Josh's Frogs LogoJosh's Frogs Logo

Josh's Frogs

HomeAfrican Dwarf Frogs - how to care for the Hymenochiris genus

African Dwarf Frogs - how to care for the Hymenochiris genus

While most frogs are semiaquatic (or semi-terrestrial, whichever way you choose to describe it), the African dwarf frogs (sometimes referred to as dwarf clawed frogs) are one of the few fully aquatic types of frog. Part of the Pipidae family, they can thrive and thier care is fairly easy under the correct conditions.

There are actually four different African dwarf frogs in the Hymenochiris genus, but the major difference in all of these is primarily where they originate. The African Dwarf Frog, often referred to as ADF, is confused frequently with the African Clawed Frog, but they're different. The Clawed Frog is larger and more aggressive; its eyes are on the top of its head rather than on the sides; and the front feet are not webbed.


These frogs are olive to greenish brown in color, with small black spots speckled randomly along their bodies.


The ADF can grow to a maximum size of 3 inches, though many will remain smaller.

Life Span

With proper care, these frogs can live up to 5 years in captivity; sometimes longer.


Occasionally, these frogs will be seen singly in a small container or aquarium, but this isn't how they should be housed. To begin with, these are very social creatures and will appreciate being with other ADFs. Additionally, more space makes it easier to have good water quality and is better for their overall health and well-being. While some sources specify at least 2 gallons per frog, Josh's Frogs recommends at least 5 gallons per frog. This provides more swimming space, contributes to better water quality, and offers higher protection against potential water problems.

As with all aquatic pets, more water volume means the water stays cleaner longer. Recommended water parameters for the ADF is as follows:

  • pH - 6.5 to 7.5
  • Temp - 75-82
  • The bottom of the aquarium can be covered with gravel that is too large for the frogs to ingest (but not large enough for them to get stuck between. However, sand is a safer bet and won't cause either of these issues.
  • African dwarf frogs don't require UVB light, but do need a day/night cycle that would mimic their natural environment. (If you add live plants to your aquarium, you'll want to be sure you provide proper lighting for the plants).
Plants and decorations
  • Live of fake plants can be beneficial additions. The frogs will use the top parts of the plants to rest on; this is helpful because these frogs will need to reach the surface of the water to breathe air occasionally. A log, branch, or rock that is close to the water's surface can also provide easier access to the air. African dwarf frogs are not great swimmers and can sometimes struggle to swim to the surface, so they will appreciate the help. They may also use the space beneath the leaves as hiding places.
  • Because they aren't strong swimmers, it's helpful to keep the water level low - around 12 inches or a little less is a typical practice. If using more than 12 inches of water, it is suggested to keep the level at no more than 24"" maximum.
  • Logs, caves, or aquarium decorations should also be added. Having a number of hiding places of some kind is important; this will help the frogs feel more secure and less stressed, and it will provide a place for them to seek more subdued light if they wish, since they are generally more active at night and sometimes like a dimmer space.
  • There is some controversy when it comes to filtering your frogs' water. Since they are sensitive to water vibrations, canister filters are often used; alternatively, sponge filters are popular choices for these frogs. In their natural environment, ADFs are used to still or very slow-moving water, so a slow, gentle filter will be appreciated by these amphibians. 10-20% of the water needs to be removed each week and replaced with dechlorinated water.
African dwarf frog
These frogs can be interesting creatures to observe. Sometimes, they can be seen ""floating"" - this is often referred to as burbling or the Zen position, and is normal behavior.
Other factors to consider
  • Using a tightly-fitting lid is a must, as these frogs are skilled escape artists and may jump out of the tank if able to do so. Once outside of water, they aren't able to stay alive very long.
  • Using an air stone can help keep up water quality as well.


African dwarf frogs are known to enjoy many kinds of food items, including live or frozen blood worms, brine shrimp, or black worms. You can also offer fish food pellets and specialized frog and tadpole pellets, though if using these, it is often recommended to add them alongside live or frozen foods. They may not take the pellets at all - it depends on the individual frog. A varied diet is a key element to the health of your dwarf frogs.

Many owners will spot-feed their frogs by placing food close to them with tongs or by placing the food in the same spot at every feeding. I have had success with using a very small ceramic feeding dish and putting blood worms and other food items inside it, so they frogs quickly discovered a regular feeding spot.

Tank Mates

While some ADF keepers house these frogs with fish successfully, many keep these in a species-only tank for several reasons:

1. These frogs can be quite timid and can sometimes be outcompeted for food, and

2. This is the best way to ensure the frogs don't become fish food and vice versa.

We recommend keeping these in a species only tank for the above reasons. However, should you decide to keep them with fish, you should choose species with a similar temperament because of the peaceful nature of ADFs. Some livestock commonly kept with these frogs include guppies, nerite snails, and corydoras catfish; however, if keeping ADFs with other species, you should still keep an eye on your frogs during feeding time initially to make sure they are able to get their fair share of food.

Links of Interest:

Information by Wikipedia on the ADF natural habitat, pet care, mating -