Horned (Pac-Man) Frog

Ceratophrys ornata

Horned frogs are native to the damp and humid forests of South America, mainly in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The species can live five to seven years in captivity and grow to 4 to 8 inches in length. Although sedentary, horned frogs are aggressive predators, able to overpower and swallow prey their own size; they will even eat each other if given the chance. Horned frogs are also known as Pac-Man Frogs, because they have prominent mouths that account for roughly half of the total body size. Coloration is typically bright green with red markings.

Did You Know?

Horned Frogs are aggressive predators and able to swallow prey their own size.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Some Cause for Concern

Horned frogs are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss due to agricultural and housing development is a major threat. Water and soil pollution from agriculture, industry, and human settlements are also a problem. The species is sometimes killed because it is erroneously believed to be venomous. Horned frogs are also collected for the international pet trade and their eggs are sold internationally for scientific research.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a horned frog, ask for proof that it is captive bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Little Cause for Concern

Horned frogs do not appear to pose a threat as an invasive species.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Little Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Horned frogs are fairly easy to maintain. They require warm and humid environments with good water quality and plenty of loose substrate for burrowing.  A single 20-gallon tank is suitable for each individual adult horned frog and individuals should be housed separately to avoid cannibalism and fighting.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet horned frog, be sure to research the animal’s specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and housing for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Horned frogs may carry the highly infectious amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which causes the disease chytridiomycosis. This species is immune to Bd, but the fungus is a significant threat to most frog species. Bd has been linked to massive die-offs and recent extinctions of native frogs around the world. Horned frogs bred in captivity in Japan were found to be infected with Bd.

Frogs may also carry Salmonella, which if ingested can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet, ask for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis may be harmful to the health of your frog and native frogs. To learn more about chytridiomycosis and the symptoms of disease, we recommend reviewing the information on Amphibian Ark.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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