I’d like to welcome Frank Indiviglio back to That Fish Blog for another interesting post. Although they’re amphibians, we’ve seen so much of the African Clawed Frog in the aquarium trade, I thought this was appropriate here. Enjoy!
I’ve always been interested in the process by which a species becomes established as a pet. Interesting stories abound, none more so, perhaps, than that of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. Hailing from southern Africa, female clawed frogs were (somehow!) found to possess an unusual trait – exposure to a pregnant woman’s urine causes the immediate release of the frog’s eggs! Dwelling in a harsh habitat, females must be ready to breed on short notice, and nearly always have eggs ready to be fertilized. This, combined with the ease of maintaining them in the lab, soon led to their widespread use in the Hogben Pregnancy Test.
Millions of these frogs were imported to the US in the 1940’s, with many finding their way into the pet trade. Unfortunately, they also made it into local waterways, and today are well established in several states, including Texas, California and Arizona. Ravenous predators, clawed frogs have been implicated in the declines of a number of invertebrate, amphibian and fish species. Recent research also indicates that this species may responsible for starting the worldwide Chitridiomycosis fungal epidemic that is threatening scores of amphibian species.
Feral populations of African clawed frogs are also to be found in Mexico, Chile, France, Italy, Java, Japan, Indonesia, Great Britain, the Ascension Islands and elsewhere. Despite the species’ origins in warm fresh water, one population has adjusted to life in the underground wells of a castle in England, where the water rarely tops 50F, while another group thrives in brackish ponds (they tolerate 40% seawater) in Orange County, California.
These tongue-less, claw-bearing, aquatic frogs make fascinating pets (they are, however, illegal to own in some states). One kept by my frog-enthusiast mother attained 21 years of age, and the published longevity record is 30 years. Unlike most frogs, they will accept non-living food, and thrive upon Reptomin food sticks and frozen fish foods. I’ll discuss the care of clawed frogs and their relatives, African dwarf frogs, Hymenochirus spp. and Surinam toads, Pipa spp., in a future article. Until then, please write in with your questions and observations. Thank you. Until next time, Frank.
You can learn more about this frog’s spread into non-native waters at:
Until Next Time,