African Clawed Frog – Profile, Food, Care, Facts

African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) got their names from the three claws on their hind feet. They use these claws to rip apart food and eat it. Being aquatic, this frog mainly lives in rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Clearly, it loves water to death. People have taken to adopting these frogs in recent years, to a point where the African Clawed Frog has quickly become a popular pet. You only need a simple tank to house them, and these frogs will be as happy as popcorn.

Out of all frogs, this one looks the weirdest. I mean, I’ve rarely seen a more alien-looking frog. It has eyes on the top of its head, thin and long fingers, and it looks like a freak of nature.

But this Chernobyl-looking frog is otherwise quite friendly and sociable if you know what to expect from it. A frog can never be as friendly as a dog or a cat, though. But these African Clawed Frogs are quite dynamic, considering they live for 20-30 years. They only reach about 10-12cm in length, making them quite big.

The color of its skin is green or grey, and it also has a couple of mottled patterns, which help it stay hidden from predators. Along both sides of their bodies, they have a couple of stitch-marks, which are very helpful when tracking prey or sensing approaching predators.

Lastly, their eyes and nose are at the top of their heads, which allows them inconspicuous sight and breathing.

Keep reading because we’ll go over everything you need to know about these amphibians!

Natural Habitat

As I said, African Clawed Frogs live in South Africa, Angola, Namibia, and to the south of the Sahara Desert. Where there’s fresh water, this frog can make a nest and live quite happily.

This means you’ll often find it wandering across France, Chile, the United States, Italy, the UK, Indonesia, Portugal, and so on. Basically, it’s the type of frog that’s everywhere as long as there’s freshwater around it.

One thing to remember is that the African Clawed Frog rarely lives in running streams but rather stagnant pools of water. If the water is warm and still, then this frog will love it. Usually, it prefers temperatures of 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unlike other frog species, this one is almost completely aquatic and will rarely leave the water. Only when it has to move to another body of water will this frog walk on land. Though, African Clawed Frogs are very colonial and will often move to invade and conquer other bodies of water.

Food & Diet

African Clawed Frogs are tadpoles, which means they eat water insects, organic waste, dead arthropods, and even living ones. They will also eat larvae, small fish, other tadpoles, snails, worms, shrimp, bloodworms, waxworms, and so on.

If you want to get one as a pet, then amphibian sticks are ideal for them. This type of food is well-balanced and provides just the necessary nutritional value for frogs. Commercial food with vitamins and minerals isn’t necessary though it’s not a bad idea either.

These frogs are very sensitive to movement and will always attack anything close to them. Moreover, their appetite is monstrous, not unlike their face, which is also monstrous. These frogs seem like they’re a by-product of Dr. Moreau’s Island, both in terms of looks and appetite.

Their smell is very keen, which helps them pick up on nearby prey immediately. African Clawed Frogs have very sensitive fingers and a lateral line system that assists with finding food.

Once they find food, their hind leg claws will tear it apart and provide small bites for the frog to ingest. They also possess a special pump that lets frogs suck the food right into their mouths.

If it’s not stuck to the bottom of the lake and it’s not too big, these frogs will eat it and then look for some more. African Clawed Frogs are indeed starved pretty much all the time. You’ll need to feed them a couple of times per day but notice when the frog starts looking bloated. That’s a sign of overfeeding, so cut back on the feedings.

From what I read, most pet owners end up overfeeding their African Clawed Frogs, which led to bloating and obesity. The bigger the frog’s belly, the fatter it is. It’s not healthy at all, and this happens because the frog’s appetite is voracious.

If you feed it, the frog will eat almost everything and ask for more. That’s because these frogs don’t usually get this much food in their natural habitat. When they find a rich source of food, they eat their fill in expectation of starving days.

Enclosure Setup

Housing an African Clawed Frog is not difficult, but you’ll need to consider a couple of things like cleaning the water in the aquarium regularly. Does the water need to be dechlorinated or not?

Does this frog have any sensitivities to impurities in the water? Can you use a water filter?  Do you need to heat the water or use artificial lighting? There are many questions you don’t have an answer for but not for long. I’m here to shed light on these issues, so keep reading!

Usually, a 10-gallon aquarium is more than enough to house an African Clawed Frog. But that’s for one frog alone. If you want to house two frogs, then double the size of the aquarium. There’s no need for any land area because these frogs always stay in the water.

But make sure the water is only 30cm deep, at the very most. This way, the frog can easily get to the surface to refill its lungs with oxygen. I also recommend putting a secure lid on the aquarium, as these frogs can easily leap out of it.

– Lighting

African Clawed Frogs aren’t too keen on light but this doesn’t mean you have to keep them in complete darkness all the time. A simple aquarium light will do the job perfectly. Or, just let natural sunlight penetrate the aquarium.

