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A Basic Guide to Caring for African Dwarf Frogs

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Finatics enjoys writing about animal care and is "owned" by a guinea pig, four hermit crabs, three African dwarf frogs, and a betta fish.

Daniella Vereeken

Daniella Vereeken

About African Dwarf Frogs

African dwarf frogs (also known as Congo frogs, dwarf African clawed frogs, and ADF's for short) are small, completely aquatic frogs that are members of the Pipidae family. They breathe by occasionally swimming up to the surface for a gulp of air. They are, as their name suggests, native to Africa. Therefore, they are tropical animals that require a heater in their aquariums. These frogs are social and should be kept in groups of at least two. Though they are not difficult to care for, you should do research on them to see if you can provide for their needs.

This is a good example of a tank for dwarf frogs.

This is a good example of a tank for dwarf frogs.

What to Consider When Housing Dwarf Frogs

Tank Size

African dwarf frogs only grow to be about 1" to 2" in length, so they don't need very large tanks. However, you need space for a small filter, heater, hiding place, and some swimming room. I recommend at least a 2.5-gallon tank to house two. Bigger tanks obviously can house larger populations of frogs.


African dwarf frogs are nocturnal, and you should provide some hiding places for them to rest during the day. A good example is a terra cotta pot on its side. It's cheap and can look beautiful in a planted aquarium. African dwarf frogs aren't particular about how their tank should look, but if you have them in a very large aquarium, some plants should be supplied so they can have some support when they swim up to breathe.


These frogs can be housed in a variety of substrates-sand, gravel, or bare-bottom will be fine. However, if you are going to use gravel or sand, I recommend getting a small fish (like for the bottom of a terra cotta pot) for them to eat their food in. In tanks with gravel, their meal can sink between the rocks, and in sandy aquariums, when eating they can ingest a lot of sand which might not be good for them.


This is optional. However, you should provide some way of letting them know when it's day and night. If you do buy a light, leave it on only for about 10-12 hours a day or else you could have an algae bloom.


Standard equipment for normal tropical tanks can be used with African dwarf frogs. They require a heater that will keep the aquarium at a steady 78 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as a thermometer to read the temperature. They should have a light filter that can keep the water clean, while making minimal water disturbance. A bucket and gravel vacuum can be used to perform weekly partial water changes. You should have a test kit handy to check on the water quality every once in a while, and a water conditioner used to treat tap water so chlorine won't poison your pets.

Feeding These Frogs

Congo frogs are carnivorous, and mostly feed on a diet of aquatic insects/larvae. They should be fed a varied diet to make sure they are given all their vital nutrients. There is a wide variety of foods you can give them.

Examples of What to Feed These Frogs

  • Fish fry
  • Mosquito larvae (you can harvest them from home as long as you make sure you don't feed your frogs toxic chemicals along with it)
  • Bloodworms- frozen, freeze-dried, or live
  • Brine shrimp- frozen, freeze-dried, or live
  • Krill- frozen, freeze-dried, or live
  • HBH Frog and Tadpole Bites (I don't recommend other pellets as they are normally hard and difficult for them to swallow, which can cause digestion issues)
  • Beef heart (only as a treat because it's very fatty)
  • Earthworms (cut up into bite-sized pieces)

African dwarf frogs are small, and shouldn't be overfed as this can cause a lot of problems such as poor water quality and obesity. These can lead to disease and sometimes, death. I would only feed them a small pinch of food a day. You can also skip feeding every once in a while, as in the wild they don't find food every day.

How to Feed African Dwarf Frogs

These critters are not voracious feeders, and sometimes it can be tricky to get them to eat. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

  • Put the food in the dish and tap on the glass. They can picky up the scent and find the food resting in the dish. After a while, they can associate the taps with feeding and race to the fish.
  • Find an unused turkey baster or tweezers. You can suck up the food you're giving them with the turkey baster (or grab it with tweezers) and squirt it out right in their face so they can see it and eat it.
These are good foods to give your ADF.

These are good foods to give your ADF.

Behaviors of African Dwarf Frogs

Dwarf frogs are very entertaining creatures. Unlike many frog species, they lead active lives, but as they are nocturnal, they will be more lively at night. Here are some behaviors you might notice your frogs doing after you turn off the lights.

