PET FRIENDLY: Surprisingly Social Frogs Make Great Pets

| June 26, 2014 | 0 Comments | News

I typically discuss dogs, cats and small caged pets in this column. But today you’ll learn about the joys of one of our favorite pets: African clawed frogs!

Nearly 20 years ago my wife purchased an exotic pet for our youngest son, who was at the perfect age to become a first-time pet owner. The chosen pet was a tadpole, purchased through the mail order firm, GrowA Frog. This male tadpole arrived with its own “habitat,” an instructional handbook and food. Watching the tadpole grow and metamorphose into a frog was interesting for the whole family, but the real fun came when the frog matured.

The African clawed frog is a species that does not ever need to leave the water. They have adapted well in their new U.S. homes, but are not legal to own in some states, such as Arizona and California, where if released can readily survive in the wild. They are permitted in Virginia and like many other family pets can provide years of entertainment.

The most compelling reason to consider this type of frog as a family pet, as we have experienced first-hand, is “they are surprisingly social.” Male frogs sing and both male and female frogs dance! Watching their rotund figures gracefully rise and fall in the tank reminds one of the dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia. They also enthusiastically “beg” to be fed with a hand-to-mouth gesture when they see someone close to their tank. Our first frog, Godzilla, a male, would “hug” a finger inserted into the water, and learned to be hand fed (they don’t have teeth or tongues, so this is safe and fun!).

In captivity, African clawed frogs typically live for about 15-20 years if properly cared for and such care is relatively easy. Sadly, we lost our first pet frog, Godzilla, when he was about 4 years old. A vacation frog-sitter forgot to put the lid on his tank and Godzilla did what all frogs are fond of doing…he jumped – unfortunately landing outside of his tank!  Following a proper burial and mourning period we acquired two new frogs, Godzilla Two and Godzilla Two-A (acquired at same time). Our current frogs are females, so we don’t hear them sing, but they also love to be hand-fed – much to the delight of young neighborhood children who sometimes visit to see and feed them.

Caring for aquatic frogs is relatively easy – about the same level of effort as fish care – and they are far more interactive and have more complex behaviors to observe than most fish. African clawed frogs have changed little in millions of years, demonstrating the notion that “nature is loath to mess with a successful adaptation.” Impressively, African clawed frogs are not just world travelers, but also space travelers, since they have flown on multiple U.S. Space Shuttles!

African clawed frogs are native to sub-Saharan Africa, living in stagnant pools and backwaters. Their highly developed lungs allow them to obtain oxygen at the surface. They can be readily identified by their large webbed, five-toed, three-clawed rear feet. Their skin is smooth and slippery to the touch.

In captivity, they remain in your aquarium their entire lives and you can use regular tap water, after letting it stand in an open container for at least 24 hours to allow chemicals to be released. With a filter in place and a sufficiently large tank, monthly cleaning is generally sufficient to keep your African clawed frogs content and visible to their outside admirers!

If you’re not quite ready to adopt a dog, cat or small mammal, but are eager for pet companionship and a novel family learning experience, perhaps you should add an African clawed frog or two to your adoption list!

Chris Bates is the founder of Top Choice Pet Care LLC (, which provides affordable, loving and reliable dog walking, pet sitting and other pet services to the Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket, Manassas and Nokesville communities.  A farmer’s son, life-long animal lover and pet owner, Chris is a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) through Pet Sitters International and is PetSaver™ trained in pet first aid and CPR.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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