The Frog-O-Sphere Controversy

This past weekend, Susan noticed “Frog-O-Sphere” kits in a Brookstone store. The frogs were barely moving and seemed as if they were dying. She found this very disturbing and asked me to find out about it. Doing a little research, I found out that just this past week, PETA staged protests in front of Brookstone stores against these kits. The Times of Trenton reported that after the PETA protests, a store in West Windsor, New Jersey, was ordered to pull the kits off its shelves after the township health office flagged the company for not having a pet shop license.

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

According to PETA’s website:

Recently, allegations have surfaced that Brookstone employees who see that frogs are languishing on store shelves have been instructed to put them ‘in the back,’ out of sight of customers, instead of contacting a veterinarian to get help for sick and dying animals.

Frog-O-Sphere kits, sold only by Brookstone, contain a plastic aquarium, two aquatic frogs, a bamboo plant, a snail, and living gravel. According to the company website, the frogs won’t outgrow the aquarium and may live for up to 4 years. The snail feeds itself and keeps the tank clean of algae and excess food. Living gravel acts as a biological filter, converting excess food and waste into a soluble form that can be used by the bamboo plant. The bamboo absorbs the waste, then releases oxygen, which helps the frogs and snail.

Keeping frogs as pets is controversial enough—a topic we’ll address in future posts. But I do think the claim that these kits promise a “complete self-contained ecosystem” is overstated. The kits remind me of the many pets I had as a child, such as the little turtle that sat under a plastic palm tree and lived a month or so. The Frog-O-Spheres fall into that category, despite the fact that the kits sound upscale, educational, and eco-friendly.

In the customer reviews on Brookstone, many people clicked “decoration” or “gift” as the reason to buy the kits. Most people also mentioned that the snails died within a couple of weeks. Unless the person who purchased the frogs is motivated to buy new snails (or get replacement snails from Brookstone), the water will soon become cloudy and the frogs will suffer, and the so-called “self-contained ecosystem” will fall apart.

From what I’ve read, African Dwarf frogs are pretty hardy and low maintenance, but they do have certain requirements that these Frog-O-Spheres don’t seem to fulfill. I looked at a frog pet site and found out that, for example, the frogs can live from 5 to 18 years, they need a gallon of water per frog, need a water heater for winter months, are less stressed out if they have artificial lighting for consistent day and night lighting (they are nocturnal), need plants and foliage to hide behind, and so on. If you have already purchased a Frog-O-Sphere, I recommend going online to learn about them or buy a pet care book about African Dwarf frogs.

If you are tempted to buy one of these Frog-O-Sphere kits, please resist. Go outside and enjoy frogs—in real ecosystems.

40 thoughts on “The Frog-O-Sphere Controversy

  1. It is strange that people have devised this way of keeping frogs as pets. How comfortable are frogs as pets, I wonder. Why do we want to tame animals and feel happy to see them get “trained” to behave like humans and treat humans with disdain when they behave like some animals. Is it human ego?

    • Some animals seem to be suited for being pets or being trained, like dogs, cats, and horses because humans have evolved with them (although some people might not agree with me on that). I don’t think frogs are suitable as pets.

      Mary Jo

  2. I guess I can believe that such things go on after what I have seen in schools. I know that you can order live frog eggs to watch metamophose and even live adult frogs for the classroom. This site is very specific and can be seen as preaching to the choir. What we need to do is educate our educators better. We also need to educate our legislators to make things like this against the law.

    • Thanks, Rhonda, for your comment. It is upsetting. I’m hopeful that animal rights groups will make some headway with the Frog-o-Sphere issue. I noticed your email address. I’m also interested in the honey bee crisis and will look at your site.

      Mary Jo

  3. I was planning to buy one of these for my soh who is away at college, have now changed my mind!! I just wanted you to know that you have made a difference, thanks!

    and I only searched for these comments after reading the disclosure statement on Brookstone’s website

    • Dear CC, We’re so glad you read our post and changed your mind. Perhaps instead think of a trip the two of you might take together to see Frogs in their natural habitats!
      Susan

  4. Frogs make great pets. We have 5 “Grow a Frogs” they are over 12 years old. A lot better and smarter than fish. Hardly no trouble at all to take care of.

  5. Pingback: Update on the Frog-O-Sphere Controversy « Frogs Are Green- A blog to raise awareness about the threats frogs face in the world's changing environment...

    • Annie, I’m sorry to hear that you bought one, but since you did, I hope you’ll read about your frogs, so they have a chance to live a long time. Did you buy the frog-o-sphere with the snail or after they removed the snail? They are not selling it with the snail anymore. – Susan

  6. If cats and dogs are ok to domesticate, why arent frogs ok to have as pets? No matter what the reason is. Where is the line drawn for raising animals?

