If you are looking for a great pet that is interesting and engaging but relatively low maintenance then African dwarf frogs are a great choice.
These diminutive little creatures will keep you entertained and prove to be an engaging pet.
In our guide to keeping African dwarf frogs you will learn all you need to know about keeping these amphibians, including aquarium set up, diet, handling and breeding.
We will also include some frequently asked questions about these fascinating little frogs.
With the right environment, food and care, your African dwarf frogs can live for many years, and you can even breed your own to expand the family.
What You Need To Know About African Dwarf Frogs?
The African dwarf frog is an aquatic frog native to equatorial Africa with four different species.
It gets its name from its native home and its size. African dwarf frogs grow to around 3 inches long and weigh only a few grams
This frog is often confused with the African clawed frog which is from the same family but has claws on its front legs instead of webbed feet.
Although they live their lives underwater African dwarf frogs do rise to the surface to breathe, this is because they have lungs and not gills.
Average lifespan is around 5 years, but they have been known to live as long as 15 years.
They have no tongue and hunt by lunging after food with the help of strong back legs, stuffing their prey into their mouths with their front feet.
Using the claws on their feet they can tear pieces of food to size and a hyobranchial pump sucks the food into their mouth.
Keeping African Dwarf Frogs As Pets
These frogs became popular in the 1970s as pets mainly due to the fact that they are reasonably low maintenance.
They are quite active frogs and rarely still for any amount of time.
However they do on occasion float on the surface of the water with all their limbs outstretched. This is a normal behavior called burbling.
However, most of the time these frogs will remain in the bottom of the water where they feel safer from predators.
If there are no predators, which in an aquarium there typically isn’t, they will sleep for up to 12 hours a day.
Not that you will notice as frogs don’t close their eyes when they sleep.
African dwarf frogs are social creatures and do well in groups of two or three rather than being solitary.
So, if you have decided you would like to keep African dwarf frogs as pets you will need to know how to set up their ideal environment in an aquarium.
Setting Up An African Dwarf Frog’s Aquarium
The right size aquarium is the first important thing to consider for keeping African dwarf frogs.
They grow to around 3 inches, so each frog will need approximately 2 ½ gallons of water.
As recommended you should keep at least two frogs as they are social creatures.
For two frogs a 5 gallon aquarium is a good size and for more than two a 10-20 gallon aquarium is recommended.
Despite the fact that they are completely aquatic, these frogs still need to get to the surface of the water to breathe.
This is because they have lungs rather than gills.
Although they have front and back webbed feet they are actually not very strong swimmers.
For this reason, do not put them in water that is more than 12 inches deep. They will struggle to reach the surface and drown.
Water & Filtration
You will need to use filtered water in the aquarium as water from a faucet contains chloramine and fluoride which are harmful to frogs and fish.
Treat it with water conditioners and antibacterial additives.
The pH level in the water should remain between 6.5 and 7.8 for a healthy environment for your African dwarf frogs.
You should regularly check this with the help of a pH testing kit.
It is recommended that you change 10-25% of the water every two to four weeks if you are using a filtration system.
If not you should do partial water changes once a week.
These water changes are necessary because of the amount of debris that ends up in the water from uneaten food and the frogs shedding.
You should not change 100% of the water at any one time as this can shock your frogs and could be fatal, partial changes are better.
If you are going to fit a filtration system make sure that it is not too large or too powerful.
As we have mentioned before African dwarf frogs are not particularly strong swimmers and a large, powerful filter could make it difficult or impossible for them to swim to the surface.
They also like to remain motionless in the water, and often float on the surface perfectly still.
A filter that causes currents in the water will prevent them from doing this and cause the frogs stress.
African dwarf frogs do not have ears, instead they have lateral lines on their bodies which detect vibrations.
The noise and vibration from large filters can also cause distress to your frogs, and even induce sickness.
In the event that you want to install a filter, an under gravel filter is best. But African dwarf frogs will cope very well without one.
The temperature of the water in the aquarium should be similar to that of the frog’s native habitat in Africa so between 72-82℉.
To make sure that this temperature is maintained you should have a water heater and a thermometer in the aquarium.
A heater that supplies 5 watts of power for every gallon of water is usually sufficient.
Having a lid on your aquarium will help to maintain a regular temperature, but it also has another important function.
