African Dwarf Frog Care
About 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.
What to Consider When Housing Dwarf Frogs
- Tank size—African dwarf frogs only grow to be about 1"-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.
- Decor—ADF's are nocturnal, and you should provide some hiding places for them to rest during the day. A good example is of 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.
- Substrate—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.
- Lighting—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.
- Equipment—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 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.
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)
- 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!
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.
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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.