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African Clawed Frog - The Ultimate Care Guide

The xenopus clawed frog is also known more commonly as the African clawed frog and it’s a species that originates from sub-saharan Africa. In recent year’s they have been introduced to North America, South America and Europe and they make great pets. They’ve got no teeth nor a tounge and they’re completely aquatic so the care and housing is similar to that of an axolotl. This makes them a great addition to partially submerged or aquatic enclosures. Their most prominent feature is how they get their name. It’s the split in the webbing on their feet and hands which gives the appearance of having large claws. On average these frogs will grow to around 5 inches and live 10-15 years, however there’s instances of them living in captivity for 25 years, however these instances are quite rare.



In terms of care, the African clawed frog is one of the easiest frogs to actually care for, the main reason being that they’re completely aquatic so a small-sized aquarium will suit their needs perfectly. Not only can you keep them in a smaller sized home, but they also eat nearly anything you place in front of them. They’re hardy and widely available online and in pet stores. African clawed frogs are an interesting species and great for beginners.


In captivity, African clawed frogs can live up to 30 years. Adults can grow up to 4 – 5 inches and they’re incredibly hardy; Some keepers have reported them surviving for days and weeks without food, but obviously, don’t allow your pet to do this.


Also, this species is often confused and mislabelled as an African Dwarf Frog in pet stores. They’re very similar in appearance but have some small differences such as not having webbed front feet and having eyes on top of their heads.


The African Clawed frog has eyes at the top of their heads and they’re constantly looking above the water and scavenging for food. There’s a lateral line system that spans the length of their body which gives them an ability to sense movement. This in addition to their sensitive fingers makes them pretty adept at locating a range of food sources!


As mentioned above, they eat almost anything and they’ll use their claws to shred organic matter (things like dead fish). They are currently the only amphibians that are known for doing this!


African Clawed Frog Tank Setup

Because this species is fully aquatic, an aquarium is absolutely the best option for caging them but we’ve seen large DIY tanks with 50% full water at the bottom with a shelf built up to house semi aquatic species! These look very cool, but aren’t recommended for beginners. You can go as big as you like for the aquarium, and bigger means easier to manage in terms of water cleanliness and checking for impurities, but a 10-gallon tank is considered the minimum for one African clawed frog. Stay clear of tanks with no lid - you can use a screen mesh if you want but this species has been known to propel themselves out of tanks without a lid.



So, you’ll need a decent sized tank with at least a screen lid on it, but what else? We suggest using medium sized gravel substrate and placing several hiding places in there such as ornaments and either artificial or live plants. We also suggest using a filtration system such as a bubble filter if you plan on breeding your frogs in the future, or a submersible filter if not. You’ll need to cycle your tank prior to buying your frog, the same as you’d do with aquarium fish (you can read our guide on how to do that here).


While African clawed frogs do survive in stagnant water in the wild, you should not let them swim in dirty water in captivity. The water needs to be cleaned at least once a week by conducting partial water changes (20-30%) or you can install an amphibian friendly water filtration system to decrease the amount of cleaning required.


Lighting

One of the best qualities in caring for this type of frog is you do not need special lighting. While some frog species require UVB and basking lamps, the African clawed frog survives just fine without them. However, if you want to provide them with a light so that you can see them better then by all means do that! Many keepers use a hood light above the tank in order to see them better. You would be wise to give them a normal light cycle though. Try to provide them with 12 hours of dark and 12 hours of light, you can automate this with a timer plug.


Temperature

This is yet another admirable quality for African clawed frogs; They do well at room temperature. So long as the heat stays between 65 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit, your little aquatic frog will be happy and healthy.


Substrate

A substrate of medium or large sized gravel is generally what you see on the bottom of most African clawed frog’s tanks. Using small gravel or pebbles isn’t recommended because this hungry little species can accidentally consume it while eating. Pebbles, once inside your frog, will remain in their stomach and will not be digested and the build-up of rocks and pebbles inside your pet will result in serious injury and even death! Because of this, many keepers opt for using gravel that is too big for your frog to consume.


