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Do Pet Frogs Smell? [Do They Have Natural Odors?]

If you are considering owning a or several pet frogs, you will naturally want to know whether they smell. Besides, this can have big implications of whether you can, or want, to keep them at all. At the very least, it will play a role in where they are kept. Here is all you need to know.

So, do pet frogs smell? Pet frogs can smell, but this is usually due to poor tank maintenance and frog husbandry. Pet frogs will typically smell worse whenever their habitat goes through a bacterial cycle; this is common during initial setup. Equally, any frog’s feces will smell worse before it is naturally converted to nitrates. 

Every living being has a unique scent.

The truth can even be said to humans, to an extent.

There are also differences between species and within the same species.

And there are, of course, pleasant smells, bad smells, and smells that are indifferent.

This is because there are a lot of factors that can contribute to how any living thing smells.

Naturally, some animals will smell more intensely than others.

Much depends on their environment and what they eat, but they all have a smell.

If your frog has an odor, that’s actually a good thing.

It gives you a baseline to indicate your pet’s health.

As you know, any change could mean poor health or an unsanitary environment.

Let us now take a closer look at the odors of this particular amphibian and practical ways to keep any bad smells at bay!

Do Frogs Have An Odor?

Frogs do have an odor, although most species do not have a very strong one. Generally speaking, frogs are not very smelly pets, especially compared to hamsters or gerbils.

That being said, frogs do carry their unique odors, naturally.

If you were to get close enough, you likely would be able to notice it.

Studies have shown that frogs produce a wide range of different odors and their reasons and functions vary between species.

Frogs in the wild may use their odors to attract mates, repel predators, and as a type of camouflage.

They are also known to use odors to recognize their kin!

In fact, the odorants secreted by frogs have been a focus of human research for several years.

It has been discovered that frog secretions are an excellent source of bio-active compounds which could be of benefit to humans.

For example, researchers have observed the L. caerulea secretions repel mosquitoes and are toxic to blowflies.

The L. ewingi secretions contain antimicrobials that repel a range of predators and parasites.

The active compounds in frog odors could have pharmacological uses for humans.

Ultimately, what a frog naturally smells like depends on the species – their biology and natural habitat.

Some owners do not report their frog smelling, whereas others have even said that their frog smell like tomatoes.

Much depends on who you ask and the species in which they own.

Nevertheless, pet frogs that are well looked after shouldn’t emit any extreme odors. Or ones that you would be able to smell unless you get close.

The problem of foul odors arising has a lot to do with their environment. As we will now further explore…

Do Pet Frogs Smell Bad?

Pet frogs can smell bad, but only generally when their enclosure is not routinely cleaned and well taken care of. Equally, the habitat will naturally smell more pungent at certain times, mainly whenever there is a change to the bacterial cycle.

Frog waste, decomposing plant material, and leftover food are all factors that can contribute to a change in the bacterial cycle.

They all release ammonia, and it is not until bacteria can convert them into nitrate that the smell will naturally subside.

This is essentially why the enclosure will smell first and begin with, during, and following the initial setup.

And this process for denitrifying bacteria, where it becomes established in the tank, can take up to six weeks.

And then there is the water; this can always be a source for foul smells.

Frogs don’t breathe the water like fish, but they absorb nutrients and moisture from it.

This is why it is important that pet frogs have access to water at all times.

But if any water becomes dirty – it will be foul-smelling if not regularly changed or looked after.

And lastly, there is the substrate.

Certain substrate material can cause vivariums and their inhabitants to stink.

Moss can leave your frogs with a musty smell, so you must change this material frequently as it can stick to your frogs and cause water spoilage.

Let us now look at some other ways to keep the enclosure from smelling!

How To Keep A Frog Tank From Smelling

Frogs are usually low-maintenance pets. However, they require a clean environment to smell better and remain healthy.

These amphibians frequently secrete mucus through their skin, shed regularly, eat live food, and bathe in their drinking water, all of which lead to waste buildup.

And any time waste can build up, you run the increased risk of odor and ill-health.

So, you must clean your frog tank thoroughly periodically and change the water daily to prevent bacterial and fungal infections.

It can all seem a tad overwhelming at first, but things will be easier when used to the process.

How To Clean A Frog Tank 

Let’s discuss the cleaning method step by step:

Step 1: Water Preparation 

Consider the size of your tank before preparing the water to add.

Fill a suitably sized container with the amount of water needed for your tank’s size.

