Popular Pacman Frog Species

OnReptiles Staff
Popular Pacman Frog Species

When you first lay eyes on a Pacman frog, it’s easy to be captivated by their almost comical, rounded appearance. They seem to be always ready to play a real-life version of the arcade game they’re named after. But here’s the deal: these amphibians are so much more than their namesake.

As someone who’s spent countless hours both caring for these fascinating creatures and diving deep into reptile literature, I can assure you there’s a rich tapestry of information and intrigue behind every croak and color.

Pacman frogs have become increasingly popular, and it’s no mystery why. They’re vibrant, relatively low-maintenance, and offer a unique pet-owning experience. And while they’re part of the vast world of reptiles and amphibians I adore, they hold a special place in my heart.

Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the various species of Pacman frogs, get familiar with their needs, and share a few insider tips that come from personal experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned herpetology enthusiast or someone just curious about these chubby amphibians, there’s something here for everyone.

Origins and Natural Habitat

The name “Pacman frog” might evoke images of vintage arcade games, but the history of these amphibians is rooted in the diverse landscapes of South America. Named for their large mouths and round bodies that resemble the iconic video game character.

Pacman frogs, scientifically termed Ceratophrys, have roamed the subtropical and tropical regions long before they caught the attention of enthusiasts around the world.

Where They Call Home

These vibrant frogs are predominantly found in the grasslands, lowland forests, and sometimes even in drier locales of countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. The varying regions they come from offer clues to their diverse coloring and behaviors.

For example, the moisture-rich areas they often inhabit are crucial for their survival as they help them in staying hydrated, a vital aspect given their lack of a water-resistant skin layer.

The Connection Between Their Habitat and Captive Care

Understanding the natural environment of Pacman frogs is not just a matter of curiosity; it’s an essential foundation for their proper care in captivity. Every detail, from the humidity level to the type of substrate they’re accustomed to, plays a significant role in ensuring they thrive when kept as pets.

In the wild, these frogs spend a considerable amount of time burrowed in soft, damp soils, waiting for prey to come within their striking distance. This behavior underscores the need for a suitable substrate in their terrarium that allows for easy burrowing.

Moreover, the ambient humidity and temperatures of their native habitats should guide the settings of their captive environments.

For anyone keen on providing the best care for their Pacman frog, replicating their natural habitat as closely as possible is key. This not only ensures their physical well-being but also contributes to their overall happiness and longevity in captivity.

The Different Species of Pacman Frogs

Cranwell’s Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli)

Cranwell's Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli)
Image: Swell Reptiles – Swell UK

Description and Unique Features

Cranwell’s Pacman Frog, often affectionately termed the “Chacoan Horned Frog,” is a favorite among amphibian aficionados. Originating from the Gran Chaco region spanning Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, its natural habitat gives this species its common name.

Size-wise, the Cranwell’s Pacman Frog is quite substantial, with females often reaching sizes of up to 6 inches, while males usually hover around the 4-inch mark.

Coloration varies but predominantly ranges from rich browns to captivating greens, often adorned with darker markings or spots. Their skin, unlike some other amphibians, is rugged with a slightly warty texture.

One notable feature that captures attention is the “horns” above their eyes, which aren’t actual horns but rather fleshy, pointed protrusions. These give the frog an almost prehistoric appearance, contributing to its widespread appeal.

Care Tips for Hobbyists

1. Housing

Considering their size, especially for females, a spacious terrarium is crucial. For an adult, a 10 to 20-gallon tank is typically sufficient. Since they’re predominantly terrestrial and not prone to climbing, vertical space isn’t as crucial as floor space.

2. Substrate

Remembering their natural propensity for burrowing, a substrate like coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, or a mix of the two works best. It should retain moisture without being overly wet.

3. Temperature and Humidity

A gradient temperature is ideal, with the warm end ranging between 78-82°F (25-28°C) and the cooler end between 72-75°F (22-24°C). Humidity levels should remain around 60-70%. Misting the enclosure regularly can help maintain this level, but ensure there’s no stagnation of water.

4. Diet

Cranwell’s Pacman Frogs have a voracious appetite. A varied diet of crickets, mealworms, and even an occasional pinky mouse for adult frogs is ideal. But be cautious: overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is a common issue.

5. Handling

It’s crucial to understand that while they might look robust, Pacman frogs have sensitive skin. Minimal handling is recommended. When necessary, ensure your hands are clean and damp to minimize the risk of transferring any harmful substances onto their skin.

In conclusion, while Cranwell’s Pacman Frogs are relatively low-maintenance, understanding their specific needs and natural behaviors is crucial. By mimicking their natural environment and being attentive to their requirements, hobbyists can enjoy the companionship of these incredible amphibians for years to come.

