African Dwarf Frog Guide

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Are you interested in caring for some aquatic frogs, but not sure where to start? The African dwarf frog is a popular aquarium pet.

Its peaceful personality and low-maintenance lifestyle make it an ideal beginner’s frog – not to mention that it’s completely adorable!

african dwarf frog food

Here’s what you need to know about African dwarf frogs before you get one as your own.

What is the African Dwarf Frog?

The African dwarf frog is an energetic little amphibian. As a fully aquatic frog, it lives most of its life underwater, only occasionally swimming to the surface of the pool for a quick breath of air.

The frog appears safer from predators when it’s deep underwater, and can spend up to 12 hours a day sleeping when it feels especially secure!

Most dwarf frogs are olive green or brown in color, and they may have black spots as well.

Here are some more facts about the African dwarf frog!

Origins

African dwarf frogs can be found, in the wild, tucked within forested areas of equatorial Africa, such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo River Basin.

There are four species of African dwarf frog, the first discovered in 1896 and the most recent discovered in 1930.

These frogs were originally known as African dwarf clawed frogs, because they often have tiny black claws on their rear legs. However, these black tips are quickly lost in their pebbly environments, so the “clawed” part of the name was soon dropped.

It used to be difficult to find aquatic frogs in pet stores. However, the African dwarf frog has become quite popular in recent years as a beginner frog-lover’s pet, and so your local store is likely to have one for you!

Freshwater or Saltwater?

The African dwarf frog is a freshwater creature, so you should invest in a freshwater tank. Because it is a fully aquatic frog, there’s no worry of buying a tank with much terrain inside – make like your dwarf frog and stick to the water!african dwarf frog care

Though they are freshwater creatures and tend to live in shallow rivers, creeks, and ponds in the wild, you should never release these frogs into a North American stream or creek.

The African dwarf frog is not a native to North America, so it can damage American ecosystems as an invasive species!

It will be much happier in your tank than out in an unfamiliar environment.

Lifespan

This African frog lives, on average, about five years in the wild, and can live up to 10 years in a well-maintained home aquarium.

It’s a small animal, so even at its full adult size, your frog will only weigh a few ounces and grow to around 21 inches in length.

African Dwarf Frog Care

It’s always important to do some research before caring for a new animal.

Here is some information about African dwarf frog care to get you started!

Feeding

African dwarf frogs are carnivores which thrive on high-protein diets. In the wild, they usually choose small fish fry and insects for their meals.

Some aquarium owners even add these frogs to a tank to control their fry guppy population!

But if you’re planning on keeping this frog on its own, instead of as population control for your little fish, here are some things to keep in mind about feeding it.

Dwarf frogs are slow eaters, and they may decide to leave a food source alone for a while and return later to have another taste.

This means that the food source you choose needs to be able to stay in the water, within reach of your aquatic frog, for a long time without disintegrating.

african dwarf frog

Because of this, food pellets are not a good source of food for this pet, because they dissolve too quickly in the water and will leave your frogs hungry.

If pellets are your only option, consider placing the pellets in a petri dish inside the tank, so that the food remains concentrated in one location even as it disintegrates.

The best options for African dwarf frog food are frozen bloodworms, which take a long time to disintegrate or live blackworms.

Frozen bloodworms will drop to the bottom of the tank as they defrost, making it easier for the frogs to reach them than freeze-dried bloodworms, which may float on the surface.

Live blackworms are a good option for you, should you dislike having to add new food for your frogs every day.

The live worms can bury themselves in the gravel of your tank and live there, making them a long-term food source – as well as providing your frogs with a sport. They’ll use their sense of smell to hunt worms down!

These frogs love to catch and tear up their food with their tiny claws before sucking the pieces into their mouths.

Brine shrimp and small whiteworms are another good, protein-rich food source. Earthworms or nightcrawlers are also acceptable meals, if you chop them into small, bite-sized pieces before introducing them to the tank.

In general, feed your frogs at least three times per week. Younger frogs may require daily feedings, but older ones need to be fed about every two days.

This video shows an example of a way to feed an African dwarf frog.

African Dwarf Frog Tank Size

Though tiny, this dwarf frog enjoys having a lot of space to swim around in. When selecting an aquarium tank, you’ll need one that is large enough to contain at least five gallons of water per frog.

Larger tanks mean that there is more space for the frogs’ waste to disperse in. As such, your frog will be healthier and you will have to spend less time cleaning the tank!

Additionally, remember that your frog is not only a swimmer but also a jumper – it can jump four inches from the solid ground, such as from the top of a filter or plant!

This means that the frog can easily escape a short tank. Because it cannot survive for more than 15 or 20 minutes away from water, this could prove fatal for them as they dry out. Therefore, make sure that your aquarium stays fully enclosed, so as to keep the frog safely inside and damp.

