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Breeding the African Clawed Frog

Clawed Frog PairThe African Clawed Frog, Xenopus laevis, is an extremely popular pet and lab animal.  It is also one of the few amphibians that will sometimes reproduce “spontaneously” (that is, without being induced by artificial “rain storms” and other such tactics) in captivity.  Yet there is precious little available concerning how to breed this frog, or what to do if one is suddenly presented with eggs.

Natural History

Unlike most amphibians, African Clawed Frogs may reproduce at any time of the year.  This adaptation allows them to take advantage of favorable conditions whenever they occur, and is responsible for their ability to thrive as an introduced species in a great many countries.

Distinguishing the Sexes

Females are larger and stouter than males, and, when mature, bear 3 small, fleshy lumps around the cloaca (the opening that allows for the passage of eggs and waste products).  Males develop areas of roughened tissue along the inner forearms, known as nuptial pads, when ready to breed.

Inducing Reproduction

Normal fluctuations in room temperature, ample space and a good diet are often enough to induce breeding.  However, if you wish to assure reproduction, gradually lower the temperature of the water in your frogs’ aquarium to 66-68F for 4-6 weeks and drop the water level to 4-6 inches (be sure to filter well and do partial water changes, as ammonia will concentrate in the reduced water volume).  Then add water (68-70F) and, using a heater, allow it to rise to 78-82 F over a 7-10 day period.

After this mini “drought-flood cycle”, your males should begin issuing their metallic “click-click” calls and “gesticulating” by moving their arms about in what can only be described as “an excited manner”.  Soon they will begin to grasp at any frog in reach – if a male is grabbed, he will emit a unique release call and stiffen his rear legs in response.  Receptive females will be grasped about the waist in an amphibian mating embrace known as amplexus.

Amplexus and Egg-Laying

Most frogs utilize pectoral amplexus, wherein the male grasps the female just behind the arms.  Male African Clawed Frogs, however, latch onto the area just above the female’s rear legs, a position known as inguinal amplexus (please see photo of Dwarf Clawed Frogs in amplexus)Amplexus may last anywhere from 2 hours to 2 or more days.

During amplexus, the male frog changes the tone of his call, repeatedly tightens and loosens his grip and occasionally swipes his mate’s head with his clawed feet.  Related species such as Surinam Toads and Dwarf Clawed Frogs perform an elaborate, circular egg-laying “dance”, but African Clawed Frog pairs tend to just spin about in place or swim is semi-circles.  Females deposit 1-5 eggs at a time, which are fertilized by the male upon release.

When egg-laying has been completed, remove the adults as they will be hungry after their efforts and very willing to consume their progeny.

Amazingly, a female in my collection deposited eggs without entering amplexus, and a male fertilized the eggs the following day…please see the article below for details.

Observing Breeding Behavior

Despite their generally bold demeanor, paired African Clawed Frogs are extremely sensitive to disturbances and will cease breeding if disturbed by vibrations or a light suddenly being turned on (egg-laying occurs at night).  Also, crowding the frogs will inhibit reproduction.

A red or black bulb will allow you to observe the goings-on without disturbing the happy couple.  If you discover eggs one morning, watch your frogs for the next few nights as they sometimes breed over a 2-4 day period.
Clawed Frog Tadpoles

The Tadpoles

The eggs will hatch in 2-4 days at 80-82F.  Newly hatched tadpoles measure 0.4 cm in length and usually transform into froglets within 2 months, at which time they are 1.3 cm long. Sexual maturity is reached by age 18 months – 2 years, sometimes earlier.

African Clawed Frog tadpoles are among the world’s oddest. They bear tentacles about the mouth and feed by filtering micro-organisms from the water. Fortunately, they are rather easy to raise – please see the article below for further information.




Further Reading

Feeding African Clawed Frog Tadpoles

Video: tadpoles feeding

Odd African Clawed Frog Behaviors

“Grow-Frog-Kit” (Clawed Frog Tadpoles) 

Clawed Frog pair image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tim Vickers
Clawed Frog tadpoles image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Viridiflavus


  1. avatar

    Nicely done page and very informative. Only if you would let us know how you separate eggs from the parents I’ll be truly grateful.

