What can I keep with this frog?

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Neale Monks advises a reader on the best way to accommodate his African clawed frog.

Q: I have just introduced an albino African clawed frog into my tank. He is about 10cm long. What would you recommend as tank mates? At present I have two Angelfish, some Cardinal tetras, Black tetras, and some danios. 

KENNY MACKENZIE, VIA EMAIL

A: Neale replies: To be honest, Xenopus frogs aren’t especially good community tank residents, and are best kept alone. Both species are nocturnal predators, and anything small enough to be swallowed whole will, sooner or later, end up being attacked. On the other hand, like all amphibians they have thin skin, and anything likely to peck at them can cause enough damage to allow secondary infections to begin. Once sick, Xenopus are tricky to treat because you’ll need to use medications safe for use with amphibians rather than fish, but of course if living alongside fish, you’d need a medicine that’s safe with both, further narrowing your options.

Your first challenge is to determine whether you have Xenopus laevis, which prefers room temperature conditions of around 18-20˚C, or Xenopus tropicalis, which as its name suggests, does better kept at a more balmy 25˚C. They’re certainly entertaining pets and basically easy to keep and, under good conditions, live for decades. Guidance put together by animal welfare scientists on the maintenance of these important laboratory animals suggests water depths between 10-30cm is fine, with around 15-20cm probably ideal. Wild specimens are loners, and don’t really need company, and a singleton in a 30-40 l tank will be perfectly happy. But if you wanted to add more, for each additional specimen, I’d allow something like 15-20 l. 

When it comes to water chemistry, Xenopus prefer neutral to moderately hard and alkaline conditions. A stable pH is certainly important, and to that end the use of a commercial pH buffer can be useful if your tapwater has low levels of carbonate hardness. Ideal conditions are probably around 7-7.5pH, 10-15°H. So far as diet goes, these carnivorous animals generally ignore flake foods but will usually take special frog foods; Nasco Frog Brittle is often recommended in the scientific literature, but Tetra ReptoMin will do fine. Pretty much any live food will be taken, including bloodworms, midge larvae, and earthworms. Frozen foods will usually be consumed as well, and settled specimens can be fed slivers of fish fillet and beef heart from cocktail sticks or forceps. The main thing though is that these frogs prefer to eat at night, and being rather slow when it comes to scavenging non-living foods, won’t compete well with more active tank mates such as catfish.