Dwarf African Clawed Frogs – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

The dwarf African clawed frog (Hymenochirus curtipes) is a species of freshwater frog and is commonly sold throughout North America and Europe as an aquarium pet species.

Although this species does seem to require little maintenance and care, it is not completely so. In captivity, their habitat should be representative of their natural habitat and their diet should be diverse with provided daily care. As long as you are ready to provide a fresh and clean water source, dwarf African clawed frogs can be an excellent choice even for the first-time frog owner.

Surprisingly, there is very little authoritative information on its husbandry and breeding requirements. Given the fact that the dwarf African clawed frogs have been known to science for many decades.

In this guide, I gathered everything we currently know about Hymenochirus curtipes including ideal tank setups, habits, healthy diets, breeding, compatibility, etc.

Important: Recent studies suggest that because of increased economic demand for rainforest wood, the entire Hymenochirus family, may become extinct from their native range in the nearby future.

Quick Notes about Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Name Dwarf African clawed frogs
Other Names Congo frog, African Dwarf Frog, West African Clawed frog, ADF, and DAF (abrev)
Scientific Name Hymenochirus curtipes
Tank size (optimal) 5 gallons (~20 liters)
Keeping Easy-Medium
Breeding Medium – Difficult  
Size 5 – 7 cm (2 – 2.5 inches)
Optimal Temperature 23 – 26 °C (73 – 79 °F)
Optimal PH 6.5 – 7.5 
Optimal GH 5 – 20   
Optimal KH 4 – 12
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Carnivore / omnivore
Temperament Peaceful (with caution)
Life span up to 8 years
Color Form From olive green to greyish and brown

Why Are They Called African Dwarf Clawed Frogs?

German zoologist Oskar Boettger* (German: Böttger; 31 March 1844 – 25 September 1910) originally named them African dwarf clawed frogs in recognition of the small black claws on their hind legs.

Nonetheless, because these claws are generally lost as the frogs mature, these amphibians are now more commonly mentioned as Dwarf African frogs.

Note: Oskar Boettger described many species of amphibians and reptiles new to science. A number of other herpetological species/subspecies are named in his honor.

Distribution of Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Hymenochirus curtipes is native to the Congo basin of central Africa. They are mostly found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

Natural Habitat of Dwarf African Clawed frogs

The dwarf African frog is restricted to the shallow, thickly-vegetated, swamps, ponds, sloughs, ditches, and other marshy wetlands, surrounded by shaded tropical forests. They prefer stagnant water.

Taxonomy Problems and Identification

Hymenochirus is a very small genus. There are only 4 recognized species of Hymenochirus:

  • Hymenochirus boettgeri (distributed in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon),
  • Hymenochirus boulengeri (distributed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo),
  • Hymenochirus curtipes, (distributed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Hymenochirus feae (distributed in Gabon).

Nonetheless, as these African dwarf frogs more or less look the same as one another, the morphological separation between them can be challenging even for scientists.

To make it even more complicated, according to the study, two of the most popular species (Hymenochirus boettgeri and Hymenochirus curtipes) are capable of interbreeding and forming hybrids. As a result, some frog breeders believe that most African dwarf frogs sold in the pet trade are actually Hymenochirus boettgeri and Hymenochirus curtipes hybrids! For example, at some point, Hymenochirus boulengeri was believed to be a hybrid species of H. boettgeri and H. curtipes

In addition, pet stores and aquarists often use the same terms to describe these species. For example, such terms as ‘African Dwarf Frog’, ‘African Dwarf Clawed Frog’, ‘West African Clawed Toad’, etc.

Description of Dwarf African Clawed frogs

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding 2
photo credit to Kate Jackson ©2006 

Dwarf African clawed frogs (ADF) are small completely aquatic frogs.

