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African Dwarf Frog Care

Updated on April 17, 2011

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, thus 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 to 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.


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.

Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms for Pets, 1.76-Ounce
Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms for Pets, 1.76-Ounce

This is a great product that contains healthy nutrients your african dwarf frog needs!

Marineland Eclipse Hex Fully Integrated Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon
Marineland Eclipse Hex Fully Integrated Aquarium Kit, 5-Gallon

This aquarium kit contains almost everything you need to keep african dwarf frogs at a low price, including aquarium hood, fluorescent light bulb, and filter! Available in three sizes- 3, 5, or 12 gallon tanks.

Elite Submersible Preset Heater Mini, 25-Watt
Elite Submersible Preset Heater Mini, 25-Watt

This heater is perfect for small tanks that hold up to 10 gallons of water- and they're perfect for african dwarf frogs! You can adjust the temperature to whatever degree fits your pets' needs, and use a light to indicate when it is turned on or off.



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. Here is a list of examples:

  • 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.


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:

  • The 'zen position'- 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Guppies are peaceful community fish that are compatible with african dwarf frogs. Mystery snails are another great choice for a frog tank.Betta fish can be kept with ADF's as long as there is no aggression between them. Corydoras catfish are lively yet gentle additions to a dwarf frog tank. Neon and cardinal tetras are beautiful schooling fish that won't bother ADF's.
Guppies are peaceful community fish that are compatible with african dwarf frogs.
Guppies are peaceful community fish that are compatible with african dwarf frogs.
Mystery snails are another great choice for a frog tank.
Mystery snails are another great choice for a frog tank.
Betta fish can be kept with ADF's as long as there is no aggression between them.
Betta fish can be kept with ADF's as long as there is no aggression between them.
Corydoras catfish are lively yet gentle additions to a dwarf frog tank.
Corydoras catfish are lively yet gentle additions to a dwarf frog tank.
Neon and cardinal tetras are beautiful schooling fish that won't bother ADF's.
Neon and cardinal tetras are beautiful schooling fish that won't bother ADF's.


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 are:

  • 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!

Good Luck!

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.

Dwarf Frogs Piggin' Out!


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    • susan franks 6 years ago

      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?

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 6 years ago

      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:

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 6 years ago from Georgia

      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 profile image

      finatics 6 years ago

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

    • dawn 6 years ago

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

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 6 years ago

      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!

    • ksjdj 5 years ago

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

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 5 years ago

      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.

    • jndsjvncj 5 years ago

      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

    • Jessi 5 years ago

      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?

    • Katie 4 years ago

      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??

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

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

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

      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.

    • linder4 4 years ago 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!

    • katiepack profile image

      katiepack 4 years ago

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

    • Sal 4 years ago

      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?

    • valerie 4 years ago

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

    • Petra 4 years ago

      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 :)

    • piggiepixie 4 years ago

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

    • noah 4 years ago

      can they live in tap water?

    • jlallan 4 years ago

      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!


    • nutella 4 years ago

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

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

      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.

    • Luke 4 years ago

      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 profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

      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.

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

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

    • jennzie profile image

      jennzie 4 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

      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 profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

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

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

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

    • Deric 4 years ago

      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?

    • Erin 4 years ago

      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?

    • Dad 4 years ago

      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.

    • Sam 4 years ago

      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.

    • Joshua 4 years ago

      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

    • Deric 4 years ago

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

    • froggy5050 4 years ago

      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~

    • froggy5050 4 years ago

      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 4 years ago

      to derek~

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

    • Frogs6805 4 years ago

      i think that they deserted us!!!

    • froggy5050 4 years ago

      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.

    • Alexa 4 years ago

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

    • maggie 4 years ago

      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.

    • iluvfishies 4 years ago

      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!

    • froggy5050 4 years ago

      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.

    • Michelle 3 years ago

      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?

    • terry 3 years ago

      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!

    • JDailey 3 years ago

      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.

    • Joan 3 years ago

      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.

    • June 3 years ago

      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.

    • Emily Michelle 3 years ago

      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?

    • Lydz 2 years ago

      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!

    • Sarah 18 months ago

      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

    • Kyah 7 months ago

      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?

    • Alexander lopez 5 weeks ago

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

    • aquariumdude 4 weeks ago

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

    • aquariumdude 4 weeks ago

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

    • Vanessa 2 weeks ago

      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?

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