Pacman Frog- Basic Information

Ceratophrys is a genus of frogs in the family Leptodactylidae (try saying that out loud!).  They are also known as South American horned frogs as well as "Pacman" frogs due to their characteristically large mouth and abdomen, thus resembling the video game character Pac-Man.

Care in captivity

In captivity, these frogs can live in a 10 gallon aquarium for their entire lives. They should be given shallow water, loose substrate (like coconut husk fiber), and hiding places. They will commonly cover themselves with substrate or just sit contentedly in the water. Pacmans should be misted daily to ensure proper humidity. Temperatures should be maintained between 75° and 80° Fahrenheit (24° to 27° Celsius) during the day, dropping a few degrees at night. They can be fed crickets, earthworms, silkworms, phoenix worms, butterworms, and, if the frog is big enough, occasional guppies, mice, and even rats (this is not recommended but I have seen a particularly large frog eat a full grown rat).


The average lifespan of a Pacman frog is about 6 years, but they have been known to live up to 14 years in captivity.


They are voracious eaters, often eating insects, small mammals (such as mice), fish, other frogs, and small reptiles. A fully grown female Argentine Horned Frog (females are generally larger than males) can easily eat a grown rat.

Although these frogs can swallow animals almost half their size, they sometimes attempt to eat things larger than they are. A row of sharp teeth in their upper jaw makes it nearly impossible for them to release prey after taking it in their mouth, in some cases leading to death by choking.

The following video shows a juvenile horned frog eating a young mouse.  This is a NOT A GOOD IDEA because this particular specimen is too young to eat such a large mouse.  This little frog should eat pinkie mice OR a "fuzzy" (a mouse that just began to grow hair).  Fortunately, the frog is able to kill and eat the mouse although he might have suffered injuries from the mouse scratching and biting the inside of his mouth and/or throat.

YouTube Video


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With their large mouth and abdomen and their desire to gobble up everything in their path, it's not hard to understand how the Pacman frog got its common name.

Pacman frogs, prevalent to South America, make up a number of species and are considered Horned frogs.  Horned frogs are named so because of the large fleshy points above their eyes that resemble small horns.

The Ornate horned frog, also known as the Argentine horned frog, the Argentine Wide-Mouth frog, and Bell horned frog, is the most common species of Horned frogs and hails from the rain forests of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.  Ornate horned frogs are usually marked in bright green, brownish red, and yellow blotches and spots.  Cranwell's horned frogs, also called the Chacoan horned frog, is a terrestrial frog native to the dry Gran Chaco region of Argentina.  Cranwell's horned frogs are less colorful, usually covered in different shades of brown blotches and spots.  Both species are commonly sold in pet stores as Pacman Frogs.

Albino Pacman frogs are common with both species as well, and both share irregular small fleshy points and tiny bumps that cover the dorsal side, while the ventral side is smooth.  Their mouths are as wide as their heads and are equipped with strong gripping jaws and a wide, pink fleshy tongue.  Pacman frogs are famous for eating anything they can shove in their large jaws and swallowing items as large as themselves.  Some have been found in the wild asphyxiated to death as they tried to make a meal out of an animal far too large to ingest.

The heavy-bodied and short-legged Pacman Frog is adapted to life in seasonally wet regions.  In the wild, the Pacman Frog spends a good part of each year burrowed beneath the ground awaiting the onset of the rains and any prey that enters their path.  Like all frogs, they sleep with their eyes open.

Sexing the Pacman Frog is not easy as the only visible difference between the two sexes is size and the dark "beards" on males throats.  Males grow between 2.5 and 4.5 inches while females grow from 4-6 inches in snout-vent length.  A female Pacman frog will not chirp, or croak, whereas a male specimen of the same species will, typically in calling out for a mating partner.

Pacman frogs are considered hardy pets as their native habitat is a temperate climate.  With proper lighting and misting, a generous variable in temperature and humidity makes the Pacman frog relatively easy to maintain, especially when compared to other reptiles and amphibians.  While some consider the Pacman frog to be a fascinating pet, it is important to keep in mind that they are meant to be handled as little as possible, and remain relatively still in their enclosure.