African Clawed Frog – Species Profile & Facts
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If you’ve never had a pet frog before, now’s the time to break the ice. Few animals are less exotic and exquisite than a peaceful, carnivorous, and cute African clawed frog that can easily reach 15 years in captivity with good care.
While you can’t really handle the frog as you would other pets, you’re bound to develop a deep connection with the friendly amphibian.
Today, we’ll discuss the African frog, trying to shed light on one of the less common aquatic pets available on the market. So, let’s get it going!
What is an African Clawed Frog?
Xenopus laevis, or the African clawed frog, is a medium-sized amphibian residing mostly in Africa, in the sub-Saharan ponds and rivers.
This frog is more water-dependent than other species due to being prone to skin dryness. You can’t keep the frog out of water for too long, or its skin will dry out, leaving the amphibian prone to skin damage.
There are several reasons for the frog’s popularity, including its easy-going nature, peaceful temperament, and long lifespan.
The downside is that the frog requires optimal living parameters and constant maintenance and cleaning to remain healthy over the years. Unfortunately, African frogs are prone to infections and species-specific diseases that we’ll discuss later.
African Clawed Frog Requirements
The African frog is quite demanding in terms of environment and overall cleanliness.
Fortunately, these amphibians don’t need much space, but they require a stable, healthy, and well-maintained habitat. Here are the basics to consider:
Tank Size & Setup
Aim for at least 10 gallons for your African frog. Skip the land because this is a fully aquatic animal, unlike most amphibians.
This alone is a peculiar characteristic, given that the African frog doesn’t lack the ability to travel on land. It just doesn’t due to its skin sensitivity and water dependence.
When it comes to the setup itself, go for a rich and well-decorated habitat that would mimic the frog’s natural ecosystem.
A gravel substrate would be great, especially when decorated with some occasional rocks and caves for hiding purposes. Live plants are also necessary to help the frog feel safer and more comfortable.
African frogs need a variety of hiding spots to keep themselves in good mental health. Make sure that the gravel is large to prevent the frog from ingesting some of the smaller pebbles.
Also, keep in mind that African frogs can be quite active with their claws, so they use to dig up plants and disturb the substrate quite frequently.
If you can’t keep any live plants in their habitat, go for fake ones instead; it’s what most African frog owners go for anyway.
Room temperature is sufficient for your African frogs, so aim for a temperature range of 60-80 F. A day-night cycle is also necessary to cater to the frog’s biorhythm, although you don’t need a source of UV lighting.
Only add some artificial lights if the room is darker than it should be, which can confuse the frog regarding the time of day.
Also, keep in mind that while these are aquatic animals by behavior, they rank as semi-aquatic by biological formation. So, your frogs will breathe atmospheric air rather frequently.
Make sure that your African frogs have easy access to the water surface and, most importantly, cover the tank with a lid. Frogs are known jumpers, so they can easily jump out if they feel like it. Get one with holes in it for proper air circulation.
Also, make sure that the water depth stays between 7 and 12 inches. This is enough for the animal to reach the water surface with ease whenever necessary.
Your African frog will move between the substrate and the water surface frequently for feeding or breathing purposes.
Feeding & Diet
Four things you need to consider when feeding your African clawed frog:
- Food diversity – African clawed frogs, require a diet that would emulate their natural feeding profile. So, you can’t feed them one type of food only but several, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, snails, earthworms, amphibian sticks, and a variety of frog-specific commercial foods. Make sure that any commercial food you’re getting is tasty, fresh, and contains the right amount of nutrients.
- Live foods – I recommend feeding your frog live food whenever you can. This is not only due to the higher content of protein and nutrients but the challenges it presents as well. Remember, African clawed frogs consume live foods almost exclusively in the wild. So, they’ve developed a knack for hunting and eviscerating their prey with their hind claws. Allow them to indulge in this feral behavior whenever possible to keep them active and mentally sharp.
- Preventing overfeeding – It’s extremely easy to overfeed your African clawed frogs thanks to their insatiable appetite and gluttonous behavior. These amphibians will easily eat more than they should, so it’s up to you to control their diet. This means you should always assess your frog’s physical appearance once every several days. If it looks like the frog is putting on some weight, reduce its feeding frequency or meal size a bit.
- Personalized diets – This is a tricky one. While all African clawed frogs eat the same things, they eat in wildly different quantities. One adult frog can eat twice the food of another, even though they’re of the same size and age. Also, some frogs prefer certain food items over others. Learn your frog’s preferences and feeding behavior and adapt to their requirements for optimal results.
Do African Clawed Frogs Need a Heater?
Not necessarily. African frogs only need a heater if the temperature tends to fluctuate too drastically between day and night.
While these amphibians can remain comfortable in a pretty generous temperature range, they won’t appreciate temperatures outside their comfort zone. And they certainly hate sudden or dramatic temperature shifts.
Even so, I recommend investing in a heater just to be sure. This piece of equipment is great for aquatic and semi-aquatic animals that live in close environments and which require specific living conditions.
The heater will give you more control over the frog’s habitat, which is always good.
Do African Clawed Frogs Need a Filter?
This is a sensitive topic because answers vary drastically, depending on who you ask.
The consensus is that African clawed frogs don’t need a filtration system, primarily due to their biological construction. African clawed frogs can detect water vibrations via specialized organs for hunting purposes.
This allows African frogs to detect movement in the surrounding aquatic environment.
This quality can easily become a curse under the wrong circumstances. The idea is that constant water vibrations, such as those produced by the filter, will stress out the frog by overstimulating its nervous system.
So, many people advise against using a filtration system in the frog’s environment.
However, the situation may not be as simple. A 2012 comprehensive study on the matter showed that jackhammer vibrations were responsible for triggering the most severe responses.
