Pacman Frog

Ceratophrys ornata

Make Latin Relatable: cera– horn ; phor – bearing, carrying, supporting; Ornata– adorned

Order: Anura

Other Names: Ornate Horned Frog


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Brandywine Zoo keeps this species on 3-4″ of moist cocofiber substrate, as this species likes to burrow. A water dish large enough for soaking is provided with fresh, RO water treated with water conditioner. UVB light and basking is provided on one side of the tank. Provide hides and opportunities for cover.
  • This species is housed alone, due to their possession of “teeth”

Diet Requirements

  • Carnivore: Will eat any prey that can fit in its mouth in the wild. Primarily vertebrates; they are voracious eaters, often eating insects, small mammals, fish, other frogs and small reptiles.Brandywine Zoo: crickets, worms, “fuzzy” size mice

Veterinary Concerns

  • Amphibians can dehydrate very easily and should always be in a damp environment while on program. Special filtered or conditioned water should be used for the frogs and toads.
  • Frogs and toads are also very sensitive to heat. Please monitor the amphibians carefully during the warmer months and rewet enclosure with mister bottle as necessary.
  • Frogs and toads are sensitive to chemicals, including those found in lotions, soaps, and sanitizers due to their permeable skin. Never handle amphibians without gloves and always only ever use “frog” (conditioned or filtered) water to clean their housing or furniture.


Notes on Enrichment & Training


Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines

See: Temperature and Transport: Welfare Implications for Ambassador Ectotherms from AASAG Newsletter, Dec. 2016

  • At Brandywine Zoo, Frogs and Toads should always be packed with a hot water bottle, and into a larger cooler, during the cool season. When using a hot water bottle, be conscious of the temperature of the hot water in the bottle- the bottle should be comfortably warm, but not burning hot. Place hot water bottle to one side of the cooler, then place critter carrier with the animal inside of it on the other.


  • These animals are very easy to handle.  Just scoop them up gently with your hands using a “hamburger” hold and place them into their prepared carrier.
  • Carrier preparation
    • At Brandywine Zoo, a critter carrier (display carrier) is prepared with 1-1.5” (enough to burrow into) of moist EcoEarth coco fiber substrate. If carrier already has substrate in it, be sure to re-wet substrate and mist walls of carrier. Water used for amphibians should always be prepared/treated frog water.
    • Provide cover by placing fake plants or a small hide in carrier, taking care that items are secure and will not shift and injure the animal during transport.

Tips on Presentation

  • At Brandywine Zoo, this species is presented in a display carrier only.

Touching Techniques

Brandywine Zoo:

  • Guests may not touch this species.

Tips on Handling

  • Brandywine Zoo: When handling any amphibian, use disposable polyethylene gloves (not latex) or nitrile gloves.

Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Pampean region of Argentina (Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Entre Ríos, La Pampa, Mendoza and Santa Fe), Uruguay (Rocha and San José), and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Rain forests [2], grasslands on the ground near temporary waterbodies, and also in roadside ditches and in irrigated cropland.  


Rain forests [2], grasslands on the ground near temporary waterbodies, and also in roadside ditches and in irrigated cropland.

Physical Description

  • Ectothermic
  • Adult female length: 5.5 in (14 cm); Adult male length: 3.9 in (10 cm). Some adults can reach up to 10” in length.
  • Ornate horned frogs are named so because of the large fleshy points above their eyes that resembles small horns.
  • They are usually marked in bright green, brownish red and yellow blotches and spots. They are intricately colored, with geometric patterns of yellow, red, and green on a dark background. The underside ranges from pink to yellow, and the throat is mottled in gray.
  • Most prominent feature is its mouth, which accounts for roughly half of the animal’s overall size. This is probably where it got the nickname “PacMan Toad.” They appear to consist of two main parts: a mouth and a stomach.
  • The powerful limbs are short, the digits blunt, and an enlarged metatarsal tubercle, or spade, is present on each hind leg.
  • They have several odontoid projections (not teeth, per se) along their bottom and top jaws. Because of this, they are typically housed alone.
  • Males: males possessing dark pigmented throats and nuptial pads on the forelimbs. Males are typically more ornately colored, ranging from dark green to lime-colored. Females: typically larger and longer than males.

Life Cycle

  • Oviparous, egg-laying. Amplexus, lasts from 1 to 4 hours
  • Ornate horned frogs are ready to mate at 18-24 months.
  • Females deposit tennis ball-sized clump of between 200 to 2,000 1.3 millimeter in size eggs in standing water. Eggs hatch in about 18 hours. At optimal temperature, it takes only two weeks for the egg to reach the froglet stage, and can reach their full adult size in 5 months.
  • Ornata larvae are carnivorous towards tadpoles of other species; they do not consume conspecific tadpoles.


  • Terrestrialsolitary. As an ambush predator, horned frogs hunt by waiting for prey. They will partially conceal themselves in the leaves of the forest floor and remaining motionless most of the time. Ornate horned frogs seem to have been designed for the sole purpose of eating as much as possible.
  • Horned frogs are well known for their fearless reputation. They will attempt to consume animals, sometimes even the size of themselves.
  • They like to fight, and if disturbed will attack larger animals.
  • They burrow during autumn and winter, and while buried, it creates a cocoon around itself to protect from water loss. It emerges to breed in the late spring, when enough rain has fallen to create temporary pools where they lay their eggs.

Threats and Conservation Status

This species has apparently disappeared from at least two sites in Uruguay; it is rare in Argentina.

Did you know…

  • Tadpoles of pacman frogs can make distress calls both underwater and out of water. This is the first example of any larva (vertebrate or invertebrate) communicating underwater by sound, as well as the first known of any vertebrate larva to make sounds at all. Tadpoles are able to make these calls as early as three days after hatching.
  • While the official vernacular name is the horned frog, many people refer to frogs in the genus Ceratophrys as “Pac-Man” frogs (from the old Pac-Man video game) since the body plan appears to be mostly dominated by the large, gaping mouth.
  • The eyes are set as much as three times higher from the lower jaw than in most frogs, enabling this frog to completely burrow into a loose substrate with just the eyes exposed.
  • They are called “horned” frogs due to the elongated skin folds over their eyes that stick straight up, resembling horns.





Contributors and Citations

  • Brandywine Zoo