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African Clawed Frog

Xenopus laevis
DistributionSub-Saharan Africa
Sexual DimorphismMales smaller and slimmer, females larger and more pear shaped. The female has a pronounced cloaca. Males also display nuptial pads on their front feet and lower arms.
Maximum Size15cm (5.9")
Temperature20-23 deg C (68-75 deg C)
Water ParameterspH: 6.8-7.8, dH: >12 degrees.
CompatibilitySpecies-only aquaria.
LightingNo special requirements

Care

In the wild, African Clawed Frogs are known from lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands in arid and sub-arid African climes. This species is a voracious predator and easily adapts to a wide range of habitats, from stagnant waters to clear flowing streams. Despite being classed as fully aquatic, under favourable conditions they have been known to travel short distances to other bodies of water, and as such, in some areas are regarded invasive. Nevertheless, they remain a popular aquarium pet for those wishing to keep a species-only frog tank. Indeed, kept in the right environment, this is a large, characterful species that can live for two decades or more. African Clawed Frogs are fully aquatic, but they do need to come up and take warm air from above the water's surface periodically. It is therefore essential that the tank is not too deep and you should leave a small gap between the surface of the water and the coverslides/lid. Substrate choice is important: it either needs to be too large (pebbles) or too fine (aquatic sand) to swallow, so that the frogs are unable to accidentally ingest it when lunging for food. Ingestion of gravel can be fatal. Sand is the preferred choice as not only should it pose no problems for the frogs when feeding, it is much easier to keep clean, as it is all too easy for uneaten food and other waste products to build up amongst coarse grained substrates. Having said this, some people prefer to use pebbles (or even keep the tank substrate free) because these frogs do like to dig and sand can be disturbed rather easily; however, this should not be an issue if the sand bed is not particularly deep. Filtration should be efficient, but water movement fairly gentle. As frogs are not able to regulate their body temperature internally, they rely on their environment being the appropriate temperature for them to be comfortable, so ensure water temperature is steady. Hiding places should be provided amongst smooth rocks, driftwood, flowerpots turned on their sides, and sturdy aquatic plants such as Anubias spp. trained to grow on the decor (plants in the substrate may be uprooted). Bear in mind that adults have powerful back legs and can be quite destructive where aquarium decor is concerned; be sure everything is safe and secure. African Clawed Frogs are sociable with their own kind - as long as all specimens are of similar size - and should be kept in small groups. They are nocturnal predators that will prey on anything they can fit in their mouths, including fish that are of similar size to themselves, so they are best maintained in a species-only environment. Ensure there are no escape holes in the top of the tank as these frogs, unsurprisingly, are expert jumpers and they cannot survive out of water for long. Every few weeks, the frogs will shed their old skin, and when this happens, they usually eat it afterwards. This species is sometimes confused with the African Dwarf Frog (Hymenochirus spp.) which is a smaller and more peaceful species. To tell the difference: African Clawed Frogs have webbed hind feet and autonomous digits on the front feet, whereas African Dwarf Frogs have four webbed feet. Furthermore, the eyes of the African Clawed Frog are set on the top of the head, and those of the African Dwarf Frog are positioned on the sides of the head. Finally, the snouts of African Clawed Frogs are flat and gently curved, with those of the African Dwarf Frogs being more pointed. An albino variety of the African Clawed Frog is sometimes available.

Feeding

Carnivorous. Offer a variety of foods including sinking pellets/granules (such as Tetra ReptoMin) and meaty frozen foods such as white mosquito larvae, bloodworm, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp, mysis shrimp, krill, and prawns. These frogs can tear prey with their claws. Be sure not to overfeed as these frogs tend to be very greedy.

Breeding

African Clawed Frogs mate in what is known as amplexus (Latin for 'embrace'). This is a type of direct contact mating behaviour exhibited by some externally fertilising species, including amphibians. The male African Clawed Frog grasps the female's abdomen just in front of her hind legs using his front legs, and at the same time, or with a little delay, he fertilises the eggs as the female releases them. Amplexus usually happens at night, after one or more nights of courtship 'singing' and excited moving about by the male. Once in the amplexus position, the male will change the tone of his call and will hold onto the female for several hours. If the female is receptive, she will repeatedly spin about on the spot, or swim short distances, whilst towing the male. In this position, the female releases between 1-5 eggs at a time, which are simultaneously fertilised by the male. The adults will predate on the eggs so are best acclimatised to another aquarium once the female is spent of eggs. Hatching should occur within 2-4 days (temperature dependent) and the resulting 4mm tadpoles will require feeding with infusoria, moving on to baby brineshrimp and microworms when large enough. Approximately 6-8 weeks post hatch, the tadpoles will metamorphose into tiny frogs.

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