How to Build a Terrarium for a Frog

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When building a frog terrarium, you must be sure to consider all of the environmental parameters, including ventilation, humidity, temperature, security and access. The exact details of the terrarium design will vary from one species to the next, but most species will thrive under broadly similar conditions. Be sure to research your frog’s natural habitat and husbandry requirements before putting together his terrarium.

The Captive Capsule

  • Most beginning frog keepers use aquariums as the basis for their frog terrarium. While aquariums are suitable for frogs, commercially produced glass or plastic cages are generally preferable. Usually, cages come with screened lids and have front-opening doors; whereas aquariums usually require add-on lids, and are only accessible via the top, which is far less convenient than accessing the cage from the front. The size of the cage or aquarium depends on the size and activity level of the species you keep, but always opt for the largest cage you can afford.

Equal Opportunity Enclosure

  • Many frogs require access to both land and water areas. Provide this by arranging the substrate into a sloped “beach” or by using a piece of plastic or glass to create a “dam” that separates the water from the land section. Be sure to use a filter for the water section, as frogs foul their water very quickly. Conducting suitably frequent water changes is usually difficult in elaborate terrariums.

Climactic Considerations

  • While most commonly kept frogs will thrive at room temperature, many of the tropical species require elevated temperatures to thrive. Some frogs even require basking spots. The best way to heat your frog’s enclosure is by placing a heat lamp or a heating pad over or under one side of the cage. This will provide a range of temperatures, which allows your frog to move throughout the enclosure and find the most comfortable temperature. Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperatures.

Living in the Limelight

  • Most frogs will thrive without any supplemental lighting -- the indirect room lighting will suffice. However, quality lighting will help improve the visibility of your frog and may be necessary if you plan to incorporate live plants in the enclosure. Use fluorescent light bulbs if you wish to provide supplemental lighting, but be sure to turn the lights off for about 12 hours each night.

Managing the Moisture

  • Most frogs require relatively high cage humidity to thrive. When the air becomes too dry, most frogs are susceptible to dehydration. One way to ensure that the cage humidity stays high is by using moisture-retaining substrates, such as sphagnum moss, orchid bark or organic topsoil. Additionally, live plants will pull water from the substrate and release it into the air as they engage in the process of transpiration. Misting the cage each morning with room temperature, amphibian-safe water also is effective. Avoid saturating the cage and be sure that it has plenty of ventilation, as constantly stagnant, wet conditions encourage bacterial growth.

Hiding Spots and Hangouts

  • Frogs require plenty of hiding spots or they are likely to become stressed. You can provide these in the form of live or artificial plants, pieces of bark or hollow logs. Some frogs prefer burrowing into the substrate, so provide digging species with a suitable substrate. Additionally, most tree frogs require places to climb and perch, such as branches or small plants. Most plants are safe to use with frogs, but relatively few will thrive in a terrarium. Philodendrons, figs, bromeliads, mosses and ferns are among the most likely plants to survive in a frog tank.

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