Be sure to treat the water with a conditioner before it enters the tank.

This removes chlorine and other chemicals that are harmful to your fogs.

Leave the water out overnight.

Step 2: Remove Your Frogs

Remove your frogs from their tank and place them in a temporary dwelling if you’re deep cleaning.

If you are doing a quick tidying or changing the water, the frogs can remain in the tank.

There are small plastic tanks you can purchase in the pet store for deep cleaning.

Step 3: Drain Old Water

Partially drain water from your tank, about 25 to 75%; this depends on how filthy the water is and how long it was since your last partial water change.

A siphon hose or a plastic container will suffice to remove the water.

Step 4: Scoop Out Substrate

Scoop out the majority of the substrate from the bottom of your tank.

Put the material into a fine colander, then use a scrub brush and hot water to clean any other debris like algae.

Rinse and put it aside to air-dry.

Step 5: Remove Food

Remove any food leftover you find as these promote fungi and bacterial growth.

Look for shed skin left behind from your frog’s shedding cycle.

Step 6: Remove Accessories

Take any plastic plants and other tank accessories out of the tank.

Scrub and rinse them before returning them to the tank.

Step 7: Wipe And Dry

Use paper towels to wipe down the interior and exterior of the tank.

Never use chemical cleaners to clean the tank walls.

Step 8: Return Substrate 

Return the substrate and gravel to the tank slowly and carefully.

Step 9: Add New Water

Put new water into the tank to replace the water you drained out.

If your frogs are aquatic, you must refill the tank.

However, if they are terrestrial or semiaquatic, you only need to replace the water removed from the swimming areas.

Step 10: Add Your Frogs Back

Remove your frogs from their temporary housing and put them back to their newly cleaned home.

Setting Up A Frog Tank

It can take well up to six weeks for denitrifying bacteria to become fully established when setting up a new aquatic or semi-aquatic frog tank.

The tank’s aquatic section must be set up with the filter running for about six weeks before placing new frogs in there to live.

You must add plants gradually for an aquatic or semi-aquatic setup for the first six weeks.

Test water parameters two or three times a week to ensure the nitrogen cycle is in place and maintained.

Once your frog tank is established, 10 to 20% of the water must be removed and replenished once a week.

As small as these water changes seem, they remove excess levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate without removing the good bacteria or affecting the tank water’s pH.

Never go beyond removing 10 to 20% of the water each week as this can result in discharging large amounts of toxic ammonia into the tank’s water, and it removes too much of the good bacteria.

It’s perfectly fine to remove leftover food and feces from the tank daily as long as you don’t disturb the substrate.

You should test the pH of new water to ensure it adjusts to the same pH if the water already in the tank.

Treat all water with a conditioner before it goes into the tank as it removes chlorine and other toxic chemicals which could harm your frogs.

You must clean the tank filter regularly; however, don’t clean it during the weekly water changes.

Clean the filter media in a container of aquarium water.

Never use tap water, as it kills the good bacteria in the filter.

The media doesn’t need to be spotless.

A filter should circulate the tank’s water volume three to four times an hour; good filtration is essential to remove large organic matter, and it houses essential bacteria needed for the nitrogen cycle.

If your frog drinks and bathes from a bowl, you must change the water every day.

You must check the condition of the water and its pH levels.


Frogs undoubtedly have an odor, like any living being.

But not all frogs smell the same!

Considerably smelly species of frogs (such as those belonging to the genus Odorrhana) are not popular pets due to their foul odor.

Their odor is incredibly unpleasant and is similar to that of rotten fish.

Most frogs kept by hobbyists are not very smelly, and when they smell, it’s usually because of their environment.

Thankfully and for the most part, frogs are easy pets to keep, look after and interesting to observe.

However, a clean tank is essential as it keeps them in good health and prevents bad odors from taking over.

Maintaining excellent water quality and the nitrogen cycle within the tank is crucial; poor water quality is one of the most common causes of diseases in pet frogs.

Ultimately, wild frogs may smell more intensely than pet frogs, as they are up against predators and other threats to their existence.

Pet frogs don’t have these as they are safe and generally well looked after by their humans.

Related Questions

How Often Should You Clean Your Frog Tank?

It is recommended to clean your frog tank daily, weekly, and monthly. However, the level of cleaning required will vary following these timelines. It is advised to remove soiled bedding and stale food daily, conduct short spot cleans several times weekly, and conduct a deep clean monthly.