Marcus D. Billings

Three Indonesian females (California bred) one week out of aestivation in the log they are sitting on. They will shortly turn a much brighter green color.

Note the variation in body shape even within specimens from one locality.


First, let me say that I am not the foremost expert on White's in the world. I've kept and bred them for about seven years now and have had some success but, like everyone else, I'm always learning. Every year I find some aspect of husbandry that I didn't notice before - and you will too if you stick with the hobby.

A lot of people ask me if how to breed White's is a secret; that answer is no. Some frog breeders are a little secretive but if they know you're serious most will help you. I started with one book, Phillipe de Vosjolis' General Care and Maintenance of White's Tree Frogs and a few hints from a friend. To breed these frogs you must be able to keep them alive. Reading Phillipe's book is a good start. You should be at a point with your animals where keeping them, lighting, food, temperature, etc., is familiar to you and you have a good feel for your frogs' health. If you're still guessing about when to feed, get worried when they hide under some moss, etc., don't try to breed them. Get educated on how to keep them FIRST!!!! Basic care instructions can be found in several books, care sheets on the Web and magazine articles; if you're serious, you'll find the info. What I want to share is the more precise information on breeding that isn't in the books. The methods I'm about to describe will properly cycle Australian White's and the Indonesian varieties.

The Australian White's come from a limited supply of frog producers acquired here and there in the time before Australia closed its borders and a few that got out illegally. A lot of these frogs are advertised as "Blue White's" or "Australian White's" and some of them seem to have rather blunt noses and stubby arms compared to other White's which makes me wonder whether some inbreeding isn't going on. Well, that's another story.

The other White's commonly found is the so-called Indonesian import. Ten years ago these were imported from Indonesian islands that they had populated but now most of the stock found in the pet trade is greenhouse animals from California or Florida where the mild climate allows easy care. I breed both varieties together because I feel that this strengthens the stock.

Housing| |Sexing| |Age| |Feeding| |Temperature & Photoperiod| |Rain Chamber| |Water| |Tadpoles| |Metamorphosis| |Froglets|

Adult White's need at least a 30-gallon (114 liter) tank to roam in and be happy. Now, that does not mean that you need a 60-gallon (227 liter) to put two adults in. Two can live happily in a 30 gallon (114 l). The reason is that the distance they can cover in a jump governs the size of the tank. One frog can't move freely in a 10 or 20 gallon (38 or 76 l) . Two can jump freely in a 30-gallon (114 l) and not necessitate constant cleaning. For additional frogs after the first two I suggest adding 10 gallons (38 l) of size for every frog. So, three frogs in a 40 gallon (152 l), four in a 50 gallon (190 l), five in a 60 gallon (227 l) and so on. Any more crowded than this and ammonia and faeces build up very quickly. The only exception to this rule is when you put them in the rain chamber. I don't feed when they are in the rain chamber and their attention is on mating not escaping so you can have six or seven frogs in a 20 or 30 gallon (76 or 114 l) tank with little problem. After they lay eggs return them to their normal enclosure.

For my White's tanks I use UV fluorescent tubes (just like for iguanas) and most of my enclosures get a little natural sunlight during the course of the day. They have plenty of spots to hide so that the sun doesn't cook them. As for the heat, I use two different methods. First, I try to keep the room they're in at about 65°F (18°C) and 70°F (21°C) at night and, during the summer, daytime temperatures get up to 90°F (32°C) but I make sure to mist often and keep plenty of water available so that no overheating occurs. If the substrate is moist it will stay cooler than surrounding temperatures because of evaporation.

At one end of their enclosures I put a ceramic or infra-red heat lamp and a log or stick that angles down so that the there is a temperature gradient from one end of the log and enclosure to the other. I put several thermometers in the tank and keep track of internal temperatures. Once you have a feel for what it takes to manipulate the tank temperatures you can introduce your frogs and eventually move on to cycling. I use ordinary lamp timers that adjust to fifteen-minute intervals. The digital lamp timers work fine too. If you've had your frogs for a while and are serious you've probably got an adequate set-up.

I might as well tell my opinion on what frogs you should put together and how many. First, I think mixing species is not a good idea. Some are more aggressive than others and will out-compete for food and can even be toxic to other species so why take the chance. Second, I only put like-sized animals for the same reason. Larger frogs will get more food and stress smaller frogs with their presence.

Newcomers to the hobby often want to be able to sex young frogs when they buy them. This just isn't possible in my experience until at least nine months and most times a year.