A with an aquarium light, simulate a 12-hour day cycle and 12 hours of darkness in the aquarium. It won’t be complete darkness even when the light is on, which is just right for these frogs.

Even in their natural habitats, African Clawed Frogs go out to the surface of the water to get some much-needed sunshine. Water penetrates many layers of water but the deeper you go, the darker it is.

The sun doesn’t reach that far. Fortunately, African Clawed Frogs don’t like going too deep into the water. From time to time, they’ll come back up and get their oxygen fill.

– Humidity

Humidity is not an issue with African Clawed Frogs since they are aquatic amphibians. You don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary other than changing its water regularly. As for humidity, the frog will self-regulate its body depending on its needs.

Since it lives in water most of its life, this frog is naturally very humid and it doesn’t do well in arid environments. That’s why you don’t just bring the frog out on the porch when it’s the middle of summer. It’ll be fried and dehydrated to death.

– Temperature

Temperature is yet another non-problem with African Clawed Frogs. They do quite well with room temperature water. But just to be sure, use a thermometer to check if the water is around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is, leave it like that. If not, use artificial heating to bring it to that temperature range.

African Clawed Frogs don’t need so much pampering as other reptiles or pets. Give them enough food (but not too much), clean water, and hiding places, and they’ll live a long life.

Too lower temperatures will negatively impact the frog, similar to high temperatures. Room temperature is ideal for these frogs like I said. So, don’t install any artificial heating system, and also try not to install a water filter.

African Clawed Frogs are very sensitive to vibrations, and the water filter may keep them up at night. They won’t be able to rest because they’ll always be active and aware of the vibrations.

– Substrate

A frog’s substrate is arguably one of the most important elements in its enclosure. The material that sits at the bottom of the aquarium is the substrate. African Clawed Frogs love gravel substrate, especially when the gravel is big enough so they can’t swallow it.

Make sure you decorate the substrate with anchor plants, hiding spots, wood branches, logs, rocks, and so on. Without hiding spots, frogs often get anxious and stressed up, which can significantly lower their lifespan. I also recommend using artificial plants as decorations because the frog may dig up live ones.

African Clawed Frogs will often get to the substrate and lie there, enjoying the cool atmosphere. It’s usually darker on the bottom of their natural habitats, so they’re used to going down there. I also advise you not to use small gravel since frogs can swallow it. That’s not exactly how you want your frog to meet its demise, right?


From birth, African Clawed Frogs become mature in 10-12 months at most. During the mating season, these frogs mate just about anywhere and at any time. Though, they usually do it during late summer and early spring.

This occurs 4 times per year at most, and it begins with males calling for females. You might not know but African Clawed Frogs have no vocal cords, yet they still vocalize to impress females.

Female are double the size of males, just like other frog species. Moreover, they can lay eggs more than once per year, which helps with keeping the population of frogs alive and kicking. Many baby frogs fall prey to predators, after all.

Females can lay up to thousands of eggs at one time, but many of them are not successful due to various factors. When the tadpoles develop legs, they’ll go out into the water and come out to the riverbank if they need to.

When a female accepts a male, mating occurs, usually during the night in stagnant water. As with other frogs, the African Clawed Frog male tightens its feet around the female’s pelvic region (amplexus), and then the female lays her eggs.

After the eggs are laid, the male fertilizes them. There’s a sticky jelly-like substance on the eggs, which helps them stick to any surface, including rocks, stones, and more.

In a week at most, the eggs will hatch and the tadpoles will get out, anxious to wander the water. These baby frogs are only 2/5cm long, and they grow to their frog form in six or eight weeks at most.

Moreover, this happens without the parents doing anything. The eggs hatch and the babies take care of themselves, with the parents being completely absent. Talk about independence!

Wrap Up

African Clawed Frogs may look weird and disturbingly ugly to some people but not everyone hates them. They deserve some love as well, right? Some pet owners love their frogs and they would never part with them.

In truth, these frogs can be very sweet, friendly, and communicative. In the wild, these frogs are tested-and-tried predators with cold instincts. They’re very adaptable and may even eat the tadpoles of other frogs when truly hungry. In captivity, they tend to live longer than in the wild, due to a lack of natural predators.

Being aquatic, these frogs also shouldn’t be handled too much. Their skin quickly becomes dry and their humidity level falls too low. I know for a fact that some pet owners have taught their African Clawed Frogs to eat from their hands, like dogs.

Sure, the frog may often mistake your fingers for food but that’s not a problem. They don’t have teeth at all. So, the only thing to be afraid of is a feeling of suction that creeps you out.

Either way, African Clawed Frogs can make for great pets!

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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