[waxy monkey frog overview]

:: latin name

Phyllomedusa sauvagei (male)Phyllomedusa sauvagei (also spelled Phyllomedusa savagii)

:: common name(s)

Waxy Monkey Frog; Waxy Monkey Treefrog; Chacoan Monkey Frog; Painted-bellied Monkey Frog; Painted Waxy Monkey Frog ... or pretty much any other combination of these names

:: description

These are rather large, robust, nocturnal species of frog. They range in size from around 3-4" in length (8-10 cm) with females growing larger Phyllomedusa sauvagei (juvenile)than males. They have white spots and markings on their bellies and a white line that runs laterally around their bodies. They are bright lime green in color, though they can change color (becoming dark/olive) quite rapidly when stressed. Their feet are more like "hands" with opposable thumbs that allow them to grasp branches. They rarely jump (unless frightened) but prefer to climb/walk hand over hand, much like a monkey, with slow, methodical movements. Their natural habitat is the Gran Chaco in South America where hot, dry, windy, desert-like conditions are common. Whereas most frogs would dry up and die almost immediately, Waxy Monkey Frogs are able to secrete a waxy substance that they spread over their bodies to "seal in" moisture and prevent water loss. They also excrete semi-solid urates, which further allows them to minimize water loss. Once established they can be quite hardy and easy to care for. Their care is much more like a reptile than a typical frog ... they like low relative humidity and very hot basking temperatures.

:: origin

Gran Chaco, South America

:: establishment in captive trade

Phyllomedusa sauvagei is still collected from the wild, like many frog species. However, there are a number of people who successfully breed them in captivity. Phyllomedusa sauvagei (female)Captive bred froglets are not only healthier, better adjusted (less stress) and free of internal parasites ... but buying CB frogs also helps keep the demand for wild caught animals down, thus limiting collections that can be destructive to the wild populations and their habitat.

:: captive life

Once waxy monkey frogs are established in a proper environment, they can be quite hardy. Their habitat and care is much more like that of a reptile than a typical frog. Low relative humidity, and hot basking temperatures are a must, while only a shallow water dish needs to be provided for the frogs to soak in at night.


[waxy monkey frog care]

Phyllomedusa sauvagei (juvenile)The care requirements of Waxy monkey frogs are very different from most amphibians. They require dry conditions and high basking temperatures, more like a reptile. Please make sure you understand how to properly care for these animals before deciding to purchase one.

:: enclosure

A good enclosure for these frogs is a combination glass and screen tank that is nice and tall. You might want to consider the climate you live in when selecting an enclosure ... if you live in a humid area, you will want something that has plenty of screen/ventilation. One or two Waxy Monkey Frogs can be housed in a 20 gallon enclosure, though bigger is better (unless you are housing juveniles ... in that case a smaller enclosure will make it easier for them to find & catch food). Plenty of branches and climbing vines (about 1-3" or 2.5-7.5 cm in diameter) should be provided, especially around the basking area. Make sure there are branches at varying heights from the basking light, so that the frogs can regulate their temperature. A shallow water dish (1-2" or 2.5-5 cm deep) should be at the bottom of the tank. Substrate is not necessary, paper towels work good and make cleanup easy. If you choose to use some sort of bark/dirt substrate, use extreme caution. Frogs and other herps can accidentally ingest substrate while they are feeding ... they can become impacted and die as a result. Waxies are also very "enthusiastic" eaters. It's not uncommon for them to dive after food, perhaps tumbling and falling in the process! If you use substrate, it's probably best if you hand-feed your frogs or move them to a separate feeding tank.

:: lighting & heating

Non-contact Infrared Thermometer (temperature gun)TEMPERATURE: Lighting/heating is critically important to the health of waxy monkey frogs. High basking temperatures (85 -100°F or 30-37°C) are required for these frogs to properly metabolize their food. However, a temperature gradient should be provided so that your frog can regulate its own temperature (do this by putting the light/heat source at one end of the tank so that there is a warmer side and a cooler side, and also provide branches at varying heights from the heat source). The entire tank should not be in the 90°s ... just an area. In the Chaco, temperatures can vary greatly and the nights can be quite cool, so as long as your frog is able to warm up during the day it should be fine. You do not want to bake your frog day after day ... vary the temperatures, just make sure to provide an area of the tank where it is often nice and hot, especially after your frog has been eating a lot. I highly recommend that you purchase an infrared temperature gun. This will allow you to get accurate temperature readings in all areas of the enclosure.

PHOTO-PERIOD & TYPE OF LIGHTING: You will want to provide a day/night cycle, where it is light for about 10 hours, dark for the rest. If you are attempting to breed these frogs, you will need to vary the photo-period over the year. I find that quality of the lighting makes a HUGE difference in how "happy" my frogs look. They really perk up if you can provide natural sunlight, or at least natural/full spectrum bulb lighting, which also makes the enclosure much more attractive. That said, many people use incandescent lighting on their frogs without any problem, and incandescent bulbs produce a good amount of heat, sometimes making it easier to establish a good temperature range. The most important thing is that the lighting/heating setup you choose provides a good temperature gradient, so before you get your frog, be sure to set everything up, take day & night temperature readings, and correct any problems.

