Frogs can survive for many years, depending on the environment and available resources. Scavenging for nourishment and the presence of predators are two of the main reasons why frogs often have shorter lifespans in the wild compared to when they live in captivity. But, whether in captivity or the wild, frogs can only live for so long without food.
Most healthy adult frogs can survive for 3 to 4 weeks without food, while adult frogs with average health may only survive 1 to 2 weeks. Adult frogs can survive for months without food during hibernation. However, juvenile frogs can only survive without food for around 1 to 3 days.
Although frogs may survive weeks or months without food, these cases are only possible within specific settings. The long-term survival of frogs demands frequent feeding, as they cannot go too long without eating. Below I will explain how long frogs can live without food, and what factors influence their chances of survival.
How Long Can Frogs Survive Without Food?
As a general rule, most adult frogs can survive for 3 to 4 weeks without food if their environment is clean and if they were previously well-fed, while adult frogs with average health may only survive 1 to 2 weeks without eating.
Frogs can survive without food for short periods, but it will still affect their health and longevity in numerous ways. As a general rule, how long frogs will be able to survive without food will predominantly depend on the following considerations:
- The frog’s health before the food shortage
- The frog’s current development phase
- How much energy the frog needs for survival
- The species and size of the frog
- Time of year (hibernation, estivation)
All of these factors will ultimately determine how long the frog can survive without nourishment. The timeframe would likely vary on a case-by-case basis. However, according to their health history, there are average periods concerning how long frogs can survive without food.
Here are average periods of how long frogs can survive without food:
|Frog Age||Average Health Survival Time||Good Health Survival Time|
|Tadpoles||1 day||1 – 2 days|
|Juvenile Frogs||1 – 2 days||3 days|
|Mature frogs||1 – 2 weeks||3 – 4 weeks|
Let’s have a closer look at why frogs may need more food depending on their health and life cycle stage.
Tadpoles Can Only Survive 1 to 2 Days Without Food
Tadpoles cannot survive long without food, as they need a lot of nourishment during this life cycle stage. Tadpoles need far more energy than adult frogs since their bodies are still undergoing metamorphic changes, demanding more resources and food intake (CTNF).
Tadpoles with average health can generally only survive for about 24 hours without food, while most well-fed and well-nourished frog tadpoles may be able to survive for up to 2 days without food.
Oftentimes, people feed their captive tadpoles very low-quality food, low-nutrition foods like bread, fish feed, or whole cucumbers. Sure, the tadpoles will eat this food. But it does not contribute to their health or growth like a balanced diet of boiled broccoli, kale, baby spinach, and cucumber skin would.
If tadpoles do not have enough of the right foods for extended periods of time, they may not grow or may start to eat other tadpoles. During this development phase, frogs ideally need to eat the right foods once every day until they are 16 weeks old, after which they do not need as much nourishment and can survive for much longer without food.
Healthy Juvenile Frogs Can Survive Up to 3 Days Without Food
Most froglets or juvenile frogs cannot survive long without food, as they need much more nourishment during this phase of their lives. Juvenile frogs need far more energy than adult frogs since their bodies are still undergoing metamorphic changes, demanding more resources and food intake.
Juvenile frogs with average health can generally only survive for a couple of days at best, while most well-fed juvenile frogs may be able to survive for up to 3 days without food. If juvenile frogs do not have enough food for extended periods of time, larger juveniles may start to feed on smaller frogs.
During this development phase, juvenile frogs ideally need to eat at least once every other day until they are 2 to 4 years old and have reached sexual maturity. Adulthood in frogs depends on the species but generally takes 2 to 4 years after they reach the froglet stage. Once juvenile frogs are adults, they will not need as much nourishment and can survive for much longer without food.
Healthy Adult Frogs Can Survive Up to 4 Weeks Without Food
The majority of well-developed, active, and mature frogs are able to survive 1 or 2 weeks without food if they have average health and ate on a fairly regular basis before the food shortage outside of a hibernation or estivation period. However, after 1 to 2 weeks, active frogs will have used part of their food reserves and will probably be famished.
Adult frogs can generally survive 3 to 4 weeks if they are well-fed and in good shape before a food shortage, depending on the species and environment. But after this period, the frog may be very hungry and not be in the best health unless it was hibernating or estivating.
Mature frogs ideally need to eat in relatively small quantities every 2 or 3 days of the week to remain healthy throughout their lives, unless they purposely prepared for a long period of time without food because of hibernation or estivation.
Factors That Influence How Long Frogs Can Survive Without Food
While there are average time frames for frogs surviving without food, their likelihood of survival will still be based on additional factors. Such factors include the frog’s development phase as discussed above, their health before the food shortage, the species and their energy requirements, their environment, and the time of year.