Behaviors of Frogs at Night

  • The 'zen position' is a nickname for when African dwarf frogs float at the surface of the water without moving. It makes them look like they are dead, but they're really just lazing around.
  • Frequently, you will see the frogs dart up to the surface and crash back down a split-second later. This is how they breathe. They don't have gills like fish and need to swim to the surface for a gulp of air.
  • Occasionally, you might hear a quiet buzzing sound, which is a sexually mature male singing for a mate.

Tankmates for These Frogs

African dwarf frogs can be kept in a tank with other animals as long as attention is paid to the needs of both. The animals in the tank should all be peaceful community creatures, and you need to watch to make sure the dwarf frogs don't nip the fish, or vice versa. Some fish with the same diet as ADF's may race to eat their food before the frogs can reach them turkey baster/tweezer. What I suggest to do about this is using the turkey baster/tweezer method of feeding.

Examples of Suitable Tankmates

  • Many livebearers such as guppies, mollies, platies, and endler's livebearers
  • Some labyrinth fish, including bettas and dwarf gouramis (some bettas may be aggressive and can kill the frogs, so be sure to separate them if there's any bullying)
  • Corydoras
  • Danios
  • Many schooling tetras like the neon tetra, the serpae tetra, or the rummy-nose tetra
  • Some species of shrimp like cherry shrimp, ghost shrimp, and bamboo shrimp (there's a possibility of the frog eating the shrimp)
  • Some species of snails, like mystery snails and ramshorn snails

These are merely some example of fish that are compatible with dwarf frogs. If you would like to know if a certain species of fish can be kept with them, research them to see if they are peaceful enough to be kept with these gentle frogs.

Can You Care for an African Dwarf Frog?

If you decide to take it upon yourself to care for these little beasties, you must be willing to buy the buy all the equipment they need, even if it's not very cheap. You also need to be willing to spend time almost every day to make sure they are fed. This is big responsibility-African dwarf frogs can live to be five years old!

Closing Thoughts

After reading this article, if you decide you are still prepared to commit yourself to owning these adorable animals, then you're in for a fun ride! They are very endearing and watching their antics can be very relaxing and enjoyable. They are relatively easy to care for, as long as tank conditions are in good order. If you decide not to buy them after all, there are still many other animals to explore in the aquarium hobby.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 finatics


Angele on August 04, 2020:

My 2 ADF's are 11 years old now.

I was always told to keep them at room temperature, which is what l have always done, use spring water only, and never handle them.

These rules, l have followed faithfully, and have been rewarded with 11 years of enjoyment from these lovely creatures.

Maria on July 02, 2019:

I have an ADF that is around 8 years old. I did have 3 all the same age. 2 passed away during the last year. Old age. But this last one is active as ever still. I feed him/her thawed out blood worms and nutritious frog granules. Every time I change the water, I use bottled spring water and I add drops of a conditioner for purifying the water even more and another conditioner that is medicinal against bacteria

Paul on March 08, 2019:

I had to African clawed water frogs for the past 4 years now . stretched out they were a good 8 in Long a very decent size. As of a week ago we put them in a much larger tank it is two and a half feet tall anyway this morning we woke up to them dead both of them they were stretched out straight as a board lying right next to each other at bottom of tank the tank was 80° this morning which I thought was too high wife turned it up they were slightly red on their limbs. Also bubble Rock in the tank was underneath a bell for 24 hours which made decent sound I noticed one of the frogs jumped out twice and was bouncing around at top of water with half body out of water going all the way across tank back and forth for about 20 seconds then go down to bottom of tank sit for a couple minutes and repeat the other frog looked veiny not bloated but like on steroids more muscular I moved the Bell off of bubbles the sound subsided but then this morning we found them dead any ideas of what exactly killed them? Any help would be great I am devastated by the loss of my frogs I want more but can't stand to go through this again I hand-fed them since they were the size of a silver dollar please help

TE on February 22, 2019:

What are some learned traits on a porcipone

Red Gallagher on January 28, 2019:

