African Clawed Frog

Xenopus laevis

African clawed frogs are aquatic frogs native to South Africa. They have flattened heads and bodies, lack tongues and external ears, and can reach 5 inches in length. The name refers to the three short claws on the hind feet, which are probably used to stir up mud to hide from predators.

Did You Know?

African Clawed Frogs have flattened heads and bodies, lack tongues and external ears, and can reach 5 inches in length.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Wild populations of African clawed frogs appear to be thriving.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

African clawed frogs have been introduced to South America, Europe, the United States, and Mexico. They were first brought to the U.S. in the 1930s and 1940s for laboratory use and later as aquarium pets. African clawed frogs are highly opportunistic and can easily colonize newly created isolated, bodies of water. Introduced populations often prey on native fishes and amphibians and displace native frogs. The species is also known to carry the infectious fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (also known as Bd) that causes chytridiomycosis, a disease that can kill native amphibians.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

African clawed frogs require 10-gallon tanks of water per individual; multiple African clawed frogs may live together, provided the tank size is adjusted for each individual added to the group.  These frogs must stay in the tank of water at all times.  The water requires weekly to bi-weekly cleaning and changing, and water quality is important. Filtration systems are not recommended.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before purchasing an African clawed frog, be sure to research the animal’s specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and housing for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Significant Cause for Concern

African clawed frogs are known carriers of the highly infectious amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) which causes the disease chytridiomycosis. This species is immune to Bd, but the fungus is a significant threat to most frog species. Bd has been linked to massive die-offs and recent extinctions of native frogs around the world. This fungus is thought to have originated in Africa; it was probably disseminated worldwide by the international trade in African clawed frogs for use in human pregnancy testing that began in the mid 1930s. To learn more about chytridiomycosis and the symptoms of infection, we recommend reviewing the information on Amphibian Ark.

Frogs may also carry Salmonella, which if ingested can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after each time an animal is handled.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet, ask for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis may be harmful to the health of your frog and native frogs. To learn more about chytridiomycosis and the symptoms of disease, we recommend reviewing the information on Amphibian Ark.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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