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Whites Tree Frog

Whites Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) Care Sheet

Taxonomy
(Litoria caerulea)

  • Kingdom:
  • Animalia
  • Phylum:
  • Chordata
  • Class:
  • Amphibia
  • Order:
  • Anura
  • Family:
  • Hylidae
  • Genus:
  • Litoria
  • Species:
  • caerulea

White's Tree Frog
(Litoria caerulea)

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) © Bidgee

White's Tree Frog

The White's Tree Frog is so called after the first person to collect a specimen and describe it, J. White. He originally named the frog Rana caerulea, Rana meaning "frog", and caerulea coming from the Latin word caeruleus, meaning blue or dark blue. The White's Tree Frog was the first Australian frog to be given scientific nomenclature, and was renamed Hyla caerulea, and more recently Litoria caerulea. It is often commonly known as the green tree frog, the dumpy tree frog and the smiling frog, among other nicknames, mostly named as such because of its appearance.

The White's is a medium sized frog, which often gives the impression of being obese, and reaches an average size of ten centimeters in length, slightly less for males. Females grow a little larger than males, and very occasionally can reach maximum sizes of fourteen to fifteen centimeters. This frog reaches adult size by one to two years of age and ranges from light green and bluish-green to olive and brown in coloration, sometimes displaying sporadic white spots on its body. The underside is usually white, or may be a brownish-white or pinkish color, with reddish-brown inner thighs, and White's are able to change color, which may be related to feeding, lighting, temperature or water quality. Indonesian specimens from Irian Jaya tend to be more blue-colored than the Australian populations, and exhibit an even greater impression of obesity. White's Tree Frogs have wide, round, short heads with a thick fold of glandular skin (known as the supratympanic ridge) just above the conspicuous eardrum (tympanum). This skin can be an indication of weight, and healthy specimens will have approximately half of their tympanum covered with the supratympanic ridge. Underweight frogs will have the whole of their tympanum on show, and obesity is indicated by almost complete coverage. These frogs have a tendency to overeat and can become obese easily, and overweight frogs will become fairly inactive. Under the age of one year they can be fed daily, reducing feeding to once every other day or two-three times per week as the frog reaches adulthood; more for active, growing, underweight frogs, less for frogs that appear obese. White's have webbed fingers and toes, with large adhesive disks on the tips which enable them to efficiently climb and stick to terrariums. They are adept climbers and will appreciate the provision of many branches, plants, pieces of bark and height. Frogs do "slough" their skin with growth, and this will appear as "slime" around the tank.

Distribution

The White's Tree Frog occurs naturally throughout the north eastern half of the Australian continent, ranging from the central Victorian border area through most of New South Wales, all of Queensland and across the northern half of the Northern Territory into northern Western Australia. They are most abundant in the wetter coastal areas, especially in the eastern part of its range. It only occurs in the dryer parts of its range where permanent or frequent seasonal water is available. It is also found in the northern and southern lowlands of New Guinea, though these are possibly sub-species. There are now populations in New Zealand, although these animals were introduced by humans and are referred to as an "alien" species.

Temperament - Handling

As with most frogs, handling should be limited and only done when necessary. Human skins contain oils and retain chemicals from the things we touch. When you need to handle your frogs, you should first thoroughly wash your hands with water beforehand.

Habitat - Enclosure

White's Tree Frogs are hardy amphibians and a good beginner frog. A pair of adults can be housed in an enclosure that measures 2' x 1' x 1' at minimum, with a couple of pairs of adults comfortably living in a tank measuring 2' x 18" x 3'. Tree Frogs are just that, and will spend most of their time away from the floor, climbing and sitting on branches and plants provided for them. The older or most obese frog may spend more time on the floor of the terrarium, and providing as much space as you can financially and physically afford is preferred in some cases, White's may be given free range in a room or greenhouse terrarium. Substrate can consist of something as simple as reptile-carpet, moss or wood chips, or if you would like something more complicated yet visually attractive a mixture of half-water/half-land can be created. This can be achieved by fixing a vertical glass partition in the middle of the tank using something like silicone rubber cement to form a water tight seal between the land and the water. In one half an inch of fine grade aquarium gravel will allow for a pool area, however you must include a rocky bank or some areas where the frogs can climb out if needed, as particularly young frogs can be poor swimmers and may drown if they are unable to escape the water. On the other side of the terrarium you can use whatever dry substrate you want, and the use of bark, rocks, plants and moss will create a naturalistic and aesthetically pleasing home for your frogs. If you wish to make cleaning easier, you can implement the use of a filter, as used in aquariums, although the simpler environment will be equally as adequate a home.

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)

Water

Whichever way you choose to decorate your terrarium you will need to provide water, either in the form of the pool or in a large water dish, again making sure that the water isn't too deep, or by providing rocks for the frog to climb out onto, so that there isn't the risk of the frog drowning. Frogs will readily seek out the water and can often be seen enjoying long soaks. The water must be de-chlorinated (fill a bottle with tap water and leave to stand for 24-48 hours, allowing the chlorine to evaporate. Alternatively you can buy products that are designed to be added to water to remove the chlorine.) Frogs absorb things through their skin, and the chlorine can be particularly harmful to them. Hands must be clean and misted with de-chlorinated water before handling the frogs, again to avoid the frog from absorbing something which may cause an infection. As with all herps, it is advised to practice good hygiene by washing hands after handling as well. White's require high humidity levels; over 50% is necessary for a healthy frog, and this can be achieved by use of a large water bowl, daily misting with de-chlorinated water, or by adding a decorative product such as a water fall, misting machine or fog machine.

