Otherwise known as the New World Tree Frog, the American green tree frog (Hyla cinerea) is one of the most iconic and aesthetically appealing frogs available to pet owners today. Their classic frog-green coloration and neatly folded body shape makes them instantly recognizable, and a treat for frog owners all over the country.
What is the difference between the American green tree frog and Australian green tree frog? In Australia, the Australian green tree frog is known more simply as the “green tree frog”. The same is the case in the United States, with the American green tree frog.
They are in fact very different frogs, each belonging to entirely different genus. When researching one or the other, it’s important to make the distinction between the two—especially in the increasingly globalised realm of the internet! Take a look for yourself, by searching online.
The good news? The American green tree frog’s conservation status is listed as of “least concern”. These hardy frogs sure do know how to survive. One of their main tactics is to hunt swiftly, and eat voraciously.
They are found in abundance throughout large stretches of the southeastern United States, so much so that many people catch them in the wild and bring them into captive environments at home. While I don’t recommend this—captive-bred frogs are often much more well-adjusted to their captive environments, and they can carry diseases too—it is a testament to the hardiness of this fantastic frog.
Lifespan in wild and captive environments
The lifespan of wild American green tree frogs is not well documented. It is estimated that they live for 2-3 years, but this is mostly based on educated guesswork and anecdotal evidence. Captive frogs, on the other hand, tend to live somewhere between 2and 5 years, and some have even been known to reach 6 years old. In both wild and captive environments, they reach full maturity within 12 months of being alive.
Extended longevity in captive environments is pretty well guaranteed among most amphibious or reptilian animal species. Captive environments don’t present anywhere near the same levels of survival pressure on animals: there are no predators, there is a constant and reliable source of food, and there is no need to adapt.
In this guide, I’ll cover all the basics when caring for American green tree frogs, including:
- Cage setup
- My overall judgment about whether they make good pets.
#1: American Green Tree Frog Habitat
American green tree frogs have been found as far west as central Texas, and as far east as Delaware and New Jersey. These creatures really know how to spread themselves around!
They are confident climbers, as the name suggests, and spend much of their time in dense vegetation: tall grasses, cattails and trees growing from areas with ponds, streams, lakes and marshes. These are the ideal habitats for the American green tree frog.
As they are fairly small, growing to just 2.5 inches in the wild, they can climb up even small shrubs and fronds.
#2: American Green Tree Frog Behavior
Like I said, these frogs love to climb. While they are not wholly arboreal (tree-dwelling), they do spend a lot of their time in and among trees. This is an important fact to note when drawing up blueprints for your American green tree frog’s captive environment—something to climb is an essential accessory to ensure positive mental and physical health!
Are American green tree frogs poisonous?
No, these gorgeous green frogs are harmless.
What do American green tree frogs sound like when they croak?
American green tree frog vocalizations are most prevalent, and easiest to hear, on warm, humid, overcast nights. Step outside on a close, clammy evening and keep your ear attuned to the sounds of the trees.
Their call is very distinctive, and resembles a sort of “quonk-quonk”, or “queenk-queenk”. That’s the best I can do to describe it! You will know it when you hear it. Here’s a video which captures the idiosyncratic call of the American green tree frog—this one’s a male. Take note of the inflated throat pouch, otherwise known as a ‘vocal sac’.
#3: American Green Tree Frog Cage Setup
Like I said, American green tree frogs spend most of their time in trees. As they prefer to live off the ground, it is essential to provide climbing options for your frog. This also means that vertical space is more important than the width or depth of the terrarium.
Here is a quick checklist of things you need:
- A glass terrarium with dimensions of at least 18” (depth) x 18” (width) x 24” (height)—note that it is taller than it is wide or deep.
- A large, shallow, bottom-heavy water dish.
- Plant decorations or real branches to provide climbing opportunities.
- A heat lamp to create the perfect temperature gradient.
- A non-particulate substrate—more detail on what this means below.
- An in-cage thermometer, ideally hooked up to a thermostat for automatic regulation of the temperature of the terrarium.
- A spray bottle for manual misting, as necessary.
Cage size and types
With regard to cage shape and type, height is the priority. 24 inches is the minimum recommended terrarium height for an American green tree frog—18 inches is OK while your frog is growing (during the first 12 months), but an adult American green tree frog deserves at least 2 ft of room to climb.
Here are some examples:
- Exo Terra Rainforest Habitat Kit (Small)
- Exo Terra AllGlass Terrarium – 18 x 18 x 24
- Zoo Med Skyscraper Terrarium
Cages with all-glass walls, and a screen lid, are best. If you want to house two (or more) frogs together, I recommend multiplying the above dimensions by 1.5. This would give you overall dimensions of 24” (depth) x 24” (width) x 36” (height). This may seem very large, but believe me, the bigger the cage, especially in height, the happier your frogs will be!
