My Lovely African Dwarf Frogs

I have several African dwarf frogs {Hymenochirus boettgeri}.
These make great pets for the beginner. They are as complicated to deal with as goldfish! Granted, you can't feed them fishflakes (they only eat food that sinks to the bottom of the tank!), but you don't have to feed them live icky bugs either!
The picture on the left is a shot of a dwarf frog that I found floating around on Usenet groups...I've since seen it in several pet care books.

another shot The shot on the right is a shot of Elwood II.
My first dwarf frogs were named Jake and Elwood, after the Blues Brothers. (It's a long story...lets just say I had been watching that movie a lot that summer) I had them for about 5 years. Unfortunately they passed away in a pH disaster in their aquarium several years ago.
I mourned for a week or so, then returned to the pet store to get new frogs.
I guess I wasn't feeling very creative when I named the 2 new guys, hence Jake and Elwood the second appeared on the scene. In addition, more dwarf frogs have been added to the family.

(Don't confuse these with African Clawed Frogs or Albino Clawed Frogs, which are bigger and may actually eat these guys!)
How to tell the Clawed Frog from the Dwarf Frog.

Food requirements: frozen bloodworms.
    Sounds nasty, but actually, this is almost as easy as upkeep of goldfish. You buy a package and keep it in the freezer. The package lasts me anywhere from one to two months. The best part is, it's ok to skip a day now and then. (no need to find someone to feed your pets when you go away for the weekend.) In fact, my routine is to feed them a pinch once every 3-4 days, and sometimes I just feed them a little extra and feed them only on the weekends.
    If you can't find bloodworms, you can also use frozen brineshrimp (HEY! thats' what SeaMonkeys are!!), or you can substitute using dried worms or dried brine shrimp...I personally prefer the frozen stuff, partially cause they seem healthier, partially because it seems less messy (dried stuff sometimes clouds the water), but my little sister has a couple of these frogs and she has been using the dried brine shrimp which seems to work OK. If you're really adventurous, you can get all of these items LIVE too...but it isn't necessary as they search for food by smell, not movement. In fact, it's not uncommon for them to snap at each other when searching out their food! It looks a lot as if they have the hiccups, but they are just snapping around trying to find something good to eat. If you're wondering where to find such tasty morsels, most pet store that have a variety of fish carry them - just ask around!
    I've also heard that some folks use some sort of pellet foods that drop to the bottom for their frogs....Im not sure how well this works in the long guess is if thats all you can find, and the frogs will actually eat it, then it'll work. If they dont eat it, it may be a picky eater and you should look for one of the other options.
Habitat: simple covered fishtank. dwarf frog in tank

