Plants for Frog Vivariums

Getting Started

Potting soils listed are types -YOU make sure they are organic, containing NO added phosphates, plant food or fertilizer! It is suggested that after buying the plant, you place it in the organic-based soil listed, and grow away from frog for 6 to 8 weeks before adding to the Vivarium.

What this will do is allow any chemicals and fertilizers that were added to the soil mixture the nursery used to originally grow the plant, will grow out and not contaminate your pets.


Bamboo is a great vivarium plant for many types of frog vivariums. It will need good lighting, and can be grown in either the vivarium soil or water. They grow quickly, and can be cultivated into even more stalks simply but cutting above one of the nodules and re-planting the unrooted top into a cup of water for a month or so.

Bamboo can be readily purchased from Home Depot or Lowes. Look for the bamboo they carry that is loosely grown in water pails. I paid $10.00 for a stalk that was apporximately 18" tall. I took it home, divided it as I mentioned above, and let grow in treated froggy style water for about 6 weeks. I then placed it in my Litorias' vivarium. Within a month, it is ready to top and I'll be able to grow still another stalk and place in another vivarium!

Should your lighting source not be strong enough, it will begin to grow quite leggy, so up the lighting source in that case, being sure to protect the frogs from any direct sunlight or overheating. Keep the roots moist. I do directly plant mine in Scotts brand peatmoss with a sphagnum moss bottom base, which is directly over a false bottom.

This plant seems to do well in warm as well as cool tanks, but good humidity is vital to keep it thriving.


Cynoches is in the Orchid family, and grows sturdy and strong. It requires much light, but no direct sun, so is excellent for larger Vivarium. This Orchid is also easy to care for, good for Beginners. It is usually found in the fall in many of the larger Nurseries and Garden Centers like Home Depot, WalMart and Lowes.

Keep it moderately moist during its growing season, and cut down on water intake in the winter. Give it an orchid mix soil in a lattice basket you have attached to the cork sheet back of your vivarium. Make sure the Vivarium is properly ventilated.


Dendrobium is an excellent choice of orchid for a tropical, subtropical, or even cloudforest style vivarium. Since this orchid does well indoors with just minimum care, if you can provide their few requirements you can have a vivaqrium that sports beautiful flowers once yearly, and consists of strong, sturdy thick green foilage year round.

The roots on this type of orchid are built more for arial life, so they are naturally brown and strong, like thick twine. After allowing the strong fertilizers that have come with your flowering orchid to be used up by the plant (usually 6 to 8 weeks of no fertilizing and no frog tank planting!) you can then gingerly remove it from the pot it came in, being careful not to break the anchoring roots, which sometimes have grown right onto the sides of the clay pot; and begin the process of placing in your frogs' home.

If you're going to place it on the cork backing, the frogs will have to all be removed for now. Time this type of planting with your normal cleaning schedule, and have the tank ready in advance. When plant is loose, hold it up against the walls to figure out where it looks best for you and the frogs. Using silicone glue, attach a few of the sturdier roots onto the wall, being sure not to coat the entire root, just allow it support. Use either garbage bag ties that anchor into a nearby limb or duck tape to hold the plant in place until the glue dries overnight.

Another method of planting is much simpler. Just simply place the entire plant, clay pot and all, into the vivarium. Or maybe you want to sink it into the soil so that the pot is unseen. The choice is yours. Just remember, this plant does'nt like as much direct watering as most people if sinking it into the soil, make sure not to water that area too much.

Give the plant bright indirect sun-lighting, or direct lighting with a plant light or two strong fluorescents. It enjoys regular tropical treefrog temperature ranges, with your regular evening temp drop-off. Only water the plant when the soil or orchid medium surrounding it is completely dry. To fertilize (and cause it to rebloom) place your froggie's dried poops under the plant's medium and near roots. When the plant is not blooming, try buying a silk orchid bloom and tucking it into a position that makes it look as though it is still blooming.

If the plant becomes leggy, you need to give it more lighting. If it begins to yellow, you're either overwatering or underwatering. Overwatering and leaf is bloated; under and its dry and tip may look rusted. Don't remove dried or dead leaves, the plant reuses the nutrients contained within them to help feed itself. If you're doing everything right, it will grow a pair of new leaves every year.


