Cuban tree frogs are native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands. However, they were introduced to the coast of Florida, as well as parts of Puerto Rico, and several other places around the Americas and are now considered an invasive species in those places.
Cuban tree frogs are generalist predators and will eat almost any prey they can catch, overpower, and fit into their mouths. In the wild, they eat snails, millipedes, spiders, a wide variety of insects, and even small frogs, lizards, and snakes. In captivity, they can be fed crickets, dubia roaches, nightcrawlers, mealworms, and other invertebrates.
Cuban tree frogs go through 2 main life stages and eat different food at each stage. They start their lives as tiny tadpoles that live entirely in the water. At this stage, they eat algae, plant tissue, organic debris, and some small invertebrates.
After a few months, these tadpoles will through a process known as metamorphosis and develop into the adult-form Cuban tree frogs that most people are more familiar with.
At this point, they become obligate carnivores and will eat a wide variety of prey they can catch.
What Cuban Tree Frog Tadpoles Eat in the Wild
Cuban tree frogs start their lives as tiny embryos inside eggs. Their first food source for the developing embryos is the yolk of their eggs.
The yolk provides enough nutrition to sustain the developing tadpoles until they are ready to hatch into the water. This can take anywhere from 1 – 2 days
After hatching, the tadpoles will spend the first few days feeding on the remaining yolk of the eggs. This will provide them with enough energy to grow and develop further.
After about a few days, the tadpoles would have developed enough to start free swimming and feeding on food sources available in the water.
At this early stage, Cuban tree frog tadpoles are mostly herbivorous, and will eat:
- Detritus (mostly composed of degraded plant materials)
Due to a mostly herbivorous diet, the tadpoles have very long tightly coiled intestines, that make up more than half of their body mass.
Plants contain cellulose, a compound that is very hard to digest. Because of this, plant matter needs to spend more time in the digestive system. This long intestinal tract gives tadpoles more time to break down the plant matter and absorb as many nutrients as possible.
A few weeks into their development, the tadpoles start to grow legs, starting with the back legs. Their digestive tract will also gradually shorten.
Cuban tree frog tadpoles at this stage become omnivores and will eat animal protein in addition to plant matter.
They will also eat:
- Aquatic insect larvae (glass worms, mosquito larvae, etc.)
- Water striders
- Small insects that fall into the water
- Carcasses in the water
Cuban tree frog tadpoles will even prey upon the tadpoles of other frog species in some situations. Researchers found that survivorship of tree frog tadpoles declined significantly in the presence of Cuban tree frog tadpoles.
Whatever they eat, they will eat constantly. They have high energy demands because they are growing very rapidly.
What Juvenile Cuban Tree Frogs Eat in the Wild
After about 1- 2 months, the tadpoles will go through a process known as metamorphosis, in which they will transform into juvenile frogs.
During metamorphosis, the thyroid gland secretes a growth hormone called thyroxine.
This hormone triggers the tadpoles to:
- Lose the gills, and develop lungs for breathing air
- Absorb the tail into the body
- Grow strong legs for moving on land
- Remodel other organs to form an adult frog
In addition, the digestive tract shortens dramatically, and the inner lining of the remaining intestine thickens, creating many folds in the process. These folds create a very large surface for the absorption of nutrients during digestion.
Once metamorphosis is complete, tiny Cuban tree frogs will leave the water and live on land.
At this point, Cuban tree frogs become obligate carnivores, which means they stop eating plant matter and will only eat animal-based foods.
Their diet will shift away from aquatic prey and toward mainly terrestrial prey. However, since they are not fully grown yet, they can only eat small live prey.
Wild Juvenile Cuban tree frogs will eat:
- Ants, mites
- Small worms, small snails, slugs
- Spiders, termites, springtails
- Beetles, fruit flies, and other small insects
As they grow in size, they will be able to eat larger prey.
What Adult Cuban Tree Frogs Eat in the Wild
Adult green tree frogs are fully grown, meaning they have bigger mouths and stronger jaws. They can eat all the food they ate as juveniles, but their larger size allows them to also eat things they did not eat as juveniles.