The Frog’s Health Before The Food Shortage
As discussed above, a healthy adult frog that is well-fed and in good shape before the food shortage may be able to sustain a longer period of famine compared to an unhealthy poorly-nourished frog. A frog with a broken leg would use more energy to move around and go about its daily activities compared to a frog in good health.
The species and size also influence how long a frog can remain without food. This is in part based on how much energy the frog needs for survival. American Bullfrogs are large and require larger food feedings to survive. They can eat small mice, bats, and birds.
If an American Bullfrog is well-fed and in good shape, it can generally safely go a week without food compared to a smaller species like a Poison Dart Frog that requires food more often due to its smaller size.
The frog’s overall living environment will greatly impact its ability to survive without food, especially in the wild. Frogs generally survive without food for slightly longer time frames if their habitats are clean, safe, and comfortable with plenty of adapted water.
Frogs will feel more at ease when they are safe and comfortable, and they may be able to preserve their energy in order to survive for longer periods without food in such cases. Having an abundance of fresh and clean water will also assist in continuing their fundamental bodily functions as they attempt to survive without food.
Even if frogs are able to survive without food for extensive timeframes, their capacity for survival does not mean that they would be in good health. When frogs go too long without food while continuing daily activities, they can suffer internal damage, which can lead to health problems and shortened lifespans.
Time of Year: Hibernation, Estivation, Reproduction
Frogs need nourishment and appropriate water to survive just like any other animal or living organism would. They cannot simply continue to partake in daily activity for months on end without food. They would undoubtedly pass on from starvation after more than one month of such a lifestyle.
However, some frog species can survive without food for several years during hibernation or estivation. Scientists have discovered unique cases where certain frog species manage to survive without food for many years by burying themselves in moist mud.
That being said, these occurrences were only due to explainable survival tactics. Frogs can put themselves into a super-sleeping mode to reduce their energy use and survive without food. The method will predominantly depend on the type of frog species.
|Frog Type||Hibernation / Estivation Method|
|Arboreal||Usually find shelter deep inside leaf piles, within tree bark, or in nooks of fallen logs and trees.|
|Terrestrial||Predominantly dig and burrow themselves into moist soil, where they are protected from external factors.|
|Aquatic||Mostly sink to the bottom of water bodies, such as lakes, ponds, or other aquatic areas depending on the species.|
Frogs generally also need to be well-nourished for reproduction since calling, reproducing and defending their territories demands much more energy than other times of the year when they are doing less energy-intensive activities.
In these states, frogs conserve their energy by slowing down their metabolism rates. This process allows limited resources to be maximized during dormancy, without the frog ever experiencing starvation. Still, frogs will typically only survive for a few months in these cases as they generally only hibernate during winter.
More About Frogs And Food
While frogs are incredibly skillful at surviving on minimal food sources in the wild, they still have limits and thresholds. It is great to know that a generally well-fed frog will likely be fine without food for a short timeframe. But, frogs still need food sources every couple of days to ensure they are happy and healthy as they age.
Learn more about frogs and food in the guides on our blog below:
- What Frogs Eat: Everything There is to Know
- What Do Tadpoles Eat?
- Will Frogs Eat Dead Bugs?
- Do Frogs Eat Worms?
- How Do Frogs Eat?
- Can Frogs Choke?
Common Questions About Frogs And Famine
Can frogs survive for years without food? Frogs can generally survive months without food when they are well prepared for hibernation or estivation. Some frogs were found to be able to survive several years without food in this state. However, without preparation, healthy adult frogs can only survive 3 to 4 weeks without food.
How long do frogs last without water? Although healthy and previously well-fed frogs can generally survive up to 4 weeks without food outside of hibernation or estivation periods, aquatic frogs can only survive a few hours without water, and toads and arboreal frogs only 24 to 48 hours depending on environmental conditions and species.
Will tadpoles eat each other if they do not have access to food? If tadpoles lack space to move around in their environment, food, or well-nourishing nutrients, they will generally turn to eat each other. Larger tadpoles may eat smaller or less healthy tadpoles in order to obtain the food and nourishment they need to survive.
National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on Amphibian Standards. Amphibians: Guidelines for the breeding, care, and management of laboratory animals. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1974. VI, Amphibian Management and Laboratory Care. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK217594/
Cramp, Rebecca L. (2005). The effects of aestivation and re-feeding on the structure and function of the gut in the green-striped burrowing frog, Cyclorana alboguttata. PhD Thesis, School of Integrative Biology, The University of Queensland.