Betta fish have a reputation as being aggressive, belligerent fish. However, most bettas appreciate some company to add interest to their habitat and provide the stimulation these intelligent fish need.
African Dwarf frogs are undoubtedly cute little creatures that can make an interesting addition to a tropical fish tank. But are these tiny amphibians good tank mates for bettas?
Read this guide to find out!
About African Dwarf Frogs (Hymenochirus)
African Dwarf frogs are tiny, growing to around 2.5 inches long, which is about the same size as a betta fish, and weighing only a few ounces.
There are four different species of African Dwarf frogs, all of which belong to the Pipidae family:
All four species of African Dwarf frogs look much the same, with the only difference between them being their countries of origin.
African Dwarf frogs typically live for around five years.
What’s The Difference Between African Clawed Frogs and African Dwarf Frogs?
These fully aquatic, nocturnal frogs are often confused with the African Clawed frog and are sometimes even mislabeled in pet stores. However, these frogs grow much larger and are predatory hunters that will happily make a meal out of your poor betta buddy.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between Hymenochirus and an African Clawed frog.
Take a look at the frog’s front feet. If the feet are webbed, you have an African Dwarf frog. As the frog grows, the difference between the two species becomes more pronounced. African Dwarf frogs have a more flattened body shape than their Clawed cousins and a more pointed head.
African Dwarf Frog Behavior
African Dwarf frogs are entertaining little creatures, but they are nocturnal, so you won’t get to see much of them unless you have a moonlighting feature in your tank.
The frogs are fully aquatic, occasionally visiting the water’s surface to breathe. Note that African Dwarf frogs are vulnerable to dehydration and death if they are out of the water for over 15 minutes!
Your betta fish has a labyrinth organ that enables him to take gulps of air from the water’s surface. African Dwarf frogs have lungs and also need to visit the surface periodically to breathe.
If you see your pet frogs floating on the water’s surface with their legs completely akimbo, don’t panic! Your frogs are not dead! That’s perfectly normal behavior, rather like your betta spending time resting and napping on flat surfaces in the tank.
You might occasionally hear male frogs “singing,” producing a subtle buzzing sound that’s designed to attract a female frog.
Tank Size and Environment
Fortunately, both species enjoy pretty similar water conditions. Although these are both small creatures, we recommend a large tank of at least 10 gallons. For example, a 20-gallon tank is ideal for several African Dwarf frogs, your betta, and a few other small tank mates.
A long, shallow tank is the best choice for both your betta and the frogs. Both species need to visit the water surface regularly to breathe atmospheric air, so the maximum tank depth should be no more than 16 inches. A long tank offers plenty of surface area for efficient gaseous exchange, helping to provide plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water for your pets.
A tank lid is recommended. Betta fish can jump, and the frogs will escape, given the opportunity, so you’ll need a tightly fitting lid or cover slide. A cover also helps to keep dust and foreign bodies from getting into the water and prevents evaporation.
The ideal temperature for bettas and Hymenochirus should be 78 degrees Fahrenheit and never higher than 80 degrees. The water pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.
You can use any kind of substrate in a betta and African Dwarf frog tank. However, we recommend a smooth, soft substrate since both bettas and frogs like to rest on the bottom of the tank, and a sharp substrate could injure your pets.
Suitable media include sand, large gauge smooth gravel, or smooth river stones.
Bettas are territorial creatures that need a territory to patrol. African Dwarf frogs, on the other hand, are quite timid prey creatures that need plenty of hiding places where they can feel safe and take refuge during the daytime, coming out at night to feed.
Use plenty of caves, driftwood, roots, and smooth rocks on the bottom of the tank. Bettas also love floating logs, and the frogs will appreciate them, too.
Plants are an excellent addition to a betta and African Dwarf frog tank. Both species appreciate the hiding places that dense planting provides, so be sure to include lots of bushy plants, such as Anubias, Java fern, and the like.
Both bettas and African Dwarf frogs enjoy having flat-leaved plants to relax and nap on, so be sure to include plenty of these in your tank. Floating plants are also a good choice.
Bettas are bubble nesters, and floating plants can make a perfect place for nest building. Hymenochirus like to relax with their heads clear of the water, and a raft of floating plants is perfect for them. Excellent floating plants to have in your setup include frogbit, guppy grass, water sprite, hornwort, and water lettuce.
Your tank needs an efficient filtration system to keep the water clean and healthy for your livestock. Bettas don’t cope well with too much water movement, so use a filter unit that doesn’t generate too much current through the tank. If you have a large aquarium, you’ll need a more powerful filter, and you should use plants or decorations to baffle the flow.
Diet and Nutrition
Bettas are primarily carnivorous, whereas frogs are omnivores, preferring a diet with high meat content. That means both species enjoy a very similar diet.
Your frogs need a varied diet that includes all the nutrients they need to thrive and remain healthy. You can use commercially produced foods for both your betta and your frogs, which you’ll find in your local pet or fish store, most of which come as pellets.
How To Feed Bettas and African Dwarf Frogs
Juvenile frogs need feeding daily. Fully-grown frogs should be fed only once every couple of days.
However, your betta should be fed a couple of times every day with one day’s fasting each week so that your pet’s digestive system can process any food that’s still passing through.