Most of the books will tell you that the female is slightly larger than the male and that the male has looser skin under the throat and calls. What the books don't tell you is that females call sometimes too and, side by side, some females and males look almost identical Females will call, actually squawk, when annoyed through handling or having another frog sit on them.

What the books say is generally true but individual White's vary so much that the best way to tell is to keep your frogs under optimum conditions for a year and watch their behavior. Males that hear sounds similar to another White's calling will often start sounding off. They will also call when properly cycled and even reluctant males will call when they hear the others.

If you've cycled them properly, about the time they start calling often you'll notice dark areas on the front thumbs of the males. These are the nuptial pads. The males use these to help secure themselves to the females.

I start playing looped tapes of males calling a week or two before I introduce them to the rain chamber. This usually starts them calling immediately. At this time the females will squawk lightly sometimes for a few seconds when they hear the males. Their throat sacs will not swell and it won't last for long; five, six seconds at most. The males, on the other hand, will start quietly and quickly build with a constant WOK! WOK! WOK! WOK! This will last between ten and forty seconds and the males will sound at the same time. A car with a bad muffler can start them off when they are in season. I can walk in my greenhouse and start imitating their call and that usually starts them calling. My son is better at it than I am.

Most of the time my females have outgrown the males. Of my two largest frogs one is a male and the largest only beats him by a quarter inch and a tenth of an ounce. That's why I don't use size as a sexing tool On average though, most of the females are larger.

I'm starting a small study to see if water temperature during the egg and tadpole stage can affect male to female ratio like it can in lizards and snakes. My guess is yes, but I'm a few years from having definite answers.

A sub-adult frog bred from an Australian female and an Indonesian male. I never try to breed a frog until its third year. Yes, they might breed earlier than that and your males may call much earlier than that but for them to breed they have to be cycled, and cycling is a stress to the frog's body. Most White's won't develop the fat stores to ensure a good response until they're two years old. You must remember that aestivation, cycling, whatever you call it, is an attempt to recreate a natural winter/dry season for the frogs and can lead to an animal's death. Just like in the wild, some frogs aren't strong enough to survive the winters. They never tell you that in the books but it's a fact of life. The same weather conditions that trigger their bodies to breed and lay eggs can kill weak or sickly frogs. So, if you have any doubts about losing a frog, don't do it! I've cycled about twenty frogs and three have died. I couldn't find any other reason than the aestivation (a dry hibernation time) they went through.

A large part of being ready for breeding is fattening them up. The first of November I really start putting the crickets to them; a pinkie mouse once a week wouldn't hurt either. Feed them as many crickets as they will eat and dust them with a mineral supplement twice a week. Another excellent vitamin source is to feed the crickets on kale, collard greens, or dark leaf lettuces (never Iceberg lettuce though) 10 hours before you feed them to the frogs. The frogs' health will be so much better for it. Feed heavy the whole month of November.

The normal daytime temperature should be between 80°F and 85°F (27°C and 29°C) with a temperature gradient plus and minus 5°F (2°C) in the enclosure, and a drop to 72°F to 75°F (22°C to 24°C) at night. A fluorescent lamp should be on from 7.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. until December first. Then reduce the time the lamp is on to 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. The second week of December reduce the time it's on to 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Continue to maintain the regular temps and feed normally. During the third week of December reduce the daytime temperature to 75°F (24°C) and the night time temp. to 68°F to 70°F (20°C to 21°C). Continue filling a shallow water bowl but do not mist the tank. Also, stop feeding during the third week of December. Frogs don't digest food well at low temperatures and you want their stomachs empty during aestivation. Two Indonesian females.
 Note the different head shapes.

My frogs usually try to hide in an artificial cave or hollowed log. I put Sphagnum moss or natural sponge in these hiding spots and keep these slightly moist throughout aestivation. During the fourth week of December reduce the daytime temperature to 65°F (18°C) and the night time temperature to between 55°F (13°C) and 60°F (16°C). Maintain these temperatures until the third week of February. Continue checking the moss or sponge and make sure it is moist. Keep the moisture supply clean and damp, not soaking. The first week of January turn off the fluorescent lamp completely and cover the tank with a dark sheet. Tape paper around the enclosure if your heating device can catch the sheet on fire. Check the frogs at least every other day. look for drastic changes in body weight and bad odors associated with dead animals. You might have to move them around a little to see them all; they like to huddle together, but don't move them more than you have to.

During the third week of February uncover the enclosure and set the daylight timer to eight hours. Also raise daytime temperatures to 75°F (24°C) and night time to 65°F (18°C). Keep the water dish filled but do not feed or mist yet.