Green tree frog ideal temperature
American green tree frogs are accustomed to a fairly easily manageable temperature range. Room temperature is a good place to start, depending on what you consider to be ‘room temperature’.
Basically, you should aim for somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, falling slightly (but not significantly) to a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. If this means you require special heating equipment, so be it.
Here are some things you can use:
- Lucky Reptile Basking Sun 25W
- Lucky Reptile Basking Sun 40W
- Arcadia Halogen Basking Spot 100W
- Zilla Reflector Dome
You could also install a thermostat to measure and regulate the temperature inside the tank automatically. I recommend the Jump Start Thermostat.
If you choose to go with a basking lamp, place it above the enclosure but not in contact with the screen lid—touching one to the other can heat up the surface too much. If your frog touches the hot surface with its delicate skin, it can be very harmful. Instead, I recommend suspending the light 1-2 inches above the lid.
Adjust the light so that the basking area (nearby the light) is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating only the top of the terrarium will ensure that you establish a good temperature gradient, where one end of the tank is significantly warmer than the other.
If you choose to go with an under-tank heater (UTH), simply follow the instructions that come with it. Take at least two temperature readings inside the terrarium and adjust accordingly: the warmer end of the tank should be no warmer than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler end should not drop below 70 degrees.
Don’t put the heat lamp directly on the screen lid.
Don’t place your UTH on anything flammable.
Use an in-tank thermometer to monitor the temperature (at both ends).
A temperature gradient is highly recommended.
Green tree frog ideal humidity
Green tree frogs, like most frogs, are adapted to live in relatively moist environments—in this case, at least 50%.
Mist the cage daily with de-chlorinated water in order to maintain an appropriate level of humidity. Alternatively, you can set up an automated humidifier, connected to a digital hygrometer, and the whole system will regulate itself!
An all-glass terrarium will prevent too much humidity from escaping (for example, through breathable ceilings or lids), and a suitable, good quality substrate will retain humidity as well.
Here are some things you can use:
- BN-LINK Digital Hygrometer
- JLENOVEG Reptile Hygrometer
- Zoo Med Labs Humidity Gauge – this is the cheapest option!
These products all come with a 1 year warranty, and are frequently used by reptile owners everywhere. Now you’ve got your hygrometer, the next thing to think about is the substrate.
Quick ways to increase or maintain humidity:
- An automatic misting system, or fogger.
- Mist the tank yourself, manually.
- Cover part, or most, of the enclosure with a piece of transparent plastic to keep moisture in.
Green tree frog lighting
As these frogs are predominantly nocturnal (which is a fancy way of saying they are much more active at night), a complex lighting system is not necessary—phew! Nor is UVB lighting required, but if you opt to decorate your enclosure with live plants – which your frog will probably appreciate, since they evolved to be among living plants – you can use a 5.0 UVB light to keep your plants healthy, without doing any harm to your pet frog.
Just make sure to keep your light on a timer so that you maintain a regular day and night cycle, of around 12 hours each. During summer, daylight hours can increase to around 14 hours, but not much more. So, if you live far in the north, this will require some regulation on your part.
Green tree frog substrate
American green tree frogs are notoriously ferocious eaters. As a result, impaction is a potential issue in captive environments. Impaction happens when a piece of substrate inadvertently makes its way into the frog’s digestive tract.
Some substrates are abrasive and/or cannot be digested, which leads to internal bruising and, at worst, hemorrhaging. Tiny pebbles, for example, can be taken into the mouth when the frog goes for a cricket. One or two pebbles might not cause a severe problem, but over several months or years, the build-up of accidental pebbles can be a serious cause for concern.
In order to avoid any problems, choose a non-particulate substrate—i.e., one which does not have small, hard bits such as pebbles, gravel, or wooden splinters. American green tree frogs are arboreal anyway, so they will spend the lion’s share of their time in the vertical space provided, rather than on, or in, the substrate. So, as long as it isn’t small enough to be eaten, or abrasive, the substrate shouldn’t be a huge concern.
I recommend two substrates:
- Coconut fiber – loose (ready to lay down) or in bricks (requires water, but will cost less in postage and packaging if you buy it online)
- This is safe for the majority of reptiles, and it’s cheap. Plus, it looks neat. You can easily buy bricks of compressed coconut fiber online or in most pet stores, and it’s one of the most affordable options available.
- Coconut fiber is suitable for lots of types of frog, as well as many snakes and lizards, so if you’re a herpetologist, lizard fanatic or frog keeper already, then you might have some of this sitting in your store room!
- Reptile carpet
- This is another good option: it’s cheap, easy to clean, and it looks good.
