African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus)

By Snaketracks / August 10, 2020

 African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus) Care Sheet

African Dwarf Frogs are aquatic frogs that originated in the rivers and streams of central Africa.

Their common name is obtained from their place of origin and the claws on their front legs.

There are four species of African Dwarf Frog:

Quick Reference Section

Why Should You Choose An African Dwarf Frog As A Pet?

Because this frog is one of the hardiest of the frog species, because its large size makes it one of the easiest to find and most handleable in the list,  because it has a peaceful temperament and because it is adorable!

What Does An African Dwarf Frog Look Like?

African dwarf frog (Hymenochirus)
African dwarf frog (Hymenochirus)

There are four variations of the African Dwarf Frog.  They are usually olive to brownish color but can be spotted.

They don’t have gills like fish, instead, they have fully developed lungs.

They will swim very fast to the surface for air, and then dart straight back down a second later.

African Dwarf Frog Reproduction

African Dwarf Frogs Mating
African Dwarf Frogs Mating

Mating

African Dwarf Frogs mate in what is known as amplexus (Latin for ’embrace’). The male grasps the female’s abdomen just in front of her hind legs using his front legs, and at the same time, or with a little delay, he fertilizes the eggs as the female releases them.

Amplexus usually happens at night, after one or more nights of courtship ‘singing’ by the male.

Once in the amplexus position, the male will hold onto the female for several hours.

If the female is receptive, she will repeatedly swim to the surface and dive back down in a circular pattern, whilst towing the male.

Egg Laying

Female African Dwarf frogs will lay several clutches of 500 to 2000 eggs throughout the year.

When bred in captivity they will lay eggs throughout the aquarium. The eggs may float on the water surface or they may sink.

The sticky jelly surrounding eggs causes them to stick to rocks, decor, and aquarium walls.

Egg Hatching

Hatching should occur within 2-5 days (temperature dependent).

African Dwarf frogs are not parental animals. When breeding them in captivity, make sure to remove the eggs from the aquarium quickly as these frogs will eat their eggs.

Tadpoles Development

Tadpoles are delicate; they have an 80 percent mortality rate, affected by many factors:

  • Hatchlings are tiny, hatching at about 0.14 inches long.
  • Dropsy — a common sign is body swelling
  • Fungal infections — common signs includes white thread or white, cotton-like patches on the skin
  • Bacterial infections — common signs are lethargy and reluctance to eat
  • Cannibalism
  • Low oxygen levels in the water

After 10 days, the hind legs will become visible. After 19 days, tadpoles will be able to move their hind legs.

After 24 to 25 days, the front legs will begin to form, and after 30 days, the tail will have mostly absorbed.

Approximately 6-8 weeks post-hatch, the tadpoles will metamorphose into tiny frogs.

African dwarf frogs become sexually active between 9 months and 12 months of age.

African Dwarf Frog Habitat

Male African Dwarf Frog Swimming
Male African Dwarf Frog Swimming

Enclosure Requirements

As the African Dwarf Frog is an aquatic frog their habitat setup is similar to that of freshwater or tropical fish.

You can keep two in a 10-gallon aquarium, but if you want them to share the space with fish, you need a larger setup.African Dwarf Frogs can be kept with tropical community fish of similar size but may eat them if hungry; keep your frogs well fed to avoid this.

It is critical if you have a planted aquarium that you do not let it get overrun with plants preventing the frog from reaching the surface for air.

Lastly, it is important to note that African Dwarf Frogs prefer a planted tank in a quiet location.

Lighting, Temperature & Humidity

They will need heated water (use a submersible heater) and an LED light system.

Keep lights on a timer because they are nocturnal and will want to know when it’s time to be active and when it’s time to rest.  

Substrate & Decor

Layer the bottom of the tank with 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) of aquarium gravel.

Rinse the gravel in clean water before putting it in your frogs’ home.

African dwarf frogs especially love plants in their tanks, whether living or artificial. They’ll sit on the leaves for a swim break.

These artificial sea weed plants are a nice option.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Choose an undergravel filter or a power filter powerful enough to process all the water in the aquarium 3 to 5 times per hour. However, do not use the aquarium filter when raising newly hatched African Dwarf frogs.

These tadpoles are so small that the filter will easily suck them into the filter tubing, so when raising tadpoles, manually change about 10 percent of the water at least twice a day to remove waste and keep the water clean.

