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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.

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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.