Other common names: Common Plantanna, “ACF”
Scientific name: Xenopus laevis
This robust aquatic frog is often sold as an “interesting addition” to tropical fish tanks – “interesting”, that is, until it grows up and consumes its tank mates! One of the hardiest of all amphibians, the African Clawed Frog makes a responsive, fascinating pet for novice and experienced owners alike, and, as a bonus for those who shun using live foods, they readily accept commercial pellets.
The African Clawed Frog ranges throughout much of central and southern Africa, from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to South Africa. Once widely used to ascertain pregnancy (females release eggs when injected with the urine of a pregnant woman) and later widely exported through the pet trade, feral populations are established in the USA, Indonesia, France, and 10-12 other countries.
Entirely aquatic, the African Clawed Frog’s natural habitat is mud-bottomed, heavily-vegetated ponds within savannas and other open habitats. However, it is amazingly adaptable, and has colonized canals, golf course ponds, large rivers, sewage effluent basins, and even brackish water mashes.
Appearance / Health:
The 2-6 inch-long body is flattened, greenish-brown in color, and usually bears dark markings. The large, muscular rear legs have small claws on the inner 3 toes, and the eyes are set high up on the head. White “sewing marks” along the sides indicate the lateral line organs, which detect water movement. Like other family members, this species is tongue-less.
Well-cared-for pets may live to 30+ years of age. African Clawed Frogs are ravenous feeders and often become obese in captivity. They have also been implicated in the spread of chytridiomycosis, a disease that has caused frog extinctions, but may be somewhat resistant to its effects. Pets will swallow quite large rocks and gravel bits, resulting in intestinal blockages, and, if ammonia levels are not kept low, will succumb to “Red Leg” and other bacterial/fungal infections.
Behavior / Temperament:
African Clawed Frogs become amazingly bold in captivity, rising to the surface when their owner enters the room and feeding readily from the hand. They are active both day and night, and often display breeding and other interesting behaviors.
As is true for all amphibians, they should be handled only when necessary, and then by being urged into a water-filled container so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. They are “beyond slippery” and should not be grabbed by hand. Amphibian skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth. Interestingly, African Clawed Frog skin secretions contain powerful anti-microbial and wound-healing compounds. Important medications have been derived from these secretions.
A 10 gallon aquarium can house a single adult; larger groups will get-along well in more spacious quarters. The tank should be well-stocked with plastic or floating live plants. Gravel should be avoided due to the danger of ingestion. African Clawed frogs jump from the water’s surface at night and will escape an un-covered aquarium; be sure that all filter tube and electric wire entry holes are well-sealed, as they can fit through surprisingly small openings.
Porous skins allow frogs and toads to absorb harmful chemicals from the water in which they live. This is especially true of aquatic species. A canister, submersible, or corner filter of a size appropriate to your tank’s volume, and weekly partial water changes, will help ensure a healthful environment. Strong currents from filter outflows should be avoided.
African Clawed Frogs produce a great deal of waste. Ammonia from their waste products is extremely lethal; an aquarium test kit should be used to monitor its levels. Chlorine and chloramine must be removed from water used in aquariums. Liquid preparations that work instantly are available at pet stores.
African Clawed Frogs are very adaptable, and can be kept at temperatures ranging from 70-90 F, and overwintered at 60-65 F if desired. However, they fare best at 72-79 F a pH of 6.8 to 7.2.
This is one of the few frogs to accept (very readily!) non-living food items. The natural diet includes aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates of all kinds, fishes, small frogs (including their own species) and tadpoles. Groups will use their powerful rear legs and claws to dismantle carrion, including quite large mammals and birds, found on pond bottoms.
Pets should be offered a varied diet comprised of commercial aquatic frog or turtle chow, earthworms, blackworms, crickets and other insects, dried prawn, small minnows, and similar foods. Mealworms and goldfishes have been implicated in nutritional disorders.
Females are larger and stouter than males, and, when mature, bear 3 small, fleshy lumps around the cloaca. Males develop areas of roughened tissue along the inner forearms, known as nuptial pads, when ready to breed. Sexual maturity is reached at age 6-12 months.
Normal fluctuations in room temperature are often enough to induce breeding, which can occur year-round. Alternatively, you can gradually lower the temperature of the water in the aquarium to 66-68 F for 4-6 weeks and drop the water level to 4-6 inches. The tank should then be re-filled and the water heated to 78-82 F over a 7-10 day period.
