Signs Your African Dwarf Frog Is Dying
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 now hardly touching the bloodworms, that's a bad sign.
African Dwarf Frogs should always eat whenever they have the chance. New frogs won't be as 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 of your tank to see if the water is the problem. I recommend testing the water if any of these signs are present in your frog.
2. Its Skin Is 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. However, if your frog remains pale after a full day and they're not shedding it off, then something is very wrong.
3. They're Hanging Around at the Top of the Tank
(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, however, is if they seem to want out all the time. They're floating at the surface, climbing on top of tank décor, and 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 exhaust itself. Maybe provide a rock it can climb on if it wants to do so.
4. It Has 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 probably die soon, but it can 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, but 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 that it's dead and five minutes later it'll kick and move its head after another nudge. Then, 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 local amphibians can catch the disease.
Instead, simply 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.