Feeding

White's will readily feed on a variety of insects; young specimens can be fed on fruit flies, curly wing flies, small crickets and locusts, and mini meal worms. Adults can eat large crickets and locusts, meal worms and wax worms, cockroaches and any other commercially bought live food. Insects may be collected from the wild, however care must be taken as insecticides could have been used in the area, which can cause illness in the frog. A varied diet is best, although some specimens may not accept some foods offered to them, and a staple diet of crickets, which are inexpensive, nutritional and easily purchased, will be adequate. A vitamin supplement will add nutrients required by the frog, and may be offered once a week. A calcium product needs to be offered on the food once a week, to prevent against Metabolic Bone disease. Young frogs should be fed daily with as much food as they will eat, while adults can be fed less food, less often several crickets 3-4 times per week, or less if the frog becomes obese.

Heating

Additional heat sources may not be necessary, as this species does not require high temperatures. If your house is cool you can use a heat pad, bulb, or ceramic heat emitter to increase the temperature. Ideally the frog(s) shouldn't be kept any cooler than 68°, and no higher than 86°.

Lighting

White's do not require any special lighting, and are a nocturnal species. A normal incandescent bulb can be used to provide a little heating, or for decoration, although if you wish to view the frogs' activities at night a red or specially made night time bulb must be used so as not to disturb their natural photoperiod.

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)

Purchasing

Select a healthy specimen from the start; look at the conditions it has been kept in by its previous owner or breeder only buy a frog that has been housed in a clean enclosure that hasn't been overcrowded. A healthy frog will be plump, have unblemished skin and bright, undamaged eyes. A frog that may be ill, or hasn't been cared for properly, will be skinny, showing sunken abdomens and exaggeration of the bone in the pelvic area signs that are indicative of starvation, stress or disease. Avoid specimens with eye problems, injuries, sores, wounds or cysts, and examine the animal for signs of infection.

Quarantine

If you already own frogs, be careful to quarantine any new animal to ensure that cross-infection and contamination does not occur. House the new animal in a simple tank (Example Quarantine Set-up), preferably in a different room to your other animals, using paper towels or carpet as substrate, and minimal cage furniture that you can either throw away after use or thoroughly clean before using again. Feed the animal as normal and keep separated from your existing collection for a minimum of twenty one days. Check the fecal matter on a daily basis, and if possible consider a fecal examination by the veterinarian to test for parasites and disease. Monitor the frog carefully; see that it eats well, it defecates normally, and it doesn't develop any sores or wounds, and remains healthy. If, after the quarantine period, no symptoms of disease develop, you can safely introduce the frog to your other White's. If your frog becomes ill at any point, or shows signs of infection, place it back in a quarantine tank so that factors can be more easily monitored, and consult a vet.

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)

Illness - Disease

Although White's Tree Frogs are a hardy species, like all animals they can suffer from disease and illness. White's are remarkably resistant to disease when kept in optimum conditions, but some of the more common conditions that they can suffer from include;

Wounds and Injuries - Injuries can range from burns and skin wounds to broken bones. Burns may occur if heating apparatus is too close to the animal. Skin legions can be a result of being trapped under a lid or a heavy rock. The key is to be safe don't allow any heating appliances to be in reach of the animal and choose carefully where cage furniture will go, avoiding if possible heavy apparatus that could be a danger to the frog. Open wounds can easily become infected if not treated, and cause a more serious illness, however a vet must be consulted before using any antiseptic or antibiotic preparations, as some can be lethal to frogs. Frogs can also suffer from a sore snout from rubbing their faces against the glass in an attempt to escape this can happen as a frog settles into its new quarters, or can be a sign that the frog needs more room.

Nutritional Deficiencies - A monotonous diet, consisting of just one food item, can cause nutritional deficiencies, and a series disorder can arise due to a lack of calcium or from an irregular calcium/phosphorus ratio. A varied diet is important and a weekly supplement will also help to ensure that the frog obtains all the minerals and vitamins it needs.

Fungal Infections - More common in tadpoles and metamorphosing froglets, fungal infections can be identified by areas of inflamed skin surrounded by white threads. If untreated, fungus infections can be fatal, but if caught in its early stages can be easily treated with the correct solution and antibiotic. Red leg is a common fungal infection found in frogs, though rarely occurs in White's Tree Frogs kept in optimum conditions. It usually begins with abrasions to the skin and small ulcers and hemorrhages plus reddening of the skin, especially on the belly and underside of the thighs, are other symptoms. Higher temperatures, isolation and antibiotic solutions should eradicate the infection.

Enteric Disease - Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract can occur in newly imported specimens and in frogs that have been kept in unhygienic conditions. Symptoms include watery feces, loss of appetite and weight loss.

In any case of infection or illness the frog must be quarantined and an experienced veterinarian consulted. Reptile Vet Finder

Sexing

It is easier, yet can still be difficult, to determine the sex of an adult frog rather than a juvenile. Adult females are usually larger and more robust than males, they have larger supratympanic ridges and their heads may be a little smaller. Males can be recognized by the looser skin on the throat and "nuptial pads" on the inside of their hands, which appear on a breeding male. A male can also be determined by his "calling". Both females and males can croak, however females tend to only croak when disturbed from sleep or rest. Males will croak in order to "call" to a female, and the loose skin on their throats will fill out with air. The male call is a deeper sound than that of a female, and often if more than one male is present, once one begins calling the others will follow, as if in competition with each other. Males and females can be housed together, and successful breeding should not occur without external stimuli. Only specimens of a similar size should be kept together, as an adult will only recognize a juvenile as food.

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)

Attribution

Author: Rachel Hitch
White's Tree Frog Main - © Bidgee
White's Tree Frog 1 - © Liz Schlegel Burnett
White's Tree Frog 2
White's Tree Frog 3 - © Liz Schlegel Burnett
White's Tree Frog 4