    • Hi Maxwell–

      That’s an excellent question and I don’t have an easy answer for it. One reason keeping frogs as pets is discouraged is because it’s difficult to reproduce their wild environment in an aquarium so that they can thrive. Sometimes these frogs are removed from the wild, which reduces their number, and sometimes they spread disease to other frogs or to humans (just yesterday I read about more cases of salmonella from African Dwarf frogs and will be doing a post on this next). If you can get frogs that are captive-bred, native to your area, that is preferred. But I think a pet that has been domesticated like a cat or dog is best. Or a pet from a species that isn’t endangered and is fairly easy to take care of, like a hermit crab (my family’s hermit crab lived 11 years). If you do have a frog, it’s important to read as much as you can in order to keep it healthy.

  7. Now that I do have one of these I wonder if I could add it to my tropical fish tank that is heated to give them a better living enviorment???

  8. While you seen to have genuine concern, you haven’t followed through with a true investigation of the facts. In all of this, no where has anyone taken the time to contact anyone with Brookstone or especially the manufacturer of this product to get a comment, or a statement explaining their product. Until you do that, all you are doing is spouting opininated editoral. There is no substance with any of this until both sides are examined without bias.

    It’s been said that opinions are like a**holes…everyone has one, and they all stink. Put aside your emotional bias and do some real investigation. This a good blog, with a good cause. But unless you have no desire to present a unbiased, journalistic publication worthy of merit, you have to go a bit further.

  9. Hi Dale-

    We don’t claim to be investigative journalists, but we’ve made our position clear: generally we are against frogs being kept as pets. Too often people don’t really learn how to take care of small “exotic” pets, frog pets can introduce diseases to native frogs, and the amphibian pet industry may deplete native populations. So talking to Brookstone won’t change our opinions about that. If people insist on having frogs as pets, they should get them at pet stores where they will be instructed on their proper care and not buy them in a kit on a whim at the local mall–most of the places where the kits are sold aren’t licensed to sell animals. If you do any research yourself you’ll see that African dwarf frogs need larger aquariums and other requirements for an optimal life. Many of the Frog-o-Spheres (and similar kits) are bought for decoration or for kids that will grow bored with them and the “eco-habitat” will fall apart. If something is too good to be true, it usually is (ie the aquarium is self-cleaning because the snails eat the algae etc).

    And please, no name calling–that’s not necessary.

  10. Hey after reading this site I felt bad about the Frog-O-Sphere I had received as a gift so I put the two frogs in my brothers 100 gallon aquarium with his fish. There is proper lighting and heating in it. They loved it… until they were eaten by the really big fish. Now I am really sad. Thanks a lot for the “great” advice.

    • Steven,
      We’re so very sorry to hear your story. Yet another example of why frogs should not be brought into the home as pets, without reading important information regarding their care. We hope you will help spread the message to others, not to buy this product.

  11. I enjoy my frog-o-sphere. My niece and nephew got a kick out of giving it as a gift and I enjoy watching the frogs race about, from top to bottom. I threw a Beta fish in there to see what would happen. They all get along great. More room for the Beta to swim about now that it’s out of the margarita glass it had called home the last couple months, and a little inter-sepcies interaction always makes things more interesting. Sometimes the Beta swims up behind one of the frogs while it’s lounging spread-eagle at the surface of teh water and nestles his snout into the frog’s backside. Its pretty funny. They do fine as long as you dump out the water and replace it now and again. Some chlorine/fluoride cleaner is necessary, though, otherwise no one is gonna last too long. Feed ’em every couple weeks, and they’re good. Careful, though – the Beta likes to zip around, snagging the frogs’ food, so I like to keep the Beta distracted with his own at the surface, while I give the frog pellets a little push, dunking them to the bottom. However, it can also be fun when the Beta gets wise to it, spins around, and darts to the little descending man-made food pellet before it hits bottom. The living rocks looked cheesy, so I tossed them, and threw in a few shells from the beach. And, a thin floor of plain, decorative pebbles from Michael’s serves as a nice bottom for the tub of water and excellent back-drop for the more colorful shells. I never did get the bamboo from Brookstone, so after a few months my girlfriend gave me some lucky bamboo that she got in Chinatown. I jammed that in there as well, and the frogs seem to like hanging out entwined in the root systems. In fact, they even seem to prefer that to the nestling underneath the large seashell chunk I propped against the inner wall. Of course, this may be because it’s tipped over now and, thus, quite a bit less roomy underneath. Oh well, just a quick fix next time I change the water in the sink, but I digress. The little tub is another issue – I’d rather a container made of glass, so I’m thinking of sticking them all in the glass head I bought from an antique shop (turns out they have them at Pier One as well), but I’ve already got another Beta in there, so I may have to get another. It’s funny, but come to think of it, I guess the only thinhgs I’m really using from Brookstone are the frogs and the plastic tub – for now. :) In any event, they’re decent, simple pets and happy as larks in their little Untersee world.

