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Home > Reptiles > Where Do Pacman Frogs Come From? (2024 Guide)

Where Do Pacman Frogs Come From? (2024 Guide)

Pacman frog sitting on leaves

The appropriately nicknamed Pacman frog is an exquisite amphibian that is native to South America. More correctly named, the Argentine horned frog earned its almost comical nickname because of its rounded head, large gaping mouth, and tendency to attempt to engulf almost anything in its vicinity. This may be meaningless unless you are familiar with the famous video arcade game of the 1980s!

The “horned” part of its name stems from the two horn-like protuberances on its head above the eyes. These are not horns at all but rather folds of skin that look somewhat like horns.

Their perfect, colorful markings are beautiful to look at and their behavior is interesting to observe. Let’s take a more detailed look at these feisty little frogs.

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Distribution and Characteristics of the Pacman Frog


The Pacman frog has a chunky, roundish body with a large head, relative to its body. The mouth boasts an impressive gape, being the widest part of its head.

They can weigh around half a pound but may reach weights over a pound. The female is larger than the male with a length of between five and seven inches, and the male around three to four inches.

They occur in an array of beautiful bright colors that mark their skin in interesting mottled patterns. The males tend to be more brightly colored than the females. Their beautiful color is their ticket to attracting a mate.

Ceratophrys Canwelli or Pacman frog
Image Credit: Patchara T_Shutterstock

Subspecies and Variations

The Pacman frog belongs to the genus Ceratophrys which contains eight species. C. cranwelli, C. ornata and C. cornuta are most commonly found in captivity, as well as a very interesting crossbred version known as the “fantasy frog”. This is derived by mating C. cranwelli with C. cornuta.

Pacman frogs are grouped according to their color and skin patterning and have exotic names such as the Strawberry, Pineapple, Sunburst, Albino and Translucent, to name a few.

Distribution and Habitat

As mentioned the Pacman frog is indigenous to South America with a broad species-dependent distribution throughout the continent. The table below gives the common names and shows the distribution of each species throughout South America. The first three listed in the table are those that you are most likely to find in captivity as pets.

Pacman Frog_agus fitriyanto suratno_Shutterstock
Image Credit: agus fitriyanto suratno, Shutterstock
Scientific Name Common Name Distribution
Ceratophrys ornata Argentine horned frog Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil.
Ceratophrys cornuta Surinam horned frog The northern part of South America
Ceratophrys cranwelli Cranwell’s horned frog Parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil.
Ceratophrys aurita Brazilian horned frog Brazil
Ceratophrys calcarata Columbian horned frog Colombia, Venezuela
Ceratophrys joazeirensis Joazeiro horned frog Brazil
Ceratophrys stolzmanni Stolzmann’s horned frog Ecuador, Peru
Ceratophrys testudo Equador horned frog Equador


In the wild, the Pacman frog can be found in tropical swamplands, subtropical grasslands, dense and low-lying tropical forests, and freshwater marshes. It spends much of its time buried in moist soil with up to two-thirds of its body submerged.

The numbers of certain species of Pacman frogs are declining in the wild.1

Do Pacman Frogs Make Good Pets?

Pacman frogs make very rewarding “project pets”. They might not be considered pets in the traditional sense of the word. They would not be a great choice of pet if you’re looking for a critter to be your companion, to “cuddle” and carry around.

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, it is advisable to touch them as little as possible as they have very sensitive skin which may react to oils, soaps, lotions, and the like on your skin. The second reason is they have a voracious appetite and will try and eat almost anything that comes near them. That includes your fingers. And, they have teeth!

They do well in captivity but on the whole, they remain wild animals. It is very pleasing to own and care for a Pacman frog. It will keep you entranced for hours if you are particularly intrigued by amphibians. They are relatively low-maintenance pets and eat almost anything (not that they should be fed just anything). This makes them great pets for children who can learn a great deal about an amphibian’s life history, morphology, habits, and characteristics.

Hornfrog on a log Ceratophrys Canwelli or Pacman frog
Image Credit: Patchara T, Shutterstock

How Long Do Pacman Frogs Live?

In the wild, a Pacman frog would have a life expectancy of between one and four years. This is because of the inherently higher risks of predation, exposure to the elements, and illness that would be encountered in nature.

A Pacman frog living the cushy life in captivity is expected to live up to between six and ten years of age. They have even been known to reach the ripe old age of 15 years.

How Often, and What, Do They Eat?

In captivity, adult Pacman frogs are typically fed two to three times per week. They enjoy a varied diet that should comprise mostly insects but include a bit of meat such as mice and worms.

In the wild this opportunistic ambush predator will eat almost anything that crosses their path and that they can fit in their mouth. This includes snakes, lizards, small rodents, insects and even other Pacman frogs. This is why, in captivity, they cannot be kept with other frogs. One or the other is likely to end up as a meal eventually!

They can consume impressively large prey that is up to half their own size. It would appear, however, that their judgment regarding prey size might be a bit off. It is not uncommon for them to tackle something too large and then choke to death. You may be wondering why they simply don’t regurgitate the large prey item. The answer is quite interesting and has to do with the aforementioned teeth. Their teeth are specially designed to prevent prey from escaping—a one-way system if you will. One may argue that these coupled with their occasional bad judgment could constitute an evolutionary design flaw! Either way, there are pros and cons.

There is not very much information to be found regarding the frequency of feeding in the wild. It could be inferred however that they probably eat more frequently than in captivity due to the higher energetic demands on them.

Ceratophrys Canwelli or Pacman frog
Image Credit: Patchara T, Shutterstock

Do They Sleep?

The Pacman frog is nocturnal. This means that snooze time is during the day and it will be more active during the night time. For this reason, if you are thinking of getting a Pacman frog, you may want to think carefully about where you will locate its tank.

Although these frogs are considered to be quite inactive in general, they might be a bit noisier at night and disturb your sleep if they are too close to your bed or bedroom.

Ceratophrys Canwelli or Pacman frog
Image Credit: Patchara T, Shutterstock

Where Can I Get a Pacman Frog?

Pacman frogs are readily available due to their popularity. Sadly, some are impulse or fad pets and end up being surrendered. If you are thinking of getting a Pacman frog, why not consider contacting your local rescue centers to see if they have one looking for a home?

If this avenue is unsuccessful many reputable dealers specialize in these exotic little critters. You could expect to pay between $20 to $40 for a standard variety and anywhere up to $300 for a very special specimen such as a hybrid.

You should never remove an amphibian from the wild to keep as a pet. Only captive-bred animals are suitable for this purpose.

new frog dividerConclusion

This native South American Pacman frog is a fascinating creature. The stunning variety of colors and patterns present in the genus is mesmerizing and their feeding behavior is quite enthralling. There is so much more to the Pacman frog than meets the eye.

Although they may not be a more traditional pet, owning and caring for one would be an interesting and educational adventure. They make great pets for beginners and children.

Featured Image Credit: Dirk Ercken_Shutterstock

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