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Care Sheet For Budgett’s Frogs (Lepidobatrachus laevis)

General/Background

The Budgett’s Frog, also commonly known as the “Freddie Kruger Frog” or “Hippo Frog” in the pet trade, is a semi-aquatic species native to Northern Argentina, as well as parts of Paraguay and Bolivia. This is a notably voracious and defensive species, as it’s common nicknames suggest, and will eat anything that it can fit in its mouth; from fish, to insects and other frogs and small vertebrates.
Though considered a semi-aquatic species, the Budgett’s Frog exhibits a very unique life style. These frogs find themselves at home in slow moving, shallow pools of water during the moist summer season in it’s native Argentina. Much of their time is spent basking and floating about with their eyes exposed above water. They do occasionally go onto land provided the opportunity. However, the most striking aspect of a Budgett’s life is it’s seasonal aestivation. Roughly between the months of October and February, the Budgett’s frog will burrow to aestivate as the seasonal pools and marshes evaporate and dry up. The Budgett’s will burrow deep into the drying soil and encase itself in moisture retaining mucus shell until the next rainfall some months later.
Approximately 1500 eggs will be fertilized upon mating. Tadpole development is considerably fast in this species. Often times tadpoles will morph into frogs within 2 weeks or so. As froglets they are extremely voracious, and sibling cannibalism is not uncommon.
Females of the species often grow to 4.5 or 5 inches, whereas a large male will maybe be around 4 inches snout to vent when mature. Also, males will develop a dark blueish throat with loose skin, aiding them in their calls to attract their eventual mates.
The lifespan of a Budgett’s frog is though to be around 12 years or so given proper circumstances.



Housing

As mentioned, these frogs will need a primarily aquatic setup with sloping water depths, as well as some flat rocks for them to jump onto and get out of the water. The water should not be too deep, because this species likes to rest its hind legs on the floor and keep it’s head just perched at the surface. A 10 gallon would work, however a large specimen would be most comfortable in a 20 gallon tank. Make sure to use de-chlorinated spring or drinking water. If tap water is the only available source, use an amphibian safe de-chlorinator. I personally use “Reptisafe”. It de-chlorinates the water and adds beneficial electrolytes, etc. A low speed filter would be very helpful, however regular partial water changes will be necessary. Aquatic vegetation is also suggested, but not necessary.

*Aestivation*

Between the months of October and February, the captive adult Budgett’s will need to be moved into a separate tank with dry soil for aestivation. Provide a separate tank with 8-12 inches of dry coconut fiber, as well as a small surface dish of water (incase a premature and unplanned aestivation awakening occurs). Upon placing the frog into such a dry tank, it will instinctively burrow and encase itself in its protective cocoon. Prior to aestivation, be sure to fill up your Budgett’s with plenty of hardy meals. Remember, they won’t be eating for a few months, so let them have some food to burn off while they sleep.
At the end of their aestivation period, slowly start to dampen the soil until considerably wet. At this point, the frog will leave its mucus shell and restart it’s cycle all over again.

Heating

It is best to keep the temperature consistent around 78-85 degrees. Ideal temperatures can be achieved with external heating lamps, or in tank heaters, if necessary.

Feeding

It is best to provide a varied diet of insects, earthworms and fish. Calcium and vitamin dusting for supplementation is recommended, but can prove to be a task since much of their feeding is under water. It is possible to hand feed the crickets out of water. However, make note that a healthy feeder fish (stay away from goldfish) will provide a good source of calcium. Livebearing fish such as mollies and platies provide the best nutrients for feeder fish. As juveniles, Budgett’s should be fed every other day. Adults can be fed 2 or 3 hardy meals a week.
 
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