Frogs are infamous for their voracious appetites. Many species will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths!
From feeder insects and fish to mice and even other frogs, there is little that a frog won’t try to eat!
Most frog owners have to worry about overfeeding their pets. Since captive frogs do not expend as much energy as wild frogs, they are prone to obesity.
But what if your frog isn’t eating?
There are several reasons why your frog is refusing food. It may just not be hungry, or perhaps it is a picky eater. The feeding method, time of day, being in a new environment, stress, wrong parameters, dormancy, overcrowding, infections, vitamin or mineral deficiency, or impaction can all negatively affect your frog’s appetite.
We will delve into each of these 12 potential reasons your frog isn’t eating and discuss what you can do to help your little friend.
Before we get started, let’s talk a little bit about how often frogs need to eat to stay healthy!
How Long Can Frogs Go Without Food?
If your frog has refused a meal or two, you might be getting worried and wondering how long your little friend can go without sustenance.
The length of time a frog can go without food largely depends on its age. Adult frogs can go about 1 month without eating, while young frogs need to eat 2 to 4 times a month to avoid starvation.
It is important to note that just because your frog can go up to 3-4 weeks without food, does not mean that they should have to! This is not a recommended feeding schedule.
How Often Should You Feed Your Frog?
Adult frogs should be fed every 2-3 days, while young frogs should be fed every day. Many pet frogs are prone to obesity, so you should monitor your frog’s body condition and consult your veterinarian if you feel that your frog’s diet needs to be changed!
Monitoring body condition will also help you recognize when your frog isn’t getting enough food.
12 Reasons Your Frog Isn’t Eating
Now that you know a little bit more about frogs’ dietary needs, let’s discuss the possible reasons why your normally voracious little amphibian is refusing food.
Reason 1. Not Hungry
One reason your frog isn’t eating is that it simply isn’t hungry. While many frogs will willingly eat themselves to obesity if given the chance, some individuals aren’t as enthusiastic about their food.
If your frog has eaten recently or had a particularly large meal, its appetite may be satiated for the moment.
Your frog refusing a single meal every now and then isn’t any cause for concern, but if it happens frequently, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Reason 2. Picky Eater
Another reason your frog isn’t eating is because it is a picky eater. Different frogs have different dietary preferences! Some frogs prefer nightcrawlers over roaches, while others enjoy tracking the sporadic movement of a cricket over the steady crawl of a mealworm.
Furthermore, most frogs won’t eat prey that isn’t moving. While pelleted food is a staple for aquatic frogs, many terrestrial and arboreal frogs require their food to have a pulse.
It is normal for frogs to refuse dead insects or other nonliving food items. This behavior is an adaptation that helps keep the frog from getting sick! Deceased prey is more likely to contain harmful bacteria and other pathogens.
Frogs prefer their food to be fresh!
To overcome the challenge of a picky frog, offer your pet a variety of live, appropriately sized feeder insects like crickets, roaches, earthworms, fruit flies, mealworms (sparingly), hornworms, waxworms (sparingly), and black soldier fly larvae.
Some frogs can also be given feeder guppies (or other livebearers) with tongs or in a shallow dish of water. While frogs prefer live food, some large frogs, like Pacman frogs, can be fed frozen (and thawed!) pinky mice.
You can make the mouse more enticing by wiggling it with tongs. However, feeding mice too often can lead to obesity.
Reason 3. Problems With Food Delivery
Your frog may not be eating because it isn’t comfortable with how its food is being offered.
There are four primary ways of feeding your frog, most of which are discussed in the video above! You can simply drop the prey into the vivarium, place it into a dish, or offer it directly to your frog with tongs. Some owners place their frogs in a separate feeding enclosure.
Regardless of your method of delivery, you shouldn’t feed your frog with your hands – some of them have teeth!
It is possible that your frog isn’t eating because of your method of feeding. Perhaps your frog fears the tongs or moving it to a separate feeding container causes it stress. Also, if you dump the prey into the vivarium, the insects might be getting lost in the substrate.
Experiment with different methods of delivery to see what your frog likes the best!
Reason 4. Time Of Day
Most frogs are nocturnal, with a couple of exceptions. This means that they carry out most of their frog activities, like hunting and mating, at night. This is due to more insects being active at night, as well as there being higher humidity (which frogs need to keep their skin moist).