Gasteria are succulent plants with very short trunks and often leaves in double rows. Give this Savannah-Vivarium plant sparse water and much overhead light with no obstruction to light. In Winter, water only enough to keep the leaves from drying out. A sturdy plant that will grow tall. Place in mid to back of the Vivarium. Great plant for larger Monkey frogs to climb upon, as it will support their weight without breaking. Give it a cactus type soil.

The verrucosa, shown underneath the lilliputna, is less sturdy but also useful. Use in Vivariums with younger Waxys or the striped leg Monkey frogs.


Heliconia are actually related to Banana plants. They need a large Sub-tropical to Tropical Vivarium with a deep soil-base that provides good drainage. They will thrive with full exposure to your over-head UV-B lighting. In winter allow the plant soil to only slightly dry, and the rest of the year keep the plants' roots just slightly moist. It likes humidity too. If your Vivarium is large enough, this is a great plant for larger tropical treefrogs, as the leaves are sturdy. Can grow to over 3' tall with optimum conditions.

Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth is actually known more as a nuisance here in Southern Florida, where it clogs our canals and many parts of 'the sea of grass', better known as the everglades.

However, it makes a great plant for boggy or aquatic vivariums. The long, white hairy roots that hang down from the plant actually help to pull noxious nasties from the water, such as phosphorous, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. In spring and summer, they send up a stalk from near center of the plant that will hold a bunch of lavender flowers resembling the famous hyacinth of spring, hence the name.

They will need bright light and good air circulation to survive, plus headroom if in an aquatic setup. You can sometimes find them in the northern parts of the U.S. in Garden shops or Pond Supply outlets.


Fenestaria aurantica is a great ground cover plant for Savannah Vivariums or outdoor enclosures that receive much light. They require cactus type soil. After the miniature flowers appear, keep the plant cooler or it will die back. This plant is easy to grow from seed, and may be a benefit for you to do so, as plants grown from seed usually tolerate the environment you have them in much better than those transplanted. Likes bright light, so keep it open to your overhead lighting. Do not add any extra water to it after it flowers, wait until spring to begin adding water directly to the plant again.


Monstera is also called the 'Swiss cheese plant'. A popular and quite strong plant, Monstera sends out many aerial root-shoots that will attach themselves to a coconut fiber or cork backed Vivarium. Plant likes moisture, so use in Tropical to Sub-Tropical Vivariums. Keep it warm and well-lit so it won't get leggy. No direct sun should ever hit its foliage. Place in standard potting soil mix, and wipe leaves clean with distilled water once every month or so. Red-Eyed treefrogs love this plant, as do dendrobates and Mantellas.


Peperomia have strongly ribbed leaves of a metallic green-gray. When it flowers, these appear on the ends of long, narrow spikes. The lighter the foliage, the more light you will want to give the plant. It does well in Vivariums that are moderately humid. Sub-Tropical to Cloud Forest Vivariums are the best for Peperomia. Never over-water, and always use warmed rain or distilled water.

Bromeliad or Orchid soil is good to use. It is a low-growing plant that should be planted mid to back of the Vivarium. In the winter months cut watering in half and return to regular watering again in Spring.


Philodendrons are easy to care for and quite prolific. A great climber. Attach it to your cork-backed Vivarium wall and watch it shoot up. Anchor it either in a coconut-fiber basket you have cut in half and stuffed with orchid mix, or wrap the root ball with sphagnum and orchid bark and tie off with non-toxic plastic covered wire. Use more wire to attach to the Vivarium wall.

It likes bright light and keep it moist for best growth. You will most likely have to pinch off the top now and again, as it grows quickly. You can use it in a Tropical to Sub-Tropical setup. Pinch off any leaves that are turning yellow, being careful no frogs are underneath the leaves before disposing of.


Pistia is also called 'Water lettuce' or 'Nile lettuce'. It floats & proliferates in the tropics and sub-tropics, often clogging canals and other waterways. It will grow in your Vivarium with proper care.

The pool of water in your Vivarium will need to stay a constant temperature and be of gentle movement. It will also need direct lighting from your UV-B lights. If the plants' leaves become lanky, you have not met its lighting requirements and it will eventually die without stronger lighting. It's roots will eventually drag the pools' bottom, and this is good. Pistia will derive any nutrients it needs from the water, and mine actually seem to help keep the water clarified. Of course, Sub-Tropical to Tropical temperatures are best for it.

