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Pickerel Frog - Rana palustris 
Pickerel frogs commonly inhabit cool, wooded streams, seeps and springs although they are also found in many other habitats. In the South, it can also be found in the relatively warm, turbid waters of the Coastal Plain and floodplain swamps. These frogs tend to wander far into grassy fields or into weed-covered areas in the summer.

The Pickerel frog is a relatively large frog that is often confused with the Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens). However, the Pickerel frog has chocolate-brown spots arranged in two rows between the dorsolateral folds while the Leopard frog's spots are more irregular and scattered. Pickerel frogs can be distinguished by the bright yellow or yellow-orange color on the inside concealed surface of the thigh. Leopard frogs are white in the same area.

As with the leopard frog, the pickerel frog is a temperate zone amphibian and is quite comfortable at room temperature. They are easy to feed - and fun to watch. The only issue with pickerel frogs is that they secrete an irritating fluid from their skin that is an irritant to other animals and can even kill other frogs that are housed in the same tank.


Average Size - Adult pickerel frogs range in size from 1 3/4" to 3 7/8"

Life Span - approximately 5-8 years

Diet - crickets, wax worms, fly larvae, and earthworms. learn "how to raise feeder foods"

Feeding - A meal of 3-4 crickets daily is a good starting point, although some experts recommend feeding mature frogs only every other day. Variety seems to be key with frogs - crickets can make up the bulk of the diet but should be supplemented by a variety of other insects and worms. Prey items should be gut loaded (feed nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dog food, fish food etc.) before being given to the frog. Once weekly dust the crickets with a complete reptile vitamin mix.  

Housing - A ten gallon tank is sufficient for a single frog (if keeping more frogs the tank size must increase, keeping in mind that floor space is more important than height). Pickerel frogs are semi aquatic and need a land area as well as a large enough body of water that they can submerge their bodies. A half land/half water tank is a good choice for pickerel frogs and these can be set up a number of ways It is easiest in the long term to separate the land and water areas with a piece of plastic or Plexiglas placed across the aquarium and sealed with aquarium grade silicone sealant. This allows the use of soil on the terrestrial side to allow the frogs to burrow. A dense piece of wood (e.g. driftwood) can be placed partly in the water and partly on land to provide an easy transition from water to land (this also provides a nice basking spot). Alternately, gravel can be sloped in the aquatic side to provide a ramp out of the water.

Substrate - a combination of soil and peat moss, covered with a commercial reptile bark substrate and sphagnum moss can be used on the terrestrial side. The depth should be at least 2-3 inches to allow burrowing. Gravel can be used on the aquatic side. It is extremely important to use smooth gravel only (to prevent skin abrasions and injuries), and ideally the gravel should be large enough not to be swallowed.

Like all true frogs, pickerel frogs have smooth moist skin and glandular ridges (dorsolateral folds) that separate the back from the sides of the body. In pickerel frogs the ridges continue down the back unbroken. In leopard frogs there is a break in the ridge near the back.

Temperature - the tank can be kept at room temperature 68-75 F, although a temperature drop at night is a good idea (down to about 60 F).

Lighting - No special lighting is required. You can use a UVA/UVB fluorescent light which may be beneficial. Just make sure the frog can't jump onto the lamp. Avoid making the enclosure too bright however as the frogs may just hide if the tank is very brightly lit. A light cycle of about 10 hours light to 14 hours dark is recommended by some keepers.

Water - the water used must be dechlorinated. Use a product from the pet store designed to remove chorine  to be safe. Filtration is not a necessity, but doing a 50% water change on a regular basis (at least twice weekly, perhaps more) is necessary. (In fact, some experts believe that the constant water vibrations from the filter is a sensory overload to frogs).

Normal Behavior and Interaction - Pickerel frogs should not be housed  with other frogs. They have an irritating skin secretion that can possibly kill other species of frogs.

Breeding - In the wild, pickerel frogs breed in late March to early May. Males have low, snore-like calls to attract females. After fertilization, females lay spherical egg masses attached to tree branches in permanent or temporary ponds. These masses may contain from 700 to 3000 eggs. Each egg has an average diameter of 1.6 millimeters when laid. After the eggs hatch, it takes around 87 to 95 days for the tadpoles to transform into small frogs and leave the water. It requires an additional two years before these frogs reach sexual maturity and are able to reproduce.

To breed pickerel frogs in captivity, give them a period of dormancy for about one month. Stop feeding your frog for about 1 week so it may clean out its digestive system then lower the temperature to 40 degrees F. Over a period of 2 gradually raise the temperature back to normal. Place both sexes in a large tank with both land and water.

Recommended Supplies:

  • Habitat with secure lid
  • Thermometer
  • Light timer
  • Filter  Substrate
  • Driftwood
  • Incandescent light or ceramic heater  

Habitat Maintenance Change water daily. Thoroughly clean the tank at least once week: set pickerel frog aside in a secure habitat; scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all smell of bleach; dry the tank and furnishings; and add clean substrate

Grooming and Hygiene When cleaning housing, check pickerel frog for any abrasions, signs of parasites or or fungal infections. Always wash your hands before and after touching your newt or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases

The Pickerel Frog ranges in the west from much of Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, eastern Iowa, through Missouri and down to eastern Texas. To the east they extend through northern Louisiana, most of Mississippi, northern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina to the coast. Their northern range extends from New Yor into New England into Canada in the southern reaches of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The range is really spotty through the mid-western states and a field guide should be obtained for the specifics on ranges in a particular area.

Pickerel frogs have a steady, low-pitched snore with little carrying power; similar to leopard frog
Pickerel frogs, like many amphibians have experienced population declines over that last century. No one reason can be singled out as "the problem". Studies from various agencies have shown that acid rain, habitat destruction, cars - yes cars, as well as other factors have contributed to the pickerel frog population declines. It has been written that this frog got its name because it was often used as bait by anglers fishing for pickerel -- a predatory fish 

Signs of a Healthy Pet:

  • Clear eyes
  • Clear nose and mouth
  • Active and alert
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy skin  

Common Health Issues and Red Flags:

  • Vomiting
  • Discharge in nose or mouth
  • Lethargy 
  • Abnormal feces
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cloudy eyes

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical.

The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet. 

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:29 EST
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