekly and a multivitamin supplement every 2 weeks.
Good husbandry is the best way to prevent
many problems. Bullfrogs
should be quarantined for at least three to six months before
being added to an established collection.
Red Leg is a generic term for a condition
that can be caused by bacterial infection, fungal infections, or
environmental issues. This
condition will cause an increase to the blood circulation in the
limbs. This causes
redness on the bottom of the arms and legs often leading to open
sores. If these
symptoms are seen, please make an appointment with Chicago
Vomiting/Regurgitating are common signs of
gastrointestinal obstruction. If
these are noted, an appointment with Chicago Exotics’ should be
made immediately, especially if accompanied by swelling or loss of
Internal parasites are diagnosed by a fecal
test by a Chicago Exotics’ veterinary professional.
A fecal test for internal parasites is recommended at least
Other common signs of problems include loss
of appetite, loose stools, difficulty shedding, and lumps/bumps.
Please make an appointment with your veterinarian to
diagnose and treat any of these problems.
Speak with your Chicago Exotics’
veterinarian or technician about Salmonella and what measures are
recommended to limit the risk or transmission to people.
Thank you for bringing your pet to
Sources and Suggested Reading
Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes
Region by James
Amphibian Medicine and Captive
Wright and Whitaker
feel free to call for an appointment at 847-329-8709.
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