Care Sheet For African Clawed Frogs

  • #1
African Clawed Frogs (ACF) ..."Xenopus Laevis"

Life Span:15-20 years in captivity. These frogs are purely aquatic, meaning that they live their entire lives in the water. However they do breath oxygen!

Size: Males grow to an approximate 3-4" from nose to vent and females grow to 5-6". It takes them up to one and a half years in age*to reach their adult size.

Appearance:* These frogs have webbing between the toes on their hind feet, four fingers on their hands,* and eyes perched on the top of their faces. These come in many colors/patters -* brown/gray/green, albino, piebald, and leucistic.

DO NOT CONFUSE WITH AFRICAN DWARF FROGS!! How to spot the difference = African Clawed Frogs have webbing ONLY on their hind toes, African Dwarf Frogs have webbing on ALL FOUR feet...African Clawed Frogs eyes are perched ON TOP of their head, African Dwarf Frogs eyes are flush against the SIDE of their faces. If it is ALBINO it is CLAWED - African Dwarf Frogs are NEVER albino.

Also - - African Clawed Frogs can and WILL eat African Dwarf Frogs once the clawed frog grows large enough!

Other Info:
* African Clawed Frogs come in a variety of shades of tan, brown, and black, with spotting patterns. They can also be albino.
* They have no tongue or visible ear.

Your Frog's Home:
*A tank with a secure fitting lid - (these frogs are escape artists and you do not want to wake up in the morning to find that your little buddy went on an adventure and died from dehydration!), filter, and sand/large river rock substrate or a bare bottom. Sand becomes tricky because it can easily clog the filter after getting kicked up by the frog's strong legs. Gravel is best avoided - due to their enthusiastic eating habits, a frog may easily ingest a piece of gravel and become impacted. If you decide to go with gravel anyways, use pieces smaller than a pea - your frog has a chance of passing it. However, froglets are fine with gravel for a temporary substrate because the gravel will be too large to fit into their mouths.

*Make sure there is space between the water surface and the lid - these frogs breath oxygen through respiration!

*Lighting can be what ever you like the look of best - but do remember to turn the lights off at night! They need to rest too! A longer night cycle with a short day cycle works well for them (for example, having the light turned on only 10 hours of the day)

*Temperature - - When froglets - temperatures between 74 -78*F are best. When adults - temperatures between 70 -75*F are best.* However, they seem to do well as long as the temperatures stay between 65*F and 80* F.

*They need lots of hiding places!!! Shy by nature, they do become very social in a tank...yet if they become startled they need adequate cover or they can become stressed to the point of death!

*Decor – caves, driftwood, and hiding places are appreciated. Avoid plastic artificial plants – the plastic can tear the webbing between the toes. Silk plants look wonderful and are safe and soft for the frogs to play in and hide under. Weighted plants holdup against the frogs best. Make sure the bottoms of any decorations you use are well submerged into the substrate – most aquarium decorations have hollow bottoms to allow for easy submerging when initially placing in the aquarium, but if your frog wiggles under and gets stuck, it will drown.

*Beware live plants - they will get shredded and uprooted during play! Java Moss balls have been used with success - they add nutrients to the water and look quite attractive. They can also with stand the rough treatment from the frogs and simply be rolled out of the way. Floating plants, like water wisteria also work very well...they give the frogs shade, cover, and the feeling of security. If live plants are not your taste, do have some artificial plants - plants are great for hanging out in and hiding behind!!! Plants with weighted bottoms work best.

*Don't forget weekly water changes! Stir up the substrate to dislodge any buried waste and suck it out!! These frogs are very very messy - luckily they seem to thrive in slightly dirty water so do not become alarmed at the slightly cloudy appearance. However, if it comes to the point where you can't FIND the frogs - cut back on the feedings and install a more powerful filter / up the water changes.

Tank Size Requirements:
The Minimum number of gallons for the tank is 10 - this is acceptable for 1 frog.
*ONE frog can be in an unfiltered tank, but you will have to do extra water changes.

Two frogs is really the limit you can have in a 20 gallon standard or tall tank. For a 20 gallon long tank you can have 3 frogs.

