Ornate Horned Frog (Pacman Frog)

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AC Members
Feb 4, 2007
Ornate Horned Frog (Pacman Frog)
Ceratophrys ornata


“Pac Man frog” is the common name often used to describe any one the many South American horned frogs available in the pet trade. This name is appropriate, and is derived from the frogs hunting and feeding displays. Physically, horned frogs can be described as a giant mouth with a frog attached to it. Anyone who has witnessed a large horned frog consume a prey item will agree. All horned frogs are tropical species, inhabiting the moist forest floors of Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, and adjacent countries. The species most commonly encountered include the Chacoan or Argentine horned frog, the ornate horned frog, and the Cranwell’s horned frog.
Recent work by frog breeders has resulted in the availability of a number of attractive crosses, as well as albino specimens.


The coloration of this species is quite varied. The more colorful forms are bright green with lots of red markings. Some are darker, with less green and lots of black markings.
These frogs can grow to about 15cm. These numbers hardly give the full impression of how big they really are since usually they get to be as wide as they are long! Not only that, but the heads, and therefore their mouths, are almost as wide as their body. In length and width, and males generally get 10 cm (although there are always exceptions and "giants"!). Females generally reach up to 14 cm. As a rule, females are the larger of the species. Sexing this species is very difficult, and the only dimorphism between the two sexes is size and that males have dark pigmented throats.


Your frog can be in a 10 gal tank until it's about the size of an adult hand (give or take).
When I set up my frog tank I picked up the following
- 20 gallon long tank (reptile not fish tank. there is a difference)
- 1 20 lb bag of large pond stones (they vary in size but basically the size of a silver dollar and up)
- 1 brick of eco earth
- Submersible 100 watt heater (I live in the basement so the temps a lot colder then it would be if I lived upstairs)
- Power head for a 20 gal tank
- tubing that covers over the tip of the power head I think it was 1/2 inch wide and I got a foot of that

This is the process which I used:

I first put the heater on the bottom of the tank and set the temp for 75 degrees. I then took the power head and attached the tubing to it using aquarium sealant and placed that on the other side of the tank as far away from the heater as possible. I then took the tube and ran it so it almost meets the heater. I took the 20 lbs of pond stones and put them in the tank. I took a small Tupperware dish (more square then round, remember these guys drown very easily) and buried it in the stones just enough so you can't see that it’s there. Then I used 1/4 of the eco earth and put the dried substrate in the Tupperware dish. I then filled it up with water until it reached just the very tip of the bowl. I also put in some live plants just to decorate. Be sure you check with where ever you get your plants that they are not poisonous. These guys will eat anything that’s attached to their food including leaves of plants. You can also go the fake plant route if you would like. They live on the forest floor under leaves so they like some shade. I did not use direct lighting because once again they get filtered sunlight so it is unnecessary to supplement. The ambient room light was adequate for the frog and the plants (I got low light plants). I DO NOT FERTILIZE ANYTHING! Also before you go out and spend 20-30 bucks on plants, these frogs are pretty destructive and will burrow in just about anything. They are also known to rip and tear anything in its path so don't go for the expensive plants.

Tank Size

Ideal tank size is a 20 gallon long, but as stated before, you can have a baby Pacman frog in a 10 gal tank. Bigger is always better but anything over 29 gallons is just overkill. I would use a 29 gal only if you have a breeding pair.


Now your favorite part of the FAQ I'm sure. What's better then feeding a frog that would try and eat anything that hits the tank including fingers? When feeding time comes for my frog here is what I feed him....

