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African Bullfrog

Quincy Miller

When you think of frogs, you likely think of tiny, toothless creatures that simply hop around and croak. Nothing could be sweeter or less threatening than a frog, right?

You obviously haven’t met the African Bullfrog. More battle toad than baby tadpole, this is a seriously intimidating amphibian. It’s not friendly or easy to handle, so it’s not ideal for inexperienced owners, but it can be engaging and fascinating for those who know what they’re doing.
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Quick Facts about African Bullfrog

Species Name: Pyxicephalus adspersus
Family: Pyxicephalidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: 75°F
Temperament: Laidback yet ornery and aggressive when stressed or threatened
Color Form: Olive green
Lifespan: 15 – 25 years
Size: 6 – 10 inches, 2 – 4 pounds
Diet: Insects, rodents, reptiles, fish, small birds, other frogs
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Moderate difficulty
Compatibility: Poor

African Bullfrog Overview

One of the biggest frog species in the world, the African Bullfrog is not a meek little amphibian. These formidable creatures have sharp teeth and voracious appetites, making them terrifying little eating machines.

As long as you’re not on the receiving end of one of their chomps, however, you’ll likely find these animals to be quite fascinating to watch. They make entertaining pets, so long as you’re satisfied with a pet that you look at rather than one that you interact with.

They shouldn’t be handled often, if at all, as their bites can be ferocious and their skin is delicate. They’re laidback and not especially active, so they won’t require much in the way of exercise or stimulation.

They’re fairly easy to care for, as far as most pets are concerned, but they’re a bit more challenging than most other common frog species. As a result, it’s recommended that you have at least some experience with amphibian ownership before bringing one home.

If you house and feed them properly, these frogs can live to ripe old ages indeed — usually 20 years or more. That means you shouldn’t get one if you’re not prepared to make quite the lengthy commitment.

How Much Do African Bullfrogs Cost?

The species is fairly common, so you shouldn’t pay too much for one; expect to shell out $25 to $75 for one of these frogs, depending on its size and coloring.

You can often find some at regular pet stores, but it’s better to get yours from a reputable breeder or a rescue group. Many of the animals sold in pet stores are mass-produced by giant commercial operations, and they place more value on their profits than the health of their animals.

A caring breeder will ensure that you get a healthy frog, as well as educate you on the best way to keep your new pet healthy. On the other hand, going through a rescue group can save you money and allow you to save a lucky frog’s life.

It doesn’t need much in the way of special gear, so you can probably outfit your new companion for a few hundred bucks or less. Once you’ve bought everything that it needs, the only recurring expenses are its food, which is still quite cheap.

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Typical Behavior & Temperament

African Bullfrogs are laidback and mellow creatures — until they’re not. These frogs are not afraid of a fight, and when they feel threatened, they will often inflate their bodies and attack with their mouths agape.

It sounds almost cute — until you remember that their mouths are filled with razor-sharp teeth. A bite from one of these frogs is no joke, as in addition to being painful, it has a high likelihood of becoming infected.

Fortunately, they’ll usually warn you that they’re feeling uncomfortable before they go into attack mode. They do this by croaking, so if your otherwise quiet frog starts making a great deal of noise, that’s your cue to set them down and leave them alone.

They have powerful legs, so they’ll often choose to jump away from danger as well. This can be bad news if you’re holding one, as they might then escape or injure themselves in a fall.

Appearance & Varieties

These frogs can be quite massive, with many weighing over 4 pounds. They can often be as large as a dinner plate.

They have squat, powerful front legs, with sharp calluses on their toes that allow them to dig, and their hind legs are even more impressive, allowing them to launch their bodies a considerable distance.

Their bodies are huge, and a big reason they’re able to get so big is that they can eat just about anything with their massive mouths.

There isn’t much in the way of color variety in this species, as virtually all of them are the same shade of olive green. They do have cream coloring on their throats, with males being more likely to have brighter colors there.

While all African Bullfrogs are large, males can be up to 10 times larger than females. These frogs will be fully grown by the time that they’re 2 years old.

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How to Take Care of African Bullfrogs

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Habitat

You should give your African Bullfrog as much space as you can manage, but the tank needs to be at least 10 gallons for a medium-sized frog. Truly massive frogs need truly massive tanks, as you want them to have plenty of room to maneuver (and potentially even keep growing).

The bottom of the aquarium should be filled with small rocks, and you should add water until the tank is roughly a third full. Use dechlorinated water, as water with too many chemicals could harm your new pet.

You should add larger rocks on one side of the tank to create dry land, being sure to make it easy for your frog to get in and out of the water. This will allow it to choose whether to stay wet or dry off.

