What Do Leopard Frogs Eat? [Wild and Captive Diet in Detail]

Leopard frogs are mediumly-sized frogs found across much of the Northern part of North America. These frogs are easy to care for and make excellent pets even for inexperienced frog owners. Like most frogs, leopard frogs are obligate carnivores, which means they eat animal protein instead of plants or vegetation. But what do leopard frogs eat?

Leopard frogs are generalist predators that will eat almost any prey they can fit into their mouths. Snails, slugs, spiders, earthworms, and a wide variety of insects make up most of their diet in the wild. In captivity, they can be fed crickets, dubia roaches, nightcrawlers, silkworms, and the occasional pinkie mouse. 

Leopard frogs develop in 2 main life stages. 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 leopard frogs that most people are more familiar with.

At this point, they become obligate carnivores and will eat a wide variety they can catch. But most of their diet will consist of insects.

What a Leopard Frog Will Eat at the Different Stages of Its Life

Female leopard frogs lay eggs masses and attach them to sticks and other vegetation just below or on the water surface of breeding ponds. The egg masses are laid in areas of the pool that receive lots of sunlight.

After about one to two weeks, tiny leopard frog tadpoles will emerge from these eggs. The tadpoles are entirely aquatic and have external gills and a paddle-like tailfin for their life in the water.

Nine to twelve weeks later, the tadpoles will transform into tiny froglets (adult form leopard frogs) that can live on land.

Leopard frog life cycle

During these life stages, leopard frogs will have a slightly different diet, based on their size, and the food sources in their environment.

What Baby Leopard Frogs Eat in the Wild

Leopard 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 one to three weeks.

After hatching, the tadpoles will have poorly developed gills, mouths, and tails – so they can not properly swim or eat yet.

For this reason, the tadpoles will spend the first 7 -10 days feeding on the remaining yolk of the eggs. This will provide them with enough energy to grow and develop further.

What leopard frog tadpoles eat in the wildAfter 10 days, the tadpoles would have developed enough to start free swimming and feeding on food sources available in the water.

They will start eating:

  • Algae
  • Roots and leaves of aquatic plants like duckweed mosses
  • Plankton
  • 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 start to eat:

  • Aquatic insect larvae (glass worms, mosquito larvae, etc) 
  • Water striders
  • Small insects that fall into the water 
  • Fish eggs
  • Amphibian eggs
  • Worms
  • Carcasses in the water 

Large tadpoles may also eat small and immature fish, small snails, slugs, fairy shrimp, and other small aquatic invertebrates.

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.

If food is limited, large tadpoles can turn into cannibals and eat smaller tadpoles.

What Juvenile Leopard Frogs (Froglets) Eat in the Wild

After about 4 – 6 weeks, the tadpoles will slowly begin to go through a process known as metamorphosis, in which they will lose their larval features, and develop features for a life on land.

During this process, the tadpoles will lose their gills, develop lungs to breathe air, develop strong legs for moving on land, and, the tail shortens and is eventually absorbed into the body.

Once this process is complete (which usually takes about 3 -6 months), tiny leopard frogs called froglets, will leave the water and live on land.

At this point, they become obligate carnivores, which means they stop eating plant matter and will only eat animal matter.

What Juvenile leopard frogs eat in the wild

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 leopard frogs will eat:

  • Ants
  • Mites
  • Small worms
  • Small snails, slugs
  • Spiders
  •  Termites 
  • Springtails 
  • Crane flies
  • Fruit flies, and other small insects

As they grow in size, they will be able to eat slightly larger prey.

What Adult Leopard Frogs Eat in the wild

Adult leopard frogs are fully grown, meaning they have bigger mouths and stronger jaws. They basically eat a larger version of the diet they did as juveniles, but they also eat a few things they did not eat as juveniles.

What adult leopard frogs eat in the wildLike the juveniles, adult leopard frogs generally prefer to eat live prey and will almost never eat insects or animals.

Here’s a list of things that make up an adult Leopard frogs diet in the wild:

  • Worms, grubs 
  • Beetles, wasps, beesgrasshoppers, cockroaches, spiders
  • Tadpoles, snails, slugs, leeches, small fish
  • Aquatic larvae, fish eggs, amphibian eggs
  • Small frogs, Lizards, Baby snakes, small birds, Small mice
  • Centipedes, millipedes
  • Mosquitos, termites, ants, woodlice, mites, springtails
  • Fruit flies crane flies, sawflies, mosquitos 
  • Crickets, moths, butterflies, and a wide variety of other insects

Adult leopard frogs are opportunistic predators. They will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths – even other leopard frogs, as long as these are small enough to be snacked on

They are mostly ambush hunters, which means they sit and wait for prey to come along. They then pounce with their powerful legs, catch the prey with long, tacky tongues and swallow it whole.

