Betta Tank Mates: African Dwarf Frogs


African Dwarf Frog does her impression of Trinity in The Matrix.

Q: IC wrote,

Do African Dwarf frogs make good tank mates for bettas?

A: I have had mixed results with African Dwarf frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri) as Betta tank mates as have many of my other aquarist friends. I think that they CAN make a good tank mate but certain precautions should be taken. As with any Betta tank mate, a good amount of observation early on will help you determine what kind of relationship you have on your hands. As you probably know, Bettas can bully tank mates if you have one that is especially aggressive. Betta personalities vary so greatly, it’s almost impossible to know unless you give it a try. One thing many people don’t realize is that African Dwarf frogs can be extremely aggressive toward Bettas. They are faster swimmers and tend to show aggression when another fish comes between them and their food. In fact, food is the number one major concern when it comes to housing ADFs with other fish. Not only can they become aggressive when other fish try to nibble their dinner but they are also painfully slow eaters. They have difficulty seeing any food that isn’t moving and often it falls to the tank floor unnoticed until the frog stirs it up. ADFs should be fed daily and a healthy frog should appear a little chubby. When other tank mates are introduced it is easy for their nutritional needs to be overlooked. Often they don’t get their share of the food and can actually die from starvation. To avoid this, I strongly recommend hand feeding the frogs using a pipette or a pair of aquarium forceps. My experience has been that ADFs learn to recognize the utensil quickly and will come out for regular feedings. Though I haven’t tried this method, others have had success by adding a tank divider and separating tank mates during feeding. Still others will trap their frogs under a glass until they finish feeding. Admittedly, this approach makes me nervous. Obviously trapped frogs can’t get to the surface to breathe and while it’s great that the frog won’t stave, little good comes from a frog that suffocates.

Some of the nastiest fights I have bared witness to involved an African Dwarf Frog and a male Betta splenden. I have actually seen my entire betta’s head, up to the gills, inside the mouth of my frog as the two summersault (think crocodile death roll) in the center of my 6 gallon aquarium. Spats like these should be rare, however if you see them often or if one or the other gets hurt you may want to consider separating the fish from the frogs.

Also remember that ADFs are more sensitive to water quality issues then Bettas and a cycled, well maintained aquarium with a filter is a must. African Dwarf frogs are not appropriate for a bowl set-up.

They are really great animals to have and I guarantee will cause you to laugh out loud on more then one occasion. They may even give you a good scare as they pretend to faint and die by falling backwards with their white bellies up in the air. I definitely recommend trying African Dwarf frogs in your aquarium.

**Please note that African Dwarf frogs are not the same as African Clawed frogs.

Written by

Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

17 Comments for this entry

  1. Lauren Prairie says:

    Thanks for this post. I have 2 ADFs in with my male betta, Reggie, and so far everything is fine EXCEPT for adjusting the feeding, which is tricky. Since they’re in a small tank with only one fish, the way I handle it is to remove Reggie and feed him in a small tupperware container, and then hand feed the frogs. This is pretty time consuming, and I can see it being a real pain in the rear if you have a lot of fish in the aquarium. I know some people who remove the frogs and put them in another tank with shallow water and a bunch of food — if my frogs were easier to catch I guess I’d try that, but at least with hand feeding I know how much they’ve eaten.

    This also prevents my betta from gorging himself silly on bloodworms, the little piggy.

  2. Christie says:

    No problem, I knew you were waiting for an ADF post. ;-)

    Anyway, you make an excellent point Lauren. While we worry about our ADFs getting enough to eat we have the flip side of that, which is bettas overeating. They ARE little piggies and their tenacity for food can get them into trouble. Bettas that overeat are more prone to constipation and Swim Bladder Disorder. I also have to totally agree with you when it comes to who to catch. I would rather chase my Betta around the tank over an ADF any day. Those little froggies have some quick flippers.

  3. Kyle Friedland says:

    I currently Have 1 Betta fish and am getting a African Dwarf Frog with in a week. However, I am worried that the tank I have is too small. It is a half gallon. That most likely too small for both. My betta fish is fine in it but might not get enough room if both are in it. What Size tank would you offer for one betta and one Dwarf Frog?

  4. NoleGirl0526 says:

    Kyle…

    Just today I added one African Dwarf Frog to my 2 US gal Betta bowl. They seem to be doing fine now, although they didn't at first. The ADF attemped to bite the betta one time and was successful the second time. All this happened in the first hour of introducing them, and the betta was flaring, so I'm pretty sure the ADF was just feeling stressed/threatened. I've kept my net handy just in case i had to be the referee and break up a fight. Just make sure you have plants and hiding places! They make nice decor pieces that also double as great caves! You may want to consider 2 smaller hiding places instead of one bigger one. We've already encountered the problem of the frog wanting to go into the cave and the betta leaving when the frog came in. The man at the pet store also recommended that I add a small freshwater snail to the mix, just to help with excess waste since there are two critters in there now. The snail seems to be the only one that has adjusted well so far.

