African Dwarf Frog: Comprehensive and Complete Care Guide

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The African Dwarf frog is a low-maintenance aquatic animal that is hardy and relatively easy to raise. These frogs are endemic to the rivers and streams of Central Africa and come in colors ranging from olive to brownish-green.

Although caring for this frog can be managed quite easily by everyone, including beginners, it is still essential to have the basic knowledge of their preferred diet, environment, and other factors.

This article outlines everything you need to know about successfully raising the African Dwarf frog, from breeding to diet, to tank set-up, and even ways to prolong their lifespan.


  • African Dwarf Frog Stats
  • Overview
  • African Dwarf Frog Care
  • African Dwarf Frog Behavior
  • Tank Mates
  • Breeding
  • Diet
  • Common Diseases
  • Conclusion

African Dwarf Frog Stats

Care Level Beginners
Average Size 1.5 inches
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Water Temperature 72-82°F


An aquarium frog is entirely aquatic, unlike other amphibians that spend some time on land. However, they come up to the surface to breathe because they are air breathers.

The cool thing about the African Dwarf frog is that it is cousins to the much larger African clawed frog. When they are young, they are often mistaken for the African clawed frog.

One way to tell them apart is by looking at their feet. African Dwarf frogs have more heavily webbed digits.

African Dwarf frogs have terrible eyesight and rely on their sense of smell and water vibrations. The latter is thanks to the lateral lines running across their bodies that allow them to detect changes in the water.

– How to Tell African Dwarf Frogs Apart From African Clawed Frogs

African Dwarf frogs are often confused with their cousins, the voracious predator, the African Clawed frog. To distinguish between the two, the African Dwarf frog lacks the tiny claws on their digits that African Clawed frogs have.

African Clawed frogs use these powerful hind feet and claws to rip their prey. Thus, making the mistake of introducing them to an established tank is a disaster waiting to happen.
African Clawed frogs grow much larger than their cousins, the African Dwarf frog because of their predatory nature.

– Difference between these species of frogs

African Dwarf Frog

African Clawed Frog

Color Mostly olive green and brown with black specs. Most of them are greenish-grey.
Webbed Have all their feet webbed. Only their hind feet are webbed and end in powerful claws. Their front feet have autonomous digits.
Skin Texture Rough Smooth
Eyes Their eyes are positioned at both sides of their head. Eyes are found at the top of their heads.
Snout Pointed Flat with a gentle curve.
Size 1.5 to 2.5 inches 4.7 to 5.5 inches

– Size

The African Dwarf Frog is a small animal that measures only 1.5 inches long when fully grown. The females, however, are larger than the males. Besides the size, there are other differences between the sexes.

– How Do They Breathe?

Unlike other aquatic animals, African Dwarf frogs do not have gills, they have lungs. The lungs help them breathe underwater, but they need to come to the surface to obtain much-needed oxygen from time to time.

– Average Lifespan

The African Dwarf frog lifespan is 5 to 8 years. However, not many of these frogs live that long in captivity because of poor care. Interestingly, there have been cases of African Dwarf frogs living for as long as 10 years with the proper care. Caring for these aquatic frogs involves the right tank size, water quality, diet, and disease control.

African Dwarf Frog Care

– Tank Set up

African dwarf frog setup should comprise a tank of appropriate size and pristine water that matches the recommended parameter levels.

It is essential to try as much as possible to replicate the conditions of the African Dwarf frog in the wild where they prefer shallow waters.

We have listed other things you need to consider when setting up a tank for your African Dwarf frog. If you follow them, you should have no trouble creating a happy and healthy space for your African Dwarf frog to thrive.

1. Tank Size

Your African Dwarf frog tank size should be at least 1 gallon large for each frog. We advise that you raise more than one African Dwarf Frog, so you may need to get a bigger tank. We recommend a 20-gallon tank if you plan on growing your African Dwarf frog with a Betta.

2. Substrate

The African Dwarf frog spends the bulk of its time at the bottom of the tank. As a result, you must choose your substrate carefully. Our preferred substrate is sand because it is so much easier to keep clean, doesn’t allow waste product to build up, and poses no issues to your frog.

3. Tank Cover

Leaves and trees provide the best cover for your African Dwarf frog. We prefer using Catappa leaves and other aquatic plants because they provide extra security and food for the frogs. You can effectively reduce the risk of your African Dwarf frog becoming stressed by placing enough plants in their tank.

4. Filtration

Dwarf frogs need a very efficient filtration system to maintain their water quality. Use a filter that cleans and aerates your tank, that way the water movement remains relatively gentle.

African Dwarf Frog Behavior

African Dwarf frogs spend a significant portion of their lives underwater, only coming up for oxygen from time to time. This frog species is timid, so it is not surprising to find that a lot of the time they will swim as fast as they can away from you when you come too close. Also, their poor eyesight makes them quite clumsy.

– Why is My African Dwarf Frog Swimming Strangely?

You may notice that there are times when they appear to float somewhat lifelessly on top of the water. Don’t be scared, they are still alive. African Dwarf frogs float this way when they come up for air because this swimming pattern allows them to breathe more easily than swimming up and down the tank.

– Do African Dwarf Frogs Sleep?

Yes, African Dwarf frogs sleep. They are mainly nocturnal, which means that they sleep for long periods during the day and are mostly active at night.

Do African Dwarf Frogs Sing?

Yes, the mature male African Dwarf frog sings at the water surface to attract females to it.

Can They Live Alone in a Tank?

Yes, they can. However, if you raise the African Dwarf frog alone, you will not get the best from it because they are social animals that love company. As a result, we suggest you meet their social requirements by keeping at least two of these dwarf frogs in a tank.