If your nocturnal frog is refusing food during the day, try feeding it at night, instead! Similarly, if your diurnal frog doesn’t seem to be hungry in the evening, try feeding it earlier in the day.
Establishing a feeding schedule that mimics your frog’s natural eating habits will encourage a healthy appetite.
Reason 5. New Environment
It’s only been a couple of days since you brought your frog home and it is refusing to eat, it is likely still getting used to its new home! Transport can be stressful, and now your frog has to get its bearings in an unfamiliar space. Give your frog time to get used to its new vivarium – and to you!
Continue to offer your frog food every day, but don’t pester it too much. It will accept when it feels comfortable!
Every frog is different. Some frogs are ready for their first meal in their new home after a couple of hours, while others may take several days. Once your new frog starts eating, it may still hide for a few weeks!
Reason 6. Stress
Another reason that your frog isn’t eating is stress from overstimulation. If the environment surrounding the frog’s enclosure is loud and chaotic, it might not feel safe.
If your frog isn’t eating, check the room that it is in. Is there a lot of activity? Loud noises? Young children? Consider moving the tank to a quieter space so that your frog can have some peace and quiet.
Frogs can also get overwhelmed and stressed by frequent handling. Most frogs do not enjoy being handled, but some will tolerate it. Handling your frog too often can contribute to stress and cause your little friend to lose their appetite!
Reason 7. Wrong Parameters
One of the most common reasons frogs refuse food is incorrect temperature, humidity, or lighting. If your frog isn’t eating, double-check your thermometer and ensure that your frog’s enclosure is within the desired temperature range for its species.
As ectotherms, frogs rely on environmental temperature to control their bodily processes. Cooler temperatures lead to slower digestion, which can cause your frog to lose its appetite. Digestion is smoother at higher temperatures – but, obviously, don’t turn the heat up too high!
Incorrect humidity can also contribute to stress and may be why your frog isn’t eating. Humidity is required to keep frogs’ sensitive skin moist. Frogs breathe and drink through their skin, so if the environment gets too dry, they can run into issues!
Lighting issues can also cause your frog to refuse food. Frogs benefit from a consistent lighting schedule. This establishes their day-night cycle. Without consistent lighting, your frog may become sluggish.
Furthermore, frogs may not eat if they suffer from a lack of UVB. While not all frogs require UVB lighting, they all benefit from at least a small amount of it. Dart frogs, which are diurnal, and tree frogs, which live high up in the trees exposed to the sun’s rays, require UVB. Many terrestrial frogs, like the Pacman frog, do not require it.
Frogs, like reptiles, use UVB lighting to make vitamin D, which is needed for efficient uptake of calcium. A lack of UVB, in some species, can lead to calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease. Symptoms of MBD include lack of appetite, skeletal deformities, fractures, lethargy, and muscle spasms.
MBD is prevented by regular supplementation of your frog’s prey with calcium and vitamin D, as well as the use of appropriate UVB lighting.
Reason 8. Dormancy
Sudden changes in the temperature, humidity, or lighting schedule can cause the frog to think it is time to go dormant. Frogs can enter two types of dormancy: brumation due to the cold and estivation due to dryness.
While they are dormant, frogs’ metabolic processes slow down so much that they can go months without food!
Due to constant and favorable conditions in captivity, most frogs do not enter dormancy. Some owners trigger brumation in their frogs to encourage breeding during the following season. However, this should not be attempted by amateur frog keepers due to the risk involved. For example, if your frog enters brumation too soon after its last meal, the food will rot in its digestive system and kill the frog!
If you suspect your frog is entering brumation, check the humidity and temperature in its vivarium. Consult your veterinarian about caring for a frog in brumation.
Reason 9. Overcrowding
Overcrowding or other population issues may be another reason your frog isn’t eating. If too many frogs are housed together, it can contribute to stress that lessens your frogs’ appetites. More dominant individuals may also outcompete their meeker tankmates for food.
If you are cohabitating frogs and notice one frog getting thin, separate it from the rest to ensure that the weaker frog is getting enough food and that it isn’t getting bullied.
Reason 10. Infections
There are a number of infections that can cause loss of appetite. If your frog isn’t eating, it is possible that it is battling a bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitic infection.
Bacterial infections are most commonly caused by unclean environments or bad water quality. In addition to a lack of appetite, bacterial infections can cause reddening or lumps on the skin, swelling, lethargy, loss of balance, and cloudy eyes.