A beneficial bacteria supplement in the water can help keep the environment clean.

Don’t use soap or detergent to clean anything in the tank; even a trace amount can make your frogs sick.

To clean the enclosure you can use TetraFauna AquaSafe Reptile & Amphibian Water Conditioner.

Feeding

Your frog’s main food should be pellets that sink to the bottom of the tank, where frogs tend to hang out – the food needs to be placed near them so they can see it.

Feed your frogs 1-2 times a day. Offer an amount that can be consumed within 1-3 minutes.

Temperament & Handling

Peaceful temperament. Because these frogs will dehydrate quickly when taken out of the water, they should not be handled, unless required and for a very short amount of time.

Wash your hands with soap and water before and after interacting with your frog.

Health Concerns

Congo dwarf clawed frog (Hymenochirus boettgeri) shedding
Congo dwarf clawed frog (Hymenochirus boettgeri) shedding

In general, the majority of diseases of amphibians maintained in captivity will relate directly or indirectly to husbandry and management.

Some of the more common amphibian diseases with bacterial etiologies include bacterial dermatosepticemia or “red leg syndrome,” flavobacteriosis, mycobacteriosis, and chlamydiosis.

The most common viral diseases of amphibians are caused by ranaviruses. Mycotic and mycotic-like organisms cause several diseases among amphibians, including chytridiomycosis, zygomycosis, chromomycosis, saprolegniasis, and ichthyophoniasis.

Protozoan parasites of amphibians include a variety of amoeba, ciliates, flagellates, and sporozoans.

Common metazoan parasites include various myxozoans, helminths (particularly trematodes and nematodes), and arthropods.

Commonly encountered non-infectious disease etiologies for neoplasia, absolute or specific nutritional deficiencies or overloads, chemical toxicities, and inadequate husbandry or environmental management. 

Of the specific dietary problems that affect amphibians, some of the more commonly encountered challenges are the vitamin and mineral imbalances related to metabolic bone disease.

Specifically, these imbalances include the failure to ingest or adequately process vitamin D3, calcium, or phosphorus to maintain them in the proper ratios.

Elevated levels of vitamin A may also interfere with the normal metabolism of vitamin D and contribute to metabolic bone disease.

Most often, however, the metabolic bone disease is caused by low levels of calcium or improper calcium: phosphorus ratios in the insect prey (Wright and Whitaker 2001).

Many insects used as food or prey, including mealworms (mealworm breeding guide), waxworms (waxworm breeding guide), earthworms, and fruit flies, have low levels of calcium or imbalanced calcium: phosphorus ratios (Barker et al. 1998).

It is possible to correct this calcium deficiency by feeding the insects calcium-rich food or by dusting the insects with a calcium-rich powder.

Source: Diseases of Amphibians Christine L. Densmore, David Earl Green ILAR Journal, Volume 48, Issue 3, 2007, Pages 235–254, https://doi.org/10.1093/ilar.48.3.235

Signs Of A Healthy African Dwarf Frog

  • Swims actively
  • Hides often
  • Eats vigorously
  • Clear eyes and smooth skin
  • Remains in the bottom half of the aquarium

Avoid overcrowded conditions; they are a major cause of stress and disease. Maintain good water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration.

Red Flags

  • Loss of appetite
  • Hazy or cloudy eyes
  • Does not swim away from capture
  • Floating on the top of the aquarium
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss

Interesting Facts

A peculiar behavior that is very common with these frogs is known as the ‘zen position’. You might witness your frogs floating at the surface of the water without moving, with their arms and legs stretched out. This is completely normal, even though they sometimes look dead!

You might also hear them singing. An adult male attracts a female by making a quiet buzzing sound.

Price and Availability

African Dwarf Frog is available at Pet Smart for only $3.99. However, they are available in-store only.

African Dwarf Frog Care Video

Conclusion

The African Dwarf Frog is one of our top frogs when it comes to choosing one as a pet. They are easy to care for, not picky eaters, and just look cool.

Other cool frogs which also make great pets include the Gray Tree Frog, Oriental Fire-bellied Toad, and of course the Pacman Frog. Be sure to check out our best pet frogs article to see all of our favorites!

What frog do you own or plan on getting? What made you choose that or them? We love hearing from you so let us know in the comments below!

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