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Greater Seattle Aquarium Society

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

by Dave Sanford

Since I first discovered these cool little amphibians in a shop many years ago, I have been intrigued. Most frogs need place to haul out on land, but these are fully aquatic and can go into most community tanks as long as fish and frogs are large enough so they cannot eat each other. Most specimens are juveniles when purchased but they can grow to an adult length of about 1 1/2 inches total body size. Grey is the basic color, being darker on top and lighter on the belly. Some have small black spots and all have rough skin texture. Although they lack the striking colors of some frogs their behaviors and droll expressions add to their appeal. At times they rest on the bottom or float near the surface. All of the tank will be explored by these curious guys and sometimes they scuffle with each other or even with fish when a worm is at stake.

Frozen blood worms will keep them going but live foods put them into a feeding frenzy. They love worms small enough to swallow, brine shrimp, and anything that wiggles including baby fish so avoid having them in a tank where you expect to have fry. They are cannibalistic so very small ones can be eaten by mature adults. Even their own skin may eaten after it is shed.

Water chemistry in terms of pH and hardness is not of great concern as long as extremes are avoided. Don’t get lazy with water changes or deteriorating conditions will stress them and invite diseases. Plants such as Java fern, swords, or Anubias seem to be appreciated as a place to explore and rest on.

Although I have kept them in an unheated tank where the temperature dropped into the 60’s, they are more active and healthy with temperatures in the 70’s.

If you are interested in breeding them, for BAP points, or fun, it’s easy. You just need a mature pair. Ample feedings of live foods will condition the pair in a couple weeks. A big, fat, ripe female (see drawing above) is obvious when compared to the much slimmer males. When placed into a five gallon tank containing lots of Java moss, and a temperature about 800 amplexus (the mating embrace) should be observed within a few days. Watch for eggs in the Java moss, when there are a lot of them, remove the parents or they will eat the eggs. Or, the eggs an be removed to a hatching tank. The tadpoles will hatch out in two days and start foraging for something to eat. The Java moss will provide some goodies which can be supplemented with newly hatched brine shrimp, or even Liqui-fry. They grow fast and eat a lot so careful attention to water quality is important. Sponge filters work well for biological filtration. Avoid having strong currents which might exhaust the tads as well as interfere with feeding. A maximum growth rate can be insured by not overcrowding them.

Depending on the size of the spawn, a ten gallon tank can be used until they begin to show leg development then transfer them to a twenty or larger. Metamorphosis takes about 2 months to complete. You can expect that the froglets will be different sizes, probably reflecting how successful each individual was competing for food.

These cute little frogs are fun and provide some diversity to your tank. I recommend starting with at least three or more so that you can observe their interactions.

Dave Sanford has kept a variety of different fish, amphibians and reptiles in his home. He is currently the BAP chair for GSAS.