The mention of frogs often evokes an image of a little green amphibian sitting atop a lily pad, leaping into the water, and disappearing into the depths of a pond. Perhaps you’ve seen frogs sunning themselves on the shore of a lake or creek before plopping into the water to escape your gaze.
Frogs are often found near water because they rely on it for humidity, food, and reproduction.
But do any frogs live in the water? And can you keep them as pets?
There are several pet frogs that live in water. African dwarf frogs, tropical clawed frogs, Indonesian floating frogs, African clawed frogs, and Surinam toads can all be kept in a fully aquatic environment. Fire-bellied toads, leopard frogs, American bullfrogs, Vietnamese mossy frogs, and Budgett’s frogs can swim, but cannot live their entire lives in water.
Before diving into our lists of pet frogs that live in water and other pet frogs that can swim, we’ll discuss the difference between aquatic and semi-aquatic frogs.
Later on, we’ll discuss a few other common pet frogs, like Pacman frogs and tree frogs, and their ability to swim.
Let’s get started!
Aquatic Or Semi-aquatic?
Aquatic frogs are those that spend their entire lives in water. Some aquatic frogs, like the Indonesian floating frog, may come to land on rare occasions to catch prey near the shore, but they spend most of their time at least partially submerged in water.
When it comes to pet frogs that live in water, we’ll be discussing fully aquatic frogs.
Frogs that spend a lot of time in the water – but are equally comfortable on land – are known as semi-aquatic. Semi-aquatic frogs are excellent swimmers, but they still need land area in their enclosures.
Now that you understand a little bit more about aquatic and semi-aquatic frogs, let’s learn about some pet frogs that live in water and other pet frogs that can swim!
5 Pet Frogs That Live In Water
The following pet frogs are well-adapted to life in the water. Their webbed hind feet and powerful leg muscles enable them to move through their aquatic environments with ease.
While none of the following frogs require land area in their enclosure, they will benefit from floating plants, driftwood, or other decorations allowing them to rest near the surface.
1. African Dwarf Frog
Perhaps the most common frogs in pet stores, African Dwarf Frogs are adorable, beginner-friendly pet frogs that live in water for the entirety of their lives. These frogs are small, peaceful, and pretty quiet, but you may hear your male frog making a little humming sound at night.
Typically grey with small black spots, these frogs usually only reach 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) long.
They do best when kept in groups, and a 5-gallon aquarium can comfortably house two adult frogs. They aren’t territorial, but an overcrowded tank will make it difficult to maintain the good water quality needed to keep the frogs healthy.
When it comes to enclosure size, as always, bigger is always better! However, African dwarf frogs breathe air and must be able to easily reach the surface. Your ADF tank should not be much deeper than 12 inches (30.5 cm). Provide resting places near the surface, and make sure that you don’t have any décor that your frog could get trapped underneath!
Their small size and docile nature make them one of the only aquatic frogs that can cohabitate with fish! That’s right, you can keep these awesome little frogs in fish tanks. They do well with small, peaceful community fish like danios, guppies, or cardinal tetras.
If the fish is small enough and the ADF is quick enough, it might become a snack. Baby guppies or other small fish (like chili rasboras) are fair game for an African dwarf frog.
Keeping your frog well-fed can help reduce the chances of it seeing its tankmates as food! The diet of African dwarf frogs should be varied. They can be fed frog pellets, as well as frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex worms, or brine shrimp. You can also feed your frog live blackworms or mosquito larvae.
2. Tropical Clawed Frog
Next on our list of pet frogs that live in water is the tropical clawed frog, also known as the western clawed frog.
While very similar in size, appearance, and care to the African dwarf frog, these aquatic frogs are not as commonly seen in the pet trade. Like African dwarf frogs, they can be up to 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) long and have fully webbed hind feet. However, while ADFs have beady eyes, the tropical clawed frog’s eyes are bulging and sit on the top of its head, perfect for peering above the water’s surface!
Although they are similar in size to African dwarf frogs, tropical clawed frogs can be territorial at times. It is recommended to put no more than 2 or 3 adults in a 10-gallon aquarium.
Tropical clawed frogs, despite their short, plump limbs, are great swimmers! They are found along the western coast of equatorial Africa, frequently inhabiting lakes, swamps, canals, slow-moving streams, and other calm bodies of water.
In their natural habitat, these frogs like to hide beneath underwater rocks, logs, and leaf litter. Furnish their aquarium with driftwood and plants to make them feel at home!
While uncommonly seen as pets, tropical clawed frogs are used extensively in genetic research. These frogs are diploid, meaning they have two sets of chromosomes, just like humans! They also breed readily in captivity, making them a model organism in the study of various genetic processes and the effect of biochemical or environmental factors on development.
Whether in the lab or the home aquarium, tropical clawed frogs in captivity can be fed waxworms, blood worms, night crawlers, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, small guppies, or frog brittle or pellets.
3. Indonesian Floating Frog
Like the other pet frogs that live in water, the Indonesian floating frog, also known as the green puddle frog, is fully aquatic. However, as you can see in the video above, they may sometimes venture onto land to hunt!
The Indonesian floating frog spends much of its time, well, floating. These little frogs only get up to 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) long and are easily identified by a light tan stripe running from their nose to their back – although this stripe varies by individual. Some frogs lack the stripe completely!
This species’ eyes are on the top of its head, allowing them to peer above the water in the ponds, ditches, paddy fields, and puddles they inhabit throughout Asia.
These frogs are not terribly active, so some owners suggest that a 5-gallon tank is sufficient to house 2 adults. However, to avoid potential territory disputes, we recommend at least 10 gallons.
