African dwarf frogs are tiny amphibians sold to live in fish tanks. Regardless of how they're presented in pet stores, these frogs prefer a tank that's "dwarf frogs only," though some frog keepers have success housing them with fire belly newts or large apple snails. Any fish that can fit them -- or their arms or legs -- in their mouth will have the frogs for lunch. And vice versa. These guys also have a tendency to try to nip the fins of anything that swims by.
The bare minimum space requirement for dwarf frogs is 2 1/2 gallons of water per frog -- more is better. They breathe air and need to be able to get to the surface quickly, so maximum tank height is around 12 inches. Dwarf frogs explore, forage and establish territories horizontally, so the tank should be wider than it is tall. These frogs never leave water but appreciate some hiding material, like African root. They do best between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A heater is unnecessary in warm climates, but homes with cold winters or powerful air conditioning need one. The tank must be kept away from direct sunlight, drafts and air conditioning vents.
Ideally, your tank should be set up completely and run for about two weeks before the frogs move in. Substrate must be thick enough to support biological filtration and have pieces too big to fit in frogs' mouths. A few inches of medium to large aquarium gravel works great. Strong current is the frogs' enemy. A very gentle submersible filter works best. Be warned: Undergravel filters and biowheels can trap and kill frogs. Treat water before adding it to the tank. Frogs prefer an aquarium water conditioner that deactivates chlorine and chloramine and has a "slime coat." A monthly 25 percent to 40 percent water change with a gravel vacuum, and changing or cleaning of the filter cartridge, is all the maintenance a healthy, established frog tank needs.
Live plants keep aquarium ecosystems healthy and aerated. Frogs appreciate good plant cover with surface hang-out spots. Anachris is an excellent, inexpensive choice. Planted tanks don't require aerating devices. Frogs and plants need light for eight to 14 hours per day. A timed regular aquarium light -- incandescent or fluorescent -- provides all the light they need.
Dwarf frogs prefer live bloodworms or blackworms. These prey take up residence in the gravel. Once biological filtration and plants are established, the worms will take care of themselves. The frogs will hunt them at their leisure. Many frog keepers add more worms on a regular schedule and keep an eye out the rest of the time to make sure their froggies are getting enough to eat. Filter out worms caught by the gravel vacuum with an aquarium net and put them back in the tank. Temperatures over 80 degrees F kill worms and cause water poisoning. Dwarf frogs occasionally enjoy other live food treats like brine shrimp or daphnia, but offer them sparingly. Dwarf frogs usually won't eat dry foods, and these can cause intestinal blockage.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.