Another reason to keep the tank lid closed is that these African frogs often carry bacteria on their skin. Specifically, this strand causes  Salmonella, which is very dangerous for humans.

Always wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling these frogs or cleaning their tank!

Lighting: African dwarf frogs enjoy a consistent lighting cycle. For happy frogs, simulate night and day in the tank by keeping the aquarium lights on for 12 hours a day and off for the other 12 hours.

Water Requirement for African Dwarf Frogs

Water Depth: While considering the space in your tank, remember to keep the water level at no more than 24 inches in depth.

If it’s deeper than that, your frog will have a difficult time reaching the surface to breathe when it needs to.

Temperature and PH: For maximum health, African dwarf frogs require that the water in their tank is between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and that the PH balance remain consistently between 6.5 and 7.5.

Be sure to never place your aquarium tank in sunlight, because this can change the temperature of the water! It also encourages algae growth.

A simple aquarium heater will do the trick.

dwarf frogs

By Stuart Halliday (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 licence)

Gravel or Substrate:

If you line the bottom of your aquarium tank with gravel or a plant soil substrate, make sure that the pieces you use are not so small that the frog can ingest them.

The African dwarf frog is a bottom-feeding animal and can end up swallowing stones and rocks if they are small enough to fit inside their mouth!

These stones can become stuck in the frog’s intestinal tract and cause illness and death, so in the interest of keeping your frog healthy in the long-term, be careful when choosing the size of your tank’s gravel.

African Dwarf Frog Aquarium Setup

Plant Life

Aquatic frogs of all kinds love to swim around live plants because the foliage gives them something to hide among and feel safe from predators.

This dwarf frog also loves to relax on leaves near the surface of the water. Some greenery in your aquarium tank is therefore not only nice for you to look at, but a pleasant piece of furniture for your frog!

Live plants and plastic plants alike are good for your frogs, as long as the plastic plants do not have sharp edges.

Filtration

Filtration in your aquarium tank is not necessary to keep an African dwarf frog healthy. If you decide to use one, a small hang-on-back filter, a canister filter, or a sponge filter will do well.

If you notice that your frogs are shedding often, this could mean that something has changed in the water that may require filtering out, such as the addition of nitrates, ammonia, copper sulfate, or salt.

African dwarf frogs are very sensitive to changes in the quality of their water. As such, keep an eye out!

african dwarf frog tank mates

Current

Though this dwarf frog loves to swim, it is not a very strong animal, and a strong current can trap it underwater, where it’s unable to come up for air.

Do not put it in a tank with high-powered currents! These frogs sometimes like to float in one spot on the surface of the water, with their limbs completely outstretched, and a gentle current is best for this activity.

Breeding

These social frogs are eager to mate, so all you need to get started is to have both sexes in your tank!

Male African dwarf frogs are usually smaller than the female ones. Female frogs also have a large tail bud and are far rounder in appearance than the males.

These frogs also sing as a part of their courtship ritual; the males will sing all throughout the summer months, whether a female is present in their tank or not, while the females will only sing in response to the males’ song.

To trigger the female frogs into producing eggs, over the course of about four weeks, gradually lower the water level in the tank to seven centimeters.

Then, rapidly increase the water back to its normal level, increasing the temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The frogs will soon begin to mate, “hugging” each other as they do so.

Don’t forget to remove the eggs from the tank once they are fertilized, to make sure that the frogs do not eat the eggs or the tadpoles which hatch from them!

This video shows some more information on African dwarf frogs.

African Dwarf Frog Tank Mates

Dwarf frogs are very social animals, meaning that they like to be kept with other creatures! Having other frogs around reduces stress for each individual.

African dwarf frogs are best kept in groups of three. Remember to keep tank space in mind; since each frog requires at least five gallons of water in aquarium space, a group of three frogs requires a tank that can hold at least fifteen gallons.

It’s also a good idea to provide your frog with some friends from other species. Suitable African dwarf frog tank mates can include any freshwater fish that is bigger than them.

Don’t forget that these carnivorous frogs might eat a smaller fish!

Bottom-dwelling fish work excellently as neighbors for frogs, as do fish that eat algae. Avoid fish that may eat your frog, like plecos, catfish, bettas, or chichlids.

If you are planning on breeding your dwarf frogs, also be sure to avoid fish that eat eggs, so as to preserve your new frog population!

However, African dwarf frogs have poor eyesight, which means that they can mistake fins as a food source. They will bite what seems tasty!

It’s a good idea to avoid adding fish with long, flowing fins to this aquarium tank. Also remember that the dwarf frog is a slow eater, so it can have a difficult time competing with faster fish. Fish with different diets than your frog will get along well!

Now you’re ready to begin taking care of your own African dwarf frog!


Do you have any tips or experience on caring for African dwarf frogs?

Staff Writer
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