If you fancy adding something a little bit different to your aquarium setup, you might be wondering whether an African Dwarf frog (Hymenochirus boettgeri) and a betta would make compatible tankmates.
In this article, we’ll find out more about these delightful little amphibians, how to care for them, and whether or not an African Dwarf frog would make a good friend for your male betta fish.
What is an African Dwarf frog?
The African Dwarf frog belongs to the Pipidae family in the genus Hymenochirus. There are four species known by the common name, African Dwarf frog:
- Boettgeri (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon)
- Boulengeri (Northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
- Curtipes (the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
- Feae (Gabon)
All four species of frogs look very similar, and the main difference between them is their native locations.
African Dwarf frogs are tiny, fully aquatic amphibians that grow to measure a maximum of three inches and weigh just a few ounces.
These super-cute little frogs are often mistaken for the African Clawed frog, so always make sure that you’re buying the right species of frog. The African Clawed frog is larger and much more aggressive than the African Dwarf frog, and introducing one of the former to your betta setup could result in carnage!
These frogs have a relatively short lifespan, surviving for up to five years if kept in a suitable environment and fed a correct, nutritious diet.
African Dwarf frog appearance
African Dwarf frogs are brownish to olive green frogs that have distinctive black spots dotted across their bodies.
Weirdly, these frogs have no teeth or tongues! They have webbed feet that they use for swimming and for feeding themselves too. African Dwarf frogs eat by drawing in water through their buccal cavity, sucking food and water into their mouths.
Although the frogs don’t have ears, their bodies have lateral sensory lines, which sense vibrations and movement.
Female African Dwarf frogs are slightly larger than their male counterparts and have a distinct ovipositor in their genital area. Males have small glands behind each front leg, which are used during mating.
Check out this cool video of African Dwarf frogs feeding on bloodworms.
African Dwarf frog behavior
These entertaining little frogs are nocturnal, meaning that they are most active at night. African Dwarf frogs are fully aquatic, so they spend much of their time swimming in the water, occasionally coming to the surface to breathe. In fact, these frogs can’t spend more than 15 to 20 minutes out of the water, or they will dehydrate and die.
African Dwarf frogs have fully developed lungs, rather than gills like your betta fish has. The frogs swim rapidly to the surface to grab a lungful of air and then dive back down to the bottom of the tank.
You’ll also observe your African Dwarf frogs floating on the surface of the water with their legs stretched out in a kind of “Zen position.” That’s normal; your frog isn’t dead!
Sometimes, you’ll hear a male frog “singing” by making a quiet buzzing sound to attract a mate.
Do African dwarf frogs and bettas get along?
Although African dwarf frogs can make good tankmates for bettas, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the two parties, to begin with, to see how they react to each other and determine what kind of relationship they will have.
Male bettas can be bullies, especially if you have one that’s particularly aggressive. However, your betta bad boy may find that he’s met his match in a feisty frog, as African Dwarf frogs can be highly aggressive toward bettas. The frogs are much faster swimmers, becoming belligerent when a fish gets between them and a food source.
Do African Dwarf frogs need company?
African Dwarf frogs do need the company of their own species to be happy. So, always have a minimum of two frogs in your tank.
What to African Dwarf frogs eat?
Like your betta, African Dwarf frogs are omnivores, although they do prefer a diet that has a high meat content.
Provide your African Dwarf frogs with a varied diet to ensure that they receive all the nutrients that they need to keep them healthy. There are lots of pre-prepared foods that you can buy for your frogs, most of which come in pellet form. Give your frogs variety by adding live or frozen fish fry, freeze-dried mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, krill, and bloodworms to their weekly diet.
Feeding bettas and African Dwarf frogs
Young frogs should be fed once a day, but as they mature, you can feed them a little less than that, ideally once every two days. Now, that’s where problems often arise when African Dwarf frogs and betta fish share a tank. Betta fish should be fed daily with one day’s fast each week to allow the fish’s digestive system to process any food that is lingering inside it fully.
Also, betta fish are much quicker feeders than frogs. Ideally, you should only offer your fish enough food to keep them busy for a minute or so, whereas African Dwarf frogs take up to 15 minutes to finish their ration. That can lead to fish trying to muscle in on the frogs’ food, and that’s when fights can break out. It’s also not unheard of for African Dwarf frogs to starve when there are other fish in the tank.
On the bright side, bettas are surface feeders, whereas frogs find their food on the bottom of the tank, which can go some way to preventing trouble at feeding times. Note that overfeeding frogs can lead to obesity and poor water quality, which in turn stresses your fish. Always remove any uneaten food from the tank shortly after feeding.
To add to the complications of feeding these two completely different species, African Dwarf frogs have very poor eyesight, and sometimes they don’t see the food that you’ve put into the tank. So, if you have a frog that’s not eating well, you may have to feed him using tweezers directly.
To maintain harmony when feeding your pets, try trapping your betta in a net until the food you’ve added for the frogs sinks to the bottom. Bettas have upturned mouths and generally only take food from the surface of the water, not from the tank bottom.
Betta fish and African Dwarf frogs tank conditions
Getting along well together is one thing, but do betta fish and African Dwarf frogs enjoy the same tank conditions?
As a general rule of thumb, you should allow one gallon of water per fish and per frog. Overstocking your tank will stress your fish and could lead to aggression between the two species. Your tank should be at the very least 10 gallons, preferably bigger than that.
African Dwarf frogs spend the majority of their lives underwater. However, they must surface periodically to breathe air from the surface of the water because they have lungs, not gills. For that reason, it’s vital that you don’t put them in a tank that’s too deep, or the frogs will struggle to reach the surface. Also, African Dwarf frogs aren’t very strong swimmers, and that makes the problem worse.
