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African Dwarf Frog Facts

African Dwarf Frogs are made up of several different species that are common in the global pet trade.

They have several adaptations unique to the anuran family they are grouped in, and as individual species. 

There are many cool facts to know about African Dwarf Frogs including the following:

African Dwarf frogs are a fully aquatic Anuran species from the Pipidae family. These frogs are from equatorial Africa. African Dwarf Frogs can grow to be around 3 in long and weigh around 0.035 oz. They are listed as least concern by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

African Dwarf Frogs originate in countries that are near the equator line. They occupy shallow rivers, creeks, and ponds of Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo River Basin.

These water systems occur in forested areas in these regions and are perfect for African Dwarf Frogs as they require shallow riverways of slow moving water. 

Let me tell you a few more cool facts about these frogs with more detail on each.

African Dwarf Frogs are From the Family Pipidae

 All frog species from the anuran family of Pipidae are fully aquatic, toothless, and lack tongues.

Though they are fully aquatic, they do need to come to the water’s surface to breathe oxygen frequently. 

Frogs from the family Pipidae lack gills but do have lungs.

They can survive outside a completely aquatic environment, but for short periods of time. 

Their lack of teeth and tongues requires them to find other means of finding and capturing prey.

They have four webbed toes on their front feet used to shove food into their mouths and down their throats. 

African Dwarf Frogs Are Carnivorous Scavengers   

African dwarf frogs scavenge on living, dying, and already dead and decomposing prey.

They eat their findings on the bottom of their habitat, whether that be an aquatic tank or a wild streambed. 

Worms, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and occasional live shrimp can be consumed by African dwarf frogs.

In captivity they can be provided with sinking pellets meant for carnivorous animals, but should not be fed fish food.

There Are Four African Dwarf Frog Species

African dwarf frogs can be found in the family Pipidae under the genus Hymenochirus.

There are four species in this genus considered African dwarf frogs. 

  • Hymenochirus boettgeri – Zaire dwarf clawed frog 
  • Hymenochirus curtipes – Western dwarf clawed frog 
  • Hymenochirus boulengeri – Eastern dwarf clawed frog 
  • Hymenochirus fear – Gaboon dwarf clawed frog 

African dwarf frogs are a species of least concern according to the IUCN.

This represents their stable wild populations and little natural threats to their environment. 

These species are very social and prefer to be kept with others of the same kind.

In the wild they are often found occupying similar space as other individuals.

This is why it is good to have more than one if you have them as pets!

Easily Confused with African Clawed Frogs!  

Now, this may seem confusing considering many of the species common names contain the word “clawed.”

The African clawed frogs that I am referring to come from the genus Xenopus. 

These species are incredibly similar and may look closely related to those who do not know what differences to look for.

Here are ways to tell the difference between African Dwarf Frogs and African Clawed Frogs:

  • African Dwarf Frogs have four webbed feet, while African Clawed Frogs only have webbed hind feet. 
  • Nose shape differs among the two species. African dwarves have a pointed snout.
  • African Clawed Frogs should be housed alone to avoid cannibalism and predation of cohabitation species. 
  • Eye position on the head is another distinguishable feature between the two species. African Dwarf Frogs have their eyes positioned on the sides of their head. African Clawed Frogs have front-facing eyes, an indication of their aggressive and predatory status. 

These two species are similarly shaped, sized, and colored, but those are a few small differences that separate them. 

African Dwarf Frogs Have Heightened Senses 

Among lacking tongues and teeth, African Dwarf Frogs also lack true ears.

Because of this, they need to have heightened senses and features to assist them in life. 

Long lines run laterally down their sides and underneath their bodies.

These lines are meant to sense moments and vibrations in the environment and alert the frog to changes.

These lines can also alert the frog to potential threats and prey. 

They have sensitive fingertips that help the frog navigate and understand their environment.

Their heightened sense of smell works collectively with this to maximize the animal’s ability to perceive their environment. 

They Move By Bipedal Jumping  

African clawed frogs do not swim like you might think.

They use a jumping motion in the water called saltation to propel themselves forward.

This locomotion movement helps them move through their aquatic environments rapidly, and propels them toward the surface when needed. 

African Dwarf Frogs Are Common Pets!

We always had African clawed frogs for sale at the exotic pet store I used to supervise, and they have actually been part of the global pet trade since the 1970s.

They are relatively low maintenance! Remember, they are social, so make sure to bring home a few. 

The aquarium tank they are kept in should be wider than it is tall.

They need to reach the surface to breathe, and they are coming all the way from the bottom.

The bottom should be lined with pebbles large enough where they cannot be consumed. 

Sinking carnivore pellets and worms are a recommended diet to feed them as they scavenge along the bottom of the habitat.

They are able to jump out of their aquarium, so provide a lid covering the top to keep them safe from falling on the floor, just in case! 

Males Sing to Their Mates and Have a Leg Gland 

Many species have what is called sexual dimorphism, when males and females differ in body features. African dwarf frogs are not different from those. 

Male frogs possess a gland behind each of their front feet. It is small and slightly bulges outwards.

Males will also sing or hum to females during mating. 

African Dwarf Frogs Lay Eggs One at a Time 

The vast majority of frog species lay all their eggs at the same time in large clusters or strings.

However, African Dwarf Frogs are known to lay their eggs one at a time.

Male African dwarf frogs will hold the female around the waist during amplexus and release sperm into the water to fertilize the eggs.

Females lay eggs one at a time on the water’s surface. 

Females tend to be larger than males and are pear-shaped.

They will signal to the males when they are done laying the eggs so the male can let go. 


African dwarf frogs (genus hymenochirus). iNaturalist. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/25438-Hymenochirus 

African dwarf frog. EOL. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://eol.org/pages/42953

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.