Home | Amphibians | Amphibian Abuse – Neon Dyed Frogs Wildly Popular in Chinese Pet Stores

Amphibian Abuse – Neon Dyed Frogs Wildly Popular in Chinese Pet Stores

Loggerhead TurtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Many turtle keepers here in the USA can recall seeing hatchling Red-Eared Sliders with gaily-painted shells being offered for sale at pet stores and carnivals.  Thankfully, through education and the passage of legislation, that practice, which killed thousands if not millions of turtles, is no longer with us.  Unfortunately, an equally-horrific new fad has recently popped up in China, where millions of young African Clawed Frogs are being colored with industrial dyes and sold as short-lived “novelties”.

Torturing Sensitive Creatures

A thin, sensitive skin pre-disposes frogs to a variety of environmental hazards, and may be one of the factors behind the recent extinctions of hundreds of species worldwide.  Permeable to water, oxygen and chemicals, frog skin is marvelous yet delicate, and easily irritated by any exposure to less-than-ideal environments. 

So just imagine the effect of injections of industrial dyes!  Actually, any animal would be horribly injured or killed by such a practice…in fact, the dyes being used on the frogs are reportedly dangerous for people to handle.  

As you can see from article linked below, the frogs take on neon hues of pink, yellow, green and other colors, and appear more like plastic toys than live animals – a situation that makes it more likely they will be treated as objects and not living creatures in need of care.

Larger Issues: Animals as Objects

In addition to the outright killing of frogs, the practice of dyeing them raises the larger issue of how they are perceived.  In this article, for example, the author has not even bothered to identify the type of frogs that are being sold, and even makes light of the situation – suggesting that the frogs sell-out so fast that prospective owners may need to dye their own!  The author callously goes on to note that the dyes should last 3-4 years “…by which time the frogs will probably be long dead anyway”. 

As you can see by the video linked below, sellers also show little regard for the doomed creatures’ needs – the dyed frogs pictured there are held in a bare tank of filthy water in which float dead fishes.

A Life-Saving Frog

Ironically, so much of interest could have been written about African Clawed Frogs.  Once used as the basis for pregnancy tests (the Hogben Test), these frogs have been used in medical research for decades, and have saved countless human lives.  Captives become quite responsive and have lived for nearly 30 years, and educational kits featuring Clawed Frog tadpoles have introduced millions of school children to the wonders of metamorphosis.  I could go on…please see the article below for more on this most unique amphibian.

“Tiger Dogs” and other Odd Fads

Apparently, “plain” animals are not interesting enough for many modern-day consumers in China and elsewhere these days.  Fishes confined to lockets are still being sold, and in the past few years the practice of coloring dogs to resemble tigers, pandas and other creatures has become fashionable (please see article below).

Reporting Animal Abuse

Please read my article on Reporting Animal Abuse (USA), and of course feel free to write in for advice; in most cases I’ll be able to direct you to an appropriate local authority if you have witnessed animal cruelty or abuse.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments here…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

Further Reading

Video of Dyed Frogs Held under Terrible Conditions

African Clawed Frog Behavior

White clawed frog image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Museoftheviolets


  1. avatar

    As a Chinese person and frog keeper, I’m embarrassed and appalled. A little education and compassion goes a long way; and the people doing this have neither.

  2. avatar

    Hello Brian,

    Thanks for your interest. They have begun to show up here in the US as well, despite the fact that turtle-painting has been outlawed for decades. Glass fish and some others are also sometimes dyed. I’m sure it happens in other countries as well, unfortunately.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    This is not good. Regardless, if they look more special than other frogs, we should not support these stores that go against nature. This is just sad. :(

  4. avatar

    Hello Susan

    Thanks for your interest and concern. Several organizations are looking into legislative changes, pressure on stores etc., as the frogs are now showing up in the US as well as China. Turtle painting was outlawed years ago, so hopefully it will not be difficult to apply the same logic to frogs. Dyed fish (usually glass fish) seem not to arouse as much concern, and are still seen regularly.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Came across a kiosk selling large numbers of these little frogs in an overcrowded tank at the Mills mall in St. Louis today. Have never seen them before and was not even aware it was legal, but I knew people have been doing it with fish. These poor little frogs. :(

