This beautiful frog belongs to the Phyllomedusinae group found throughout Central and South America, which also include the closely related ‘Monkey Frogs’. Red Eyes are widespread through tropical forests from Mexico to Honduras, Guatamala and Nicaragua, but their primary forest habitat is fast disappearing. Moreover, wild populations of this species are being decimated by the global Chytrid fungal epidemic (BEWARE WILD CAUGHT IMPORTED SPECIMENS!!!). Thankfully, captive bred froglets are now available, but the demand for these popular frogs is always exceptionally high.
These are not difficult frogs to keep, but experience with hardy species such as White’s Treefrog (Litoria caerulea) is advisable before you move on to Red Eyes. If you are looking for a ‘pet’ to handle these aren’t ideal either – no frog is – but White’s, Amazon Milk or Waxy Monkey Frogs tend to be more placid. Having said that, you can often gently scoop a Red Eye from a leaf with damp hands and it will just sit looking at you, walk slowly around or just go to sleep; they’re not jittery like Hyla species.
Their relatively ‘easy-going’ disposition is reflected in their tendency to ‘walk’ around their vivariums at night, hand-over-hand, much like a toad.
Despite moving slowly and deliberately, these tree frogs can jump quite a distance and don’t enjoy small vivs. A large Exoterra (min 45 x 45 x 60 cm) is suitable.
Many claim lighting is not critical for red eyes because they are nocturnal, but I err on the side of caution and provide UV emitting reptile bulbs – especially with froglets. I do this for the same reason I provide it for other nocturnal arboreal animals such as Crested Geckos and Green Tree Pythons and that is that field studies confirm these animals, while not active in daylight, often rest openly exposed, relying on their camouflage for cover, albeit in shaded foliage or tree canopies. They thus do receive substantial UV exposure and I’ve never know any captive herptile suffer anything but invigorated colouration under reptile lights, even if they supposedly don’t need them. It won’t do live plants or the display qualities of your tank any harm either. A 12 hour day / night cycle is ideal, to mimic their equatorial range.
As for heat, mats are okay but are poor at heating the air and amphibians won’t bask on them for contact heat as some snakes might – they’d burn their delicate skins if they did. Any heat mat powerful enough to heat the proper size viv will probably stick out around the edges (wasting energy) or not fit in a tank, and would need a thermostat anyway. Better to use a screened-off infrared ceramic bulb in a reflector situated above one end of the viv to create a gradient and be controlled by a decent thermostat.
A small, shallow water dish is all they need – they don’t swim well! Replace this daily; tap water is fine (ideally dechlorinated). Spray nightly, but too much humidity/poor ventilation can lead to ‘red leg’ infections.
Use broad-leafed plants (see below), along with sturdy thick branches and pieces of cork bark. Pot the plants to allow easy cleaning – books never tell you how messy these frogs are! Monstera, Dracaena, Pothos Ivy & Bromeliads are all plants with broad, robust leaves which the frogs require to clamber or rest on / under, and which will all thrive in the high humidity and relatively low light intensity found in the average vivarium. Rinse all plants thoroughly before vivarium use to remove pesticides / fungicides.
Red Eyes are communal in nature and fair best similarly in captivity; keep them in small groups of 3-6.
Red Eyes have high metabolisms and fair appetites. Adults need a staple diet of small crickets (2nd or 3rd instar – they’ll eat from a bowl) 2–3 nights a week. They also eat small hopper locusts, but these will climb out of a bowl and devastate live plants – feed these sparingly! Some books advise wax worms, but my frogs never touch them – until they become moths, that is. Froglets require hatchling crickets and fruitflies to start.
Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are routinely kept in Europe with small, peaceful lizards, frogs and geckos, such as Phelsuma day geckos and Dart Frogs that like high humidity.
Although adult female Red Eyes are relatively large, they eat comparatively small food, so are no threat to such tank mates. I’ve never had a problem keeping Red Eyes with Phelsuma and/or Dart Frogs in a communal set up and have repeatedly bred them like this. Being nocturnal, the geckos and frogs ignore each other – I often see Phelsuma walk straight over the sleeping Red Eyes! Good Phelsuma species which have been mixed with Red Eyes include: Phelsuma cepediana, klemmeri, laticauda, lineata & quadriocellata.
Large species of Dart Frog also mix with Red Eyes well in my experience – provided they are captive bred! Captive animals lose their toxicity due to the lack of bacteria derived from ants that comprise much of their wild diet. We keep Dendrobates (tinctorius) azureus, the Sky-Blue Dart Frog, with Red Eyes (see azureus section).
© Phelsuma Farm, 2004