Waxy Monkey Tree Frog

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog is a species of frog that is native to parts of South America. They are also known as the Waxy Monkey Leaf Frog.

They are an arboreal species that live among the vegetation. These frogs are not found in the rainforests of South America and instead prefer the drier semi-arid regions.

Although this species is often referred to as a tree frog, the correct terminology for them is actually leaf frog based on their taxonomical classification.

They get their name because their skin has a waxy green appearance and they walk in the trees like a monkey instead of hopping like most other frogs.

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog
Cuatrok77, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Taxonomy

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog belongs to a family of frogs called Phyllomedusidae. This frogs in this family are often referred to as leaf frogs.

Despite the large geographical distance, this family of frogs are closely related to the tree frogs that are found in Australia and New Guinea. 

There are 8 different genera of frogs that make up the Phyllomedusidae family. The genus that the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog belongs to is called Phyllomedusa.

This is a genus of leaf frogs that can be found in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of South America in places such as Argentina.

There are currently 16 recognised species in the Phyllomedusa genus. These species include the Giant Leaf Frog and the White Lined Leaf Frog.

The scientific name for the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog is Phyllomedusa sauvagii. It was first described in 1882 and there are no recognised sub-species.

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Description

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog has a green waxy colored appearance. They have a number of white spots on their belly. They also have a white stripe that runs from the top of their lip down the sides of their body.

These frogs have an almost deformed appearance. They have a large head with ridges above their eyes that almost look like a helmet.

They also have a number of ridges along their back which gives them a hunched appearance as they sit on top of a leaf or branch.

They are perfectly adapted to living in trees with their prehensile hands and opposable thumbs. These adaptations help the frogs to group tree branches and ‘walk’ among the vegetation.

Their back legs are extremely flexible which also helps them with climbing. They also use these flexible back legs to rub a waxy secretion around its entire body.

They are a relatively large species of frog that can grow to around 2-3 inches in length. Females are generally larger than males.

Natural Habitat and Distribution

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog can be found in parts of South America. Their range is limited to the central parts of the continent, South of the Amazon.

Their range is limited to the Gran Chaco region of South America. This is a sparsely populated region of lowlands that is fairly hot. It is a semi-arid region that is around 250,000 square miles in size.

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog can be found throughout most of this region. Their range extends from Southern Bolivia across to a small part of South-Western Brazil.

Their distribution them extends south through Paraguay and into the North-Western parts of Argentina.

This frog’s range does not extend to the pacific coast as they are cut off by the Andes Mountain range. 

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Enclosure

A Waxy Monkey Tree Frog is an arboreal species of frog that lives in the drier regions of South America so the enclosure should be tall with plenty of ventilation.

For a single frog, the enclosure should be a minimum of 18x18x24 inches. Height is always more important than floor space for these frogs.

Instead of hopping, these frogs prefer to use their limbs to grab onto branches and climb around. Therefore, you should include plenty of small branches for the frog to cling onto.

You will also need to include larger branches or perches. These frogs are nocturnal and will spend the day sleeping on a perch off the ground. 

These frogs can be housed in pairs or small groups. However, it is important that they have enough space to move around. You will need to increase the size of the enclosure accordingly for every frog you want to add.

You can use a variety of different substrates in the enclosure such as eco earth, coco fibre and sphagnum moss. The important thing is ventilation so you can prevent excessive humidity levels.

Light and Heat

The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog needs to be kept at a higher temperature than most frogs as they live in a semi-arid environment.

Overhead heat such as a heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter works great for these frogs as they also help to control the humidity levels in the enclosure.

You should aim for a hot spot of around 85-90F. This will be at the top of the enclosure, closest to the heat source.

The temperature in the enclosure should drop as the frog moves lower down, creating a thermal gradient. The temperature towards the bottom of the enclosure should be kept around 80F.

At night, temperatures can drop a bit lower, to around 75F. However, it is important that these temperatures are brought back up during the day.

These frogs need UVB in order to absorb calcium and synthesise vitamin D3. This is an important part of Waxy Monkey Tree Frog care and shouldn’t be overlooked.

As they are a nocturnal species and the tree canopies filter out a lot of the UVB, a low wattage bulb is sufficient. Something like a 13-watt UVB bulb should be sufficient depending on the depth of the tank.


The Waxy Monkey Tree Frog does not need very high levels of humidity like other species of frog as they live in the canopies of a semi-arid environment.

Humidity levels of around 50% are ideal for this species. This can easily be achieved by lightly misting the enclosure once or twice a day.

It is important to have plenty of ventilation so air can circulate. This will also help ensure that the humidity spikes after misting are not trapped in tje enclosure and return to normal levels relatively quickly.

Waxy Monkey Tree Frog Feeding

You should feed your Waxy Monkey Tree Frog 2-3 times a week. They will eat a variety of different insects but most keepers feed them brown crickets as they are readily available and eagerly accepted by these frogs.

To add variety, you can occasionally supplement their diet with locusts, super worms, hornworms or other feeder insects.

You should dust the insects with a vitamin and mineral supplement once a week. This will help ensure that your frog is getting all the nutrients that it needs.