Are Frogs Carnivores?

It is common knowledge that frogs eat bugs as froglets and as adults. But what frogs eat can seem confusing because their diet changes depending on their life cycle stage.

Once frogs reach the froglet and adult stage of their life cycle, they are obligate carnivores meaning they require animal-based foods in their diet. Frogs consume live animal-based prey including spiders, ants, mosquitoes, and worms for smaller frogs, as well as mice, bats, birds and lizards for larger frogs.

Frog tadpoles are herbivores until they begin to develop legs. Once frog tadpoles have developed legs, they are omnivores. It is not until tadpoles can exit the water that they begin to only consume animal-based foods, and are therefore obligate carnivores.

What Do Frogs Eat? [You Will Never Guess!] 🐍

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Let’s have a closer look at what meat frogs eat and how they choose their prey. We will also look at a few exceptions to the rule since there is a species of frogs that is an omnivore (eats both plants and meat).

Frog Diet Depends on Life Cycle Stage

Tadpoles with no legs are herbivores primary feeding on decaying vegetation. Tadpoles with legs are omnivores feeding on plant matter and animal-matter. Once frog tadpoles can leave the water they are carnivores feeding primarily on animal-based foods, notably small insects.

What Happens When You Google: "Do Frogs Eat ..."

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Frog Life Cycle StageDietWhat Frogs Eat
Tadpole: No LegsHerbivoreAlgae, Decaying Plant Matter, Phytoplankton
Tadpole: With LegsOmnivoreAlgae, Ants, Aphids, Zooplankton
FrogletCarnivoreSpiders, Worms, Ants, Mosquitoes
Adult Frog: SmallCarnivoreSpiders, Worms, Ants, Mosquitoes
Adult Frog: LargeCarnivoreInsects, Small Mammals, Birds, Lizards, Fish

In the wild, frogs naturally feed on a wide variety of live animal-based foods as froglets and as adults in order to get the required nutrients they need. Check out our detailed guide on what frogs eat depending on their life cycle stage.

Tadpoles With No Legs Are Herbivores

During the first stage of their lives, tadpoles feed on plant matter. Frogs therefore being their lives as herbivores. They may feed on algae, phytoplankton, and tiny bits of decaying plant matter in the water.

Young Tadpoles Eat These Things

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Tadpoles play a key role in keeping our waterways clean by feeding on floating and invasive plant matter. However, tadpoles do not remain herbivores for very long. Once they begin to develop legs, a tadpole’s main source of food changes.

Tadpoles With Legs Are Omnivores

Once tadpoles have developed legs, they are no longer just herbivores, or animals that mainly feed on plant-matter. They add something new to their diet. Once tadpoles start to have legs, they not only eat plants, but also on animal-based foods.

Tadpoles Are No Longer Herbivores

Tadpoles that have developed their legs begin to feed on animal matter like small bugs, aphids, ants, and zooplankton. Since tadpoles with legs eat both plant based foods and meat-based foods, they are omnivores.

Tadpoles may also eat other tadpoles and frog eggs if their environment does not contain enough space or plant-based food for them to feed on.

Froglets & Adult Frogs Are Carnivores

We saw that what tadpoles eat changes depending on their life cycle stage. First they are herbivores, then they are omnivores. However, once frogs reach the froglets and adult frogs stages, they are carnivores. This means that once frogs can live outside of the water, they only feed on meat-based foods.

Frogs Only Eat This Type of Food

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In every habitat there are producers, consumers, and decomposers. Frogs are secondary consumers within the food chain, meaning that they feed on other consumers that may be herbivores or omnivores. Here is how a food chain works:

  • Producers capture the energy from the sun through photosynthesis to grow and produce food for other animals
  • The animals that eat plants are herbivore consumers
  • Herbivore consumers are in turn eaten by omnivore or carnivore consumers, including frogs
  • When these animals die, they are eaten by decomposers like bacteria and fungi to produce nutrient rich soil that in turn helps plants grow
Frog Food Chain: What Eats Frogs

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Frogs are a key part of the food chan, consuming herbivore and omnivore consumers such as caterpillars, ants, mosquitoes, and more. If you are an educator looking to teach this information to your class, be sure to check out out teacher resources.

Kinds of Carnivore Foods Frogs Eat

For the most part, frogs do not eat the same meat-based foods as humans. I noticed there seems to be confusion as to what kinds of meats frogs eat, so here is a quick table clarifying some meats frogs can and cannot eat:

Meat-Based FoodCan Small Frogs Eat It?Can Large Frogs Eat It?
Hot DogNoNo
SteakNoNo
BaconNoNo
TurkeyNoNo
Lunch MeatNoNo
MosquitoesYesYes
AntsYesYes
CaterpillarsYesYes
LizardsNoYes
MiceNoYes

Healthy wild frogs will only feed live prey. The prey needs to be alive and generally needs to be moving for a frog to eat it. Since frogs only feed on meat-based foods, they are obligate carnivores.

