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Signs That Your African Dwarf Frog Is Dying

Updated on February 22, 2016

5 Signs Your African Dwarf Frog Is Sick or Dying

1. It's Eating Little or Not at All (1-4 Days Before Death)

This is typically the first sign that something is wrong. If your frog used to eat like a pig and is hardly touching the bloodworms now, that's a bad sign.

African Dwarf Frogs should always eat whenever they have the chance. New frogs won't be so hungry and it takes a few days for them to learn where they can find food (assuming you put it in the same place), and younger frogs will eat twice as much as matured frogs.

This sign alone doesn't indicate what the problem is; it is always best to first check the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to see if the water is the problem. I recommend testing the water if any of these signs are present in your frog.

2. Skin Turning Pale (1-3 Days Before Death)

Sometimes African Dwarf Frogs will give the illusion that they have grown pale, but a day later their dead skin will shed and their darker skin will be back, brand new. But if your frog remains pale after a full day (he's not shedding it off), then something is very wrong.

3. Hanging Around at the Top (1-2 Days Before Death)

African Dwarf Frogs have to swim up to the surface to breathe air. They also like to explore and if they can get out of the tank, they will. This is normal. What isn't normal is if they seem to want out all the time. They're floating at the surface, climbing on top of tall décor, trying their best to crawl up the glass wall.

They are not exploring. They want out because there is either something wrong with the water or they are not getting enough oxygen through their skin because of a disease. I would put the frog in a bowl or cup of its water so it doesn't have to exhaust itself. Maybe provide a rock it can climb on, if it wants to.

4. Tattered Dead Skin (0-2 Days Before Death)

This is a bad one. Some frogs can shed their skin so fast you wouldn't even know it. For others, it can take a day, but a healthy shed will look like the frog is undressing; it peels off its skin in big pieces. Dead skin that looks shredded and hangs off the frog is a red flag; it will die soon, but it may live if you act now.

It may also be too late once this tattered skin forms. This type of shed is often the result of high ammonia/nitrite levels or the dreaded chytrid fungus, a very contagious, deadly amphibian disease that is not uncommon in the pet trade. If it's the latter, the frog will die, unless you can treat your frog for chytrid immediately.

5. Floating and Being Still (Hours Before Death)

This is the last stage before the frog dies. It will float, legs sprawled, and it will become lethargic. You may even nudge it and it remains still (but alive). At this point, its body is shutting down and there is nothing you can do. It's tough to determine when it actually dies. You may be convinced it's dead and five minutes later it'll kick and move its head after another nudge. But it'll go right back to stillness. It's also difficult to determine because ADF's don't have eyelids, and even in death, they look as though they are staring at you.

There is no doubt that it's dead after it stops moving, its eyes become milky, and it starts to smell.

What to Do If Your Frog Dies

Once the frogs die, most people will want to flush them, but I say don't. If your frogs were killed by a disease, flushing them will just send their bodies to other waters, where wild amphibians can catch the disease.

Instead, just roll them up in a paper towel and put them in the trash. Since these frogs are 100% aquatic, they will dry out and shrivel up after a day, destroying whatever disease they had. If you want to get the frog tested for a specific disease, keep the frog in water and call the clinic to see what they can do.

How to Prevent Death

1. Set Up Your Tank Properly

Make sure you have an established tank. Tests should read 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 5-25 nitrate. This means your tank is cycled (has good bacteria), since an uncycled tank causes spontaneous ammonia and nitrite spikes that can kill your frogs. These frogs also prefer PH of 6.8 to 8 and temperatures of 72-78°F.

Do not keep these slow-moving frogs with aggressive fish, as the competition will either starve them or they will be attacked. These guys are sensitive to fungal and bacterial infections, so any injury could doom them, especially if the water condition is less than ideal.

If you suspect your frogs died from a disease, such as chytrid, then any new frogs will be in danger of catching it in the same tank. Either set up a new tank with items that have not been in contact with the previous frog tank, or find ways to kill the bacteria in the tank, which may result in starting your cycle all over again. You can learn more about chytrid here.

Pick Healthy Frogs

First decide which store has the healthiest frogs. Call the store up and ask to speak to someone who works in the aquarium department. Ask if the frogs have been tested for chytrid fungus (most often they aren't). If they don't know, see if they can somehow find out.

If chytrid fungus has not been tested for, ask them how often they need to replace their frogs with a new shipment, or how long they usually live in the tank. If the answer is a few months, then they probably have the disease. Even if they don't, they should live longer than 2-3 months in their tanks, meaning they are not well taken care of and will increase the chance of you getting a dying frog.

Local aquarium shops are more likely to take better care of their frogs. Also look into local breeders.

