Australian Green Tree Frog: A Complete Care and Information Guide

Australian Green Tree Frog
Australian Green Tree Frog

The Australian green tree frog is one of the most popular and unique pet frogs worldwide. With their beautiful emerald coloration, comical appearance, and surprisingly loud barking calls, these charismatic amphibians have captivated reptile enthusiasts across the globe. This extensive care guide provides key details on the natural history, captive requirements, conservation status, and fascinating biological adaptations of the Australian green tree frog.

Key Takeaways

  • Australian green tree frogs are popular amphibians known for their vibrant green color, comical looks, and loud barks.
  • They require specialized care, including a tall terrarium, proper humidity levels, UVB lighting, and a varied diet of live insects.
  • These frogs are primarily nocturnal and arboreal, spending most of their time climbing and hiding in vegetation.
  • While relatively hardy, they are susceptible to dehydration, metabolic bone disease, and infections if not cared for properly.
  • Australian green tree frogs are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, but habitat loss and emerging diseases pose future threats.

Taxonomy and Physical Appearance

The Australian green tree frog belongs to the scientific genus Litoria and species caerulea. It has several common names, including simply the green tree frog as well as White’s tree frog and dumpy tree frog. The dumpy name refers to their potential to become obese when overfed in captivity.

These frogs grow to an average length of 10 cm (4 inches). Females tend to be slightly larger than males, with dimensions up to 11.5 cm long. Their color can range from brownish green to vivid emerald depending on temperature and environment. They have large prominent eyes with golden irises and horizontal pupils that provide excellent night vision. Their toes bear enlarged adhesive discs that aid in climbing.

Unique Adaptations

Several special adaptations allow the Australian green tree frog to thrive in its native habitat:

  • Sticky toe pads – The enlarged discs at the frog’s toe tips secrete mucus that lets them grip onto almost any surface, even glass. This gives them incredible climbing agility.
  • Flexible skeletal structure – Their flexible bones and extra joints, especially in the pelvis and hind legs, allow them to make impressive leaps and land safely.
  • Camouflage – Their mottled green and brown coloration provides ideal camouflage amidst rainforest vegetation.
  • Vision – Their large eyes with horizontal pupils gives these frogs excellent depth perception and night vision for hunting insects.
  • Water absorption – Their skin structure and permeable surface allows them to easily absorb moisture from their environment through contact.

In dry conditions, these adaptations help Australian green tree frogs conserve water by hiding in cool moist refuges. Their versatile physical characteristics equip them well for life in Australia’s varied habitats.

Native Habitat and Distribution

The Australian green tree frog occupies the tropical northern and eastern parts of Australia as well as the lowlands of New Guinea. They thrive in humid rainforests, woodlands, wetlands, and even suburban gardens:

  • New South Wales – Scattered populations occur across the northeastern part of NSW.
  • Northern Territory – Found across Northern Territory’s Top End down to Tennant Creek.
  • Queensland – Occurs along nearly the entire eastern Queensland coast down to the NSW border.
  • Western Australia – Patchy distribution across WA’s northern Kimberley region.
  • South Australia – Limited occurrences in northeastern SA.
  • Victoria – Has been introduced but lacks stable breeding populations.

These hardy frogs have a wide habitat tolerance provided their environments include ample moisture, vegetation, and prey. However, destruction of rainforests and wetlands threatens their native populations. Their conservation status is currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but habitat loss combined with emerging amphibian diseases pose risks.

Due to human introductions, small non-native populations have established in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the United States (Florida, Georgia, and Hawaii). Though adaptable, these introduced populations potentially impact local species.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

The breeding season kicks off with the first heavy rains of spring and summer. Australia’s monsoon season brings hot and humid weather perfect for frog breeding activity.

Males gather around still or slow-moving bodies of water and begin barking out advertisement calls to attract females. Anything that holds water – ponds, streams, swamps, puddles – may become a breeding site. Their vocal sac expands from greyish white to brilliant blue as they call with mouths agape. The signature mating call sounds like a rapidly repeated low bark.

australian green tree frog habitat
australian green tree frog habitat

Once amplexed by a male, the larger female will lay between 200 to 2000 eggs in foamy floating nests called rafts. The clusters stick together in mats on the water’s surface. The eggs hatch within 48 hours and the tiny black tadpoles drop into the water below while still wriggling in their outer jelly casing.

