Basic Information Sheet: Ornate Horned Frog

Ornate Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata)

ornate horned frog

Photo credit: ‘her wings’ via Flickr Creative Commons

Natural history

The name “horned frog” comes from the folds of skin that are located over the eyes.

The ornate horned frog is found in the tropical and montane rain forests of South America. This frog’s camouflaged coloration allows it to hide as it lies half buried in leaf litter on the forest floor. As soon as prey passes by, the horned frog grabs and swallows its prey whole in one or two gulps. This is why this species is also known as the “Pac-Man frog”.

The pet trade is made up primarily of captive bred specimens.


Class: Amphibia

Order: Anura

Family: Ceratophryidae – horned frogs, fantasy frog, Budgett’s frog

Color and Size

Ornate horned frogs are large, brown or green frogs. Adults may be 3-6 in (8-15 cm) long and are often just as wide. Large females may weigh up to 480 g (1 lb).


Gut-loaded insects such as crickets, superworms, and earthworms as well as vertebrates like appropriately-sized fish and mice can be offered.
Dust invertebrate foods with a vitamin/mineral supplement two to three times weekly for juveniles and once weekly for adults. Ornate horned frogs have a voracious appetite. Feed adults with forceps to avoid injury.


Temperature Maintain the gradient between 75-82°F (24-27°C) during the day. Temperature may drop to 65°F (18°C) at night. Do not use a radiant heat source as these tend to dry amphibian environments.
Humidity/water Strive for 80% relative humidity. Lightly mist the enclosure regularly. Between misting, the substrate should remain damp, but not water logged.
Potential water sources include:
  • Aged water:  Allow chlorinated water to sit in an open container for 24-48 hours so chlorine can dissipate
  • Bottled spring water
  • Filtered tap water:  run through a sediment and activated charcoal filter

Cage size and designThis inactive frog can survive in a 10-gallon terrarium, but will thrive in larger habitats.Cage furniture/suppliesProvide low-intensity full-spectrum lighting for optimal absorption of dietary calcium. Provide hiding places at each end of the cage (i.e. live or artificial plants). Unmilled sphagnum or non-aromatic mulch can serve as the cage substrate. Alternatively, frogs may be housed in a bare tank containing 0.5 in (1 cm) of water that cleaned daily or more often.Social structureSolitary


16+ years
Sexual maturity is reached at 18-24 months of age.

Anatomy/ physiology

Gastrointestinal: A short, simple gastrointestinal tract empties into a cloaca
Cardiovascular: A three-chambered heart is encased within the pectoral girdle.
Lymphatics: All amphibians possess lymph hearts, which beat in synchrony independently of the heart.
Dermatologic: Horned frogs periodically shed and eat their skin at regular intervals. The skin will appear cloudy beforehand. The old skin is pushed off with the hind legs and the skin peels off from the back end. The skin should come off in one piece and is normally eaten by the frog. The skin is pushed forwards using its legs towards the mouth.
Miscellaneous: If temperatures fall below recommended level, then the Ornate horned frog may estivate or enter a period of “partial hibernation”.
Frogs possess coelomic and inguinal fat bodies.
Urogenital: A renal portal system is present
Sexual dimorphism: Females are usually larger than males with a more rounded body shape.Males will call during the mating season. They will also develop nuptial pads on each thumb and tend to have darker throats.


Amphibian skin is very sensitive so handle the ornate horned frog as little as possible. To manually restrain the frog, moisten your hands with water or wear moistened surgical gloves. The ornate horned frog is known for its readiness to bite, not because of an aggressive nature, but because it always seem ready to eat! So be prepared for this tendency. Although frogs lack true teeth, boney outgrowths of the jawbone called “vomerine teeth” can deliver a painful bite.


Ventral midline vein (midline abdominal vein)

Preventive medicine

Perform a visual exam by placing the frog in a clear plastic box or tub.
Physical examination prn (as needed).

Important medical conditions

  • Corneal lipidosis (rodent-based diet)
  • Foreign body ingestion
  • Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism or “metabolic bone disease”
  • Obesity (rodent-based diet)
  • Trauma (rostral abrasions)

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The Amphibian Forum. Horned frog care sheet. The Available at Accessed February 19, 2011.

Bartlett RD, Bartlett PB, Griswold B. Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates:  An Identification and Care Guide, 2nd ed. Hauppage, NY: Barron’s Educational Series; 2010.

de Vosjoli P. Horned Frogs: Plus Budgett’s Frogs. Adv Viv Sys. 2006

Kaplan M. Ornate horned frogs. Melissa Kaplan’ Herp Care Collection. 1993. Available at Accessed on February 19, 2011.

SeaWorld/Busch Gardens. South American Ornate Horned Frog. Animal Bytes. Available at Accessed February 19, 2011.

Wright KM, Whitaker BR. Amphibian Medicine and Captive Husbandry. Malabar (Kerala): Krieger; 2001.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Basic information sheet: Ornate horned frog. July 12, 2012. LafeberVet Web site. Available at