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How Long Do African Dwarf Frogs Live? Lifespan Guide & FAQ

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

African Dwarf Frog Hopping Around

African dwarf frogs are a very popular choice for aquarium owners. The lively amphibians have big personalities. Unfortunately, as is the cycle of life, the life of these frogs is finite. So, how long do African dwarf frogs live? Well, there is quite a big difference between their lifespan in captivity vs. the wild. In the wild, they will generally live for 5 years. In captivity, they will generally live for 15 years.

Let’s look at the main factors involved in determining their average lifespan and, most importantly, how you can improve your ADF’s lifespan in your aquarium.

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African Dwarf Frog Lifespan

Here is a summary of an African Dwarf Frog’s lifespan in captivity and in the wild for comparison;

In Wild

In the wild, the average lifespan for the African dwarf frog is roughly 4 to 7 years. The reason for this is quite simple: Mother Nature is harsh. Between extreme temperatures, onset weather phenomena, and a variety of predators, the chances of an African dwarf frog making it past 5 years old in the wild are very minimal.

In Captivity

In captivity, under the right conditions, you African dwarf frogs may live for up to 20 years, although they usually won’t make it past 15 years. Captivity is a whole different story because you can care for an African dwarf frog as best as possible.

If you take good care of it, provide it with the proper tank conditions, and feed it right, it can live for a very long time.


How to Increase An African Dwarf Frog’s Lifespan

Let’s talk about the best ways to keep your African dwarf frogs alive for as long as can be;

1. Proper Water Parameters

Image Credit: Flups, Shutterstock

One of the most important things for African dwarf frogs is to ensure that the water parameters are ideal. The water temperature for the frogs should be between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit or between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius. The pH level of the water should be between 6.5 and 7.5, with a general hardness level between 5 and 20 dGH. The closer you can get to these parameters, the longer the frogs will live.

2. Don’t Handle Them

One of the things you need to do to ensure that your African dwarf frogs live for as long as possible is to stop touching them and picking them up. Picking up African dwarf frogs is not recommended and should be avoided at all costs. It is extremely easy to break their bones or dislocate them, even with very gentle handling. The little guys are very fragile.

3. Proper Feeding

brine shrimps in a tank
Image Credit: Napat, Shutterstock

One of the best things you can do to ensure a maximum lifespan for your African dwarf frogs is to make sure you feed them properly. Frogs are mostly carnivorous, and they subsist on insects and crustaceans, with African dwarf frogs, in particular, preferring to eat small crustaceans.

To ensure that your frog receives a nutritionally balanced diet, a mix of frog food pellets, sinking fish pellets, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, beef hearts, and insect larvae is recommended. Also, it is recommended to always go with freeze-dried foods whenever possible, as live foods may contain deadly parasites and bacteria.

4. Good Tank Filtration

African dwarf frogs are also pretty sensitive when it comes to water conditions. To keep them alive and well for as long as possible, a strong filter is recommended. This means a filter that engages in efficient mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, with biological filtration to remove ammonia and nitrates being crucial.

However, keep in mind that African dwarf frogs don’t like strong currents, so a high flow rate is not recommended.

5. Minimize Stress

corporate aquarium with live plants
Image Credit: dushkovladimir, Shutterstock

Simply put, anything you can do to remove or minimize stress from the equation should be done. This means providing your frogs with the right substrate, lots of live plants, a light to mimic their natural environment, and don’t overcrowd the tank either. If you want your frogs to live for as long as possible, don’t keep them with tankmates that they won’t get along with. Make sure you house them with compatible tank mates.

6. Quarantine New Additions

New plants, rocks, and substrates should all be quarantined and thoroughly cleaned before being added to African dwarf frog tanks. This is to ensure that there are no living parasites or harmful bacteria present.

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The 6 Reasons Why Your African Dwarf Frogs Keep Dying

african dwarf frog in tank
Image Credit: Charlie Tyack, Shutterstock

There are several reasons why your African dwarf frogs may be dying on you. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of death in African dwarf frogs.

1. You Keep Touching Them

As mentioned above, if you touch and hold your African dwarf frogs a lot, and they keep dying, your handling of them may very well be to blame. It is very easy to break an African dwarf frog’s legs, break a rib, or crush its internal organs. If you notice your frog dies shortly after being picked up, chances are this is to blame.

