Reptile & Amphibian Hobbyist's Herp Care Series
Red-eyed Treefrog, Red-eyed Leaf-frog
Family: Hylidae, the treefrogs. These
frogs fall in the subfamily Phyllomedusinae, containing the leaf and monkey frogs of Central and South America.
Care Difficulty: Wild-caught
individuals must be considered difficult. Captive-bred ones are moderately difficult to care for.
Size: The males may be as long as 2.5 inches from snout to vent. Females are quite a bit larger, up to 3 inches, with
considerably more girth than a male.
Description: As the common name of this frog suggests, its eyes are a bright, tomato red with black, vertical, elliptical pupils. The degree of redness does vary, sometimes approaching a
red-orange. The dorsal color of the frog is leafy green, as are the face, forearms, and shins. The toes are bright orange. On the sides of its body, which normally are blue, there are thin white to yellow bars.
The upper arms are also blue. There is some variation in color over the range, with three more or less recognizable forms being seen. In the northern part of the range, Mexico and Honduras, there is no white stripe
above the bars on the sides of the body, and the thighs are orange. The frogs from Nicaragua and Costa Rica bear a pale yellow stripe that connects the bars on the sides. In Panama, there are some frogs that have orange
and blue thighs with T-shaped bars on the sides. In many populations throughout the range, Red-eyes may have small white spots on the back in varying numbers. The underbelly is white. At metamorphosis, these frogs are
brown, often with scattered white specks. The brilliant adult colors take several weeks to develop.
From above, the body of a Red-eye appears vaguely triangular, tapering toward the posterior end. The broad wedge of
the head prevents the frog from being a true triangle. The surface of the skin is rough but never warty. There are no obvious parotoid glands. The legs are long and spindly, ending in elongated feet, each of the toes
bearing an enlarged climbing disc. The feet are webbed, the rear ones moreso than the front ones. Unlike the related monkey frogs (Phyllomedusa), Red-eyes do not have opposable toes. When the frog sleeps
during the day, its eyes are covered with a white, net-like membrane.
Range: From southeastern Mexico to Panama, possibly occurring over the border in Colombia. Most exports are from
Diet and Feeding: Like most frogs of similar size, the diet of
a Red-eye primarily consists of insects and other invertebrates. A large adult might be able to eat a small frog or lizard, but this must be considered an exceptional occurrence. Red-eyes-even large adults-tend to
prefer small food. Keep this in mind when purchasing and collecting food. As you may expect of a nocturnal insectivore, Red-eyes seem to prefer moths and flies to other prey. Wild-caught specimens may refuse food. It is
critical to get them eating; these frogs have a fast metabolism and need frequent meals. Captive-bred frogs generally are not fussy about food. Crickets, vitamin-dusted and gut-loaded every third feeding, can be used as
a staple diet. Mealworms are not recommended because of their hard shells, but wax worms are fine to offer occasionally if your frog will eat them (wax worms can also be held back and allowed to turn into moths before
feeding to the frog). The insects are best fed in some form of container that they cannot escape from.
Habits: Red-eyes are highly arboreal frogs. They climb and leap with great skill. During the day. they sleep on the
undersides of leaves with eyes closed and legs folded tight against the body. At night, they roam their surroundings looking for insect prey. When on the prowl, they are alert for danger and flee with long jumps.
Temperature/Humidity: Red-eyes thrive in a temperature range of 75 to 85F, with a drop of up to ten degrees at night. Humidity is a controversial subject with these frogs. During breeding, they
prefer the humidity level around 90 percent, and some hobbyists keep them this moist all the time. Others, citing that the frogs experience lower humidity over much of the year, keep them between 60 and 75 percent
relative humidity, raising it during the summer.
Although Red-eyes do not need large terrariums, they do need tall terrariums. The ideal terrarium would he taller than it is long and wide. A tight-fitting
screen top is necessary if you use an aquarium as your cage. To maintain proper humidity, you may want to cover a small part of the screen, but keep a substantial area open to the air. These are not territorial frogs,
but they still should not be overcrowded. As a ruIe-of-thumb, house no more than a pair or trio for every ten gallons of volume in the enclosure. The enclosure for these frogs should be quite complex, allowing them to
climb, hunt, and hide as they would in nature. This means incorporating plants (live are preferred), branches, cork bark. and a substantial water bowl into the decor.
Several substrates will work, ranging
from damp paper towels (stark, but inexpensive and easily cleaned) to soil mixtures. If setting up a naturalistic vivarium, use an inch-deep layer of gravel on the bottom for drainage. On top of this, place 2 or 3
inches of organic soil, topped off with an inch of sphagnum moss. Plants can be left in their pots and buried in the soil or taken out of the pots and planted directly in the vivarium. Choose broad-leaved varieties that
will support the weight of the frogs and do well in the same environment. Some suggestions include snake plants (Sansevieria), many bromeliads, pothos ivy, some philodendrons, and creeping figs. The plants will
require the use of full-spectrum bulbs, but the frogs themselves do not. Make sure there are numerous shaded places for the frogs to conceal themselves from the light. A weak red or blue heat lamp can be used to warm
the terrarium. Watering the plants will help keep the tank humid, but regular misting will still be necessary to maintain the humidity in the proper range. Breeding Red-eyes requires a substantially different setup. If
this aspect of the hobby interests you. please consult more detailed literature.
Temperament: While these are not aggressive frogs, they can not be
considered handle able animals. They are just too nervous and fragile to be treated as true pets. Enjoy their appearance and behaviors, leaving them in their terrarium.
Other Notes: When choosing a Red-eye at a pet store or reptile expo, it is critical that you select the healthiest individual. Avoid any that are thin (clearly visible spine or pelvis) or
appear dehydrated. Activity is not a good guide. as they will be hiding from the lights. However, when gently handled with wet hands, a potential purchase should be alert, with bright eyes and coordinated movements. Do
not purchase one that has any open wounds. no matter how tiny; these frogs develop fungus and other infections in wounds rapidly. Abraded snouts are common in wild-caught ones; if an otherwise healthy animal has an
abraded snout that is healing well, it probably will be a decent purchase.
Pet Suitability: These frogs are best regarded as being for the experienced
frog keeper. However, a dedicated and knowledgeable beginner may succeed with a captive-bred animal.