- Crickets
- Mealworms
- Earth worms
- Frozen pinkies

I have found the best way to consistently feed the frogs is to set up a 5 or 10g tank for storing the live food (crickets). Put it somewhere dark like closet. I put down a small bowl containing a damp, not wet sponge (Hermit crab sponge). Then I put another bowl the same size with cricket food, along with a potatoes and carrot in the tank. I put egg crates (the cardboard ones) littered all over the tank. I then buy between 100 and 200 crickets online and get them shipped to my house and put the crickets in tank. I order crickets online in order to save time, gas, money and to have the ability to pick the size I want. I am also able to easily monitor the quantity that I have available. I know that might sound silly or overkill to a few of you but honestly it’s much easier. This is especially true when my frog destroys between 20-30 crickets in 2 hours. Mealworms I can get at the local bait shop for 2 dollars, I don't order these online because my frog isn't exactly thrilled with them yet. Earthworms I get from the same tackle shop for 2 dollars and he happily devours them like he hasn't had a meal in months. Frozen pinkies I order online and get them bulk delivered in 100 counts. Now why frozen and not living? Well besides the overall cruelness factor, they are just expensive. I pay between 2.00 and 2.50 for a mouse that’s about the size of a large pinkie.
I order 100 counts online for 91.64 and it costs me about 91 cents a mouse! Granted you have to deal with frozen pinkies in your freezer. I stay away from living/bigger rodents, fish, and other foods. Often feeder fish are sick and they have sharp bones and scales that could injure or kill the frog. Also, living rodents tend to put up a fight which could hurt my frog which is something I'd rather not risk. Plus fish and mice are high in fat. A fat frog isn't going to live its normal lifespan.


The health of your frog is VERY important I cannot stress this enough. I use 2 supplements weekly. They are:

Zoo Med's Repetitive
T-Rex 2:0 Calcium/ No Phosphorus Powered supplement with vitamins

I dust once a week alternating between the 2 supplements. Calcium is one of the most important things your frog needs in order to live a healthy life. Mice/rodents are pretty high in fat and have almost no calcium in them. This is why I feed my frog large pinkies versus something like a fuzzy or a bigger mouse that he could handle. I'd rather let him get a “snack" with high in fat and let foods that are good and high in calcium entail his primary diet.


- I do a daily spot check for feces, dead crickets/mealworms/etc.
- Weekly I take a gravel vacuum and suck all the water up and replace it with fresh water
- Every 2 days I spray the entire tank with a mist bottle


Pacman frogs can get two common diseases: Red Leg and Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Red Leg gets its name from the red patches of skin on the amphibian's inner thigh. These red blotches are actually exploded blood vessels. Pacman Frogs get this through over handling or unsanitary conditions. Symptoms include laziness and lack of movement, puffy bloated body, red patches, and severe lack of appetite. It is often too late to treat by the time the patches appear but you can always try to treat it with a diluted iodine/water solution. Let the frog soak in this for 10 minutes or so every day and see if it improves. Keep the frog out of its possibly contaminated cage and in a backup cage until it recovers. Be sure to clean out the infected cage before putting him back.

MBD is a disorder that causes the frog to have weak, dissolving bones do to a lack of calcium in its diet. You can identify this by loss of weight/mass, droopy limbs, lack of movement. MBD is usually fatal but can be corrected if caught in time by improving its diet. This is accomplished by loading all of its food with vitamin powder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I buy a frog?

I lucked out in this field because I happen to work for a LFS so they just ordered me one. I would either try to have your LFS order one (if you trust them enough), or order one from a breeder. Prices will vary depending on source. My frog cost me 25.99 again I work for a LFS so it might be higher or even lower in your area.

I see on YouTube all these videos of a Pacman frog eating a big mouse or rat. How come you don't feed your frog that stuff?

Well take away the cruel part the mouse can sometimes actually hurt your frog. Plus some mice become little terrors when death is knocking on their door, I've read and have actually seen several instances where a frog has been bitten by a mouse or worse. I'd rather not take that chance.

Can I hold a Pacman frog?

Some places say you can as long as you wash your hands before and after etc. etc. I personally try to avoid touching my frog as much as possible. Besides the overly aggressive manner of these frogs, they also breathe through their skin. I'd rather not risk getting my frog sick from me handling him. And when I do have to move him I get a Tupperware cup and just scoop him up.

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