Dwarf Clawed Frogs

Dwarf clawed frog
James Gathany/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Important Note about Keeping Frogs as Pets:

Frogs can make lovely pets, but frogs in the wild are facing population declines and extinction largely as a result of human activities. Unfortunately, the pet trade is likely contributing to the amphibian extinction crisis and the spread of a devastating infection by Chytrid fungus. For this reason, you should only buy frogs that you are sure are captive bred locally and tested to be free of disease.

It may be impossible to find frogs which meet these conditions, but otherwise, pet frogs may be contributing to the decline of wild frog populations.

Scientific Name:

There are a handful of species in the genus Hymenchirus that are found; Hymenchirus boettgeri seems to be the most commonly found in the pet trade.


The average life span is reported to be around 5 years.

Size and Appearance:

Dwarf clawed frogs reach an adult size of about 1 - 1.5 inches long.

They are usually a light brownish gray color with darker spots. While they are sometimes light in color, albino coloration is generally limited to the larger African clawed frogs, not dwarf clawed frogs. Juvenile African clawed frogs are similar in appearance to dwarf frogs; look for webbing between the front toes; dwarf clawed frogs have webbed front feet while the larger clawed frogs do not.


Dwarf clawed frogs do not need a huge tank -- allow about a gallon per frog.

They can be kept in groups or with peaceful community fish that are approximately the same size but increase the size of tank accordingly. Avoid tall, deep tanks as the frogs need to easily get to the surface to breathe. Leave a pocket of air between the top of the water and the tank lid. Also, a tight fitting lid is a necessity as these frogs will try to escape.

Water and Filtration:

Use only dechlorinated water in the tank (use conditioner drops from the pet store). Filtration is not strictly necessary if you keep only frogs in the tank (use frequent partial water changes), but if you add fish a filter will be necessary. Use one that disturbs the water as little as possible as frogs like still water, and make sure the frogs can not get stuck in the intakes or behind the intake/filter.


You can use sand or smooth gravel on the bottom of the tank. Do not use gravel that is too large or the frogs may get their legs trapped between the gravel pieces. You should make sure the frogs are not ingesting the sand or gravel when feeding. If this occurs you can try a different size of gravel, or feed on a small saucer that is placed underwater on top of the gravel (use a dropper to place the food items directly on the saucer underwater).

Plants and Decoration:

Dwarf clawed frogs like to have hiding spots. Use live or silk plants in the tank. Also provide hiding places using aquarium decorations, driftwood, or small terra cotta plant pots placed on their sides. Any decorations (including artificial plants) must be smooth so as not to damage the frogs' delicate skin.

A land area is not required as dwarf frogs are completely aquatic.


Dwarf clawed frogs should be kept at temperatures in the range of 75-80 F(24-27 C).


Dwarf clawed frogs are bottom feeders and should be fed sinking foods. Live, frozen foods, or freeze dried foods can be used, and a variety is probably best. Bloodworms, tubifex worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, blackworms, or chopped (bite sized) earthworms. Dwarf clawed frogs gulp the food into their mouths and swallow it whole. They rarely accept flaked food; some will accept pelleted food (get frog-specific pellets) but these can quickly foul the water.

Other notes:

  • Dwarf clawed frogs can be kept in groups, as well as will community tropical fish. The fish should be of a similar size as the frogs, however; if the fish are smaller the frogs may try to eat them, and if the fish are larger they may try to eat the frogs.
  • Make sure never to use soap to clean the tank or any buckets or other implements used in maintenance. Amphibians have very porous skin and are very sensitive to chemicals and detergents. Dwarf clawed frogs should not be handled.
  • Sexing: maturity is reached at about 9 months. Males develop glands that look like small pink or white bumps behind the front legs. The males will also sing (hum) trying to attract a mate. The females tend to be slightly larger than the males and have a more prominent bump where the cloaca is located between the hind legs.