Do Frogs Need Heat Lamps? (Answered By Vet Tech)

Do Frogs Need Heat Lamps

Frogs are fascinating animals and can make incredible pets. Pet frogs come in many different species that all have different characteristics and care requirements in captivity.

No matter what kind of frog you have, you’ll probably need to make some adjustments to their environment to make them comfortable. Some of these environmental factors are things like light and temperature. Heat lamps are a source of debate in the frog community.

So, do frogs need heat lamps?

Because frogs are cold-blooded amphibians, they need a stable temperature to thrive. Unless the ambient temperature in your house matches their needs you’ll need to provide a heat source. Depending on the species of frog you might need a heat lamp during the day, a heat mat at all times, or even a water heater.  

This article will go into specific groups of frogs and whether or not they need a heat lamp. First, we’ll talk about why being cold-blooded affects frogs’ capacity to retain heat.

Are Frogs Warm-Blooded Or Cold-Blooded?

Both reptiles and amphibians are part of a group of animals called herptiles. All herptiles are cold-blooded. This means that frogs are indeed cold-blooded!

Cold-blooded animals are also called ectotherms and have little or no adaptations to maintain their internal body temperatures. While this might seem like a disadvantage, ectotherms burn a lot less energy and have a much slower metabolism than warm-blooded animals.

Mini ectothermic animals have traits that help them maintain a static body temperature. Frogs are no exception. When it’s too hot, frogs may dig and hide in the mud. When temperatures drop, frogs also have strategies for maintaining a normal temperature.

One famous example is the wood frog which becomes frozen each and every winter and emerges completely unharmed every spring. Though many species of frogs can withstand extreme temperatures, your pet frog might be a different story.

Do Frogs Need Heat Lamps?

Captive animals thrive when their environments are set up perfectly for them.

For reptiles and amphibians, this usually means providing additional heat, humidity, and places to hide. Heat lamps are something you might need to provide for your pet frog. This really depends on what kind of pet frog you have and where you live.

Let’s talk about the four main groups of pet frogs and whether or not they need heat lamps.

1. Tree Frogs

Tree frogs are a large group of frogs that are defined by the amount of time they spend in the trees. Obviously, these frogs are arboreal and love to spend their time climbing and jumping from branch to branch.

Some of the most popular pet tree frog species are red-eyed tree frogs, White tree frogs, and clown tree frogs. Tree frogs are the most handleable group of pet frogs if you’re looking for a pet that you can hold.

Ideally, your tree frog’s enclosure will stay at a temperature range of 75°F to 85°F. At night this temperature can go down slightly but should never fall below 60°F. Just like for any ectothermic reptile, you’ll need to provide a gradient of heat in their enclosure. This ensures that they can escape to a cooler place if they’re feeling overheated and vice versa.

Unless your house stays pretty warm or you live in an already tropical area you’ll need to provide your tree frog with an extra heat source. A heat lamp is a great idea for tree frogs because it can be turned on during the day and can go off at night. That way it’s not only a source of heat but also a source of light for your frog.

There are two things you’ll need to consider when using a heat lamp for your tree frog. You should never let the heat lamp touch the metal mesh at the top of the aquarium. Your pet frog might climb onto the mash and get burned. You should also never let the heat lamp be too close to the mesh top because it could cause sagging or melting.

If you’re worried about this or limited on space, you can always use a heat mat, just remember that your tree frog spends most of its time off the ground so the heat mat will have to provide good ambient heat for the entire enclosure.

2. Dart Frogs

Poison dart frogs are some of the most beautiful animals in the world. Their bright colors are both beautiful and serve as a warning to predators. In the wild, these frogs are toxic due to the ants, mites, and termites that they eat. In captivity, these frogs aren’t actually poisonous but can still cause painful reactions. Even though these frogs aren’t poisonous in captivity, they can still bite, so watch out.

The setup for a dart frog looks pretty similar to a tree frog setup.

Though these frogs aren’t considered arboreal they can still climb and can be found as high as 30 feet up in the wild. They are not great swimmers and shouldn’t have large water features in their enclosures. Just like tree frogs, Dart frogs need a temperature gradient from 75°F to 85°F during the day. At night their temperatures should never drop below 50°F.

You’ll probably need to provide a heat source for dart frogs. Since they spend more time on the ground than tree frogs, it might be appropriate to use a heat mat instead of a heat lamp for these frogs. A heat mat can be placed beneath the enclosure itself. That way you don’t run the risk of burning your pet frog.

Heat mats are great for terrestrial species because they heat the enclosure from the ground up. If you do decide to use a heat lamp for the species, the same rules apply as above. Never place the heat lamp too close to the top of the enclosure or you’ll risk burning your pet or damaging the mesh wire covering the terrarium.

3. Toads

Did you know that you can make your Hogwarts dreams come true and have a pet toad?

That’s right! Some of the most popular species of pet toads are the California toad, the American toad, and the Orient fire-bellied toad. Or, you can go for one of the biggest pet frog species, the cane toad.

Toads are a lot more low maintenance than tree frogs or dart frogs. Though they are still ectotherms, they don’t require high temperatures like our previous frog groups.

Most toad species thrive in temperatures between 60°F and 70°F. In fact, temperatures above 70°F may be dangerous or even fatal for pet toads. These animals like to be able to stay cool and bury themselves in the mud when things get too warm. So, do you need a heat lamp for your toad?

In general, you don’t need a heat lamp to keep a toad enclosure warm enough. If you’re keeping your toad in a climate-controlled room, that should be perfect heating for them. A heat lamp might be too direct for your toad and will end up drying them out and causing dehydration issues.

4. Aquatic Frogs

Our last group of pet frogs is aquatic frogs. These frog species are literally kept in tanks of water. African dwarf frogs are the most common species of aquatic pet frogs.  These frogs spend their entire lives in the water, their webbed feet are designed for swimming and hunting, in lakes and rivers.

Since African dwarf frogs only eat invertebrates, they can actually be housed with many species of fish making them a great addition to a freshwater aquarium. Plus, they’re small, so you can have quite a few of them!

Since their enclosures are entirely aquatic a heat lamp is a terrible idea. Heat lamps and water do not mix. Not only will a heat lamp do a bad job at warming up a large body of water but it is also a hazard. If your heat lamp falls into the water, well… let’s just say it’s not a happy ending.

Instead of a heat lamp, you can use an aquarium thermometer to control the temperature of your aquatic frog’s enclosure. You want to make sure that the water stays somewhere between 60°F and 80°F at all times. These frogs aren’t usually finicky and can withstand some temperature variation.

Final Thoughts

When people ask, do frogs need heat lamps? It’s not an easy answer.

Certain frogs like tree frogs and dart frogs usually need heat lamps to thrive. They’re accustomed to warmer temperatures than we are and usually like a basking spot to keep warm in. On the other hand, toads and aquatic frogs do not need heat lamps. Adding a heat lamp to these animals and closures is pointless and even dangerous.

So, the decision to add a heat lamp is entirely up to your species of pet frog and the climate that you live in. Make sure to do your research on your specific species and breed of pet frog so that you can make the best choice for you and your pet.