African dwarf frogs are a very popular choice for many aquarium owners. These lively animals have big personalities. Unfortunately, as is the cycle of life, the life of these frogs is finite
So, how long do African dwarf frogs live for? Well, there is quite a big difference between their lifespan in captivity vs the wild;
- In the wild they will generally live for 5 years.
- In captivity they will generally live for 15 years.
Let's look at the main factors involved for determining their average lifespan and most importantly how you can improve your ADF's lifespan in your aquarium.
African Dwarf Frog Lifespan
Here is a summary of an African Dwarf Frog's lifespan in captivity and in the wild for comparison;
In the wild, the average lifespan for the African dwarf frog is roughly 4 to 7 years. The reason for this is quite simple, because Mother Nature is harsh.
Between extreme temperatures, onset weather phenomena, and a variety of predators, the chances of an African dwarf frog making it past 5 years old in the wild are very minimal.
In captivity, under the right conditions, you African dwarf frogs may live for up to 20 years, although they usually won’t make it past 15 years.
Captivity is a whole different story because you can care for an African dwarf frog as best as possible.
If you take good care of it, provide it with the proper tank conditions, and feed it right, it can live for a very long time.
How To Increase An African Dwarf Frog’s Lifespan
Let’s talk about the best ways to keep your African dwarf frogs alive for as long as can be;
1. Proper Water Parameters
One of the most important things for African dwarf frogs, to keep them alive, so ensure that the water parameters are ideal for these particular creatures.
The water temperature for these frogs should be between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, or between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius.
The pH level of the water should be between 6.5 and 7.5, with a general hardness level between 5 and 20 dGH. The closer you can get to these parameters, the longer the frogs will live.
2. Don’t Handle Them
One of the things you need to do to ensure that your African dwarf frogs live for as long as possible is to stop touching them and picking them up.
Picking up African dwarf frogs is not recommended and should be avoided at all costs. It is extremely easy to break their bones or dislocate something, even with very gentle handling. These little guys are very fragile.
3. Proper Feeding
One of the best things you can do to ensure a maximum lifespan for your African dwarf frogs is to make sure you feed them properly.
Frogs are mostly carnivorous, and they subsist on insects and crustaceans, with African dwarf frogs in particular preferring to eat small crustaceans.
To ensure that your frog receives a nutritionally balance diet, a mix of frog food pellets, sinking fish pellets, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, beef heart, and insect larvae is recommended.
Also, it is recommended to always go with freeze dried foods whenever possible, as live foods may contain deadly parasites and bacteria.
4. Good Tank Filtration
African dwarf frogs are also pretty sensitive when it comes to water conditions. To keep them alive and well for as long as possible, a strong filter is recommended.
This means a filter that engages in efficient mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration, with biological filtration to remove ammonia and nitrates being crucial.
However, keep in mind that African dwarf frogs don’t like strong currents, so a high flow rate is not recommended.
5. Minimize Stress
Simply put, anything you can do to remove or minimize stress from the equation should be done.
This means providing your frogs with the right substrate, lots of live plants, a light to mimic their natural environment, and don’t overcrowd the tank either.
If you want your frogs to live for as long as can be, don’t keep them with tankmates that they won’t get along with. Make sure you house them with compatible tank mates.
6. Quarantine New Additions
New plants, rocks, and substrates should all be quarantined and thoroughly cleaned before being added to African dwarf frog tanks.
This is to ensure that there are no living parasites or harmful bacteria present.
Why Do My African Dwarf Frogs Keep Dying?
There are several reasons why your African dwarf frogs may be dying on you. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of death in African dwarf frogs.
1. You Keep Touching Them
As mentioned above, if you touch and hold your African dwarf frogs a lot, and they keep dying, your handling of them may very well be to blame.
It is very easy to break an African dwarf frog’s legs, to break a rib, or to crush their internal organs. If you notice your frog dies shortly after being picked up, chances are this is to blame.
2. Improper Water Parameters
Sure, your African dwarf frogs might be able to survive a couple days in waters that have an unideal pH or water hardness level, and a couple days in water that is too hot or too cold may be survivable too.
