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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Amphibians are popular pets - but they have very specific environmental requirements which need to be maintained to ensure good health

Amphibians (eg frogs, newts) are unusual, interesting  pets to keep. One of their main features is that they have delicate semi-permeable skin and most species require a damp, humid atmosphere and relatively high environmental temperature to keep healthy. Keeping amphibians is a challenging hobby because it is so important to maintain strict environmental conditions, including the following :

  • When handling amphibians hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and water and latex or vinyl gloves should be worn to protect the amphibians skin, and to protect the handler from noxious secretions. Powders should not be used with these gloves as they can irritate the amphibians skin.
  • Bleach (diluted 30ml/litre water) should be used to disinfect all utensils for 30 minutes on a regular basis. It can also be used to clean out tanks used to keep the amphibians. Once the tank/utensils have been disinfected all residues of the bleach should be washed off using copious amounts of clean water.
  • Amphibians rely on environmental temperatures to maintain their internal metabolic activity and if they are kept at a lower temperature than they require they may suffer from malnutrition and disease. So it is important to keep the environmental temperature within the normal range for the species using a thermostat and heaters including :
    • Under gravel heaters
    • Low-watt incandescent spot lights
    • Ceramic heating lamps
    • Aquarium heaters for water

    All exposed heat sources eg lamps, should be inaccessible to the amphibians - because direct contact can cause serious burns to the skin.

  • Because amphibians have skin that will dry out quickly in dry conditions, most require an environment with  high humidity and this can be generated by providing a humidifier, an artificial waterfall or by spraying water regularly into the environment.
  • A clean, fresh supply of uncontaminated, aerated  water must be available at all times. It must be free from potential toxins including :
    • Heavy metals - lead, mercury - often present in natural water sources near Industrial areas 
    • Nitrites - often present in natural water supplies near agricultural land
    • Chlorine, fluorine - often added to water supplies intended for human consumption
    • Pesticides - often present in fresh water sources draining from agricultural land
    • Ammonia
    • Stagnant water
    • Water contaminated with blue-green algae - often occurs in lake water following a drought

    If necessary natural water supplies should be filtered to remove all impurities, for example by using:

    • Under gravel filters
    • External filters
    • Sponge filters
  • Regular air changes are important - with a recommended rate of at least 1-2 air changes per hour. So adequate ventilation needs to be provided through the lid of the tank
  • Exposure to light and ultraviolet light is necessary for healthy amphibians and this is best provided by natural sunlight gaining access through non-absorbing screens in the tank lid. Ultraviolet light does not pass through glass or plastic. Alternatively, ultraviolet  light can be provided by using special fluorescent light bulbs with ultraviolet light source inside the environment, about 18 inches above the animals. UV light is important for the manufacture of vitamin D. The light should be switched on for periods of time that mimic the species' natural environment.
  • Clean flooring materials should be used - eg soil, gravel. These should have been heat treated (200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes) to kill parasites and frozen (less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill infectious micro-organisms, and they should be free of any pesticides, fungicides or other chemicals. Peat moss should not be used as it can irritate amphibians skin because it is so acidic. Mulches made from pine and cedar should also be avoided because their oils are potentially toxic to amphibians
  • The addition of plants to an amphibians environment is very important because they serve many useful purposes including the following :
    • Aquatic plants - oxygenate water, remove nitrogenous waste products from the water, provide an naturalistic environment in which to hide, and provide food for some amphibian stages
    • Terrestrial green plants - generate oxygen for the air, utilise waste products in the soil, provide a naturalistic environment for perching and hiding.
  • When buying-in plants they are often contaminated with snails and these should be removed (using a copper sulphate solution) prior to introducing them into the environment because can transmit parasites to the amphibians, and they may eat some amphibian life-stages.


Last updated :September 2013