  • Fully grown individuals can reach up to 2.5 inches (about 7 cm) long. However, generally, the average size of the adult frog is often near 1.5 – 2 inches (4 – 5 cm) long snout-to-vent.
  • Their skin is damp and slippery. That is because mucous glands secrete a protective layer that provides a barrier against pathogens and mechanical damage.
  • The skin performs many functions. It also serves as a respiratory membrane, helps reduce water loss, and helps regulate body temperature.
  • These frogs interact with their environment by smelling, touching, and feeling motion through the water. For that, the African dwarf frogs have a very delicate structure with lateral lines across their bodies. These lines allow them to detect changes and movements in the water that can help them find food.
  • Dwarf African clawed frogs also have a well-developed auditory system that allows them to hear complex underwater acoustic communication with each other.
  • The eyes are lidless, circular, and flat. Nonetheless, they do not rely on their eyesight because they are almost blind and mostly react to shadows. Actually, this is understandable because vision cannot be the main sense used for gathering information from the dark and murky aquatic environment that these frogs typically inhabit.
  • Although Dwarf African clawed frogs are fully aquatic animals, they have lungs (not gills). Therefore, they still need to obtain oxygen on the surface of the water. Their cutaneous respiration (respiration through the skin) is not developed enough to intake oxygen via the skin alone.
  • Another interesting characteristic is that they lack both teeth and a tongue even though they are carnivorous.

Difference Between Hymenochirus boettgeri and Hymenochirus curtipes

According to the study, Dwarf African clawed frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) look similar to Dwarf African frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri), except that they have wartier skin.

On the internet you may also find that Hymenochirus curtipes:

  • a little bit larger than Hymenochirus boettgeri (longer, chubbier, etc.),
  • it has less or no spots on the body at all,
  • its color is more greyish to pale tan,
  • their eyes are looking more forward compared to  Hymenochirus boettgeri.

Nonetheless, all these so-called ‘additional’ distinguishable characteristics have not been scientifically proven and documented yet.

Difference Between Dwarf African Clawed Frogs and African Clawed Frogs

Sometimes African Dwarf Clawed Frogs can be also referred to as African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) because they do have little claws on their feet.

It is extremely important not to confuse these species! These species should never be mixed for the safety of the dwarf frog.

The main problem is that the African Clawed Frog is a particularly voracious predator. They will attack almost anything that passes in front of them.

They use powerful clawed hind feet to rip them apart and literally shove the prey in the mouth with strong arms. These frogs are cannibalistic and can also eat other smaller frog species as well.

The introduction of the African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) into a community tank will result in a total massacre. We do not want to unleash terror in the tanks. These frogs absolutely cannot happily co-exist alongside other fish, shrimp, frogs, etc.

Be very careful in pet shops, because these two species might look similar when they are small, therefore, some pet stores keep and sell the African Clawed Frogs as the Dwarf African Clawed Frogs.

  African dwarf frogs  African Clawed Frogs
(Xenopus laevis)
Color from olive green to greyish and brown often greenish-grey
Albino No albino form confirmed possible
Size 5 – 7 cm 12 – 14 cm
Webbed four webbed feet webbed hind feet while their front feet have autonomous digits
Skin rough and warty smooth
Eyes eyes positioned on the side of their head eyes on the top of their heads
Noise males males and females

Lifespan of Dwarf African Clawed frogs

Currently, there is no available data on the longevity of wild individuals. In captivity, Dwarf African Clawed Frogs regularly live for 5-6 years.

However, it can be assumed that if appropriately cared for, Dwarf African clawed frogs can live for up to 8 years.

Typical Behavior of Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - restingHymenochirus curtipes are naturally nocturnal animals. The pick of their activity starts at dusk and gradually stops before sunrise. This nocturnal behavior is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.

Generally, Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are pretty lazy frogs. They do not move a lot during the day. In most cases, they either hide or rest at the bottom or at the top of the tank. They like to stand on their hind legs and stick their nose out of the water or simply float at the top doing nothing.

They will often float at the surface and lay at the bottom for quite some time. As long as they are eating well and have no signs of skin problems, they should be just fine.

Like many frog species, they are also social. These frogs prefer to be in a group or be kept in at least as pairs. They enjoy each others company, it makes their life richer and less stressful.

Although Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are very peaceful and not aggressive frogs, smaller frogs are occasionally bullied by the larger ones.

These frogs can be noisy. This is normal. Males squawk (sounds like a quiet buzz or humming) to find a mate.

