African Clawed Frogs

African clawed frog
African clawed frog in water with gravel underneath. Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

African clawed frogs get their name from both the three claws on their hind feet which are used to tear food apart and their place of origin in Africa. They have become popular household pets due to how easy they are to care for and their longevity.

Housing African Clawed Frogs

African clawed frogs are 4-5 inches long and can live for about 20-30 years in a strictly aquatic environment. There are many variations in suggested tank size for these critters, but being a fairly large sized frog, African clawed frogs require some space.

As a minimum, approximately 10 gallons per frog is a good rule of thumb to follow when setting up a tank for your amphibian. While African clawed frogs do not need a land area, the water should only be about 12 inches deep so that the frog will be able to easily reach the surface, since they must breathe oxygen (a minimum of 6 inches is recommended to allow the frog room to maneuver). A secure lid is also a must as these frogs are adept at propelling themselves out of the water and escaping when they are given the chance (escaped frogs have contributed to invasive populations outside of Africa).

A gravel substrate can be used on the bottom of the tank but avoid small gravel to prevent accidental ingestion. Use rocks, wood branches or logs, and flower pots to decorate the tank and provide hiding places (African clawed frogs with no place to hide may become stressed). Artificial or safe live plants can also be added to the tank but the frogs will dig up and generally destroy live plants so many people go the artificial route instead.

Heat and Lighting for African Clawed Frogs

One big benefit to caring for African clawed frogs is that you don't need to worry about special lighting for your amphibian. Your frog tank can be kept at room temperature 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit and no special lighting is required. Some people do provide indirect lighting or use a simple aquarium light to make sure there is a normal 12 hour light to 12 hour dark light cycle though.

Water Quality for African Clawed Frogs

The issue of filtration is somewhat controversial in the frog world. African clawed frogs have a sensory system (lateral line) that allows them to sense vibrations in the water instead of ears, so some experts believe that using filters provides constant stressful stimuli to the frog (similar to a human constantly being exposed to the noise from a jackhammer). However, gentle filtration is used by some owners with success, and this will keep your frog's water a lot cleaner than going without a filter. African clawed frogs live in stagnant water in the wild but that is not the same as dirty water in an aquarium due to the natural bacteria, rain, and ground filtration that exists in the environment. If no filtration is used in your tank, be sure to change the water almost fully every week, if not more often.

The water in the tank must also be de-chlorinated using a product from the pet store designed to remove chlorine (and chloramine, if necessary) or it can sit out for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine an opportunity to evaporate (but most tap water now has chloramine in it as well so you are really better off using the drops from the pet store).

African clawed frogs can also be very sensitive to the toxic effects of metal ions in the water, so ensure that the water you use also does not come in contact with metal (such as the tank lid, thermometers, etc.).

Feeding African Clawed Frogs

African clawed frogs will take many kinds of foods, live or not. Many owners feed floating reptile or amphibian sticks with success due to the ease of use and availability. While these sticks are typically well balanced, feeding a variety of food is still a good idea for your African clawed frog. Items such as waxworms, earthworms, feeder fish, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and even some dog and cat food can all be fed. In addition, a commercial food for clawed frogs can be purchased from some companies that sell frogs and food to research facilities. Since these frogs are used fairly extensively in research, supplies for them are readily available.

As long they eat a balanced food, supplementation with vitamins and minerals is not necessary.

Feed the amount your frog will clear from the water in 10-15 minutes up to daily. In general, overfeeding is more of a problem than under feeding, so feed daily and keep an eye on the body shape of your frog. If your frog seems to be getting overweight, then cut back your feedings to once every other day.

African clawed frogs often become quite tame over time, taking food directly from their owner's fingers. They do sometimes accidentally nibble on fingers, but they lack teeth so this is not an issue. These frogs also lack tongues and eat by stuffing food into their mouths with their front legs. They can be quite messy as a result but also fun to watch.