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Hyperoliidae family and sub family Hyperolius, with almost 100 species of Reed frogs
Origin: The frogs of the Hyperolius genera predominantly originate from central and southern Africa, Madagascar, and the Seychelles Islands.
Size and Longevity: The species of the Hyperolius genus can be best described as ‘tiny’ ranging from 1 to 1.5” in body length, although this does not include the length of their legs. These frogs are extremely rugged and can often withstand forbiddingly harsh conditions in their natural habitat, even when they aestivate. A study conducted on their evolution has shown that they can tolerate extremely high temperatures, low humidity and high levels of solar radiation during their summer sleep . This however does not necessarily make all of these species good pets for those with minimal experience in caring for frogs, as some of them can have toxic or hallucinogenic secretions. They thrive in captivity and can live between 4.75 to 7 years, with proper care.
General Description: The Reed frogs are usually extremely small and range in size between 1 and 1.5 inches. They however make up for this lack in size with a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns which they are famous for. Furthermore, these frogs also change their colors depending on the climatic conditions, making them all the more an interesting group of species to observe study as well as have as pets. The typical patterns that the Reed Frogs have are spots and stripes, and occasionally abstract or irregular patterns.
The African Reed Frogs usually have long and thin bodies that are best suited for their lifestyle. They have a very short neck that is not visible. They have their eyes on either side of their heads, which helps them see in a much wider angle. Their tympanic membrane is located behind their eyes and is also not clearly visible.
Many of the Reed Frog species are on the IUCN Red List and owe their reduced numbers to the destruction of their natural habitat. Another significant reason is arguably the roaring pet trade that usually lands them from their home in Africa, into glass cages in pet stores across the world.
You must make sure that the individual you buy has been bred in captivity, in order to make sure that you are not contributing to the extinction of these species in the wild.
Habitat and Caging Requirements:
While the Reed Frogs’ Natural habitat is the open grassland of southern Africa, they are a rugged species that can thrive in a wide variety of climatic conditions and need just a little monitoring to prevent the frog from going into an untimely aestivation.
Temperature As most amphibians are, the Reed frogs are also cold blooded or Ectothermic animals. This means that they have a variable body temperature and regularly need to both bask in the heat, as well as cool off in the shade.
While it is good to have a basking spot and a few shaded cooling locales in the terrarium that these frogs are housed in, maintaining a constant temperature using a heating lamp or Under Tank Heater pad is strongly recommended along with constant monitoring with a thermometer. An average temperature of between 70° to 80° Fahrenheit should be maintained, with a hot-spot that is close to 90°. Unlike other frogs that need 24×7 heating, the reed frogs can handle a reduction in temperature during night-time.
Another important requirement is the humidity inside the frog’s cage. Maintaining a stable humidity level is crucial for the frog to be healthy and happy, although these frogs are famous for their endurance of harsh conditions.
While you can maintain a relatively low degree of humidity all throughout the year, if you want your frogs to breed, you will need to make sure that the humidity inside the terrarium matches the relative humidity of their natural habitat, during the rainy season.
The habitat ecology and substrate While designing the habitat of Reed Frogs it’s best kept in mind, the body nature and personality traits of the average species. These frogs are
Shy creatures (need hiding places…lots of them)
Mostly diurnal (need to rest at night)
Highly territorial (don’t get along with other species or other males of similar species)
Need humidity to breed
This means that your terrarium should
The Terrarium: Be large enough to house the frogs you intend to keep them in. A 10-gallon standard size glass-walled tank, measuring 20x10x12 LxWxH should do well as a home for half a dozen reed frogs.
The Soil and substrate: You can use a few layers of dirt and add pulverized coconut fiber or bark bedding along with a few moist paper towels to prepare the substrate for your frog’s habitat.
Props and plants: It is good to have a few live plants although plastic plants will do if you can’t find some good plants for the frog’s habitat. Apart from plants, you must make sure you create a few hiding spots for the frog as these creatures need the option of diving for cover when they feel insecure or scared.
Once this is taken care of, we come to water. These frogs love water and also use it as a means to escape their terrestrial predators. If you give your pet reed frog a start, it’s most likely he will dive into the pool and stay at the bottom for a little while till he feels the danger has passed.
A small vessel that is about 6x4x2 in length, width and height should do for a single frog. You must bury the vessel in the soil so it is at the same level as the surface. Another important part is the water. De-chlorinated and stale water is absolutely essential. Else your frog can fall seriously ill as Chlorine is very harmful to the frog’s skin. If you are housing more than one frog, then it is advisable to have a slightly bigger pool. Your pet store will be able to guide you in that regard.
Temperature and Lighting Requirements: Frogs are sensitive to temperature…yes, they are relatively immune to large fluctuations in temperature, especially the hotter side but you must note that because they can survive heat, does not mean they will thrive in the extreme heat.
They are happy and healthy when they get an average temperature of about 70° – 80°, a hot spot of about 90 and a cooling spot that’s slightly lower than the average of the terrarium. Typically it would be best if the hot-spot is shaded from view a little so the frog won’t feel insecure or exposed while basking.
Using a Under Tank Heater that goes below the tank is recommended, while a heating lamp would also work just as well, although you may need to adjust it to maintain a temperature range that is suitable for the frog. Since these frogs are quite hardy, you can turn off the heating at night.
The African Reed Frogs need a 12 hour photo-cycle. Using a electrical timer for your fluorescent or daylight lamp should do the trick. Since frogs don’t see in the red-spectrum, you can use a red light to observe them at night. While even a white or cold light would do, it is best to have a lighting that is in the same color temperature range as sunlight i.e 5600 K, since it gives them all the required radiation, including the ultraviolet spectrum.
Feeding and Nutrition:
Every reed-frog owner normally has this misconception in the beginning about their appetites. These guys may be small in size, but they eat like the big guys. You can feed the reed frogs with about 4 to 6 crickets every alternate day. By mixing up the numbers initially, you can get a hang of how many each individual would need. You might want to alternate between fruit flies and moths perhaps to give the frog a little variety in its fare.
Staple & Supplemental Insects: The Reed Frogs can feed on small crickets, fruit flies, small moths, and houseflies. However, a frog enthusiast has pointed out that juveniles cannot survive purely on fruit-flies and may not make it to adulthood.
They need regular vitamin and calcium supplements with their feed and this can be administered by dusting the crickets with multivitamin and calcium powder every alternate feed. Young frogs however, need to be supplemented more often than the adults.
Gender Determination: Male Reed frogs have a single vocal sac beneath their heads, which in some individuals has yellowish spots. Females on the other hand do not have the vocal sac and instead have a fold of skin that shows like a shadow across their neck.