What Do Spring Peepers Eat?

Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are small, slender tree frogs found throughout much of the eastern part of North America. Like most frogs, spring peepers are obligate carnivores as adults, which means they eat animal protein instead of plants or vegetation.

Spring peepers are opportunistic predators – but they are mainly insectivores. In the wild, they eat worms, snails, slugs, mites, spiders, ants, beetles, flies, and a wide variety of other insects. In captivity, they can eat earthworms, crickets, small silkworms, and other soft-bodied insects. 

Spring peepers develop in two main life stages. They start their lives as tiny tadpoles that live entirely in the water. At this stage, they eat algae, plant tissue, and detritus in their aquatic environments.

After about 2 – 3 months, these tadpoles will through a process known as metamorphosis and develop into the adult form spring peepers 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 ants and insects.

What Spring Peeper Tadpoles Eat in the Wild

Spring peepers start their lives as tiny embryos inside egg sacs. 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 4 to 15 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.

What spring peeper tadpoles eat in the wild

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, spring peeper tadpoles are almost completely herbivorous, and will eat:

  • Algae
  • Soft roots and leaves of aquatic plants (eg. duckweed mosses)
  • Phytoplankton
  • Detritus (mostly composed of degraded plant materials)

A few weeks into their development, the tadpoles start to grow legs, starting with the back legs. Their digestive tract will also gradually shorten.

Spring peeper tadpoles at this stage become omnivores and will eat animal matter in addition to plants.

They will also eat:

  • Aquatic insect larvae (glass worms, mosquito larvae, etc)
  • Water striders
  • Zooplankton
  • Small insects that fall into the water
  • Worms
  • 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 Spring Peepers Eat in the Wild

After 6 to 12 weeks, 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 fully is complete, tiny spring peepers will leave the water and live on land.

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

What juvenile spring peepers 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 spring peepers 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.

Once the transformation from tadpole to frog is complete, spring peepers will be instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, they will only eat live prey and will avoid dead bugs.

What Adult Spring Peepers Eat in the Wild

Adult spring peepers 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 their larger size allows them to also eat things they did not eat as juveniles.

What adult spring peepers eat in the wild

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

  • Termites, ants, flies, mosquitoes 
  • Pillbugs, ticks, mites springtails
  • Spiders, centipedes, millipedes, beetles 
  • Small slugs, snails, 
  • Small worms
  • Caterpillars, & other tiny insect larvae 
  • Moths, butterflies, flies, grasshoppers, tree crickets, and a wide variety of other insects 

Spring peepers are very opportunistic and will eat almost any prey small enough for them to swallow whole. It is believed that food is chosen more by availability and size than by actual preference.

These frogs are good climbers, but they generally do not climb high in tees, instead preferring to hunt in shrubs, thick grass, and other low vegetation.

Spring peepers living in deep, damp forests will hunt both during the day and night, whereas those found in woodland edges are mostly nocturnal and will restrict most hunting and other activity to night.

In addition, adult spring peepers most often come out to feed in the late afternoon and early evening, while juveniles are known to feed in the early morning to late afternoon.

What Adult Spring Peepers Eat In Captivity

Spring peepers are not common pets, so their exact captive diet requirements are poorly documented. However, given their diet in the wild, it is safe to assume that captive spring peepers would thrive on a diet close to that of other similarly sized tree frogs.

Captive spring peepers can eat all the food they would eat in the wild. The only reason they will have a different diet is that it is not easy to obtain the wide variety of prey these frogs eat in the wild.

So most people are limited to only prey items they can purchase or culture on their own.

What adult spring peepers eat in captivity

However, even in captivity, it’s a good idea to keep the frog’s diet as close to its wild diet as possible. This means you have to feed it live prey.

Most frogs will readily accept crickets and worms. 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 spring peeper in captivity:

  • Pinhead crickets, newly hatched roaches,  flightless fruitflies
  • Dwarf white Isopods, springtails
  • Small silkworms & hornworms
  • Small mealworms
  • Small Nightcrawlers

Most 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, the key to a healthy frog is a varied and nutritious diet, so remember to switch up the food items offered every few feedings.

IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED to feed red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) to captive frogs. This is because they exude a noxious fluid that contains a toxin known as Lysenin – which is poisonous to many animals.

Since these worms are foul-tasting, some frogs will actively spit them out instead of swallowing them. If the frog somehow accepts the worms, it may be harmed by their toxins.

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, it’s recommended to use Hydei fruit flies as they are considerably bigger than the Melanogaster fruit flies and make a richer meal for your frog.

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.

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. 

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 insect 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’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.

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 Spring Peeper

In general, most frogs need to be fed about two to three times a week. However, as ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, 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 spring peeper, the general rule is to only offer it as much as it can eat in a single 20-minute 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.

Also, avoid leaving uneaten bugs in the frog’s enclosure for too long as they could bite or irritate the frog. Remove all uneaten food within 4 – 6 hours of feeding.

What Human Foods Can a Spring Peeper Eat?

Adult spring peepers 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 spring peepers. If you try to offer human food to a spring peeper, it will not eat it.

How to Feed a Spring Peeper in Captivity

The easiest way to feed a captive 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 do the rest.

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, spring peepers won’t eat dead bugs. If you offer your spring peeper 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 spring peeper 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 spring peeper 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 spring peeper 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/ Underfeeding

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

Common Questions About Spring Peeper Diet

Do spring peepers eat mosquitoes? Spring peepers regularly eat mosquitoes in the wild. A single spring peeper can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a month – helping control these pests without the need for pesticides.

What do feed spring peepers? In the wild, spring peepers choose food by availability and size than by actual preference. Most spring peepers will readily accept pinhead cricks, small worms, and other small soft-bodied invertebrates.

What do baby spring peepers eat? Spring peepers start as tadpoles that eat algae, soft plants, and small invertebrates. Over time, the tadpoles will transform into froglets that are obligate carnivores. Once transformed, baby spring peepers will eat ants, mites, termites, crane flies, and other small insects.

Can you keep spring peepers as pets? Spring peepers can be kept as pets, but they are not very common pets. Most people who keep spring peepers as pets are hobbyists, who deliberately seek them out.