Generally, if the prey is moving, is large enough for the frog to see, but small enough to fit into its mouth, the frog will attempt to eat it (CTNF).

What Meats Do Small Frogs Eat?

Small frogs tend to eat smaller prey due to their size. Some of the meat-based foods small frogs such as Spring Peeper, Gray Tree Frogs, and Wood Frogs may feed on include:

  • Ants
  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Caterpillars
  • Crickets
  • Flies
  • Grubs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Moths
  • Larve
  • Slugs
  • Snails

Frogs are cannibals at all stages of life, meaning they will eat other frogs, tadpoles, or eggs from different or the same species.

What Frogs Eat Dead Bugs-min
Small toad I found eating a fly

A 2015 study led by G. John Measey found that β€œlarge invasive frogs that live in forests with high anuran diversity are most likely to have a higher proportion of anurans in their diet.”

What Meats Do Large Frogs Eat?

Larger frogs feed on the same meat-based foods as small frogs, but also include larger prey in their diets. Large frogs like American Bullfrogs, Cane Toads, Australian Green Tree Frogs, and Pac-man Frogs can also eat the following (small) animal-based foods:

  • Bats
  • Birds
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Fish
  • Mice
  • Alligators
  • Salamanders
  • Caecilians
  • Frogs
  • Tadpoles
  • Turtles
  • Crocodiles
  • Geckos

I must admit, I was surprised when I learned that large frogs can eat just about anything that fits into their mouths. American Bullfrogs and Cane Toads are ferocious predators that feed on small alligators in Florida for example.

They are excellent ambush predators that will gladly try to eat anything that is moving, is smaller than them, and passes by their mouth.

What Frogs Eat-min
Small toad I found interested in a bug too large for it to eat

Because of this, large frogs should not be kept with smaller frogs as pets in aquariums or outdoors in ponds. Frogs are cannibals and larger frogs may feed on smaller frogs within the same environment.

Most large frogs eat fish, but can coexist in outdoor ponds with certain types of larger fish including Koi and Orfe. However, you may see frogs hugging the fish during mating season. The frogs are just looking for a suitable female of the same species.

Are There Vegetarian Frogs?

The vast majority of over 7,400 known frog species are obligate carnivores, not vegetarians. However, the Izecksohn’s Brazilian Tree Frog is an omnivore since it mainly feeds on plants and small fruits.

The Izecksohn’s Brazilian Tree Frog is the only known frugivorous frog in the world due to the climate in which it lives. Frogs may change their diet or lifestyle to adapt to harsh conditions. For example, most frogs cannot survive saltwater, but some species have adapted to be able to survive in their environment.

We are still discovering frogs to date and so maybe someday we may discover a vegetarian frog. But the vast majority of known Anuran species (frogs and toads) are carnivores.

Common Questions About Carnivore Frogs

Can Frogs Eat Lettuce? Tadpoles can eat lettuce since their main source of food is plant-based. However, as adults, frogs will not eat lettuce since they are obligate carnivores and require live, adapted meat-based foods to survive.

Do Frogs Eat Meat? Frogs are carnivores and eat animal-based foods. Smaller to medium frogs mainly feed on insects. Larger frogs also feed on small mice, birds, bats, and lizards.

Do Frogs Eat Everything? Frogs may attempt to eat anything that moves and is smaller than them. As a general rule, frogs will attempt to eat anything that is moving, is large enough for it to see, but small enough to fit into its mouth.

How do Frogs Hunt? Frogs hunt two different ways depending on the species: passively or actively. Frogs can be ambush predators and employ a passive β€œsit-and-wait” technique where they wait for food to come to them. Other frogs actively hunt, chase, and eat their prey.

Sources

Nutrient Requirements: Carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science.

Mammals: carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science.

Measey GJ, Vimercati G, de Villiers FA, Mokhatla MM, Davies SJ, Edwards S, Altwegg R. 2015. Frog eat frog: exploring variables influencing anurophagy. PeerJ 3:e1204 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1204 

Frugivory and Seed Dispersal by Hyla truncata, a Neotropical Treefrog, August 1989Copeia 1989(3):781–783. DOI:10.2307/1445517 Project: Amphibians and reptiles of Brazil.

Altig, Ronald. Whiles, Matt R., Taylor, Cindy L.: What do tadpoles really eat? Assessing the trophic status of an understudied and imperiled group of consumers in freshwater habitats, Freshwater Biology (2007) 52, 386–395.

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.