African dwarf frogs are completely aquatic and will not survive for more than 15-20 minutes on land.
For this reason, it is important that you secure the top of the tank and prevent the frogs from escaping.
If they do, their skin will dry out, and they will die.
However, your African dwarf frogs need to get to the surface to breathe, so a lid should allow airflow.
A screen lid is best to ensure a good supply of oxygen while also preventing your frogs from jumping out of the tank.
Light & Heating
To keep your African dwarf frogs happy and healthy you need to provide them as closely as you can with the conditions they would thrive in if they were in the wild.
This includes giving them a set day and night cycle through the use of an aquarium light.
These frogs are nocturnal, so this routine is important for them. Give them 10-12 hours of light per day.
A normal aquarium hood light is perfectly fine for this, they don’t need a UVB light as some amphibians do.
Use a timer on the light to make sure that you don’t forget to switch it on or off to mimic the day/night cycle that the frogs need.
If the aquarium is in a room with natural sunlight and placed close to a window then this will work too, and an aquarium light won’t be necessary.
To cover the floor of the aquarium use medium to large aquarium gravel. If the gravel is too small the frogs may accidentally eat it when feeding.
Obviously they will be unable to digest it and this can cause impaction which is fatal.
Avoid gravel that is too large as due to their size young African dwarf frogs are at risk of getting wedged between large pieces of substrate.
Although it is not absolutely necessary to have a substrate it does make it easier to secure live and artificial plants and decorations in the base of the tank.
You could also use sand as a substrate.
If you intend to have live plants in the aquarium then you will need to use a suitable substrate for this purpose.
Check with a specialist if you are unsure which one to buy for your frog’s aquarium.
When choosing a substrate make sure that it isn’t sharp or toxic.
African dwarf frogs need places to hide in the tank, so it is a good idea to provide them with logs or caves to take shelter in.
Just make sure that these decorations are safe for your frog.
Sharp substrate or tank decorations can tear the frog’s skin and some wood decorations can contain toxins that may interfere with the pH of the tank’s water.
Seek advice from aquatic specialists if you are not sure which substrate or decorations are safe for your frogs.
Hygiene & Maintenance
As we have mentioned it is important to regularly check the pH level of the tank water with a testing kit and to monitor the temperature with a thermometer.
Regular partial water changes are also essential for good maintenance and the health of the frogs.
You will also occasionally need to clean out the tank but make sure that you keep the majority of the tank water and replace it afterwards.
Full water changes are stressful for your African dwarf frogs.
When you clean the tank and any decorations do not use any kind of detergent as this will contaminate the water and make your frogs sick.
African Dwarf Frog’s Diet
Feeding your African dwarf frogs is not as simple as scattering food on the surface of the water as you might with some kinds of fish.
For a start, African dwarf frogs need a very high protein diet and cannot be fed just any food.
Their nourishment should be specific to their species and contain at least 40-50% protein.
Some of the foods that you should be feeding your frogs include freeze dried bloodworms, live blackworms, frozen brine shrimp, daphnia and specialized sinking pellets.
Purchasing these from a specialized supplier will ensure that you are getting the right food.
When it comes to feeding your African dwarf frogs you need to put the food right in front of them as they have very poor vision.
They rely on their sense of smell and touch to find their food.
You can either hand feed your frogs with a pair of tweezers or put the food on a heavy, non toxic plate in the tank.
Make sure to cut up the food quite small as these frogs do not have any teeth or tongue to help them chew.
Feeding time is best done in the evening as this is when they would naturally be hunting for prey.
As they are so small, African dwarf frogs have tiny stomachs and so only feed them once a day or every other day.
This is better for their digestion as overfeeding can lead to disease, stress and too much waste in the tank water.
Any uneaten food should be removed so that it does not decompose and foul the water.
Handling African Dwarf Frogs
Handling of any frogs should be kept to a minimum as they have very sensitive skin which can easily be damaged.
It is also stressful for them to be handled too much.
When you do have to handle your African dwarf frogs make sure that you wear gloves as they are capable of transmitting diseases such as Salmonella.
Another consideration is when you put your hands in the water for any reason make sure that you have no soap or other chemicals on your skin.
This will be transmitted to your aquarium water and can potentially make your frogs sick.
Children should be supervised at all times if they are handling African dwarf frogs and must wash their hands after touching them, even when wearing gloves.