We’re talking about a combination of vibration of 19 m/s2 and noise of up to 95 dB. So, the African frog may not be as sensitive as people claim it to be.
If you prefer to add a filter to their habitat, ensure the power stays low to minimize water movement.
I suggest removing the filtration system if your African frog displays signs of stress after turning it on. You may have a more sensitive specimen on your hands.
How Much Do African Clawed Frogs Cost?
Your typical African clawed frog can cost between $20 and $30. We’re talking about a healthy juvenile with no signs of disease or genetic defects.
Just make sure you get your frog from a trustworthy seller. This amphibian is more sensitive to poor water conditions and improper living parameters than you’d like. We’ll dissect this topic shortly.
What is the Lifespan of African Clawed Frogs?
African clawed frogs can live up to 15 years in captivity. This is the maximum lifespan of a healthy frog with good genes when kept in ideal living conditions.
Unfortunately, the amphibian is prone to a variety of health problems.
These include dropsy, bacterial infections at the skin or eye level, fungal infections, and frog-specific red-leg syndrome.
The latter is the result of poor habitat hygiene and the direct activity of pathogens like Aeromonas hydrophila, Aeromonas spp., Pseudomonas, and Proteus spp. These microorganisms can trigger septicemia, which can become deadly fast.
Fortunately, all these diseases are easily preventable and treatable, so long as you act in time.
You may have to consult your vet to make sure you’re applying the treatment correctly.
How Big Do African Clawed Frogs Get?
Expect your frog to grow up to 5 inches, although some specimens can remain as small as 2 inches.
Females tend to grow larger, but the living conditions and diet will also dramatically impact the amphibian’s size and growth rate.
Are African Clawed Frogs Aggressive?
Yes, they are. These amphibians are both aggressive and territorial and will consider any tankmate as food, so long as it’s small enough.
As a key point here, the African clawed frog is often mistaken for the African dwarf frog, which is some of the most peaceful amphibians you can get.
This may be the reason why you will get conflicting information on the African clawed frog’s aggression levels.
But make no mistake, this is one vicious animal that won’t hesitate to eviscerate any creature that happens to cross its path.
Interestingly enough, the African clawed frog can also showcase social behavior, especially toward its handlers. It’s not unusual for the amphibian to learn how to eat from your hand with time.
Expect the frog to mistake your fingers for food quite often, though. This isn’t a reason for concern, as the frog doesn’t have any teeth, so it can’t really hurt you.
African Clawed Frogs Tank Mates
There are 2 types of potential tankmates for your African clawed frog: the ones that the frog can eat and the ones that can eat the frog.
There’s no in-between. The African clawed frog is a vicious predator with a knack for disemboweling anything that dares enter its habitat. Nothing is safe, from fish to snails, shrimps, or any other aquatic animal.
I don’t recommend housing them with any other animal unless we’re talking about feeder companions. In this case, by my guest; the newcomer will serve as great target practice for the relentless and cold-blooded aquatic assassin.
Are African Clawed Frogs Good for Beginners?
No, I wouldn’t say they are. While it doesn’t take much to cater to the frog’s needs, the animal’s sensitivity takes away from its approachability.
African clawed frogs are too sensitive to their environmental conditions for a beginner to handle them safely. I advise acquiring more experience in handling sensitive aquatic pets, whether they’re frogs or any other species.
The goal is to comprehend the basics of aquarium and terrarium maintenance to the point where you can sustain the habitat’s cleanliness and stability.
Only then can you consider investing in an African clawed frog.
How to Tell if African Clawed Frog is Male or Female?
Fortunately, there are several indicators that differentiate between African frog males and females. The size is the most noticeable one.
Female frogs are larger and plumper than males, a size difference that will increase during the breeding season when females fill up with eggs.
Males also showcase distinct black patches on their arms which have anti-adherent properties. These allow the male to catch and hold onto the female despite its slippery skin.
The cloaca is another noticeable difference, as that of females is more pronounced.
Female frogs also possess visible bulges above the hind legs, which are created by the internally-stored eggs.
How do African Clawed Frogs Breed?
African frogs breed approximately 4 times per year but require specific breeding conditions.
- Dropping the water temperature to 66-68 F to simulate the conditions during a spring rain; this should last approximately 4-6 weeks
- Reduce the water level to a maximum of 6 inches
- Partial water changes are necessary to keep the frog’s habitat clean and healthy
- Increase water temperature up to 78-82 F for a period of 1-2 weeks
Once all these conditions have been met, the male will release its mating call, which is a metallic vocalization, similar to a click. The female will reply with her own clicks.
The male will grab the female in a loving embrace, the result of which consists of around 200 eggs. The male frog will fertilize the eggs, at which point the incubation period will begin.
Expect the eggs to hatch 3 to 7 days later, depending on the environmental conditions.
That is unless the frogs eat them first since they are notorious for doing so. A separate breeding tank is necessary to prevent that.
The resulting offspring (tadpoles) require live plants to latch onto for several days, during which they undergo a visible physical metamorphosis.
They will begin to feed on various microorganisms by the 7th day, requiring around 2 months to become froglets.
African clawed froglets will reach adulthood between 16 and 24 months, depending on the specimen, diet, and several other factors.
Can African Clawed Frogs Live Out of Water?
No, they can’t. These are atypical amphibians, given that most other amphibian species are semi-aquatic and can easily survive on land for some time.
This isn’t the case with African clawed frogs, which are entirely aquatic. Their only contact with the out-of-water environment is via occasional surface breathing, and that’s it.
So, don’t waste the tank space with some thoughtful-placed patch of land that the frogs won’t even bother with.
There’s no denying that African clawed frogs make for exhilarating pets, so long as you have experience in amphibian care.
Keep in mind that these frogs are pretentious and require more care and maintenance than you may be used to.