Cranwell's horned frog.
Cranwell's horned frog.

Pacman Frog

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South American horned frogs are known as pacman frogs by amphibian hobbyists. This is due to their shape which is round with a huge mouth as well as their tendency to try to eat any animal that comes close, thus resembling the video game character Pac-Man both in shape and in behavior.

Cranwell's horned frog.

Cranwell’s horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) also known as the Chacoan horned frog.

Pacman frogs will eat nearly any animal that they can fit into their mouth, including each other. A pacman frog is capable of swallowing another creature nearly as big as itself thus two pacman frogs of seemingly equal size are not safe from each other.

Pacman frogs are popular pets because they are easy to care for and don’t need a lot of space. Pacman frogs are sit and wait predators they tend to sit in one place and wait for their prey to come by, thus they are perfectly content spending their lives sitting in a 10-20 gallon tank spending their days waiting to be fed.

Cranwell's horned frog.

Pacman frogs love to bury themselves in the substrate.

Pacman frogs will try to swallow any animal that comes close including creatures larger than themselves which can lead to choking and death for the frog. Pacman frog will eat mice, the really big ones will eat rats.

Cranwell's horned frog.

After a really big meal the pacman frog starts to acquire the round pacman shape.

Unfortunately pacman frogs will eat each other as well, so pet pacman frogs must be housed one per tank.

Several species of horned frogs can be kept as pets, the most common ones being the Cranwell’s horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) and the Argentinian horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata). In the pet trade there are also so called fantasy pacman frogs, which are hybrids of two species (there seem to be multiple combinations sold as ‘fantasy pacman frogs’).

Cranwell's horned frog.

Pacman frogs do have teeth, even though they aren’t real teeth, just odontoids but they are sharp enough to draw blood. Their teeth are mainly used to prevent prey from escaping. The danger to a human is if the frog mistakes the hand of a human for prey and tries to swallow it. Pacman frog bites are nowhere near as serious as African bullfrog bites, more like a scratch, but one can get some nasty infection being bitten by a frog that eats insects and even rats.

You should try to avoid handling your pet pacman frog as much as possible. It is not good for the frog and can pose a danger to you. If frog handling is unavoidable you should just scoop it up from behind, never wiggle your fingers in front of the pacman frog’s mouth as it can trigger feeding behavior and the frog might try to eat your hand. In any case wash your hand thoroughly before and after handling any frog.

Ceratophrys ornata

Ceratophrys ornata captive bred color morph, Budapest Zoo.

When circumstances get bad, temperature drops, food is scarce, there is not enough water to keep the frog moist a pacman frog can survive by going into estivation mode. The pacman frog sheds its skin and uses it as some sort of isolation suite against the elements. When things improve the frog takes off its skin and recycles it by eating it.

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Last updated: October 25, 2015

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