2. Improper Water Parameters

Sure, your African dwarf frogs might be able to survive a couple of days in waters that have an unideal pH or water hardness level, and a couple of days in water that is too hot or too cold may be survivable too. However, if you keep frogs in water that is far too hot or cold, or has the wrong pH or hardness level, eventually, the African dwarf frogs will die.

3. A Dirty Tank

green algae aquarium
Image Credit: vincenzo palma, Shutterstock

Yet another common cause of death in African dwarf frogs is a dirty tank. This happens when you don’t have a good filter, especially one that engages in all types of filtration. Moreover, high levels of ammonia and nitrates in the water can and will kill frogs, as well as anything else in your aquarium. A lack of biological filtration leads to ammonia buildups, which will kill everything in sight, and rather quickly too.

4. Improper Feeding

Something else that may lead to the death of your African dwarf frogs is improper feeding. Now, this can mean not feeding them the proper foods, so be sure to do some research on this front. Feeding them the same food as you give your fish for a prolonged period of time, for instance, is something that may cause death over the long term.

Moreover, underfeeding is another reason why African dwarf frogs die, although overfeeding can be just as bad. Most people feed their African dwarf frogs about once every 2 or 3 days. Keep in mind that live foods can contain deadly parasites.

5. Disease & Fungi

There are a wide variety of diseases and fungal infections that can cause death in African dwarf frogs. Fungal infections of the skin, dropsy, bloat, and other such conditions can be quite common. If your frog looks ill, you need to do some research to see if you can find out what the exact cause is and how to treat it.

6. Stress

Stress is something that can kill African dwarf frogs as well as all other aquarium fish. Stress can be caused by a number of the above factors listed, such as dirty water, improper tank conditions, bad feeding habits, and also by cramped conditions, the wrong tank mates, and many other things.

Small fish tank aquarium with colourful snails and fish at home on wooden table. Fishbowl with freshwater animals in the room
Image Credit: Ja Crispy, Shutterstock

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The 5 Ways to Know if Your African Dwarf Frog Is Dying

dwarf hairgrass
muaiyayo, Shutterstock

There are a few telltale signs that you should be aware of, signs that your African dwarf frogs are on their way out and in dire need of assistance.

1. A Lack of Appetite

African dwarf frogs, when they are dying, will stop eating as much as they normally do or will stop eating altogether. African dwarf frogs, in the wild, are opportunistic eaters and will eat whenever they can and whatever they can. A frog that eats is usually a healthy frog. However, if your African dwarf frogs start eating much less or even turning food down, you have a problem.

Check the food you are feeding them, as well as water parameters, and check for illness.

2. Pale Skin & Excessive Shedding

A big sign that an African dwarf frog is dying is if it has pale skin. African dwarf frogs have some pretty solid coloring; if they get pale, something is wrong. Now, African dwarf frogs do shed their skin, and their skin becomes pale about a day before shedding. If your frog sheds and then the color goes back to normal, it is in the clear.

However, if it sheds and the new skin underneath is still pale, there is a problem. Moreover, African dwarf frogs, mature ones, will shed about once per month or once every 3 weeks at most. However, more frequent shedding than this is an indication that something is very wrong.

african dwarf frog diving
Image Credit: Dan Olsen, Shutterstock

3. Sticking to the Top of the Tank

African dwarf frogs are escape artists, they like to explore, and they often try to get out of their tanks. Moreover, these frogs have lungs, and they breathe air just like humans do, so going to the tank’s surface for air is normal. However, if your African dwarf frogs are hanging around the water surface all day long and it seems as though they want to get out, then something is wrong.

Your frog may be trying to escape a dirty tank, looking for food, lacking oxygen, or it may not be happy with the water conditions.

4. Dead Skin

Related to shedding, when African dwarf frogs shed, their skin should come off in one big piece. However, if you notice the frog shedding small chunks of skin frequently, there is an issue. If you notice dead and tattered skin constantly hanging off of African dwarf frogs, there is a problem.

This can be caused by high ammonia and nitrite levels or the chytrid fungus. Ammonia and nitrite levels can be dealt with, but the fungus will kill the frog.

5. Still or Floating

If you notice that your frog is very still and has just stopped moving altogether and is more or less floating in one place, it is within hours of death. At this point, it is generally too late to do anything about it.

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Final Thoughts

African dwarf frogs are very fragile and delicate; many things can kill these awesome little creatures. That said, if you take proper care of the little guys, they can potentially live for up to 15 or even 20 years in captivity.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Charlie Tyack, Shutterstock

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