African Dwarf Frog

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Other common names: African Dwarf Clawed Frog, Congo Dwarf Clawed Frog, Dwarf African Frog, Dwarf Water Frog; “ADF”; “DAF”

Scientific name: Hymenochirus boettgeri

The Basics:
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

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