Home Making for Frogs

Bioactive Vivarium Handout

Do you want instructions? See this Step-by-Step terrarium setup guide.

One version of a shopping list

Some people have asked me what kind of home to get for their frogs. Your new friends will spend their entire lives inside a world you create, and they deserve a life that’s almost as beautiful and complex as their lives would be outside. That’s why I try to give them lots of space, lots of plants, and ample places for them to perch.

This person has some nice vivaria that, like mine, don’t have foam backgrounds. They are minimalist in a way, but also have a lot of plants.

Brief vocabulary lesson

A terrarium is a single glass box where plants live. Terraria is the plural of terrarium. A vivarium is a terrarium with a frog in it. Vivaria is the plural of vivarium. Read all the way to the bottom to learn a bonus vocabulary word!

Terrarium notes

Ideally, you will have a glass terrarium with front opening doors. It should be big enough to let you be creative in setting it up, and to allow some tall items for your tree frogs to climb and hang out up high. They also love having a little space on the floor to hunt and chase bugs — and it’s fun to watch them hop.

You can often find these for sale on Craigslist. Sterilize any used terrarium – think about why the person might be selling it, and make sure you are eliminating any potential pathogens before putting your new friends inside.

Here are some I can recommend:

The 36″ wide, 18″ high front opening terrarium is my favorite of the ones I own. I’d love to get a taller one someday soon, but the frogs really seem to have a good time in the one I have. Here it is on sale at PetSmart (but make sure you select the one that’s 18″ high from the drop-down list; 12″ might be OK, but I’m not sure and they are currently more expensive). (You can also check out ExoTerra for terrariums if you don’t want to support PetSmart.)

One reason they love it, I think, is the little trickle waterfall I set up (using a $14 pump and some _very_ carefully arranged rocks – more on that in a separate page).

paludarium with calathea
paludarium with calathea.

These smaller hexagonal terraria are also very good. It helps that they are a little taller at 22″ high. I’ve been able to put small water features in them, too, but a ceramic dish “pool” is fine as long as you change the water regularly. Below are some examples with the plants I love (sorry it’s so dark – I’ll try to put a better photo up).

Another interesting, and maybe less expensive, option is converting an aquarium tank into a vertical vivarium/terrarium using a kit. There are several different businesses selling them on Etsy and elsewhere (Etsy, you used to be so fun), but these from I Heart Geckos are prominent.

The key for me, even more than size, is lots of plants and hiding places, some kind of perches, plus a more open flat area also.  I also usually hang some fabric on the outside back so they can go back there to feel safe if they wish. Some people put large back walls made of cork or foam inside, but I try to avoid adhesives, anything that can fall, and taking up space I don’t need to take up.

corner paludarium
corner paludarium. This has a lot of pothos and a bark perch, plus a vertical “tree trunk” with some frog-sized holes drilled in it.


They are often on Craigslist, too, but you’d want to sterilize the heck out of a used one, and check it for leaks.

— smaller and also good —

These also work well with lots of plants:

— pretty but maybe not great —

I don’t heartily recommend this curved-front one because of the small front-back measurement.  With enough plants and some covering of the back and a corner, it could possibly work, though.

Here’s a fun (for me, anyway) video showing a close-up of my 40 gallon vivarium.

Gallery of my smaller vivaria

A rich environment with places to hide and watch the world is important. These tree frogs love climbing and perching, and they love sitting on smooth leaves under a warm lamp (not too warm, just sunny-day warm). Can you find the frogs? There are two.
Here he is.
pothos terrarium
terrarium with a lot of pothos. This isn’t a paludarium. Instead, the water that these frogs need is in a little dish that was marketed to cats. The dish is glazed ceramic that shouldn’t leach into the water, so it’s safe for them. Pothos is very popular for frog and tropical reptile vivaria. It’s inexpensive, easy to come by, and easy to care for.
lemon ginger paludarium
lemon ginger paludarium. The main plant here is a member of the ginger family, although it’s not edible. It will have bright yellow flowers if it ever blooms. I’d never seen this plant before, but the firm smooth leaves grow at a perfect size and angle for these frogs to perch on. They love it, and this plant grows very fast and vigorously. It’s really wonderful for this purpose.
corner paludarium
corner paludarium. This has a lot of pothos and a bark perch, plus a vertical “tree trunk” with some frog-sized holes drilled in it.
paludarium with calathea
paludarium with calathea.
four small vivaria
four small vivaria. Three have moving water features, so they are technically paludaria.