African Clawed Frogs – FAQ

There are many articles out there about ACF’s… many are right and some are dreadfully wrong. I have been keeping ACF’s for 7 years and have found out many practical rules through trial and error. I have also bred ACF’s for a few years and will post details about rearing tadpoles in another topic.

That said… here are the basics… remember these are the very basics and are based on my experiences with ACF’s

ACF’s grow to be roughly 6 inches from nose to backside. They should be kept in no less than a 10 gal. aquarium. I keep my breeding pair in a 20 tall tank just fine.

ACF’s come from still pools in Africa (obviously), and therefore are irritated by filters that disturb the water too drastically. Hang-on-the-back waterfall type filters are just fine, but should be kept on the lowest flow setting if possible.

Originating in Africa, ACF’s prefer temperatures in the mid to high 70’s. In most areas, room temperature is just fine, but they will require a heater in areas where the winter is particularly cold… or in areas where it is cold most of the time.

I cannot stress enough how important a tight fitting lid is. ACF’s are notorious for escaping their tanks and catching them can be difficult and stressful work. To avoid having a fuzz-covered frog, make sure that you have a tight fitting hood without big gaps. You may even find it useful to use a bit of tape to hold the hood closed if you have one of those ones that has a little feeding hatch.

They don’t have any specific lighting needs, a typical day/night light cycle is just fine.

Substrate should be of a suitable size… ACF’s go into feeding frenzies and aren’t above ingesting gravel. I use larger sized gravel for my younger ACF’s and river rocks for the adults.

Live plants WILL be torn up, possibly half eaten, and dislodged from your lovely planting configuration. Silk or plastic plants will end up floating at the top of the water. I don’t recommend using any plants in ACF tanks unless they are securely anchored and don’t have pieces that can be torn off by the frogs. ACF’s can grow to be very strong and are adamant about attacking things they think would tase good. Use your judgement on this one but bear in mind that I’ve raised ACF’s without any kind of plants in the tank with great success.

ACF’s like to have a place to hide. If you have a particularly strong filter that you can’t foil by arranging decor under its flow, this is essential. You can build caves of appropriate size using aquarium safe rocks, or buy a hideout type decoration for the ACF’s. Just make sure that there are no excessively sharp edges and that the frog has no way of getting stuck inside of the hideout.

Make sure that there is NO METAL in the tank. ACF’s are particularly sensitive to metallic ions in the water due to their permeable skin. Do not put them into metal containers when cleaning the tank. Plastic or glass are just fine.

ACF’s are naturally carnivores but they will scavenge if necessary.

As with all aquatic animals that are kept in captivity a varied diet is important for proper nutrition and health, although no major cases of ACF malnutrition have been documented. I feed my ACF’s on a varied diet of adult brine shrimp… both live and frozen (they somehow miss the baby brine shrimp), frozen bloodworms, and floating reptile food sticks (available by several different companies such as Tetra and Wardley ) My breeders were originally wild-caught and have even taken to eating the prepared food sticks quite well. Though it is important to feed a richer diet if you plan on breeding them.

Be careful that you don’t overfeed… ACF’s are bottomless pits when it comes to eating and will often act hungry long after you’ve fed them. Once a day is just fine, and every other day is just fine as well. Sometimes its good to skip a day between feedings every now and then.

Of course as with all creatures, portions should be sized appropriately. I’ll get into more discussion about this when I talk about raising tadpoles.

General Care
ACF’s have very sensitive, semi-permeable skin. This means that you must be absolutely sure that the water you use for their tanks is dechlorinated and contains no harmful chemicals.

If you must handle them, try to avoid using a fish net as their fingers are small and not webbed like their dwarf cousins. Fingers can get caught in the holes in a fish net and be amputated. Large brine shrimp nets work wonderfully and so does hand catching them.

Should you choose to hand-catch your ACF’s… be aware that there are certain ways you should and shouldn’t try to move them. ( see for photos) Make sure your hands are clean and have no lotions, oils, or soap residues on them when you move your frog.

As with any other aquatic pet, tank cleaning is essential, particularly if you choose to feed live or frozen foods which can foul the water quickly. Doing a 25-50% water change once every two to four weeks is usually sufficient. Should you need to do a full tank change, be sure to keep your frog(s) in a container with a tight fitting lid, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about frogs jumping down sink drains accidentally.

I do NOT recommend tankmates for ACF’s. These frogs are better kept by themselves for a variety of reasons. Some may argue over this topic, but it is generally a better idea to house ACF’s alone.

ACF’s will eat any fish that are small enough to fit in their mouthes. When the ACF’s are full grown, this comes to include most varieties of fishes.

Very large snails such as large mystery snails and apple snails are just fine and help to keep the tank clean. Just make sure the snail is big enough to avoid being ingested.

Newts do NOT make good tankmates for ACF’s by any means. I also keep newts and think that they are best kept in a strictly species tank as well. Most newts are poisonous… if an ACF were to try to eat one, not only would you have a dead newt, but a dead frog as well.

Some people have been able to keep large plecos with their ACF’s… this is a case by case situation… I don’t recommend it, but it has been done.

If you plan on keeping more than one frog, make sure that they are similarly sized. Smaller, younger frogs will become snacks to the bigger frogs should you try to house them together.

Should you decide to keep tankmates with your ACF’s, it is best to introduce the tankmate while the ACF is young, this gets them used to the new creature from a period when they are vulnerable themselves.

If you introduce some tankmates be sure that you feed the ACF’s BEFORE you add the tankmate. This will prevent the ACF from thinking his new friend is a snack. Although just knocking on the hood of the tank sets my breeders into a feeding frenzy.

Again, I just want to stress that ACF’s really do better if housed alone.

ACF’s are much easier to sex than ADF’s are… mostly because they are much bigger and the signs of gender are more outwardly visible.

Mature male ACF’s will be much smaller than females… by about 1/4 to 1/3 the size. They also develop dark markings on the insides of their arms called Nuptual Pads. Basically it will look like someone took a black marker and drew a line down the insides of his arms and fingers. They will also have a smooth backside.

Females will be markedly larger than males. They will lack the Nuptual pads, but will have a bump on their butt called a cloaca.

For pictures and more information on sexing see:

Interesting Facts
ACF’s have been to outer space

Some have been genetically altered to have glow in the dark eyes (for labratory experiments only, these can NOT be found in the pet trade)

They have been used to determine if a woman is pregnant

ACF’s were the first vertibrate creature to be cloned (and we all thought it was a sheep!)

And they have been used to test the toxicity of certain chemicals. (all done with embryo development, not with full grown frogs of course)