    • avatar

      Hello Paul

      Thanks for your interest and the kind words. The easiest way is to have another aquarium ready and to remove the adults to it after egg-laying. Or, if you are planning to cycle them, you can move them to a separate tank for breeding, and then back to their original aquarium.

      The eggs are pretty resilient (they survive shipping rather well), so you can gently scoop them out if that is preferable. Due to the jelly and consistency of the eggs, a metal kitchen-type strainer generally works better than a standard aquarium net.

      Please let me know if you need any further information, and I’d enjoy hearing about your breeding attempts and successes. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Thanks Frank. So far we have only couple of tadpoles but like everything else I know it will turn into breading experiments. That just happens in our house when we get new animals and just kids love it. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

    • avatar

      Hello Paul,

      Thanks for the feedback; what a great opportunity for yourself and the kids. This article has some info on diets, in case useful to you.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    So, I’m still confused, the female lays her eggs during the amplexus? How long is her gestation? Thanks for the article.

    • avatar

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your interest. Gestation is usually applied to animals that utilize internal fertilization and give birth to live young; in African Clawed frogs, fertilization takes place after the eggs are released by the female. The eggs hatch in 2-4 days at 80F or it takes, from thso, longer at cooler temps. Females of most frog species produce eggs when stimulated by seasonal changes in temperature and/or rain. The time taken from the triggering event to egg production varies greatly…we do not have accurate info on most species. Female Af ClawedFrogsare unusual in that they are usually carrying partially developed eggs…when conditions are right, they can breed at just about any time of the year. This is one of the reasons for their success as colonizers. Please let me know if you need more info, Best, Frank

  4. avatar

    hi sir

    i came across some albino african claw frogs in my local petshop and very interested to keep a small group possibly breeding. currently i only have a 45x30x30cm 10gallon tank.
    how many african claw frogs can i keep in this tank? the tank will be bare bottom with some driftwood and silk plants. filtration is by a large corner bubble filter with some media.
    what is the temperature range for african claw frog?

    thanks sir

    • avatar


      This species is amazingly hardy as regards temperature…feral populations live in subterranean castle water systems in the UK, at temps never exceeding mid 50’s (F), and in Texas at 90+ F! Mine have remained active and healthy at 60-90 F; 75-78 F is ideal, and quick changes should be avoided.

      They are however very sensitive to ammonia, and they produce a great deal. Even with good filtration, weekly partial water changes are necessary. I wouldn’t put more than 1 pair in a 10 gallon aquarium; females are app. 2x the size of males. Let me know if you need more info, enjoy, frank

  5. avatar

    hi frank

    thanks for your kind and expert advice. you are really very helpful. i think african claw frogs will suit me as a excellent starter species. can i house 3 african claw frogs in a 10gallon, 2 males and 1 female? will the males fight and kill each other? the ones in my local petshop are quite small only 1-2inches. not sure if i can tell the sex for so young baby frogs. so was hoping to get a pair among the 3 hopefully breeding them.
    thanks and have a nice day sir

    • avatar


      My pleasure…glad the info is useful. You can raise 3 to adult size in the 10 gallon, and with careful attention to water quality you could maintain them there.Ammonia test strips would be useful once they mature. It’s not possible to sex them until adulthood, unfortunately. males jostle one another when trying to mate but do not fight. here’s some info on diet, please keep me posted, enjoy, frank

