African Dwarf Frog 101: The Ultimate Pet Guide

While there’s nothing wrong with having fish as pets in an aquarium, but sometimes it can be fun to have something more than just your finned friends to look at. Snails and mollusks are an option, but they aren’t very active. So, what is one to do? Well, we suggest you consider owning an African Dwarf Frog.


Well, this species of frog is sure to liven up any aquarium because they are always moving around and are quite friendly with the fish inside the tank. They are also fairly easy to take care of.

In this ultimate African Dwarf frog guide, we will cover everything there is to know about such little frogs, including how to look after them, the tank conditions, the breeding cycle, and so much more.

So, let’s get to it!

African Dwarf Frog – A Quick Overview

African Dwarf frogs were classified back in the 1800s. However, it took a while, sometime during the 1970s, for them to be considered viable pets for aquarium owners. These days, you can easily find these frogs at numerous pet stores around the world.

In the wild, these frogs like living in ponds, creeks, and shallow rivers. Originally, these frogs were found in the forested areas of equatorial Africa. They can be found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, and across the Congo River Basin.

Even though they like to spend most of their time underwater, due to these little critters not having gills, they have to resurface occasionally to breathe.

As a pet, it’s recommended that you keep a pair inside the tank because these frogs are sociable in nature. When not being active inside the aquarium, you can see these frogs simply floating in place with their limbs outstretched while they rest.

And since they only grow up to 3 inches in size, African Dwarf frogs don’t require very large tanks for you to take care of them properly.

African Dwarf Frog

Appearance & Size

Due to the type of habitats they prefer living in, the appearance of African Dwarf frogs are quite effective in helping them blend in with their environment. You can find such frogs sporting black spots on greenish or brown, muddy skin. Such a muted appearance allows these tiny creatures to hide from predators while staying at the bottom of shallow rivers, creeks, and ponds, or when enjoying themselves in a patch of mud. The limbs and belly are lighter in color.

Take note; these frogs happen to be toothless and tongueless since they are part of the Pipidae family. They have tiny claws on their feet to help tear the food they are in the mood to eat. These frogs eat food by shoving it down their throats with the help of their webbed feet.

As for the size, these frogs are capable of growing up to 3 inches in length. A majority of them are usually smaller. Along with being small, they are also very slim.

However, you should remember that female African Dwarf frogs can become 40% larger than their male counterparts. Plus, the females tend to have a more pear-shared appearance, along with a more apparent genital region.

In contrast, male frogs are smaller, and you will see glands behind their front legs. The glands have been theorized to play a role in the breeding cycle. The males like to “hum” or sing during mating season. However, certain males have been known to sing even when they aren’t in the mood to breed and are just feeling happy. Females will also sing in response to the males, but their humming isn’t as loud.

They also lack ears, and try to make up for it by sensing vibrations via the lateral lines running down their bodies.

Such frogs also shed their skin. It’s a natural process and nothing for you to worry about though, as long as the dead skin is discarded and does not remain on their body.

Avoid This Mistake!

A very common mistake certain people make is confusing African Dwarf Frogs for African Clawed Frogs. That’s why you should learn about the difference between the two, so you know which pet you’re taking home.

As the name states, African Clawed frogs have long claws. You will notice the claws on their front limbs. Not only that, but they also don’t have webbed limbs.

On the other hand, African Dwarf Frogs have webbed limbs and no long claws. They do, however, have small claws on their legs to help with eating.

Another difference includes the shape of their head. African Clawed frogs tend to have a higher eye position as well as a broad snout. Meanwhile, African Dwarf frogs have a pointed snout with eyes located on the sides of the head.

Keeping these frog-related differences in mind will help you in the pet store because you might walk into one where the African Clawed frog has been wrongly labeled as the African Dwarf species of tiny frogs!


If taken care of properly, such types of frogs can be your pets for a very long time. On average, the African Dwarf frog can end up living more than five years. Some of these frogs have been recorded as living close to 20 years. However, a decades-long lifespan is incredibly rare for frogs in an aquarium.

How to Touch an African Dwarf Frog

When ensuring the health of your African Dwarf frog, the most vital thing to keep in mind is never to handle these little critters with your bare hands. Yes, these frogs are pets, but that doesn’t mean you can hand them over to your children to play with.

There are a handful of risks that you should be aware of. While not venomous, African Dwarf frogs do carry numerous diseases, including salmonella. Touching these frogs with your bare hands can lead to the disease infecting you. Salmonella can be quite dangerous to children, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

To keep yourself and the household safe, you should wear gloves or use a net when handling such frogs. If you end up touching a frog with your bare hands, you should wash your hands immediately afterward to avoid the risk of infection. It’s recommended that you also use an antibacterial wipe.