Here’s a list of things that make up an adult Cuban tree frog’s diet in the wild:
- Termites, ants, flies, mosquitoes
- Pillbugs, ticks, mites springtails
- Spiders, centipedes, millipedes
- Slugs, snails,
- Small worms
- Caterpillars, & other insect larvae (such as maggots, moth larvae, grubs, etc.)
- Beetles, stinkbugs, moths, butterflies, bees
- Flies, grasshoppers, tree crickets, and a wide variety of other insects
- Lizards, snakes, small frogs
Cuban tree frogs are very opportunistic predators and will eat almost any prey small enough for them to swallow whole.
They will also eat lizards, small snakes, and even other frogs.
Invasive Cuban tree frogs in Florida have been extensively documented eating several of Florida’s native frogs, and are thought to be responsible for the decline of some native tree frog species, especially in urbanized areas.
What Cuban Tree Frogs Eat In Captivity
Captive Cuban tree frogs can eat all the food they would eat in the wild. The only reason they have a different diet is that most hobbyists cannot easily obtain the wide variety of prey these frogs eat in the wild.
So they are limited to only prey items they can purchase or culture on their own.
Here’s a list of things you can feed a Cuban tree frog in captivity:
- Crickets, dubia roaches, orange head roaches
- Wingless fruit flies, nightcrawlers
- Mealworms, waxworms, Super worms,
- Phoenix Worms, black soldier fly larvae
- Silkworms, hornworms etc
Cuban tree frogs are not picky eaters, and will readily accept most soft-bodied invertebrates. Crickets or dubia roaches can make up a majority of their diet. However, the key to a healthy frog is a varied and nutritious diet, so remember to switch up the food items offered every few feedings.
Be careful to feed the proper size prey for your frog’s size. A good rule of thumb is that a cricket should never be larger than the distance between the frog’s eyes, or the distance from its eyes to its nose.
Also, IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED to feed red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) to captive amphibians. This is because they exude a noxious fluid that contains a toxin known as Lysenin – which is poisonous to many animals.
When feeding insects with a hard exoskeleton to your pet (such as mealworms or super worms), try to make sure the insects have recently molted, as an insect with a large, hard exoskeleton is difficult to digest and may cause impaction.
As for fruit flies, I recommend Hydei fruit flies as they are considerably bigger than the Melanogaster fruit flies and make a richer meal for your frog.
Can You Feed a Captive Cuban Tree Frog Wild Bugs?
You could feed your Cuban tree frog wild-caught bugs. Just be 100% sure they are from a clean area that’s free of pesticides or other chemicals. Avoid feeding bugs that can sting or bite, such as large spiders, hornets, bees, etc.
However, it is generally not a good idea to feed captive toads wild bugs or other wild prey. This is because wild insects may carry diseases and parasites that your frog is vulnerable to.
Also, wild bugs in a seemingly clean area could be carrying pesticides they picked up from another area.
Gut-Loading & Nutrient Supplements
Captive-bred feeder insects are often raised on a cost-conscious diet that is meant to help them grow quickly. This means they are not as nutritious as wild insects that eat a wide variety of vitamin and mineral-rich food.
If your frog is given a low-nutrient diet, it could develop health problems such as metabolic bone disease – which is a fairly common issue in captive amphibians.
For this reason, it is important to increase the nutritional value of the food you give to your frog.
This is mainly done in two ways: dusting, and gut loading.
Gut loading is the process by which feeder insects are fed nutrient-dense foods at least 48 hours before they are offered to the frog. The intention is to pass those nutrients on to the toad when the insects are eaten.
The process is simple
- Give your feeder insects nutrient-dense foods, such as fresh vegetables with lots of vitamin C.
- After eating this food, the feeder insects will be much more nutritious and pass the nutrients on to the frog when they are eaten.
Besides gut loading, another way to ensure your frog gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs is by dusting its food with high-quality powder calcium and vitamin supplements.
Most hobbyists use commercially manufactured supplement powder specifically designed for reptiles and amphibians.
The process is simple:
- First, add a small pinch of supplement powder into a small container such as a cup or an empty cereal container. The powder should only be enough to lightly dust the insects.
