African clawed frogs (Scientific name Xenopus Laevis) are, as their name suggests, a species of frogs native to Africa. These frogs got their common name from the three short claws that are present on their hind feet. African clawed frogs are fully aquatic, living out their entire lives under water. Popular laboratory animals (in the 1030's they were even used as rudimentary pregnancy tests!), African Clawed frogs can also make good pets.
Description: When young, African clawed frogs are often mistaken for their much smaller cousins, African dwarf frogs. As the two species of frogs matures, it becomes much easier to tell them apart - clawed frogs get much bigger! Clawed frogs can grow to a length of around 5 inches. Their skin is smooth and comes in a verity of colors. Clawed frogs are usually a greyish color on the top, with slightly darker or lighter marbled pattern. They normally have yellowish white bellies. Albino clawed frogs are popular in the pet industry.
African clawed frogs have webbed back feet, but no webbing on their front feet (African dwarf frogs have webbing on all their feet - this is usually the easiest way to distinguish between the two species when they are young). Male and female clawed frogs are easy to tell apart once they reach adulthood. Males are usually smaller and slimmer looking than bulky bodied females. Females also have a small protrusion on their back end that the males lack. Sexually mature males also normally develop black pigmented areas on their palms and forearms.
African clawed frogs live an average of 5 to 15 years. Some frogs in captivity have lived even longer, over 25 years.
Tank Requirements: African clawed frogs are pretty hardy pets as long as their basic care needs are met. At least 10 gallons of water, and more if possible, per frog is recommended. Because these frogs are fully aquatic, caring for them is very similar to caring for fish. They do not require any land, however they do breathe air so must be able to easily access the top of the water. Long aquariums are usually recommended over taller ones, because clawed frogs usually spend a majority of their time down near the floor of the tank.
African clawed frogs are notoriously messy, so their tanks require filters. They are so messy, in fact, that most keepers recommend you use a filter rated for a tank size at least slightly larger than the size you plan to use to house your frog(s). Look for filters that run quietly, with a minimal amount of water movement. Clawed frogs prefer still waters. Even with filtration, you should do partial water changes regularly.
The ideal pH for your frog tank is between 6.5 and 7.5. Temperatures between 70*F and 75*F are best. Beware of temperature extremes. African clawed frogs do not require any kind of special lighting.
Pay special attention to the type of substrate you use in your aquarium. African clawed frogs are veracious eaters, and accidentally ingesting their substrate has lead to the death of more than a few frogs. The best types of substrate are either small enough for your frog(s) to pass in case of accidental ingestion (ex. sand), or too large for them to eat in the first place (ex. large river rocks).
Clawed frog tanks can be planted, however these frogs commonly rip up and shred many types of live plants. Some species of anubias, and free floating plants such as moss balls, can usually stand up to these guys. If you decide to use fake plants, look for silk plants rather than plastic. Rough pieces of plastic can easily scratch frog's delicate skin.
Frogs can be housed with other frogs of similar size only. African clawed frogs will try to eat anything they can fit in their mouths, including fish and other frogs!
It's very important to provide your frog with plenty of hiding places. These can be as simple as pieces of drift wood for them to go under, or as complex as you wish. It's also very important that your tank has a secure cover. African clawed frogs are great escape artists.
Feeding: If there's one thing these frogs love to do, it's eat! The size and amount of food you offer should be based on the size and age of your frog. Young frogs, up to a year old, should be fed daily. Adults, however, can be fed every other every three days.
You can buy commercially made food for your frogs. They can also be fed a wide verity of live and frozen foods, including guppies, brine shrimp, krill, beef heart, blood worms, earth worms, meal worms, and crickets. A varied diet is best! Commercially made pellets can be used as the staple of the diet, while live or frozen foods can be offered occasionally to provide more verity.
Stay away from feeding goldfish or minnows, flake foods, and any type of sinking foods. Try not to overfeed. Clawed frogs who regularly overeat can become obese, which can lead to health problems. Keep an eye on your frog and use his/her condition to judge how much you should feed. If your frog is looking a bit thin, or is commonly seen trying to find more food after it's eaten everything, try feeding a bit more. If your frog starts to look too chunky, that's a good sign that it's time to cut back a bit.
Feeding these frogs is easy. Just throw the food in the tank and watch the show! Clawed frogs use their front feet to quickly shovel food into their mouths. If you'd like, you can also hand feed clawed frogs. It doesn't usually take them long to learn to associate you with food. Don't worry about any accidental bites, clawed frogs don't have any teeth!
Special Note: African clawed frogs are currently illegal to own, sell, or transport without a permit in Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington state.
This is due, mostly, to the fact that these frogs are predators and easily adapt to new environments. They can easily become very harmful invasive species when introduced to areas where they are not native. As well as being known to eat the young of frogs and other animals, African clawed frogs can carry and transmit deadly diseases to native wildlife.
No matter where you live, it is important to never release your pet clawed frog (or any other pet, for that matter) into the wild. If you have a frog you no longer want anymore, try to find it a new home, or call around to find a local pet store, or reptile/amphibian rescue (yes they exist!) that can take in your frog.
Did you find something wrong with this posting, have an interesting frog story to share, or have a question that wasn't addressed in this post? Feel free to comment and let me know!
** This posting is in memory of Yvaine and Nimaway, the two frogs pictured above. **