Argentine Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

Argentine Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

Description and Unique Features

Another standout in the Pacman frog realm is the Argentine Horned Frog, sometimes referred to as the “Ornate Pacman Frog” due to its striking appearance. As the name suggests, this species hails primarily from Argentina, but its range also extends to parts of Uruguay and Brazil.

In terms of size, the Argentine Horned Frog closely matches the Cranwell’s, with females often being more robust and reaching up to 6 inches, while males tend to be slightly smaller.

What sets them apart, however, is their vivacious color palette. Their dorsal side boasts a mesmerizing combination of bright greens, deep yellows, and even reds, interspersed with intricate, dark patterns that give them their “ornate” descriptor.

Like the Cranwells, their signature “horns” or fleshy protrusions over the eyes add to their charismatic appearance.

Tips for Keeping Them in Captivity

1. Housing

Similar to their Cranwell’s counterpart, a 10 to 20-gallon tank will serve an adult Argentine Horned Frog well. They value floor space more than height, so prioritize a broader setup.

2. Substrate

Their love for burrowing calls for a substrate that supports this behavior. A damp mixture of coconut coir, sphagnum moss, or even a commercial reptile bedding can be ideal. It should be deep enough to allow them to burrow partially.

3. Temperature and Humidity

The temperature gradient should hover between 75-80°F (24-27°C) for the warm end and 70-74°F (21-23°C) for the cooler end. Humidity levels for the Argentine Horned Frog should consistently remain between 50-70%.

Regular misting, combined with a large shallow water dish, can assist in maintaining the desired humidity.

4. Diet

These frogs are voracious eaters and can consume a range of prey, from crickets to mealworms, and even small rodents for adults. It’s crucial to ensure a balanced diet and avoid overfeeding, as they can easily become overweight.

5. Handling

Argentine Horned Frogs, like most Pacman frogs, prefer minimal handling. When it’s necessary, always use damp, clean hands. And remember, they have a surprisingly fast and strong bite, so always be cautious!

6. Social Needs

It’s worth noting that these frogs are best kept individually. They are quite territorial and can exhibit cannibalistic tendencies if housed together, especially when there’s a size difference.

In wrapping up, the Argentine Horned Frog is not only a visual delight but also a testament to the diversity within the Pacman frog family. With proper care, understanding of their needs, and a bit of attention to detail, they can be a rewarding pet for both novice and experienced amphibian enthusiasts.

Surinam Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta)

Surinam Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta)
Image: Cal Photos – University of California, Berkeley

Distinct Attributes and How They Differ from Other Species

The Surinam Horned Frog, also known as the “Amazonian Horned Frog,” is a captivating member of the Ceratophrys genus. This species has managed to enthrall enthusiasts with its singular appearance and behaviors.

Size-wise, they’re on par with the previously discussed species, but their standout attribute is undeniably the pair of elongated, horn-like structures above their eyes, which are even more pronounced than those of their cousins.

These “horns” are skin-covered extensions of the upper eyelids, giving them a fierce and almost mythical appearance.

Their coloration, while varying, often blends beautifully with leafy rainforest floors. They sport a mix of greens, browns, and yellows, with occasional blotches that serve as perfect camouflage amidst the foliage of their native habitats.

Behaviorally, they’re ambush predators and can remain motionless for extended periods, waiting for prey.

What’s more, the Surinam Horned Frog’s call is notably different. It’s a loud, repetitive croak, reminiscent of distant tribal drums, making them one of the more vocal Pacman frog species.

Ideal Conditions for Their Habitat in Captivity


Given their similar size to other Pacman frogs, a 10 to 20-gallon tank works well for adults. As ambush predators, they appreciate ample ground space more than vertical territory.


To mimic the rainforest floor, use a moist substrate that facilitates burrowing, such as coconut coir or sphagnum moss. It should be damp but not waterlogged to prevent fungal growth.

Temperature and Humidity

The Surinam Horned Frog thrives in warmer, humid conditions. A temperature gradient from 76-82°F (24-28°C) during the day and a slight drop at night is optimal. Humidity should consistently remain high, between 70-80%. Daily misting and a sizable water dish can help in achieving this.


Like other Pacman frogs, they aren’t picky eaters. They’ll consume a variety of insects, from crickets to mealworms, and adults can occasionally be given small rodents. Monitor their weight to prevent obesity, a common concern among captive Pacman frogs.


Their impressive horns notwithstanding, Surinam Horned Frogs are still delicate creatures. They should be handled sparingly, and when you do, ensure your hands are damp and free from chemicals.