These tadpoles grow rapidly thanks to developing hind limbs and a shift towards becoming carnivorous. Within about six weeks, the tadpoles will have fully metamorphosized into tiny froglets about 1 cm long. Around 2 to 3 months later, the juveniles leave their natal sites and become independent. Sexual maturity occurs around 2 years of age. With proper care in captivity, these frogs can live over 15 years.

Behavior and Communication

Australian green tree frogs are primarily nocturnal, emerging at dusk to call, feed, and mate. During the day, they seek out cool, dark, and moist hiding spots tucked among rainforest vegetation, tree hollows, and leaf litter on the forest floor. They especially favor sites near freshwater streams or pools.

In drier conditions away from water, they will conserve moisture by burrowing into soil or sealing themselves in protective cocoons made of shed skin cells and mucus. Both measures prevent water loss through respiration and evaporation. Inside these cocoons, the frogs can remain dormant for months until monsoon rains return.

Barking Calls and Croaks

In addition to their signature advertisement bark made by males during breeding season, Australian green tree frogs make a wide repertoire of other vocalizations:

  • Distress call – A quickly repeated guttural “crawk” when in danger.
  • Warning growl – A low grumbling noise used to ward off threats.
  • Raincalls – Made by males after heavy rainfall. Believed to assist females in locating possible breeding sites.
  • Release call – Upon being handled, an erratic scream. May be accompanied by defensive skin secretions.

Additionally, their coloration changes in response to environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Stress also induces paler color. By contrast, darker green signifies a healthy relaxed frog actively roaming its territory.

Diet and Feeding

In the wild, Australian green tree frogs eat a wide variety of live animal prey including insects, spiders, smaller frogs, lizards, and even small mammals. Using their long, sticky tongue they can catch fast-moving insects in mid-flight with impressive speed and accuracy.

They thrive in habitats with ample vegetation and slow-moving fresh water that supports high insect and critter populations. Rotting wood, leaf litter, and compost also promote dense insect activity.

Common prey items include:

  • Crickets
  • Cockroaches
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Grubs
  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Dragonflies
  • Small frogs and lizards
  • Baby mice

In captivity, Australian green tree frogs do well on a varied carnivorous diet. Feeder insects should be gut loaded to maximize nutritional value. Dust food items with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements as directed by your exotic veterinarian.

Provide size-appropriate feeder insects no larger than the space between the frog’s eyes to prevent impaction. The following staples items make excellent captive frog food:

  • Gut loaded crickets
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Earthworms
  • Feeder roaches
  • Hornworms
  • Silkworms
  • Newly molted dubia nymphs
  • Calcium-fortified reptile pellets
  • Pinky mice

These frogs should be fed 2-4 times a week depending on age. Monitor weight closely. Limit high fat prey items. Feeding schedules may need adjustment depending on the individual frog’s age, size, and activity level. Never leave uneaten prey items in the enclosure.

Housing Australian Green Tree Frogs

Housing Australian Green Tree Frogs
Housing Australian Green Tree Frogs

While quite hardy compared to other exotic pets, Australian green tree frogs still require specialized caging that caters to their arboreal climbing nature and high humidity needs. Never house green tree frogs together or with other frog species – they should be kept singly.

Enclosure Size

The recommended minimum enclosure size for an adult Australian green tree frog is a 20 gallon tall aquarium or similar vertically oriented terrarium with more height than floor space. The taller the tank, the more climbing space available.

However for medium and large sized adult frogs, aim for a 30-50 gallon size, especially for permanent multi-year housing. More interior space allows adding additional plants, decor, and visual barriers to reduce occupant stress.

Enclosure Setup and Supplies

Fortunately most pet stores stock basic green tree frog habitat supplies like tanks, lighting, and plants. Specialized heating, humidity, and filtration products may need ordering online. Never release captive frogs into the wild!

