Other common names: African Dwarf Clawed Frog, Congo Dwarf Clawed Frog, Dwarf African Frog, Dwarf Water Frog; “ADF”; “DAF”
Scientific name: Hymenochirus boettgeri
This active little aquatic frog is often sold as an “oddity” by stores catering to tropical fish owners. Unfortunately, it cannot compete with most fishes, and usually expires from starvation in short order. However, with proper care, the African Dwarf Frog makes one of the most interesting and “breed-able” of all amphibian pets.
The Dwarf African Clawed Frog ranges throughout much of Central Africa, from Cameroon through the Zaire River Basin to eastern Zaire. Feral populations are established in Florida, USA.
Entirely aquatic, it favors slow-moving, well-vegetated bodies of water such as swamps, forest pools, and ponds.
Appearance / Health:
The 1-1.4 inch-long body is somewhat flattened, brown to gray in color, and marked with dark spots. The head is streamlined, almost “pointy” in shape. Tiny claws are present on the rear toes and both the front and hind feet are webbed. Like other family members, this species is tongue-less.
Well-cared-for pets may live to 5+ years of age. Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are slow, deliberate feeders, and often starve when housed with fish, or in large groups. Although not known to be more susceptible to Salmonella bacteria than other frogs, this species has been implicated in spreading infections to owners. This may be related to the unsanitary conditions under which breeding stock is sometimes maintained.
Behavior / Temperament:
Dwarf African Clawed frogs become quite bold in captivity. They are active both day and night, and readily display breeding and other interesting behaviors.
As is true for all amphibians, they should be handled only when necessary, and then with wet hands so that the skin’s protective mucus is not removed. Amphibian skin secretions may cause irritations when transferred to their owner’s wounds, eyes, or the mouth.
A 5 gallon aquarium can house 4-5 adults; larger groups will get-along well in more spacious quarters. The tank should be well-stocked with (preferably live) plants and driftwood. Gravel should be of a size too large to be swallowed.
Porous skins allow frogs and toads to absorb harmful chemicals from the water and substrate in which they live. 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.
Ammonia from waste products, uneaten food, and decaying plants 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.
Dwarf African Clawed Frogs fare best at temperatures of 76-79 F a pH of 6.8 to 7.5.
Live blackworms can form the basis of the diet. Live Brine Shrimp, Whiteworms, Daphnia, Mosquito Larvae, Bloodworms and Glass Worms should also be provided. Dwarf African Clawed Frogs will also accept frozen blood worms and similar tropical fish foods and commercial African clawed frog and newt pellets
Adults can be offered food on alternate days, while juveniles should be fed daily.
Dwarf African Clawed Frogs can be brought into breeding condition by lowering the water level to ½ of its former depth for a 2 week period. The tank should be re-filled with 72-73 F water. The water temperature should then be heated to 82 F over a 7-10 day period.
Males usually quickly begin calling and will also comically 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.
During amplexus, the male frog changes his call and swipes his mate’s head with the clawed feet. The joined pair will swim in a circular pattern, with the female releasing eggs each time they reach the surface. The process is completed in 1-7 hours, and may result in over 1,000 eggs being deposited. The 2 mm eggs both float and stick to aquatic plants. As adult frogs readily consume them, either they or the eggs should be relocated. At 78 F, hatching occurs in 1.5 – 2 days.
The newly-hatched tadpoles, 2.5 mm in length, remain attached to plants by an adhesive gland for 5-6 days, and will not feed during this time. They then glide about at the water’s surface in a curious head-up position, sucking-in food while propelled by the rapidly-beating tail. They develop rear legs by day 12 and front legs by day 20. Transformation is usually complete at 30-32 days of age, at which point they measure 2 cm in length.