Water Quality

The most important part of your frog’s habitat is clean, dechlorinated water suitable for amphibians. You must remove chlorine & other harmful toxins from the water before placing your frog into it! We recommend products such as Tetra’s Aquasafe of Seachem Prime for this, as well as cycling your tank before you put your frog in it.



Another option is to buy bottled water, this is generally considered a safe method and is common practice among amphibian keepers, make sure you still test water parameters using a Liquid Test Kit, such as API’s master test kits.


African Clawed Frog Diet

Giving your African clawed frog is one of the most enjoyable parts to owning one - once tamed, they’ve been known to take food directly from their keeper’s hands. Occasionally there might be some finger nibbling, but it won’t hurt because this species doesn’t have teeth (or a tongue, actually).


You’ve got plenty of options in feeding your pet, aquatic frog & tadpole pellets are likely to be readily available at your local pet store. You can also feed them waxworms, minnows and other feeder fish, bloodworms, and earthworms. They’ve even been known to eat dog and cat food as well, but if you don’t have a cat or a dog, don’t go out of your way to feed them this. Nearly any kind of organic food material, dead or alive, floating near your African clawed frog will be consumed! Whatever you choose, remember that a balanced diet is best. Feed them a variety of food and they will remain healthy!



In terms of how much you feed them, it’ll vary with age and size. Feed them as much as they can eat in around 30 minutes, and do this daily. Overeating isn’t a problem compared to undereating and if your frog gets full, they’re likely to just stop eating. If you notice there’s food left uneaten at the bottom of the tank after half an hour, scoop it out so it doesn't affect the water quality and feed them less next time. If your frog starts to get fat, consider feeding them less in volume or feeding them less frequently. Alternatively if they start looking skinny then feed them more and consider giving them supplements.



Reproduction

In the wild African clawed frogs lay eggs only during the rainy season; from late winter into the springtime. In captivity, however, they can lay eggs year round when given the right environmental changes. To discover which of your frogs are male and which are female, females typically are more plump, with chubbier legs. You may be able to see a small bump between their legs where the eggs will be passed. They’re also about 20% larger than males on average.


Simulating a spring-time rainstorm is a great way to help your frogs reproduce. In order to simulate a spring rain, lower the temperature of the water to 65 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit and allow the water level to drop a few inches and keep these conditions for 30 – 45 days. Meanwhile, clean their enclosure by doing partial water changes. After 4 – 6 weeks, increase the water temperature to 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit and increase the water level back to normal.


By doing this you will simulate a spring-time flood and this should induce reproduction. After you increase the temperature and water level, shut the lights off and leave them alone, it’s best to do this step at night before you go to bed as the darkness gives them a sense of security which is always an added benefit.


Fertilized Eggs

If you’ve successfully set the scene for romance, the male frog will call out to the female. The sound is best described as a cricket under water. Sometimes this call will also be accompanied by a dance. In return, the female will respond with a clicking noise. The male, using his arms, will grasp just above the female’s rear legs which is known as amplexus and essentially squeeze her. The eggs will pass through the female’s cloaca and the male fertilizes them outside of the body. A female can lay hundreds of eggs and the entire process can last from two hours to two days.


Once mating is finished, you should remove the eggs from the frog’s tank. African clawed frogs, when hungry, have been known to eat their own eggs so avoid this by placing the eggs in a separate tank with clean water at a temperature of 80 – 82 degrees. These eggs will hatch in 48 – 96 hours.


Tadpoles

The new African clawed frog tadpoles will feed on micro-organisms and will transform into froglets in about two months. Don’t feed them until they start to swim around as they’ll use their yolk for nutrition in the early days. Feed them brine shrimp flakes or tadpole food until they transform and then you can feed them whatever you’re feeding your main frogs.


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