Essential habitat components include:

Secure lid

  • Glass tanks: Mesh or vented lid with latches
  • Plastic tubs: Drill ventilation holes but ensure spaces are small enough to prevent escape

Substrate

  • Paper towels
  • Unfertilized potting soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Coconut coir

Plants and décor

  • Natural branches, cork, and vines
  • Live or artificial foliage – Pothos and philodendrons recommended
  • Hollow logs or coconut hides

Water

  • Large water bowl or dish
  • Provide enough water for full submersion

Heat and lighting

  • Daytime heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter
  • UVB lighting on 12 hour cycle
  • No nighttime heat or light (unless ambient temperatures drop too drastically)

Air circulation

  • Screen top for passive ventilation
  • Small fan directed away from enclosure

Humidity

  • Use moisture-friendly substrates
  • Mist twice daily or use fogger/mister
  • Provide water bowl and soaked sphagnum moss

Temperature

  • Ambient daytime temperature of 75-85 Fahrenheit
  • Cooler temperatures at night
  • Install digital thermometer to monitor

Other supplies

  • Digital thermometer + hygrometer
  • Extra heating pads or ceramic heat emitters if needed
  • Automatic mister/fogger
  • Spring water conditioner
  • Vitamin and calcium supplements
  • Clean utensils for water, waste removal etc.

Pet Frog Care

Caring for pet Australian green tree frogs requires maintaining proper temperatures, light exposure, humidity levels, an appropriate feeding regime, habitat hygiene, and ample climbing surfaces. While comparatively hardy, they still demand specialized care to thrive in captivity.

Handling

Australian green tree frogs tolerate moderate gentle handling if done properly. Always support the underside of the frog with both hands and do not tightly grasp its body. Limit handling to necessary tank maintenance. Wash hands before and after contact.

Shedding

Like other frogs and reptiles, Australian green tree frogs shed their skin as they grow. Unlike snakes that shed in one piece, frogs shed skin flakes over a period of several days. Shedding frequency varies based on factors like diet, growth rate, and seasonality.

To aid shedding, provide an abrasive surface like cork bark and moisten the enclosure. Shed skin is typically consumed by the frog and poses no health issues. Contact an exotic vet if enclosures show excessive un-eaten skin accumulation or the frog has trouble completing full sheds.

Hydration & Humidity

Maintaining humidity between 60-80% and providing fresh drinking water at all times are key husbandry requirements. Use a hygrometer to monitor moisture levels which may necessitate daily misting and soakings. Ensure the water bowl is adequately sized and filled for full immersion.

Dehydration is dangerous for amphibians. Signs include dry, flaky or wrinkled skin, sunken eyes, lethargy, poor appetite and increased aggregation. Address chronically low humidity immediately and consult a qualified herp veterinarian if dehydration persists despite corrections.

Cleaning & Waste Removal

Spot clean enclosures daily using dechlorinated water or amphibian-safe cleansing products. Remove waste like urates, feces, and uneaten food immediately to prevent contamination and pests.

Completely change the substrate every 4-6 weeks or sooner if heavily soiled. Discard disposable substrate material like paper towels and replace natural substrates like moss and soil. Fully sanitize and disinfect the tank with each substrate change.

Common Health Issues

With attentive captive care, Australian green tree frogs can remain quite healthy for years. However, they are susceptible to certain infectious diseases and nutrition-related disorders:

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) stems from chronic low blood calcium and vitamin D3 levels. It causes skeletal deformities, fragility, seizures, paralysis and death if left untreated. MBD strikes fast-growing juveniles most severely.

Prevention involves proper supplements, UVB exposure, ideal temperatures and humidity, plus monitored feeding regimens. Annual exams screen for early MBD symptoms. Addressing MBD quickly improves outcomes.

Nutritional Disorders

Hypovitaminosis A is common when feeder insects lack adequate nutrients. It causes squinting, eye issues, loss of tongue stickiness, and appetite decline. Dust all feeders with supplements and gut load insects.

Obesity from overfeeding rich insects can cause fatty liver disease and death. Monitor weight, limit high fat prey, and maintain activity levels.

Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections often enter through skin abrasions and wounds. They require antibiotic therapy and diligent wound management. Always quarantine new frogs.

Chytridiomycosis fungus occurs globally. It damages skin integrity and impairs critical functions. Supportive care boosts immunity while antifungal treatment eradicates infection. Strict biosecurity and testing prevent spread.

Parasites

Internal parasites like flagellates, tapeworms, flukes and nematodes enter through feeders. They cause weight loss, swelling, diarrhea, and death. Fecal tests identify parasites and guide appropriate dewormers. Provide parasite-free feeders and quarantine newcomers.