They are also shy frogs and prefer to swim away when somebody gets near them. They require lots of hiding places in their tank to feel confident.

Under normal circumstances Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are fully aquatic animals. Although they require permanent bodies of water for survival, they have been known to leave the water on occasion.

Interesting facts:

  • Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are not good swimmers. They can even drown if they cannot reach the surface.
  • Moribund frogs exhibited a preference for a terrestrial environment rather than their normal aquatic environment.

Features:

  • Social: Yes
  • Active: No
  • Peaceful: Yes

Molting Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

They shed their skin every two to three weeks. They will rub themselves against various surfaces to just help quicken the shedding process.
It is recommended to leave it there as they will eat their shed skin. However, if the old skin is still in the tank after 24 hours, you need to remove it. Otherwise, it can foul up the water.

Diet of Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs are relatively non-specific predators and scavengers in their natural environment. In the wild, they feed preferentially on aquatic insects and worms although they will also scavenge on decaying debris, and may even resort to cannibalism, taking their own tadpoles as food.

In captivity, Dwarf African Clawed Frogs will readily accept:

  • Daphnia,
  • Brine shrimp,
  • Cyclops,
  • Frozen bloodworms,
  • Tubifex worms,
  • Chopped earthworm,
  • Trout, etc.

 Basically, any fish or shrimp food (pellets, pills, flakes, etc.) will do as long as it sinks.

Note: Raptomin sticks are excellent basic commercial food for them.

Tips:

  • If you decide to feed them freeze-dried/dehydrated food, they might just get bloated. If so, try switching to live food for a week or so to see if it clears up. The same is about blood worms. It is not recommended to feed them blood worms more than 1 – 2 times a week (only as a treat). These worms are high in fat and can cause major bloat or obesity.
  • Use a small ceramic dish to feed them. It will keep your substrate clean.
Feeding Dwarf African Clawed Frogs is probably one of the most problematic parts of caring for them because they are very slow and inefficient eaters!

As I have already mentioned before, Hymenochirus curtipes species is almost blind, so they have to rely on smell and water vibrations. It makes them really horrible at finding their food.

In a community tank, they will often end up underweight or even starving with the fish competition. In most cases, the fish will find it before the frog can. This is another reason why species only tanks for Dwarf African Clawed frogs are usually recommended because of this problem.

How Often to Feed Dwarf African Clawed Frogs?

Adult Dwarf African clawed frogs typically eat once a day 3 or 4 times a week. Do not be afraid to fast the frogs.

Juveniles should be feed daily or at least 5 – 6 times a week. They simply need more food to grow.

Tip: If their food is not eaten within like 30 minutes to an hour you should remove it and try again a few hours later. Do not leave uneaten food in the tank, it will cause too many issues with water parameters.

How Much to Feed Dwarf African Clawed Frogs?

Ideally, Dwarf African clawed frogs should be fed with as much food as they can consume in 10-15 minutes.

Avoid overfeeding! It can be harmful to the frogs. In addition, it will cloud the water. 

How often should I Change the Menu?

Do not give them the same food for weeks.

The dwarf African clawed frogs need a very varied diet to stay healthy and happy. Therefore, change their diet at least every few days.

How Long Can Dwarf African Clawed Frogs Live Without Food?

When needed, frogs can also reduce their metabolic rates.  Therefore, adult Dwarf African clawed frogs can easily go a few days without food.

Important:  DO NOT do a huge feeding after fasting! It can be quite harmful to frogs. Give them the same amount of food as usual.

Keeping and Housing Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Dwarf African clawed frogs are usually straightforward and easy to care for if you know their requirements. However, for optimal results, here are some handy tips that you should follow in order to keep them in a tank.

Important: DO NOT add frogs to the tank if it is not cycled yet. Although, for the most part, aquatic frogs are pretty tough and hardy but high ammonia and nitrates will quickly kill them because they absorb moisture through their skin.

The most important factor in keeping Dwarf African clawed frogs healthy is a stable nitrogen cycle. Always keep in mind that these frogs cannot tolerate ammonia and nitrites.

