African Dwarf Frogs - Care Sheet! Great Info

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Fish Fanatic
Mar 17, 2004
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Ontario, Canada
I found this incredibly informative care sheet on African Dwarf Frogs and I wanted to share it with everyone here. I see a lot of bad information going around when it comes to African Dwarf Frogs so I hope this helps people understand the proper way to house and feed these wonderful little animals. The care sheet was written by a gentleman named John E. Dove.

African Dwarf Frogs (Hymenochirus curtipes) Care Sheet
by John E Dove
These cute little fully aquatic frogs originally come from the rivers and streams of central Africa in the wild. Since they are fully aquatic they make great pets for the aquarium enthusiast as well as those who like keeping Amphibians.
Their color can range from a light olive green to a darker brownish green. With proper care they have been known to reach a snout to vent length of 2.5 inches (6.35cm) and live for 5+ years.
Purchasing an African Dwarf Frog
Of course to have a long happy healthy relationship with your ADF it is important to start out by selecting a healthy specimen to begin with. When choosing your frog you should look for one that has clear eyes, smooth skin, swims actively, stays around the bottom of the aquarium, hides from view and when it is being caught swim away from the net.
Any ADF that is floating around the top does not attempt to hide when disturbed, that just sits there when being caught or has cloudy eyes is probably sick and may not last long no matter how good the care you give it is.
While African Dwarf Frogs can be kept in small aquariums you should never use less than a 3 gallon (11.36 liter) aquarium and in my personal opinion should have at least a 10 gallon (37.85 liter) aquarium. There are a number of reasons for not using an aquarium of less than 3 - 10 gallons (11.36 - 37.85 liter) for African Dwarf Frogs.
1. African Dwarf Frogs are social amphibians and do best in groups of three or more. Following the one inch of aquatic animal at the size they can potentially achieve per gallon of water rule which is the standard for fresh water aquarium inhabitants. In order to keep three frogs we would need at least 7.5 gallons (28.39 liters) of water without the plants or decorations.
2. African Dwarf Frogs require a stable warm environment 72 - 82F (22.22 - 27.78C) and with smaller aquariums room temperature fluctuations will greatly influence the water temperature in the aquarium causing them to become to cold or to hot. This problem is lessened proportionately as you increase the size of the aquarium, For example; a 3 gallon aquarium might take 1 hour for the temperatures to rise to 95F if the surrounding room temperature rises to 95F but a ten gallon might take 3 hours.
3. Another reason for using at least a 3 - 10 gallon (11.36 - 37.85 liter) container is maintaining proper water quality. ADFs of course must be fed which means not only the production of waste but also a build up of uneaten food. These waste products quickly begin to rot and release ammonia into the water and ammonia is not only toxic to the fish but it also can cause any number of health problems that will permanently affect the fish if it survives them. Ammonia also breaks down and produces another toxin, nitrite, which eventually will become nitrate. In order to prevent the build up of these toxins in the aquarium the aquarium must be have an adequate filtration system and should be properly cycled. Aquariums of less than three gallons cannot be properly cycled.
4. As mentioned above an appropriate environment must be properly cycle. This cannot be done with smaller bodies of water. Cycling is just a process whereby we establish the proper bacterial agents in the aquarium environment to break down the above mentioned toxins more quickly so they do not harm the inhabitants. This should be done well in advance of purchasing your African Dwarf Frogs.
To cycle an aquarium it should be set up, complete with water, substrate, filter and heater, well in advance of the purchase of the ADFs. To monitor the cycling process in an aquarium you will need a few test kits that every aquarist should have anyway. These test kits should be one for ammonia, one for nitrites and one for nitrates. To begin the cycling process food should be added to the functioning aquarium just as though it contained the inhabitants already. Each week you will need to do a 10 – 20% water change, during this time you should be monitoring the ammonia and nitrite levels. At some point you will notice that the ammonia and nitrites will each in turn top out and start dropping. The acceptable amount of ammonia and nitrites in your aquarium is 0 and you should have .30 or less nitrates. The nitrate reading is sign that it is safe to add fish and that cycling has finished. Though you can speed up this process by using objects or gravel from a long established aquarium, the bacteria you are trying to encourage live on the surfaces of aquarium objects, you will still need to allow your new aquarium to complete the cycle and monitor the toxins.