The fourth week of February raise daytime temperatures to 80°F (27°C) and night-time to 70°F
(21°C). Mist lightly once a day. When you notice the frogs becoming active at night begin to feed again.

During the first week of March mist lightly only every other day and raise temps to normal: 80°F to 85°F (27°C to 29°C) during the day and 72°F to 75°F (22°C to 24°C) at night. Now start feeding the frogs heavily. Two pinkie mice a week is okay - but no more than that - and as many crickets as possible. Feed heavily all through March, keep water available and mist only every third day. What we want to do is convince the frog's body that winter has occurred and spring is on the way but we want to fatten them up so we don't introduce them to the rain chamber right away. After they become active I don't mist them as much so they don't try to breed right out of aestivation, that's why you mist them every day at first and then slow down.

The next step is the rain chamber. I'll describe two that I use.

I have a 150 gallon (568 l) aquarium that is divided by a 9" (23cm) high piece of glass that allows 60% of the area to be planted and 40% to be a water area. The water end has a power head with sponge filter and air-stones at both ends. There is 1" (2.5cm) of gravel and live plants in the water as well as a submersible heater set at 83°F (28°C). No fish.

This 150 gallon (568 l) tank has frogs in it year round. What makes it a rain chamber is the hole in the bottom of the land area that drains to a bucket below. I use a large power head in the bucket connected to a hose that is connected to a ½" (12mm) PVC pipe overhead.

The land area has a 2" (5cm) base of lava rock on the bottom covered by furnace filter material, 1" (2.5cm) of pea-gravel and then 1" (2.5cm) of sand cover that. To top it off I put 2" (5cm) of top soil over it all and plant live plants and moss. The water area runs over the glass lip and down through the lava rock. Water going through the soil passes down through and the multiple layers keep the soil from washing out.

A simpler tank of between 20 and 40 gallons (76 and 152 l) has 4" (10cm) of water, rocks that stick up above the water, a power head with sponge filter that runs up a hose to a plastic pipe with holes in it every inch (2.5cm) and the end capped. I try to arrange it so that there are at least a couple of places that the frogs don't get rained on constantly.

Whatever rain chamber you make you should have daylight and temperatures at the final levels I mentioned above. I run the water cycle from 4.00 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. each night until they lay. I also put a humidifier in the room that the tank is in and leave this on until they lay eggs.

The number of White's I put in the rain chamber depends on how many I have cycled at that time. I prefer four or five males with two or three females. This allows more calling and competition that I believe best stimulates what they do in the wild. All of these should be put in the rain chamber together. They can hear each other call and they start pushing for position. Now is not the time to introduce frogs that have not been together before. I keep a new frog quarantined for at least three months prior to introducing it to an enclosure with other frogs. I know of two collections that were devastated by disease even after thirty and sixty day quarantines.

It doesn't hurt to have a tape of White's calling and play it often. That's basically it. They should lay eggs in two to ten days. If it goes past four, throw some crickets in so they don't get hungry. You'll notice the males calling and trying to mount the females. If she is receptive he'll cling to her back, sometimes for several days.

After a period of two to twelve days, in my experience anyway, they will lay eggs in the water. You can't miss them. Take the frogs out as soon as you see eggs and turn off the rain pump. The frogs won't eat the eggs but they might disrupt them.

As far as the number of eggs, the age and size of the female determine a lot of it. They usually lay between 800 and 2,000 eggs. That's an estimate because counting eggs is nearly impossible. I just know the number of tadpoles I have later on so I think it's a good estimate.

The eggs look like clear jelly with black spots in it. let the eggs hatch. The tadpoles will look like eighth of an inch (3mm) black dots with short tails. They will just hang around the sides and bottom for thirty to forty-eight hours. Just let them set and keep the heater on. When all of them are moving about and crowding the sides start moving them to a tank you have prepared with water and live plants as described below.

Set up the biggest aquarium you can afford with an under the gravel filter, air powered, and a bio-wheel or power head filter that hooks on the side of the tank, and uses a carbon filter cartridge.

Use washed river gravel, not colored, and plant lots of live plants at the bottom. A good pet shop should have them, then put an eighth of an inch (3mm) of play sand at the bottom (the dark kind they sell in bags for sand boxes). The depth doesn't have to be exact.

