3D-printed apartments provide cosy home for frogs

By Australian Geographic 23 September 2021
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With a mini pool and snacks, it’s no surprise frogs have taken to these apartments.

When Rod Shannon spotted a big green tree frog struggling to find shade around his home in central Queensland he wanted to help. So, he printed some 3D apartments. 

“I’d often find ‘Fatty Croak’ baking in the late afternoon summer sun, and I’d taken to placing a wet cloth over her to stop the sun a bit. I thought it might be an interesting project to experiment with my fledgling skills at 3D modelling and design.

“When I built the very first apartment in late 2020, I then found that three frogs immediately tried to move into it overnight, and so I progressively printed a series of additional apartments to cater.”

three frogs in a frog apartment
Image credit: Rod Shannon

Officially dubbed the ‘Fatty Croak Apartments’ after Rod’s first and favourite visitor, the apartments are decked out with a pool (mug of water) and some delicious mealworm treats.

“The bathing mug is on a patio outside one door to our house, and sits on a ledge just beside the external door to our cold room.”

With just three key pieces – a base, lid and balcony, which can be interchanged and added to to create more appartments – Rod has constructed a comfy home for frogs.

The apartments are made out of a plant-based plastic, designed with Rhino 3D and printed with a Flashforge Creator Pro. Once they’re printed, Rod sands them with fine paper to remove any sharp edges and soaks them in rainwater.

Related: A guide to making a frog hotel with frog expert Jodi Rowley
a 3D render of a frog apartment
Rod’s 3D design for frog apartments. Image credit: Rod Shannon

“I’ve made these apartment designs from scratch; basically took the largest frog I could find, and measured what sort of space they would need to feel secure, but also have room.

“Not sure I’ve dialled the apartment size in just right, as they keep getting fatter, but it would be very simple to make apartment bases taller.”

Do frogs have an apartment colour preference? Rod thinks so.

“There is an idea that in the first apartments there was a colour preference for the two blue apartments.

“In this newest version of the apartment stack there is a single blue apartment, and as we are now in the active months, I plan to start rotating the apartments around to see if the blue theory holds any credence. 

“At present, the blue apartment is the easiest to reach from the bathing mug, but I won’t be surprised if Fatty Croak doesn’t choose to return to the blue apartment anyway when I rotate it around.”

Related: How to make your backyard frog-friendly