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African Dwarf Frog: Care, Food, Lifespan, Pictures, & Tank Setup

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By Lindsey Stanton

African dwarf frog hopping

African Dwarf Frogs, also sometimes called Dwarf Clawed Frogs, are commonly spotted in pet and aquarium stores. Don’t confuse the African Dwarf Frog with the closely-related African Clawed Frog. They are similar in appearance with subtle differences, but the most noticeable difference is the much larger size of the African Clawed Frog.

African Dwarf Frogs are popular for their cute appearance and fully aquatic needs, but they are also very misunderstood. Many people take on African Dwarf Frogs without fully understanding their behaviors or needs. To provide the best home possible for an African Dwarf Frog, read on for more information on their needs and care.

Quick Facts about African Dwarf Frog

Species Name: Hymenochirus
Family: Pipidae
Care Level: Moderate
Temperature: 68-78°F
Temperament: Peaceful, energetic, social
Color Form: Olive to brown with black spots
Lifespan: 5–10 years
Size: 2.5 inches max
Diet: Omnivorous
Minimum Tank Size: 5–10 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Tropical freshwater, planted
Compatibility: Other African Dwarf Frogs, peaceful community fish

African Dwarf Frog Overview

African Dwarf Frogs entered the mainstream pet trade sometime in the 1970s. They quickly gained popularity because they are fun to watch and are much easier to care for than many amphibians. These petite frogs are true amphibians, but they spend their entire life in water. Instead of leaving water to rest on land, they use plants and tank décor to rest on within the tank. Although they are fully aquatic, they do not have gills, so they still have to breathe surface air into their lungs.

They are social frogs that are best kept in small groups of two or more. When they aren’t actively swimming around the tank or resting on plants, they can be spotted floating with their limbs outstretched. Sometimes they will do this at the surface of the water, but it is more common to see them doing this near the bottom, where they feel safest from predators.

How Much Do African Dwarf Frog Cost?

Since African Dwarf Frogs are easy to come across, they are usually relatively inexpensive. You can typically find one for $5–$10, but you may spend up to $20 or more if you purchase from a small business or order online. Plan for the cost of at least two of these frogs. You will need to invest in an aquarium with gentle water flow, adequate filtration, and lots of plants.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Although these frogs are social, they are prey animals for large fish and reptiles in nature, so they may be somewhat shy. It’s not uncommon to see them staying near the bottom of the tank where they feel safest. If they feel safe and comfortable, you may see them spending more time in other areas as well. They are extremely active, and you’re not likely to spot your African Dwarf Frog staying still very often.

african dwarf frog swimming
Image credit: Dan Olsen, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

African Dwarf Frogs have olive to brown skin that tends to be lighter colored on the abdomen. They all have black spots that give them an almost mottled appearance. There are not many color morphs of African Dwarf Frogs, but they have naturally developed their colors and markings to provide camouflage in the wild.

They tend to stay under 2 inches in length but can reach up to 2.5 inches. Some people have reported their frogs reaching 3 inches, but that is very unusual for this species. They have webbed feet with small claws and tend to have somewhat flat bodies.

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How to Take Care of African Dwarf Frog

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Aquarium Size

It’s recommended to supply at least 5 gallons of tank space for every African Dwarf Frog you have. If you are keeping two, you’ll need a tank that is at least 10 gallons.

Water Temperature & pH

These tropical frogs prefer warm water temperatures from 68–78°F. They can tolerate water temperatures up to 82°F, but this isn’t ideal for them. They prefer mostly neutral pH water and can thrive in pH levels from 6.5–8.0.

Substrate

Small, smooth gravel or sand are both acceptable substrate options for African Dwarf Frogs. Avoid large or sharp gravel or river rocks since they can injure frogs by trapping limbs or causing skin injuries. Monitor your African Dwarf Frog carefully to make sure it isn’t accidentally consuming substrate.