I had 2 male ADFs until 1 died. After a few months, today I bought a female ADF. She is tiny and young. I floated the bag then introduced her to the tank her but she wouldn't surface to breathe. Baby just froze. After 30+ minutes I used the net to bring her to the surface. Same thing happened again. So I took her out and have her with 3" aquarium water in a bucket with some plants (no aeration). I had reduced the water level in the main tank (6 gallon) so she'd only need to swim 6" to breathe. I have 2 live plants and she sat on one. Best plan? Put her back in the tank in the morning? I matched pH to her tank's before introducing. The tank water circulating is louder than usual because I lowered the water level. Any thoughts are appreciated. The male is 4-5x her size but came to her 2x without acting aggressively. Significant stress in transport from store etc for baby frog. If I leave her in the bucket for the day, is that better than creating more stress? Is it normal for an ADF to freeze up when first introduced to a tank? Any suggestions appreciated.

Fish lover on May 02, 2018:

Thanks this article was so useful.

I have found that all the fish i am putting with 2 d-frogs are perfect

7 neon tetras

1 guirannie? (Spelling so hard:) )

1 ramhorn snail

2 rock shrimp

1 female bristle nose pleco

And 2 corydorar

Might add 1

Kaylee0925 on April 08, 2018:

my brand new ADF's are trying to escape and the tank is at 80 degrees with a filter and heater i just got them less than an hour ago, any suggestions to try to calm them down?

Pittsburgh23 on March 08, 2018:

I have a ADF with 5 limbs. I would love to know if anyone Ian interested

B.J on February 01, 2018:

can you put tiger barbs with the ADF's?

please help

Katelyn on October 26, 2017:

Can you put a frog (African dwarf frog) in a tank a fish died in from a desese ( batafish)

Please help,katelyn p.

Vanessa Distefano on October 14, 2017:

My ADFs are mating right now! At first, it was strange and scary but now a few minutes later, it is what it is. Question? If they have babies is it alright if they eat them and how do I get rid of them?

Teonna on August 06, 2017:

I have 3 dwarf frogs 3 shrimp one guppy left and a beta. They are all 100% fine together with my exp over the yrs. Frogs only ate my dead fish.

Krysta on March 15, 2017:

i have two African dwarf frogs in a 5 gallon tank, so far they have attacked two guppies and I have been afraid to put anything else in the tank because they seem pretty aggressive should a mystery snail be hardy enough to live with these frogs?

Maddie on March 14, 2017:

My frog has been floating on the top of my tank for two days straight now. I can not tell if she is eating or not. There was some shedding, but I do not know if this is just natural. Also, she is not sticking her head up, just a part of her back. I put her in a quarantine tank, hoping if she is sick, she at least will not effect my male. Please help. Thanks!

Aquariumdude on January 20, 2017:

The fish store staff told me to just try putting in the adfs while betta is distracted then see how they fare take them out if their seems to be any problems at all.

Vanessa on January 01, 2017:

Hello! i went the opposite direction and I have 3 ADF's. I am wondering if I can introduce a Betta into the tank without aggression?

aquariumdude on December 18, 2016:

I have kooly loaches and they snuggle with my dwarf frog. Its adorable.

aquariumdude on December 17, 2016:

My dwarf pleco attacks my dwarf frog. What should I do?

Alexander lopez on December 14, 2016:

The frogs are so funny because they are standing up thank you that was so funny

Kyah on June 13, 2016:

I'm looking forward to getting my first ADF, but I recently found out the aquarium I was looking for was not a good fit. This is my first aquatic animal, and I hope all to go well. Do you have and suggestions for a good tank 5 gallons or under?

Sarah on July 24, 2015:

ADFs and African Dwarf Frogs are NOT the same frog. Giving such wrong information/advice will cause people to KILL their critters. Clawed frogs get much bigger as adults and are less suitable to community tanks as they eat everything! Often Albino Clawed Frogs are mislabled as Dwarf Frogs in pet shops. Clawed Frogs have bigger eyes that pop out from their bodies, fatter hind legs and have claw shapes "hands" where ADFs have skinny, webbed front feet

Lydz on February 21, 2014:

I have recently bought an ADF to go with my male betta. They are in a 25l tank, with a heater, a filter, a plant and a rock (fake). The betta is ignoring the frog, but I'm wondering how to feed the frog bcoz everything i put in the betta just snaps up (freeze dried bloodworm) . Any tips or any different food i could use? thx!