Although adult leopard frogs eat a wide variety of prey, they generally prefer soft-bodied invertebrates as they are easier to digest.

What Adult Leopard frogs Eat In Captivity

Captive leopard 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.

What leopard frogs eat in captivityThese live prey items can be purchased in a pet store, online, or even from another hobbyist. Most pet shops that sell fish also sell live worms.

Alternatively, you could culture feeder insects at home if you are up for the challenge.

Here’s a list of things you can feed a leopard frog in captivity:

  • Crickets, Dubia roaches, Orange Head roaches
  • Nightcrawlers, red wigglers
  • Mealworms, waxworms, Super worms, Phoenix Worms, Black soldier fly larvae
  • Silkworms, hornworms
  • The occasional pinkie mouse

Some leopard frogs will also eat or attempt to eat aquatic animals like ghost shrimp and feeder guppies.

The key to a proper diet for captive leopard frogs is variety. Crickets and roaches can make up their diet. However, it is essential that they are supplemented with a good variety of worms, and other insects such as silkworms and hornworms.

Also, captive amphibians are prone to obesity, so it’s important to limit high-fat foods such as pinkie mice or wax worms to occasional treats(not more than once per month).

However, overly thin leopard frogs can be offered pinkie mice or wax worms every few feedings to help them put on a healthy weight.

Can You Feed a Captive Leopard Frog Wild Bugs?

You could feed your leopard wild-caught bugs. Just be 100% sure they are from a clean area that’s free of pesticides or other chemicals. Avoid feeding them bugs that can sting or bite, such as large spiders, hornets, bees, etc

Still, it is generally not a very good idea to feed your captive leopard frog wild bugs or other wild prey. Pet frogs 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, leopard 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 foo

If your leopard frog is given a low-nutrient diet, it could develop several health problems. 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

Gut loading is the process by which an animal’s prey is fed nutritious foods at least 48 hours before it is fed to the animal. The intention is to pass those nutrients on to the animal for which the prey is intended. 

In this context, you want to give your crickets, or other feeder insects, fresh fruits and vegetables (such as spinach or carrots) that are rich in vitamins and minerals.

After eating this nutritious food, the insects will pass the nutrients on to the frog when they are eaten.

Dusting

Besides gut loading, another way to ensure your leopard frog gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs is by dusting its food with calcium and vitamin supplements.

Most hobbyists use commercially manufactured supplement powder.

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. If your leopard frog gets UVB from a light source, low D or no D is usually the best. However, if your frog doesn’t have a UVB light source, high D is preferable.

Occasionally skipping a dusting or gut load is fine. But make sure to dust or gut load the feeder insects the majority of the time.

How Much & How Often to Feed Your Leopard Frog

Adult leopard frogs will need to be fed two to three times per week, while younger leopard frogs will need to be every day or two. However, frogs are ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, so the temperature will influence the feeding frequency.

They will generally have an increased appetite at higher temperatures and a reduced appetite when the temperatures are lower.

Regarding how much to feed your leopard frog, the general rule is to only offer it as much as it can eat in a single feeding session.

Most frogs will stop eating when they have had their fill, so this can be learned with a little bit of experimentation. Use personal judgment to ensure most of the food offered is being consumed.

Start by feeding each frog 2 – 3 food items per day. If the frog eats all the food items the first day, increase the amount you give it by 1 food item. If there are always food items leftover, you may be feeding the frog

Monitor the number of food 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.

Avoid leaving uneaten bugs (such as crickets) in the frog’s enclosure for too long as they could bite or irritate the frog. Remove all uneaten food within 6 hours of feeding.

How Long Can a Leopard Frog Go Without Food?

Most healthy adult leopard frogs can go for as long as 3 to 4 weeks without food, especially if the environmental temperatures are low and the frogs are not very active.

Juvenile leopard frogs should not go over a week without food because their bodies have high energy needs as they are still developing.