Enrichment & Taming

While somewhat shy and prone to stress when overhandled, Australian green tree frogs can become quite personable pets when gradually acclimated to their caretakers. Use slow measured movements when interacting with them and limit handling to necessary tank maintenance.

With time, consistent gentle handling may allow these frogs to recognize their owners. Well-acclimated frogs will tolerate stroking and will eat from fingers. Even harder to tame individuals tend to eventually adjust to the necessary disturbances of an attentive keeper.

To better visualize enclosure occupants, arrange a comfortable viewing area nearby so frogs learn to associate that space with safety. Move slowly and talk calmly when maintaining their home.

Provide ample climbing branches, plants, hides and engaging decor. Alter layouts periodically to promote exploratory behaviors. Offer a variety of gut loaded feeders to encourage natural hunting movements. Monitor for signs of stress like dark patchy discoloration.

Breeding Australian Green Tree Frogs

Breeding Australian green tree frogs requires simulated seasonal rainfall and humidity changes that prompt breeding activity in captivity. Mature breeding groups should have slightly more females than males.

House adult pairs in large enclosures with nesting sites, gently sloped banks, water plants like elodea, and aged water. Rain systems that slowly drip or spray water work well to initiate breeding rituals. Monitor males for nuptial pad development on their thumbs. Listen for barking mating calls.

Once amplexus occurs, provide egg laying sites like trays filled with aged water stabilized with aquarium treatment products. These allow the egg rafts to remain stationary for best tadpole development. After laying, remove adults but leave eggs undisturbed until hatched.

Rear the tadpoles in heavily aerated water with surfaces for climbing out post-morphosis like mesh ramps. Feed commercial tadpole pellets and algae wafers. Once all frogs fully absorb their tails, move juveniles to their permanent starter enclosures.

While far from beginner-level husbandry, dedicated intermediate keepers willing to invest substantial effort into replicating seasonal climatic cues can experience amazing success breeding Australian green tree frogs. Their companionship rewards the necessary dedication these unique amphibians require.

Conservation Status

Currently, the Australian green tree frog is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers remain relatively stable across most of their native range. However, the IUCN recommends continued monitoring given the human-assisted expansion of feral predators, climate change impacts on rainforest systems, emerging infectious diseases, and habitat loss – all factors that could impact future population trajectories for Australia’s frogs.

Within Australia, Australian green tree frogs fall under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 that covers endangered and vulnerable species protection. As habitat pressures mount and previously undisturbed areas dwindle, conservation efforts prioritizing forest ecosystem preservation provide vital safeguards against decline in species like Litoria caerulea that form critical links in Australia’s complex rainforest food webs.

Popular Green Tree Frog Morphs

Popular Green Tree Frog Morphs
Popular Green Tree Frog Morphs

Selective captive breeding has produced a variety of color and pattern mutations of Australian green tree frogs. However care requirements remain identical to the natural form and no evidence suggests morphs differ substantially behaviorally or physiologically beyond their striking cosmetic variations. Several have become established in the pet trade:

Albinos – Lack black pigment resulting in white or very pale yellow frogs with orange, red or rust eyes. Avoid overexposure to light which strains vision.

Hypos – Short for hypomelanism, reduces overall pigment causing a washed out green hue with black speckles and orange eyes.

Greyhounds – Feature darker green and black lateral stripes running horizontally down the sides.

Red-eyed leucistic – White with black speckles and deep red eyes.

Tetraploids – Contain an extra chromosome pair exhibiting huge size, distorted proportions, and bulging

While Australian green tree frog morphs offer stunning variations, some controversies exist around specialized captive breeding practices:

Ethics of Frog Morph Breeding

Hybrid frog crosses and morphological mutations achieved through selective inbreeding bring certain welfare and conservation issues to consider:

Inbreeding depression – Intensive line breeding raises inbreeding coefficients and risks emergent health disorders. Outcrossing wild-caught frogs helps maintain genetic diversity.

Deformities – Morphological defects like curled tails, missing limbs, undersized heads, and spinal kinks may emerge in highly altered frog strains. Cull deformed specimens from breeding pools.

Captive overpopulation – Without conscientious breeding management, overflow frog stocks end up under-cared for or euthanized from oversupply. Breed selectively based on market demand.

Invasive species risk – Escaped or released pet trade frogs can damage local ecosystems, spread disease, and endanger native populations through competition and predation. Always contain and care for captive exotic frogs responsibly.

