Helping you keep your aquarium beautiful and healthy


African Clawed Frogs and H.P. Lovecraft

by Robert W. Bly, founder,

As has happened many times, I found an old aquarium lying around the house. This one was a 10-gallon in which we had kept hermit crabs.

Whenever I find an unused tank, I cannot resist setting it up. So I rushed to the fish store, bought the necessary supplies - gravel, thermometer, light, hood, filter, heater, and stand - and set it up.

Now we had a nice clean 10-gallon set-up in my younger son's room. I told him he could put anything he wanted in it. But ten gallons is a pretty small set-up. What would you do?

We went to the fish store and the African clawed frogs caught his eye. We bought a pair and placed them in the tank.

We also had a bucket with some old decorations. We chose an ancient-looking bridge structure with arches that were open so fish can swim through them.

The frogs love this structure. They can frequently be found on top of the bridge, as if crossing, or relaxing in the interior of the structure.

The frogs are slightly anthropomorphic, resembling strange underwater half-man, half-fish creatures described by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft in his stories, especially Dagon and The Shadow over Innsmouth. So we named the frogs Dagon and Innsmouth, though we cannot tell them apart.

Unlike most other frogs, the African clawed frogs spent - as far as we can observe - virtually 100% of their time under water.

That makes them suitable for a traditional aquarium rather than a terrarium or a modified aquarium with lower water levels and structures for the frogs to climb onto and get out of the water.

You do not need to provide a land area for African clawed frogs. They simply swim to the surface when they need to breathe - even though they spend their lives underwater, they do not have gills.

Two varieties are sold in fish stores: African clawed frogs and African dwarf clawed frogs. Young frogs of both varieties look virtually identical.

The difference is the size they reach as adults. Dwarf frogs grow to an inch or slightly longer. Regular African frogs can reach 3 to 4 inches or more in length.

For that reason, regular African clawed frogs cannot be kept in a community tank. The dwarf frogs can live in a community tank if it is large enough so that the fish can avoid them, at least 20 gallons.

Like almost everything else you keep in your aquarium, African frogs will greedily consume black worms and other live food, but it is not necessary to feed live food to them. Ours seem perfectly content with shrimp pellets.

It is almost eerie how the frogs seem to inhabit the faux ruined bridge in our tank, like ancient creatures living in forgotten silence in a crumbling castle.

African frogs can exhibit amusing behaviors. My son said one night the frogs faced one another and placed the claws of their front legs on each other's shoulders. They then spun freely in the water, much like two parachutists locked together during a free-fall. Strange but true.