However, this isn’t to say you should starve your leopard frogs. In most situations, it’s recommended to feed your adult frogs at least 2 times per week. A feeding frequency of at least 3 times per week is recommended for juvenile leopard frogs.

What Baby Leopard Frogs (Tadpoles) Eat In Captivity

Leopard frog tadpoles have a different diet from the metamorphosed adults. During the first 4 – 6 after they hatch, they will mainly eat plant matter.

They can be fed boiled and chopped vegetables such as:

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Baby spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Commercial algae flakes

After about 6 weeks, the tadpoles would have grown enough to eat animal protein. You can begin to feed the tadpoles insect larvae, bloodworms, or other animal protein. However, a mostly herbivorous diet is the healthiest option for your tadpoles.

Northern leopard frog tadpole feeding
Photo by: Andrew DuBois/flickr

Alternatively could also use food designed specifically for aquatic amphibians and tadpoles. Just be sure you pick the correct kind. When the tadpoles are less than 6 weeks, they should only be fed tadpole food that’s labeled ” early stage.”

If you cannot find tadpole food specifically made for early-stage tadpoles, you could also use vegetable-based flake fish food and algae flakes.

Once the tadpoles are over 6 weeks old, you can start feeding them late-stage tadpole food, as well as fish flakes with animal protein. In fact, this stage, leopard frog tadpoles will eat most standard aquarium fish foods.

Like the adults and juveniles, leopard frog tadpoles need a varied diet so rotate their diet. You can use both vegetables and commercial food to give greater variety.

They have to be fed daily, but be careful not to overfeed. All food should be eaten within an hour or less. If there is excess food in the water it should be removed.

What Human Foods Can a Leopard Frog Eat?

Adult leopard 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 leopard frogs. If you try to offer them human food, they will not eat it and will starve.

Why Isn’t My Leopard Frog Eating?

1. It is still getting used to a new place or is shy

The most common reason a leopard 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, leopard frogs are nocturnal creatures, so they will be more active in the dark.

2. The Prey Item Being Offered Is Too Big

Another reason a leopard 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.

3. It Is Not Accustomed to the Food Item Being Offered

Another possible reason a leopard may reject food is that it is not used to eating the food you are offering. Try switching the food item being offered. Most frogs will readily accept worms and bugs

4. The Environmental Temperatures Are Low

A fourth possible reason for a leopard may be the temperature. Remember, frogs are ectothermic 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 with an increase in the temperature.

Common Feeding Mistakes

There are several mistakes 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, leopard frogs won’t eat dead bugs. If you offer your leopard frog dead bugs, it will most likely ignore the food and starve. You should only offer live bugs and other prey items.

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 leopard 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 leopard 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 a High-Fat Content Too Often

Captive frogs are not very active animals, so they do not burn off calories. This means giving a captive leopard frog high-fat food (such as wax worms or pinkie mice) 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/ Underfeeding

Leopard frogs have huge appetites, so overfeeding is a real possibility. Obesity could lead to several health problems. Alternatively, underfeeding means the salamander will be undernourished and have poor health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Do leopard frogs eat fish? Leopard frogs eat fish that are small enough to fit into their mouths. These include small goldfish, small minnows, small crayfish, guppies, and other small fish.

Do leopard frogs eat mealworms? Leopard frogs eat mealworms. However, mealworms are not the best food option for leopard frogs. They are high in fat, have little meat, and have a hard exoskeleton that is difficult to digest. Hornworms or silkworms are a better choice as they have more meat and a soft exoskeleton, that is easy to digest.

Do leopard frogs eat tadpoles? Leopard frogs are known to eat tadpoles, including their own and other frog’s tadpoles. When there is a fresh hatch of tadpoles, this will attract many leopard frogs to a feeding frenzy.

Do leopard frogs eat other frogs? Leopard frogs will eat other frogs as long as they are small enough to fit in their mouths. Sometimes, they will even eat other leopard frogs.

Do leopard frogs eat worms? Leopard frogs will eat any worms they can catch. But they mostly eat earthworms.

Final Thoughts

Leopard frogs are very opportunistic predators that make the best use of the food sources in their environment. They are mainly insectivores, which means their diet consists mostly of live insect prey.

However, they will eat almost any prey they can fit into their mouths.

If you have a pet leopard frog, remember to give it a varied diet and gut load or dust feeder insects every few feedings so your frog gets all the nutrients it needs!

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