Tank size:

Although these frogs do not require a lot of space, the minimum recommended tank size for keeping a pair is a 5-gallon (~20 liters) tank. The dimensions of the tank should allow your Dwarf African clawed frogs:

  • to move or swim around, 
  • to turn fully in any direction without obstruction from tank walls,
  • to avoid any contact with other tankmates when needed. 
Having a larger tank is always preferable for the stability of water chemistry.

The main problem with small tanks is that it can be difficult to constantly control your water parameters. In small tanks, everything can go wrong so fast that you do not have time to fix things.

In larger tanks, you will also have more space to allow the addition of suitable environmental enrichment.

Keep in mind that these frogs come from shallow bodies (often less than 20 inches or 50 cm deep). So, do not put them in tall tanks because it is stressful for them. Remember, they are not the best swimmers.

Ideally, the water should not be more than 10 – 12 inches (25 – 30 cm) deep or so. Dwarf African clawed frogs need long tanks (not tall) to facilitate lung breathing at low energy costs.

Note: Although these frogs are fully aquatic, they have also been known to leave the water on occasion. So, it is safer to have a secure lid for your tank. if they escape and are not placed back in the water in time, they will dehydrate and die quickly. Nonetheless, if they keep trying to get out of the water, you need to check your water parameters!

Water parameters:

Important:  If you are buying captive-bred Dwarf African clawed frogs you need to find out the water parameters they were bred in. It is quite possible that these frogs may have already accustomed to less ‘ideal’ water parameters.

If you can’t find this information, you will have to take the risk and presume that the breeder kept them in water parameters that are close to the natural ones. So, you will have to replicate them.

Temperature: These frogs prefer warm temperatures. The ideal temperature for Hymenochirus curtipes is 73 – 79°F (23 – 26°C).

Note: Heaters and any other electronic elements should be carefully hidden or placed out of reach, so that the frogs cannot interfere with them while they are exploring their environment. In addition, it will be great to have a thermometer to keep track of your water temperature to see if it’s in a range for them.

pH: Dwarf African clawed frogs require water with a pH in the range of 6.5 to 7.5.

Hardness: These shrimp do not like very soft water. They will appreciate the water hardness between the ranges of 5 – 20 GH and 4 – 12 KH.

Stable water conditions are the holy grail for every aquarist. Especially, for those who do not have enough experience.

The leading cause of stress in frogs is poor environmental conditions.

In addition, any changes must be done very gradually, even changes “for the better”.

Water changes:

Dwarf African clawed frogs are very messy. Therefore, they require clean water (no nitrogen, heavy metals, and other harmful chemicals).

Water should be completely de-chlorinated before use. Chlorine is toxic to them, it destroys their protective mucous layer over the skin and can predispose frogs to pathogens.

Let your water age for 24 hours before using it. Chlorine will evaporate out of the water within 24 hours. Nonetheless, this process also depends on your volume of water. There is a big difference between 10 and 100 gallons of cold water. In the first case, you can get water free of chlorine within 24 hours, while in the second, it can take 48 hours and, some of the chlorine may still stay in the water.

If you are using tap water, be careful with heavy metals. Your aquatic system should not be galvanized or copper as well. Water reacts with copper pipes, the pipe starts to rust. When corrosion occurs, copper ions are released into the water and this can result in the death of your frogs.

Important:

  • Substances like chlorine, chloramine, and contaminants should be removed from the water before adding it to the tank!
  • Do water changes every week by 20-30%.
  • DO NOT use distilled or RO water without remineralizing it first.
  • Use a water conditioner. For example, Seachem Prime will remove also toxic gases, and bind to heavy metals, any ammonianitrites, or nitrates present for up to 48 hours.
Recommended products (links to Amazon):

Filtration and Water Flow:

The tricky part here is that Dwarf African clawed frogs prefer relatively still or slow-moving water whereas bubble filters, aeration, etc. cause a lot of disturbance in the water. As a result, the vibrations really stress out the frogs. In addition, because of their clumsiness, Dwarf African clawed frogs can get stuck in intakes.