If possible, create an entire beach with some dirt. These frogs love to burrow, so having an ample amount of dirt will give them something to do while also providing mental stimulation.

Bedding

There’s no need for special bedding, although having at least a container of dirt somewhere is recommended. In the wild, these animals will burrow deep into the ground and hibernate when conditions get too dry.

That’s not necessary in your tank, given that you can ensure that things never dry out, but the temptation will linger.

You may also want to attach suction-cup plants to the sides of your aquarium as well. This provides a bit of shelter, although these frogs don’t need hiding spots as much as many other small animals do.

Temperature

Keeping the aquarium at a constant temperature is important, so you should keep their tank at 75°F at all times. You can achieve this with water heaters or heat lamps.

Cleaning

It’s critical that you keep the tank clean. Ammonia from their waste will build up over time, and that can poison your pet, so you should clean their tank at least once or twice a week. The water needs to be replaced daily, especially if your frog goes to the bathroom in it.

You should use a vented lid so there isn’t a bunch of mold growth inside the tank. Be sure that it’s always secured, though, as these frogs are capable of jumping out if given the chance.

Do African Bullfrogs Get Along With Other Pets?

African Bullfrogs are basically eating machines. That means just about anything that you put inside their tank will likely look more like food than a friend to them.

That includes other frogs. Juvenile African Bullfrogs are particularly cannibalistic, but fully grown frogs can eat their tankmates as well.

Males are often known for eating tadpoles, although they may also fiercely protect them. You should never keep two males in the same tank, as they’re competitive and territorial.
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What to Feed Your African Bullfrog

We can’t stress this enough: These frogs are eating machines. They’ll eat just about anything, and they do best with varied diets.

The bulk of their diet should be gut-loaded crickets or mealworms. They can also eat small rodents, such as baby mice or rats, and they love to chow down on other amphibians if given the chance. Whole fish are other excellent options.

One thing that you should not feed them is meat from the grocery store. These cuts simply lack the same nutrition that they’d get from eating an entire animal.

Juvenile bullfrogs should eat every day or two, and adults should dine two to three times per week. You can just put the food in their feeding dish so they can find it easily.

It’s possible to overfeed these frogs, so keep them on a portion-controlled diet to prevent them from becoming obese.

You should also remember that to a frog, your fingers can look like delicious prey, so you should always feed them with tongs.

Keeping Your African Bullfrog Healthy

African Bullfrogs are largely healthy creatures, provided that you care for them properly. However, there are a few common health issues that crop up with these pets.

The biggest is ammonia poisoning. This is caused by ammonia from their waste, so if you don’t clean their tank regularly and replace the water often, they could become lethargic with uncoordinated movements and cloudy eyes. A frog can go from completely healthy to completely dead due to ammonia poisoning in just a few days, so it’s critical to keep the tank spotless.

They’re prone to getting bacterial or fungal infections in dirty tanks as well.

African Bullfrogs are notorious substrate eaters. This isn’t a problem as long as the substrate is easily digestible, but if it’s not, it could cause an obstruction that could be fatal for the frog.

Many frogs have intestinal parasites, so if they’re not eating, you should consider having them checked by a vet with experience with these animals.

Breeding

Breeding these frogs in captivity is rarely done, as it’s quite difficult and generally discouraged. They’re unlikely to breed inside their normal tank, so you’ll need to provide them with a much larger habitat, preferably an open pool or something similar.

In the wild, their mating season is determined by the weather, as they only breed in shallow pools formed after heavy rains. To induce them to mate in captivity, you’ll have to mimic these conditions over several weeks.

That means depriving them of moisture until they burrow and hibernate for 3 or 4 months. At that point, you should begin misting them heavily to simulate heavy rainfall, at which point, they’ll shed their outer layer of skin (which was used to retain water).

After the shedding is complete, increase the amount that you feed them for a few weeks, and then put them in a small pool with 3 inches or so of water in it and a dry landing next to it. The frogs will fertilize the eggs on dry land but lay them at the bottom of the pool.

Only put one male in the enclosure at a time, as multiple males will lead to episodes of violence. If mating is successful, the female will lay roughly 4,000 eggs that will turn into tadpoles in 3 days or so.

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Are African Bullfrogs Suitable for You?

African Bullfrogs are relatively easy to keep, provided that you’re not afraid of a little tank cleaning, and they can be quite interesting to watch. This makes them a good choice for novice amphibian owners, although injuries (to both you and the frog) can occur if you’re reckless.

Keep in mind that these animals can live for quite some time, so buying one isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. If you’re in it for the long haul, however, you can have a fun companion that doesn’t require much in the way of daily maintenance.


Featured Image Credit: Martin Hejzlar, Shutterstock

Quincy Miller

Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn't self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he's a cat person now too, isn't he???