Solomon Island Leaf Frog Ceratobatrachus guentheri

The Solomon Island leaf frog is a simple frog to keep, with relatively few demands. Their “sit and wait” or ambush style feeding technique tends to make them relatively bold and not inclined to hide during the day. No special lighting or food is required, so they are a pretty easy keeper!

Solomon Isle leaf frogs are a terrestrial frog which comes from the wet rainforests of the Solomon Islands. Apparently there is little available standing water though, for they have an interesting and unusual reproductive strategy, which is to lay eggs which undergo direct development into tiny baby frogs. The eggs are laid in the forest floor substrate, in small pits the frogs hollow out. The frogs seem to breed on and off all year round in captivity and most likely this is the case in their native habitat, based on my research there is not much of a dry season there, it is one of the wettest places on earth in terms of the amount of rainfall recorded there.

Baby frogs are kept in small groups here, in ten gallon tanks, with three quarter glass and one quarter screen lids. Some ventilation seems important, but they need a high humidity. The tanks are set up with a coarse gravel substrate and plants, also a few hide spots. A mulch substrate could also be used, but would break down more quickly, and thus need cleaning more often. We keep about fifteen in a set up like this, but thin them out as they grow. They are sprayed down well once a day, and fed appropriate sized crickets about three times a week. At the size we ship this frog, I suggest that approximately a 1/4 th inch cricket would be good, but generally you can use the head width rule of thumb, that is the food item should be no longer than the frogs head is wide. Food should always be dusted with a quality vitamin and calcium supplement, we recommend Rep-Cal and Herptivite. Despite the fact that the frogs are basically nocturnal, they can be fed any time of day, and they will eat any time food walks by, if they are hungry.

The frogs are not kept under any special lighting, and I have raised them in containers without any direct lighting in the past with success. Good strong fluorescent lighting will bring out the bright yellow of the frogs, especially as they mature, but no special UV bulbs are needed. The frogs are kept in the upper seventies to about 85 degrees. Night time temps drop to the mid sixties shouldn't cause a problem.

As your frogs get larger, a considerably larger terrarium will be needed. The frogs are generally pretty sedentary, but will jump strongly when startled, and can smack into the walls of their tank if its too small.(One thing sure to get them jumping about like crazy is feeding them at night. For some reason,  the same feeding that, during the day, would evoke no response other than feeding, at night will cause the frogs to leap about like mad!! I try to avoid this by feeding during the day!)  To help to accommodate their occasional athletic outbursts, I'd recommend a forty breeder size tank or larger for a small group of these frogs.

Maturity seems to be reached at about one year of age, and about 2.5 to 3.5 inches in total length. Males will have called for months before the females are mature enough to lay eggs....some males will call as early as five or six months, maybe even earlier in some cases.  (Females are also said to call, however every time I look into a tank with a loudly calling frog, it is the male calling.  Some species of frogs have females which give a call which is designed to help males find them, this is usually a lower less frequent call). Adult leaf frogs can be reliably sexed if you will take some time, and investigate a few things about each frog.  So, some things to look for in determining the sex of your leaf frog-  (All these rely on adult or near adult frogs, juveniles are really not large enough to be reliably sexed, with the exception of some males which make their gender clear by their regular loud calling!) 

First, males which have been calling will display a discolored circular patch on each side of the throat, under the corner of the mouth.  This is the spot of skin which is distended when the frogs call.  Regularly calling males will always have these spots.  A frog can still be a male and not have the spots, but it is not calling for some reason.  Some juvenile and adult males can apparently be sexed by the presence of two white lines running parallel to each other in the belly. These are the ureters, or ducts that connect the kidney to the bladder, and they run from snout to vent. I am not sure why they are not observable in females, and I can't vouch for the accuracy of this method, but I do see it in most males and not in females.  As far as telling which frogs are female, females will usually display eggs spots, visible through the ventral wall.  Think of this as being similar to viewing the moon.  On the night of the "new" moon, you can barely see the moon in the sky.  This would be analogous to a female leaf frog which has not ovulated or has just laid her eggs.  A few days later, after ovulation, the eggs show as a faintly pink white spot, deep in the abdomen, on each side.  This spot is roughly in the middle of the fattest part of the frogs belly, near where the back leg "knee" would touch the belly.  Over a period of 15-25 days, this spot will get larger and larger.  Eventually it will be obviously composed of individual eggs, and then shortly thereafter you will either find eggs scattered about the floor of their tank, or the eggs will have been laid in a pit and covered. 

Egg laying is done in the substrate, so a two or three inch thick layer of a forest floor type substrate should be used. Try to stick to more coarse material, like mulch, rather than soil or coco husk, as these substrates will rot quickly. Some method of draining the tank should be used so the tank doesn't hold water and turn “swampy”.  Males will call regularly from the pits they excavate in the tank.  You can go back and carefully investigate the areas where these pits have been dug and covered, this is usually where you will find the eggs.  Eggs which are scattered about the floor of the tank are rarely fertile. I leave eggs in the nest for some time (maybe three weeks)  before removing them, but this is not necessary.  However I do feel that leaving the eggs in the nest for a few days is a good idea.  If you miss a clutch and it hatches in the tank, no worries, just pick them out of the tank as soon as you can.  Due to the fact that this could occur, I'd recommend no water bowl in the tank.  Water bowls are unnecessary, and the baby froglets will jump in and me, I know! If you don't have a water bowl in the tank, then you should not have a problem, the babies are well below the size that any adult leaf frog would be interested in, and as long as you get them out in a day or two, they should be fine.

Eggs should be dug up, and incubated.  A variety of incubation media will do, our first choice is long fiber sphagnum moss. Saturate the moss with water, squeeze some of the water out, then pack the bottom of a 16 oz deli cup with the moss. Lay the eggs out on top of the moss, then layer an thin layer of sphagnum onto the top of the eggs. Put the lid on and set the cup in a secure location.  Fluctuating temperatures in the 75 to 80 degree range are appropriate for incubation. Remove the lid about once a week and check the progress of the eggs.  By around day 10 after the eggs have been laid, it should be readily apparent if any of the eggs are bad, at which point they should be removed.

Hatching occurs around fifty to sixty days later.  I leave the baby frogs in the cup with their clutchmates for several days, then set them up.  The tiny froglets can be set up as described in the outset of this caresheet, and fed fruit flies or three day old crickets.

Raising baby leaf frogs can be very simple, or sometimes nearly impossible.  For some reason, some clutches just do not thrive.  These froglets look wet, I've noticed and I have no idea why, but strong froglets change from a wet look after they hatch to a drier look. The weak frogs never look dry, they just stay kind of slimy looking and die off within a few days.   I'm not sure that there is anything that we as keepers can do to change a clutch like this or prevent it.  I've found that I get good healthy clutches right along side the weak ones.  Usually though this is the sort of thing that will improve with time, and after a few clutches the frogs will "get it right".....