Males usually quickly begin their “un-frog-like” metallic calls, and excitedly gesticulate by moving their arms about. Receptive females will be grasped about the waist (as opposed to behind the front legs, as in most frogs) in an amphibian mating embrace known as inguinal amplexus. Females deposit 1-5 eggs at a time, for a total of 100-2,000+, which are fertilized by the male upon release. When egg-laying has been completed, remove the adults as they will be hungry after their efforts and will quite happily devour the seeds of the next generation!
The eggs will hatch in 2-4 days at 80-82 F. African Clawed Frog tadpoles are among the amphibian world’s most peculiar. They bear tentacles about the mouth and feed by filtering micro-organisms from the water. They readily accept commercial dry tadpole chow, freeze-dried bloodworms and shrimp pellets, but only so long as these are finely-ground and kept in motion in the water column. Newly transformed frogs will accept a scaled-down version of the adult diet.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
incredible eaters, entertaining, great personallities, wonderful starter frogs, interactive aquatic frog
purely aquatic frog, tadpole development, translucent skin, weak filtration system.This
"Let's get the difficulties out of the way so that I can talk about these incredibly entertaining frogs.<br><br>These are not to be mistaken for African dwarf frogs. If you purchase one thinking it is an African dwarf frog, you are going to be unpleasantly surprised when it grows to the size of your hand. <br><br>These are fully aquatic frogs, meaning they require a LARGE aquarium with good filtration to be happy and healthy. Like all frogs, they are very sensitive to their environment, so excellent water quality and aquarium maintenance are musts. They can be prone to fungal infections and other health issues due to their froggy (i.e. delicate) nature. <br><br>However, in the right environment, these are incredibly fun frogs. This is not an animal that you will be able to hold, but they make up for it with goofy faces and silly antics. One of their best-known attributes is their "cookie monster" method of scooping food into their mouths with their claws, and it's just as funny as it sounds. They are also enthusiastic eaters (in fact, it can be difficult to keep them at a healthy weight).<br><br>If you know your way around frogs and aquariums, this is a rewarding animal to keep.<br><br>(Photo by Ryan Gatwicke)."
From ekccritters Nov 19 2015 9:42AM
"Have a thing for "strange" creatures? These little guys are awesome! I started caring for African Clawed frogs when I was a freshman in high school. I saw one in the pet store and I just HAD to have one! These are aquatic frogs, meaning that they stay submerged in water for their whole lives. They only go on land in the wild when they have to migrate to water that better suits their needs. African Clawed frogs come in a variety of colors, usually a mix of green and brown or black. Mine are albino. They're somewhat active little fellas. They like to swim back and forth across their aquariums. You will sometimes see them dart up to the surface to get air, and then dart straight down again. They also like to just chill out and enjoy the water. If you have other fish, DO NOT GET THESE FROGS. Sure, they're tiny and cute in the pet store. But they grow. Big. They can grow to be eight inches in length if you love them like you should. As soon as a fish can fit in their mouth, it is frog food. There is no escape. I had the most beautiful fancy guppies in my tank and made the mistake of thinking they would be too big for my first frog to eat.... I was wrong. Sir Swimsalot and all of his fishy family had perished under my new frog's insatiable hunger. They are gluttonous little things that can live up to twenty years in perfect conditions. You also have to be prepared to vacuum the bottom of the tank quite often. They definitely produce a lot of waste. Unfortunately, if you neglect this part of their care, they can get a common fatal disease called red leg. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but just know that it's painful and nasty. All in all, they're great pets. They're fun to look at, easy to feed, and you'll get attached to them if you're anything like me. It's just best that they have no tank mates (with the exception of a large pleco... mine likes to socialize with my frogs). You also have to be prepared to clean the tank often. As long as you can do that, I'm sure you will love your new froggy friend!."
From klaizure Jan 12 2017 9:49PM
"I'm sorry to say my two frogs were probably my least favorite pets (behind even the ant farm). But I can't blame the frogs! I think I wasn't ready and didn't know all that would go into their care. Their water bowl consistently smelled pretty terrible no matter how recently it had been cleaned. The frogs were male and female and they would mate constantly (this seemed pretty awkward for some house guests). Sometimes the male would jump out of the bowl and roll around the floor. All in all, a dear friend took them in and everything worked out for me and the frogs!."
From Tyler123 May 4 2015 1:36AM