Basic Care: African Dwarf Frog

Reptiles & Amphibians

African dwarf frogs (Hymenochirus sp.) are often sold as additions to tropical freshwater fish aquariums or as "living art" to be kept in small glass vases or other displays.  In fact, these frogs often do not compete well with aggressive tropical fish and fail to thrive in community aquariums.  They also need a larger more complex environments than a 1 gallon vase filled with water lined with gravel in order to do well.

African dwarf frogs, also known as dwarf clawed frogs, need to be kept in aquaria that provide at least 2 gallons of water per frog.  The bottom of the aquarium should be covered with gravel that is too large for the frogs to accidentally eat as they forage for food.  The water should be filtered, using either a sponge filter, an undergravel filter, or canister filter, and at least 10 to 20% of the water should be siphoned out and replaced with dechlorinated water once a week. Uneaten food, shed skin, and feces may be removed using a turkey baster or a dip net as needed so the filter does not get overloaded.  These frogs need to have dimly lit areas in their aquarium so they are not in bright light all the time.  Small sections 1 inch diameter PVC pipes are simple caves but not particularly pleasing to see.  You may also use submerged logs, caves of stone, or aquarium-safe decoractions to provide these hiding places.  The water temperature should be 78-82°F and never allowed to go above 85°F or below 70°F. Live plants such as Elodea or other plants used in tropical freshwater aquarium are nice additions but you need to be sure to provide enough light to sustain the plants' health, typically a 12 hr photoperiod.  Plants are nice because the frogs will often rest on portions of the plant near the surface of the water.  It is also helpful to have a rock or branch that projects near the surface of the water as the frogs may also rest there.  Since the frogs need to gulp air occasionally in order to breathe, these shallow spots allow them to do this without having to struggle and swim to the surface of the water.

African dwarf frogs can be fed pellets made for clawed frogs or any of the sinking pellets designed for carnivorous freshwater fish.  However, these pellets are not a complete diet and the frogs will benefit from thawed frozen bloodworms, blackworms, live white worms, and brine shrimp naupli that have been rinsed well in fresh water.  The frogs should be offered as much food as they can eat several times a week with any uneaten food removed after about 30 minutes.

These frogs may live 2 to 5 years or even longer with appropriate care.  Please do not release these frogs if you get tired of them since they may carry diseases that can harm native frogs.  If you have unwanted frogs, you may be able to find a home through a local herpetological society, such as the Arizona Herpetological Society, or ask if a pet store is willing to take them.

In December 2009 the CDC released a report that outbreaks of salmonellosis were traced to these frogs (http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typh1209/index.html).  Please read this care sheet to learn how to reduce the risk of getting an illness from these frogs.