Pacman frogs, or Argentine horned frogs, are a robust frog found in moist grasslands from Argentina to Brazil. Their name is taken from the iconic 1980s Pac-Man arcade game, as they share the same voracious appetite, round body and large mouth.
Over the years, due to their easy care, general hardiness and availability of captive-bred specimens, Pacman frogs have become popular pets and are usually available at most pet stores. However, they are not suitable pets if you want an active frog.
Size and Colors
Baby Pacman frogs can reach adult size in about one year if well fed. Male Pacman frogs can grow up to three to four inches in length, whereas females can be larger at about four to seven inches. Adult females can weigh over a pound.
The average lifespan is between seven to 10 years. If well cared for, they can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Pacman frogs come in a variety of color morphs. Always opt for captive-bred frogs instead of wild-caught imports for their increased hardiness and multiple color morphs.
Pacman Frog Housing
Pacman frogs are ambush predators that sit and wait for a passing meal. They spend most of the time sitting half-buried in the bedding and waiting for food. Due to their inactive nature, they do not need a large enclosure, as they won’t utilize the extra space provided.
A 10-gallon terrarium is the standard size for an adult. Babies can be kept in smaller, plastic cages until they are large enough for an upgrade.
The biggest part of caring for your Pacman frog is the substrate. They love to dig down and bury themselves, so proper bedding is important. Acceptable choices include coconut fiber, organic potting soil or bioactive substrates. Avoid using gravel, as it is hard to burrow into and might be accidentally consumed.
Pacman frogs will use hiding spots, such as live or plastic plants, smooth cave structures, leaf litter and moss. Moss can also help keep the humidity high and can be remoistened as needed.
The substrate should be misted as necessary to prevent drying out; it should be damp but never soaking wet. If it does dry out, the frog might enter into a state of hibernation, or brumation. Their outer skin will thicken to prevent dehydration, their movement will stop and they will appear dead. However, once rehydration occurs, they will shed and eat the outer skin and return to normal.
Avoid this behavior; it is the Pacman frog’s last effort to survive a drought, and it might not always revive after rehydration occurs.
Temperature and Lighting
Pacman frogs need to be in the 70 to 85-degree range. Daytime temperatures can be kept about 80 to 84 degrees. It can drop down to the mid-70s at night.
Place an undertank heating pad on one end of the cage, but use a thermostat to prevent the frog from burning if it digs down too far. Add an incandescent heat bulb for supplement heat, if needed. Keep in mind that young frogs can quickly dry out under a hot lamp.
Other than the potential heat lamp, Pacman frogs don’t require special lighting; regular room lighting will suffice. If you have live plants, add a fluorescent fixture and put it on eight to 12 hours a day. For a UVA/UVB light, make sure it’s an amphibian-safe strength and not one designed for desert inhabitants.
Pacman Frog Food and Water
Pacman frogs are easy to feed, as they are greedy and indiscriminating eaters. Babies will mainly eat small insects and fish, including crickets, guppies, minnows, mealworms, dubia roaches and wax worms. Sub-adults can be fed the occasional pinkie mouse. Adults can eat an occasional full-grown mouse or baby rat. If you do offer goldfish, limit the amount as goldfish contain a chemical called thiaminase that can build up in the body and potentially harm your frog.
Smaller Pacman frogs that are mainly fed insects should be offered food daily. Larger frogs can be fed every two to three days. However, please note that Pacman frogs will eat anything that fits in their mouth, including other frogs, so don’t house two or more frogs together.
Watch your frog’s body weight and feed it accordingly. Supplementation in the form of “dusting” the food should be done at least every other feeding with a high-quality vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure proper bone growth and prevent deficiencies.
Provide a shallow dish of water that allows the frog to drink and bathe without drowning; Pacman frogs are terrible swimmers and don’t like deep water.
Handling and Health Problems
Note that Pacman frogs have teeth and can bite, so handling should be done with care. Do not put your hands or fingers in front of their mouths.
Like all amphibians, the skin is highly sensitive; handling should only occur when necessary with clean, wet hands that are free of soap or lotion residue.
The most common health problem with amphibians is bacterial or fungal infections, primarily in the skin and eyes. Look for redness or abnormal swelling.
Another health issue is ammonia poisoning if waste is allowed to build up. Toxic levels of ammonia can then enter through the skin and potentially be fatal to the frog. Avoid this by regularly cleaning the cage.