Planted aquarium.For White's I honestly believe that the water cannot be too hard. I have a natural spring on my farm that is high in everything: silt, calcium and iron deposits. I don't test for PH, I just set up the tanks early with gravel and plants and then let the filters run. I want to emphasize again that I'm not a trained scientist, I just know what works for me. An acquaintance in Australia who has White's naturally occurring in his back yard pond says that as long as there is water in them the tadpoles will mature in murky mud puddles.

If you have a lake or unpolluted river nearby you can boil that water and not lose the mineral content.

Reverse osmosis (RO) water and distilled water are good but, because they're mineral-free, add some brown play sand like you find at Wal-Mart, about one eighth inch in the bottom over the gravel Also, put one tablespoon of Miner-AllTM mineral supplement for every ten gallons (38 l) of water. Run the filters constantly for at least two weeks before using the water for tadpoles. This allows time for chemical dissipation.

Well water is good if it's boiled and doesn't have chemicals in it. You can buy spring water from stores and use it. I've raised between fifty and sixty frogs on the bottled drinking water with the sand and Miner-AllTM. Remember, tadpoles love water with high mineral content. I've done this water set-up twice with two 20-gallon (76 l) tanks and the tadpoles did fine. The majority of my tadpoles are raised in water that I've gotten from the spring on my farm. It's collected in a cistern and pumped to my house.

I never use tap water. Different municipalities treat their water differently. They all follow basic guidelines that consist for the most part of chlorine and fluorine. letting tap water age a week in open buckets should probably be okay to use. Ultra-violet light also breaks down chlorine. Just keep ageing buckets full so you can keep changing it. The buckets need to be open so the chlorine can escape. Remember, lots of live plants and good filtration and lots of oxygen from bubble stones.

I'm almost certain that a small amount of limestone rocks would make the water even better but the amount would have to be monitored to keep the alkalinity from rising too high. The play sand carries a lot of minerals with it but I use the Miner-AllTM to help. I've never had the bone development problems some of my friends' froglets have.

When you transfer tadpoles to the rearing tanks, do it like fish; put them in a plastic bag filled with water from the rain chamber and hang it in the tank for twenty minutes before releasing. The temperature should be around 82°F (28°C).


The number of tadpoles I keep depends on how much aquarium space I have at that time. I wouldn't recommend more than 10 tadpoles per gallon (4 l).

The water should be kept at 82°F to 85°F (28°C to 29°C). There should be a good UV lamp over the tank set on 12 hours on and 12 hours off. I feed the tadpoles Tubifex worms, the freeze-dried type you find at the fish food rack. I push these cubes directly to the side of the tank, just below the water line. The amount is something you have to watch for to know how many to put in. Put out what they can eat in about forty minutes. Do this three times a day. Don't make the mistake of putting more food out one or two times a day. It will sink or go uneaten and pollute the water.

Water should be kept clean with an appropriate sized bio-wheel or carbon cartridge filter that hangs on the lip of the tank. I also use an under gravel filter with carbon inserts to help keep it clean and provide oxygen. Change filters and cartridges as recommended by manufacturer.

Have plenty of replacement water ready so that you can change a third of the water once a week. I do this by scooping out the amount needed and adding already heated water slowly with a small pitcher. You don't want the tadpoles swirling everywhere. Keep feeding three times a day adjusting food as needed. Between two and four weeks later the first tadpoles will have developed four legs and you will be ready for the next stage.

I cull at the tadpole stage. I have a 60-gallon (227 l) aquarium and a couple of 30 gallons (114 l) that I use. I kept about twelve hundred last year and fed the others to fish. This year I probably won't keep that many. It really gets busy when they turn into froglets.

After about two weeks (this is approximate, don't be alarmed if it happens earlier or later) some of the tadpoles will have their back legs. This usually happens when the tadpoles' bodies reach about ¾" (2cm) in length. At this time prepare an aquarium (20 to 40 gallon - 76 to 152 l) with 3" (7.5cm) of water in it. Make sure that the top has a secure lid. Put several rocks and pieces of wood in it so that they break the water surface and project upward a few inches. Also, put some live aquarium plants that will float at the top. The species doesn't matter, just leafy ones that will stay afloat.

At least one of the logs or rocks should be rather flat and above the surface of the water. It should have a surface area of about 25 to 36 square inches (160cm2 to 230cm2). Place a submersible heater in the water appropriate to the amount of water and set it at 82°F to 85°F (28°C to 29°C), the same as your tadpole tank. If indirect sunlight is not available set up a UV light just like the tadpole tank.

Attach a bubble stone to a small air pump and keep this running all the time. Watch the tadpoles closely at this time. The larger ones with back legs developed will start to get a squarish look to their heads. If you look real close you can see the tiny forelimbs just under the skin. When you can see the forelimbs they are about eighteen hours from breaking through.

