African Dwarf Clawed Frogs come from tropical central Africa and so require a water temperature of about 24-26 °C (75-79 °F). Some species, which are not available in pet trade, are said to need 30°C (86°F). In their natural habitats the frogs live in shaded tropical forest ponds with dense vegetation and mud at the bottom. The water is soft and acidic. They are totally aquatic and leave the water only if the pond is drying up or if there is not enough food available.
For African Dwarf Clawed Frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri) the following tank setup is recommended:
- A water temperature of 24°C (75°F) to 25°C (79°F). (So you will probably need an aquarium heater.)
- If your tap water is suitable for keeping fish, it will be fine for the frogs providing it is dechlorinated enough.
- The tank should be filled to its maximum depth.
- Sand or fine – not sharp – gravel as a substrate.
- At least part of the tank densely planted.
- Places for the frogs to hide.
- Artificial lighting is not always essential.
- If you are keeping only African Dwarf Clawed Frogs in the tank you don’t need a filter, but you should change 50% of the water weekly and remove uneaten food and other waste from the tank daily.
- In a community tank the best choice of filter is one that produces only a gentle water current. The best solution is a filter driven by an air pump; for information about filters please click here (still under construction); the ideal filter, in my opinion, is the Hamburgerian mat filter (still under contruction)
- An air stone is not necessary.
- A land part is not necessary.
- The tank should be well covered but air must be able to circulate above the water. If your frogs escape from the tank they will dehydrate very quickly. Here is a picture showing what can happen.
You should pay particular attention to the following points:
- When African Dwarf Clawed Frogs are foraging for food or hiding they can dig under plants or rocks which, if they are not stable, may collapse and kill the frogs; I lost two frogs under rocks in this way some years ago.
- African Dwarf Clawed Frogs are quite flat and so they can squeeze themselves behind filters or other items in the tank; the frogs may get trapped in this situation and be unable to get to the surface to breathe. The gap between glass and filter should be less than 2mm or more than 5mm (i.e.: the gap must not be between 2mm and 5 mm).
- The frogs are able to climb out of the water in the corners of the tank.
- They can also climb inside filter cases or similar items.
More tips for the tank setup:
- Leave an area of about 10cm to 15cm (4″ to 6″) at the front of the tank unplanted, so you can observe the frogs when you feed them in that area.
- Some plants, like Anubias barteri var. nana provide good hiding opportunities for the frogs. This means that you do not need to provide any artificial shelters for them.
- My favourite plant for ADCF tanks is Najas spp.; it is a fast-growing, floating plant that provides support for the frogs at the water’s surface and they like to climb amongst it.
- Here is list with African water plants (still under construction).
- If you are keeping only ADCFs in your tank, you don’t need artificial lighting if the tank is positioned next to window that faces east or west. You only have to put some thin paper on the back of the tank.
- If you are keeping only ADCFs in your tank without a filter it is a good idea to use a lot of fast-growing plants to provide biological filtration. The plants will then utilise some of the waste products as nutrients.
- Openings in filter systems can be plugged with plastic lattice.