That is why it is recommended:

  • To use sponges to cover intakes.
  • Choose filters where you can adjust the flow (with the lowest possible setting for your tank).
  • If you have a mechanical filter, use sponge filters, so the frogs won’t get blown away.
  • Aim the output at a corner.

Substrate:

You can have a bare bottom, gravel, or sand. Every substrate has pros and cons.

  • Bare bottom. A bare-bottom tank is safe and the easiest to clean. You can just use a turkey baster to remove any of the waste or any uneaten food.

The downside of this option is that it does not look aesthetically pleasing. In addition, it absolutely does not replicate their natural habitat and will stress them out eventually.

  • Gravel. Make sure that it is large enough that the frog can’t possibly eat it. (You will be surprised at how big a rock they can swallow!)

Swallowing gravel will lead to intestinal blockage and death in the African frogs. Also, these frogs have very delicate skin and they can easily injure themselves. So, you want to make sure that you are using a smooth substrate without any sharp edges. It can reduce the risk of laceration of the skin.

  • Sand. Sand is generally more favorable as substrate. It gives the aquarium a more natural and realistic look. It is also safer, more practical, and easier to clean the tank. In addition, even if Dwarf African clawed frogs swallow it, they often spit it out. So, it poses a limited risk of physical injury.

Lighting:

No special requirements. Dwarf African clawed frogs are nocturnal animals. Basically, they do not really depend on the light. A standard regime of 8-10 hours of light will be enough.

However, if you have plants, lighting should be adapted to their needs.

Related article:

Decorations and Hiding Places:

Make sure that your Dwarf African clawed frogs have lots of hiding places. They are very skittish.

Decorations provide hiding places (shelter and protection) and minimize their stress. This is especially crucial for the molting process when frogs are weak and vulnerable.

These frogs will appreciate all types of leaves, rocks, driftwood, PVC pipes, plastic mesh, plants, and other decorations to enrich the environment in your tank.

Although live plants are great for the community tank, not everyone has a green thumb. Another way is to purchase artificial plants. Choosing thicker plants will ensure there are many good hiding spots available.

Related articles:

Quarantine Everything

 Do not forget to quarantine any new addition (plant or tankmate) before adding it to your tank!

There are many stories when frogs got sick and died because of that. Therefore, all new frogs should be immediately quarantined for a minimum of 20-30 days before any interaction with current frogs. This should be done to reduce the risk of spreading disease from one individual to the other. 

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Basic Tank Equipment for Dwarf African Clawed Frogs
(links to check the price on Amazon)

Rules: How to Handle Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

  • These frogs are not pets you can play with. Do not take them out just because you want to. When you handle them you interfere with their tender skin. It can leave them open to infections or even death.
  • Dwarf African clawed frogs should never be lifted up by their legs! They should be held by catching the head between the first two fingers as it crosses the palm of the hand, followed by the thumb softly restraining the neck.
  • Do not touch them with bare hands unless there is no option. In this case, they should be absolutely clean and wet. Keep in mind that any residue on our hands (soap, hand lotion, etc.) Dwarf African clawed frogs will absorb through the skin.
  • Ideally, you need to use gloves. Do not use powdered or textured gloves since they may damage the frog’s skin, or cause skin irritation.
  • If do not have any other option and you need to transfer them from one aquarium to another, it may be possible to use a soft net (netting is generally not recommended). Cover the opening to ensure your frog will not jump out. Be extra careful since their delicate hands and legs can be damaged if they become entangled in the netting.
  • Do not keep them out of the water for a long time. Their porous skin can result in fatal dehydration within 15 – 20 minutes. They simply cannot survive outside of water.

Important: Do not touch Dwarf African clawed frogs from different aquariums wearing the same gloves. You can transfer infection.

Potential Health Hazards for Humans

Dwarf African clawed frogs (Hymenochirus sp.) are a potential source of Salmonella infection. In fact, if you buy them from a pet store, they can have you sign that you have been instructed about this problem.

DO NOT allow small children to touch the frog.
How to prevent transmission of this infection:

  • Use gloves.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after contact.
  • Do not clean the tank equipment (including nets, feeding dishes, etc.) in sinks where food preparation occurs. 