Not only can touching such a frog with bare hands cause disease, but nature also hasn’t intended these frogs to be played with by humans due to their sensitive skin. These small frogs spend most of their time underwater. Even if they do come out, they prefer staying in mud or other highly moist or humid areas.

Keeping them away from water for more than 10 minutes can cause these approximately 3-inch-long pets to experience dehydration. That’s why even if your kids want to play with them while wearing gloves, it will help if you explain to them why they can’t do so. Making these frogs stay away from the water can prove to be fatal. So, be careful.

Not to mention, oils from your bare hands can cause them to be hurt, too. Yes, they really are that sensitive!

How to Touch an African Dwarf Frog

Water & Tank Conditions for Pet African Dwarf Frogs

Once you decide that you indeed want to keep such frogs as pets, you should learn about the right water and tank conditions required to ensure their health.

To keep African Dwarf frogs as pets, you should:

  • Set the tank’s water temperature to 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22.2-25.5 degrees Celsius).
  • Ensure the pH level of the water is somewhere between 6.5 and 7.8.
  • Keep the water hardness anywhere between 5 and 20 gH.

By following these parameters, your pet frogs should be able to live comfortably in the water you have provided them.

As for the tank size, experts recommend giving each frog approximately 4 gallons of water. They like moving around, so they require enough water and space to be happy and healthy.

For 4 frogs, you can opt for a tank capable of holding about 10 gallons of water for them to be comfortable. If they are going to live with fish, you will need a bigger tank.

Remember, African Dwarf Frogs should not be placed in deep tanks. As mentioned in this guide, they prefer living in shallow creeks and ponds.

Setting Up the Tank for African Dwarf Frogs

Let’s go over how the aquarium should be set up to offer the kind of environment that African Dwarf frogs prefer.

As already mentioned, these frogs like to live in shallow bodies of water. Even though they do come to the surface to breathe, they mostly stay underwater and near the bottom. That’s why you should ensure that the bottom of the tank has a layer of sand or some other kind of fine substrate. You can use gravel as well, but make sure that the individual pieces of gravel aren’t small enough to be swallowed by your little frog pets.

Such a type of frog loves hiding or resting on plants. That’s why it’s recommended that you add live plants and other decorations (like wood and rocks) for the frogs to have fun with and appease their curious nature. If you add a plant or two that’s taller than the surface of the water inside the tank, you might even find your frog sitting on one of the leaves above water!

Make sure that the top of the tank has some kind of tight lid. The last thing you need is an African Dwarf frog finding its way out of the tank.

The Filter

The filter in the tank shouldn’t be too strong. This is because such frogs aren’t fans of strong currents. It’s also why you will find these frogs in shallow ponds and creeks in nature. Strong currents just aren’t for these little critters, even if they know how to swim.

The Lighting

African Dwarf frogs are nocturnal. However, such frogs do require a day/night cycle to remain healthy while living inside a tank. They don’t require expensive lighting, though. A simple aquarium-friendly light that you can control will do. Just make sure that you offer the pet frogs proper lighting for at least 10 to 12 hours daily.

Tank for African Dwarf Frogs

What Do African Dwarf Frogs Eat?

African Dwarf frogs are omnivorous. And while they can eat both meat and plant-based food, their preference is meaty food items. In nature, you can find these frogs happily eating insect larvae and smaller fish.

While keeping them as pets, you should feed these frogs high-protein food, including fish fry, brine shrimps, and small earthworms. They can also eat fatty food, including tuna and salmon. However, you should take care when it comes to overfeeding them, because these tiny frogs can put on weight quickly.

Take note; African Dwarf frogs don’t require food daily. So if you feed them high-quality food you should only need to feed them four times per week.

Also, feeding them fewer times a week doesn’t mean you should overdo it with the amount of food you give in one session. You should only feed them the amount that can be consumed in one eating session. Giving them too much food because you think they will eat it later will only lead to the food being ignored and ruining the aesthetic and water quality of the aquarium.

How to Feed

When it’s time for you to feed the frogs, you should have a pair of long tweezers with you. Use the tweezers to pick up the food. Try making some noise to focus their attention toward the food, and move the tweezers near them. Keep in mind that, unlike certain fish, frogs won’t come to the surface to eat food. You will need to bring the food to them at the bottom of the tank.

With time, the frogs will learn their feeding schedule and anticipate you coming to feed them.

Understanding and behaviour of african dwarf frog

Understanding the Behavior of African Dwarf Frogs

As mentioned earlier, African Dwarf frogs are quite active inside the tank, especially at night. Their playful nature is one of the reasons people like keeping them as pets.

When they feel threatened, it’s normal for such frogs to hide. You will likely find them behind live plants, rocks, or pieces of wood used as decoration. In contrast, they will usually float with their limbs spread out when they are relaxing. They also like to hum when they are happy.