However, if you keep frogs in water that is far too hot or cold, or has the wrong pH or hardness level, eventually the African dwarf frogs will die. They are quite susceptible in this sense.
3. A Dirty Tank
Yet another common cause of death in African dwarf frogs is a dirty tank. This happens when you don’t have a good filter, especially one that engages in all 3 types of filtration.
Moreover, high levels of ammonia and nitrates in the water can and will kill frogs, as well as anything else in your aquarium.
A lack of biological filtration leads to ammonia buildups, which will kill everything in sight, and rather quickly too.
4. Improper Feeding
Something else that may lead to the death of your African dwarf frogs is improper feeding.
Now, this can mean not feeding them the proper foods, so be sure to do some research on this front. Feeding them the same food as you give your fish for a prolonged period of time, for instance is something that may cause death over the long term.
Moreover, underfeeding is another reason why African dwarf frogs die, although overfeeding can be just as bad.
Most people feed their African dwarf frogs about once every 2 or 3 days. Keep in mind that live foods can contain deadly parasites.
5. Disease & Fungi
There are a wide variety of diseases and fungal infections which can cause death in African dwarf frogs. Fungal infections of the skin, dropsy, bloat, and other such conditions can be quite common.
If your frog looks ill, you need to do some research to see if you can find out what the exact cause is, what the illness is, and how to treat it.
Stress is something that can kill African dwarf frogs as well as all other aquarium fish.
Stress can be caused by a number of the above factors listed, such as dirty water, improper tank conditions, bad feeding habits, and also by cramped conditions, the wrong takes mates, and many other things too.
How Do I Know If My African Dwarf Frog Is Dying?
There are a few telltale signs that you should be aware of, signs that your African dwarf frogs are on their way out and in dire need of assistance.
1. A Lack Of Appetite
African dwarf frogs, when they are dying, will stop eating as much as they normally do, or will stop eating altogether. African dwarf frogs, in the wild, are opportunistic eaters and will eat whenever they can and whatever they can.
A frog that eats is usually a healthy frog. However, if your African dwarf frogs start eating much less or even turning food down, you have a problem.
Check the food you are feeding them, as well as water parameters, plus check for illness too.
2. Pale Skin & Excessive Shedding
A big sign that an African dwarf frog is dying is if it has pale skin. African dwarf frogs have some pretty solid coloring, and if they get pale in color, something is wrong.
Now, African dwarf frogs do shed their skin, and their skin becomes pale about a day before shedding. If your frog sheds and then the color goes back to normal, it is in the clear.
However, if it sheds and the new skin underneath is still pale, there is a problem. Moreover, African dwarf frogs, mature ones, will shed about once per month or once every 3 weeks at most.
However, more frequent shedding than this is an indication that something is very wrong.
3. Sticking To The Top Of The Tank
African dwarf frogs are escape artists, they like to explore, and they do often try to get out of their tanks. Moreover, these frogs have lungs and they breathe air just like we humans do, so going to the tank’s surface for air is normal.
However, if your African dwarf frogs are hanging around the water surface all day long and it seems as though they want to get out, then something is wrong.
Your frog may be trying to escape a dirty tank, it may be looking for food, it may not have enough oxygen, or it may not be happy with the water conditions.
4. Dead Skin
Related to shedding, when African dwarf frogs shed, their skin should come off in one big piece. However, if you notice the frog shedding small chunks of skin frequently, there is an issue.
If you notice dead and tattered skin constantly hanging off of African dwarf frogs, there is a problem.
This can be caused by high ammonia and nitrite levels or the chytrid fungus. Ammonia and nitrite levels can be dealt with, but the fungus will kill the frog.
5. Still or Floating
If you notice that your frog is very still and has just stopped moving altogether, and is more or less floating in once place, it is within hours of death.
At this point it is generally too late to do anything about it.
The bottom line is that African dwarf frogs are very fragile and delicate. There are many things which may kill these awesome little creatures.
That said, if you take proper care of these little guys, they can potentially live for up to 15 or even 20 years in captivity.
Photo Credits: Renee Grayson @ Flickr