Species: The Hyla gratiosa, or the Barking Tree Frog belongs to the Hylidae family of tree frogs and their allies - the sub family of Hylinae, which accommodates all the frogs that don’t belong to the other three sub-families of Hylids and the Hyla genus of tree frogs.
Origin: The Barking Tree frog can be found all across the eastern regions of North America.
Size and Longevity:
The Hyla gratiosa grows to about 2 to 2.75 inches in length and survive about 8 to 10 years in captivity, provided they are cared for adequately. This makes them quite a good frog to have, even for beginners.
The Barking Tree Frog lives up to its name with its bark-like mating vocalization. They are usually green in color with dark colored spots and tend to change color to shades of brown, darkish green or even grey when they are disturbed.
Whether as a predator confusion technique or a camouflage mechanism, this guy is sure to change colors when he wants, and can manage to, very quickly. However, you must remember that a Happy gratiosa is always bright green in color…so you want to keep him in the green.
They have a yellow-colored stripe across their sides and have a white to underbelly. They have disc-like projections on the edges of their toes that help them grip the surface of their perch, making them very adept and agile in their arboreal lifestyle.
Habitat and Caging Requirements:
This is a tree frog and likes to climb. If you meet this requirement, it’s half the battle won. A standard 10 Gallon tank can accommodate one Hyla gratiosa and if you want to keep a few, you might want to consider a 15 or 20 gallon terrarium.
As is the case with most frogs, the Barking Tree Frog needs a regulated temperature and humidity to remain healthy and of course, a small frog pond for these guys to take a dip, a few hiding spots for some alone-time once in a while and more often if they are scared or stressed.
The frog pond can be about the height of the frog and a few times their body dimensions in length and width, so the gratiosa can swim a few laps if it wants. A pool also helps a great deal in maintaining the required humidity of the frog’s habitat.
If you meet these requirements, you wouldn’t have to spend much time worrying about your little amphibian friend
Temperature and Lighting
A 70 to 80 degree Fahrenheit temperature range works best as it matches their home environment in the tropical rain forest. However they like winters and a little snooze, so a drop of 10 to 15 degrees from the lower end, your pet frog will find quite comfortable in handling.
You can achieve this using a standard thermostat-controlled under-tank Heating Pad or a low wattage heating lamp that’s controlled by a timer. However, as much as you may want to trust technology to be more careful than you are, it is strongly recommended to have a thermometer or a temperature strip and a hygrometer in your terrarium to keep a check on the temperature and humidity within the frog’s world.
As for lighting, these guys need a 12 hour cycle, which can be achieved with a fluorescent or a daylight bulb, as long as they emit both UV-A and UB-B rays, which the frog requires. These guys are not very fussy but it would be good if you can give them a color temperature closer to daylight.
NOTE: Color temperature measures the temperature at which the particular color is found in light radiation. The color temperature of the common white-fluorescent lights is 9300 Kelvin, Sunlight is 5600 Kelvin and incandescent bulbs are 3200 Kelvin.
Given the Barking Tree Frog’s natural habitat in the rain forest, it is used to a fairly high degree of humidity - about 50% to 75%. This also forms the tricky part with caring for this beautiful amphibian.
Given the experience we have with dealing with these species and their masters, it is not uncommon for people to come up with the idea of reducing the ventilation to prevent the moisture from escaping the frog’s habitat. Why? So they don’t have to regularly mist the terrarium.
Be amply WARNED that if you do this, you run the risk of letting your frog fall sick or even die in certain circumstances. Imagine you being locked in a glass cage without ventilation, where you move around, pee and poop, eat and sleep (remember - no toilets). Ask yourself…would you want to live in there or would you rather die?
To ensure your frog is happy and healthy, you will need to mist the terrarium twice or thrice a day to maintain a humidity range between 50 to 75%, and make sure you clean the floor of the habitat at least once a week.
The habitat ecology and substrate
Housing the Barking Tree frog is not rocket science if you can just spend a little time understanding the little fellow and catering to his few simple needs.
The Terrarium should just big enough for the frog to be able to live its normal life, moving and clambering around a bit a 10-gallon tank would more than suffice for one and a 20-gallon can house up to 3 frogs.
The Soil and substrate must be soft as the Hyla gratiosa tend to burrow into the substrate during the hotter months, or when they want to hide or rest a while.
A 2 to 3 inch sponge soaked in water and squeezed to prevent dripping, will do great as a base, upon which you can add a couple of inches of crushed bark, cork, sphagnum moss or pulverized coconut fiber to form the substrate.
Props and plants form the basis of the Barking Tree Frog’s habitat and it is of paramount importance to give them a lot of places to climb on to. Small logs of wood, coconut shells turned upside-down and leafy foliage are the Barking Tree Frog’s best friend.
Artificial plants will do but if you can get a natural plant within the terrarium, nothing like it. Water bodies are not very important for the Barking Tree Frog as they are primarily arboreal, but they do call for their mates floating in the water, so it’s advisable to keep one, and is an absolute necessity if you intend to breed them.
Feeding and Nutrition
These frogs are very broad minded when it comes to their food habits and will eat anything that moves, that can fit into their mouths. Small insects like crickets, fruit flies, wax worms, insect larvae and the likes form the bulk of the Barking Tree Frog’s diet.
They like their food live. So remember to stick a wedge of potato in a corner your frog’s terrarium that the crickets will flock to, for feeding.
Barking Tree Frogs can thrive on a diet of crickets, with little variety to add spice to their fare but you must remember to dust every alternate feed, with a multivitamin and calcium supplement that can be purchased from your local pet store or through this website.
Typically, 4 to 6 crickets every alternate day, is appropriate for the Barking Tree Frog. However, individuals may differ and you can figure out the number of insects you need to feed your pet by varying the number initially and observing the results. One major concern is always overfeeding, as life can get quite difficult these arboreal animals if they put on a few ounces.
These guys learn quickly and can soon be fond of eating out of your hand - to have the Barking Tree Frog sit on your palm and eat is as good a feeling as it sounds when you read this. All said and done, we recommend you don’t handle the frogs very often because they are wild animals and can get stressed very easily. A stressed frog does not live long and definitely does not remain healthy.
The best way to tell males from females is during the mating season, when the males develop coloration on their throats, where their vocal sacs are located. But otherwise, the males and females are not very distinct and can pose quite a puzzle to tell one from another purely by their size and physical appearance.
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