African Dwarf frogs tend to get along with a variety of fish. The only thing you should keep an eye out for is whether the fish in the tank can be considered food by the frogs, generally because they are too small in size.

Potential Health Risks

Due to their sensitive biological nature, African Dwarf frogs can experience a bunch of health issues. The biggest issue is bacterial infections, which can lead to redness on the skin and even in the eyes. Infected frogs can become very lethargic and refuse to eat.

There are also fungal infections that can result in fuzzy patches of skin. Fungal infections can quickly spread to other frogs. Chytridiomycosis, also known as chytrid, can be a fatal fungal infection for frogs. The symptoms of such an infection include the frog thrashing inside the tank and wanting to escape.

Another health issue is called dropsy or bloating. Dropsy can be caused by a combination of diseases. It can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, kidney or liver failure, or parasites. The symptoms include the frog’s belly beginning to bloat.

If you notice any health issues in a frog, you should immediately separate them from the rest of the group to avoid contaminating the entire tank. Certain bacterial and fungal infections can be treated by medications you can find at a pet store. For more serious cases, you should contact a vet.

African Dwarf Frogs – How to Breed Guide

If you want more frogs, you can begin breeding pet African Dwarf frogs by simulating the natural breeding season. Here’s a step-by-step list about how to do it:

  1. Throughout the month, slowly lower the water level in the tank to less than 3 inches to simulate the natural conditions of the dry season in Africa.
  2. Now, fill the tank up with warm water (at approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 29.4 degrees Celsius).
  3. Maintain the current temperature for two weeks.
  4. Make sure your frogs have plenty to eat during the entire process.
  5. Once ready, the female will begin growing larger in size because she has eggs that need to be fertilized.
  6. The male frogs should be ready to mate at this point.
  7. The mating cycle involves the male frog clinging to the female frog (males cling to the lower half). The female will release eggs as she swims with the male toward the surface. The male will release sperm to fertilize the eggs.
  8. Once the mating has occurred, you should separate the adult frogs from the fertilized eggs.
  9. The eggs should begin hatching in 3 to 6 days.
  10. Keep the tadpoles away from adult frogs and other fish. Allow them to at least grow their legs before putting them in the same tank as the adults.
  11. Infusoria can be fed to tadpoles before providing them with a brine shrimp diet.

You should also talk to your local pet store owner for any tips to help you with breeding African Dwarf frogs at home.

African Dwarf Frogs breeding

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Some Ideal Tank Mates for African Dwarf Frogs?

For those wondering what else can comfortably live with African Dwarf frogs inside a tank, you should know that any non-aggressive fish will do. Guppies, Tetras, and Corydoras should be able to live peacefully with this kind of frog inside the tank.

However, pet owners should ensure that the fish being selected shouldn’t be small enough for the frogs to consider eating.

Along with fish, these frogs can also live with large snails.

Can African Dwarf Frogs Live with Bettas?

Due to Bettas being aggressive, it’s not recommended to pair them up with such tiny frogs. If you already own Bettas, it would help if you keep them and the tiny frogs in separate tanks.

Do African Dwarf Frogs like to be held?

African dwarf frogs are extremely sensitive. Oils from a person’s hand can damage their skin. They are not meant to be taken out of the tank for petting or play because even a few minutes away from moisture can cause dehydration and death. Touching their skin with bare hands can cause you to experience a salmonella infection. However, feel free to enjoy looking at them as they swim around inside the tank.

Are African Dwarf Frogs good pets?

Yes, African dwarf frogs can make good pets while living inside your aquarium. They aren’t too tough to take care of and adjust nicely with non-aggressive fish.

How many African Dwarf Frogs should be kept together?

It is recommended to keep African dwarf frogs in pairs because they have a sociable nature. You can keep as many of these frogs as pets as long as they have enough space to play around in. You should have approximately 4 gallons of water for each frog. So a group of 10 frogs can live comfortably in a 20-gallon tank, for example.

Do African Dwarf Frogs make noise?

African dwarf frogs are not noisy pets. However, males will occasionally hum or sing when attracting a female to mate with or when they are feeling happy. Female frogs will sometimes hum too in response, but their humming sound is quieter. Most frogs will hum during the night. But since these frogs spend most of their time underwater, their low humming shouldn’t bother you.

Do African Dwarf Frogs need light at night?

African Dwarf frogs don’t require any special light or expensive light setups for you to keep them as pets. However, they do require some kind of light system that regulates the day and night cycles for the tank they’re in.

Wrapping It Up

African Dwarf Frog can be a great way to have active little critters inside your aquarium. These frogs are generally easy to take care of, don’t ask for a lot of space, and can live for years. Just make sure that the tank and water conditions are suitable for them, and make sure that you don’t overfeed them or pair them up with aggressive fish, and you’ll be fine!