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Convict Frog

(Hypsiboas calcaratus)

  • Family: Hylidae
  • Range: Amazon Basin, including Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru
  • Habitat: Sub-tropical and tropical lowlands, near rivers and streams
  • Dangerous: Yes
  • Care Level:

Overview

Captive Housing: A basic, tropical tree frog set up is what’s needed. Start with a roomy cage with some height to it. A front-opening, glass enclosure measuring at least 12 inches deep by 12 inches long by 18 inches tall would house three or four convict frogs nicely.

The basics are easy. Start with a substrate of ground coconut coir, which you will need to keep moist, but not sopping wet. Daily light mistings will do the trick. 

A water bowl large enough for all the frogs to sit in can be placed on the substrate in the middle of the enclosure, or you can get fancy and construct a waterfall that empties into a small pool using a pump and hose. Add a naturalistic background (there are many different types available at pet supply stores) and leaf litter for a more natural look, as well as some attractive branches. Provide plenty of places for the frogs to hide; cork bark rounds or flats can be used for this. Live or artificial plants can be added. I recommend creating an enclosure that looks great without any frogs—then add the frogs as the icing on the cake.

Lighting is not essential, but a low-wattage UV lamp—about 13 watts—is recommended. This will add light during the day to show off your display, and will heat the tank just enough to maintain a proper temperature that’s between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the light off at night. If you’re using live plants, a plant grow light would work better.

Diet: In the wild, convict frogs feed mostly on grasshoppers and roaches. In captivity, you can feed them crickets, roaches and any other insect that they will accept. Experiment and see what they like. Dust all feeder insects with a quality calcium and multivitamin supplement.

What’s Available: You can find convict frogs at specialty reptile stores, sometimes on the Internet and rarely, but sometimes, at reptile shows. Most are imported from South America. The species is fairly common in its range, although habitat alteration is beginning to take its toll on wild populations. There is very little captive breeding being done in the U.S., which is a shame, as captive populations may one day be required as a buffer in case these frogs need to be re-introduced into the wild sometime in the future.

Extra: The convict frog gets its common name due to the markings on its flanks, which were thought to resemble the striped pattern on the clothing that used to be associated with prisoners.

The convict frog is a great terrarium subject, and it should be kept by more hobbyists. It is attractive, active at night, and simply an all-around good frog to keep. I recommend not only keeping the convict frog as a pet, but efforts should be made to breed it in captivity so it may be enjoyed with increasing frequency in the hobby.

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