How To Keep African Dwarf Frogs Healthy?
You will want to keep your African dwarf frogs as healthy as possible.
To do this you will need to have a good feeding, cleaning and maintenance routine.
Keep your feeding time regular, evenings are best, and remove any uneaten food immediately.
Feeding time is a good time to observe your frogs and give them a visual daily check for any signs of illness or disease.
You will also notice if they are interested in eating or not which is a good indicator of health and if they are moving around freely.
Check for any skin inflammation, discoloration or excessive shedding. Also note any swelling of joints or abdominal swelling.
Make sure the water temperature is right and if you have one, that the filter is working correctly.
Remove any build up of algae on the tank or decorations and do regular partial water changes.
Signs that your frog is healthy includes them spending most of their time in the bottom of the tank, hiding in or under aquarium decorations, evading capture and interacting with tank mates.
Indications that your African dwarf frog is sick include loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, unresponsiveness and excessive floating on the water surface.
Breeding African Dwarf Frogs
You may decide to breed African dwarf frogs and for this you will obviously need both male and females.
To determine which is which you need to examine some of their characteristics.
Females are typically larger both in length and bulk, and are sometimes called ‘chubby’ in comparison to the slimmer males.
Males also have a whitish gland behind their armpits and will call to female African dwarf frogs.
For the most part you don’t need to do anything to encourage mating between your frog couples, and they often naturally mate.
Your first indication may often be the appearance of eggs in your aquarium.
Sometimes however, they may need a helping hand. For this you will need to do something called ‘cycling’.
This involves changing the temperature and level of the water.
African dwarf frogs mate in the spring when temperatures rise and water levels increase due to rain.
To encourage breeding first lower the tank water level by a couple of inches and the temperature to 65-68℉.
If you can, also decrease the light provision to 10 hours a day. Maintain these conditions for a month or 45 days.
After this time, raise the water to its previous level and the temperature to 78℉. Increase the daylight hours to 12 or 14 per day.
In the majority of cases, cycling will encourage your frogs to mate, and you may find them in the amplexus position soon after.
This position is where the male clings to the female’s back.
She passes the eggs through her cloaca, and they are fertilized outside the body by the male.
The frogs may stay in this position for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
When the eggs are laid it is advisable to remove them from the tank for safety and put them in their own separate container.
This should have clean, de-chlorinated water maintained at a temperature of 78-80℉.
Tadpoles & Young Frogs
After two to four days the eggs will hatch and the tadpoles will stay motionless for a couple of days.
Once they start moving you can begin to feed them.
The tadpoles can be fed specific tadpole pellets, algae wafers, boiled leafy greens or frozen bloodworm cubes.
Some people have found feeding them Liquifry, for small egg-laying fish, is helpful.
After a week the tadpoles will start eating tiny brine shrimp, and it will take about two months for them to metamorphose into froglets.
Keep making partial water changes as you would with adult frogs, making sure you don’t drastically alter the pH of the water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are African Dwarf Frogs Easy To Keep?
African dwarf frogs are quite easy to care for and once their basic needs are met they can be left to enjoy their life in an aquarium.
As long as their food is appropriate, the water is clean and the right temperature and the tank is the right size they will usually be very happy.
How Many African Dwarf Frogs Should You Keep Together?
African dwarf frogs are social creatures and at a minimum you should have two in a tank.
Make sure that the tank is an appropriate size and allow 2.5 gallons of water for each frog.
You can also keep them with some fish such as guppies, cardinal tetras or cherry barbs.
What Do African Dwarf Frogs Need In Their Habitat?
Apart from the obvious needs of clean, de-chlorinated water, correct temperature and the appropriately sized tank there are some other things that African dwarf frogs need in their habitat.
Somewhere to hide makes them feel secure, so caves or logs to hide in.
Also if they are kept in a room without a window they will need a light on a timer to mimic the day/night cycle.
Are African Dwarf Frogs Good For Beginners?
These are relatively low maintenance frogs and as such are a good choice for a beginner in keeping aquatic frogs.
As long as their needs are met, and they are not handled excessively, African dwarf frogs will thrive and live quite long lives.
Young children should always be supervised when taking care of these frogs as they are small and their skin is delicate.
We hope you have enjoyed reading this guide to keeping African dwarf frogs.