African Dwarf Frog Care Sheet

A great choice for first time frog owners, African Dwarf Frogs are easy to care for – even young children can look after them so long as they don’t take the frogs out of the tank.

This African Dwarf Frog care sheet should tell you everything you need to know to get started, but a dedicated book like African Dwarf Frogs as Pets would be good to have at home. General frog and toad care guides like Frogs and Toads: Your Happy Healthy Pet and Frogs and Toads (Complete Herp Care) also make a great addition to any owner’s bookshelf.

African Dwarf Frog Size
As their name suggests, African Dwarf Frogs are small creatures, only reaching around 1.5″ in length (excluding flippers). This means there’s almost certainly room for a few in your house!

African Dwarf Frog Lifespan
You can expect your African Dwarf Frog to live for around five years or so, but some well-cared for individuals are said to have survived for 15 years or more, though this is far from the norm. Either way, a fairly long-term commitment is required with this species.

If taken out of water, this lifespan suddenly becomes around 20 minutes, so African Dwarf Frogs should not be taken out of their aquatic homes for very long at all, if ever. They may also carry salmonella, so handling them could harm you as well as your pet.

African Dwarf Frog Housing
A standard covered fish tank is perfect for African Dwarf Frogs, as long as the lid will stop any frogs from hopping out. These energetic little frogs need at least two gallons of water each, but the water should be no deeper than 18″ – African Dwarf Frogs don’t swim as well as you might expect and will struggle to reach the surface to breathe if the water is too deep. We recommend the Marina 5 Gallon LED Aquarium Kit.

A substrate isn’t necessary, so the bottom of the tank can be left bare, but aquarium gravel always seems much nicer, even if it does need cleaning every couple of weeks. We wouldn’t recommend any other substrates, as anything larger (like marbles) will risk trapping a frog, and anything smaller (like sand) is too easily ingested.

You should also provide plenty of places for your African Dwarf Frogs to hide, as they have a lot of natural predators in the wild and so they tend to be shy. Plants (living, plastic or silk) all liven up the tank and provide some nice spots for a small frog to retreat into. Aquarium caves are excellent too. Just make sure there’s nowhere your frog could get stuck, or else it will drown.

Filtering isn’t strictly necessary in an African Dwarf Frog tank, but it will mean you don’t need to clean the tank as frequently. If you do choose to use a filter, be very careful as these little guys aren’t brilliant swimmers and are sensitive to water disturbance. Any filter should be set to the lowest possible setting, and with very small young frogs covering the filter with fine mesh will prevent any unfortunate little frogs getting their limbs stuck and drowning. Tetra Whisper Filters are widely used and generally considered to be the best option. If you take the filter-free route, change the water every week to be on the safe side.

Temperature, Lighting and pH
African Dwarf Frogs like a temperature of around 75F-80F best, but small, temporary deviations from this range shouldn’t cause any problems.

These frogs don’t have any particular lighting requirements, so just use the lights in your house as you would normally. The only rule here is to switch the lights off overnight to maintain a day-night cycle and keep algae growth in check.

A neutral pH of 7 or slightly higher is the standard, but don’t let it drop much below 7 or climb much above 7.5 as this could harm your African Dwarf Frogs. This is a bigger problem when you have fish in the same tank as your frogs (more on this later). Test kits like this are the most economical way to test pH.

African Dwarf Frog Diet
These bottom feeders can be fed in a few ways: either leave food on a small terracotta plate (to ensure they don’t accidentally ingest any gravel), or give your frogs food directly using a turkey baster just above their heads. You can even hand feed them. Whatever you do, a routine is good, and African Dwarf Frogs will learn to always go to the same spot even if you just sprinkle the food in the same place every day.

The best staple food for African Dwarf Frogs is frozen bloodworms, with frozen brine shrimp, glass worms or krill all able to do the job as well (note that all of these foods should be defrosted first). Frog and tadpole pellets are readily available, but different owners have different experiences with these, so while they are an option, more natural food is preferable. The food can also be live if you want, but this is optional, as African Dwarf Frogs hunt by scent rather than movement.

African Dwarf Frog Shedding
Roughly once a week or so, your frog will shed its skin. You’ll rarely see this happen as it’s over so quickly, and it’s not unusual for them to eat the empty skin afterwards as it’s actually quite nutritious. However, if your African Dwarf Frog leaves any skin behind, you should remove it from the tank.

African Dwarf Frog Breeding

African Dwarf Frog

Image by Renee Grayson on Flickr

Such small creatures are hard to sex when the differences are so subtle, but there are a few indications: the female African Dwarf Frog tends to be a little larger than the male and will have a slightly longer tail. The male has a distinctive small white bump just behind the forelimbs when they’ve reached maturity. Males may also occasionally ‘sing’, although that word is used in the loosest possible sense here!

You can just leave your frogs to get on with it and they’ll mate whenever they’re ready, with the female laying eggs before the male fertilizes them. If you want more frogs, you should remove the eggs from the tank before the uncaring parents eat them. Other tank inhabitants will also enjoy an egg meal.

Sharing a Tank with African Dwarf Frogs
African Dwarf Frogs will quite happily live alone, but their tanks should be large enough to have room for a small number of fish. Having too many fish in the tank risks altering the pH level too much for your more sensitive frogs to cope with, but a few fish shouldn’t be a problem as long as they are small, communal and not aggressive. Goldfish and Tetra fish should be okay, and a single Betta Fish might be alright, but it depends on the individual and if your tank is big enough. A Betta Fish is certainly not the safest bet, but some owners have kept them together for years without problems.

Other than changes to water acidity, there are only two problems you’re likely to encounter when you introduce fish: if a fish is small enough for an African Dwarf Frog to eat, you may well lose the fish, and the opposite is also true. The second problem is the speed at which African Dwarf Frogs eat – they can starve if the fish beat them to the food every time, so it might be worth hand feeding them or using a turkey baster to ensure they get the food they need.

We’re confident that this is the best African Dwarf Frog care sheet on the web, but if you’ve got any extra questions, please feel free to get in touch. Alternatively, get one of the books mentioned at the top – a dedicated care guide is an invaluable resource!