Gray tree frogs are fairly large tree frogs with rough, warty skin. Like most other frogs, they are obligate carnivores as adults, which means they eat animal protein instead of plants or vegetation.
Gray tree frogs are opportunistic predators – but they are mainly insectivores. In the wild, gray tree frogs eat worms, snails, spiders, ants, flies, moths, and a wide variety of other insects. In captivity, they can be fed earthworms, crickets, small silkworms, and other soft-bodied insects.
Gray 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 gray 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. But most of their diet will consist of bugs.
What Gray Tree Frog Tadpoles Eat in the Wild
Gray 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 about three to seven days.
After hatching, the tadpoles will have poorly developed gills, mouths, and tails – so they can not properly swim or eat yet.
For this reason, they 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 4 -7 days, the tadpoles would have developed enough to start free swimming and feeding on food sources available in the water.
They will start eating:
- Roots and leaves of aquatic plants (eg. duckweed mosses)
- Small animal matter
At this early stage, tadpoles have long coiled intestines that are specially designed to digest vegetable matter.
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.
As they grow their intestinal tract will gradually shorten, allowing the tadpoles to eat animal matter, since it is easier to digest.
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
Whatever they eat, they will eat constantly. They have high energy demands because they are growing very rapidly. Growing big as fast as possible is necessary for survival, as they are an easy meal for most predators.
What Juvenile Gray Tree Fogs (Froglets) Eat in the Wild
After about 4 – 8 weeks, the tadpoles will go through a process known as metamorphosis, in which they will lose their larval features, and develop features for life on land.
Once this process is complete, tiny gray tree frogs (approximately 0.6 inches in length) called “froglets” or “metamorphs”, will leave the water and live on land. The newly transformed froglets are usually bright green.
At this point, gray tree frogs become obligate carnivores, which means they stop eating plant matter and will only eat animal matter.
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 gray tree frogs will eat:
- Ants, Mites
- Small worms, small slugs & snails
- Spiders, Termites, Crane flies, and other small insects.
As they grow in size, they will be able to eat larger prey.
What Adult Gray Tree Frogs Eat in the Wild
Adult gray 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.
Adult gray tree frogs (and froglets) are instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, they will only eat live prey and will avoid dead bugs.
In fact, many insects use playing dead as a way to avoid predators, including gray tree frogs, and other frogs.
Here’s a list of things that make up an adult gray tree frog’s diet in the wild:
- Mites, ants, plant lice, spiders, snails, slugs
- Moths, butterflies, flies, grasshoppers, tree crickets, beetles
- Grubs, and other insect larvae (such as moth larvae)
- Small millipedes & centipedes
- Termites, Springtails
- Mosquitoes, crane flies, and a wide variety of other insects
In the wild, Gray tree frogs find most of their food in the trees and shrubs. They are very acrobatic and will often jump between branches to seek out and catch prey.
Sometimes, they wander into residential areas and into people’s yards and sit by the porch light to catch moths and other bugs that are drawn to the light.
As earlier mentioned, gray tree frogs are insectivores, so bugs will make up the majority of their diet. One study at the University of Missouri examined the stomach contents of gray tree frogs in central Missouri and found that ants and beetles were 70.8% of their diet.
Also, since tree frogs do not spend much of their time in the water, gray tree frogs typically do not eat aquatic prey. This is in contrast to other frogs such as leopard frogs that very regularly eat small fish and other aquatic prey.
What Adult Gray Tree Frogs Eat In Captivity
Captive gray 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.
However, even in captivity, it’s a good idea to keep your gray tree frogs diet as close to its wild diet as possible. This means you have to feed it live prey.
Feeder crickets seem to be a favorite among many gray tree frog owners. It is recommended to gut load the crickets to make them more nutritious (more information on that is below).
Here’s a list of things you can feed a gray tree frog in captivity:
- Crickets, dubia roaches, flightless fruit flies
- Mealworms, wax worms
- Small silkworms & hornworms
Gray tree frogs are not very picky eaters and will readily accept most soft-bodied invertebrates. Crickets can make up a majority of their diet. However, a varied diet is recommended so other food items can be substituted for crickets every two or three feedings.
The only problem with certain feeders, for example, dubia roaches and mealworms – is that they tend to burrow under the substrate of the frog’s enclosure, – so they will not be visible and the frog can not eat them.
To get around this, you could try putting them in a small ceramic dish. Doing this will prevent them from moving around too much (and burrowing), and it will also make them more visible to the frog, so it can eat them.