Fungal infections, particularly chytridiomycosis, are partially responsible for the worldwide decline of amphibian populations. Unfortunately, pet frogs can also be affected.
A frog becomes infected with chytridiomycosis when it comes into contact with spores from the fungus, which feeds on the keratin in the skin. Lack of appetite is one of the first symptoms of this condition, and it is followed by weight loss, lethargy, excessive shedding, and thickening of the skin. Your frog may also lose control of its muscles.
Your frog may stop eating if it has contracted a virus. Some of the most common culprits of viral infections in frogs are viruses from the genus Ranavirus, aptly called “ranaviruses.” Ranaviruses, while they primarily infect tadpoles, have been known to cause mass die-offs of frogs in the wild.
Ranaviruses can cause frogs to lose their appetite. Other symptoms include lethargy, lack of coordination, and swelling and reddening of the limbs and body.
Parasitic infections can also cause your frog to stop eating. Two examples of parasites that can cause loss of appetite in frogs are roundworms and lungworms. Some kinds of roundworms burrow into the frog’s skin, leaving festering sores behind. Lungworms are often identified by respiratory distress and emaciation.
As you can see, there are a lot of different kinds of infections that may explain why your frog isn’t eating! While these conditions are treatable, prevention is key.
Make sure you are keeping your frog’s environment clean! Remove waste when you see it, and perform regular deep cleaning of the enclosure. Make sure to provide fresh, clean water daily.
While many infections can be transmitted through unclean water or exposure to fecal matter, some require contact with an infected individual. Always quarantine new frogs before introducing them to your current residents and be sure to isolate any individuals who appear to be sick.
Reason 11. Vitamin Deficiency
Another reason that your frog isn’t eating is because it may be deficient in vitamins or minerals.
As we discussed earlier, frogs (like other herptiles) can suffer from metabolic bone disease, which is caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet or a lack of vitamin D or UV lighting.
In addition to skeletal deformity, soft bones, fractures, lethargy, and muscle spasms, MBD can also cause loss of appetite and bloating.
Vitamin A deficiency, or hypovitaminosis A, can also cause a frog to stop eating. Vitamin A is necessary for maintaining healthy eyes, skin, and mucus membranes. Hypovitaminosis A can cause frogs to have problems eating or lose their appetite completely.
One consequence of vitamin A deficiency is something called short-tongue syndrome, in which the frog’s mucus ducts in its tongue become clogged. The tongue loses its stickiness, and the frog may be unable to catch prey!
In addition to lack of appetite or difficulty eating, and subsequent weight loss, hypovitaminosis A can also cause swelling of the eyelids and abdomen.
The deficiencies we’ve discussed – calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A – are easily prevented with proper supplementation of your frog’s food and the correct lighting set-up for your species.
Dust your frog’s insect prey with calcium (with D3) supplement twice a week and with a multivitamin once a week.
Vitamin deficiencies are diagnosed by a veterinarian via a blood test. If you suspect your frog may be suffering from a deficiency, take it to the vet for an official diagnosis! Always consult your frog’s doctor before altering their supplementation schedule.
Reason 12. Impaction
Last on our list of reasons your frog isn’t eating is impaction. Impaction occurs when your frog’s digestive system becomes blocked – in other words, it’s a bowel obstruction. The video above discusses impaction, which also occurs in reptiles, in detail. Check it out!
Impaction, a potentially fatal condition, can be caused by your frog ingesting substrate, too many chitin-rich insects (like mealworms), too much food at once, or prey that is too large. Impaction can also result from low temperatures.
As we mentioned earlier, frogs rely on temperature for their bodily processes. The lower the temperature, the slower their digestion. If a frog gets too cold, its digestion may stop completely, stopping the food’s journey and causing a blockage.
Some of the symptoms of impaction include lack of appetite, a hard or distended stomach, gagging, panting, a hard mass in the abdomen, and weight loss. One of the earliest signs of impaction is a change in your frog’s bathroom habits. Frogs experiencing impaction may poop less – or they may stop completely.
If you suspect your frog is impacted, you can try giving it a warm soak. This will help relax your frog’s muscles and ease the passing of the blockage. If there is no change, take it to the vet. In the meantime, do not attempt to feed your frog. Impaction is a serious issue, and if not treated, your frog’s intestines could rupture!
