White-Lipped Tree Frog
Giant Tree FrogFamily: Hylidae Litoria infrafrenataPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
The adorable White-Lipped Tree Frog, true to its name, has a bright white lower lip!
The White-Lipped Tree Frog Litoria infrafrenata not only has a white lip, but it is the largest tree frog in the world. thus it is also called the Giant Tree Frog. This tree frog's body is a usually a bright leaf green, which makes for a striking contrast to its white lip, and the skin on its sides have a rather granular appearance. A healthy tree frog can also change its color, turning an olive brown shade which helps to camoflauge it when hunting.
The White-Lipped Tree Frog is a close relative of the White's Tree Frog. These two tree frogs are very similar in appearance but there are a few modifications. The similarities between these "cousins" are obvious. The White-Lipped Tree Frog is a slightly larger frog and its supratympanal ridges are not as well-developed as they are on the White's Tree Frog.
This is a very nice frog for the advanced beginner to intermediate frog keeper. Although this Giant Tree Frog is a relative of the White's Tree Frog, it has a personality all its own. It is a little moodier than the White's Tree Frog. It is a little jumpier and more nervous than the White's too, but it is a joy to keep.
For more Information on keeping frogs see:
Guide to a Herptiles: Reptile & Amphibian Care
The White-Lipped Tree Frog Litoria infrafrenata was first described by Gunther in 1867. It is found in Queensland, northern Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and many of the nearby islands. Other common names they are known for are Giant Tree Frog. It has a very wide distribution and in a broad range of habitats from tropical rainforests, wet forests, to woodlands during the monsoons, and also in modified environments. These frogs can be found in gardens and parks, fields, along roadsides, and various forests.
The Litoria infrafrenata is on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species as Least Concern (LC). The White-Lipped Tree Frog has a wide distribution and is adapted to many different habitats.
The White-Lipped Tree Frogs are generally 3.5 to 5" (9 - 13 cm) with the females being the largest. There is no definite way to sex this species, which is why they are not one of the most successfully bred species in captivity. They have quite a long life span, living over 10 years in the wild.
As the name would suggest, this frog has a white lower lip. The rest of the body is generally a bright green, though low temperature, stress, and other adverse conditions could change this color. Healthy frogs themselves can change from olive-brown to bright leaf green. The skin appears almost granular, with this effect being seen most often on the sides of the frog.
These frogs, true to their similarity to the White's tree frog, are great feeders. The Giant Tree Frog will eat gut-loaded or mineral-dusted crickets, soft (post molt) giant meal worms, and even house flies. Be careful about catching your feed insects from the wild as there is too great a chance that they've dredged themselves through insecticides, pesticides, or fertilizers, all of which could kill your new frog. Wild caught insects could also house internal parasites that are harmful to your pet frog. Feeder insects are inexpensive and readily available from your local pet store.
A shallow water bowl should be kept in the cage at all times and should be changed daily with dechlorinated water. The cage should be misted every night as well, as this will provide another water source and will help to keep the humidity level raised.
For an adult frog, a twenty gallon ‘high' aquarium will do nicely. The Giant Tree Frogs are arboreal (tree-dwelling) frogs and need to have vines and branches to climb about on. The branches should be about the same width as the frog so it is easier for the frog to hold on. The cage needs to be well-ventilated so a screen top rather than a solid top is needed. Suitable substrates include cypress mulch, peat moss, and plain potting soil (without perlite or vermiculite).
A 50-watt daytime bulb is highly recommended as this will provide the extra heat that the White-Lipped Tree Frogs need in deference to the White's Tree Frog. Place perches at varying heights so that the frog can stay where it is comfortable.
For more information, see the terrarium set-ups described under Basic Reptile and Amphibian Care.
The White-Lipped Tree Frogs can mess up their cage rather quickly, though they seem to be cleaner than the White's Tree Frogs in similar enclosures. Still, misting will help to reduce the amount of cage cleaning and, when you do need to clean the cage, you can use any approved cleaner that can be found at your local pet store.
As sexing the White-Lipped Tree Frogs is difficult, there really are no particular boundaries for how many frogs you can have together. Just be sure that you provide enough space, perches, water, and general room for the frogs to breathe and grow. They will get along well enough with humans. They are, however, a little jumpier and more nervous than the White's tree frog. This is a very nice frog for the advanced beginner to intermediate frog keeper.
As with most amphibians, too much handling can stress these frogs out. It is important to always wash your hands before and after handling these frogs. Also, try to only take your croaking friend out at a maximum of once a day, preferably only every other day, for sessions lasting only five to ten minutes.
In the wild, the White-Lipped Tree Frogs reproduce in the spring and summertime in deep, slow moving streams and in forest pools, as well as in human modified areas like ditches and pools.
In captivity, temperatures in the lower 70s, combined with a reduced photo period for six to eight weeks, cycles these frogs and prepares them for the mating season. After this cooling period, a warm-up to standard terrarium temperatures and increased humidity with extra misting can lead to courtship and breeding in these frogs.
As with many tropical frogs, eggs are laid in the water by the female and fertilized externally by the male. The tadpoles develop in water, feeding on detritus and bits of leaves, aquatic plants, and algae. Depending on the temperature, the small frogs metamorphose and make their way onto land and into the treetops they call home.
The White-Lipped Tree Frog is very hardy, but as with all frog species health and hygiene go hand in hand. Providing a proper environment and keeping it clean is the best way to keep a happy healthy frog.
The only thing that captive tree frogs seem to commonly suffer from is metabolic bone disease, which can easily be prevented by a diet that adds an appropriate amount of calcium. Using a high-calcium dust to coat crickets once every third or fourth feeding will help prevent MBD. Using a food source that is rich in calcium (Greenleaf lettuce, carrot tops, romaine lettuce, shredded vegetables, and commercial cricket diets) to gut load your crickets before feeding can help to prevent and in some cases even correct this problem.
The White-Lipped Tree Frog is becoming more readily available for anywhere between $20 and $70.
- Animal-World Resources: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrates
- R.D. Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett, Frogs, Toads, and Treefrogs, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. 1996
- David Alderton, Petkeepers Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. Tetra Press, 1986
- Philipe de Vosjoli, Robert Mailloux, and Drew Ready, Care and Breeding of Popular Tree Frogs, Advanced Vivarium Systems, INC., 1997.
- Johann Krottlinger, Keeping Reptiles & Amphibians,.T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1993.