Pixie frogs are huge, impressive amphibians that can make fascinating pets if you have suitable space in your home.
Larger males can grow to an astonishing 9 inches (23 cm) in length, while females are rather more petite, reaching just 5 ½ inches (14 cm) at a maximum.
Due to their large size, and long lifespan of between 12 and 20 years, pixie frogs should be considered a rather more “advanced” pet than many other amphibians.
They require large cages and are a long term commitment. If you’re a beginner exotic pet keeper then you may be better to start off with a far smaller and more easily-accommodated species like fire bellied toads.
If, on the other hand, you have some experience under your belt and understand what you’re signing up for then pixie frogs can make fascinating pets.
Read on for my detailed pixie frog care sheet and learn everything you need to know…
- 1 Best Cages for Pixie Frogs
- 2 Substrates for Pixie Frogs
- 3 Tank Decor
- 4 Humidity
- 5 Pixie Frogs and Bio-Active Setups
- 6 Temperature & Heating
- 7 Food & Feeding
- 8 Handling Pixie Frogs
Best Cages for Pixie Frogs
As with all exotic pets, one of the most important decisions is selecting and setting up the right cage. This will allow you to create the perfect environmental conditions for your pixie frog to thrive.
The size of the cage will depend on the size of your frog (always singular – pixie frogs may fight if kept together and can be cannibalistic). A big adult frog will require a cage of 15-20 gallons. Of course, youngsters can be started in appropriately smaller cages.
All the same, if you opt to purchase a baby frog and place it into a smaller cage, appreciate that soon enough you’ll need the space and money to upgrade to a larger home. For this reason, it can be a smart idea to simply start with a large cage suitable for adults.
But what type of cage works best for pixie frogs?
Glass Fish Tanks
Glass fish tanks are a great option for housing your pixie frog.
They’re widely available, reasonably priced and come in a range of different sizes. You may even manage to pick up a second-hand model cheaply saving you even more money.
Importantly – for me at least – they look great and allow you to create an attractive “mini habitat” in your home.
Of course, no solution is perfect. Glass aquariums can be heavy so watch your back. They can also be fragile if dropped.
Most importantly, however, if that you’ll need to ensure your tank is escape proof. If you know what you’re doing in the workshop then you may opt to build your own tank topper. For the rest of us, it is possible to buy specialist mesh covers from bigger reptile stores or online.
Exo Terra Terrariums
I probably use more Exo Terra tanks than anything else in my exotic pet collection. I use them for my day geckos, many of my spiders and even for some amphibians. While I’ll admit that they’re not the cheapest option available they look amazing and have a lot of practical features.
I’ve always liked the front-opening doors, for example. With quite a big exotic pet collection these days many of my specimens are housed on shelving racks. Tanks that only open at the top – like fish tanks – and therefore rather impractical. Exo Terras, in contrast, can be opened from the front making my routine maintenance quick and painless.
Exo Terras benefit from a built-in mesh lid for ventilation, the base is raised slightly in case you want to put a heater beneath the cage, and you can even buy a standalone lighting unit to go above for the ultimate display.
If you want to create the best-looking pixie frog display possible, and you’ve got the budget, an appropriately-sized Exo Terra should definitely be considered.
Plastic Tanks / Faurariums
I started out keeping various reptiles and amphibians in plastic cages with vented lids. Over the years I slowly moved away to other forms of housing, but in recent years I’ve found myself using them more and more.
Plastic tanks are just so practical! They’re lightweight, cheap to buy and are so easy to clean. They come with the ventilated lid to ensure appropriate air flow, and most models even have a little “window” in the lid to allow for feeding without taking the whole top off.
On the downside there are only a limited range of sizes, and in fairness they don’t look great in comparison to other options.
All the same, if can find one large enough for your pixie frog (or you want a cheap initial cage for a baby pixie frog) then these can be a suitable option.
Substrates for Pixie Frogs
When many hear the word “frog” they immediately think of ponds. So, pixie frogs should essentially be set up like you would for guppies or goldfish, right? Well, not so fast. You see, pixie frogs are primarily terrestrial in nature. They spend much of their lives on land, burrowing into the earth to avoid predators.
Choosing the right substrate to go on the floor of the cage is therefore of crucial importance. So what’s best?
As with many other exotic pets, there are keepers who use paper towels or newspaper. If you’ve read any other care sheets on this site you’ll also know that I’m firmly against the use of these substrates. They look terrible. They’re not very absorbent. And most important of all, they don’t permit natural behaviour in captivity. No, I want to try and mimic the wild habitat of my pets as far as possible.
Some better options can include topsoil, coconut fibre (coir) or peat-free compost. All these options look great and permit proper digging.