- Place one feeding’s worth of feeder insects in the container
- Gently shake the container so the supplements lightly coat the insects
- Once finished, you can offer the dusted insects to your frog
It is a good idea to consult a veterinarian for specific directions on supplementing your pet’s food since many variables go into determining the best supplementation regimen for each animal.
Following your veterinarian’s instructions could help you avoid over-supplementing food.
Otherwise, a good starting point is to dust with a good quality calcium supplement fortified with vitamin D3, 2-3 times a week.
How Much & How Often to Feed Your Cuban Tree Frog
Generally, adult Cuban tree frogs will have to be fed every two or three days, while young frogs will need to be fed every day or two.
However, this is not set in stone. If an adult does not eat much during feeding sessions, they may have to be fed every other day.
In addition, the enclosure’s temperature will determine the feeding frequency.
If the temperature is low, your Cuban tree frog will have a slower metabolism and be less active, so it won’t need to eat much.
At warmer temperatures, your Cuban tree frog will have a much faster metabolism and will need to be fed much more frequently (every other day).
Regarding how much to feed your Cuban tree frog, the general rule is to only offer as much as the frog can eat in a 20-minute feeding session.
Be careful to not overfeed your frog. Use personal judgment to ensure most of the food offered is being consumed.
How Long Can a Cuban Tree Frog Go Without Food?
Generally, healthy adult Cuban frogs can go for as long as two weeks without food if the environmental temperatures are low, and the frogs have a reduced rate of metabolism.
Juvenile Cuban frogs can not survive long without food as they are still growing and have higher energy needs.
However, this isn’t to say you should test the endurance of your frog.
In most situations, it’s a good idea to offer food to your Cuban tree frog at least two to three times per week.
What Human Foods Can a Cuban Tree Frog Eat?
Adult Cuban tree frogs are obligate carnivores that are instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, they will not eat the vast majority of human food.
Humans do not typically eat live food and tend to cook most of their food, so human food will not even register as food to most frogs, including Wood frogs. If you try to offer human food to a Cuban tree frog, it will not eat it.
How to Feed a Cuban Tree Frog in Captivity
The most straightforward way to feed a frog is to simply dump the food into its enclosure and let the frog have its fill.
However, some amphibian owners find it easier and safer to feed their pets in a separate enclosure, free of bedding and furniture.
This way you can be sure your frog eats all its insects, the prey cannot hide, and the frog will not pick up any bedding when grabbing prey and mistakenly ingest it along with the prey.
Some frogs, especially those that are still getting used to a new place may be shy and reluctant to eat. In this case, you could entice the frog to eat with the use of some feeding tongs.
Use the tongs to gently hold the food item, then rub it near the nose of the frog. Once he sees it, he will grab it and eat it.
Why Isn’t My Cuban Tree Frog Eating?
It Is Still Getting Used to a New Place or Is Shy
The most common reason a frog won’t eat is that it is under stress, or still getting used to a new place. This is a very common problem with newly acquired frogs
To remedy this, try hand-feeding the frog with the help of feeding tongs/tweezers. Use the tongs to gently hold the prey item, and wiggle it in front of the frog to entice it to eat.
If this does not work try moving the frog to a dark room, and leave it alone to relax and settle down for a while. In the wild, Cuban tree frogs are mainly nocturnal creatures, so they will be more active in the dark.
You Are Feeding the Frog at the Wrong Time of the Day
Despite being mainly nocturnal, Cuban tree frogs can usually eat at any time of the day. However, sometimes individual frogs may have their own feeding preferences.
If your Cuban tree frog won’t eat during the day, try feeding it just before the lights turn off in its enclosure. Or, If you’re not using a UVB light, during the evening time as the sun is going down.
The Prey Item Being Offered Is Too Big
Another reason a Cuban tree frog may reject food is that the prey item you are offering is just too big. Remember, frogs do not chew their food, so they will not eat anything they can now swallow whole.
As a general rule, never offer a frog any prey larger than the distance between its eyes.
It Is Not Accustomed to the Food Item Being Offered
Another possible reason a frog may reject food is that it is not used to eating the food you are offering. Try switching the food item being offered. Most Cuban tree frogs will readily accept live crickets and other soft-bodied invertebrates.
