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Thread: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

  1. #1
    Paul Rust

    Default Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)
    © Paul Rust - NorthWest Amphibian Rescue

    This article covers the several species of Leopard Frog as they have very similar care requirements.

    © Brian Robin (UncleChester)

    Family: Ranidae (True Frogs)

    North America

    IUCN (Red List) Status:
    Least Concern (LC)
    CITES Status: No listing
    Adult Snout-to-Vent Length:
    5-13 cm (2-5 inches); females are larger than males

    9 years or more

    Captive Difficulty:

    Activity: Naturally nocturnal as an adult, but may be active at any time of the day
    8-24 °C (50-75 °F); lower temperatures will lead to hibernation and lack of appetite

    The usual insect fare: crickets, cultured cockroaches, earthworms, waxworms, mealworms, etc


    Leopard frogs are medium to moderately large species of frog, reaching about 10 cm (4 inches) from snout to vent. Females are larger than males. Only the males of this species call. Color can be green, tan, or brown, or a combination, with distinct oval spots that have pale colored edges. The venter (underside) is white. There are light colored dorso-lateral ridges that run the length of the back on either side starting from just behind the eye and extending all the way back to the vent. These ridges are lightly colored. The upper jaw has a white stripe and occasionally they will have a white dot on the tympanum (eardrum). Young leopard frogs have very few or no spots. Tadpoles are brown or gray, with metallic gold spots on a brown background, and they can reach a length of about 8.5 cm (3.5 inches) before metamorphosis. The tadpoles are very similar in appearance to American Bullfrog tadpoles, but differ by being smaller and lacking the black spots often found on bullfrog tadpoles. Leopard frogs can live as long as 9 years in captivity.

    © Brian Robin (UncleChester)


    Leopard frogs are semi-aquatic and require a large water area as well as a large land area. A 50/50 setup is ideal. Try to imitate their natural environment, which is normally any permanent body of heavily vegetated water. This includes areas such as ponds, lakes, potholes, and ditches. I would recommend at least 40 liters (10 US gallons) per frog because they are large and skittish. A sample setup would be a land area comprised of 5 cm (2 inches) of gravel or LECA (light expanded clay aggregate) for drainage, topped with 7.5-10 cm (3-4 inches) of coconut fiber because these frogs need to burrow on occasion. Cover this with sphagnum moss for a nice thick and soft land area. These frogs like dense vegetation, so plant the enclosure fairly heavily. Use logs and branches to help create cover in order to give them a sense of security. Leopard frogs cannot climb very well, so a long tank is preferred over a tall one. Separate the land from the water however you wish, but make sure the transition is gentle so the frogs can exit the water easily. Cover the bottom of the pond with gravel and ensure that the water is deep enough to allow the frog to fully submerge. Provide a floating log or shelf to allow the frogs to sit close to the water for security. Humidity and temperature are not a concern as these frogs are very tolerant of a wide range of conditions. Provide a 12 hour photoperiod with lighting above a screen top to prevent escape.

    © Brian Robin (UncleChester)


    Leopard frogs are considered good beginner frogs because they are sturdy and tolerant. They are both nocturnal and diurnal. They like to be in heavy cover for protection and will wander around in hay fields or grassy forests in wet weather. This frog is very cold tolerant. Leopard frogs are hard-wired to hibernate and you can allow this to happen by reducing the temperature in the enclosure to around 2-6 °C (35-40 °F) for a few months in the winter. They will naturally reduce their activity and may even stop eating as winter approaches. They avoid predators by sitting still at the water's edge and hiding in the vegetation. They have a useful talent: when startled, they dive into the water, make an immediate 90 degree turn, and pop up elsewhere under cover, leaving the predator searching in the area of the original splash. Leopard frogs are wary and jumpy, so try not to approach the enclosure too quickly as they can easily tear up your hard work and possibly injure themselves by jumping around frantically.

    © Brian Robin (UncleChester)


    The staple diet should be size-appropriate crickets. Be sure to gut-load crickets before feeding. Three or four crickets per frog every 2 days is a good starting point. It is also a good idea to vary the diet somewhat with invertebrates such as earthworms, waxworms, grubs, etc. These frogs will eat anything that will fit into their mouths. In the wild their diet includes other frogs, fish, and even small birds. There is no need to hand feed these frogs - just drop the food items into the enclosure and let the frogs hunt them down. Food should be dusted with a high quality vitamin supplement on a weekly basis.

    Males become sexually mature in 1-2 years and females in 2-3 years. Breeding takes place in the water but only after hibernation. The males sit at the water's edge and call for females. Northern Leopard Frogs call with a guttural low-pitched growl, while Southern Leopard Frogs have a complicated call that sounds a lot like a duck laughing! Fertilization of the eggs is external. Females lay eggs in clusters attached to plants under the water. Many females may lay eggs together in a community egg mass. The clusters can contain from 600 to over 7000 eggs. Eggs hatch from 2 to 17 days later, and the warmer the water the faster they will hatch . Tadpoles are brown or gray and eat plant material, detritus, and algae. Tadpoles metamorphose in 3 to 6 months. Newly metamorphosed froglets are about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long.

    © Jo-Anna Brown (Jace)

    © Jo-Anna Brown (Jace)

    First published on Wednesday August 4th 2010. Last updated Wednesday August 4th 2010.

    Article is ©2010 Paul W. Rust. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or published in part or in whole without written permission from Paul W. Rust.

    Comments, suggestions and criticism welcomed!

    Last edited by John; July 30th, 2011 at 04:54 AM.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Great care article, Paul! I have some more pics of Finn for you to look at and use if you would like. I won't get a chance to post them until the weekend, though. Mighty good pictures you have!

  4. #3
    Moderator tgampper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Great article, Paul. Thanks.
    Terry Gampper
    Nebraska Herpetological Society

    “If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.”
    Adrian Forsyth

  5. #4
    Paul Rust

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Thank you guys! It needs some touch-up but we'll get to it.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Have they been known to eat fish? Just curious. I have a gold fish tank right next to my leopard frog tank and he is always trying to catch them lol. I might have to move them. He likes the movement.

  7. #6
    Paul Rust

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Yes, like most frogs they will eat nearly anything they can get into their mouth.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Do you think it would be a okay to feed my frog small feeder fish?

  9. #8
    Paul Rust

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    I would recommend against feeding them fish. Not only are fish a target of opportunity and not a normal food item for them, fish are intermediate hosts for many parasites and do not show symptoms of parasitic infection so you never know what you are exposing your animal to. Captive bred crickets should be the staple diet.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    Alright. Thank you. Just wanted to to be sure. I don't want to risk anything if I don't have to, and it's nice to know for future reference

  11. #10

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    This is a great, inclusive article! As a kid, I used to love catching Northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) when we would vacation in Wisconsin. I have seen but a few Southern leopard frogs in Missouri as where I live most of the waterbodies consist of rivers/streams and/or reservoirs resulting from the construction of dams on the major rivers. Consequently, there is a decided lack of "preferred habitat", especially in the reservoirs as the water level fluctuations have the potential to be drastic, not only from the perspective of changes in depth, but also from the perspective of frequency and duration.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Leopard Frog Care - Rana pipiens (Schreber, 1782) and R. sphenocephala (1886)

    i read the whole things its a good lot of info there but is there any particular plant that goes in compost they like that you can get from a common plant shop and is it alright to use j.arthur bowers ericacaous compost or j.aruther bowers tub and bassket compost look it up need help with this . im from the uk so it must be easy to get from the uk

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