Habits: Fairly active, and Yes!!! These guys sing!
  • Actually, it sounds more like...hmm..well, it's hard to describe. The first few times I heard them I thought there was a loose air filter tube in the tank.
    Here are a couple of neat recordings of the African Dwarf Frog Song:
  • They are active little fellows, particularly at night. They swim around a lot, or they like to just float in a very strange position, which I like to call the "Zen position" (i.e. arms and legs spread out and often balancing on one foot as though meditating the deeper meanings of life...) One visitor wrote me recently to tell me that this position actually has a name! It's called "burbling". Occasionally, they float at the top. This is when they are being ULTRA lazy, so they don't have to swim very far when they decide they want to get air. Don't be alarmed if your frogs do this for a couple of hours---it often looks like they are dead but this is not the case. (Just poke them lightly if you're really freaked out, and you'll see that they were just spacing out, not dead!)
    If they get very inactive after a water change, be sure that the water doesn't have chlorine! This can be very dangerous for frogs!
    Breeding and tadpoles:
    • When the weather gets warm, they get very ...cuddly. The male clasps the back of the female and hangs on. When the male grabs the female around her midsection, it's called amplecting. The female tends to do a dance like swishing of her flippers at this time. They can swim around like that for hours. When they actually mate, they swim around in loops in the tank, so it looks like they are doing circus acts. Once in a blue moon the eggs they lay will hatch...(you can usually tell that the eggs aren't going to survive if they look cloudy or milky- this means that they have gotten some air exposure and won't be able to hatch.)
    • Unfortunately, even in the rare occasion that they do hatch, and you manage to save these teeny tiny...(and I really mean tiny) black caviar sized tadpoles into a separate tank... I don't think its likely that they will ever survive long. I tried it a few times, (it gets warm in my home a lot!) and it has never worked for me.
      What I've been able to learn, though, is if you want to try to raise the tadpoles, they need to be quickly separated from the tank where their parents are...(the adults tend to mistake the tadpoles for food and by the time they spit them out the little guys are pretty much toast)...into an aerated tank, which,( and I hear this is important) must be kept at 74 degrees F. For feeding at this tiny size, you can try this powder stuff that can be bought in pet stores (that have fish) that makes the water a bit cloudy but has protein in it...and if they live long enough, try spiralina fish flakes until they are big enough to eat bloodworms. They are meat eaters, so they should be switched to the bloodworms as soon as possible.
    Shedding Skin:
    • Occasionally, they shed their skin. This seems to be related to weather and seasons too, (at least both my frogs tend to shed within a week of each other) It looks really weird while it is shed because it gives the illusion that the limbs themselves are coming off...but then when it all comes off they are happy once again and squeaky clean!
    Is my frog dead?
    • Generally when the frogs go to Froggy heaven, they don't end up floating at the top the way fish do, but rather they sink.
      dead frog
      Click to see full sized.
      If they do float when dead, they usually have some massive bloat, like the dead frog on the right, or some other yucky disease which is really obvious.
      The dead frog above on the right died of dropsy. Note: this is NOT a lazy zen pose. Photo courtesy of Alexander Price
      I get a lot of frantic mail from nervous Dwarf frog owners concerned about frogs that sit in one place for a really really long time - Having lost several dearly beloved froggies, I can tell you from my own experience that even though I also have wrongly freaked out thinking something was wrong when they were sitting very still, when their time did come, it was REALLY obvious.
    Males and females:
    • Many have written in asking how to tell males from females. Unfortunately, with the Dwarf frogs it is very very hard to tell.
      As a rule, the females tend to be bigger than the males. I have found that the males tend to be darker and rougher looking (as in: "bumpy", not as in: "hey, lets wear leather jackets and go ride motorcycles!"), but this too is a generalization, and often there are exceptions. One visitor writes: the easiest way to tell is to look just posterior to the forelimb. Males have a very distinct white bump there. Some females also have a white patch there, but in males, the bump is very very distinct.
      Ive also heard my male frogs make a low humming noise as a mating call. (but I'm not sure if the females dont sometimes sing's hard to tell!)
      I understand that during the breeding season (which in an aquarium is hard to determine sometimes, as their climate is so carefully controlled!) the males get darker or slightly enlarged inner arms...but how anyone can tell on so tiny a creature is beyond me! In addition, the females seem to have a teeny tiny tip on their, er...bottom - a bit like a tiny tail, or bump.
      I haven't been able to tell what my smallest froggies are may be a while before they are big enough to distinguish at all! It seems to me that the easiest way to tell, and this is what tipped me off to the fact that Jake was a SHE, was to wait till it gets warm enough for, er, snuggling season. The one that clamps onto the other and piggyback rides is the male.
    • How long do these critters live? Well, I'm not exactly sure. The longest living frog in my collection lived between 1996 - 2002. However, they CAN live MUCH much longer! Their cousins, the Clawed Frogs, have been known to live for as long as 30 years! A friend of mine reported that his dwarf frog lived for 18 years.

Hey great News!! A new Webpage has appeared with all sorts of great information about this type of frog! Be sure to give it a visit to learn about breeding habits and more technical details regarding the care of these fascinating little creatures!
  • David Cecere's AWESOME African Dwarf Frog Page
  • More fun sites:

    Some notes about aquababies.

    I also have two Oriental Firebellied Toads {Bombina orientalis.}

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