Emily Michelle on July 27, 2013:

I have a 25 Gallon Tank with Guppies and Ghost Shrimp. I'm raising guppy fry and attempting to raise the Shrimp fry. If I get the African Dwarf Frogs will they eat my fry?

June on July 17, 2013:

I have two ADF for about a year and now all of a sodden they mate and my female sky. I have about 40/50 eggs they hatched in about 2 days and now I have little tadpoles swimming around in my tank.

Joan on July 14, 2013:

Hi I had a breeding pair of ADF. They producted approx 1200 eggs over a 2 week period. A few days after the last pairing, my girl, Bella died. She looked fine but quit eating the day before she passed. My boy, Kermie was still singing to her and trying to 'hug' until 2 days before she passed. Quite sad really. Is it part of the normallife cycle for the female to pass after some many eggs? I've heard that finding a 2 ADF that get along and mate is quite rare. Should I try to find Kermie a new lady? Thanks.

JDailey on May 14, 2013:

I just purchased a 10 gallon tank over the weekend and bought a couple tetras serpaes to create a good enviroment. I will be buying a couple of these frogs next month. My tank has a heater and a light, should the light really be on 10-12 hours with the heater, and what kind of algea will this produce and hows a good way to clean it.

terry on May 13, 2013:

had 2 frogs for 5 yrs in a small tank meant for 2 betta fish. fed them twice a week and changed water when felt it needed it! never had filter or heater! they passed. got 2 new ones for mother's day! planned to care for them like my 1st 2 but wondering if I should get a heater since its cold here in Ma. in the winter!

Michelle on April 03, 2013:

Hi, I have African dwarf frogs. Recently, I got 2 molly fish. One black molly fish, and one silver. The black molly fish is nibbling on the frogs. The frogs are terrified of him. What should I do?

froggy5050 on January 11, 2013:

I feel bad your frog has to live alone. Can you put another frog in with him? They are social critters. Our two frogs Boogie and Big Frog are doing great.

iluvfishies on January 03, 2013:

I had a couple of fish in my tank along with an African dwarf frog and they died of a disease but the frog did not. I now have a new tank and new fish but I haven't moved my frog to the new tank yet because I thought that he might still have the disease on it, transfer it to my new fish and then they die too. Is it possible that he doesn't have the disease, therefore making it impossible for him to transfer it from one tank to the other? If that is not right and he DOES have the disease and it just doesn't harm him but it WILL harm my fish, what should I do with him? I can't just LEAVE him in the place he is but I'm not going to purposefully let him die! Please help me!

maggie on November 26, 2012:

I was wondering what size tank i shud use for 4 frogs and what food i shud get them... my mother previously had some and she fed then the fish flakes i dont know if it makes a difference or if it has to be a specific type of food.

Alexa on November 24, 2012:

Actually, a clawed frog is a different species that is larger and more aggressive.

froggy5050 on November 21, 2012:

All of our tads died. We don't know why but it was really sad when it happened. I think they got the fungus from the parents.

Our male and female frog are still laying eggs but we don't know how to properly raise the tads.

Frogs6805 on October 03, 2012:

i think that they deserted us!!!

froggy5050 on September 13, 2012:

to derek~

we keep our temperature at 78 degrees and our frogs do great!

froggy5050 on September 12, 2012:

Well, the eggs have changed into puny little tadpoles that dart around.

So far so good. We put some water from a frozen bloodworm cube in

there for them to eat. Let me know if there is anything else we can do.

We are clueless but we really want these wee tads to live!! It's exciting!

froggy5050 on September 11, 2012:

We have two ADF's which are in the 10% percentile of dwarfs who have survived the dreaded chytrid fungus. They were destined to live alone because others introduced to the tank die within 21 days.

