Keeping fish is an accepted hobby, and one of the most popular ones at that. Keeping frogs, on the other hand, is something that has only risen in popularity over the last few years. African Dwarf Frogs are one of the most popular aquatic frogs in the hobby nowadays, and what once was a rare sight, is now incredibly common. In the past, it was almost impossible to find aquatic frogs for your home, but with their rise in popularity, the chances of you finding them in your local pet store is almost 100 percent.
Habituating in ponds and small streams in Africa, the African Dwarf Frog is a fully aquatic frog, which spends almost all of it’s life underwater, except for the occasional swim to the surface for a gasp of air. Like most frogs, the African Dwarves are bottom dwellers, and will use their unique color patterns to blend in with the substrates, leaf litter and detritus.
When looked after properly, an African Dwarf Frog can live up to 10 years in a personal home aquarium, but looking after them properly does require some special knowledge, and understanding of them. This care guide will teach you everything you need to know about keeping African Dwarf Frogs, and how to help live a long, healthy life.
African Dwarf Frog Tank Conditions
Although you will often see African Dwarf Frogs living in small vases in the bedrooms of young children, the small environment is far from optimal. Frogs like a lot of space, especially Dwarf Africans, so we recommend at least 5 Gallons of water, per frog. However, frogs are social animals, so they are best kept in groups of at least 3, making the tank requirements at least 15 gallons. Keeping African Dwarf Frogs in groups will minimise their stress levels, and if both sexes are kept, the chances of them breeding is increased.
For gravel, and substrate, you need to ensure that the pieces are not small enough for the frog to ingest when lunging for their food. Dwarf Frogs are usually bottom feeders, and will often swallow small rocks and stones if they are small enough. Having such a small intestinal tract, these small stones will typically get stuck, and will inevitably cause death. Another precaution is that African Dwarf Frogs are tremendous jumpers. From solid ground, such as the top of a filter, or a solid leaf, an African Dwarf Frog can easily jump 4 inches, which is more than enough for them to clear the top of an aquarium, if there is no lid present. African Dwarf Frogs require constant contact with water, and spending anything more than 15 minutes out of water would more than likely be fatal. If you are interested in keeping DAF, then make sure your aquarium is fully closed.
African Dwarf Frogs need places to get out of the light, and PVC tubing is often a good hiding place for them, although not too pleasing to the eye. If you want something a little more aesthetic, then small rocks, stone caves or aquarium decorations will do the job. Frogs will happily swim in between live plants, and if you can somehow expose a broad leaf near the surface, don’t be surprised to see your frogs relaxing on it, grabbing a few breaths of air.
In terms of filtration, we recommend either a sponge filter, a small hang on back filter, or a canister filter. Although filtration isn’t necessary, it is highly recommended. Frogs, however, do not like a lot of current, so it’s important to choose something that isn’t very high powered. Water changes are a must, when keeping Dwarf African Frogs, so a 15-20 percent water change at least twice per week is required, to keep the level of gases in the water optimal.
African Dwarf Frog Diet & Feeding
African Dwarf Frogs are carnivorous by nature, and in the wild, they will typically munch on small fish fry, and insects. In the home aquarium, you should strive to stick to a carnivorous diet as much as possible, with the most common foods being brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms, small whiteworms or earthworms. Their diets should also include a fish food that is designed for clawed frogs, or other carnivorous fish. There are plenty on the market, but the ones we recommend are Tetra Prima, Repto Min and Tetra Tabamin
To keep things interesting, and to provide a treat for your African Dwarf Frogs, you can also try feeding them small pieces of raw fish such as salmon, tuna steak or tilapia. However, you shouldn’t make this a frequent habit. Once a week is more than enough.
Dwarf Frogs can get fat pretty quickly, if you feed them too often, so it’s important that you get the frequency right. You should feed the frogs as much as they would happily eat, at least 3 times per week. When they are young (less than a year old), we recommend feeding them daily, but as they get older, once every two days is more than sufficient. It’s important to make sure that any leftover food is removed from the tank after an hour of feeding time, to prevent it spoiling, and affecting the conditions of your tank.