The Environmental Temperatures Are Low
Remember, frogs are ectothermic (cold-blooded animals). When the temperatures are low, they will have a lower rate of metabolism, and be less active, so they won’t have the biggest appetite.
This is perfectly normal, and the frog will have a much better appetite when the temperatures are warmer.
Common Feeding Mistakes
There are a few common mistakes many new frog owners make when feeding their pets.
Using Dead Bugs
In the wild, frogs are ambush hunters that are attracted to prey by movement (motion). For this reason, Cuban tree frogs won’t eat dead bugs. If you offer your green tree frog dead bugs, it will most likely ignore the food and starve. You should only offer live bugs and other prey items.
Using the Wrong-Sized Feeder Insects
Frogs do not chew their food but rather swallow it whole. Feeding a tiny frog a disproportionately large insect could lead it to choke.
Never give a frog anything larger than the distance between its eyes. The bigger the frog, the larger the prey it will be able to eat.
Forgetting to Gut Load Insects
As mentioned earlier, captive-bred feeder insects do not contain as many nutrients as wild insects. They are often raised on a cost-conscious diet that is aimed at making them grow quickly and keeping costs low.
Forgetting to gut load or dust insects before feeding them to your Cuban tree frog means the frog will not get all the nutrients it needs. This nutritional deficiency can lead to serious health problems, and could even be fatal.
Not Using a Varied Diet
Different food items have different nutrients. Not giving a frog a varied diet means it will not get the right variety of nutrients it needs and may end up weak and malnourished.
Switch up the food items offered to the frog every few feedings so it gets a nutrient-rich diet.
Feeding Food With High-Fat Content Too Often
Captive frogs are not very active animals, so they do not burn off calories. This means giving a captive frog high-fat food (such as wax worms) too often may lead to obesity.
Obesity can then lead to many health problems. For this reason, it is important to limit food with a high fat content to only an occasional treat.
Overfeeding a frog can lead to obesity, which could lead to several health problems. Alternatively, underfeeding means the frog will be undernourished and have poor health
Common Questions About Cuban Tree Frog Diet
Do Cuban tree frogs eat other frogs? Cuban tree frogs are opportunistic predators and are known to eat other frogs when they get the chance. Researchers studied the stomach contents of Cuban tree frogs in South Florida and found that approximately 3.5% of all stomachs examined contained anuran remains.
Do Cuban tree frogs eat lizards? Cuban tree frogs are not picky eaters and will eat small lizards, and even small snakes they can catch, overpower, and fit into their mouths.
Do Cuban tree frogs eat mosquitoes? Cuban tree frog tadpoles eat mosquito larvae in the ponds they live in. Adult Cuban tree frogs eat mosquitoes, found in their environments. For this reason, Cuban tree frogs (and other frog species) help control the population of these pest insects.
Do Cuban tree frogs eat geckos? Cuban tree frogs will eat small geckos they can catch. They are very opportunistic predators and will eat almost any prey they fit into their mouths.
What do baby Cuban tree frogs eat? Cuban tree frogs start as tadpoles that eat algae, soft plants, and small invertebrates. Over time, the tadpoles will transform into baby Cuban tree frogs that are obligate carnivores. Once transformed, baby Cuban tree frogs will eat small snails, slugs, ants, mites, termites, beetles, craneflies, and other small insects.
What do Cuban tree frog tadpoles eat? Cuban tree frog tadpoles are mostly herbivorous and eat algae, the soft roots, and leaves of aquatic plants, plankton, and detritus.
As the tadpoles grow their intestinal tract will gradually shorten, and they will also eat animal protein such as aquatic insect larvae, small insects that fall into the water, worms, and carcasses in the water
Glorioso, B. M., J. H. Waddle, M. E. Crockett, K. G. Rice, and H. F. Percival. 2012. “Diet of the Invasive Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Pine Rockland and Mangrove Habitats in South Florida.” Caribbean Journal of Science 46:346–355. https://doi.org/10.18475/cjos.v46i2.a25
IFAS Extension Univerisity of Florida. The Cuban Treefrog in Florida.