Dwarf African Clawed Frog tadpoles are carnivorous. Daphnia and newly-hatched brine shrimp are generally the most readily-available live foods. They will also accept pulverized dry tadpole and newt pellets, but only so long as these are kept in motion in the water column. Newly transformed frogs will accept the same diet, along with chopped blackworms and other adult foods.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
community fish, Children, little aquatic frogs, wonderful pets, small child, Feeding ADFs
regular water changes, clean environment, Chytrid fungus, PH fluctuations, deadly frog fungus
uneaten food, hiding places, webbedfeet creatures, nocturnal bottom feeder
When Walmart had a kind of fish store in their stores, they sold these little African Dwarf Frogs. I had a few of them as a kid and thinking back I cannot believe they sold them at Walmart! How weird, I couldn't imagine buying a pet from Walmart now. Anyway, I kept the frogs in fish bowls with some plants. They always died after like 6 months at most, probably because I had no idea how to care for them (again Walmart, why would you sell these frogs knowing kids like me will be begging for one). They came with some kind of pellet type food. One time, I put a decoration, like a house for one of the frogs, in the bowl. It's a sad story, but the frogs leg got stuck under the house and I came home to find out that he had died. THEN I decide he needed a proper burial in the backyard. After burying him, I went back outside to find out that my dog dug him up and ate him. Pretty funny looking back now, though. I don't think Walmart sells fish or frogs anymore! Thankfully..
From AmberForsythe17 Feb 6 2019 12:46PM
Benny the Dwarf African Clawed Frog
Since the day I brought Benny home he has been a happy addition to my aquarium. He is super active and loves to hang out in the plants and wood pieces throughout the tank. Unlike many of his species he also spends a lot of time foraging around the bottom of the tank for leftover blood-worms from his last snack.
Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are carnivores and do tend to make a mess of their tank substrate. It is especially helpful to also have tetras or other omnivorous fish in the same tank so they can maintain the substrate. Housing those types of fish can produce some difficulties when feeding your DACF, as they may try to eat your frogs meal. A really neat thing about these frogs though, when it comes to feeding them, they can be trained to eat out of your hand, a small plate, tweezers, etc..
DACFs should be kept in groups of at least two, preferably a male and female. Sometimes, you can hear male frogs "sing" in an attempt to attract their mate. Care should be used when choosing your frogs if you get them from a pet store, be sure to choose the most lively ones, as frogs lazing at the top may be on their last leg. It is important to note that these frogs do often float at the top of the tank, or near it, with their nose sticking out to relax. The action doesn't necessarily indicate illness however, be sure that your frog is also exploring the rest of its tank.
Due to the small size of these frogs and their feet, they are not the best swimmers. They should not be placed in tall tanks as they do breathe air and will need to travel to the top of the tank. They love environments with plants, wood, and other objects they can both hide in and use to rest, on their way up for air..
From KrisLovesPets Jul 30 2015 5:41PM
Great Aquatic Dweller
Yes, I was immediately drawn in by this tiny adorable aquatic frog in the clear plastic cube with the bamboo plant. I am a sixth grade teacher and this seemed like a perfect low-maintenance classroom pet for our students.
We named our frog Pip, and the whole class thoroughly enjoyed the darting and swimming activity…possibly timed with exciting moments during classroom instruction. Pip was easy to feed, fun to watch, and it was simple to keep the habitat clean (though at times he ignored his food which resulted in additional water cleanings).
The tragedy of this story is that the furnace in the building broke during a weekend in the winter months, and the temperature dropped to the 50s. I have to assume this was the reason that Pip didn’t look so good the next week and died in the middle of a school day with the students watching. Thankfully, 12 year-olds are not traumatized by such an occurrence. I, on the other hand, was quite sad and guilt-ridden over the circumstances. As much as I wanted to run out and buy another dwarf frog (and I might possibly entertain the idea in the future), I really felt horrible and irresponsible about Pip’s demise.
I highly recommend this delightful water creature as a solo pet or an addition to a tank (with friendly fish roommates!) as an easy-care entertaining pet, as long as you can guarantee an optimal environment at all times. Cold-blooded creatures can be hardy, but not impervious..
From njmona Aug 20 2015 6:10PM