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The Ultimate Guide To Caring For And Keeping African Dwarf Frog

Are you looking for a fun new way to liven up your freshwater aquarium? If you’re stuck for ideas, why don’t you give the African Dwarf Frog a try?

This species is the best option for small community aquariums. As nocturnal species, you will observe them hopping about the tank during the midnight hours, exhibit unique behaviors that are a ton of fun to watch.

These creatures are also incredibly easy to care for, making them great candidates for a tank owned by a novice fishkeeper. If you’re ready to get started and to give these awesome species a try, look no further. Consider our ultimate guide to raising the African dwarf frog.

African Dwarf Frog

African Dwarf Frog Background

African Dwarf Frogs are members of the Pipidae family in the genus known as Hymenochirus. It’s a bit confusing, but there are actually four species that bear the common name of African Dwarf Frog: these are Hymenochirus boulengeri, Hymenochirus boettgeri, Hymenochirus feae and Hymenochirus curtipes.

African Dwarf Frog 1
Photo by Nippyfish

These frogs don’t look dissimilar from each other and have pretty comparable behaviors. However, the easiest way to tell them apart is by considering their native environments. Hymenochirus boulengeri is usually found in the northeastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while Hymenochirus feae is found only in Gabon.

 Hymenochirus curtipes is found in the Republic of the Congo while Hymenochirus boettgeri has a vast range. This latter species is found in Gabon, the Demoratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.

African Dwarf Frog Appearance And Behavior

African Dwarf Frog 3
Photo by Mike & Patti Young

African Dwarf Frogs are gorgeous creatures. They can vary slightly in color but are usually found in olive to brownish shades. Each frog also has prominent black spots all over its body. They do not have tongues or teeth but instead of webbed feet. They use these feet to move around as well as to feed themselves.

These frogs also have buccal cavities. These are used to pull water into their mouths, which help them eat. African Dwarf Frogs do not have ears but instead have sensory lateral lines across the length of their bodies which help them to sense vibrations and other movement in the water.

It can be difficult to tell males and females of this species apart, but it can be done. Females will have obvious genital regions known as ovipositors. They will also be slightly larger. Males have a small gland that is visible behind each front leg. The function of the gland is not known, but it is believed to have something to do with breeding.

These fully aquatic amphibians are small, usually reaching only about three inches in length. They weigh a few ounces each. They are often mistaken for the African Clawed Frog, which in truth looks quite similar to this species. However, the African Clawed Frog is slightly larger and is also more aggressive.

When you head to the pet store to purchase the first frogs for your aquarium, make sure you are armed with the appropriate research. Know what you are looking for and make sure you are purchasing the right species. It would be unfortunate to do tons of work in preparation for the arrival of your African Dwarf Frog only to have you bring home the wrong species of frog for your tank.

African Dwarf Frogs are very entertaining to watch. As nocturnal creatures, they are most active when the sun has gone down. They will spend their nights swimming in the water, every now and then rising to the surface to breathe.

African Dwarf Frogs are unique in that they can’t spend a ton of time out of the water or they will become dehydrated. This can cause death in as little as fifteen minutes. While African Dwarf Frogs don’t have gills as fish do, possessing lungs instead, these creatures prefer to be underwater. They will dart to the surface of the water for air and then dive straight back down..

Raising an African Dwarf Frog can be daunting for a beginner, because these creatures exhibit a unique behavior known as lying in the zen position. When they do this, they will float on the surface of the water without moving a muscle. Their arms and legs will stretch out and they will lie there for an extended period of time. This causes many people to panic, thinking their frogs are dead. However, this behavior is completely normal.

African Dwarf Frogs are also known to sing. This is a mating behavior that the male engages in to attract the female. Males will emit a low buzzing sound that you should be able to hear outside of the tank.

African Dwarf Frog Tank and Water Requirements

African Dwarf Frog 2
Photo by Emily Barrett Follow

The best African Dwarf Frog tank will be one that mimics the frog’s natural environment. Found naturally in Africa, this frog prefers a tank that is warm and humid. They are found in tropical forests in Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, and even the Congo River basin, so they will need lots of warmth and lots of light. African Dwarf Frogs are accustomed to receive at least ten to twelve hours of light each day. Although these frogs are nocturnal, they require regular light cycles in order to behave normally.

The aquarium for your African Dwarf Frog should be humid in case the frog happens to leap out of the water. Light can be provided by using a timer to make sure the lights are on a ten or twelve hour cycle. Besides these conditions, the African Dwarf Frog doesn’t need much in terms of the set-up of your tank. A normal lighting system with LED lights is fine – you don’t need to pull out all the stops here.

