Freddy Krueger Frog
Budgett’s Frogs are undoubtedly one of the most peculiar looking frogs, likened variously to Jabba the Hut, McDonald’s Grimace, H.R. Puff-n-Stuff, a hand puppet, a predatory puddle-of-goo, and many other less than flattering descriptions. Budgett’s are also known as Freddy Krueger frogs due to their sharp tooth-like odontoids, pointed fingers and voracious and seemingly insatiable appetite. They are generally a light, olive green or grey in color, sometimes with lighter green or yellow mottling or spots. They have a corpulent, laterally flattened body with eyes set high on an enormous head, giving them a gelatinous blob-type appearance. They have legs that appear too small for their body adding to their jelly, blob like appearance. Their hind feet have dark brown or black tubercles that are used for digging. Although they do not have teeth, but they do have two odontoid protrusions that help them grasp prey and can inflict a good bite. When they are threatened they open their huge mouth, inflate their bodies, stand as tall as possible and make cacophonous noises that sound like a sick locust. They are capable of growing to an adult size of about 5 inches (18 centimeters). They can live more than 5 years.
Budgett’s frogs come from the Chacoan region of South America; inhabiting the drier parts of northern Argentina, southern Paraguay, and the southern half of Bolivia. Their range is defined by areas that experience a pronounced dry spell followed by seasonal flooding. Within this range it inhabits arid grasslands, ephemeral pools and ponds, savannas and seasonal meadows. In its native habitat it is rarely encountered as it spends much of its time buried below the ground or in the muck at the bottom of water accumulations. Budgett’s frogs, like pixie frogs, aestivate for long periods of time (usually up to nine months), remaining dormant as they wait for rains. Also like pixie frogs, they form a cocoon of dead skin around themselves to keep from desiccating during the dry season.
Budgett’s frogs are fairly inactive frogs and are most easily kept singly in a mostly aquatic situation. A ten gallon aquarium is large enough for a single adult frog. When they are active (during the spring and summer months) they will spend the majority of their time wallowing about in water. Regular water changes will be necessary as the frogs will eat and defecate in the water. The water should also be kept at tropical temperatures (72-78 degrees Fahrenheit), and the use of a submergible heater is recommended. The heater should be hidden or encased in such a way that the frog can not rest upon it and get burned. This can be accomplished by burying the heater in the substrate, below or behind filtration equipment or by encapsulating it inside a larger piece of PVC pipe that has holes drilled in it and a cap over the open end. UV light is probably not necessary, but the use of it certainly cannot hurt. They do occasionally climb out of the water and providing a terrestrial area also allows the frogs additional space to thermoregulate. This can be accomplished using medium sized rocks, a few clay bricks or other sturdy, non-toxic items. A few bricks stacked carefully in a pyramid type fashion will not only provide a dry surface area but also a hiding spot below.
Because Budgett’s frogs need to aestivate, it is a good idea to provide an enclosure in which this is possible. The easiest way to do this is to gradually lower the water level while concurrently adding a soil, loam, clay mixture (imagine the consistency of the substrate from the bottom of a shallow pond) to the water over a period of a few weeks, thus replicating the evaporation of a pool. This gradual modification will also signal the frog to begin creating its cocoon. Ideally, the water level will decrease commensurate to the addition of substrate to such a point that the substrate is covering the frog before the water is completely gone (again, picture the gradual evaporation of pond water). At about half way, cease feeding. Remember to unplug the water heater before it is exposed. During this period it is also a good idea to use a medium sized basking lamp (try to maintain surface temperatures in the mid-70’s to low 80’s Fahrenheit). Place the basking light in a location so that the radius of light is nearby, but not directly on the frog—you don’t want to cook your frog! When the frog has completed its cocoon, cover it the rest of the way with a small amount of substrate and turn off the basking light. Place the enclosure somewhere that doesn’t received regular sunlight and maintains ambient temperatures that are comfortable to humans (e.g. 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit); a closet is often a good choice. You should leave your frog alone for at least a three months (longer in less temperate climates).
Check on your frog periodically to make sure it has not awakened on its own and that the cocoon has not cracked. The cocoon retains moisture so that the frog will not dry out. The best time to awaken your frog is in the spring. Do so by increasing the amount of moisture in the substrate around the frog gradually (e.g. add a cup or two of water each day) until the frog breaks out of its cocoon (usually when the water level reaches about ¼ of the way up the side of the cocoon it becomes soft enough for the frog to break through). Once the frog has broken out of its cocoon (and most likely, eaten it) you can return to a mostly aquatic set-up and begin feeding it again—it will be hungry!!
Budgett’s frogs are opportunistic feeders and are cannibalistic whenever given the chance. Similar to pixie frogs, they have been referred to as “floating disposals” and will eat virtually anything they can shove into their mouths. This includes (but in no way is limited to): crickets, fish, roaches, earthworms, superworms, horned (or tomato) worms, snails, crayfish, frogs, lizards, and small snakes and rodents. A good variety of foods is essential since calcium and mineral dusts can not be easily applied to aquatic fare. Do not over-feed vertebrate prey items as they can cause health problems.
Budgett’s frogs are incredibly voracious eaters and will consume anything that moves. Subsequently, they are best housed singly. Also, because they do have sharp odontoid protrusions, they can inflict a nasty bite (see above about eating anything that moves). Budgett’s frogs should only be handled when absolutely necessary—their skin has a protective slime that can be damaged or rubbed off with too much handling.
It is critical that these frogs are allowed to aestivate when they want to. Naturally, these frogs may remain under the ground for as many as 9 months out of the year waiting for rain. In periods of prolonged drought, they have been known to aestivate for a few years. In captivity Budgett’s frogs should be allowed to aestivate for at least three months, with longer periods being necessary in less temperate climates.