Like other amphibians, pixie frogs have sensitive skins so be sure you only select a substrate that is chemical-free. For example, if opting for compost then ensure no feed granules have been added.
As pixie frogs grow pretty big and like to burrow it makes sense to include a good depth of substrate. In a perfect world your frog should be able to entirely conceal itself below the surface so be generous with the depth you provide.
Pixie frogs don’t just grow large; they’re also strong burrowers. This can make designing an attractive cage for them rather more challenging than for other species.
If you’re unlucky you’ll wake up one morning to find that your carefully-landscaped set-up now looks like a tornado has ripped through it. Therefore, don’t get too precious about the overall design, and accept it will likely change over time.
That said, there are a few tank decor objects that you should consider for your pixie frog.
Despite their size pixie frogs can be surprisingly shy and retiring in captivity. If your pet is remain happy and healthy your frog should therefore have places to hide away from view. Even better, consider adding two or more hides to your pixie frog cage so your pet can choose the option it prefers.
There are many different hides available (I wrote a full guide here) but in brief curved pieces of cork bark or resin “caves” are both good options. The benefit of cork bark is that it comes in a huge range of different sizes and shapes. Visit your local pet store and invest time in finding the “perfect” pieces for your frog.
Cork bark might serve as a practical hide for your pet, but wood can also supplement the aesthetics of your pixie frog cage. Smaller pieces of wood, logs and so on can all make your tank look more attractive while providing further hiding places.
Dead leaves, pieces of moss and so on can all make your pixie frog habitat feel more “natural” as well as adding interest when you’re looking at your frog.
A water bowl is essential for your pixie frog. They may spend most of their time on land, but they’ll still need to regularly drink. Furthermore your pixie frog may even choose to sit in their water bowl, moistening their skin.
As a result, a large water bowl makes sense. Ensure you choose one that is large enough for your frog to get into comfortably. Also, don’t fill the bowl to the top, or the water could go everywhere when your frog gets in.
Be sure to replace the water regularly to keep it fresh and sterile the bowl with boiling water or reptile-safe detergent on a weekly basis.
While some keepers use tap water for their amphibians, there are concerns that tap water can contain irritants like chlorine or heavy metals in many areas. A safer option is to use water from a purer source. I suggest investing in shop-bought bottled spring water.
As we’ll cover shortly, pixie frogs generally appreciate a warm environment. However even they have their limits. Overheating can kill, so it makes sense to include at least one thermometer in your pixie frog cage.
In a perfect world install two thermometers – one at either end of the tank. Try to get into the habit of checking the temperature regularly.
While pixie frogs spend most of their lives on dry land, they still appreciate a humid environment to keep their skin in top condition. Regular spraying with a mister is therefore important to keep your pet happy.
Again, be careful using tap water, as you don’t want to irritate your pixie frog’s skin.
Aim to keep the humidity north of 60%, while still ensuring plenty of ventilation to prevent the growth of fungi or bacteria.
Alternatively, if you want to make your life easier (and you’ve got the budget to spare) you could consider investing in a proper misting system.
Not only do these provide fine clouds of water vapour on a schedule that you set, but they can also create a really cool effect as the “mist” rolls in.
Pixie Frogs and Bio-Active Setups
One of the latest trends in exotic pet care is “bio-active” terrariums. For the uninitiated these typically include live plants and a colony of tiny invertebrates. The invertebrates – often referred to as a “clean-up crew” – are there to remove uneaten food and other debris, helping to keep the cage clean and hygienic.
Whether pixie frogs are suitable for a bioactive setup is a point of contention. On the one hand, their large size and enjoyment of burrowing means that plants are unlikely to live for very long. Installing a moisture drainage layer also poses potential problems, where your pet may disturb the liner.
On the other hand, adding a clean-up crew can make a lot of sense. They can add extra interest to the tank, can act as a supplementary source of food and also improve cleanliness.
I’ve been experimenting with various tropical woodlice myself (the orange ones are cool!) and these could make a good addition to your pixie frog tank if you can source some locally.
Temperature & Heating
Pixie frogs come from Africa so it should be little surprise that they appreciate a warm environment. You should aim to keep your pixie frog’s cage above 20’C at all times, with many keeping suggesting a temperature of 72 – 82F (22 – 27C) is ideal.
For most of us that means that some kind of artificial heating will be required. Fortunately there are a host of reasonably-priced options available. Two of the best options are…
These flat heaters produce a gentle background warmth so are suitable if your home is typically quite warm. It just gives a little “boost” to your pixie frog cage. They’re cheap to buy and to run.
While they’re often placed under the tank (hence why some people refer to them as UTH or Under Tank Heaters) this doesn’t work well with pixie frogs. The reason is that heat pads produce only very gentle heat which cannot permeate through thick substrate. Indeed, a heat pad could even overheat under such conditions, catching fire or cracking the glass tank.
