pointerHymenochirus is a genus in the Family Pipidae and contains two species and perhaps one subspecies. Members of the Pipidae family have certain characteristics in common, one of them being that they are tongueless. Another characteristic is their tapered heads and circular lidless eyes. The two species look very similar to each other. For example, this photo is of H. boettgeri and this photo is probably of H. curtipes. The major distinction between the species is that H. curtipes reportedly has a distinctively wartier skin than H. boettgeri. The best way to tell these two species apart however is during the tadpole stage. It seems that H. boettgeri is the most common species in the pet trade.

Males and Females

In H. boettgeri the males are slim and when mature they will develop a small gland behind each of their front legs. This gland is called a post-axillary subdermal gland. It looks like a small pimple. These glands apparently play some part in mating, but their role is not well understood.
The females of the species tend to be a bit larger (about 20%) than the males. They will become
almost pear-shaped when mature and their abdomen fills with eggs. The females typically have a slightly longer tail than the males.
The males of the genus are the only ones who "sing" or "hum." Like most frogs, the singing is designed to attract a mate. The males will sing even if no females are in the tank. If your dwarf frog sings, it's a male. In H. boettgeri, sexual maturity begins at about nine months of age.

Listen to the Male's Mating Song


African dwarf frogs mate during what is called amplexus. In amplexus, the male grasps the female around the abdomen just in front of her hind legs. Amplexus usually occurs at night after one or more nights of singing by the male. During amplexus, the female does all the swimming. The female lays her eggs on the surface of the water, one at a time while towing the male. She will swim to the bottom of the between layings. The male is fertilising the eggs during this time by releasing sperm into the water.
Amplexus can last for several hours. When the female has laid all her eggs she signals the male to release her by going motionless. The first time I saw this behavior I though that the female had died. After several minutes of motionlessness the male will release the female and she will return to her normal behavior.

Care & Feeding

pointerA common misconception is that these aquatic amphibians can be cared for as if they are goldfish. Though they can thrive in a tropical fish aquarium special care must be taken to prevent them from starving to death. These frogs are bottom feeders. Their preferred diet consists of blood worms (live or frozen), small (or chopped) earthworms, tubifex worms, etc. I have observed them eating fish flakes only on rare occasions and never in any quantity. I have heard from numerous owners reporting that freeze-dried food has caused health problems in their frogs. I suspect that the freeze-dried food causes intestinal blockages that are usually fatal.
African dwarf frogs seem to be visual hunters, but it's likely that they can also detect food by scent. Their nearly binocular eyesight will detect movement once they are close to the food. They feed by striking suddenly at their prey. They don't chew their food, but gulp it down whole. These frogs will eat huge amounts of food for their size. Care must be taken not to over feed as they will search for any and all food in their tank and eat until every morsel is gone. It's best to feed them every other day. Adjust the amount of food so that their bellies are just beginning to bulge when the food is gone.
H. boettgeri and H. curtipes are unusual for frogs in that they do not ever need to leave the water. In fact they will dehydrate very quickly if they do. Their water should be filtered and temperature controlled. Frogs are not able to regulate their body temperature internally the way other animals do. Frogs rely on their environment being the proper temperature for them to be comfortable. H. boettgeri will do weCongo Mapll at a temperature of 25 degrees C. (77 degrees F.). They do not appear to be bothered by a few degrees of fluctuation overnight. H. boettgeri and H. curtipes come from the Congo region of Africa and are adapted to a higher pH than most aquariums. H. boettgeri will do best in a tank with a pH of 7.6 to 7.8. Since most fish prefer a pH closer to 7.0 you might want to consider putting H. boettgeri in their own tank, especially if you want to do any breeding.
I was able to keep a Chinese algae-eater and a corry catfish with my frogs at the higher pH with no problems. I recommend these types of fish for your frog tank as they help keep the tank clean and they don't harass the frogs. Gold fish and most tropical fish can be very aggressive to the dwarf frogs and they will compete with the frogs for their food.
I have written a detailed account of my recent breeding events which includes my tank setup and water conditions.

I believe that live food should be supplied whenever possible. Here are some resources:

Blue Spruce Biological Supply
These folks can supply you with everything you need to raise Hymenochirus tadpoles.

The Drosophila Company
You'll be dealing with Jerry Tresser. He's quite a character. He's also honest and very knowledgeable about Drosophila melanogaster and Hydei sturdivant. His prices are very competitive too.

M& M Incorporated
These folks sell Artemia which is a brine shrimp native to The Great Salt Lake in Utah. Live brine shrimp are an excellent food source for fish and H. boettgeri.


Raising Tadpoles

pointerIf you decide you want to raise tadpoles there are several essentials.

Water Quality

pointerIt is extremely important to understand how to establish and maintain a high level of water quality within your aquarium. This is especially true if you are keeping fish, but is also true if you are keeping aquatic frogs. Poor water quality will shorten the life of any species by exposing it to toxins and will make an aquatic animal more prone to disease and infection. I have assembled some information that discusses what water quality is and how best to maintain it.

The Biological Cycle is an excellent introduction from the folks at Aqua Biotechnology.

For deeper reading I highly recommend this paper:
Biological Filtration and Aquarium Health Maintenance. It's well illustrated and very readable.

On the Lighter Side...

Frogland is the site that got me started on my breeding project. This award winning site has been going since 1995 and is hopping with fantastic frog facts and fun!