How To Encourage Your Frog To Eat
If your frog isn’t eating, there are several things you could do to try and pique their appetite.
First, ensure that your temperature and humidity are within the ideal range for your species. As you’ve learned, these parameters can affect your frog’s appetite!
Offer a greater variety of foods. There are lots of tasty feeder insects you could offer your picky frog: crickets, roaches, mealworms, waxworms, and black soldier fly larvae are just a few examples! A varied diet not only increases the chances that your frog will eat, it also makes them less likely to develop a nutritional deficiency.
Take a look at your feeding schedule. Are you consistently feeding your frog at a certain time? Does it align with their natural feeding behaviors? Try feeding your frog at the time of day when they are most active.
You can also alter the method of delivery of your frog’s food. If your frog is having trouble finding their food, you can place their prey in a dish. This also reduces the chances of your frog eating the substrate. You can also try tong-feeding for an even more direct route!
My Frog Isn’t Eating! Should I Be Worried?
We have covered a lot of potential reasons why your frog isn’t eating. While frogs are notoriously voracious eaters, it is possible that, sometimes, your frog simply isn’t hungry.
If you notice your frog skipping multiple meals despite ensuring humidity and temperature are optimal, offering a variety of foods, and trying different feeding methods, it may be time to take your frog to the vet.
Monitor your frog for other symptoms such as those we have discussed above. If you notice that your frog is bloated, lethargic, discolored, not defecating, or displaying any other signs of illness, take your little friend to the vet!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering why certain species of frogs lose their appetite, or if you should ever force your frog to eat? Check out our frequently asked questions below!
Should I Force-Feed My Frog?
Unless you have the necessary experience, never force-feed your frog without the guidance of a veterinarian, especially without knowing the reason behind your frog’s lack of appetite!
If your frog is impacted or experiencing slowed digestion due to low temperatures, forcing them to consume food will worsen the problem.
Attempting to force-feed your frog without proper training can result in your frog getting stressed or injured.
Why Isn’t My Pacman Frog Eating?
If your Pacman frog isn’t eating, it may be suffering from any of the conditions we described above. While Pacman frogs can experience a lack of appetite due to stress, low temperatures, illness, or any of the other issues we discussed – as mentioned in the video above – they are also susceptible to becoming impacted.
Pacman frogs, with their wide mouths and voracious appetites, are sometimes fed large prey, which can cause an intestinal obstruction.
Furthermore, these frogs are terrestrial and spend most of their time nestled in the dirt. This means that they are prone to accidentally ingesting substrate! The way that Pacman frogs clumsily lunge at their prey also contributes to them getting unintentional mouthfuls of dirt.
You can reduce the chances of your Pacman becoming impacted by feeding it appropriately sized prey – prey that can easily fit in its mouth.
You can also reduce the chance of impaction by keeping your frog on safe substrate, like coconut fiber. Avoid bark or rocky substrates. Tong feeding your frog, or placing your frog in a designated “feeding tub” will also reduce the chances of your frog eating substrate.
Why Isn’t My Tree Frog Eating?
Like Pacman frogs, tree frogs can suffer from any of the conditions we covered in this article. Tree frogs commonly lose their appetites due to stress or improper parameters.
If your tree frog isn’t eating, check the temperature and humidity of its enclosure. Your frog may be too cold or is hunkered down to try and conserve water. Research the ideal parameters for your species to keep your little friend happy and healthy!
Many species of tree frogs, such as the red-eyed tree frog, are also prone to stress. This can be caused by changes in their environment, both inside and outside of the enclosure!
Tree frogs like stability. If you have just acquired your frog, it may not be used to its new home yet! Tree frogs can also be sensitive to changes in the room they are in. If you have recently redecorated or moved your frog to a new room, it may take some time to adjust to its new surroundings.
Frogs are infamously voracious predators, so it can be a little concerning if your frog isn’t eating! As you have seen, there are a lot of reasons why your frog is refusing food. Your frog might just not be hungry! The problem may be easy to fix, like adjusting your feeding habits, temperature, or humidity, or something more serious may be going on.
Consider keeping a journal to track your frog’s eating habits, especially when establishing your feeding routine. It also enables you to quickly identify changes and potential problems.
Regular, keen observation is key to good frog ownership!