Plants

Any plants that can thrive in the water parameters African Dwarf Frogs need are acceptable. Plan to provide plants with large leaves, like Java fern and Anubias, to allow your African Dwarf Frog a place to rest. Some frogs also enjoy floating plants like guppy grass.

Lighting

These frogs require regular day/night light cycles but otherwise do not have specific lighting needs. They can tolerate low to high lighting but should be provided plenty of hiding places and shelter to get out of the light when they choose to.

Filtration

African Dwarf Frogs are weak swimmers, so any filtration and water flow in their tank should be gentle. Sponge filters are a good option, but other types of filters can work with additions like baffles and intake covers.

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

Are African Dwarf Frog Good Tank Mates?

These peaceful frogs are a great addition to tropical community tanks. They are often kept with livebearers like guppies and mollies, peaceful algae eaters like Corydoras, and small Plecos, tetras, and danios. However, African Dwarf Frogs are predatory by nature and are known to eat smaller fish. This may help control the population of livebearers if that is your goal.

Avoid keeping African Dwarf Frogs with aggressive tank mates or tank mates that are prone to nipping and bullying. They can be easily injured by aggressive species. Also, if you intend to breed your African Dwarf Frogs, be aware that many fish will eat their eggs, making it difficult to breed them in the tank with fish present.

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What to Feed Your African Dwarf Frog

These frogs are omnivorous but lean heavily toward a carnivorous diet. Feed your African Dwarf Frogs a commercial diet intended for amphibians. Sinking pellets are best to ensure they are able to eat the food. You may have to place the food directly in front of them to help them spot it.

Thawed frozen or freeze-dried foods, like Mysis shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, tubifex worms, blackworms, and brine shrimp, can all be fed as treats. These are often too rich to be fed daily and can lead to constipation, but providing variety in these foods can help reduce the risk of this happening.

Keeping Your African Dwarf Frog Healthy

The most common health problems encountered in African Dwarf Frogs are fungal and bacterial infections. These types of infections are often caused by poor water quality, so ensuring that your tank water quality stays high is necessary to maintain health. Perform routine water changes, regularly monitor water parameters, and remove uneaten food to keep water quality high.

There are many medications that are dangerous to African Dwarf Frogs and other amphibians. This means that you should choose any medications you use very carefully and follow all label instructions. Ideally, if you see any signs of infections or illness, check with a veterinarian that specializes in reptiles and amphibians to provide guidance.

Breeding

Breeding African Dwarf Frogs in the home aquarium can often occur with minimal effort, but keeping the eggs and tadpoles safe can be difficult. Female African Dwarf Frogs are larger than males and develop a large, round abdomen when they are ready to lay eggs. Creating a manufactured drought/flood cycle in the aquarium through the removal and addition of water and changes in water temperature can induce breeding behaviors.

The male and female will perform an egg-laying “dance” for up to 7 hours, which involves multiple trips from the tank floor to the surface. Every time they reach the surface, eggs will be released. A female can lay around 1,000 eggs in one breeding.

The eggs float and will stick to plants, which makes floating plants a great addition. The adult African Dwarf Frogs will eat these eggs, though, so you’ll need to safely transfer them to a breeding container or a separate tank. Within 2 days, you should have hatchling tadpoles.

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Are African Dwarf Frogs Suitable For Your Aquarium?

African Dwarf Frogs are interesting additions to tropical community aquariums. They are enjoyable to watch and often stay busy throughout the day. Their care needs are significantly lower than most other amphibians, which makes them a good option for people who have not cared for amphibians before.

It’s important to ensure your water quality stays high and that your tank is fully cycled before bringing African Dwarf Frogs home. Even though they are easier to keep than most amphibians, they still have specific needs and are sensitive to changes in water parameters. Choose tank mates carefully to ensure the safety of your frogs and their tank mates.


Featured Image Credit: Charlie Tyack, Shutterstock

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