When picking out a frog, look at it closely. Avoid buying frogs with any of the following:

  • Cloudy/milky eyes
  • Reddish or dark pink legs (infection)
  • Lethargy (easy to catch)
  • White fuzzy patches (fungus)
  • Pale blotches on back (possible chytrid)
  • Big round bellies (dropsy)

And of course, any of the previous signs of a dying frog.

Be Prepared for the Worst

Despite careful steps, you may still wind up with sick frogs. Before putting your frog(s) in your established tank, quarantine them in a fish bowl and treat them as if they do have chytrid. The details of treatment can be found at The Aquarium Wiki.

Unfortunately, most of the chemicals that are suggested for treating chytrid are items that can only be bought from a doctor's prescription or online. So I would not buy the frogs until you have everything ready and can begin treatment immediately.


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    • profile image

      Noah 2 weeks ago

      One of my frogs does not have a fin

    • profile image

      Carol 2 weeks ago

      I have had pair of African Dwarf Frogs for almost 12 years now. The male died about 6 months ago now the female is starting not to eat so much and is getting thin. Is there anything I can do to keep her alive longer. I know she is old.

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      ari 4 weeks ago

      is it ok if my african dwarf frog sits on top of the heater (out of water)

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      Rythegreat 7 weeks ago



    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 4 months ago

      African Dwarf frogs are from African origin, hence they need to be in warm water. At least 70 degrees, but closer to 75.

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      Lina 5 months ago

      Just got my first ADF and know little about them. He's in a 1 gallon tank by himself and I'm wondering what temperature the water needs to be. My room stays pretty cold during the winter.

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      Judy 7 months ago

      I have had my frog for 2o years. He is shedding now and not eating. His eyes are red and there is some red on his front legs. I wish I knew what to do so he doesn't suffer. He moves around a lot in the tank. :( I'm sad.

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      steve rosenzweig 8 months ago

      I've had our African clawed frog for 17 yrs. I change the tank water/filter every 6 weeks or so. When I was transporting him back about a week ago, he squirmed in netting and belly flopped onto floor. He has not seemed himself since and is not eating and has been lethargic on top of water. I suppose fall could have hurt him? Sad to see..

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      patsy nelson 15 months ago

      I just got my frog one day ago, and something is wrong acting crazy spinning around in circles.what can I do?

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 15 months ago

      Purchase an API test kit and make sure there isn't ammonia, nitrite, or high nitrates in the tank. Water changes and adding drops of prime in the water will resolve these issues, if that's the case.

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      manco619 15 months ago

      Hello. We have 2 adf's and 1 beta in a 4 gallon aquarium and they all get along just fine. But just recently we noticed the frogs just dead like. One was floating at the top and the other was at the bottom in a very weird position. I thought they were both xead until I went to pick him up in the net and he took off. The other one the same thing. Now since then everyday it looks like there dying or dead. Its very strange because they will like freeze in the water in very weird positions. Its so hard to explain really. They will go to move and they move a bit then they freeze and float to the bottom very awkwardly. Sometimes they have trouble even swimming to the top for air. Ive lowered the water height to make sure they can get air easily. They were both very energetic when we got them and now they look as there dead until you make a noise or bump the tank gently. When they move or try to move it looks like there drunk and its work for them to move. Then they will just freeze in mid movement. We don't know what to do. We don't want them to be suffering if that's the case but they've been like this for a few days. Now. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I wish I could show video of how they are acting.

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      mgray0017 18 months ago

      loved it I had 4 ADFS 1 died from bloat her name was Zelda I got another on my b-day. I had to flush Zelda it was winter but thanks for the advice. :D

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 19 months ago

      No idea. I'd look into the fish you have and see if they are compatible with ADF's.

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      Oana 19 months ago

      My frog has been perfectly healthy in a 10 gal with 10 little fish for over a year. I just noticed that it was in top of one of the floating plants and on a close examination I noticed that the back left leg is missing. I separated it from the fish in the breeding net and feed it. Eat like nothing was wrong. I am wandering if is the fish that eat a foot, a plant or rock that cut it off or some kind of disease , and what are the chances that will survive ?

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 23 months ago

      Frogs can float on their own. If they are still eating, that's a good sign. If they live in a big community tank, they might not get enough to eat down below so they've adapted to eating at the top by floating.

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      yvonne 23 months ago

      I have had mine 7 weeks in 55 gal community,? All has been well till 4 days ago,they been floating non stop,but eating there as well, signs on body at all..imso sad ..what could it be ?

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      ADF Floater 23 months ago

      My ADF floats at the top of the water all tj time. He feeds up there too...snatching food that is floating on the surface. He hangs out up there with my Betta... Just floating around. He swims down sometimes... but 90% of the time he is floating at the top. He's been doing this since I got him about 6 weeks ago. So I dont think it's a sign of him dying... I hand feed him from the surface... so maybe he has just learned to stay up there...