    Good luck!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yesterday morning i found my ADF lying on its back with its limbs all strerched out. im a first time frog owner so i didnt know what to do. i thought it was dead. i just woke up and saw it there. i waited about 7 minutes and it wouldnt move. so i threw him in the toilet. then i read this website which said that it lies on its back to go to its "happy place" and would be there for awhile and not to bother it. i panicked. but i still have another one who is doing fine:)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am getting a ADF soon and this website has helped out a lot! The ADFs at Petsmart are super cute and really small! I think they are froglets… Anyways i don't think you should just throw the frog in the toilet like that especially if he is at the top. Most ADFs when they die sink to the bottom and when they are at the top they are just laying there and being lazy so when they need air they don't have to swim to far up to the top and take a big gulp. I think you should get another ADF so the other ADF won't feel lonely. Thank you for all your help i think this website is awesome:)

  7. Mikal Mowdy says:

    I have a 30g community tank, with a goldfish, two swordtail fish, 3 glofish, a betta and a bleeding heart tetra. I was wondering if my ADF would do okay if i put him into the community tank? If so should i get him a buddy? We are also thinking about adding a plecostomus soon.

    • Jessica says:

      Hi there, some of these fish are tropical/warm water fish, like the betta and glofish, and some are cold water fish, like the goldfish, so thy are actually not even meant to be kept together. If you want to add a pleco make sure you research the different species, because the common species of pleco which is most common in pet stores actually needs at least 55 gallon to himself and grows to 2 feet. For your tank now I would STRONGLY recommend a heater to keep the water at 76 degrees.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a 5 gallon tank with 5 ADFs and a male betta. Ive had 3 of the frogs for about 1.5 months now and 1 got to be pretty chunky so im thinking its a female and the smaller of the 3 hasnt grown so much (he eats a good amount) so im guessing hes a male. I just added 2 ADFs and a betta tonight and so far they seem to be ok. The betta flared a bit but calmed down and the frogs ate. I had upgraded from the 5 gal to a 20 for my gouramis, pleco, and algae eater, the frogs went nuts and started to stress out. So i am using the 5 gal and they are fine in there. I think the fact of them having to swim so much more to get air made them stressed. I wouldnt recommand anything bigger than a 10gal for ADFs in my opinion.

    The way I feed my adfs is to take my small net put the bloodworms in and put it down to the bottom and they eat out of the net so when there done i just scoop up the left overs. I also have a small filter in there to keep the water clean.

  9. Anonymous says:

    i won an ADF at the fair and i have had him for a month now, so today i bought another ADF so he has a friend, but after 20 min they were hugging, so i thought, i guess they were wrestling, what do i do?

  10. Heidi says:

    Hi everyone! So I have two ADF’s and a betta. Since I got the betta and changed them to a larger tank the frogs seem less energetic, they used to hug and sing, now they just hide mostly. I noticed the betta trying to intimidate one if the frogs, the one who always hides now. So should I separate the betta and see what happens, or just let them figure it out and hope the frogs return to their normal selves? Thanks for any advice!!
    Heidi

    • First I would try to rule out any issues with the environment that may have changed from the old set-up (temperature, ammonia levels, pH, change in filter current, etc.). If everything is good, then it may be the presence of the betta that is affecting the way your frogs behave. I too have had this happen. That said, they can still be housed together successfully so long as your frogs are getting enough to eat. I would see how things go over the next two weeks. As they get used to the adjustment, (not just with the new fish but with the new tank) they may start to swim and sing again. If they are still hiding after a couple of weeks then you might want to look into a tank divider, refugium, or a second tank.

  11. Natalie says:

    Ello! I have a male Betta named Finnegan Schimmer ( Hee Hee!) and I was considering a ADF for him.

    Is a male or a female a better choice?
    Also, they are the size of a Betta, correct?
    And, where do they swim? I know that Bettas swim more around the top. Thank you!

  12. moe says:

    hello,do you breed bettas

  13. moe says:

    my local pet stores said you cant put a small snail in a 2.5 gallon tank with a betta,can you

  14. kitkat47 says:

    my frogs haven’t been eating at all! what should i do!!!

    • sue says:

      I was having that same problem with my little ADF Phil. He was near death and very skinny. I bought some frozen blood worms and cut them into small bites, I put Phil in a glass dish and hand fed him until he became strong enough to return to his little one gallon tank. He was doing fine for a while but then stopped eating again. I had his water checked and it was not so good. I bought some PRIME from PETCO and the boy there sold me some freeze dried TUBIFEX WORMS. He absolutely loved them. He was soon swimming about happy and gaining weight. Now he is in a 6 gallon tank and has a new friend, Kermit.

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