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African Dwarf Frog Care – Housing and Feeding Care Guide – Keeping Exotic Pets

Updated on May 31, 2011

African Dwarf Frog Information

African Dwarf frogs (Hymenochirus), hence the name, are native to parts of central Africa, around the Congo region but have naturally spread to other locations in Africa and through human intervention have spread domestically all over the world and are now one of the most popular are loved type of frog.

The African Dwarf frog being and amphibian, has lungs and no gills, but unlike some other frogs, this little frog spends almost all of its life under water and only really travels to the surface occasionally to gasp a breath of air.

They are of small size, a maximum of 2.5 inches and weight no more than a couple of ounces and if your African dwarf frog is well looked after and is a healthy specimen if could live up to 20 years, but on average this is much less at about 5 years.

Types of African Dwarf Frogs

These little critters are generally of similar colours ranging from dark green to brown with varying amounts of dark spots on their skin.

Unlike the African Clawed frogs which are found in a couple of varieties, including the Albino variety, African dwarf frogs are only available in one variety, but as mentioned above their dark spots may vary slightly.

African Dwarf Frogs as Pets

Unlike many frogs in Africa and warmer and tropical regions, African Dwarf frogs are non poisonous frogs, which makes them ideal as pets for young and old alike.

Yes they do have claws on their hind legs, very similar to the African Clawed frog, which they are commonly mistaken for, but note that these claws are not that sharp and will not pierce your skin if they make contact.

Keeping these frogs as pets is very straight forward and not time consuming at all, they can be kept by themselves in a heated or non heated fish bowl or aquarium and eat the same food as your fish.

These frogs as pets are a good choice as they are easy to keep but also entertaining with their investigative and scavenging nature, plus you can also tease them with your finger and they will follow (thinking its food of course).

Differences between African Dwarf Frog and African Clawed Frog

African Dwarf frogs when young are commonly mistaken for African Clawed frogs due to their similar colour to African clawed frog varieties, their very similar body shape and posture and also the mutual presence of claws on their hind legs.

Below are differences you should bear in mind to ensure you’re getting the correct species of frog:

  • All feet of an African Dwarf frog will be webbed, but an African Clawed frog will have two webbed hind feet and two frontal non webbed feet.
  • African Dwarf frogs are just of one variety whilst African Clawed frogs are of a couple of varieties and are normally sold in the Albino African Clawed frog variety.
  • Eye position also differs between the frogs, with the African Dwarf frog having eyes positioned on the side of its head compared to the African Clawed frog having its eyes positioned on top of its head.
  • African Dwarf frogs have snouts that are more pointed whereas African Clawed frogs have snouts that are more curved and flat.
  • If fully mature, the African Clawed frog will be bigger than the 2.5 inches size of the African dwarf frog and can be even up to 6 inches.

African Dwarf frog (left) Versus African Clawed frog (Albino, right)

What Frogs Eat

You may think, what do African Dwarf frogs eat?, and where will I buy this food?, but honestly you don’t need to fret as they will eat almost anything edible and they are not fussy at all!

You can test a few foods with your frog and you’ll notice that most of the time they will enjoyably engulf them all. You can do this by advertising the food right in front of the front legs, and moving the food just a slight bit to imitate live prey.

When they don’t enjoy the food they will spit if back out and you can remove it from the aquarium.

Some favourite frog foods include:

  • Fish food – African Dwarf frogs will eat any average fish food, flaked or non flaked, pellet, and so on.
  • Earth Worms – Perfect for small or growing frogs when chopped up. Full of useful protein.
  • Blood Worms– Available freeze died, frozen or live, each one of these types is ideal for your dwarf frog, but the live versions will be most enjoyable. Blood worms are ideal when raising an infant dwarf frog and they can be easily eaten and are full of protein for growth.
  • Flies – Any common house flies such as bluebottles will be gratefully eaten by your frog.
  • Fish – Any average sliver of pure fish, uncooked or cooked will be an ideal treat for your dwarf frog.
  • Ham – Ham that is very thinly sliced in tiny pieces is also a favourite.

African Dwarf Frogs Habitat

African Dwarf frogs will only grow to a maximum of about 2.5 inches, unlike their commonly mistaken counterpart the African Clawed frogs which can grow to over 6 inches. Because of their small size, they will not need a huge frog habitat and can even be put into fish bowls or aquariums amongst small fish of a similar to slightly larger size. The habitat can be heated or even non heated once the room temperature is fairly constant and of at least 20 (ish) degrees Celsius.

Below are a few points that should be taken into consideration before buying and when keeping your African Dwarf frog:

  • If placing into aquarium among fish, please ensure the fish are of similar size to slighter bigger size of your dwarf frog as you don’t want the frog eating any of your fish, you also don’t want any of the fish eating your frog.
  • Provide at least one hiding space for your frog as they sometimes like to chill away from the open.
  • Ensure your aquarium lid is ALWAYS on with no possible ways of escaping as African Dwarf frogs and African Clawed frogs alike are notorious for jumping out of aquariums when they grow bigger.
  • Provide a few aquatic plants in your aquarium for your little frog to rest on. Also they sometimes enjoy pulling a few leaves from the plants, possibly to eat them.
  • Make sure you have some sort of a filtration system, unless you clean your aquarium regularly, as they do produce a lot of faeces especially when they get larger.

Make sure to follow as many of these pointers to make your perfect frog habitat.

African Dwarf Frog Adaptations

  • The African Dwarf frog, like the African Clawed frogs, have hind leg claws which are an important and very useful frog adaptation. They will use these adaptations to help grasp onto prey and also for tearing up the soft skin of their prey.
  • These claws are also useful if your little African frog is unable to swallow food and needs help removing it from its mouth.
  • The placement of their arms and hands, being constantly held out and very still in front of their mouths is another dwarf frog adaptation which is optimal for catching any unsuspecting prey.
  • You will notice your African dwarf frog, like the clawed frogs, will most of the time just lay at the bottom of the aquarium in a meditative state, they do this to not frighten off any passing by fish or other prey.
  • Another obvious African dwarf frog adaptation is their natural and earthy skin colour with the few speckles of dark brown/black. This imitates the bottom of the natural river, steam or pond environment of stones, mud and debris.


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    • Iontach profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      @Hidden, I apologize that I am only getting back to you now. This is an issue I have my my frogs. I especially had this issue when I had larger and more aggressive fish in the aquarium. What I currently do is remove the frogs from aquarium during feeding time. I place them in a container within the aquarium with blood worms. Initially I wiggle the worms in front of them using a tweezers and repeat this until they refuse any more. At this point I just leave them in the container with an ample supply for blood worms, for approx 45 minutes and them re-introduce them back into the aquarium. During this 45 minutes they stop being lazy and actually consume the worms by themselves in the container. Coincidentally I just did this today!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My fish are eating all the blood worms in the tank .I'm worried that this will cause problems for my two dwarf frogs. I'm thinking if taking them out of the tank for feeding but I don't want to as it will stress themanagement out ? Please help!


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