**The reason you can fit increasingly more frogs into a bigger tank is due to filtration and water area. A tank that is too small will lead to a very sick, underdeveloped, and unhappy frog. A long tank is better than a tall tank - gives your frogs more swimming and playing room!
Plan ahead!!! Get a tank that will allow you to house more than one! Everybody loves having friends and your frogs are no different!

African Clawed Frog's diet varies with the age of the frog, but they can eat a variety of live, pelleted and frozen food. Avoid freeze dried food.

Live earthworms, black worms, blood worms, crickets, night crawlers, and brineshrimp. Frozen/Freezedried blood worms, black worms, brine shrimp, krill, beefheart (every now and then - not as a staple diet because it is very fatty and can cause heart failure if fed too often). Pelleted food designed for them - Reptomin sticks, HBH frog and tadpole bites (USA) and Zoomed frog bites (UK). Live guppies are also acceptable as a treat. (Perfect if you have a few adult guppies in a separate tank! They breed so often you will have a constant supply of this delicious entree!)

Do NOT feed live goldfish or minnows - they contain an enzyme that will inhibit the frogs natural ability to absorb vitamin B.

Never feed your frog fish flakes!!! It does not give the frog the proper nutritional values that it needs to grow and be healthy!*

Froglets and frogs under 2 inches in body length should be feed daily.
Feeding an adult frog every other day or every three days is preferable to daily or once a week feedings.

Tank Mates:
African Clawed Frogs are best housed with African Clawed Frogs and nothing else!

If it is alive and can fit into their mouth - it will become a meal! Including other frogs! Large adult frogs will cannibalize! If you are going to get your frog a friend, make sure that the new frog is big enough to fend for itself - the "if you fit I will eat you" rule still applies! Fish, shrimp, snails, and small frogs will all be eaten. ACF will eat anything alive, dying, or dead.

Never mix different species of amphibians and reptiles - for example, a newt would be an awful tank mate for an*ACF - the newt excrete toxins which will harm your frog, and if one is bigger than the other, the smaller will become a snack!

A 3" frog can eat a 3" fish! If you do have fish in your frog tank, be prepared to replace them!
Never have a catfish in your frog tank - if the frog attempts to eat a catfish, the catfish's spines will injure your frogs mouth and tear open their insides! Not a pleasant way to die for either party!

Seemingly lazy, these frogs will spend most of their time hiding during periods of bright light. With dI'm lighting, they are much more active and will spend their time exploring the bottom area of the tank.
These frogs can easily be taught to eat from their owners fingers (Don't worry! They can't bite because they do not have teeth!). By hand feeding my frogs home-raised guppies when they were younger, they became quite used to being handled and seem to enjoy having their stomachs, sides, and backs lightly rubbed.

ACF will shed every couple of weeks. This is a natural process and should not be a cause for concern. Most owners rarely see their frogs shed because it happens so fast. The frog will seem to hover in place for a few moments, do a few jerking motions with its hindlegs to move it's body back and forth in the water, then with a few swift kicks it pushes the skin up and over it's head. The frog often eats the skin while it is shedding it. This is actually nutritional and should not be interfered with.

However, if it comes off in tatters or shreds this may be a sign of illness.


It's hard to tell them apart when they're young.
The reach sexual maturity between 8 and 12 months of age.
The female is rounder and develops a cloaca on her rump. This looks like a small bump or tail and is used in laying eggs and passing waste.
The male is smaller and develops Nuptual Pads. Also called “dirty hands” - this is when the palms and forearms darken to a gray or black color. This happens in all color variations, including albino.

Males will "call" or "sing" for a date! It is similar sounding to a cricket or buzzing underwater. Females do not "sing" for a male but they will answer him. A soft rapping/purring sound means she is interested...but a slow clicking sound means "I have a headache - I am NOT in the mood"!!!

If the female accepts the males advances, he will grasp her waist from behind – this is called “amplexus” - and they will swim all over the tank - the female lays eggs one by one and the male fertilizes them.