Decor and Enrichment

Given their natural habitat, integrating plants (real or artificial) can provide them with added comfort. Not only does it offer them hiding spots, but it also aids in maintaining humidity.

In essence, while the Surinam Horned Frog carries its own set of unique attributes, their care requirements align closely with other Pacman frogs. With the right environment and attention to detail, they can be a stunning addition to any amphibian enthusiast’s collection.

Brazilian Horned Frog (Ceratophrys aurita)

Brazilian Horned Frog (Ceratophrys aurita)
Image: Encyclopedia of Life

Description and Unique Features

Ceratophrys aurita, often recognized as the “Brazilian Horned Frog,” is another mesmerizing member of the Pacman frog lineage. It’s native to the Brazilian Atlantic forest, making it a distinct species within its habitat range.

In terms of size, the Brazilian Horned Frog is generally a tad smaller than some of its Ceratophrys relatives but still boasts a significant presence. Adult females can reach up to 5 inches, while males usually stay slightly below this mark.

One of the standout features of Ceratophrys aurita is its vivid coloration. This species exhibits a lush green primary hue, interspersed with varying patterns ranging from dark brown blotches to more intricate labyrinth-like markings.

Like its relatives, it possesses the characteristic “horned” eyelids, although they might not be as pronounced as in species like the Surinam Horned Frog.

This frog’s camouflaging abilities are noteworthy. The blend of colors and patterns makes it nearly indistinguishable from leaf litter on the forest floor, a testament to its evolutionary adaptation.

Tips for Keeping Them in Captivity


Given their size, a 10-gallon terrarium could suffice for an adult, but as always, more space is generally better. Prioritize horizontal space, allowing room for the frog to move and burrow.


Mimicking the forest floor is key. A moist substrate like coconut coir, blended with bits of sphagnum moss, provides an excellent base. Ensure it remains damp, allowing for their natural burrowing behavior.

Temperature and Humidity

Reflecting their Atlantic forest habitat, the Brazilian Horned Frog thrives in temperatures between 75-80°F (24-27°C). Humidity levels should be kept relatively high, ideally around 70-80%. Regular misting and a sizable water dish can assist in maintaining the desired levels.


They’re not particularly finicky eaters. A diverse diet of crickets, mealworms, and other appropriate-sized insects is recommended. As they mature, the occasional pinky mouse can be introduced, but in moderation to avoid obesity.


Ceratophrys aurita, like its cousins, is best observed rather than handled frequently. If handling is necessary, use damp, clean hands to ensure minimal stress and to prevent skin injuries.

Decor and Enrichment

Considering their native habitat, the addition of plants (either live or artificial) and hideouts can offer them a sense of security. It also aids in keeping the humidity consistent.

In summary, the Brazilian Horned Frog, with its enchanting appearance and intriguing behaviors, can be a joy to keep in captivity. While its care requirements are similar to other Pacman frogs, its distinct coloration and patterns make it a prized possession for many amphibian hobbyists.

With proper care, attention to their environment, and a balanced diet, these frogs can flourish, offering endless fascination for their keepers.

Others: Less Common Pacman Frog Species

While the aforementioned Pacman frog species are among the most recognized, several lesser-known species within the Ceratophrys genus are equally captivating in their own right. Here’s a brief overview of some of these lesser-celebrated species:

Ceratophrys joazeirensis (Joazeiro’s Pacman Frog)

Ceratophrys joazeirensis (Joazeiro's Pacman Frog)


Native to the arid regions of northeastern Brazil, this species is quite rare in both the wild and in captivity.


Compared to its relatives, Joazeiro’s Pacman Frog exhibits a more flattened body and a less vibrant color palette, generally ranging from sandy browns to muted greens. This coloration helps them blend seamlessly with their desert-like surroundings.

Ceratophrys calcarata (Colombian Pacman Frog)


Hailing from Colombia, this species is seldom seen in the pet trade but is a real treat for dedicated collectors.


They’re known for their distinctively rough skin texture and pronounced “horns” above the eyes. Their coloration is typically a mix of browns, helping them camouflage amidst leaf litter and soil.

Ceratophrys stolzmanni (Ecuadorian Horned Frog)

Ceratophrys stolzmanni (Ecuadorian Horned Frog)


As the name suggests, this species originates from the Pacific coastal region of Ecuador.


Slightly smaller than some of the other Ceratophrys species, the Ecuadorian Horned Frog has a unique dorsal coloration, often consisting of dark, almost black, patches against a lighter background.

These lesser-known species add to the tapestry of diversity within the Ceratophrys genus. While their care requirements align broadly with other Pacman frogs, those interested in keeping them should dive deeper into species-specific needs.