The two frogs Bigfrog and Boogie have amplexed and we now have eggs!!!!! We separated the eggs and they are changing form! We have them in a small container of water under a desk lamp for heat. Can you tell us what we need to do next.? We really want these lil guys to live because they will undoubtedly be immune to the fungus! Any help would be greatly appreciated. We love your site by the way~

Deric on August 09, 2012:

Ok fiddler crab died, got another adf and still wondering about the filter

Joshua on July 30, 2012:

i just bought 2 ADFs (African dwarf frogs) and there SOOOO playfull thx to this page i can hopfully keep them for 10-15 years

Sam on July 22, 2012:

Thanks for this! It's been helpful because I just inherited an ADF from a friend who didn't want him anymore and I'm glad because she was taking poor care of him. He seems quite happy in his new tank which is much better suited to his needs than his last one a lot because of this page, I'm sure.

Dad on July 18, 2012:

My daughter has an ADF that she brought home from elementary school science class. We got a small (1gallon?) tank for it and no filter or pump equipment BUT we change the water out every 1 to 2 weeks. Water is prepared the day before changing by adding water conditioner and then letting it come to room temp (about 72f) before hand. The tank came with some rocks and a small fake plant and we added a small clay pot for the ADF to hide in.

It's been about 3 months now and the frog seems to be doing quite well.

Last night it even started making a curious little noise so I guess it must be a male.

Erin on July 02, 2012:

I just got two ADFs in a small square container and my mom is taking me to by them a bigger aquarium! What should I do about lighting and how deep do you think the tank should be? I read on another website that they weren't good swmmers and that I should by them a shallow tank! How do I know if they are boys or girls?

Deric on June 24, 2012:

Will a ADF get along with a fiddler crab? I have a 5 gallon tank and it stays around 72 at all times Would i need a heater?

finatics (author) on June 21, 2012:

@noah, no you need to have a water dechlorinator used on your aquarium water before you put it in with your ADFs

finatics (author) on June 21, 2012:

Thank you, jennzie! Yes, ADFs can live for quite a while if they are taken good care of!

Jenn from Pennsylvania on June 20, 2012:

My brother, sister and I have each received African Dwarf frogs from our science classes when we were in elementary school.Mine died within a year, my sister's lived for a few years, and my brother's are still alive after over 10 years- guess he got lucky.

I agree that they can be entertaining pets and can be fun to watch. Very informative hub!

finatics (author) on June 10, 2012:

Also, do you mean that you kept your rats in a bowl?!

finatics (author) on June 10, 2012:

If you read my article, I explain why filters and heaters are important for ADF's, and bowls would not be able to contain them due to their shape. Also, I recommend at least 2.5 gallons of space for ADF's, and unless your bowl is very large, I do not think it holds that much water.

Luke on June 09, 2012:

I am thinking of getting one in my tank (no fish in it but a mystery snail) its a 5 gallon and i want to get a bowl of them. I have a bowl (its black) and small and i got it at store and it is not for pets but i used it on my rats years ago. Will it work in a tank or should i get a bowl for adfs?

finatics (author) on June 02, 2012:

Sorry for such late response, guys! @katiepack and linder4, they are eating frozen bloodworms that are frozen into cubes.

@Sal, sorry! If you read my article it explains why bigger tanks are better and the necessity of a filter and heater.

@piggiepixie, yes those are suitable meal options if you are considering feeding them to your frogs

@noah, no water needs to be conditioned before being used in the aquarium to take out dangerous toxins

@jlallan, yes, unfortunately I have heard of those little death boxes being sold around. If you read my article, I explain what kind of equipment I recommend for caring for ADF's. I recommend housing just two ADF's in a 2.5 gallon tank or larger, and I prefer fake silk plants and sand, so that the plants don't decompose and fill the water with nitrate quickly, and sand because I personally find it more aesthetically pleasing and easier to clean.

nutella on May 30, 2012:

my frogas are so big 1.5 inches its amazing they especially like there nasty food

jlallan on May 28, 2012:

I have had two ADFs. They were given to my daughter as a gift and came with an instruction booklet, which I have followed: feed them two pellets each and change their water every few months. They are in a tiny, little square tank. I would like them to have a larger tank, but I am afraid of the stress transferring them might cause. I am also unsure about what to put them in, as I get differing opinions online.

Any advice you can provide regarding the correct tank size for two ADFs, as well as what you personally prefer as décor and substrate, would be so helpful!


noah on May 03, 2012:

can they live in tap water?

piggiepixie on April 22, 2012:

hey^^ i plan to get 2 of these adorable babies...but im wondering...could they eat guppy fry and earthworms?

