African Clawed Frog Bloat – Causes & Treatments

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While African clawed frogs are amazing pets, capable of living up to 2 decades in captivity, they’re also sensitive and prone to some health problems along the way.

The bloat disorder is an especially dangerous one, given that it can prove fatal when ignored.

Not to mention, diagnosing the condition in the first place is sketchy if you’re not familiar with African clawed frogs or the disease itself. So, let’s get into that!

Identify Bloat in African Clawed Frog

If African frog bloat sounds too exotic, let’s add some familiarity to it. Consider the notion of dropsy. Dropsy should sound right up your alley if you’re into aquarium fish because that’s exactly what the bloat disorder is.

The condition itself isn’t fully understood, in frogs especially, but there is some general information to gather about it.

First, we know that the condition is linked to the poor functioning of the lymphatic system. We also know that it has several causes and that it’s rather difficult to diagnose properly and, most importantly, in time.

The most relevant sign is the visible bloating effect, making your frog look unnaturally inflated. The abdominal area should be ballooning sideways, with the bloated tissue even spanning to the neck area.

The problem is that frogs can also experience bloating when constipated or when experiencing other digestive issues like compaction.

If you can’t diagnose the condition visually, touch your frog’s belly gently. If the abdomen feels like an inflated balloon, with the skin stretched out beyond what’s normal, you may have a bloating case going. However, if you’re still confused about it, speak to your vet. An x-ray session should set things to rest fast.

Causes of Bloat in African Clawed Frog

Several triggers are responsible for frog dropsy, including:

  • Bacterial infections – Bacteria are generally linked to poor living conditions but can also infect the frog via food. Bloodworms are the standard culprit, which is why I always recommend bloodworm cultures to commercial bloodworms. Home-grown cultures may take more work, but they produce healthier and more nutritious bloodworms than what you can buy from various sources. If your frog is experiencing bacterial-related bloating, quarantine it urgently. This will prevent the condition from transferring to other frogs, in case there are any nearby.
  • Improper diet – You should refrain from feeding your African frog things it’s not supposed to eat. I understand the urge, but it’s not worth the risk. Don’t feed your frog insects or worms caught in the wild since these are more likely to be packed with bacteria and viruses. Always feed the frog safe, healthy, fresh, and verified food to make sure it’s safe for consumption.
  • Impaction – This is another dropsy trigger that, unfortunately, is also difficult to prevent. In short, compaction is a digestive problem resulting from the frog ingesting a hard object. In most cases, that refers to a rock or any non-food item that could cause an intestinal blockage. The frog will swell as a result. Such incidents are more prevalent if your frog’s habitat contains a variety of pebbles, small and colorful items, or pieces that the frog can swallow by mistake.
  • Water retention – This is another common trigger that has a lot to do with calcium deficiency. A suboptimal diet can cause the frog to experience calcium deficiency, forcing the body to retain more water than usual. This will cause a visible bloating effect that you need to address fast.
  • Tap waterTap water is dangerous for African clawed frogs due to the high content of various chemicals, including chlorine. Bloating is one of the immediate health problems, but your frog can develop an array of conditions, depending on which chemical is most prevalent in the water.

Other potential causes include genetic predisposition to digestive problems, parasitic infestations, pancreatitis, and even congenital heart defects.

Many of these problems are deadly, and some can trigger a swift death. Needless to say, urgent diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent such an outcome.

How to Treat Bloat in African Clawed Frogs?

Once you’ve determined the cause, you must begin the treatment quickly.

Here are some recommendations in this sense:

  • Salt bath – This remedy is only useful to counter compaction. In short, you prepare a different container with a bit of salt (generally ½ teaspoon per gallon of water) and allow the frog to swim in it for 2-3 minutes at a time. You can reset this process several times per day until the problem goes away. Your frog should show improvement within the first 24 hours. If the situation stays the same, consider contacting your vet. It’s worth noting that salt baths aren’t exactly safe. Dose the salt improperly, and your frog can die.
  • Antibiotics – These are always useful when handling bacterial infections, but they require knowledge and precision. You shouldn’t use them if you have no idea how they work, the amount to use, or the side effects associated with them.
  • Speak to a professional – I would recommend this approach above all others. We’ve already established that diagnosing your frog’s condition is difficult, and the treatment depends on the underlying triggers. I suggest speaking to your vet at the first sign of bloating for proper diagnosis and treatment guidance.

You should clean your frog’s habitat properly, including changing 10-15% of the tank water daily, vacuuming the substrate, and removing any visible dead organic matter.

How Long Can African Clawed Frog Live with Dropsy?

The lifespan of a frog infected with dropsy depends on the disorder’s causes and severity.

Your frog’s overall health, age, and quality of care can also play a factor in the math. Generally, infected frogs can live between several days to even a year with dropsy, depending on the cause.

It’s critical to note that not all African frogs can recover from dropsy. Some will simply get too sick too fast, making them unable to recover.

You have 2 options at this point:

  1. Provide the frog with the best care possible to minimize the suffering
  2. Consider euthanasia

It’s up to you to decide which path seems to be the most acceptable one.

How to Drain a Bloated African Clawed Frog?

For the record, I don’t recommend draining the African frog yourself. While the procedure itself is straightforward on paper, reality can differ dramatically.

In theory, you use a needle and a syringe to draw liquid from the frog’s abdomen.

This will reduce the pressure on the frog’s organs, reducing the physical stress associated with the condition.

This being said, I don’t think I need to pinpoint the risks of stabbing your frog with a needle if you’ve never done it before. One wrong move and the needle can do irreversible damage.

So, I only recommend relying on a frog professional for this job.


As adorable as African clawed frogs are, they’re some of the most sensitive aquatic pets you can get.

They require a healthy and fresh habitat, stable water parameters, and a diverse and nutritious diet to thrive. They’re also prone to various conditions, dropsy being the most notable one.

Fortunately, you now know how to identify and approach the condition safely. When in doubt, always rely on a specialist.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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