Tank Mates

African Dwarf frogs are social aquatic animals and can be kept with fish of the same temperament. Such fish would include loaches and community Tetras. Another tank mate for African Dwarf frogs are the Bettas, with whom they share similar preferences.

You should avoid any fish that is smaller than 1 inch and can fit in the mouth of the African Dwarf frog because they will most likely end up as dinner. As a rule, you should avoid small Tetras, Gourami, and Guppies.


Small aquarium frogs like the African Dwarf frogs are easy to distinguish in adulthood. At 9 months, African Dwarf frogs are sexually mature. The male secretes pheromones from the breeding gland at either side of its armpit region. These hormones, together with his hummed mating songs, help lure the female.

The male and female frog meet when sexually ready. The male clasps the female on the amplexus and causes her to lay eggs at the water surface. These eggs are not all laid at once. In each spawning session, the female releases only 12 eggs. Depending on her size, she can lay as many as 700 eggs which the male then fertilizes.

– How to Hatch African Dwarf Frog Eggs

If you want your frogs to hatch, you must pay attention to the water temperature. Higher temperatures are needed to hatch the laid eggs. The eggs will not hatch if the temperature in the tank is below 72℉. Once the eggs have been fertilized, you will have to remove the parent African Dwarf frogs from the tank because they are cannibalistic.

– Feeding the African Dwarf Tadpoles

It takes about 2-5 days for the eggs to hatch, and the resultant tadpoles are about 3-4mm in length. At this stage, you can place them on a diet of infusoria and, at 2 weeks, move on to baby brine shrimp.

By 6-8 weeks after they are hatched, the tadpoles metamorphose into tiny African Dwarf frogs that stay in the water for life.


African Dwarf frogs are carnivorous by nature, even though they do not have teeth. You can offer them a comprehensive food option such as sinking pellets, frozen foods like white mosquito larvae, daphnia, bloodworm, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, and finely chopped krill, Mysis shrimps, and prawns. They may also feed on fish if they are kept in the same tank as small fish.

African Dwarf frogs are very slow eaters and can be aggressive during meal times. As they are bottom-dwellers, feed them with things that sink to the bottom of the tank.

– How Often Should You Feed Them?

Feed adult African Dwarf frogs once every other day or less, depending on how the tank is set up. Juvenile African Dwarf frogs should be fed daily or at least 4–6 times a week. Any food they do not consume within an hour should be removed and then given to them later.

Depending on the feeding schedule you place them on, you can feed them small portions of food to prevent them from becoming obese. It is vital to know that overfeeding your African Dwarf frogs can have disastrous consequences.

Common Diseases

Freshwater frogs are generally low-maintenance pets. However, they are still living organisms susceptible to many diseases. A common disease that affects the African Dwarf frogs is Dropsy.

1. Dropsy

Dropsy is another name for edema, so don’t be shocked when your vet uses both words interchangeably. Other names for Dropsy are Hydropsy, Bloat, and Ascites. One way to identify a fish with Dropsy is by the balloon-like abdomen that gives the impression of being filled with air. The swollen abdomen is due to fluid buildup in the tiny body of the frog. This fluid retention can cause your African Dwarf frog to be very uncomfortable.

– Causes

Precisely what causes fish Dropsy is not well known.

– Diagnosis

Not every frog with a swollen abdomen is suffering from Dropsy. Some may have just ingested things that ordinarily should not be part of their diet. Such items include rocks and gravel. So, you need to confirm from a vet that it is Dropsy before embarking on any course of action.

An x-ray of your African Dwarf frog can quickly rule out foreign objects. Rapid palpitations and needle insertion into the affected frog’s abdomen also help determine whether or not your frog has Dropsy.

– What Are the Side Effects of Dropsy?

Similar to glaucoma, when fluids build pressure on the eyeballs, Dropsy can put extreme strain on vital internal organs like the kidneys, spleen, and liver. The intense pressure causes the organ to become so stressed that it can no longer do its job effectively.

As you can well imagine, the built-up pressure can be excruciating for your frog and cause it to become lethargic and lose appetite. The loss of appetite will most likely be the death of your African Dwarf frog.

– How Can You Treat Dropsy?

Since we are in the dark about what causes Dropsy, we cannot authoritatively say how you can cure it. However, we have some tips on how you can treat the symptoms and alleviate the pain of your frog. We do not advise that you try any of the treatments at home.

  • Draining

Draining their abdomen of the excess fluid (PS: Do not attempt to do this at home. Only a trusted vet should attempt this.) Draining their stomach relieves some of the pressure pressing against their internal organs and may reduce the lethargy and loss of appetite.

  • Adding Salt

Some people recommend adding salt to the tank to try to draw out the excess water in the abdomen of the frog. However, we strongly warn against this because African Dwarf frogs are not saltwater amphibians. The extra salt can kill them.

  • Euthanasia

Unfortunately, after your vet sees the frog, he may recommend euthanasia, especially if he doesn’t feel there is any hope for your African Dwarf frog.

– How to Prevent Dropsy

Well, since we are at a loss as to what exactly is responsible for Dropsy, it is hard to say precisely how you can prevent your frog from getting it. However, we know that Dropsy is not contagious; thus, you need not worry about a widespread disease outbreak.

Regardless, it is not a bad idea to make sure your tank water is as clean as possible, with all water parameters within the recommended range.


  • African Dwarf frogs are tiny aquarium frogs measuring only about 1.5 inches.
  • Unlike other amphibians, they live exclusively in water and suffer from severe dehydration if removed from the water.
  • With proper care, the African Dwarf frog can live for 5-8 years.

African Dwarf frogs are potential carriers of Salmonella. Therefore, we advise that you handle them only with gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after contact. With proper knowledge, even a beginner can raise these frogs successfully. Go ahead and try.

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