If you opt to use a heat pad with your pixie frog it is generally a better idea to attach it to the side of the cage. An easy option is taping it to the outside of one end of the tank. Consider adding a piece of polystyrene or cork against it to reflect the warmth into your pixie frog cage.
Note that you shouldn’t heat the entire cage with a heat pad. Just warm ⅓ to ½ of the cage, leaving the remainder cooler. In this way your frog can move around and choose the area that suits them best.
That said, choosing and installing a ceramic heater is rather more involved than a heat pad. You’ll need a special ceramic bulb holder (standard plastic holders will melt) and a heat reflector. You’ll also need to be sure that your frog can’t come into direct contact with the heater, so a bulb guard may be needed. Find out more about choosing and using ceramic heaters in my guide here.
Ceramic heaters can only be used in glass/metal cages and are not suitable for plastic enclosures, as they may melt under the heat.
Importance of Thermostats
Whichever option you go for, your pixie frog vivarium should be carefully maintained in the narrow margin discussed earlier. Overheating can be a killer for any exotic pet, but especially for amphibians. As a result, a thermostat should be considered essential when using any form of artificial heating.
Choosing a thermostat isn’t easy; there are so many options so I strongly suggest you read my thermostat buyer’s guide here.
Food & Feeding
Pixie frogs are greedy animals and aren’t fussy about what’s on the menu. They are carnivores and will eat almost anything they can fit into their mouths – including your fingers if you’re not careful – you have been warned! Here are some of the better foods for pixie frogs…
Crickets are a traditional feeder insect that can be bought from most decent pet stores these days. They come in a wide range of sizes, with some species like the black field cricket being reasonably chunky. Be aware that crickets can give your pixie frog a bit of a nip if left uneaten so be sure to remove any that your frog hasn’t picked off after a while.
Roaches have grown in popularity in recent years as they don’t chirp like crickets, they’re easier to keep alive and they’re also available in a wider range of sizes.
Locusts may seem like an unlikely option but the fact that they grow so large can make them appropriate for larger specimens. Be aware that locusts have sharp spines on their back legs. You don’t want your pixie frog getting harmed by them, so you may want to consider removing the locust’s back legs before placing it into the tank.
These moth caterpillars are juicy and popular. Be sure to place them into a bowl before feeding or they’ll quickly burrow down into the substrate never to be seen again.
Always popular, mealworms can be kept in your fridge, which keeps them in a dormant state. This keeps them alive for longer. Be aware that mealworms tend not to offer as many nutrients as some other feeder insects so only feed in moderation.
Larger pixie frogs will happily take appropriately-sized mice. Buy them frozen, defrost them and offer them to your pixie frog using long tongs or forceps. Don’t feed live rodents as they could attack your frog.
Of course there are other options too, so let your mind run wild. The only caveat is not to feed your pixie frog anything you’ve caught in the wild, which may risk introducing parasites to your pet.
Feeding any pet on one single food source risks nutrient deficiencies. Variety is important. I suggest buying a range of foods and swapping from one to another regularly. Additionally, however, supplementation can play an important role in the health of your pixie frog.
Calcium & vitamin D powders are recommended for pixie frogs. Their large size means that their skeleton needs to grow fast and has to support a fair amount of weight.
I like to dust my livefood on occasion. Simply place the insects into a plastic bag, add a little supplement powder and shake to coat the insects. Then offer them to your pixie frog immediately.
Feeding Frequency & Volume
Pixie frogs may have impressive appetites but they’re also pretty lazy, sitting motionless for hours on end. This means that they can be prone to putting on weight in captivity, which can shorten their lifespan. Keep an eye on your frog and modify their diet in response.
Generally speaking youngsters should be fed daily, while adults can eat every 2 or 3 days. The odd longer period when you forget to buy roaches shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Food volume will depend on your frog. Only provide what they realistically eat in 15-30 minutes. Over time you’ll get familiar what this volume looks like for your frog.
Handling Pixie Frogs
Pixie frogs really aren’t a pet for handling for a whole host of reasons. Firstly their feeding response can lead to you getting bitten. Secondly they’re big and strong, so restraining them can be difficult. Chemicals on your hands risk causing damage to the sensitive skin of your frog. Generally speaking, therefore, you should consider your pixie frog as a pet to enjoy from the other side of glass.
That said, the odd frog will accept handling. Whether you want to risk seeing if yours is that frog is a decision only you can make.
Generally speaking the easiest option when transporting your pixie frog (such as for cleaning) is to coax it into another container using long forceps or tongs, then place a tight-fitting lid on, before removing the whole container from the terrarium. You can then go about your work without the worry of being bitten or having your frog escape.
Lastly, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after holding your frog or placing your hands into their cage.
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