  6. avatar


    Thanks for your interest and concern…laws vary from state to state. You might wish to contact the Missouri Humane Society; even if practice is legal, they may be able to pressure the store into discontinuing by threatening bad publicity, etc. That tends to work, esp. in cities such as St. Louis, where there are likely to be many concerned residents. Pl let me know if you decide to follow up, thanks, Frank

  7. avatar

    I bought two of these frogs just yesterday. My son fell in love. I had no idea they were dyed. That is absolutely awful. I have spent my evening doing lots of research on these little guys. If I remember correctly the guy told me that they were some sort of Chinese Frog. After doing my research I found out that he only gave me half truth. The sad thing is that many people will not do research on the proper care of these animals. I still would have bought the frogs regardless of their color. We had talked before about getting one. An earlier post said these were at the Mills Mall in St. Louis and that is exactly where I got mine. They are legal here in Missouri. The vendor should be ashamed of himself for not giving me ALL the information on the origin of these frogs.

  8. avatar

    Hi Becca,

    Thanks for your note; I’ll see if I can raise some local interest; Here is an article on feeding African Clawed Frogs.; They do well at room temperature. Be sure to keep the aquarium covered, as they will jump out at night. A small corner filter will help keep the water clean (ammonia produced by the frogs is colorless and odorless, but will kill them if allowed to build up. Partial water changes should also be done 1-2x week. An instant chlorine remover, sold for use with tropical fishes, should be used to treat water added to their aquarium. Please let me know if you need further info, Best, Frank

  9. avatar

    Oh no! My daughter received 2 of these neon frogs for her bday from friends. They were told at the pet store that they were dyed as embryos and would actually return to white as they grew?? I found this article while researching how to care for them. I feel so awful! They were given general fish food granules as the diet. Is this OK? We added a small corner filter to the tank. How can we best care for these frogs? I don’t know if they are African clawed frogs or not. We are from Ohio. Our tank is full and they stay continually submerged. They seem to be doing OK after a week…

  10. avatar

    Hello Heather,

    “Dyed as enbryos”…that’s a first, and I’ve been hearing clawed frog stories for over 50 years! This would be quite a feat, given that their minute tadpoles hatch from tiny eggs…

    If the frogs survive, the dye may wear off…likely depends on whether they were injected or soaked; albino African Clawed Frogs () are common in the trade and often chosen for dying due to the lack of dark pigments. This may be what the store employee meant…but given the “embryo” comment, I would not any stock in their advice.

    Dwarf Clawed frogs are sometimes dyed as well, but not commonly. They are harder to care for..please see this article on distinguishing the 2 species, and let me know if you need more info.

    Fish food is not an adequate diet, but they are quite easy to feed (assuming, as I think its safe to do, they are the larger species, X. laevis). Use the Reptomin based diet described in this article; you can add the other foods mentioned if you wish.

    A filter is essential. You should also scoop out appx 1/2 of the water each week and replace with fresh water; be sure to use instant de-chlorinating drops on all water that goes into the tank. Ammonia poisoning (from wastes) is the main cause of death among captives. A small ammonia test kit is useful, but probably not necessary if you keep up on filter changes and partial water changes.

    They jump at night, so the aquarium must be tightly covered. Do not handle the frogs, as the skin mucus rubs off easily and leaves the frogs open to attack by fungi, etc.

    Normal room temperatures are fine.

    Do not empty water into sinks used for food preparation, and follow the precautions set forth in this article.

    I’m glad you took the time to research and write in; if they survive the dye, they can go on to live 20+ years and may even produce eggs in the future. they become quite responsive…feeding from the hand and rising to the top when someone enters the room. Enjoy and please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  11. avatar

    Thank you Frank! After reading the article to determine species, I do believe that it is the dwarf frog. The front feet are NOT webbed and the body long and thin not round. Is there a way to post or send a picture for confirmation? As an animal lover, I want to make sure we take care of them the best we can!

  12. avatar

    Sorry! Switch that, it is not a dwarf as the feet are not webbed…

  13. avatar

    Ok, Heather….please keep me posted; it will be useful to know if the dye passes and if they survive. The legality of the practice is in question, but painting the shells of turtles has been illegal fir many years,,,if you wnat to follow up, you might place a call to your state’s wildlfie agency and or the local ASPCA office. Best, Frank

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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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