All About Keeping an African Dwarf Frog

The African Dwarf Frog is one of the best amphibians if you're new to the world of exotic pets because they're so easy to take care of.
All About Keeping an African Dwarf Frog
Samuel Sanchez

Written and verified by the biologist Samuel Sanchez.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Have you ever dreamed of keeping something more exotic than fish in an aquarium but with the same care requirements? If so, then maybe the African dwarf frog is the animal for you!

Today, we’ll tell you all about an unusual amphibian that never leaves the water, not even for a moment. However, despite this, they’re not good companions for aquarium fish. If you want to know more about looking after this lovely animal, read on!

Initial considerations before getting an African dwarf frog

The African dwarf frog (genus Hymenochirus) is a member of the Pipidae family, a group of aquatic frogs that live in the tropical region of South America and the African Subsahara. They’re very small, graceful creatures with subtle colors.

They’re often mistaken for the African clawed frog (genus Xenopus) because they belong to the same family and are both strictly aquatic. However, they have little else in common apart from the fact that they spend their entire lives below the waterline.

The most famous species of the genus Xenopus, the Xenopus laevis can reach up to 5 inches in length, whilst the African dwarf frog barely reaches two inches in size. Furthermore, according to government bodies, the species Xenopus laevis is a potentially invasive species and it’s prohibited to keep one as a pet.

For this very important reason, it’s essential to be very careful and be sure of the animal that you’re buying. Remember, the genus that we’re interested in today is the Hymenochirus. In general, you can find up to four different species for sale within this group. They are:

  • Hymenochirus boettgeri
  • Hymenochirus boulengeri
  • The Hymenochirus curtipes
  • Hymenochirus feae
Two African dwarf frogs in an aquarium.

Keeping an African dwarf frog

Now that we’ve warned you about making sure you get the right animal, let’s look at what’s involved in keeping this curious species. Of the many exotic pets available, this is certainly one of the easier ones to keep.

Because this frog is so small, an aquarium with a volume of around 8 gallons should be more than enough for a couple of these creatures. However, it should contain plenty of plants, branches, and nooks for them to explore and hide among. Having a rich habitat is essential for exotic animals.

The gravel in the aquarium should be large in size and you should never use sand. Otherwise, the frog may accidentally swallow some and this can cause them stomach problems.

Since this is a tropical species, the water temperature should ideally be maintained at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. You can achieve this with a heater, but don’t worry, this is a really cheap, effective device that you can find in any pet shop.

Beyond this, it’s a good idea to have some filtration in the aquarium. Like any fish, these frogs create waste and you’ll need to do your best to keep the water clean. However, try to make sure that there are no strong currents, as this could push the frog around and make them stressed.

The African dwarf frog is a strict carnivore, so you’ll need to give them small prey, which can be either alive or dead. The larvae of flies, mosquitos, or grasshoppers, small crustaceans, or worms are all good choices. But NEVER feed them fish food.

The importance of the water

Amphibians carry out gas exchange and maintain homeostasis with their skin, so their skin needs to be kept in good condition. As a result, it’s important for the water in an aquarium of African dwarf frogs to have a neutral pH and definitely be free of chlorine. Chlorine can do serious damage to their skin.

You should be able to buy dechlorinating agents from most specialists.

Finally, it’s important to point out that it’s not a good idea to keep fish in the same aquarium. One of them will probably end up trying to eat the other. Fish waste can also seriously damage the frogs’ health.

An African dwarf frog against a black background.

An ideal first pet

As you can see, the African dwarf frog could make a really interesting alternative to keeping fish. They even sing underwater ultrasonically!

And, because they’re so resilient and easy to care for, they’re one of the best options for anyone looking to enter the world of exotic animals!

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