What it’s like growing up with an African dwarf frog

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Yes, you read the title correctly — I grew up with an African dwarf frog as a pet. Not a dog, cat, hamster or bunny … but a small, 3-inch-long, brownish-green aquatic African dwarf frog.

It was winter 2009, and many of my relatives decided to get frogs with us as Christmas presents for their families. Unfortunately for them, all of their frogs died after only four months. But my family’s frog, Velma, is now 11 years old and counting! Because this is an unconventional “pet” to have, I wanted to share my experience with you in hopes you’ll choose an African dwarf frog as your next pet.

First off, I must mention that there were once two, Velma and Daphne. They got along well until Velma became increasingly aggressive and would sneakily eat all the food before Daphne could grab it. This sadly led to Daphne dying after five years, from malnutrition. So now it’s just Velma, with her underwater plants and blue-colored rocks.

African dwarf frogs are extremely easy to take care of. You feed them five tiny food pebbles (as tiny as sand grains) once a day in the morning. They don’t make any noise, except for a slight humming noise underwater every once in a while, which is their form of singing. Because they are aquatic frogs, they stay underwater. But, fun fact, they actually have fully developed lungs and breathe air at the water’s surface. Despite having lungs, they can’t survive more than 15 minutes out of the water, as they will become dehydrated and die. So, be careful when you are playing with these tiny pets, and be sure to put them back in their tank quickly!

One other thing to be aware of is frogs can carry diseases and transmit them to humans, like many other animals can. So be sure to wash your hands before and after touching your frog to avoid contamination. Warning: This frog will not turn into a prince if kissed — please do not try this!

We clean the tank every two weeks, but you can do it as often as you see necessary when the tank becomes cloudy. Also, if you go on vacation, no need to worry! Your friends won’t mind taking care of your little fella, as these frogs are easy to feed and not a bother.

Velma has been with us for every birthday and holiday over the years. She jumps around in the water whenever we are in the kitchen, where her tank is, and always seems happy and content. She’s a little bundle of energy, and I can’t help but smile every time I look at her tank.

Many times, my family has been scared Velma is dead because we will go to feed her or keep her company and she will be floating at the surface of the water with no movement, and with her legs and arms spread out. But, thankfully, after looking it up, we realized this is African dwarf frogs’ favorite position, called the “zen position,” which they hold regularly. (If your frog was actually dead, it would sink to the bottom of the tank.)

So, if you find birds loud, think fish are boring, are creeped out by reptiles and are allergic to animal dander, don’t miss out on an African dwarf frog. An extremely peaceful little amphibian and very low-maintenance, Velma has been a different type of pet that I’m happy to have grown up with.

With this upcoming semester starting online, I’d recommend running to Petco or any pet retailer to pick up some African dwarf frogs to keep you company as you jam away at your desk. In your apartment, there is always room for a tiny 3-inch pet!

Contact Natalia Brusco at [email protected].