Petra on March 08, 2012:

I have a betta and 3 ADFs! I was told when introducing ADFs to a tank with a betta fish to make sure the betta has been in his tank for at least a couple months. And to make sure there are plenty of hiding spots for the frogs. When I first put mine in, my fish was curious and following them around. The. He tries nipping and I tapped on the glass. He eventually for immune to my tappig so I would gently tap him directly. He stopped after 2 days and then ignored them. After the frogs got bigger they would nip at my fish and I did the same thing with them. The main key when introducing the two species I find is just keepig an eye on them the first few days... Its been 3 months now and my frogs are not scared anymore and my betta swims freely without noticing the frogs :)

valerie on February 27, 2012:

i have 2 dwarf frogs and they love the terracotta pot i put in there and they

Sal on February 25, 2012:

I have a 2 gallon tank and I was wondering if I could get two guppies, one ADF, and two ghost shrimps, would all this work out without a heater or a filter?

katiepack on February 09, 2012:

Thanks for the video. I have 3 ADFs. I would also like to know what they are eating?

linder4 on February 04, 2012: your video above...Dwarf Frogs Piggin' Out!...what are they eating?? They look like they really enjoy it and I would like to try that with my frogs. Great site!

finatics (author) on January 31, 2012:

Any animal can burn themselves on heaters, and if you're sure this is what happened, then you might want to get a heater that has a guard to protect animals from getting burned.

finatics (author) on January 31, 2012:

It's hard for any animal to thrive in a space that small, as the conditions are always flucuating- the temperature, the ammonia levels, etc. It's better to have a larger space for your pet.

finatics (author) on January 31, 2012:

You can try it out, but only if you have somewhere to put your ADF if the betta attacks.

Katie on January 25, 2012:

i currently have 2 dwarf frogs and a betta fish living in a 2.5 gallon tank and they are fine together, though my female ADF seems to have injured one of her front legs. has anyone every heard of ADF's burning themselves on heaters??

Jessi on January 19, 2012:

I'm interested in buying an ADF. I have a one gallon tank from a previous inhabitant (a betta) and I was wondering if an ADF would be able to thrive in a one gallon tank?

jndsjvncj on December 14, 2011:

i have a betta that will puff up when he sees his reflection in a mirror. if i do get a ADF how should i introduce him in the tank or should i not rish it

finatics (author) on February 01, 2011:

Are you sure that they were fighting? Mating can often look like fighting, but if you're sure this is not the case, I would try to put them back together again anyway and observe their behavior. If it seems too aggressive, I would separate them again, and keep it that way. If it's just little squabbles over food or something, I wouldn't worry about it.

ksjdj on January 30, 2011:

mine fight all the time( not sexual) so I separated them but now they look lonely ?

finatics (author) on October 17, 2010:

Sorry for the late reply! Here are my three ideas for what's wrong:

-He may be a girl and is pregnant

-He may just be fat

-He may have dropsy. There is no known cure for dropsy, and, in most cases, is fatal. Here's a link on more info:

Good luck with your ADF!

dawn on September 22, 2010:

I have a sick African Dwarf frog. he's super bloated. Has anyone had this happen to their frog or have any sugestions?

finatics (author) on August 19, 2010:

Good luck on your tank! Some bettas are overly aggressive and can attack the frogs, but most just ignore them.

Whitney from Georgia on August 19, 2010:

I think I'm going to set up a tank and get a few dwarf frogs and a few fish. I miss having fish, and I love frogs. It would be neat. When I worked at a pet store, it was a pain catching the frogs when people wanted them bc we got them in so small, but they would be awesome in a tank of peaceful fish. I would worry about the betta, but I bet that would be awesome

finatics (author) on August 11, 2010:

I don't recommend turning off the lights as brown algae is actually partially caused by lack of light- green algae is the result of too much light. Here's a link that will tell you every thing you can do to get rid of brown algae:

susan franks on August 11, 2010:

i do have several of these little dwarf frogs and like them they are in a 10 gallon tank, i notice i am getting lots of brown colored algae now i will turn off the lights any thing else i should be doing?