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Tiger Leg Monkey Frog - Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis azurea Print E-mail

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis azurea

The Animal

Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis azurea

I would class these as a medium to small sized frog with males measuring around 2 inches in length and .75 inch wide at rest during the day, the females are larger than the males at around 2.5 inches long and 1 inch wide and they are generally plumper looking. When active their length can be 5 inches or more. This is where their highly specializes fingers and toes come in handy, each one is tipped with an exceptionally adhesive pad.

Often when hunting at night they stretch between leaf tips and branches using a single toe tip on either side as an anchor!

 

The fingers themselves are flexible like our fingers and are used for grasping when moving through thin branches. These frogs do not jump or hop in the classic frog way, instead they rely on walking purposefully through branches in a very steady and considered way.

The day time colouration is a wonderful shade of fresh leaf green with a tint of blue; this in itself would be a very desirable attribute. In the evening their splendid colouration can be seen in full glory, the overall colour usually stays the same but they may change and appear to have a more olive/brown look. This is a normal colour change but I’ve found that if real plants are used they tend to stay green.

The most striking feature of this frog is as you may have guessed are the markings on the inner legs and flanks. Alternating vertical bands of bright orange and jet black give the frog its common names, the sides contrast nicely with the pale or white belly and some marbling may occur at the junction of the colour change. They eyes are a silver grey colour and seem to look right at you.

Location

My particular colony is from Paraguay but their range is within the bordering countries of Southern Bolivia, Brazil and North Argentina. This region of South America has a wide range of climates from tropical humid jungle through arid woodland areas. These frogs like their close cousin the Waxy Monkey frog P. sauvagi come from the same dry forests and woodlands of the open plains called the Chaco region. Here they experience temperatures similar to dry parts of Europe like Central Spain but the temperature fluctuates less during the seasons.

Summer begins in November and ends in March as it is in the Southern hemisphere when average day time temperatures are around 25C with the hottest month of January experiencing highs of 29C or more.

Phyllomedusa eggs

The high temperatures are quenched on a regular basis during summer as cool Argentinean air rises from the south and hits the hot air rising from the land; the consequence of this liaison is regular rainfall eventually leading to the flooding of the plains. Winter falls between April and August where daytime temperatures average 21C but less rain falls and the sirocco wind blows over the area quickly drying up what rainfall there is.

I’m giving you this bit of background as you will need to understand their specific cycle in order to emulate it in your enclosure, only then will you be able to interact fully with your animals and see them as the true hunter they are and with patience perhaps breed your own colony.

Captive Care

Although the frogs themselves are only medium sized they are quite an active animal that does a great deal of hunting at night so my tank is 2 x 2 x 3 feet tall with a half mesh lid and contains 3 males and 2 females. There are many ways to keep these frogs but you should try to emulate their normal cycle as much as possible.

I give my colony the usual substrate of fine bark chippings and activated charcoal (90/10) topped with live moss in to which I plunge potted plants. The orchid bark is first lightly and evenly moistened with water and laid to a depth of 3 – 4 inches, on top of this base layer fresh sphagnum moss or carpet moss is laid.

These frogs require a dry environment from April to August so the substrate will not need to be moistened again for some weeks, the initial humidity level may be 60% - 70% but this will fall over the next few days, aim to keep humidity levels at around 30% - 50% during their dry period. This is easily achieved using a hand sprayer or other device; spray the plants or moss lightly twice a week to maintain the right levels but do not spray the animals themselves.

Natural plants add both interest and hiding places but this does mean the use of full spectrum lighting to allow the plants to grow well, the term for the conversion of day light to food by plants is photosynthesis. If using live plants then it is best to leave them in their pots so they can easily be removed for cleaning. Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) are fantastic for this frog as they have plenty of branches and good cover although they are not native to Paraguay.

Although artificial plants can be used to create a similar look they don’t have the same properties are the real thing. In the case of these frogs live plants are much better as the frog spend its day sleeping either on a branch or on leaves. This living set up will mean that immediately around the plant will be an invisible layer containing slightly higher humidity and more oxygen. If you do use artificial plants make sure they don’t contain any wire which could puncture your frog and that they are well anchored.

Although normally a nocturnal animal they can often be found basking under a 60w spot light where the temperature can reach 33C, although generally they prefer a more shady position under a leaf or in an upper corner of the tank. I use full spectrum lighting over the tank as they seem to be more ‘perky’ than those not getting the UV as well as for the requirements of the live plants.

In the evening after the lights ( 9am - 9pm) have gone off the first calls begin with a slow quiet growl from an early rising male. Not long after the first call the rest will come out of their daytime retreats and head for the perches in readiness for a nights hunting.

Ideally the daytime temperature should be 80F – 85F with a warmer area under the spot light and a night time the temperature can be allowed to drop to 65F – 75F

Daytime heating is taken care of by the 60w spot light (outside the tank) aimed at a high perching area, this also allows daytime basking. The spot light should be positioned far enough away so that the closest point inside the tank gets no more than 90F otherwise the frogs may burn themselves. Night time heating is taken care of using an under tank heating mat or an overhead night time lamp either a red coloured infra red lamp or a blue coloured moonlight lamp. Both of these lamps will provide heat but will not disturb the animals whilst they are hunting.

If the planting allows the use of a medium size waterfall then one should be accommodated as the water source but it should be set to minimum output as you don’t want excessive humidity. The light splashing of the water attracts the frogs and they use it regularly as a meeting and vantage point. If you have no room for a waterfall then a 3 inch deep bowl should be provided.

Feeding

These are ferocious insectivores and will readily take a wide variety of live foods of various types, the size for adult frogs should be in the 10 – 15mm range for crickets; anything larger may bite back. Small locusts, wax worm moths and flies are all good food sources. The food should be dusted every third day with a good quality multi vitamin powder which should include calcium. The crickets should also be fed on a good quality cricket food, carrots, cabbage, dandelion leaves and cuttle fish bone will all add to the foods nutritional value, this is known as ‘gut loading’.

Feed your frogs once a day and allow 5 or 6 crickets or other food items per ‘sitting’, per animal, this will keep your frogs actively searching for food and will help prevent over crowding of live food in the tank

Breeding in Capivity
This species is highly specialised in every aspect of its breeding cycle. Specific temperatures, humidity combined with special techniques required to feed the tadpoles makes pre knowledge a requirement if you want to breed them. The complete article including Breeding in Captivity is available in the downloads section.
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