Sexing Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Hymenochirus curtipes exhibits obvious sexual dimorphism:

  1. Size. Fully grown females are larger in size than males (by around 30 %). They also have pear-shaped bodies because their abdomens fill with eggs as they reach the mating stage. Males are more skinny.
  2. Tail. Females have a small little tail in between the legs.
  3. Breeding glands. Males have a red/whitish/grey pimple near their armpit. They are on both sides. These are so-called breeding glands. These breeding glands enlarge during periods of sexual activity and secrete pheromones to attract the females.
  4. Noise. Males can “sing” or “hum”, it is like a little zippy or buzzing noise. Males vocalize frequently during the evening and night hours. It attracts females.

Breeding Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Hymenochirus species will repeatedly produce eggs only when all conditions are right and they are absolutely happy. Therefore, breeding is pretty rare without some effort on the part of the aquarist.

For example, according to some observations, to stimulate their breeding, they need to be kept in a tank whose water depth does not exceed 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) deep. They usually stop breeding in deeper waters.

Maturity and Mating:

Females usually reach sexual maturity at roughly 9 months of age. Whereas males generally become mature at 1 year old.

Results of the study show that males Hymenochirus curtipes secrete chemicals that stimulate females. Receptive females are attracted to any advertising male. The male clasps the female just above her rear legs as she swims around. This is known as Amplexus.

It stimulates hormonally primed females to expel eggs. Mating can last for a few hours.

The female lays her eggs at the surface of the water, and as she does this, the male fertilizes them. Mating often occurs over the course of a single night, although sometimes it can take even longer.

Eggs:

There is a positive correlation between the size of females and the number of eggs as larger females produce more eggs. Females do not lay all the eggs at once. In general, females may produce from a few hundred up to 1500 eggs.

Under optimal conditions, the eggs hatch within 1 – 2 days of oviposition.

Hatching:

Eggs hatch in about 24 hours. Free swimming life lasts about 27 days. Fully grown tadpoles reach about 2 cm (0.8 inches) before they transform into frogs.

The tadpoles are entirely carnivorous and, due to their small size, require micro-organisms on which to feed during the first few days.

African Dwarf Frogs are also cannibalistic. They will eat their own eggs and tadpoles. So, you will need to remove eggs and raise the babies separately.

Dwarf African Clawed Frogs and Suitable Tankmates

Although Dwarf African clawed frogs are peaceful, social, and small animals, a species tank is still highly recommended. The point is that they are carnivores. This behavior is something that they will do on instinct. Therefore, I do not agree that they can be an ideal choice for a peaceful community tank.

In addition, it can be very difficult to feed them if your community tank has active bottom-dwellers.

Fish:

These frogs can and will try to eat anything that fits their mouth. Therefore, any fish that is less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length can be/will be eaten one day. Do not keep them with small Tetras, Guppies, Gourami, etc.

At the same time, large, nippy, and/or aggressive fish (such as Goldfish, Cichlids, puffers, etc.) should not be kept with Dwarf African clawed frogs as well.

Many aquarists ask questions about the compatibility of Dwarf African clawed frogs and Betta. The fact is that there can never be a blueprint that guarantees success. Just like in the human world, you can have a very aggressive Betta that will harass your frog. be more aggressive than usual. However, there are also reports where dwarf frogs make great companions with Bettas! It is very individual.

Dwarf Shrimp:

Dwarf shrimp are not good tankmates. Dwarf African clawed frogs will eat all of them eventually. It is simply inevitable.

However, some species can be big enough to swallow. For example, Amano shrimp and Ghost shrimp can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm). So, they do have a chance to survive.

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Snails:

These frogs may sometimes eat baby snails or snail eggs. In other cases, they will not bother freshwater snails in the tank. Even if they can fit them in the mouth, their hard shells will discourage them.

Bad Tank Mates: 

Dwarf African clawed frogs are too small and weak to fight back against stronger, more aggressive tankmates. In most cases, they will quickly end up as food.