Take the tadpoles out as soon as they develop the forelimbs. If you don't they will climb up and out or get in the filtration devices. Put them in the shallow water tank you have constructed. They will float in the water just hanging suspended. They won't move much at this stage unless disturbed. Don't feed them at this point, you'll just dirty the water. At this point they are absorbing their tails.

A couple of days later they will start climbing up on the rocks and limbs. Their lungs are developing at this time. They will alternate between the water and climbing up for two or three days. Eventually, say, two to five days, they will not have tails anymore. Without picking them up observe their mouths. When it runs from under one eye to the other they are ready for food. The mouth will resemble an adult's mouth only smaller. If it looks like a fish's mouth they are still developing. Occasionally they will gulp air and you can see the shape of the mouth.

Now they're ready for food. I use pinhead crickets but small flightless fruit flies work well. Sprinkle the crickets on the flat rocks and other limbs and things sticking out of the water. Put seven or eight for each froglet. Put them in at night and watch for a few minutes to make sure all the crickets don't jump in the water. The froglets will start snapping at the bugs and sometimes get one or two. The next morning take a small net and scoop out drowned bugs so they don't dirty the water. Keep feeding them in this tank for about a week. Dust with a good calcium supplement every other feeding.

The water in this tank doesn't need to be changed often as long you scoop out drowned bugs. The reason you won't have to change often (50% every two weeks) is because most of it will evaporate so be sure to watch the level and keep adding so that the water level stays constant. The froglets will need to be moved to a new tank when they begin eating steady after about one week and measure about ½" to ¾" (1.2cm to 2cm) long. If you leave them in the halfway tank they will very quickly out-compete newly developed froglets for food.

I prefer a 10-gallon (38 l) tank with a secure top that allows you to see any froglets at the top. I put up to eight froglets in the tank until they are 1½" long. At 2" (5cm), snout to vent (SV) length, I put either two in a 20-gallon (76 l) or four in a 30-gallon (114 l) tank. Experience has taught me that any more crowded than this and cleaning is a daily thing.

I use a paper-towel substrate that I like to keep wet together with a small water bowl and a couple of small tree branches leaning to the corners to help with perching. Also, I usually place a small potted plant in the tank with non-fertilized potting soil and occasionally put moss in the top around the plant. Having the plant in the tank ensures that even if the paper-towel gets dry the froglets still have a moist place to hide. I change the substrate and wipe off the inside glass every third day as well as rinsing the water bowl

Once every four weeks I take everything out of the tank and wash everything with a 5% solution of bleach in water. (The only exception to this would be the tree branches or any wood product in the tank; I put these in a pan and pour scalding water over them. Bleach can soak into the wood fibers) I rinse with water thoroughly. If at all possible I let the tank and water bowl air-dry in the sun. The ultra-violet light helps break down any residual bleach. I also wipe the outside of the potted plant with a 5% bleach solution taking care not to get any solution in the soil I replace the moss or brush off the soil in the plant as well.

This set-up is very simple but when you consider the number of froglets you can have and the amount of waste they produce as they grow, it makes maintenance easier.

I feed them appropriate sized crickets that have been fed dark leafy greens. If the froglet is lapping up the crickets like popcorn it's probably time to move up to the next size. Use common sense when judging size. Dust the crickets with a calcium supplement every other feeding. Keep temperatures as you would for adults. The best way to heat tanks this small is probably heating the whole room. Infra-red heat lamps can dry out a tank quickly and result in cooked frogs. I don't worry about varying day and night temperatures with froglets; a uniform 80°F (27°C) is fine.

I put most of the froglet tanks at the back of my greenhouse/tool shed and use indirect sunlight for their photoperiod. Never put the tanks in direct sunlight; the sun's position changes throughout the day so be aware of where its path crosses your tanks. If you don't have indirect sunlight available then a fluorescent UV lamp on a timer set at a twelve-hour on/off cycle is fine. Watch the frogs closely and when you feel they have outgrown their current set-up, move on. Most of mine continue growing for 24 to 36 months.

|Top| |Housing| |Sexing| |Age| |Feeding| |Temperature & Photoperiod| |Rain Chamber| |Water| |Tadpoles| |Metamorphosis| |Froglets|

If you have any comments about this page, or wish to use any of the photographs, please contact Marcus D. Billings
This Web page was created in December 1999 and is owned and managed in the United Kingdom by Geoff Smith