Tomato frogs, as the name implies, exhibit brilliant orange-red coloration. There are three species, all of which are native to Madagascar: Dyscophus antongilii, the Madagascar or common tomato frog; Dyscophus guineti the Sambava or Guinet’s tomato frog; and Dyscophus insularis the Western or Antsouhy tomato frog. Although once common in the pet trade, only the Sambava tomato frog D.guineti is now commonly available and is the only one we currently work with at Sandfire Dragon Ranch. Sambava tomato frogs range in color from a pale mustard to a deep rust or red. They are flanked with longitudinal black stripes, with their backs a deeper hue than their underbelly. They are a rotund species, nearly 2/3 as wide as they are long. Although they are predominantly nocturnal, they are often alert and active during the day, especially when prey items are present. Adults are usually between 3-4 inches (7.5-10 centimeters) long, with the males being approximately an inch (2.5 centimeters) shorter than females. They can live 6 to 8 years.
Tomato frogs, as mentioned above, are native only to Madagascar. All three species of tomato frog come from the north-east portion of Madagascar, and from a district known as, you guessed it, Sambava. The Sambava district has tropical temperatures year round, with averages being 70-85° F year round and an average of about 8 inches of rainfall per month. Within the Sambava district, these frogs are often found (or more appropriately, more often observed) near human habitation, where they utilize slow-moving waterways like drainage channels and agricultural irrigation canals. Naturally they are found in flooded meadows and marshlands. They often bury themselves partially in soil or leaf litter, lying in wait for passing prey. During the dry season they will bury themselves several inches into the earth.
Sambava tomato frogs are a rather large species, and, as such, require a quite spacious terrarium. A 20-gallon, horizontally-oriented aquarium would be adequate for several adults. They require a moist forest-floor type set up with a substrate of a mixture of bark chips, coconut bedding, sphagnum moss and topsoil. The substrate should be soft and deep enough that the frogs can burrow into it. Sambava tomato frogs benefit from a heavily planted enclosure that provides a lot of damp hiding places. Logs, bark, cork bark, leaf litter and rocks can also be used, but should be secured so as not to inadvertently crush the frogs. A shallow, large-diameter water bowl (no deeper than the frog's height at rest) should be provided for water. The water should be changed frequently. The enclosure should maintain a daytime temperature of 74-78° F with a slight drop at night of 5-10° F.
Young tomato frogs should be fed daily with a mixture of suitably sized insects including fruit flies, small crickets and mini-mealworms or Phoenix worms. Prey items should be no longer than the width of the distance between the frog’s eyes. These food items should be dusted with a calcium and vitamin supplement every other feeding. Adult tomato frogs will take considerably larger insects including adult crickets, roaches, earthworms, mealworms, wax worms, moths, flies, slugs, snails, caterpillars and even occasionally, pinkie mice (mice should not be fed more than once every two weeks). They should be fed every two-three days and the insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements once or twice a week.
Sambava tomato frogs will inflate their bodies when they feel threatened. This defense posture can be the precursor to the secretion of a sticky white mucous from their skin, used as a defense against predators. Care should be taken to carefully wash your hands both before (for the frog’s benefit) and after (for your benefit) handling your frog. Be sure not touch or scratch your face while handling your frog. Do not handle your frog if you have open cuts or sores.
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