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African Clawed Water Frog - Xenopus laevis

The African Clawed Water Frog is an amazing and unique species. Unlike most frogs species in which the adult stage is terrestrial, the African Clawed Water Frog spends its entire life in the water. One of the nicest features of this species is that it can be maintained for its entire life without the use of live food. Other than that, its interesting morphology (shape) and eye positioning makes for an other worldly look to this interesting amphibian. A dwarf variety of this frog can be found in many pet stores, but not only is its care entirely different from that of the African Clawed Water Frog, it is actually another species and not a dwarf of the true Xenopus laevis.


Average Size: Variable, up to 10 inches.

Life Span: Up to 30 years.

Diet: In the wild Xenopus, as most amphibians, eats vegetable material in the tadpole stage and living prey (such as fish, tadpoles, insects, etc) as an adult frog. In captivity both the tadpoles and the adults can be maintained on floating reptile pellets. Adults also appreciate live fish, frozen and live bloodworms and other types of frozen and live worm.

Feeding: African Clawed Water Frogs are a generally ravenous species that will eat as often as fed. If feeding complete reptiles pellets/ sticks once daily feeding is recommended. Other food items such as bloodworms (which should never be fed live) and live fish should be fed sparingly as treats.

Housing: As an entirely aquatic species the African Clawed Water Frog can be kept in an aquarium for its entire life. Care should be taken that there are no strong currents that will prevent them for surfacing for air easily, and that the cover does not fit so tightly that they cannot access air. Also, they should not be housed with fish that will harass them.

Size: For tadpoles a small one (5 gals) should be used until they metamorphosize. At that point they can be moved up through a series of increasingly large tanks as they grow. Red marks on their snouts are an indication that their housing is too small and they are smashing into the sides.

Substrate: Gravel is an excellent substrate and readily available. Make sure to get a size that is larger than the opening of your African Clawed Frogs mouth, as they tend to shovel food from the bottom of the tank into their mouth, and may accidentally pick up and ingest gravel. Sand should be avoided as it is hard to clean and easy to ingest.

Habitat: Your frogs may appreciate some plants and rock caves, though overly abrasive surfaces should be avoided as your frogs may injure themselves on them. Plants can add interest to your frogs enclosure, but be prepared to replant them frequently as African Clawed Water Frogs are notorious for demolishing their décor.

Grooming and Hygiene: None! Handling is neither practical nor recommended. Should you need to move your frogs from one enclosure to another use a net of an appropriate size and the finest mesh possible. Remember that you frog can leap out of a net easily and make sure to cover the opening when transporting your pet. Always wash your hands before and after touching your gecko or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases

Temperature: African Clawed Water Frogs prefer to be kept at room temperature (from 65- 80 degrees F), but can also be housed at tropical fish tank temperature if you so choose.

Lighting: Lighting is more important for viewing your frogs than it is for the frogs themselves. If you wish to keep live plants in your tanks, place a full spectrum bulb on your tank.

Water: African Clawed Water Frogs will do well in most types of water as long as it is kept clean and is not overly hard, soft, acidic, basic or salty. Regular changes are needed as well in order to keep your frogs healthy.

Habitat Maintenance: Change filter cartridges regularly (biweekly). Change 25% of the water weekly, while vacuuming the gravel.

Recommended Supplies:

  • Floating frog food sticks
  • Live or fake plants
  • Tank with a secure lid to prevent escape
  • Light, if desired
  • Properly conditioned water
  • Filter and spare filter cartridges
  • Gravel/ rocks for tank bottom
  • Rocks, driftwood for decoration 
Normal Behavior and Interaction: Expect your African Clawed Water Frog to have a very low activity level for 99.9% of the time. Besides surfacing for air and eating the African Clawed Water Frog does not move around a lot. However, when startled they can panic and zip from side to side in their enclosure, possibly injuring their snouts. Care should be taken not to permit anyone to bang on the tank or otherwise startle your frogs as serious injuries may occur. Breeding is common in animals allowed to experience a normal day/ night cycle and can be expected to occur in the spring. Otherwise animals seem to be minimally social, often gathering in the same area of the tank.

Signs of a Healthy Pet:

  • Healthy skin
  • Clear eyes 
  • Eats regularly
  • Clear nose and vent  
Common Health Issues and Red Flags: 

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Bumps, sores, or abrasions on skin
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs
  • Abnormal feces
  • Stringy or fuzzy material on the skin
  • Red spots, blotches or lines  
Injuries and dietary deficiencies are the most common ailments for the African Clawed Water Frog. Most injuries will heal on their own.  In case of severe injury a reptile/ amphibian veterinarian should be contacted. Dietary deficiencies can be avoided by feeding a proper, balanced diet to your frog. The symptoms of a dietary deficiency are indistinct in aquatic frogs and hard to diagnose. Prevention is the best medicine in this case.

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.
As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.

I would like to Thank Genevieve LaFerriere for writing this caresheet. She breeds and sells geckos, visit her website:

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:26 EST
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