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African Clawed Frogs: Care Basics

Yes, yes, you can find lots of ACF (African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis) care info out there. But like most species a lot of it is old and regurgitated across websites over the past decades and these days, even worse are the number of AI-generated terrible “articles” with sometimes deadly mistakes. This is the care I recommend based on our experience, written by yours truly, rather than copy-pasting from other sites.



Before you decide to get an ACF

Is it legal to own an African clawed frog where you live? They are illegal to own in some states due to the risk they pose to native ecosystems. Check, be a responsible pet owner, and follow the law.


Regardless of the frog or froglet size now, if you are getting one or more ACFs you need to be prepared for at least a 20 gallon aquarium (1 frog) or 30-40 gallon aquarium (2-4 frogs) by the time they reach adulthood. Yes, they start out as tiny froglets, but these frogs get BIG.



Essential supplies: 

  • An appropriately sized aquarium (juvenile frogs can do well in small 5-10 gallon tanks to start)

  • An appropriately sized aquarium filter (I recommend going with a filter rated for double the water volume of your tank - so if you have a 10 gallon tank, get a filter rated for 20 gallons)

  • A secure lid for your tank to prevent fatal escapes

  • Aquarium test strips or a water test kit to ensure your tank is cycled, and to monitor water quality over time

  • Water conditioner like Seachem Prime to make tap water frog-safe

  • Staple diet food - a balanced diet like Tetra Reptomin Floating Sticks works great


Recommended supplies:

  • A tank thermometer / way to check the water temperature

  • Enrichment items for your frog - fake plants, tunnels, suction cup “perches” etc.

  • Dietary diversity - so they can eat more variety than just one type of food

  • A turkey baster or similar for spot-cleaning waste from the tank


What about substrate?

The safest option, due to their cookie-monster-esque eating habits is a bare-bottom tank. It’s not the prettiest, so large smooth stones and other safe decor can spice it up! You CAN use a traditional sand/gravel substrate, but there is a risk of fatal blockages due to ingesting substrate. You’d think they’d have the self-preservation skills to avoid this… but that’s asking a lot from these swimming potatoes. 


Example bare-bottom 10 gallon tank with juvenile ACFs. Photo shows a small frog sitting on a submerged magnolia leaf and a T PVC fitting to the left as a hide.
Example bare-bottom 10 gallon tank with juvenile ACFs

What about friends? 

ACFs do great with others of their kind, as long as they are roughly the same size. They’ll eat (or try to eat) anything. A big enough frog can get away from another who thought their leg looked like a snack. Smaller frogs very easily become the snack. Same goes for fish, shrimp, etc. If you want fish to house with your frogs, I recommend guppies as they are safe for the frogs to eat, and generally affordable to replace as they are picked off. 


What about food? 

Small froglets should be fed daily or every other day, since they don’t have much body reserves built up yet and they're doing lots of growing. Larger frogs (especially once they are the size of a chicken egg or larger) should be fed less often, only 2-3 times per week. Daily feeding can lead to obesity on top of quickly ramping up nitrogenous waste in the water - and ACFs already produce a very large amount of waste for your biological filter to handle!


Staple diet options:

  • Tetra - ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks [link]

  • Invert Aquatics - Frog Bites [link]

  • Live or frozen black soldier fly larvae

  • Live or frozen earthworms

  • Thiaminase-free feeder fish species (like guppies)


Supplemental food options:

  • Tubifex worms (though they are very small and hard for bigger frogs to notice and eat)

  • Live or frozen crickets, mealworms, dubia roaches

  • Live or frozen blackworms

  • Frozen bloodworms

  • Pieces of beef heart

  • Pieces of chicken heart/liver


Not recommended:

  • Any whole oven-dried or freeze-dried worms, bugs, etc. unless you thoroughly rehydrate before feeding

  • Feeder fish of a species that contains thiaminase (no cheap minnows, sorry)

  • Anything that will crumble into a mess before it can be eaten

  • Anything that is large enough to be a choking hazard


What about water quality?


Nitrogenous Waste

You’ll be testing your water frequently at the start, even if you had a pre-established, cycled tank. The addition of one or more frogs to the tank may easily provide more waste than the biological filter is prepared to handle immediately. 


If you’re setting up a tank from scratch, prepare to do large daily water changes in order to keep toxic ammonia and nitrites at safe levels while the biological filter gets established. It can take a month or more for these healthy bacteria to grow in your filter and on surfaces in the tank. 


Water Source

Here at Telos, we use a combination of RO (reverse osmosis) filtered water, and treated tap water for our ACFs. The municipal tap water in Omaha, Nebraska is VERY alkaline - typically pH 8.8-9.0 out of the tap, where 7.0 is neutral. Thankfully, unlike other more sensitive species, we’ve found our frogs do well with the pH as-is without needing to add acid to reduce the pH. You'll want to test your water - don't assume it will be a neutral 7!


A sudden change in water pH can shock and kill a frog - so if you don’t have some of their “old” water to help drip acclimate them to their new water, check with the person you’re buying from what the frog is used to. A frog from a pet store with a water pH of 7 could be killed by the shock of being transferred to otherwise safe, treated, same-temperature water with a pH of 9.


If you’re using tap water, I strongly recommend using a water conditioner product even if you let the tap water “sit” for several days to evaporate out chlorine. Many places use chloramine in municipal water treatment, which will not evaporate out, and there are lots of other substances in water (like metal) which can harm your frog - and a good water conditioner like Seachem Prime will neutralize and detoxify these in addition to dechlorinating the water.


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