Younger frogs lay fewer eggs, but once they reach about 2-3 years of age, the female can lay up to 2,000 eggs at once. A female should not be bred more than 4 times a year to ensure that she remains healthy and has time to develop healthy eggs.

These frogs are cannibalistic and will eat the eggs, tadpole, and froglets. Often, the female will begin eating her eggs even as she and the male are still in amplexus.

**I will add photos in a few days.
  • #2
I'm very late, but this is wonderful Jenste! Great information, our ACFs usually are sold with the worst advice and they are so hardy that they can live in dasterdly conditions so people think its ok to keep them in less than deplorable conditions! Thank you for putting this together!

  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Wanted to add a section on Illness and Injury that I also recently updated on my personal website.

Preventing Illness and Injury
* Treat the tank. = Dechlorinator, Stress-Coat, Stress-Zyme, and Aquarium Salt
* Feed a high quality pelleted diet, do not over feed fatty foods such as bloodworm or beefheart.
* Filter the tank
* Clean the tank
* Do Not Over Crowd!
* Keep on hand = Epsom Salt, Maracyn II/Maracyn Plus, and a spare tank/container for treating ill frogs.

Bloat, aka Dropsy
* Characterized by serious swelling of the limbs and body. Frog literally looks like it is puffing up. (Think of a resemblance to the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghost Busters). Unless diagnosed and treated in the early stages, it is most often fatal.
* Fluid begins to build under the skin. The frog's body is unable to process the fluids and the fluid begins to pool under the skin and around the internal organs.
* Thought to be related to kidney and liver genetic abnormalities or diseases.
* Has been found to occur more in frogs primarily fed fatty foods such as bloodworm and beef heart.
* A high quality pelleted diet and clean water are recommended preventative measures.
* Does not spread from frog to frog - separation is needed to not stress healthy frogs by treating them for something they do not have.
1. If frog is in a community tank then set up a treatment/quarantine tank, 10 gallons is sufficient. If the frog is the sole inhabitant of its own tank it may remain in there. If there is carbon in the filter then remove it prior to treatment. Filter not needed for treatment tank.
2. Start a round of treatment with Maracyn II or Maracyn Plus. Dose as described on package.
3. Daily salt baths. Take a spare container (Tupperware or a Kritter Keeper) - add one gallon of dechlorinated water around 72* and 1/2 Teaspoon of Epsom Salt. Let the frog remain in here for an hour. The discard the water and return the frog to its treatment tank.
4. If no improvement after 10-14 days, the case may be considered incurable. Continue the salt dips for the frog's comfort and keep separated and comfortable. Depending on the severity of the bloat the frog's lifespan is indeterminable. The frog may last a few weeks, to a few months, to the better part of a year. If it was caught early and the bloats progression halted, the frog may live a few years if lucky.

Red Leg
* Characterized by redness and swelling beginning in the upper thighs and spreading to the lower legs and abdomen. The flesh begins to rot and fall off.
* Bacterial infection that is incurable.
* Caused by poor water quality and overcrowding.
* Prevented by maintaining a clean tank with adequate room.
* Highly Contagious. Any frog showing symptoms should be separated from other frogs immediately.

1. Bacterial - Frog will become lethargic, refuse to eat, will have trouble swimming and will be unable to balance.
2. Fungal - Discoloration of the eyes, cottony appearance of skin, shedding skin will come off in tattered pieces.
* Caused by dirty living conditions and poor diet.
* Can be spread from frog to frog.
* Separate any ill frog into its own treatment tank. If frog is in a community tank then set up a treatment/quarantine tank, 10 gallons is sufficient. If the frog is the sole inhabitant of its own tank it may remain in there. If there is carbon in the filter then remove it prior to treatment. Filter not needed for treatment tank.
1. Clean the tank.
2. Treat the water. (Dechlorinator, Stress-coat, Stress-zyme, and Aquarium Salt.
3. Give each ill frog a salt bath every 3-4 days (twice a week). Take a spare container (Tupperware or a Kritter Keeper) - add one gallon of dechlorinated water around 72* and 1/2 Teaspoon of Epsom Salt. Let the frog remain in here for an hour. The discard the water and return the frog to its treatment tank.
4. Maracyn and Maroxy are useful in treating bacterial infections. Follow directions on packaging for dosing instructions.
5. Methelyne Blue is useful in treating fungal infections. Follow directions on packaging for dosing instructions.
6. Improvement should be visible upon improving the frog's living conditions.