The cycling period is also a good time to work with the controls of your heater to establish a constant regulated temperature.
5. African Dwarf Frogs are naturally from an environment where there is lots of plant life for them to live and hide in thus a planted aquarium with real or simulated plants is home. In an aquarium of 3 gallons (11.36 liter) or better you can plant live plants or place silk plants so that your ADFs have both swimming area and aquatic vegetation to hide in when they want.
A well fitting Aquarium cover is recommended to prevent disastrous escapes.
Though African Dwarf Frogs are primarily nocturnal you should provide about 12 hours of light each day to establish a summer day night cycle Since these frogs can get the vitamin D3 required for calcium absorption from the foods they eat you do not need to provide UVB lighting. Nor should you provide lighting that is excessively bright as this will cause the frogs to go into hiding and could damage their eye sight.
Since you also want to have as much control as possible over the heating of the aquarium it is suggested that you use a low wattage florescent light
African Dwarf Frogs require a stable warm environment of 72 - 82F (22.22 - 27.78C) unless you keep your house at a constant 77F (25C) it is recommended that you purchase an aquarium heater and a thermometer with which you can regulate and monitor your water temperature daily.
Water Quality
Just as the proper housing lighting and heating is important successfully keeping healthy happy African Dwarf frogs maintaining the quality of the water they live in is equally as important if not more so.
To make these frogs comfortable in their home you need to keep the water pH between 7 and 7.8 though it has been my experience that they do best with a pH range of 7.4 – 7.8
To ensure the highest quality water it is recommended that you do a 10-20% water change every week using an aquarium vacuum siphon to remove any waste from the gravel substrate.
Food & Feeding
ADFs are by nature bottom feeders which mean they look for their food on or around the bottom of their watery environment. They will do quite well on live or thawed frozen blood worms and/or brine shrimp, tubiflex worms and chopped earth worms though they will eat some sinking fish foods as well.
Feed your frogs until their bellies start to bulge a little.
Young African Dwarf Frogs should be fed at least once per day but many people report excellent results with a feeding program for babies that includes feeding twice a day.
Adults should be fed once every other day.
It is not uncommon for newly purchased ADFs to go through a period where they seemingly will not eat or seem to not be able to locates their food. If you experience this it may be necessary to hand feed them with a pair of forceps or blunt nosed tweezers. To do this simply pick up a blood worm with your instrument and gently move it around it in front of the frog. Once it starts taking the blood worms from you in this manner you can start encouraging it to hunt for it’s food by gradually increasing the distance from the frog you hold the bloodworms. Eventually you will be able to just drop the prey into the aquarium and the frogs will hunt for them on their own.
ADFs reach sexual maturity at about nine months of age.
Male African Dwarf Frogs are usually smaller and less bulky that females. When they reach maturity they develop post-auxiliary sub dermal glands behind each of their front legs. These glands look like little pinkish pimples. Of course as with most frogs and toads the male are also the ones that sing/hum/croak to attract a mate.
The females tend to be a bit larger and bulkier with a slightly longer tail protrusion than the males. A mature female with eggs may appear to be pear shaped.
Compatible Fish
Any fish you choose to place in the same environment with your ADFs must be chosen not only for their acceptance of the same water conditions (Temp 72 - 82F (22.22 - 27.78C) pH 7.4 – 7.8) but also for their docile nature.
Some fish that would be reasonably docile and whose water requirements at least overlap those of the ADF are as follows;
Neon Tetras – Temps 68ºF to 78ºF (20-25°C) / pH 5.5 to 7.5 / Max length 1.5 inches (4cm)
Rosy Barb – Temps 64° to 79°F (18-26°C) / pH 6.5 to 7.5 / Max length 4 inches (10 cm)
Guppies – Temps 64ºF to 84ºF (18-29°C) / pH 7.0 to 8.5 / Max length 2.5" (6cm)
Platys – Temps 68-79°F (20-26°C) / pH 7.0 to 8.3 / Max length 2" (5cm)
Black Mollies – Temps 70ºF to 79ºF (21-26°C) / pH 7.0 to 8.5 / Max length 6" (15cm)
Half Beaks – Temps 68ºF to 82ºF (20-28C) / pH 7.0 to 8.0 / Max length 2¾ in (7 cm)
Important When selecting fish to keep with your ADFs you must remember the rule for the maximum number of fish in a fresh water aquarium is 1 inch of fish at the size they will be when they reach maximum growth per gallon of water.
Each ADF, whose maximum length potential is 2.5 inches (6.35cm), counts for 2.5 gallons of water.

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