View Full Version : Of Treefrogs, UV and Calcium

29th April 2004, 22:29

This is aimed at anyone but I'd be grateful for a few more of your perceptions too, Ed.

1)I have, for the first time, seen Ca as a spray-supplement (not just vitamins). Has anyone tried this? Some of my anurans have "dropped" dusted crickets out of their mouths so I'm wondering if a liquid spray might be more palatable.

2) Pure intellectual curiosity: can Ca be absorbed through the skin?

3) I have seen reptile keepers use multivitamins in a solution which is dissolved into misters and water bowls (i.e. to be drunk). It struck me that it would be easier to overdose this way... fair?

4) For some time now I've been wondering what is the best way to fit uv lights - bulbs or tubes - in treefrog set-ups. The risk of a frog jumping onto it as if it were a branch seems high.
I think treefrogs are traditionally kept in:
*plastic tanks - could fit above the tank and have it shine through the lid. I fear the heat and the lid/mesh blocking much output;
*glass tanks with mesh-top or metal lid with meshing - again much light blocked out;
*glass vivs - I have used the mesh at the back, with the tube sited parallel to it, again shining in through the holes;
*wood and glass vivs, as traditionally used for reptiles. Here you can't fit the tubes inside can you, for the first reason I gave? I once saw, in a petshop, a UV bulb with a large net around it. How hot would it get? How much light is blocked out?
So how do others do it?

[I was intrigued to read that proximity to the UV source is a big factor in effectiveness.]

5) Finally, I wanted to mention a sight I saw in a petshop. Small hylids, not very active, very ground-dwelling. Two-thirds of the small group had "heavy-looking" bellies, but their sides were somehow sucked in - they looked very concave. The back-bone was clearly visible through their skins. One or two seemed to move in a twitchy, jerkey way. There was an abundance of food running around and being ignored.
Care to offer a possible diagnosis? MBD?
Where would you start with an animal like that? (I've been shown one method of force-feeding frogs but always worry people bringing me animals that might need it and my choking them by accident... or that, when I buy an animal unseen, something like what I saw in that shop will arrive.)

Cheers for any comments or suggested answers.


30th April 2004, 09:11
i can offer a wee tip about the lights... I had a tall (48") glass viv for treefrogs about 5 years ago. I had the lights directly inside the top of the viv so the glass or a plastic cover didnt filter out any of the UV. I protected the frogs by cutting out a section of that green plastic mesh you get at garden centres and using that as a screen between the lights and frogs, worked well and didnt filter out the light.

The tank was 48" tall by 24 front to back and 44 inches long. The tank was heated by aquarium heaters in a water section that was approx 50% of the base at 12" deep and behind that was planted.

Another good garden centre thing is the bamboo screens they sell, put some of that along the back of the tank and also have some small random clumps of single baboo canes at varying lengths and the frogs really climb on them well.

from expereince, if a tree frog isnt looking 100% dont buy it!!!!! Especially if pelvic bones are sticking out etc. If you think that there is a problem then you are probably right.

Hope this helps?

I have some old photographs of the set up, i am going to see if i can take digital pics of the photos...


[Edit] checked out pics and they dont show anything of interest... worst pics ive ever taken too LOL

(Message edited by colin on April 30, 2004)

30th April 2004, 10:02
Reptile keepers generally make cages out of 1cm weldmesh to prevent burns from hot bulbs, ceramic emitters, etc. Doesn't block much light and keeps the critters away from the bulb.

30th April 2004, 11:03
Hi Matthew,
I have not used or seen any reports on the spray on calcium supplements so I really can't comment on them either way.
Anurans will acclimate pretty quickly to a dusting regimen if it is consistant. This is a hold over from your supplementing regimen the last time around. (Your frogs never really got hungry enough to accept the dusted insects as they were only dusted intermitattly). I would recommend going to an increased dusting regimen and give the frogs some time to acclimate to it.
If that doesn't work them I would recommend changing supplements as the one you have may be more unpalatable. (In case I haven't said this yet, combined vitamin-mineral supplements should be replaced every six months or so and the supplemenst should be stored in a dry cool dark spot away from light. Ideally you should not use a supplement that does not have a manufactured/born on date. This is because there as far as I can determine in the literature there are no retention studies to support some of the expiration dates).

In some amphibians calcium can be lost through the skin, so depending on the species I would strongly suspect that yes they can absorb calcium through the skin. There is some anecdotal evidence that anurans can absorb sugar solutions through the skin.

Dissolving vitamin-mineral supplements in water is often an inefficient manner in which to supplement the animals.
1) most of the supplements have a foul taste and are often only ingested as a last resort
2) fat soluable vitamins (E, D3, K and A) are fairly insoluable in water and will segregate out of solution. This may cause the animal to miss these vitamins when ingesting the water.
This is mainly a hold over from the way birds on seed diets are given vitamins.