Wild population harvesting – Most founder breeding stock is wild-collected then selectively bred to isolate desired traits. Overharvesting threats vulnerable natural populations. Target abundant robust species using sustainable collection practices.

Overall the emerging morph market should balance consumer novelty and commercial profits with ethical practices supporting species conservation and animal welfare for both captive and wild frog populations.

Closing Thoughts

From their quirky appearance to their loud froggy banter, Australian green tree frogs showcase much of Australia’s fun-loving “no worries” attitude despite facing some concerning ecosystem changes across their range. As human pressures encroach further into previously undisturbed lands, protecting precious pockets of vibrant biodiversity becomes essential.

Frog species worldwide act as critical bioindicators reflecting wider habitat health and emergent threats through measurable population impacts. By better understanding and conserving charismatic species like Litoria caerulea, we invest in the future resilience of Australia’s rich natural heritage.

So whether you keep pet green tree frogs or simply admire their wild crooning, remember that our awe and appreciation for Australian fauna works hand in hand with thoughtful environmental stewardship. Our actions today write the next chapters for wondrous species relying on healthy habitats nationwide.

FAQs

What is the Australian Green Tree Frog?

The Australian Green Tree Frog, scientifically known as Litoria caerulea, is a species of tree frog native to Australia and New Guinea. It’s a vibrant green amphibian with a robust, medium-sized body, and it’s renowned for its charming appearance and distinctive croaking call.

What are the habitat preferences of the Australian Green Tree Frog?

Australian Green Tree Frogs primarily inhabit moist, forested areas near water sources such as ponds, swamps, and streams. They are adaptable creatures and can also be found in urban environments, taking refuge in gardens, parks, and even residential areas where there is suitable vegetation and water.

What do Australian Green Tree Frogs eat?

These tree frogs are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. Their diet typically consists of crickets, moths, flies, and even smaller frogs. They are known to be voracious eaters and play a crucial role in controlling insect populations in their habitat.

Are Australian Green Tree Frogs suitable as pets?

Yes, Australian Green Tree Frogs can make delightful pets for amphibian enthusiasts. However, prospective owners should be aware of their specific care requirements. They need a spacious enclosure with plenty of climbing surfaces, such as branches or plants, and a shallow water dish for soaking. It’s essential to maintain appropriate humidity levels and provide a varied diet to ensure their well-being.

How do Australian Green Tree Frogs reproduce?

During the breeding season, which typically occurs after heavy rainfall, male Australian Green Tree Frogs produce loud croaking calls to attract females. Once a female selects a mate, the male fertilizes her eggs externally as she lays them in a suitable water source. The eggs hatch into tadpoles, which undergo metamorphosis into froglets over several weeks before leaving the water. This remarkable reproductive process is vital for sustaining their populations in the wild.

Are Australian Green Tree Frogs endangered?

Currently, the Australian Green Tree Frog is not listed as endangered. However, like many amphibian species worldwide, they face threats such as habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving their natural habitats and raising awareness about their importance in ecosystems are crucial for ensuring their long-term survival.

Can Australian Green Tree Frogs change color?

Yes, Australian Green Tree Frogs have the ability to change their skin color slightly, depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, and stress levels. While they are typically vibrant green, they may appear darker or lighter under different conditions. This color variation serves various purposes, including thermoregulation and camouflage.

How long do Australian Green Tree Frogs live?

With proper care, Australian Green Tree Frogs can live for over a decade in captivity. In the wild, their lifespan may be slightly shorter due to predation and environmental factors. Providing a suitable habitat, balanced diet, and regular veterinary check-ups can contribute to their longevity and overall well-being.

Are Australian Green Tree Frogs poisonous?

No, Australian Green Tree Frogs are not considered poisonous to humans. While they may secrete mild toxins as a defense mechanism, these toxins are not harmful unless ingested in large quantities. However, it’s essential to wash hands thoroughly after handling them to prevent any potential irritation or allergic reactions.

Can Australian Green Tree Frogs vocalize?

Yes, Australian Green Tree Frogs are known for their distinctive vocalizations, particularly during the breeding season. Male frogs produce a loud, rhythmic croaking call to attract females and establish territory. These calls can be heard over considerable distances and play a vital role in communication and reproductive behavior.