As with all exotic pets, the more knowledge one can gather about their natural habitats and behaviors, the more successful the captive care experience will be.

Pacman Frog Care 101: Universal Tips

Pacman frogs, with their unique appearance and intriguing behaviors, make for fascinating pets. While individual species might have specific care nuances, there are universal guidelines that apply to the entire Ceratophrys genus. Here’s a comprehensive overview:

1. Diet and Feeding

What They Eat

Pacman frogs are carnivorous ambush predators. Their diet primarily consists of:

  1. Insects: Crickets, roaches, mealworms, and waxworms.
  2. Occasional Larger Prey: Earthworms, silkworms, and for mature frogs, pinky mice.

How Often

  1. Younger frogs (up to a year old) should be fed daily or every other day due to their rapid growth.
  2. Adult frogs can be fed 2-3 times a week. Always monitor their weight; overfeeding can lead to obesity.

2. Housing

Tank Size

Depending on the species and the frog’s size, tank requirements can vary:

  1. Juveniles: A 5-10 gallon tank.
  2. Adults: A 10-20 gallon tank. Always prioritize width over height, as they’re not climbers.
  3. Substrate: Coconut coir, sphagnum moss, or a mixture of both work well. Ensure it’s damp, allowing for natural burrowing behavior.


Provide hides (like half logs or caves) and non-toxic plants (live or artificial). These offer security and enrichment for your frog.

3. Humidity and Temperature


  1. Keep it between 60-80%, varying slightly depending on the species.
  2. Regular misting and a water dish can assist in maintaining appropriate levels. Use dechlorinated water.


  1. Daytime temperatures should be in the 75-82°F (24-28°C) range.
  2. Nighttime can see a slight drop, but it should not go below 65°F (18°C).
  3. Under tank heaters or low-wattage, basking lights can help maintain these temperatures.

4. Handling and Behavior


Pacman frogs are generally docile but can be aggressive feeders. They are known for their sudden and fast strikes when they sense food.


It’s best to observe rather than frequently handle your frog. Their skin is sensitive, and they can get stressed with excessive handling. When necessary, handle gently with damp, clean hands.

Behavioral Note

Pacman frogs are ambush predators, so it’s common for them to burrow and remain stationary for extended periods. This is natural and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

In essence, while Pacman frogs are relatively low-maintenance, attention to their basic needs is crucial. A combination of the right environment, diet, and minimal stress can ensure that these amphibians thrive in captivity, providing their keepers with years of enjoyment and fascination.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

Keeping Pacman frogs can be a rewarding experience, but like all pets, there are potential challenges. Let’s delve into some of the common issues faced by keepers and how best to address them.

1. Obesity


Pacman frogs have a voracious appetite, which can easily lead to overfeeding and subsequently obesity. An obese frog can have a shortened lifespan and other health complications.


Stick to a feeding schedule tailored to the frog’s age. For adults, feeding 2-3 times a week is sufficient. Monitor their body condition and adjust their diet accordingly. Offer prey that’s appropriate to their size.

2. Skin and Shedding Issues


Improper humidity levels can cause difficulties in shedding, leading to retained skin, especially around the eyes and limbs.


Maintain the right humidity levels through regular misting and providing a water dish. If your frog has shedding issues, a shallow lukewarm bath can help, or you can gently remove the retained shed using damp cotton swabs.

3. Bacterial and Fungal Infections


If the terrarium is not kept clean or is too damp, it can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and fungi, leading to infections on the frog’s skin.


Regularly clean and disinfect the terrarium. Ensure the substrate is damp but not waterlogged. If you suspect an infection, consult a veterinarian experienced with amphibians.

4. Impaction


Swallowing indigestible materials like substrate or large prey can lead to impaction in the frog’s digestive tract.


Use a feeding dish or tongs to offer food, minimizing the chance of substrate ingestion. Ensure prey items are an appropriate size for the frog. If impaction is suspected, seek veterinary care.

5. Aggression or Cannibalism


Pacman frogs are solitary and can display aggression if housed together. This can lead to injuries or even cannibalism.


It’s best to house Pacman frogs individually. If they must be kept in the same enclosure for short periods, ensure they are of similar size and monitor them closely.

6. Dehydration


Inadequate humidity or lack of water can cause dehydration, evidenced by a frog’s sunken eyes or lethargy.


Always provide a shallow water dish large enough for the frog to soak in. Maintain proper humidity levels in the enclosure through misting.

In conclusion, while challenges can arise in keeping Pacman frogs, most can be preempted or resolved with attentive care and a good understanding of the frog’s needs.

Regular observation of your frog’s behavior and condition can help in the early detection of potential issues, ensuring a healthy and long life for your amphibian friend.

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