  12. I have heard the same arguments about animals in zoos. We have four frogs in two tanks, and my young girls really enjoy watching and feeding them. They are active and lively pets and are a good tool for my children to learn about caring for animals and treating them respectfully. These frogs know when it is feeding time and bob around on the surface when they see the lid coming off.
    Sourcing PETA in defense of these frogs might have more value if they were not so over-the-top on everything (including trying to rename fish as Sea-kittens to drum up compassion). So far as the salmonella goes–DON’T DRINK THE WATER! You whine about giving them a real habitat to enjoy, well it appears blogger #2, Steven did that. Kept as pets, these frogs enjoy regular meals and an environment free from predators. Sure, they can live up to 5 years in the wild but my guess is this number is substantially lower for those who get to remain in the Congo.

    • Dave, Thank you for writing. Although we don’t approve of Frogs as pets, it sounds like you and your children are caring for the Frogs. We wish you well and be sure to show them Frogs living in their natural habitats as well. – Susan

  13. I have four in a 9 gallon with a Betta, guppies, and bloodfins. I feed mine microcrabs. It’s a pellet food that they seem to love. It’s important to know that they only eat food that sinks to the bottom and that if kept in a tank with fish that are too big, those fish will eat them.

  14. ok. now that it has clearly been established keeping frogs and the tiny tanks are not acceptable. how about a clear directive for those of us who wish to make this a learning bit about bettering the little guys life while they are alive. 1. they area so tiny and delicate and spastic.. whats the best way to transfer/move into holding tanks while cleaning big ones? 2. how often do they need to be fed?

    • Beth, We suggest you follow the informational links within our posts or visit a local pet store for more advice. -Susan

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  16. HELP.
    i just bought a frog-o-sphere.
    how can i save my frogs.
    i feel literally terrible now.
    do i buy them a bigger tank, get them different food?
    Thank you.

  17. My kids got frog o spheres as gifts almost 2 years ago, and I’ve never had to clean the tanks or do anything outside of adding some spring water and feeding them twice a week. Frankly, I’d love to get rid of them but I have no idea how that could be accomplished. And I don’t mean killing them, I’d want someone who will care for them properly in a larger tank as I don’t think they could survive my outdoor pond in the Pacific Northwest. Any suggestions? I am almost out of food for them.

  18. I have owned reptiles/amphibians since I was in my teens. While I do agree that a fully self sustained eco-system in a box is a misnomer, I fail to see where this is a harmful or deceitful item. I DO think PETA is a very hate mongering organization, something akin to Al-Quaeda or the KKK.

    Domesticated animals did not evolve alongside humans, that is possibly the most ignorant thing i’ve ever heard. Call it for what it is. Humans broke and domesticated dogs/horses/donkeys etc to perform work functions. Thats not evolution, that’s taking available resources, and doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

    Frogospheres are not the root of all evil, mine is going strong for quite a while, no problems with the snail, or anything else in the tank. All of my animals have lived very contently. All the snakes, geckos, cats, dogs, water dragons and other animals i’ve chosen to co-exist with have been very well taken care of and other than an uninvited intruder severely injuring 3 of my snakes, all have lived well past their normal life expectancy.

    There are definitely irresponsible owners out there who probably should NOT be allowed to own any pets as they are unable to take care of themselves, let alone an animal. For the most part, i think people who feel this is cause for new laws to be educated themselves. I find it remarkable that people will consider a Ball python to be in the same class as a reticulated python. A ball will grow to 6ft, MAYBE 7 feet at most. A retic will break 20ft on a normal day, some coming close to 30. Yet they are both considered the same in some states.

    Stupidity means water dragons, one of the most docile reptiles ive ever owned are illegal because a 3 year old got tail whipped by one and it made the news and they had film at 11. Uneducated people flipped out. Water dragons are now illegal while iguanas are legal.

    Another great example. Has anyone ever seen what a St. Bernard with a poor disposition can do to a person? 200lb’s of pissed off dog coming at you will do a substantial amount of damage, however saints are legal, pit bulls are not. Why? Again idiot owners training their pits to be aggressive. Dont give me the in the genes line, all dogs and cats are instinctively hunters and they are all capable of killing.

    Pets are not the problem, the owners are. A responsible owner can make any animal comfortable. Anyone who thinks they can mimic nature is completely ignorant and way to full of themselves. A tank does not mimic nature at all. It provides proper living conditions, nothing more.

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  20. A coworker of mine got one of these tanks about 18 months ago. The male frog died about 6 months ago, but the female is still strong and active. I have taken over custody of the frog :-) What I’m curious about, is how these comments are saying the tanks need cleaning. The water in this tank hasn’t been changed in months (if at all), and the snail is long gone, but the water looks fine to me and there is nothing building up anywhere on the tank. How can you tell when it’s time to “clean” the tank, and what should be done at that time? I’m hesitant to do anything drastic because the frog seems happy and active. I’d hate to tamper with the environment and kill it by accident :-( There was some algae looking buildup floating around at one point, and I just scooped it out in chunks to as not to tamper the environment too drastically all at once (I took out about half, then half of what was left a few days later, and then after about a week I had all of it out).

  21. Pingback: Froggie Rescue! | Tales of Wanderlust

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