Weight loss
* Rapid weight loss is a cause for concern.
* Make sure you are providing them a high quality diet - HBH Frog and Tapole bites and ReptoMin are highly recommended. Overfeeding highfat and low nutrition foods such as bloodworms and beefheart can cause internal organ failure. Feeding feederfish is a risk - often full of diseases that can spread to your frog.
* If the frog is eating, then the cause is most likely an internal parasite. Pick up an aquatic internal parasitic medicine at your local pet store and treat the frog's food as the instructions dictate.
* If the frog is not eating, the cause is most likely a bacterial infection.

* Broken bones - will heal on their own.
* Impaction - cause from eating gravel. Can cause internal bleeding and death. Keep frogs in substrate that is quite smooth to prevent tearing of the frogs internal organs if swallowed. Feed frog soft foods until impacted item is passed. In this case, it is appropriate to feed frog frozen bloodworm and beef heart if needed. Feeding live earth worms (cut to size if needed) is a healthier option.
* Torn Webbing - will heal on its own. Caused by getting caught on aquarium decor. Plastic plants are notorious for tearing webbing - recommended to keep only silk or live plants for such reasons.
* Sores / Wounds - in most cases, will heal on its own with clean water treated with Stress-coat and Stress-zyme. Check all aquarium decor for rough surfaces. Remove any if found.
* Missing toenails - Often fall off due to pushing off of a rough decoration. May be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. If the frogs continue to lose nails, reevaluate their diet.
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Male ACF Mating call

  • #5
Hmm...that male call seems familiar! I guess it's because I hear it all the time when I'm in bed! Great profile Jenste! I'd just like to ask a question. What would hinder a marmokreb (marbled) crayfish from being compatible with an ACF?

Oh, I guess I have 2 questions ! When a male calls constantly, is it a sign of being lonely? Or just him being natural?
  • #6
I used to have one of those!I wish I'd done more research before I bought it so I could have cared for it better.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
There is always a second chance
Chicken farmer
  • #8
These pictures make me miss my afc a lot. She died suddenly . She was almost 5. In great condition. She had just ate her pellets a couple days before she died. After she died there was a big red kind of bruised spot under her skin. It kind of sounds like bloat aka dropsy. I don't remember swelling though. Every time I took the can of food she would be ready to eat. I could feed her by holding the pellet and she would take it.

She was ordered off line in a African frog mix. A friend who took one his go really big like the size of an average hand give or take. But it was African.

R.I.P. Froggy I will always miss you. Especially when you would almost take my finger when you took the pellet.
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
Want to breed?
Here is a basic list of things you should have on hand :

1. HBH Frog and Tadpole Bites
2. Reptomin Frog and Turtle Sticks
3. Turkey Baster
4. Mortar and Pestle
5. 10+ Gallon Tank
6. Mesh Screen Lid
7. Frozen Bloodworms
8. HT 10 Heater for 2-10 Gallon Tanks
9. Thermometer
10. 3 Gallon Bucket
11. API Freshwater Tap Water Conditioner
12. Gravel Vacuum
13. Blender
14. Aerator with Airline Tubing and Airstone
15. Live Water Wisteria

Food - requires Items 1, 2, 4, 7, 13
1.Tadpole powder - Using the mortar and pestle, grind the Tadpole bites and Reptomin into a very fine powder. ACF tadpoles are filter feeders, getting their nutrients from the water they live in.
2.Bloodworm Broth - Defrost a cube of frozen bloodworms in a cup of water. Blend on "Liquify" for 30+ seconds. Remove any left over chunks. Keep only the now pink liquid.

