Clown Tree Frog
Dendropsophus leucophyllatus formerly Hyla leucophyllata
One of the more visually stunning tree frogs, clown tree frogs get their name from their robust colors and patterning of yellow, brown, cream and orange. Their pattern is one of alternating blotches of yellow and brown with occasional yellow/cream speckling. The brown on their legs grows lighter near the feet with the feet and underbelly almost orange. There is also a reticulate phase, also known as a giraffe phase, with the yellow less pronounced and the overall pattern more closely resembling that of a giraffe (go figure). They are relatively small, with adults rarely exceeding an inch and a half in length (approximately 4 centimeters). They can live at least four or five years in captivity.
Clown tree frogs are native to northern and central South America. They are found in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. They may also be present in parts of Venezuela. Within its range it is common, often found around human settlements and wherever standing pockets of water can be found (which, in Amazonia, is most places). Their natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, freshwater marshes, and other stagnant or slow-moving freshwater water bodies. They often found amongst floating vegetation and in or near water retaining plants such as many epiphytes (e.g. bromeliads).
Clown tree frogs do well in a vertically oriented, partially ventilated enclosure. It is always tricky to provide adequate ventilation without causing draftiness, but several of the newer horizontal vivarium designs that utilize both glass and screen have done a good job of balancing the two. Clown tree frogs should be provided with a heavily planted environment. Pothos, bromeliads, philodendrons, monstera, large-leafed ficus, dracaena, sansevieria are possible choices. Aside from the aesthetic considerations of a well-planted enclosure, the dense foliage also provides climbing space and security for the clown tree frogs. Furthermore, the health of the plants can often be an indication of the overall health of the vivarium—healthy plants usually mean a healthy enclosure. The size of the enclosure is dependent upon how many frogs one wishes to house, with a 10-gallon aquarium being about the minimum. A 20-30 gallon could comfortably house half a dozen animals. Substrates should be moist to the touch but well drained. This can be accomplished through the use of a mixture of gravel, soil and moss or coconut bark. Clown tree frogs should have access to 10-12 hours of full spectrum light, but basking lights are usually not necessary. Temperatures should remain within the 70-80 degree Fahrenheit range during the day, with nighttime temperatures in the 60+ degree Fahrenheit range. Humidity levels can be maintained by misting the enclosure once a day. A clean, shallow bowl of water should available at all times and the water should be changed daily. A small 6-inch (15 centimeter) ceramic potting dish or the like will work well.
Clown tree frogs are carnivorous and eat a wide variety of insects and insect larvae, including, but not limited to: mosquitoes, flies, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, and roaches. They will also occasionally eat other small invertebrates such as worms and snails. As always, prey items should be gut-loaded prior to feeding and should be dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement once or twice a week.
Clown tree frogs are quite hearty and trouble-free so long as their minimal habitat requirements are met. The proper mix of ventilation and humidity, coupled with a heavily foliated enclosure will help to ensure happy and healthy frogs. As with most amphibians, handling should be kept to a minimum with careful and thorough hand-washing before and after.
With the possible exception of the red-eyed tree frog, clown tree frogs are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful commonly available frogs. Clown tree frogs have an advantage over red-eyes however, in that they are beautiful even when at rest (whereas a red-eye’s colors are evident only when they are awake…at night). Furthermore, thanks to their diminutive size, several clown tree frogs can be kept together in a relatively small enclosure.