Suffering with bad eye sight, it is sometimes difficult to make sure the African Dwarf Frogs are finding enough food to eat when it comes to feeding time. It can be a good habit to actively feed the frogs with a turkey baster, or a pair of tongs. African Dwarf Frogs are passive eaters, so it’s a good idea to be as active as possible during the feeding time, to make sure they are taking enough in. One way to make sure the frogs are ready to eat, is to train them into associating a small tap on the front of the glass tank, with feeding time. A few taps on the glass, followed by a feeding with a turkey baster or tongs, will teach them to associate the sound of the tap, with their meal times. After a few days, it will become second nature to them, and the whole process of feeding them will become dramatically easier.
It’s pretty easy to sex an African Dwarf Frog, since both sexes have distinct features. The males are generally smaller, and will appear to have a v shaped ridge that spreads from the anus to the rear legs. When the males are sexually mature, they will often develop small spots behind their armpits, which are usually red or white in color.
The easiest way to tell a Female from a Male African Dwarf Frog, is to look at the tail bud. A males will be extremely small, to invisible, where as a females will be noticeably bigger. Females are considerably rounder, and larger in appearance.
African Dwarf Frog Breeding
Breeding African Dwarf Frogs is not particularly hard, but it does require a trigger in order for the female to start producing eggs. The process is pretty simple; Gradually lower the water level in the tank to around 7 centimeters, over a period of about 4 weeks. Once it’s around the correct level, you need to rapidly increase the water back to it;s normal level, using warm water. The warm water should eventually heat the tank up to around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and this temperature should be maintained for at least two weeks.
Throughout this entire process, you need to make sure the frogs are fed plenty of high quality food, with a lot of variety. If you have followed the steps previously mentioned, and you have fed your frogs a consistent amount of high quality foods, you should see the females becoming considerably fatter. This means she has generated the eggs, and is ready to breed.
When the times has come for the male to fertilise the eggs, he will grab old of the egg bearing female by her hind legs, and will hold on for several hours, initiating a spawning dance. If the female agrees, and is receptive to the males dance, she will swim to the surface of the tank and back, in a circular motion, releasing the eggs for the male to fertilise. As soon as the frogs have finished releasing the eggs, and sperm, they should be removed from the tank to ensure that none of the eggs are eaten. The amount of eggs will vary, but you can expect around 750 per spawning.
After 3-6 days, the eggs will begin to hatch, and baby tadpoles will emerge. Initially, the small frogs should be fed microscopic protozoans, and infusoria if you want them to survive. After a while, the tadpoles will be large enough to move onto other foods such as brine shrimp, whiteworms and Cyclop-eez. It takes around 6 weeks for the tadpoles to metamorphose into small frogs, which are usually around 14mm in length. The small frogs and their parents should be reintroduced at this point.
Suitable Tank Mates For The African Dwarf Frog
African Dwarf Frogs will generally live peacefully with any fish that is bigger than them. If you are keeping them in a community tank, remember that they are carnivores and will eat small fry, if any of the other fish do give birth. Frogs work well with algae eating fish, and bottom dwellers, except for common plecos. While there are reports of more aggressive fish attacking African Dwarf Frogs, and sometimes the other way round, we have had no problem keeping them with aggressive fish such as Bettas or Cichlids. If you provide the frogs with plenty of hiding spaces, they should be fine with pretty much all fish. However, if you want to keep things on the safe side, then we don’t recommend keeping them with Plecos, Catfish, Bettas or Cichlids.
Because of their poor eyesight, African Dwarf Frogs can often mistake the fins of fish for their food, and will latch on and drag the fish around aggressively. If you don’t want a bunch of injured fish swimming around your tank, then we recommend avoiding fish with long flowing fins.