Tank Set Up - requires items 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15
Fill your 10+ gallon tank with water treated with API Freshwater Tap Water Conditioner. Dose as instructed
Insert your heater. You want to maintain a temperature between 78-82*F. Lower temperatures will slow the rate of development as it slows the tadpoles metabolism.
Insert your thermometer, on other side of tank from heater. Monitor temperature multiple times through out the day.
Have aerator plugged in, airline tubing and airstone fed into tank. If needed, make a knot in the airline tubing to reduce the flow of bubbles to a soft but steady stream.
Use the mesh lid to keep the tadpoles safe from items falling in, cats and kids playing.
A small portion of water wisteria, left floating, helps with water quality by feeding off of ammonia and nitrites - produced by tadpole waste and left over food.

Water Changes - requires items 3, 10, 11, 12

Using the turkey baster, suck out any solid waste on the bottom of the tank.
Gently siphon out 10% of the water every other day with a gravel vacuum into the 3 gallon bucket. CHECK THE BUCKET PRIOR TO DUMPING IT OUT! Look for little eyes swimming around. Use a spoon to scoop out the tadpole - do not use a net or your hands - supporting its own weight can kill the tadpole.
Once you pour out the dirty water, use your bucket to prepare the replacement water. Make sure the water is the same temperature as the tank water - temperature shock can kill tadpoles. Use the required dosage of API Freshwater Tap Water Conditioner.
Use your hand or a plate to block the stream of water being poured into the tadpole tank. A gentle flow is better than cascading water.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Stages of Development
From the day the eggs are laid, to the day where they absorb the last bit of their tail.
Morphing process can take any where from 8 weeks to 14 weeks. Each batch is different.

Stage 1
Eggs Laid - The tadpoles will develop in the eggs for 24-72 hours.
You will see the egg turn into a "c" shape if the egg is viable.
If the egg develops mold then it was not fertilized and needs to
be removed before it rots and fouls the water.

Stage 2
Clingers - the tadpoles will now resemble small silver teardrops
and will cling to the surfaces in the tank - decor, walls. They will stay in this stage for 24-48 hours.
They are not yet able to swim and will at most "flutter" to another
surface if they feel disturbed.
They are not feeding in this stage.

Stage 3
Free swimming. The tadpoles no longer cling and are now able to
swim. They will be in a heads down position and will now be able to feed.
Feed a small amount of your tadpole powdered food, 2-3X a day.
Feed enough that the water is clear after 20 minutes.
You can replace one of the tadpole powder feedings with Bloodworm Broth, but do not make the broth their primary food.
It is common for about 30% of tadpoles to not survive. Use the turkey baster to remove any who pass. Do not consider this personal failure - on average only about 60% of tadpoles who hatch make it to the froglet stage.

Stage 4
Growing in size, whiskers develop.
The whiskers help them interact with their environment.
The internal organs can be seen developing - heart, brain, lungs
and stomach are visible at this stage.

Stage 5
Back legs being to bud
This is a huge turning point for the tadpole.
Slightly increase feeding to reflect the extra energy they are using
to begin their morphing process.

Stage 6
Back legs fully develop.
You will see them learning how to use their legs, kicking themselves
around the tank in short bursts. They will still use their tails to get
around for the most part while they build up their leg muscles.

Stage 7
Front arms develop.
Soon the froglet will begin to absorb its tail.
Remember that even in the same batch, froglets will morph at different rates.
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
Stage 8
The tadpoles body begins to "condense".
The wide tadpole body becomes more frog shaped.
It will now begin to absorb it's tail.
When you see some tadpoles entering this stage, reduce feeding. They do not eat while absorbing their tail.

They will also begin to absorb their gills toward the end of this stage and start going to the surface for gulps of air.

Stage 9
Tail Absorption.
Gills disappear and lungs fully function.
Froglet now relies on respiration.

Stage 10
Congratulations! You now have a frog!
Now, feed them the tadpole bites and frozen bloodworms whole.
Each froglet can eat about 1-2 tadpole bites 2x a day
and about 2-3 bloodworms once a day.

Again, each tadpole will morph at it's own rate.
Here are tadpoles from the same batch - vast differences in stage of morphing!
These siblings have different requirements now - move the froglet into another tank to let the tadpoles continue developing without risk of their froglet siblings nipping at their legs, tails, and whiskers.

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