If you want to feed your frog mealworms, it’s a good idea to only use the ones that have just shed, and still have soft bodies, as the hard exoskeleton of mature mealworms is very hard for gray tree frogs to digest.
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 Gray Tree Frog Wild Bugs?
You could feed your gray treefrog 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
Still, it is generally not a very good idea to feed captive frogs wild bugs or other wild prey. Pet frogs raised in a controlled environment often have weaker immune systems than those in the wild.
For this reason, feeding them wild bugs could expose them to parasites and diseases they are vulnerable to. Also, wild bugs in a seemingly clean area could be carrying pesticides they picked up from another area.
Gut-Loading & Nutrient Supplements
In the wild, frogs get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the wide variety of prey they eat. In captivity, their diet is limited to only a few things.
Also, 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.
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 hrs before they are offered to the frog. The intention is to pass those nutrients on to the frog when the insects are eaten.
In this context, you want to give your crickets, or other feeder insects, foods with lots of nutrients – for example, fresh fruits and vegetables with lots of vitamin C.
After consuming this food, the 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 gray tree 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 feedings 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 important to know what calcium formula is right for your pet, whether it be no D3, low D3, or high D3.
Since gray tree frogs are nocturnal, they are not going to metabolize the D3 from the sun – but will instead absorb it from their diet. For this reason, it’s recommended that you use a calcium supplement that is high in D3.
It’s a good idea to alternate between a calcium a multi-vitamin powder. If you dust with a calcium powder, next time remember to dust with a multi-vitamin powder instead, and vice-versa.
How Much & How Often to Feed Your Gray Tree Frog
Generally, adult gray tree frogs will have to be fed every two or three days, while young gray tree frogs will need to be fed every day or two. However, the temperature of the enclosure will determine the frequency of feeding.
If the temperature is low, your gray tree frog will have a slower metabolism and be less active, so feeding once a week will be enough.
At warmer temperatures, your frog will have a much faster metabolism and will need to be fed much more frequently (two to three times per week).
Regarding how much to feed your gray tree frog, the general rule is to only offer as much as the frog can eat in a 20-minute feeding session.
For adults, this usually means between three and six crickets but there is no absolute figure here; so it has to be learned with a bit of experimentation.
Start by feeding 3 crickets per day. If the frog eats all the food items the first day, increase the amount your offer by 1 cricket. If there are always crickets left over after a feeding session, you may be feeding the frog too many crickets.
Monitor the number of food item items left over after each feeding. In addition to this, keep an eye on the weight of your frog to ensure it is not becoming overweight.
How Long Can a Gray Tree Frog Go Without Food?
Generally, healthy adult gray tree frogs can go for as long as two weeks without food if the environmental temperatures are low, and the frogs are not very active. However, this isn’t to say you should test the endurance of your frog.
In most situations, it’s a good idea to feed your gray tree frog at least two times per week.
What Gray Tree Frog Tadpoles Eat In Captivity
Gray tree frog tadpoles have a different diet from the metamorphosed adults. During the first 4 – 7 days after they hatch, they will absorb the remaining yolk around them so feeding won’t be necessary.
Once the tadpoles begin moving around and free swimming, you can start feeding them boiled and finely chopped vegetables such as:
- Baby spinach
Apart from vegetables, you can also feed:
- Algae wafers
- Aquatic frog and tadpole food
Like the adults and juveniles, gray tree frog tadpoles need a varied diet so it’s important to rotate their diet. You can use both vegetables and commercial food to give greater variety.
If you cannot find commercial tadpole food suitable for tree frogs, you could make your own by finely grinding fish flakes (Tetra tropical) in a blender – until you get a fine powder. You may have to sift the ground food through a small wire mesh sieve to remove larger pieces.
The tadpoles have to be fed daily, but be careful not to overfeed. All food should be eaten within 3 – 4 hours. If there is excess food in the water, it should be removed.
What Juvenile (Baby) Gray Tree Frogs Eat In Captivity
When the tadpoles go through metamorphosis (in about 3 – 4 months) and transform into froglets, they become obligate carnivores – so they have to be fed small live prey.
Since they are not fully grown yet, they have to be fed a smaller version of their adult diet. The food has to be gut-loaded or dusted with supplements.
Baby gray frogs can be fed:
- Pinhead crickets
- Wingless fruit flies
- Small mealworms
As the froglets grow in size, they will be able to eat larger things.
What Human Foods Can a Gray Tree Frog Eat?
Adult gray tree frogs are obligate carnivores that are instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, they only eat live prey and 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 gray tree frogs. If you try to offer human food to a gray tree frog, it most likely will not eat it and will starve.