Bettas eat faster than African Dwarf frogs. Bettas typically eat their meal within a couple of minutes, whereas your frogs can take up to 15 minutes. That can lead to problems if your betta tries to muscle in on the frog’s food. However, bettas are surface feeders, whereas frogs tend to take their food from the tank bottom.
It’s important to note that overfeeding your frogs can cause obesity and damage the water quality, which is dangerous for your pets’ health. So, we recommend that you remove any uneaten food from the substrate once the frogs have had their fill.
Health and Disease
Bettas and African Dwarf frogs are generally pretty healthy. However, it’s important that you know what diseases to watch out for.
To be on the safe side, before introducing African Dwarf frogs to your betta tank, always keep the frogs in a separate quarantine tank for at least two weeks until you can be sure they’re healthy before adding them to your main tank.
African Dwarf frogs are not dangerous, but they can host bacteria in their feces and on their skin.
One of the most common bacteria that these frogs can carry is salmonella, which is dangerous to humans. So, always use a net or wear gloves if you have to catch your frogs, and be sure to wash up immediately after touching your frogs.
Like your betta’s flowing tail, Hymenochirus’ skin is easily damaged by rough or sharp surfaces. So, be sure to remove anything potentially dangerous and avoid using decorations with rough surfaces and pointed twisted roots that could injure your pets.
Dropsy affects both betta fish and African Dwarf frogs. In fact, dropsy is pretty much the most common disease seen in African Dwarf frogs.
Several factors can cause dropsy, including attacks by certain parasites and bacterial infections. Although mild cases of the disease are treatable, dropsy is contagious and is often fatal. If you think your frogs have dropsy, contact a vet with experience in treating amphibians.
Frogs and bettas with dropsy are lethargic, stop eating and appear swollen and bloated.
Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Unfortunately, African Dwarf frogs are prone to contracting fungal and bacterial infections.
One fungal disease that’s especially dangerous to frogs is called Chytridiomycosis. Symptoms of this condition include fuzzy patches all over the frog’s skin. Although Chytridiomycosis is extremely contagious, it won’t bother your betta fish.
Hymenochirus and betta fish can also develop bacterial infections. Signs to look out for include red areas on the skin, ulcers, poor appetite, and lethargy. You can generally treat bacterial infections with over-the-counter antibiotics, but we recommend consulting your vet for the best drug to use for your frogs.
What Should I Do If My Betta and African Dwarf Frogs Hate Each Other?
Sadly, sometimes African Dwarf frogs and betta fish simply don’t get along as tank mates. Of course, African Dwarf frogs are nocturnal creatures, whereas betta fish are diurnal, being active during the daytime. So, provided that the frogs have plenty of places to hide and sleep, your betta won’t be able to hassle them.
But what can you do if your frogs and your fish hate each other?
Swim For It!
African Dwarf frogs are typically faster swimmers than bettas, so the amphibians can easily get away from a feisty fish if they need to.
However, your betta buddy’s aggressive behavior will stress the African Dwarf frogs, comprising their immune system, and potentially leading to outbreaks of disease and an overall failure to thrive.
Although you probably won’t want to do it, the obvious solution to the problem of tank mates that don’t get along is to separate them.
You can use a quarantine tank as a temporary home for your betta fish while you figure out the best thing to do with your African Dwarf frogs. If you have the space in your home, you could buy another tank and set it up exclusively for the African Dwarf frogs and a few more compatible tank mates.
Often, problems arise when you first introduce the African Dwarf frogs to your betta’s tank or vice versa.
If that’s the case, you could try placing a tank divider in your aquarium to keep the two parties separate. Sometimes, the frogs and betta will settle down, you can remove the divider, and all will be well.
African Dwarf frogs are social animals that should be kept in pairs or groups of three or more. However, if you only have a couple of frogs, you could upsize your aquarium.
A larger tank equipped with plenty of plants, rockwork, caves, and the like means that your betta fish has more space to establish his all-important territory. That can help relax your betta fish, and the African Dwarf frogs will quickly learn which parts of the tank to avoid.
Return The Frogs
If the warring parties refuse to settle down and get along together, you could try to return them to the shop where you bought them.
In this part of our guide, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about keeping Hymenochirus and betta fish together.
Q: Can African Dwarf Frogs Hurt Bettas?
A: African Dwarf frogs and bettas generally get along okay. However, if your betta is a bully and decides to harass the frogs, your feisty fish might get more than he bargained for. African Dwarf frogs are perfectly able to defend themselves and could send your betta packing, especially if your fishy friend gets between the frogs and their food.
Q: Do Frogs and Betta Fish Get Along?
A: Yes, betta fish and African Dwarf frogs generally get along well. However, if you have a particularly aggressive betta that constantly harasses the frogs, the arrangement might not work so well.
Q: Do Bettas Eat African Dwarf Frogs?
A: No. Your betta will not attempt to kill and eat your frogs. Bettas have tiny, upward-facing mouths that cannot eat a frog.
Did you enjoy our guide to keeping African Dwarf frogs and betta fish together? If you did, please remember that sharing is caring!
Generally, African Dwarf frogs and betta fish can get along, although that rather depends on your betta’s temperament. If you have a very aggressive betta, you might have to admit defeat and choose snails as tank mates for him instead.
If you keep betta fish and African Dwarf frogs together, we’d love to hear about it! Tell us in the comments box below.