African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) are a 4-5” long, aquatic, diurnal amphibian. They are native to southern Africa, but known to be invasive in the US, Chile, and Great Britain. Their preferred habitat is areas of warm, stagnant water.
African clawed frogs have smooth skin, a flat body, upward-oriented eyes, no tongue or visible ear, and they have claws on their webbed back feet. Coloring is generally marbled olive, gray, and/or brown, with a pale belly.
African clawed frogs are quite hardy as far as amphibians go, which makes them a beginner-level pet amphibian. With good care, they can have a 20-year lifespan!
Minimum aquarium size for African clawed frogs
The absolute minimum aquarium size for a single African clawed frog is 20”L x 10”W x 10”H (10 gallons). Of course, larger is always better! Just make sure that the water is no deeper than about 12”.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple African clawed frogs in one enclosure) is not recommended, as this species is known to have cannibalistic tendencies.
Do African clawed frogs need UVB?
They are able to survive without it, but we still recommend providing appropriate UVB lighting as part of the setup. Although African clawed frogs are aquatic, they are still active during the day, and UVB wavelengths travel quite well through clear water. UVB lighting also helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and provides other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for African clawed frogs are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0
- Arcadia Forest 6%
For best results, use a bulb half the length of the enclosure and housed in a Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun Hood fixture. Position the lamp on one side of the aquarium, on top of a mesh screen lid 6-8” above the water.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day. And don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Best temperature for African clawed frogs
Like other amphibians, African clawed frogs are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. African clawed frogs do best with water temps between 68-77°F.
Usually this is room temperature, but if you need help keeping the water sufficiently warm, use an aquarium heater like the Zoo Med TurtleTherm. Use an aquarium thermometer to make sure the water doesn’t get too warm or cool.
Maintaining your African clawed frog’s water
Although African clawed frogs like stagnant water, that doesn’t mean they like dirty water. Dirty water will make your frog sick. You can completely change the water every week, but it’s easier to use a low flow aquarium filter. Make sure it’s low-flow for minimal water disturbance — a strong current will stress your frog!
Perform partial water changes every two weeks. Any water added to the aquarium should be treated with dechlorinator like Zoo Med Reptisafe to prevent harmful chemicals from being introduced to your frog’s habitat.
Scrub any algae buildup off the glass with a magnetic glass scrubber.
Best substrate for African clawed frogs
Although substrate isn’t necessary to an African clawed frog aquarium, it’s good for making the enclosure more attractive. More importantly, it adds a source of environmental enrichment for the frog to dig in.
Because ingestion is a potential hazard, the best substrate for African clawed frogs is going to be fine-particled, clean sand, like Exo Terra Riverbed Sand. Use a siphon regularly to keep the sand clean.
How to decorate an African clawed frog aquarium
A bare-bones enclosure makes for a bored frog, reducing its quality of life. African clawed frogs are surprisingly intelligent! Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
Décor options for African clawed frogs include:
- mopani wood
- live or artificial plants
- pre-made hides/caves
- artificial ornaments
Avoid anything made of metal, as metal is toxic to African clawed frogs!
Make sure your frog has covered areas to retreat to when it wants privacy.
What to feed to an African clawed frog
African clawed frogs are carnivorous, which means that they need to eat whole animal prey in order to get the right nutrition. Feed juveniles daily, and adults 3-4x/week. Offer as much food as they will eat within ~10 minutes.
Food options for African clawed frogs:
Regularly offer appropriate commercial diets like Tetra Reptomin as part of the rotation. This helps ensure that your frog gets enough vitamins and minerals.
How to handle your African clawed frog
Don’t. Amphibians generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do, and African clawed frogs in particular are a hands-off pet.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!
"File:Gemeiner Krallenfrosch - Xenopus laevis - aus Afrika ArM.jpg" by Ben Rschr is licensed under CC BY 2.5