Disease and Infections of Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

Unfortunately, diseases and infections are not rare things among dwarf frogs. The most common are:

Bloated Frog aka Dropsy

Causes:

  • Internal bacterial infections – are almost always fatal.
  • Abnormal accumulation of serious bodily fluids due to improper body metabolism. It is not lethal and often aquarists drained it with a needle themselves, where the leg and belly met.

Personally, I DO NOT recommend playing a doctor. If you stick a needle in the wrong place you can cause damage to an organ that can be lethal. Even if it helps, it does not solve the problem, as a result, it usually comes back. 

Treatments: A salt bath is the recommended treatment. You need one teaspoon of “sea salt” or “non-iodized” salt per gallon. Salt baths should be no more than 20 minutes per day until cleared.

Red Leg

If you see some red lesions that sometimes form on the hind legs and swellings, it is a sign of the bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila.  Other signs include muscular spasms, lethargy, and vomiting. Once it gets into the blood, the animal will not survive.

Treatment: (Tetracycline oral: 1mg/5g body weight for 5 days).Use salt at a concentration of 100 mM and add 100 micrograms per ml oxytetracycline to the water for a week. Change the water every day. Isolate infected animals and all animals it had contact with. Disinfect all nets and tanks.

Fungal Infections

Fungal and bacterial infections often go hand in hand.

Causes: by infection of the skin by the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (fungus). This infection can result in anorexia and lethargy, cutaneous pigment changes, loss of the cutaneous slime layer, and death.

The skin of the African Dwarf Frogs becomes thicker, which reduces its ability to act as a permeable barrier for electrolytes. As a result, it leads to an imbalance in blood chemistry. It is usually fatal.

Treatments: Mardel Maroxy® Anti-fungal solution available at pet shops. Maroxy is also effective against some bacteria.

If you see some problems with your African Dwarf Frog:

  • remove that frog and put it in a separate tank,
  • check out this site about frogs and their illnesses,
  • ask professional vets,
  • contact with the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians.
If you keep several frogs in the tank, the infected frog should be immediately placed in a “hospital tank” for treatment.

Buying Dwarf African Clawed Frogs

When you choose these frogs at the pet store, you need to make sure that they are healthy and active. They should be at least swimming away or trying to hide when the store staff is fishing them out for you.

A sick frog is slow to respond whereas a healthy frog will dive and seek cover quickly.

All new frogs should be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days before any interaction with current frogs. This is to reduce the risk of spreading disease from one species to the other. 

In Conclusion

The dwarf African clawed frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) are not hard to care for once you understand their needs and establish a routine.

These frogs are very cute but not very active. So, if you were looking for something to be constantly moving or playing, then this is not the pet for you.

As a frog owner, you should always be monitoring the health of your pet and watching out for any indicators of concern because the absolute majority of issues can be traced back to poor care in feeding patterns, inadequate water parameters, and tank maintenance.

These dwarf frogs can be extraordinary companions for many years! However, it also means that you should only acquire these animals if you are willing to give them the special care and attention they need.

References:

  1. Groff, J. M., A. Mughannam, T. S. McDowell, A. Wong, M. J. Dykstra, F. L. Frye, and R. P. Hedrick. “An epizootic of cutaneous zygomycosis in cultured dwarf African clawed frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) due to Basidiobolus ranarum.” Journal of Medical and Veterinary Mycology29, no. 4 (1991): 215-223.
  2. Burns, Alice Elton. “Behavioral evidence for chemical communication in Hymenochirus curtipes.” (1997).
  3. Pearl, Christopher A., Misty Cervantes, Monica Chan, Uyen Ho, Rane Shoji, and Eric O. Thomas. “Evidence for a mate-attracting chemosignal in the dwarf African clawed frog Hymenochirus.” Hormones and Behavior38, no. 1 (2000): 67-74.
  4. Milaney, Kirsten Ann. “Pheromonal stimulation of ovulation in female Hymenochirus curtipes.” (1998).
  5. Jackson, Kate, Ange-Ghislain Zassi-Boulou, Lise-Bethy Mavoungou, and Serge Pangou. “Amphibians and reptiles of the Lac Télé community reserve, Likouala region, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).” Herpetological Conservation and Biology 2, no. 2 (2007): 75-86.

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