  6. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have tons of information on breeding these frogs, they are truly amazing creatures the way they breed and how resilient they are and countless stories I can tell you about them as a bread hundreds and hundreds of them or a very short period of time and with only two frogs doing the breeding or at least almost all of it. My oldest and favorite albino African clogged water frog “Big Mamma” was the largest and five are the fattest one of these frogs I have ever seen and I had her for years. She bread with two different frogs one of them was not an albino which provided a pretty cool little baby which I still have one of, she would lay/fertilize anywhere from 500 to 1000 eggs every single night for months at a time sometimes as her and her boyfriend would go at it for 12 hours at a time overnight all while she tried to scrape them off on everything in that tank but was never successful because he had a death grip around her waist LOL. So if I were to remove the larger frog from that tank the amount of baby frogs I would have would be far more than I could handle even with several hundred plus gallon tanks so rather than moving the frogs out I would move one or two rocks that were covered and eggs out of that tank and into a smaller tank was filled with water from the bigger tank so that the adult frogs we can eat every last egg way to new regional tank by the end of the next day followed by any small tadpoles they may have missed but if the water is perfect in the tank where you put the rocks where the eggs are very large percentage of those eggs will turn into tadpoles and if they turn into tadpoles it’s almost certain that they’ll become froglets and then frogs so there’s absolutely no question the bear an invasive species but I’m in Massachusetts so I gets too cold for them and that’s the reason it’s legal here.
    These critters are the only ones that of all the different creatures I have that I have actually successfully bred, my mail red footed tortoise is been trying to breed with my female red footed tortoise for a good two years now just about every night and has been very unsuccessful to date because she’s just not having it and plants her rear-ended into the ground as hard as she can so he gets frustrated and has now started biting her on the neck, the first time he did it it was so bad that he just about ripped her throat out and I thought that you was going to die but they are amazingly resilient as well I cleaned it as best I could but I’m not a veterinarian and healed no problem but over a fairly considerable period of time. He still been nipping at her but I think that I got them happy enough now that he stopped biting her or at least I hope so and I’m building a much bigger enclosure for them as well as letting them outside now that it’s warm but since I brought this up if you have any suggestions about dividing up the mail on the female tortoise due to her not wanting to breed I’d be happy to hear them.
    If you’ve got some questions that you’d like to answer an ad to your information about breeding these frogs if I don’t know what I can figure it out because I’m in the process of beginning to breed them again but the two that I have one is not albino the other one is actually The half-and-half one that I bred & she’s the female, the father was the non albino so I’m interested to see what these two’s babies will look like.
    I think the most fascinating part about the albinos is there tadpoles because they’re not only translucent completely see-through and if you look closely you can actually see their heart beating inside the little chests and with each beat you can see the blood shoot through their little arteries all over their tiny bodies.
    One thing that’s really amazing about the two that I have right now which I rescued from A person I had given them to had neglected them so badly that he hadn’t fed them, hadn’t change the water, provided no lighting or heat sources of any kind and completely neglected them to the point where the tank was half-full of green sludge rather than water all over a period of a bout a year when I finally found him in an unoccupied home that didn’t even have power and it was the winter. When I got them back even though they were adults they were still tiny they look like baby frogs so I got them a brand-new tank whole new set up and started feeding them regularly as I always did, inside of three weeks both of them had tripled in size and now look like very healthy adult frogs and are even eating out of my hand without hesitation although they were scared of me for the first few weeks. Just amazingly resilient animals I found one that had escaped and hopped off the second story deck and about a half-mile away where I found him finally dead, they are very good escape artists and when you have hundreds of them they’re bound to get out of specially during water changes and things like that so that’s how he escaped and hopped off my deck which is a pretty good following itself but didn’t seem to bother him at all because like I said you made about a half-mile away where I found them in an empty parking lot that I play with my dog and sometimes. I have an most fax and endless crazy stories about these incredible critters so if you ever want some of the blanks filled in regards to the lack of information you stated that was available in regards to breeding these frogs and please feel free to reach out to me. If I can answer it I can get the answer because like I said the two that I have already getting ready to breed as he’s been doing is mating call pretty regularly but she still had some recovering to do so I suspect in the next week or two I’ll start laying eggs uncontrollably as they get fatter and happier. That’s one thing I have noticed is that when I comes to these frogs it seems that the fatter they are the happier they are LOL and big mama was one fat check let me tell you, she was ravenous all the time and was so fat that she had Kankel’s , as she swam there were as many waves in her body as they were in the water but she live forever and love me I could tap on the glass wants and she come right over to me looking for anything I was going to theater are you going to stroke her head which is weird that she liked that because that’s the only time I’ve ever seen that.

    Anyway good info on here I was just looking for a quick breeding temperature because I wasn’t positive as to what I went with before that’s how I came across this site. Sorry if there are a bunch of typos and/or redundancies, I did this using the talk and text feature on my iPad because I didn’t have time to type it out by hand or to proofread what I have just written, lol. So my apologies for that thank you for the info on this page

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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