:: food & water

FOOD: These frogs accept a variety of live feeder insects (variety is always good in a diet). Crickets, roaches, wax worms, silk worms, moths, and other feeders can be used. All insects should be gut-loaded prior to feeding with a quality insect feed or fresh vegetables/fruits, and should be from a reliable source (wild insects may have come in contact with chemicals or pesticides, and therefore should not be used). It is believed that in the Chaco, roaches make up a large part of P. sauvagei's diet, so feeder roaches are an appropriate food item. There are a number of species that are easy to contain, care for, breed and can be purchased online. Properly contained, these roaches pose a low risk of escape/infestation since they often require high temperatures in order to breed. It is also likely that they are more nutritious than crickets, provided they are fed quality foods during their life. Therefore, a small roach colony is an excellent alternative to crickets, which can be expensive, noisy and quite smelly.

FEEDING SCHEDULE: Waxies have voracious appetites. The amount they eat depends in part on the season & their activity level (they may go weeks without eating in the winter) and the food item you are offering (roaches for example are generally larger than crickets). When they are active, it is not uncommon for them to eat 6-10 full grown crickets or 4-6 large roaches, 3-5 times a week. You can pretty much give them as much as they want in a night, just don't do this every night (feed every other night or every 2 nights).

WATER:Waxy monkey frogs do not like high humidity, however they do require a shallow water dish. At night when the are active, they will soak in the water dish ... this provides them all the moisture they need to withstand the high daytime temperatures. In general, do not mist these frogs ... keep them as dry as possible. They will defecate in the water nearly every night, so you must be sure to change the water frequently/daily as needed.

:: supplements

CALCIUM & MULTI-VITAMINS: Supplementation for these frogs is similar to that of other commonly kept frogs. Most people supplement adults with Rep-Cal® Calcium (with vitamin D3 if the frogs are kept indoors) dusted crickets 1-2 times a week, and Herptivite® dusted crickets about once every 7-10 days. Growing juveniles will require more frequent supplementation ... Rep-cal at nearly every feeding and Herptivite at every other feeding.

:: health issues

STRESS: Like most frogs, waxies are prone to stress and the health problems that result from it. Stress can result from over-handling, shipping and improper care (i.e. wrong temperature, humidity, photo-period, etc.). Limit handling these frogs to only when necessary, and make sure you are providing the proper conditions (see above). When you feed crickets or other live insects, be sure to remove any uneaten insects the following morning. Crickets that are left in the enclosure will run around, becoming hungry/thirsty and may gnaw on the frogs or otherwise stress them.

PARASITES: Another potential problem if you have a wild-caught frog is internal parasites. If you suspect this might be the case, you should take a fecal sample to a veterinarian. Panacur or another de-wormer may be required to kill the parasites.

WATER QUALITY: Waxy monkey frogs will generally "soak" in their water dish at night, and very often you will find a big poop in there the next morning. ALWAYS change the water before night rolls around again. Dirty water is obviously not good for your frog, and can cause serious health problems. The quality of water is also very important. It should be from a clean uncontaminated source, filtered and de-chlorinated. Water conditioners (available at most pet stores) can remove chlorine, chloramines, ammonia, and heavy metals from tap water ... but if your city's water is rather questionable you might still consider finding another source (quality bottled water, etc.).

:: handling

Frogs in general do not tolerate handling very well. Amphibians absorb water and other elements through their skin, so by handling them they can absorb dangerous chemicals, soaps, lotions and/or the natural oils in our skin. This can have a detrimental effect on their health, not to mention the added stress that results from handling. Only handle amphibians when necessary. If you want an animal that you can "play" with, consider something else ... like puppy or a kitten :-)

:: mixing species

In general it is a very bad idea to mix different species in the same enclosure. It very often leads to death of some sort: someone being eaten, fighting/territory issues, stress leading to death, disease/pathogen being introduced leading to death, etc. The only time you should ever attempt to mix species is if you have a very, very large enclosure and are really, really sure you know what you're doing.

[my setup]

Phyllomedusa sauvagei enclosureI like to use ceramic heat-emitting bulbs in combination with full spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs. Ceramic bulbs are expensive, but last a really long time. I usually have the ceramic bulb on all the time (it doesn't emit any light, and I have a large tank & relatively low room temp). The other bulb is on a timer to provide a day/night cycle, and a daytime increase in temperature. My other, smaller waxy tank has a similar setup, but the ceramic bulb has a dimmer (rheostat) which allows me to vary the temperature. Because these frogs receive lots of natural sunlight in the wild, I like to use a UV bulb occasionally (like those used for reptiles), and give them access to filtered sunlight when possible (which unfortunately isn't very often). The potential benefit (or harm) of using UV bulbs has not been proven for these frogs, and many people don't use them ... which is why I only use them occasionally. However, it does seem like the people who are able to successfully breed these frogs in captivity live in an area where they can provide frequent access to filtered sunlight, so it is certainly possible that natural lighting plays a key role in some aspects of the health of this species.


While they are basking during the day, "happy" waxy monkey frogs are bright lime green or apple green. If your frog looks olive or dull green, that is a possible sign that your frog is "unhappy." Oftentimes this is because the air is too stagnant or humid. If this is the case, increase the ventilation and air flow to reduce the stagnancy & humidity.

*tip 2*

I like to use 2 separate water dishes in the froglet's tank (because they poop so often). That way not ALL the water is contaminated when one of the frogs "uses" it.