African Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs are popular pet frogs that originate from Equatorial Africa. They are fully aquatic and adults can grow to around 3 inches in length. African Dwarf Frogs can live up to 20 years in captivity in the right conditions.

NameAfrican Dwarf Frog
Other NameDwarf Clawed Frog
Scientific NameHymenochirus
LocationsNigeriaCameroonThe Congo River BasinGabon
CharacteristicsFully aquaticSmall olive-green or brown bodies, black spotsclaws on the toes of their hind limbs
ColorOlive-green or brown spotted with black
OriginEquatorial Afric
Conservation StatusLeast Concern
SpeciesHymenochirus boettgeriHymenochirus boulengeriHymenochirus curtipesHymenochirus feae
Max Length3 in
Max Weight0.7 oz
LIfespan5 – 20 years

African Dwarf Frogs get their names from their small size and clawed toes. African Dwarf Frogs are full aquatic amphibians, meaning they live in water. Unlike most aquatic frogs, African Dwarf Frogs need to be in the water at all times, day and night. They have webbed hind feet which makes it easy for them to move about in their aquatic habitats.

They have brown or olive-green skin and black spots. African Dwarf Frogs have lateral lines running down their skin that help them move around smoothly and propel themselves in the water. They also have relatively muscular limbs that help them easily grab onto prey.

Tips on How to Spot African Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs can be found in freshwater ponds, swamps, creeks, and springs in Equatorial Africa regions. These places include Nigeria, the Congo River Basin, Gabon, and Cameroon. 

Therefore, unless you are in a pet store, there are few chances you will spot this frog in the wild. However, if you happen to be in any of these places and would like to spot some African Dwarf Frogs, here are some tips that will make your quest easier:

  • Be sure to go with a guide. These frogs can be in dangerous locations so be sure to go with a qualified local who knows the area.
  • African Dwarf Frogs are mostly active at night. Because they lack gills, they often come up to the surface of the water to breathe air. Look for their noses sticking out at the top of the water.
  • They like to feed on bugs in the water, so it is quite easy to find them eating at night in muddy creeks. Bring a flashlight with you to spot them in the water.
  • Dwarf Frogs make a humming noise most of the time, sometimes outside of mating season. The males of the species will make this noise at night, so listen for their calls to locate the frogs.
  • During the dry season, African Dwarf Frogs estivate under mud so be sure to look for them when they are out in visible areas during Wet season.
  • These frogs are known to be able to change their gender.

Interesting Facts about Dwarf Frogs

  • Unlike most frogs, African Dwarf Frogs are fully aquatic amphibians.
  • Female African Dwarf Frogs are usually larger than males.
  • These frogs reach sexual maturity after about 9 months of age.
  • African Dwarf Frogs mate multiple times in a year.
  • Females in these species lay between 500 to 2,000 eggs at once.
  • Unlike most frogs, African Dwarf Frogs have perfectly round pupils like fish.
  • Most people confuse African Dwarf Frogs with African Clawed Frogs because of the former’s black claws on their hind limbs and some pet stores sell the wrong species to unknowing buyers.
  • African Dwarf Frogs use their legs to push food into their mouths. These frogs also have a hyobranchial pump that enables them to suck in food.
  • African Dwarf Frogs are known to be either born hermaphrodites, intersex, or experience sex reversal.

More About African Dwarf Frogs 

African Dwarf Frogs are one of the most popular species of pet frogs in the world, but these frogs are not for everyone. Be sure to read our article about who should not have a pet frog.

Learn more about frogs on our blog:

Questions Related to African Dwarf Frogs

How long do African Dwarf Frogs live? African Dwarf Frogs generally live 5 years in the wild since they are exposed to more predators, parasites and sicknesses. However, African Dwarf Frogs can live up to 20 years in captivity when well cared for.

Can you keep an African Dwarf Frog as a pet? African Dwarf Frogs are a popular pets among those who know how to care for them. African Dwarf Frogs are not easy to care for as pets because they require very strict environmental conditions or they will die.

 Are African Dwarf Frogs poisonous? African Dwarf Frogs are not poisonous. They do not have the glands that some amphibian species have that produce predator-repelling toxins.

What do African Dwarf Frogs eat? African Dwarf Frogs eat a wide variety of bugs. Since they do not have teeth or tongues, African Dwarf Frogs typically eat soft food. This meal includes tiny fish, fish eggs, and entrails of dead animals, and worms.

What are African Dwarf Frogs’ predators? Because of their small nature, African Dwarf Frogs are preyed on by many animals including piranhas, owls, storks, larger frogs and toads, snakes, and alligators.

Do African Dwarf Frogs hibernate? African Dwarf Frogs are usually inactive during the African dry season and estivate. They prepare for this by consuming enough food and then digging holes in the wet mud to hide in. The dry season usually lasts from October to April. Then, when the rains begin, they come out of hibernation.

How many eggs do African Dwarf Frogs lay? Female African Dwarf Frogs usually lay between 500 to 2,000 eggs at once. But since they mate multiple times in a year, these frogs can lay up to 8,000 eggs during the Rainy Season. 

Are African Dwarf Frogs endangered? African Dwarf Frogs are not endangered. The IUCN classifies them as least concerned in their red list of endangered animals. However, as more of their habitats are encroaching on in the wake of civilization, their numbers gradually decrease. 


Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, K. D. Wells, and M. C. Brandley. 2015. Herpetology. Fourth Edition. Massachusetts: Sinauer.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2013. Hymenochirus curtipes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T58156A18396876.