If the plants' roots develop algae, you will need to pinch those roots off, as they strangle the plant. Fire-bellied toads will perch in them. They are one of the only plants you can actually keep with the Xenopus frogs. They will occasionally get some roots, but ultimately this tough plant will be able to live through their abuse if the tank is large enough.


Papyrus is another plant that loves water. Unlike Pistia, it does not normally sit in the water, but can easily withstand flooded roots. Place it at the pools' edge, and keep very very moist.

Give it high light. Great for Sub-Tropical and Tropical Vivariums. Also great for pipid tanks. Use potting soil with some sand added for good drainage.

For use with pipids, take a finely meshed netting bag from a bag of onions. carefully cut the top, making a very small hole. Place a heavy stone in bottom. Stuff with unground sphagnum moss on outside, add soil to center. make a hole in center with your finger, add papyrus roots. Place a loose-fitting rubber band around the top of mesh bag to enclose plant within bag, and now sink to shallow area of pipid tank you want. About 2" to 3" of the plant can thrive underwater with no distress.


Sanservia is one of the toughest plants ever. It can take on a wide range of environments, including Sub-Tropical to Savannah. Low light to high light, and the same with watering. A sturdy and upright plant, use it in either of the above Vivariums, and water according to which setup it is in. It grows in standard potting soil and will easily support the weight of even the largest treefrogs. Also good to place with Temperate Vivariums. Rana species will enjoy resting in front of them.

Both varieties pictured do very well in Vivariums. You may wish to plant the trifasciata species in a taller tank, as it grows up to 2 feet tall. The bottom variety shown is good for Vivariums that are longer than they are tall. Look great grown in groupings.


Euphorbia family contains some strange but beautiful examples of plants. The one pictured is originally from South Africa. Although it looks like a cactus, it is a succulent and the spines are quite soft, unable to hurt your frogs.

The plant grows low and spreads horizontally, so is better planted near the front or mid-front of your Savannah-style Vivarium. Make sure it is receiving direct overhead lighting with no obstruction. It does quite well in outdoor screened enclosures that receive some direct sun. Keep it warm and water sparsely, drier in the winter months. It likes a cactus type soil. My waxy Monkey treefrogs love climbing among this plant.


Selaginella victoriae is a mosslike plant that has yellowish tips on the ends of its fronds. Grows to approximately 6" in height, although probably not this tall in a Vivarium. Spreads through tiny roots on the fronds, makes a good ground cover in a 55 gallon and up.

It enjoys low light with moderately moist soil, so is perfect for Vivarium use. It enjoys the average temperatures present in ones' home as well. 55 ° to 70 °. Do not allow the soil to become boggish where it lives, as this will cause root rot and the plant will die. Placing next to a 'waterfall' in the Vivarium is a good place if you want to allow the plant to reach its full height.


Myrmecodia echinata is an epiphytic plant from Southeast Asia. It grows well in Sub-Tropical and Tropical Vivariums. In Nature, the tubers in its' base are inhabited by ants. The plant naturally provides 'corridors' for this to happen. So you may be able to get double-use out of the plant as an ant-farm too, supplying your frogs with a constant source of black ants.

It enjoys a warm spot in the Vivarium with only the lighting your Set-up provides, no external light source is needed. It enjoys high humidity and soft to distilled water on its roots. Plant it in sphagnum moss and the addition of rock wool flakes helps to feed it. You can allow it to grow on the floor of the Vivarium or attach it with non-toxic plastic covered wire to the back-wall of the Vivarium. Stuff the sphagnum and wool flakes under the root-ball before attachment. Keep moist except in winter, when you can allow it to dry ever so slightly. The leaves may fall off, a sign of over-watering and/or not enough light. Remedy these situation(s) and they will grow back.


Dichondra is a lovely lily-pad shaped leaf ground cover that you can use as a substitute for moss in Indoor kept Temperate and Sub-Tropical to Tropical Vivariums. Ususally growing no taller than an inch, in Florida it naturally grows in the shadier spots underneath large tree canopies. I have seen it in full sun, but it only does well in this spot when it becomes shaded within a few hours by a building or tree.