- It also comes in a multitude of sizes, and can be cut down to fit your tank perfectly. If you have some left over, you could contour the terrain of your terrarium by adding layer upon layer of reptile carpet.
Green tree frog accessories
American green tree frogs benefit hugely from having:
- Plenty of climbing opportunities,
- Places to hide,
- A basking area on the bottom, middle and near the top of the tank.
Frogs like to feel safe, with more than one choice of hide spot. These can be furnished using branches, small or large rocks, manmade or natural objects, and leafy decorations. As these frogs are relatively lightweight, most fake or real plants are sufficiently strong to support them. What’s more, branches can serve as both climbing and basking options.
Here are just some of the options available to you, but feel free to search online or in your local pet store for more!
- Exo Terra Forest Branch Small, Medium or Large
- These handy objects are designed specifically for the purpose of being climbed on by frogs (or other similar creatures). They are affordable, adaptable and safe. You can mix and match, clean them easily and rearrange them when you feel like giving your frog’s enclosure a makeover.
- Exo Terra Reptile Cave Medium, or Large
- Likewise, these are affordable and designed for the purpose of making frogs and frog-like animals feel safe. Place one at the bottom of your frog’s enclosure and see if he/she takes to it!
- Zoo Med Betta Plant Window Leaf, or Maple Leaf
- These can add a touch of class to your frog’s enclosure. Greens will make your tree frog feel at home—after all, they blend in best in green environments! Arrange to best suit your frog’s needs.
#4: Green Tree Frog Food: What do green tree frogs eat?
American green tree frogs are known for their insatiable appetites, as well as their quick response time. They often respond instantly when food is placed inside the cage, and will make swift work of it.
You can feed your tree frog on crickets, worms, roaches, and even the occasional moth. Variety is the spice of life, and ensures a broad range of nutrients. However, it’s likely that the bulk of your frog’s food will come from crickets. They are cheap and can be bought in large batches. However, as they are, they do not contain all the nutrition your frog needs.
To avoid malnutrition, use gut-loaded crickets, a few every day, and dust them with mineral and vitamin supplements 3-4 times a week before feeding them to your frog. Calcium is especially important for healthy frog bones. Monitor your frog’s eating habits, the speed with which it eats, and whether it leaves any food. Remove food items that have been left for more than a few hours.
Here are some example foods, available online:
- Medium Silent Brown Crickets 8-12mm – 125 pack, Standard – 100 pack, Large – 50 pack
- Pro: Crickets are one of the easiest and most convenient food options. They are widely available in large quantities, in a variety of sizes and for a very reasonable price.
- Pro: They come in a variety of sizes, too. This means you can introduce your baby American green tree frog to small crickets, and work up through medium-sized crickets for juveniles and large crickets for adults.
- If you have the ability, and space, to do so, you could even keep and breed your own crickets. They require almost no maintenance and proliferate rapidly, and it will make your frog’s care system that much more self-sustaining!
- Pro: Very cheap and readily available, in stores and online, mealworms are very high in protein.
- Con: The downside is that they are also quite high in fat. Tree frogs don’t require very much fat, as they are stationary much of the time, so don’t overdo it on the mealworms (once a week is enough).
- Having said that, if you notice that your tree frog is moving more slowly than normal, or losing weight, you might want to introduce more fat into its diet.
- Dubia roaches
- Pro: These make a great nutritious snack for your tree frog, but should be considered a supplement, not the primary constituent, of a frog’s diet.
- Con: Their exoskeletons can also be too tough on baby frogs, so introduce them only to adult American green tree frogs.
- Check online before you feed your frog anything exotic or unusual. It might be poisonous to its delicate digestive system!
Are they good pets?
I think it’s safe to say that American green tree frogs do make excellent pets. They are hardy, low maintenance, great fun to watch, and cheap to look after. Because of this, they are a great frog for those starting out with animal husbandry; they can be kept together in a cage without any problems, and they are entirely non-dangerous. But, you’ll still be keeping a wild animal in captivity, so you have to reconcile yourself to that.
How much does a green tree frog cost?
You can get American green tree frogs online (or in stores, check locally!) for as little as $9.99. The most important thing is to purchase your frog from a vendor you trust. Check online forums and comment threads for the reliability of different online stores, or ask for appraisals before you buy one in-store. Check that the frogs available are healthy and active, and that they eat regularly.
Buying in-store reduces the chance of stressing the frog during travel, and also means you can observe and choose your frog in person – which is always preferable!
That’s it for this guide. Do you have any questions? Have you got any experience with American green tree frogs that you would like to share? As always, get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to say, or know.
Feel free to share this guide with anyone you know who is interested in frog husbandry, or anyone who just likes cute green frogs!
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