You should, however, pay attention to the chemicals in your African Dwarf Frog’s tank. Consider investing in a water test kit, which will allow you to make sure you always have the ideal water parameters in place for your frogs. You should conduct weekly water changes of twenty percent to keep things clean and tidy, too.

African Dwarf Frogs can tolerate some fluctuations in the water, but generally need temperatures of around 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.8 and the water hardness should be between 4-15 kH.

These creatures can tolerate a wide variety of substrates, but you should make sure that whatever substrate you choose is comprised of grains that are not large enough for the frogs to eat. Sand or fine gravel would be best.

African Dwarf Frogs do not like strong currents, as they prefer to lie motionless in the water, so you should not invest in a high-powered filter. A mild current is best. In addition, these frogs breathe air above the water but you might still want to get a small air pump to keep the water quality high. This will help direct harmful anaerobic bacteria out of your tank.

African Dwarf Frogs are also quite sensitive to vibrations and noise. A pump should be moved away from the glass of the tank to prevent unwanted movement. You could also add a thin layer of insulation like Styrofoam to create a buffer between the stand and the tank.

You don’t have to include live plants in your tank, but your African Dwarf Frogs will certainly appreciate it. Plants help provide the frogs with plenty of spaces to hide and will also keep the water quality stable in the tank. Consider using floating plants like hornwort or rooted plants like Java Fern. Just make sure that rooted plants are completely secure, with the roots covered so that the frogs don’t dig them out.

Frogs need lots of hiding places, so giving them spots like rocks and decorations (including driftwood) will help them feel safe. While you shouldn’t be housing your African Dwarf Frogs with predatory species, keeping them in heavily planted and decorated areas will make them feel safe from predation – which is a natural fear that they have from their native environment.

You don’t need an overly large tank for housing you African Dwarf Frog. Generally, ten gallons is plenty of space to house four or five frogs. A twenty-gallon tank will also suffice, but you need to be wary of a tank that is too large, as this may create waters that are too deep for your frog to swim up to the surface for air. Generally, you only need about two gallons of water for every frog.

What Do African Dwarf Frogs Eat?

African Dwarf Frog 4
Photo by Stevengosch

The best diet for an African Dwarf Frog is one that is varied and nutritious. These creatures are omnivores but tend to prefer meatier foods. Make sure you feed your frog a diet that will meet his individual needs.

You can choose from a variety of prepared foods – these should form the cornerstone of your frog’s diet. They are usually pellet-based and have the exact proportions of nutrients that your African Dwarf Frog needs to be healthy.

Alternatively, you can also add a few treats every now and then. However, these shouldn’t be the only things your African Dwarf Frog eats but should be occasional nibbles here and there. You can add foods like earthworms, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, fish fry, bloodworms, and krill to your frog’s diet. They can even be fed beef heart every now and then, but try not to feed this more often than once every month.

African Dwarf Frogs can eat both live and frozen foods. You should feed your frogs once a day when they are young, but when they get older, you only need to feed them every other day. Make sure you are only feeding as much as the frogs can eat within fifteen minutes, and break all foods down into small, bite-sized pieces. This will help to prevent overfeeding.

Overfeeding can be absolutely devastating to an African Dwarf Frog. It will lead to unnecessary, unhealthy weight gain and will also damage the water quality of your tank. This can stress your fish as well as your frogs. Any food that remains unearned after twenty minutes should be removed from the tank to prevent it from impacting the water quality.

In some cases, you may notice that your African Dwarf Frog is being fussy or refusing to eat. If that’s the case, you might have to use tweezers and hand-feed your frog. You’ll need to get the food right in front of its face so that it can see it and eat it.

African Dwarf Frog Tank Mates

The best African Dwarf Frog companions are those that prefer living in a tropical freshwater setting. Otherwise, there’s not much that you need to take into consideration, as these creatures can get along with just about everyone. Just make sure you have enough space for your desired number of organisms, and keep the water conditions ideal so that there aren’t any issues in the tank.

African Dwarf Frogs are peaceful creatures that will thrive when housed with other peaceful individuals. You might keep them with livebearers like Guppies, Platies, or Mollies, or even schooling fish like the Neon Tetra or Rummy Nose Tetra. Other good species include Danios and Corydoras.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit your potential African Dwarf Frog tank mates to fish prices, either. These creatures can also be housed with non-fish species like Ghost Shrimp, Cherry Shrimp, and Bamboo Shrimp. Many snails can also cohabitate peacefully with frogs, too.

The one thing to pay attention to is that some species of snails and shrimp are viewed as prey by the African Dwarf Frog. You will want to select larger species of both and do your research about which invertebrates are best to avoid this problem.

Avoid any aggressive fish, like Cichlids. These will be too territorial around your African Dwarf Frogs. Not only will they harass them and cause their stress levels to increase, but they may also view your frogs as food, too.

That being said, you can safely house your African Dwarf Frog with betta fish. You will want to make sure your Betta has a temperature that tolerates other species well, because if your Betta is overly aggressive it might bully your frog.

African Dwarf Frogs can also be kept in small to medium-sized groups. These frogs are social creatures, and therefore like being housed with some of their own kind. Try to keep at least two to three African Dwarf Frogs together in a tank.

Common African Dwarf Frog Diseases

African Dwarf Frogs can be somewhat delicate. They can not only be infected by several types of bacteria, but they can also spread these diseases to you. African Dwarf Frogs aren’t poisonous, but much of the bacteria that they can harbor can be toxic.

Salmonella is one example of such a disease. If you are handling your frog, always use an aquarium net. If you absolutely must touch your frogs, make sure you wash your hands immediately after handling as well as before you pick them up.

You should avoid using any sharp decorations or girl in your tank, as these frogs can be sensitive to cuts and abrasions. Make sure any grapes in the tank, such as those created by inlets and outlets, are protected so that your frogs can’t get stuck.

African Dwarf Frogs can be affected by diseases that are common among freshwater fish. For example, dropsy, a deadly disease, can cause bloating in your frogs. This can be caused by anything from bacteria to parasites, and while it’s sometimes treatable, the easiest way to prevent it from becoming a problem is to make sure the water quality of your tank remains clean and stable.

Other bacterial and fungal infections can also impact the longevity and overall health of your frogs. One of the most common fungal infections is that from the fungus known as Chytridiomycosis. This is highly contagious and creates fuzzy patches on the skin of your frogs.

Bacterial infections may present with several symptoms, including reddened skin or eyes, loss of appetite, or fatigue. Antibiotics are often effective against these diseases, but prevention will always be more effective than treatment.

Breeding And Life Spans Of African Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs have short lives, usually living no more than five years. While you can increase the longevity of these creatures by providing them with the ideal living conditions and diet, it is not common for these frogs to live much longer than a few years.

It can be difficult to breed African Dwarf Frogs in captivity, but that’s not to say that it can’t be done. The challenge comes in caring for their eggs, which can be quite delicate. African Dwarf frog eggs require warm water and a higher pH than adult frogs. Therefore, you will likely need to remove them from the tank or provide a separate breeding tank in order to be successful.

Adult African Dwarf Frogs will lay eggs whenever they get the chance, often producing up to 8,000 eggs every year. However, they are not good parents. If you allow the eggs to remain in the tank after they have been laid, the adult frogs will often eat them.

African Dwarf Frogs become sexually mature at around nine months of age. The females lay eggs throughout the aquarium, either floating on the surface of the water or sinking to the bottom. The eggs produce a sticky gel coating that sticks to rocks, walls, and decorations in the tank.

Once you see these eggs, you should siphon them out and remove them to a separate aquarium. This aquarium should be at least ten gallons and have a pH between 7.5 and 8.0. Make sure the temperature is warm at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Given the ideal conditions, your African Dwarf Frog eggs should hatch within about 48 hours. In some cases, it can take up to a week.

Tadpoles are incredibly delicate and have only a twenty percent survival rate. You should feed them a highly specialized diet of liquid fry food or flake fish food. Once the hind legs are developed, you can offer frozen foods like Cyclops. When all the legs are developed, you can feed them mosquito larvae, and once the tail is absorbed, it’s time to start feeding an adult frog diet.

When you are setting up your tadpole tank, make sure you do not have an aquarium filter. The tadpoles are so tiny – less than a quarter of an inch at birth – that they will easily be sucked into the filter tubing. Instead of using a filter, just remove about ten percent of the water twice a day to keep the water clean.

Your African Dwarf tadpoles can be moved to the adult tank in about four to eight weeks. This is the approximate amount of time that it takes for tadpoles to fully develop into adult frogs.

Is An African Dwarf Frog For You?

African Dwarf Frogs are enjoyable species to raise. As small, peaceful amphibians, they are social creatures that will spend much of their time enjoying the company of others. Although they aren’t fantastic swimmers and do require some specific care in regards to their diet and water quality, they make a fabulous addition to any community tank.

These amphibians are some of the most interesting creatures to watch in a tank, and since they only cost a few dollars at your local pet store, they’re an affordable option for a novice aquarium hobbyist, too. So, what do you say – are you ready to raise the African Dwarf Frog? Well then, hop to it!

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