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      mj 24 months ago


    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 24 months ago

      I don't believe fish can get diseases from amphibians and vice versa, but I'm not a vet. A bloated stomach probably means it has dropsy, and there is no known cure for it. It's not contagious though. Just be sure water is clean and free of ammonia, nitrites, and chlorine. Maybe check your pH level too. No one knows why dropsy occurs. And don't add salt to the water.

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      mj 24 months ago

      Also her stomach seems bloated, and her mouth is now red. I NEED HELP ASAP! Will my fish get the disese if she does have it?

    • profile image

      mj 24 months ago

      I have two Adf and one is floating to the top, I see no red or shedding on her, but I just recently got new fish in the same tank. What do you think?

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 24 months ago

      How did you clean your tank exactly? Just a simple wipe down with a rag or did you use chemicals? Was the water change huge and still had chlorine in it? Sounds like the water changed drastically and this killed your frog(s), either by you leaving traces of chemicals or chlorine in the water, or the pH had changed completely. Never use chemicals to clean the tank, never do more than a 50% water change maximum, and let tap water sit out for 24 hours so chlorine can evaporate and pH can balance itself.

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      Jami 2 years ago

      I cleaned my tank today and when I put my frogs back in they started freaking out and darting all over the tank. One went belly up 20 min later and I turned him over and a couple min later he started freaking out again. I went back to the tank an hour later and he was belly up again and died. The other one has been hanging out in the corner and isn't moving.

      Is it normal fur them to act that way after putting them back in the tank? Would anyone know by chance why they would die? I'm new at this and I feel bad they died. I want to get more but want more info so they don't die again after a cleaning.

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      Potato 2 years ago

      Neither do i

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 2 years ago

      Sorry, I don't know what's wrong with your frog.

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      Margaux Unicorn 2 years ago

      My frog is flipped over and won't move he's been like this all day and I'm scared he is going to die. I got 3 new frogs today because he was lonely and some more accessories. Should i take him out? he's still alive, though. i don't know what to do. Any advice or help? Has this happened to you?

    • Carson Roof profile image

      Carson Roof 2 years ago from San Diego, California

      Can someone help fast??

      My toddler took our 2 adf's out of the tank while I wasn't looking and I was able to find both (miraculously).. But they are in 2 VERY different conditions.. One seems to be "rehydrating" ok and is on bottom of bowl acting semi-normal (lethargic, but normal)..

      The other one- took a nasty fall behind the bed and was almost all dried out when I found him.. I put him back in water, but he's floating close to top and not moving well.. His fins look awful and his belly has a bright red patch.. Is he save-able?

      Is there something I can do to ensure the other one survives ok??


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      Sarina 2 years ago

      One of my ADFs just died. I changed the water and cleaned the tank. The next day I noticed white fuzz balls on my other frog's back and he was staying at the top of the tank. Overnight the white patches grew larger. I read that it could be a fungal infection. I added salt to the tank (probably not the right thing to do, but the man at the pet store advised me to do so), and then the frog began to shed. The shedding was hanging off of the frog. I cleaned the tank today, and I took away the hanging shedding. The white patched came off with the shedding and my frog seems normal. I hope he is okay.

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      African dwarf frog lover 2 years ago

      hi I have the same thing as u I hate this disease it's very bad and I was wondering is there something I can do about this I think thisight be mines last day I'm freaking out and I love him so much I'm scared

    • profile image

      Yo mama 2 years ago

      hi sad sad sad this just happen to me my frog is still alive but he has the puffball too I'm about to clean the cage I do it every two weeks and I just got it two weeks ago I'm so sad through the stages I followed i think he's dying and it was my favorited thing

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      Salesia Ramirez 2 years ago

      Sad sad sad-I am so sorry! Do you have a secure lid on your aquarium? Ours have hopped out onto our table while we were changing the water but we have been fortunate enough to catch them & put them right back in. They will leap out when the water is high but we have also seen them leap out when we have the water very low while we are cleaning the aquarium. A secure breathable lid is extremely important for a frog aquarium.

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      Salesia Ramirez 2 years ago

      CeCe Jones-I agree 100%....We love ours so much! They are wonderful.

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      Sad sad sad 3 years ago

      Yesterday , I cleaned my tank as I normally do once a week . I filled the water a little higher than normal.. One hour later I come into my kitchen and see that there is a fluff ball on the ground.. As I took a closer look it was my AFD !!! I quickly grab a bowl and filled it with water .. He began swimming around .. Later i put him back into the tank but I notice he was swimming funny ... He had to take a big jump from the kitchen counter to the ground on his journey . So I put him back into the bowl with less water .. This morning he dead... I feel horrible and I wish there was something more I would have known to do !!! Has this ever happened to anyone else

    • profile image

      CeCe Jones 3 years ago

      I have adf's and I love them!! They are the best pets to have with children!!!

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