Ideally, the tank shouldn’t be more than 12 inches tall with an extra inch or two of a substrate on the bottom to reduce the distance even further between the floor and the top. Now, while that would be perfect for the frogs, there is a risk that your betta could jump out of the tank. In nature, bettas are accomplished jumpers, moving between puddles during the dry season in their native Asia in search of food, mates, or new territory.
African Dwarf frogs also jump. And if your frog ends up on the floor, he will only last 20 minutes before he becomes dehydrated and dies. So, use fine-gauge wire to cover the top of your tank if it doesn’t have a lid.
That said, both wild bettas and African Dwarf frogs live in relatively shallow water. African Dwarf frogs inhabit shallow ponds, creeks, and rivers, and bettas live in rice paddies, river basins, and shallow rivers. So, a tank that’s not too deep will suit both these species.
Use gravel for the substrate in a tank with frogs. Gravel is small enough that the frogs won’t get a leg caught up in it, as they could with large pebbles or marbles, and gravel is also large enough that it won’t get accidentally eaten by the frogs.
African Dwarf frogs need a water temperature of between 750 and 800 Fahrenheit. Bettas need a water temperature of around 780 Fahrenheit, so the two species are similar. African Dwarf frogs need a water pH of 7 or as neutral as possible, and betta fish need the same. So, both species enjoy the same water conditions.
Be sure to place the heater next to the pump. That ensures that the heat is distributed right throughout the tank, not just at one end. Unequal temperature or temperature fluctuation is a sure way of stressing your betta, which could lead to health issues and even death.
Stick your thermometer to the sidewall of the tank at the opposite end to the heater. That will allow you to check that the tank water temperature is consistent throughout the whole tank.
Tank decoration and planting
African Dwarf frogs love to hide among plants. That reduces stress levels, helping the frogs to settle in a new environment. Include lots of hiding places too, such as caves, close to the bottom of the tank where your frogs can take shelter.
Bettas and African Dwarf frogs both need clean water to thrive. So, you’ll need to keep ammonia levels down to 0ppm (parts per million), nitrate levels of 20ppm at most, and nitrite levels of 0ppm. Monitor the pollution and pH levels in the tank by testing the water once a week, using a testing kit.
You’ll also need a filter system to pump water around the tank and remove impurities from the environment.
Remember to carry out partial water changes of around 25% every week to keep your tank water fresh and clean.
African Dwarf frogs’ health
African Dwarf frogs are delicate, sensitive creatures that are susceptible to diseases and the effects of stress.
Also, although the frogs are not venomous, they do carry bacteria on both their skin and in their feces. The most common bacteria found on the frogs that can also be dangerous to humans is salmonella. For that reason, you should never touch your frog with your bare hands; always use an aquarium net. If you do need to handle your frogs, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling them.
African Dwarf frogs can easily be injured by sharp objects, so be sure to use only smooth substrate and decorations that don’t have rough edges. You also need to protect any filter inlets or outlets where the frogs could get stuck.
Remember to put your new frogs into a quarantine tank for at least a week before introducing them to your main setup. That way, you can monitor the frogs for signs of disease and ensure that they’re healthy.
The best way to keep your African Dwarf frogs healthy is to provide them with the right environment and optimal water quality. However, there are a few common ailments that you should know about before you buy any frogs.
One of the most commonly seen diseases in African Dwarf frogs is dropsy. The condition can be caused by many different factors, including bacterial infections and attacks by parasites. Unfortunately, dropsy is usually fatal to frogs, although mild cases are treatable. However, dropsy is contagious, so if you have several frogs in your tank, you should contact a vet who specializes in amphibians if you suspect that your frogs have been affected.
A frog with dropsy will appear bloated, lethargic, and disinterested in feeding.
Fungal and bacterial infections
Frogs are also prone to bacterial or fungal infections.
One extremely nasty fungus that affects African Dwarf frogs is called Chytridiomycosis. Frogs with this disease develop fuzzy patches on their skin. Although Chytridiomycosis won’t harm your betta, it is highly contagious, so if you have other frogs in your tank, you’ll need to separate them.
If your frogs develop reddened areas on their skin, red eyes, lethargy, and loss of appetite, they’ve likely contracted a bacterial infection. Antibiotics generally sort out bacterial infections, and your vet will prescribe you something suitable for your frogs.
Can you breed African Dwarf frogs?
African Dwarf frogs can breed at around 12 months of age, and they will breed in your tank if the conditions are right. However, the frogs’ eggs are extremely delicate, requiring warm water and a slightly higher pH level than adult frogs do.
Also, African Dwarf frogs are not parental creatures, and they do eat their eggs if your betta and other fish don’t get to the tasty morsels first!
What to do if your African Dwarf frogs and your betta don’t get along
Unfortunately, some animals simply don’t get along, regardless of how suitable their environment is. So, what do you do if your frogs and betta start fighting?
The obvious solution to the problem of incompatible tankmates is to remove one of them. Use your quarantine tank to house your betta temporarily while you work out what to do with your frogs.
Sometimes, placing a tank divider into your main tank can keep the warring factions apart and may help to settle things down while the two parties get accustomed to sharing their environment.
However, you may need to consider buying a whole new tank setup for the frogs or your betta so that you can keep both of them separate.
As a last resort, you could return your frogs to the shop where you bought them.
African Dwarf frogs can make entertaining and interesting tankmates for your betta fish, and they do enjoy very similar tank conditions too.
That said, if you have a particularly aggressive betta, you may find that he won’t tolerate the frogs in his territory, especially during feeding times. However, if your tank is a decent size and you manage the feeding of your frogs and betta correctly, the relationship can be a successful one.