September 24, 2020

Pac-man: The Horned Frogs of South America

by Robert Hudson


Are these frogs the inspiration for Jaba the Hut in Star Wars?  Known as the Pac-man Frog due to its body shape and largemouth, Ceratophrys is a genus of frogs in the family Ceratophryidae. These South American horned frogs consist of 8 species.

In captivity, C. cranwelliC. ornata and C. cornuta are the most popular as pets.  There is also a captive bred hybrid  between C. cranwelli and C. cornuta known as the Fantasy 


The following chart is from Wikipedia

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Ceratophrys aurita (Raddi, 1823) Brazilian horned frog or Wied’s frog Brazil.
Ceratophrys calcarata.jpg Ceratophrys calcarata Boulenger, 1890 Colombian horned frog Colombia and Venezuela
Suriname Horned Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta) (7774154124).jpg Ceratophrys cornuta (Linnaeus, 1758) Surinam horned frog northern part of South America
Cranwell's horned frog side.jpg Ceratophrys cranwelli Barrio, 1980 Cranwell’s horned frog Gran Chaco region of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
Ceratophrys joazeirensis Mercadal de Barrio, 1986 Joazeiro horned frog Brazil.
Mr Wiggles 7-20-07 (870844637).jpg Ceratophrys ornata (Bell, 1843) Argentine horned frog Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
Ceratophrys stolzmanni Steindachner, 1882 Stolzmann’s horned frog Ecuador and Peru
Ceratophrys testudo Andersson, 1945 Ecuador horned frog Ecuador.


Frogs are NOT a cuddly pet. Handling any frog specie should be avoided as much as possible because their skin is very fragile.  Frogs are a pet that is best observed like fish in an aquarium.

Photo from Josh’s Frogs


The Pac-man frogs spend most of their time sitting still partially covered in the aquarium substrate.



They come in many different colors and patterns.


Pac-man frogs need to housed alone. A ten gallon aquarium is all that is needed since they do not move much. They are known to be cannibals, sometimes eating their own mate .  They will eat whatever fits in their mouth, and sometimes their prey is bigger than they are.  Once in their mouth they have a hard time getting it out and may end up suffocating to death. An adult can easily eat a small mouse.  Pac-Man frogs have teeth, and a full grown Pac-Man  will draw blood if you stick your hand in front of them.

They will gorge themselves eating.  This instinct is to eat whatever they can now to hold them over when food is scarce. You need to be careful not to over feed them.


Pac-Man frogs are often sold as juveniles. The adults in the wild live 1 to 4 years but in captivity may live six to 10 years.


These frogs reach adult size in a year or a little longer.  Males are smaller than the females .  Boys are 2½ inches to 4 inches in length depending on the species, and females can reach lengths of 4  to 7 inches.


Pac-Man frogs love to burrow and need a substrate that they can dig in to. Coir (ground coconut) is perfect and widely available from pet stores and online.

“Fantasy” Pac-Man Courtesy of Joshs frogs


Live plants in your ten gallon aquarium will help process the waste in the substrate keeping it healthy preventing methane gas from forming. Pothos is a very hardy and easy plant to grow. For many people the fun is creating a natural looking environment.  These frogs generally do not climb, but they love to burrow and hide in caves, PVC pipe and out of the way places. They may climb up some branches in an aquarium but usually not far up and once they pick a spot to sit, they will remain motionless for long periods of time. Your aquarium should have a screen top to prevent any chance of the frog escaping.


South American Horned frogs are great as first time froggy friends for us humans. They are relatively easy to care for.


Additional resources:

Joshs frogs 


Frog Forum





%d bloggers like this: