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African Dwarf Frogs: Species Profile and Complete Care Guide 2022

African dwarf frogs are one of the most popular aquatic frogs and unique aquatic pets you can own. They’re interesting to watch, easy to care for, and can comfortably live in nano tanks, making them a great option for both beginner and veteran aquarists.

I first started keeping African dwarf frogs a few years ago, and I’ve learned a lot about their care over the time I’ve owned them. Their care needs are a little different from fish, so it’s important to do your research to make sure they’re the right pet for you.

And that’s where this African dwarf frog care guide comes in! I’ll be going over everything you need to know about these little frogs, including diet, water parameters, ideal setup, and breeding.

Species Summary 

Like all species in the Pipidae family, African dwarf frogs are fully aquatic, as well as completely toothless and tongueless. They are found in most parts of Equatorial Africa, and their natural diet includes small crustaceans, shrimp, small fish, worms, and insect larvae.

Scientific nameHymenochirus
Common namesAfrican dwarf frog
DistributionEquatorial Africa
Size2-3 inches
ColorGray, olive green, gold, albino, brown
DietCarnivore
TemperamentPeaceful
Minimum tank size5 gallons
Place in tankBottom
Care levelEasy
BreedingEgg layer
Life expectancy5 years

Origins

Like their name suggests, African dwarf frogs are native to parts of Equatorial Africa like Nigeria, Gabon, Central Africa, Congo River Basin, and Cameroon. They inhabit warm and shallow rivers, creeks, streams, and ponds.

During the rainy season, these fully aquatic frogs also live in flooded sections of the forest. Their natural habitat is shaded by the trees and is covered in thick vegetation.

African dwarf frogs spend most of their time underwater…

African dwarf frogs spend most of their lives underwater near the bottom of the substrate scavenging for food. Their olive green to brown coloration enables them to blend in with the dirt, leaf litter, and plants.

Are African Dwarf Frogs Good Pets?

African dwarf frogs make excellent pets for both beginner and experienced aquarists. This aquatic frog is fairly low maintenance and simple to care for, at least compared to other amphibian species.

They are also interesting to watch and make a good addition to a community tank due to their docile temperament.

Are African Dwarf Frogs Easy to Take Care Of?

This species is relatively easy to take care of as they don’t have overly complex requirements in terms of diet, tank mates, parameters, and tank setup.

African Dwarf Frog Facing Front of the Tank
African Dwarf Frog Facing Front of the Tank

They can be fed a variety of foods and can adapt to a range of pH, temperature, and water hardness levels. In addition, they can be housed with most peaceful freshwater fish species (as long as the fish aren’t big enough to fit inside their mouth!)

Better yet, this tiny frog only reaches a maximum size of 3 inches, so they are a good choice for a nano aquarium like a 10-gallon tank.

Why Do African Dwarf Frogs Sing?

African dwarf frogs sing to show their willingness to mate. Male frogs produce a humming or buzzing sound to attract females. The females occasionally sing back, but they are far less noisy!

FACT

Singing usually occurs at night, so if you notice a strange sound in your tank after you turn the lights off, don’t be alarmed as it’s likely just your frogs.

Compared to African Clawed Frogs 

Both the African dwarf frog and African clawed frog look very similar, to the point that these two species are often mislabeled in pet stores.

It’s a good idea to know the difference between both species…

It’s a good idea to know the difference between both species so you can make sure the frogs at your local fish store are actually African dwarf frogs.

Feet

First, take a look at the frog’s feet. African dwarf frogs have 4 webbed feet, whereas African clawed frogs have webbed hind legs and individual fingers on their front legs.

Head

Next, check the frog’s head. African dwarf frogs have pointed snouts and eyes on the side of the head. The African clawed frog has a wider snout and their eyes are located on the top of their head.

African Dwarf Frog Swimming
African Dwarf Frog Swimming

So, to sum up: if the frog at your pet store has 4 webbed feet, a pointy snout, and a sideways eye position, it’s most likely an African dwarf frog! 

How to Sex African Dwarf Frogs

Male and female African dwarf frogs can look pretty identical, but there are few distinct features between each sex. Females tend to be larger and rounder than males, with a more pronounced genital region.

Males are often smaller with shorter or missing tail buds.

Males are often smaller with shorter or missing tail buds. In females, the tail bud is much bigger. There are also white glands located behind the front legs of males.

These glands can be a little hard to spot, but they usually produce a slight bulge. The purpose of the glands is unknown, but they’re thought to have something to do with breeding.

How Big Do African Dwarf Frogs Get? 

This species only grows to between 2 and 3 inches in size, with females usually being larger than males.

How Can You Tell the Gender of African Dwarf Frogs?

You can tell the gender of this species by looking at the size of its body, tail bud, and genital region. Female African dwarf frogs are bigger with more prominent tail buds and genitals.

Males, on the other hand, are much smaller with less visible tail buds.

How to Feed African Dwarf Frogs

This species is a slow-moving creature, so it can be easily outcompeted for food during feeding time. You may need to target feed your pet if it lives in a community setup to ensure it gets enough frog food.

Use sinking fish pellets rather than floating foods as they are bottom dwellers and spend a lot of their time at the bottom of the tank. Place the pellets in areas where your amphibian tends to hang out.

What Do You Feed African Dwarf Frogs?

African dwarf frogs are passive eaters and need high quality food and a lot of protein in their diet as they are carnivorous. You should feed them high-protein sinking fish/frog pellets as their main source of food to give them a healthy life.

A few times a week, offer this tiny frog a variety of frozen food and live food…

A few times a week, offer this tiny frog a variety of frozen food and live food like brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, earthworms, and blackworms. You can also feed them frozen bloodworms – don’t use live bloodworms as they have tiny hooks on their mouths that could hurt your frog!

Personally, my two African dwarf frogs eat frozen brine shrimp, aquatic frog pellets, and tubifex worms.

How Often to Feed African Dwarf Frogs 

African dwarf frogs should be fed twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. Only give your frog as much food as they can consume in a few minutes. Remove leftover food with a net, otherwise, it could lead to poor water quality.

For more feeding tips, watch this video below.

Feeding Your African Dwarf Frogs

How Long Can African Dwarf Frogs Go Without Food?

A healthy African dwarf frog can go without food for around 2 weeks. They naturally store fat in their bodies to help them survive when food is scarce.

…extended periods without food will cause your frogs to lose energy…

However, extended periods without food will cause your frogs to lose energy and muscle mass, which will eventually lead to starvation. You should always make sure your frog is fed properly and has access to enough food.

Substrate

The best substrates for an African dwarf frog tank are aquarium gravel, sand, and baked clay. Make sure the gravel is large enough so these fully aquatic amphibians can’t swallow it.

Filtration

Good filtration is key for these frogs to promote good water quality and prevent fluctuations in pH levels. Unstable parameters and an unclean environment can make frogs sick! See this guide for information on how to lower an aquarium’s pH level.

Fish Tank Being Filled with Water
Fish Tank Being Filled with Water

Ideally, your filtration system should have a slow flow rate like an under gravel filter or sponge filter as these frogs prefer gentle currents.

Heater

As these dwarf frogs are native to parts of Africa, they require warm water in their tank. You should use a high-quality heater to increase and maintain the warmth of your aquarium, especially if you live in a cool climate.

Lighting

This aquatic amphibian is nocturnal, so they are most active at night. You should use an aquarium light to replicate natural sunlight and provide your frogs with a day/night cycle.

TIP

Leave the aquarium lights on for a maximum of 10 to 12 hours so you don’t stress out your frogs and any other fish in your tank.

Plants and Decorations

Live plants can be a great way to provide your pet frog with hiding spaces so they feel safer. They also mimic a natural environment and can improve the quality of your water.

aquarium on black background
Fish Tank With Plants and Rocks

Java fern, java moss, duckweed, and Amazon swords are some great options. Plants with big leaves will provide your frogs with a place to climb onto when they need to go to the surface of the water to breathe.

Alongside plants, you can use driftwood, Indian almond leaves, coconut hideaways, rocks, and artificial decorations…

Alongside plants, you can use driftwood, Indian almond leaves, coconut hideaways, rocks, and artificial decorations to spruce up the bottom of the tank.

Water Parameters

Water Temperature74-80°F 
pH6.5-7.8
GH5-20 dGH
KH4-12 KH

Do African Dwarf Frogs Need to Be in Pairs?

Like most frogs, African dwarf frogs are social critters that enjoy the company of their own kind. It’s best to keep them in pairs or small groups, otherwise, they will be much less active and be prone to hiding.

What Fish Can Live with African Dwarf Frogs?

African dwarf frogs can live with most peaceful fish with similar water requirements. Try to select species that occupy the top and middle region of the tank, as well as those that are larger in size than your frogs.

Good tank mates include neon tetras, black skirt tetras, rummy nose tetras, corydoras catfish, platy fish, guppies, danios, bamboo shrimp, dwarf gouramis, and betta fish.

Despite being very slow, these frogs will attempt to eat anything they can fit in their mouths!

FACT

The species is carnivorous, so they will hunt fish fry and small fish or shrimp if they can catch them.

How Long Do African Dwarf Frogs Live?

African dwarf frogs usually live for around 5 years with good care. 

How Do African Dwarf Frogs Sleep?

African dwarf frogs float near the water’s surface with their eyes closed when they sleep. As the species breathes through their skin, their bodies need to be wet at all times.

How Often Do African Dwarf Frogs Come Up for Air?

african dwarf frogs at the bottom of the aquarium
African Dwarf Frogs at the Bottom of the Aquarium (1)

Unlike most frogs who can hold their breath for 4 to 7 hours at a time, the African dwarf frog needs to come up for air every 15 minutes or so.

Common Health Problems

Some of the most common health problems that can affect African dwarf frogs are bacterial, dropsy, and fungal infections.

Bacterial Infections

A bacterial infection can lead to symptoms like lethargy, cloudy eyes resulting in poor eyesight, loss of appetite, and red skin. Frequent water changes to increase tank conditions and antibacterial medications that contain Methylene blue are often used to treat this type of infection.

Dropsy

Dropsy is easy to identify as it will cause severe bloat in your pet due to the buildup of fluid in their body. Unfortunately, most cases of dropsy are incurable and will eventually lead to death.

That’s because by the time a frog displays symptoms of dropsy, they are normally beyond saving.

Fungal Infections

A fungal infection will manifest as white fuzzy patches on your frog’s body, especially near the eyes. Improving the quality of your water with frequent water changes and antifungal medications that contain Methylene blue are your best course of action.

TIP

Never use copper-based medication – copper is toxic to frogs, even in small quantities.

Can You Breed African Dwarf Frogs?

Yes, you can breed African dwarf frogs. However, it may take a few extra preparations as this species needs a few adjustments to their tank to encourage spawning.

How Do African Dwarf Frogs Mate?

African dwarf frogs are considered sexually mature once they are around 9 to 12 months of age. They mate in amplexus, in which the male grasps the female’s abdomen in front of her front legs.

Amplexus typically occurs at night after a male has finished singing to attract a female. During the process, which can take up to several hours, the male and female will swim to the surface of the water. As she moves, she will release eggs and the male will spray sperm into the water to fertilize them.

When the female becomes motionless, this signals to the male that she has released all of her eggs and he will release her.

How to Breed African Dwarf Frogs

To trigger spawning in these frogs, you’ll need to mimic the breeding season in the wild. This can be achieved by decreasing the water levels in your aquarium to 3 inches deep over the course of one month to stimulate the dry season. Make sure your tank doesn’t contain fish or shrimp – just your adult frogs.

Mating African Dwarf Frogs
Mating African Dwarf Frogs

Once your tank is shallow enough, fill it back up with dechlorinated tap water (bottled water treated with an aquarium water conditioner will also work) with a temperature of around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should be maintained for about 2 weeks.

Next, feed your frogs plenty of high-protein foods to get them ready for breeding. You’ll know if your frogs are interested in mating when the males start singing and the females get larger (due to being filled with eggs).

The eggs will hatch into tadpoles in around 3 to 6 days

After the female has released her eggs, remove the adult frogs. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles in around 3 to 6 days, at which point you can feed them infusoria and baby brine shrimp.

Once the tadpoles have grown legs, you can move them back into your main tank to live with your other African dwarf frogs.

What Do African Dwarf Frogs Eggs Look Like?

Eggs for this species are very small and look like tiny black dots if fertilized. Unfertilized eggs tend to be white or have a cloudy appearance to them. In the right conditions, fertilized eggs will usually hatch within 3 to 6 days.

How to Stop African Dwarf Frogs From Mating

The easiest way to prevent African dwarf frogs from mating is to simply leave your tank as is. Most frogs need certain changes in their environment to trigger spawning and stimulate the breeding season.

However, if your frogs are successfully spawning without any adjustments in their tank, simply remove the eggs. Eggs that have been fertilized will have a black dot in the middle.

Final Thoughts

I hope this African dwarf frog care guide helped you learn a little more about the species and decide whether they’re the right pet for you.

Did you end up getting this species for your aquarium? Be sure to let me know on our social media platforms and share this post with your friends!

If you’re looking for more helpful information or aquarium guides, take a look at our other great articles here.

(1) Mwatro, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Mollie Newton
Mollie Newton
Founder of PetMeTwice. I love all types of animals from fish to fluff-balls! I also enjoy writing short stories and helping train animals 🤩