In general, UVB lighting needs to be within 18 inches of the animal to be of any real benefit. This is difficult in tall vivaria for anurans as the anurans typically do not climb and bask like many lizards. I know of one person who puts the bulbs in with the frogs and lets them perch on them if they want. Generally the frogs stay off of the bulbs as they are warmer than the frogs prefer. An unobstructed bulb is ideal but a screen lid is probably your second best choice as unless it specifically is rated to pass UVB, acrylics and glass absorb UVB.

Based on your observation, I doubt it was "MBD". MBD does not normally occur overnight and usually takes weeks to months to present with symptoms. If these were wild caught hylids, the frogs would have to have used up any stored D3.
Starvation, stress (possibly from too much food in the tank), thermal stress, septicemia are all potential causes of the symptoms you observed.
If you ever get a very thin animal, you need to be careful to avoid refeeding syndrome. First see if the animal will feed on its own, offer it one or two small food items. If it eats on its own, offer small meals daily until the animal begins to look better. At this time, increase the amount of food and decrease the number of feedings until the animal is on a regular schedule and is up to appropriate weight. If the animal will not feed on its own, then you can tube feed the animal. I recommend feline clinicare which you can get from most vets. Often with anurans all you need to do is place a small amount in the frogs mouth and they will readily swallow the food item. Follow the same path above with the only difference is to offer food items to determine when the animal will begin to feed on its own.

I think I covered all of the points. If I missed any let me know.


30th April 2004, 15:31
WIth my whites, i have a tube that goes diagonally across the viv. At night they will use it as a branch, but when its on they dont sit on it, allthough it would not instantly cause damage if they do (they would probably jump off and head to the floor if they get too hot. A tube light with the correct transformer should not get dangerously hot(but with the wrong transformer, they can get to 200 oc+!!)

I might get some photos of my planted viv this weekend
Those frogs sound sick, probably underweight and retaining water


30th April 2004, 15:52
Another wee note which may interest someone is that about once every two weeks the budgett frogs get an adult mouse each, it sounds a bit messy (and is) but i often cut open the mouse and fill it full of reptomin and crushed egg shell or cuttlebone... sneaky sneaky

(Message edited by colin on April 30, 2004)

30th April 2004, 16:38
Hi Colin,
When feeding adult mice the problem is not insufficient calcium but that mice often have too high a level of vitamin A stored in their tissues. The excess vitamin A comes from the commercial rodent diets.
You need to supplement vitamin D3 to balance out the excess vitamin A in the rodent.


1st May 2004, 08:46
yeah, i dont give them the mice too often and the rest of their diet is made up of earthworms and gut loaded crickets/locusts... i hope the reptomin in the mice supplies them with D3 as well as the cricket formula.


1st May 2004, 15:13
Hi Colin,
two things,
1) what do mean by gutload? Are you referring to feeding a high calcium diet or are you just feeding them a variety of items to improve their nutritional content?
2) Reptomin is a balanced diet in and of itself so its addition doesn't really help the vitamin A imbalance of the mice. You would be better off using a straight D3, calcium supplement to change the balance in the mice.

If the rest of the diet includes sufficient D3 and/or you are supplementing with UVB then you shouldn't have to worry about the vitamin A in the diet.


2nd May 2004, 08:29
1) gut loading in this case is feeding the crickets on a commercial product. T Rex calcium plus cricket food, but i also feed them Aquarian fish flakes.
2)The lights used are reptile fluro lights and i will look into getting D3.

Is a mouse fortnightly going to unbalance the vitamin A in the frog?

2nd May 2004, 10:56
Hi Colin,
When feeding crickets with a high calcium diet you cannot offer any other food items as the crickets will selectively aviod the high calcium diet as these are unplatable to the crickets. Also this adjusting of the calcium-phosphorus ratio is the most effective in pinhead crickets where you can achieve a favorable calcium to phosphorus ratio. This is not as effective in older crickets. (where you often get close but do not achieve a 1:1 ratio between calcium and phosphorus).

A mouse every fortnight is unlikely to significantly unbalance the frog but I thought you should know what the potential issues with feeding mice are.

Here is some information you may be interested in that I recently posted for a kingsnake.com discussion (Its a little disjointed as I was pretty tired when I wrote it).

House crickets contain 54% fat/kcal*, while commercial crickets contain 44% fat/kcal*, compared to 60% fat/kcal* for mealworms. Compared to a 1.5 gram pink which is 40% fat/kcal and an adult mouse (27 gram) which is 47% fat/kcal. Pinks do not take a jump in fat content until they are larger than 4 grams at which time they hit 60% fat/kcal which is no higher than mealworms.

The only low fat invertebrate that is commercially available are earthworms but a diet os solely earthworms has been linked to muscle diseases in anurans (see Modzelewski, E.H.; Culley, D.D. Jr.; 1974, Growth responses of the bull frog, Rana catesbiana, fed various live foods; Herpetologica, 30(4): 396-405)

* Donoghue, Susan; Langenberg, Julie, 1996, Nutrition, In Reptile Medicine and Surgery, edited by Mader, Douglas R., W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia

2nd May 2004, 12:47
Yes you did cover all of the points! Thanks.