How to Feed a Gray Tree Frog in Captivity
The easiest way to feed a gray tree frog is to simply dump the food into its enclosure and let the frog have its fill.
However, 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.
Also, it’s a good idea to tong-feed when you want to give your frog certain feeders (such as mealworms, dubia roaches, or earthworms) that aren’t very active or tend to hide under the substrate.
Why Isn’t My Gray Tree Frog Eating?
1. 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, gray tree frogs are nocturnal creatures, so they will be more active in the dark.
2. You Are Feeding the Frog at the Wrong Time of the Day
Despite being nocturnal, gray tree frogs can usually eat at any time of the day. However, sometimes individual frogs may have their own feeding preferences.
If your gay 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.
3. The Prey Item Being Offered Is Too Big
Another reason a gray 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.
4. It Is Not Accustomed to the Food Item Being Offered
Another possible reason a gray tree 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 gray tree frogs will readily accept live crickets.
5. 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 several mistakes frog owners make when feeding their pets:
Feeding Dead Insects
Gray tree frogs are ambush hunters that hunt for live/moving prey, so they won’t even attempt to eat dead insects. For this reason, you should only offer live prey items to your gray tree frogs.
Forgetting to Dust or Gut-Load Feeder Insects
As mentioned earlier, commercially bred feeder insects are often low in nutrition. Remember to dust or gut-load all your feeder insects before feeding them to your gray tree frog. This will ensure that your frog gets all the nutrients it needs and stays strong and healthy.
Not Using a Varied Diet
Different food items have different nutrients. Not giving a gray tree 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.
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 your gray tree frog anything larger than the distance between its eyes. The bigger the frog, the larger the prey it will be able to eat.
Feeding Food With a High-Fat Content Too Often
Captive frogs are not very active animals, so they do not burn off calories. This means giving a gray tree 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.
Frogs are voracious feeders so overfeeding them is a real possibility. Overfeeding can lead to obesity which could, in turn, lead to the frog developing health problems.
Alternatively, underfeeding your frog means it will go hungry and have poor health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Do gray tree frogs eat crickets?
Gray frogs do indeed eat crickets. In fact, crickets can make up a majority of a pet (captive) gray tree frog’s diet. Just remember to dust or gut-load the crickets to make them more nutritious. Also, a varied diet is recommended so other food items can be substituted for crickets every few feedings.
Do gray tree frogs eat mealworms?
Gray tree frogs can eat mealworms but are not the best food option for your frog. Mealworms are high in fat, have little meat, and have a hard exoskeleton that is difficult to digest. Small silkworms or hornworms are a better choice as they have more meat and a soft exoskeleton, that is easy to digest.
If you want to feed your frog mealworms, it’s a good idea to only use the ones that have just shed, and still have soft bodies, as the hard chitin exoskeleton of mature mealworms is very hard for gray tree frogs to digest.
Do gray tree frogs eat worms?
In the wild, gray tree frogs will eat any worms they can catch – and In captivity, they will readily accept earthworms. To feed worms to a captive gray tree frog, put the worms in a small plastic or ceramic dish. Doing this will make the worms more visible to the frog, so it can eat them.
Alternatively, you could tong-feed your frog to entice it to eat the worms.
Do gray tree frogs eat rolly pollies (pill bugs)?
Gray tree frogs do eat rolly pollies when given the chance. Adult rolly pollies have a hard exoskeleton that is difficult to digest, so it’s not a good idea to offer them to your gray tree frog. However, baby and juvenile rolly pollies are small and soft-bodied, so they will be an awesome treat for a gray tree frog.
Do gray tree frogs eat fruit?
Adult gray tree frogs are obligate carnivores, so they will not eat fruit, vegetables, or any other plant matter.
What do baby gray tree frogs eat?
Gray tree frogs start as tadpoles that eat algae, soft plants, and small invertebrates. Over time, the tadpoles will transform into baby gray tree frogs that are obligate carnivores. Once transformed, baby gray tree frogs will eat ants, mites, termites, craneflies, and other small insects.
Gray tree frogs are opportunistic feeders that will make the best use of the food sources available in their environment. However, most of their diet will consist of ants and bugs.
Captive gray tree frogs can be fed crickets, dubia roaches, small silkworms, and other soft-bodied bugs.
If you are reading this because you’ve recently acquired a gray tree frog, you do not need to worry because these frogs are relatively easy to feed and care for.
Just remember to give a varied diet and don’t forget to dust or gut-load feeder insects so your gray tree frog gets all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.