Dichondra enjoys a bright tank when grown indoors, and moist standard potting mix soil with a bit of sand added. You can grow it from seed or started plants. It is easier to care for than live moss, and when treated properly will spread out across your entire Vivarium. Lessen watering in the winter months.

Here is a great source for the seed, it's very easy to get started: Ground cover Dichondra at Park Seed. Try this variety for hanging basket style: Park Seed, Hanging Basket Dichondra.


Synognium is a member of the Philodendron family, and is a vigorous climber with thin leaves. A good Tropical to Sub-tropical Vivarium plant for smaller frogs, Syngonium likes warmth and high light. It will attach itself to the cork sheeting on the Vivarium back if you plant it in the soil near it. Keep the soil lightly moist. Reduce watering in winter. It likes a standard potting mix with some sand added for good drainage. It is also easy to propagate from leaf cuttings.


Adiantum species shown is capillisveneris. These ferns are delicate to look at, but sturdy in the Temperate and Cloud Forest style Vivariums. Great for Rana frogs that naturally live in northern climates. It prefers a loamy soil with sand mixed in. In a Vivarium environment, you can give it bright light. Keep the soil slightly moist.

Temperatures between 75 ° and 50 ° will keep this fern thriving.


Chlorophytum has species in the genera that include the well-known 'Spiderplant.' The main plant sends out many spidery 'arms' with tiny plants attached to the ends. The one pictured to your left is a grass-like species that is also good for planting in your substrate. The spider is great for a hanging basket in the Sub-Tropical to Temperate Vivarium, or you can attach it directly onto the cork sheet inside a halved coconut husked basket.

Give it standard potting soil with some sphagnum moss mixed in. Keep it slightly moist at all times. Bright light from your UV-B works well for this plant. Lessen water in winter time. You can pinch off any dead leaves. If its a spiderplant, pinch off the baby plants and re-plant them.

Guzmania and Bromeliads

Guzmania lingulata Guzmanina is an excellent choice in bromeliads for use in tropical and cloudforest setups. Spineless and sturdy, for those of you trying to breed frogs that need a bromeliad cup to lay their eggs, guzmania is perfect. Attach to the cork backing of your vivarium, or place wire around its base and attach to logs.

Water it in the center-cup, using only treated and/or distilled water. Fertilize once monthly using poop from the frogs, as this will not kill the frogs as it would using traditional human-made fertilizers. Place this at its' base and in the water-cup. Use strong lighting, using a plant-gro bulb directly over it (can double as basking lamp). Additional lighting can include two strip fluorescents that are of daylight quality.

Eventually the "mother plant" will die, but leave at her feet, young bromeliads, called "pups". These will live off the mother plant and eventually replace her.

Live Moss

Live moss is an excellent floor covering for a well-maintained vivarium. It does require some special care. UVB lighting for two hours daily in a heavily planted vivarium, along with a moist environment are at a premium to keep it healthy and from breaking apart.

Moss naturally lives on every continent on planet Earth except Anartica. There are several thousand different species. One thing they all have in common: Good air quality is a sign of their remaining healthy. Pollution affects moss dramatically. If yours begins to turn brown and die, then either of the three things mentioned could be the problem.

Many froggers opt not to use moss as a floor cover because it is harder to keep alive than dichondra. Others go with "Bed-a-Beast". The reasons for this is simple. The lodging of foreign material like moss in your frogs throat or stomach can cause impaction ,which is deadly.

I personally don't care for the "Bed-a-Beast" because of the appearance of the vivarium. It also ends up all over the frog, which must be annoying. (Watch them constantly using their back legs to try and rub themselves free of it). If you feel you don't have a green thumb and can't maintain living moss, try for organic foam with a sprinkling of river stones, Scotts peat moss or dichondra as a floor cover instead.

Cricket Bites & Live Plants

I have found a couple of other reasons to use live moss as well. When feeding crickets to your pets, any escapees will hide and breed in the damp moss. Within a few weeks, you'll have any number of tiny pinhead crickets that have been born out of the moss, a ready feeding supply to your frogs! Another great thing is that the crickets will munch on the moss, instead of your frogs' skin. Crickets do bite/eat your frogs' skin if they escape from being eaten and have no other live plant food in the tank... just about any living plant can help keep the crickets from biting the frogs!

Bottom line, Live Moss does look lovely and is more natural. Green-thumbers, go for it!








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