Just a quick follow-up. I recall one of the shop frogs I saw had slightly puffy-looking thighs, possibly fluid-filled (oedema?). What might have caused that?

2nd May 2004, 13:38
Hi Matt,
There are multiple potential causes of this sort of problem. Was the edema localized only to the legs or was the abdominal region also involved?
Bacterial infections, dysfunction of the local lymph system, and starvation are some of the possible causes. You would need a work up by a vet to determine the actual cause (or causes).


2nd May 2004, 21:48
Hi Ed,

More questions! http://www.caudata.org/forum/clipart/talker.gif

1) As I recall (going back a bit in time)I think the abdomen did seem a little swollen, as if with fluid. I was first drawn to the narrowness of the chest under the front legs... it looked like a big head, a small "neck" (lower down really)and pot belly. When one area seems big and another seems small it can feel hard to work out what is swollen or shrunk relative-to-what. I saw the narrow top of the abdomen and thought starvation, then noticed the food running around so decided my amateur skills of diagnosis were exactly that. Then of course there was worry for the individual animal; I always want to take them home, take charge and sort things out.

The reason I asked about this animal in this thread was this: if it had MBD, could the way the back legs seemed bigger than normal yet somehow weaker / slower than they should have been, have indicated fibrous osteodystophy? Maybe the accompanying twitches might confirm MBD?

2) I notice there is a product called Bone Aid drops (to drop into mouth or onto food) for rapid treatment of MBD in reptiles. Can Calcium deficiency symptoms be turned around quickly in herps? What do you think of these extra "drops" as a form of treatment, as opposed to the actions you suggested above?

3) I have also spotted the new range of "Superfoods" or "Insect Cricket Balancers". I can't help but feel this is the way most herpers are going to go in the future - a combined Calcium and Vitamin supplement, allegedly tailored to the species. I was wondering...
a) Given that it boasts protein too (calcium caseinate as a source of "isolated protein"), would it matter if the insects were 'empty' delivery vehicles? By this I mean always suspect some petshop keepers just pull starving crickets off the shelves and feed them as-they-are... would a vit / min / Ca / protein powder make them *as good as* mine, which have been ingesting fish food and potato for days even before they are dusted?

b) The new "superfood" supplements contain a lot of plant ingredients: spirulina, kelp, rosemary extract etc. Surely these need to be worked on by the digestive tract of a herbviore before they are of any use to a carnivorous amphibian, surely they are just nutrionally useless if ingested directly?


3rd May 2004, 01:29
If the frogs were badly starved then the fluid retention could be an indication of starvation. The frog would to be fed more than a couple of meals to counteract the effects of starvation.
However this still does not rule out the other potential causes.

I doubt that "MBD" is disease here as I mentioned earlier, it takes a significant period of time for this to manifest. Starvation can occur much more quickly. Starvation will also result in the break down of muscle tissue and weakness. The bone changes you referenced make the legs look firm and strong despite the inability of the legs to maintain weight as the bone then fractures under the weight of the animal.
The calcium and D3 drops may be of value if you calculate out the actual needed dosage to prevent overdosing the animal on D3 and/or calcium. However MBD as known in the hobby is more than just calcium deficency. You would need to determine that this was the actual problems before adding a concentrated calcium to the diet. Any deformities or other problems the frog has will remain as a permanent problem. Depending on how extensive the MBD problem has progressed, the animal will need extensive supportive therapy as one of the frequent problems is the deformation of the bones anchoring the tongue and the jaws due to lack of calcification and the pressure of the muscles. This will result in the animal starving unless a tube feeding regimen is started and followed. This will prevent the animal from feeding until the bone is strengthened and on how much the bones needed for feeding have deformed. This is why it is better to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The balancers are an attempt to correct the calcium-phosphorus ratio in the insects under question. This is only really effective in pinhead crickets and mealworms if these are fed as the sole diet with the addition of a water source but they cause increased mortality in the crickets often killing most of the insects 48-72 hours after being fed to the insects. You can achieve a better calcium-phosphorus ratio by dusting the insects.
Feeder insects by the time you buy them in the pet store or they arrive at you house via mail order are deficent in many micronutrients due to either no food or incomplete food before you get them home. Ideally crickets and other need to be fed a better diet for at least 48 hours before offering them to your animals. Flake fish foods. Repta-Min, Reptile-Ten, ground dog food, the gut load offered by Canadian Feeders or Walkabout Farms are all good choices depending on which you are most comfortable using. So your suspicions about the way most pet stores feed insects to their stock is correct.
Most amphibians accidentally ingest plant matter when feeding and there is often a fair amount in digestive tract of the insects and the digestive tract of the amphibian does digest it to some extent but not to the extent that is seen in herbivores. But that is not the goal of these supplements, these plant materials are a simple a vehicle to pass on various items that may or may not be of benefit to the amphibian such as flavenoids even though we are not sure that the animal can actually use these items. They do no harm and may be of benifit there just simply evidence either way.