As a former pet frog owner and as an active vet assistant in an exotic veterinary clinic, I can assure you that captive pet frogs need supplements.
Many of the pet frog issues I encounter every year can be avoided with proper supplementation.
Frogs are exposed to different environmental conditions in captivity and they are in need of manual manipulation to meet developmental requirements.
Captive frogs require supplements to their diet and housing such as calcium, vitamins (D3), minerals, and UV-B. Inability to meet a pet frog’s supplemental needs may result in disease, poor development, or even death.
Wild frogs will be able to meet their body’s needs by utilizing their environments.
They have the ability to move in their habitat to find bodies of water if their current pool becomes contaminated.
They have access to various food items offered throughout their habitat, providing a wide variety of dietary supplemental needs.
Frogs born in the wild obtain environmental ultraviolet light through sun rays.
They get them at different times and wavelengths.
Moving through their environment allows them to cross between shade and sun rays to gain the necessary vitamins required.
Captive bred and reared frogs require their necessary minerals and vitamins to be supplemented through their mock environment.
This includes proper water treatment, food supplementation and variety, and adapted husbandry.
Knowing what you need to give your pet frog can help avoid health issues in the future.
Frogs Need Ultraviolet-B
UVB, while not required, is recommended for captive frog species.
The wavelength UVB helps with vitamin D activation with the body.
Requirements differ per species, for example, arboreal frogs may need more than fossorial frogs to mimic their wild counterparts.
Frogs Need Calcium
Calcium deficiency is a large problem for reptiles and amphibians.
It should be supplemented in their food uptake as a powder on top of insect food items.
Insufficient calcium uptake can lead to severe health deficiencies including dietary hypocalcemia, metabolic bone disease, and spindly leg syndrome.
Dietary hypocalcemia is the proper name for calcium deficiency.
It most often occurs through improper diet or lack of environmental supplementation.
Insufficient levels of calcium in the body can lead to several health abnormalities.
Slowed growth, failed reproduction attempts, limb muscle twitching, incoordination, muscle weakness, heart failure, and death are all possibilities of insufficient calcium.
Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease, or MBD, is a fairly common health abnormality among reptiles and amphibians.
We see numerous cases come through the veterinary clinic I work for.
It is mainly a result of poor calcium levels in the body through insufficient feedings or environment at a young age.
MBD in frogs can arise in the form of muscle and skeletal weakness.
Muscle tremors, bone fractures, skeletal deformities, comas, and even death may result from MBD.
Spindly Leg Syndrome
Spindly Leg Syndrome, SLS, is another body abnormality that can result from insufficient supplementation.
It can lead to malformed joints and reduced muscles in the limbs, hence the name “spindly leg.”
Calcium with D3
There are numerous options for reptile and amphibian calcium supplementation.
Vitamin D3 assists the frog’s body with calcium uptake, making it an important vitamin to have.
I recommend Repti Calcium from ZooMed which you can find on Amazon.com.
Calcium without D3
It is possible and likely to overdose on vitamin D3.
That is why calcium containing D3 should be fed only once to twice a week.
Calcium without D3 still supplies the frog with necessary nutrients while avoiding too much.
Amphibians have a maximum tolerance for nutrients.
For example, higher levels of calcium can interfere with magnesium uptake.
Have you ever heard the term “too much of a good thing”?
That applies to supplements as well.
That is why powders given should be sprinkled on top of food and not doused.
I recommend Fluker’s calcium powder without D3 which you can find on Amazon.com.
Frogs Need Minerals in Water
Frogs require properly treated water to meet their bodily equilibrium.
Regular tap water or water from outside would not be appropriate for captive frogs.
Water can be treated or contain minerals in order to meet a frog’s requirements.
Water is absorbed through the skin in amphibians, along with the minerals contained in the water.
This is why it is important to use appropriate water.
Frogs will either swim in this water or absorb it through the moist soil or water misted on them.
What Type of Water To Use
You can use bottled, distilled, filtered, or reverse osmosis water for your pet frog.
Remember to change their water daily or every other day and use the same type of water in the mister used to mist the frog habitat.
Water can also be treated with an additive that dechlorinates tap water.
A suggestion for this would be Reptisafe from ZooMed.
I like Reptisafe which can be bought on Amazon.com and can be used with other reptile species as well.
Minerals Found in Water
Many important minerals can be transported across the skin membrane to be absorbed and used in the body.
Minerals are used by the body to carry out metabolic functions and maintain balance in the body, such as balance of electrolytes.
Sodium and potassium are important for cell activation.
Ion channels open by transporting sodium and potassium across cell membranes to activate them and move substances through the body.
Magnesium has an important impact on the nerves found in the body.
It excites the nerves and allows them to function.
However, too much magnesium can show an indirect loss in nerve excitability.
Iron is essential for oxygen movement around the body and for maintaining nerve integrity.
The presence of iron in the body helps prevent nerve degeneration throughout the body.
Iron molecules also assist the transport of oxygen to tissues and organs around the body.
Copper and nickel levels can affect tadpole development in aquatic rearing pools.
They relate to initial growth after hatching from their eggs.
Too high levels can cause the opposite effect, and inhibit growth.
This article was written by Melissa M. who holds a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and a Master Herpetologist certificate. The article was edited and published by Daniella, Master Herpetologist in the author profile below.
Amphibian UV-B and Vitamin D3. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibianark.org/research/Amphibian-UV-B-and-vitamin-D3.pdf
Dierenfeld, E., & King, J. (2008). Digestibility and Mineral Availability of Phoenix Worms, Hermetia illucens, Ingested by Mountain Chicken Frogs, Leptodactylus fallax. Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery.
Lassiter, E., Garcés, O., Higgins, K., Baitchman, E., Evans, M., Guerrel, J., Klaphake, E., Snellgrove, D., Ibáñez, R., & Gratwicke, B. (2020, June 29). Spindly leg syndrome in atelopus varius is linked to environmental calcium and phosphate availability. PloS one. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7323948/