To replicate these frogs’ natural habitat, decorate their home with lots of plants, especially floating ones! Having plants or other objects near the surface will give the Indonesian floating frogs something to rest on.
Unlike the other pet frogs that live in water on our list, the Indonesian floating frogs eat live insects almost exclusively.
Commercial pellets and freeze-dried or frozen foods do not seem to appeal to this species. They prefer live crickets and worms. Remember to dust your frog’s prey with calcium and vitamin supplements!
4. African Clawed Frog
Second only to the African dwarf frog, African clawed frogs are one of the most popular pet frogs that live in water.
While they are native to eastern, southern, and western Africa, these highly adaptable frogs have spread to 4 other continents and have become invasive. The United States, Italy, and Chile are just a few of the countries that they have claimed.
Their clawed, webbed feet and powerful hind legs make them adept swimmers, but these frogs are most often found in stagnant water. Specially adapted for life beneath the surface, they are not very graceful on land!
Like the other frogs on this list, African clawed frogs do not require a land area in their enclosure. A 20-gallon-long aquarium is ideal for one or two frogs. While some suggest that a 10-gallon is the minimum tank size for an individual frog, we recommend at least 20 gallons due to the large amounts of waste these frogs produce.
Furthermore, females of this species can get up to 4.5 inches (12 cm) long, and a 10-gallon might feel cramped if your frog is on the larger side!
One way to promote a long and happy life for your frog, in addition to providing a clean and spacious tank, is by offering a varied diet. Many owners feed commercial, nutritionally complete pellets or sticks specially formulated for aquatic reptiles and amphibians. This diet can be supplemented with wax worms, blood worms, earthworms, or guppies.
A varied diet will help your pet reach its full potential. African clawed frogs are relatively easy to care for and can live for up to 20 years!
5. Surinam Toad
Last on our list of pet frogs that live in water is the Surinam toad. Found in South American swamps, marshes, and other slow-moving or stagnant bodies of water, the Surinam toad is actually an aquatic frog with rough skin.
These strange, flat frogs look more like leaves than amphibians! They have an unusual appearance with bizarre behaviors to match.
Surinam toads are famous for their unconventional reproductive process. After the female releases her eggs and they are fertilized by the male, he pushes the eggs into the female’s back. The eggs stick to her back, and her skin grows over them!
After 4-5 months, toadlets burst from their mother’s skin, essentially skipping the tadpole stage. This does not seem to harm the female, and she simply sheds her skin before being ready for the next reproductive cycle.
That isn’t the only way in which Surinam toads are a bit different from their standard froggy cousins. While they lack tongues and use their hands to guide food into their mouths like other aquatic frogs, they primarily rely on suction to capture their food. When Surinam toads pounce upon their prey, they draw in a surprisingly large amount of water, causing their buccal cavity to expand. The extra water is expelled back out through the mouth, and the frogs use their hands to prevent the escape of their prey.
They also use their hands for the sensing of prey.
On the tip of each elongated finger is a small, four-lobed sensory organ that enables the Surinam toad to perceive the smallest movement of its prey in the murky depths of its habitat. When the frog is at rest, its fingertips point outwards, ready to pick up on the nearly imperceptible signals that mean food is nearby!
In the wild, the Surinam toad eats small fish, worms, insect larvae, and other invertebrates. This diet is replicated in captivity: pet frogs are fed crickets, various worms, and feeder fish (like guppies).
As with other pet frogs that live in water, you must take care when feeding your Surinam toad to ensure that it does not ingest any substrate. Surinam toads are especially susceptible to this mistake due to their unique feeding mechanism.
The risk of impaction from your frog ingesting substrate can be alleviated by keeping it in a bare-bottom tank.
Other features to include in your frog’s tank are subdued lighting, as well as lots of plants and hiding places. It is recommended to keep 1 frog in a 20-gallon tank, with 10 gallons added for each additional frog.
These frogs can get up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and are known to produce quite a bit of waste. A larger tank will not only make your frogs more comfortable but also make it easier to maintain good water quality!
5 Pet Frogs That Can Swim
The following frogs are semi-aquatic. While they still possess adaptations that make them strong swimmers, like webbed feet and powerful hind legs, they also spend time on dry land.
The following frogs make great choices for someone wishing to create a paludarium!
1. Fire-bellied Toad
While they don’t spend their entire lives in water, fire-bellied toads love to swim!
Like the Surinam toad, the fire-bellied toad is another frog that received a misleading title due to its bumpy skin. Fire-bellied toads get the other part of their name from their bright red-orange underside dotted with deep black markings, which they display when they feel threatened.
This is an example of aposematic coloration; the frog’s bright colors warn predators of the mild toxin in their skin that is irritating to mucous membranes.
Fire-bellied toads are one of the few examples of diurnal pet frogs. You don’t have to stay up all night to witness them carrying out their frog activities – they’re awake when you are!
These frogs are undemanding in the care and space they require. They will happily eat feeder insects – like crickets and roaches – and a 10-gallon aquarium can comfortably house 2-3 frogs.
While they are not pet frogs that live in water, they can still swim quite well, and they do best in an enclosure with both land and water areas.
2. Leopard Frog
Leopard frogs (more specifically, Northern leopard frogs) are another example of popular pet frogs that can swim. While they aren’t toxic like the fire-bellied toad, these frogs also have striking coloration! Reaching lengths of up to 4 inches (10 cm), leopard frogs are often bright green with distinct brown spots, but they can also have brown as a base color.
In the wild, these nocturnal frogs are found on the edges of creeks, ponds, and lakes throughout the United States and Canada, preferring grassy and weedy areas over wooded ones.
You can try to replicate the leopard frog’s habitat in captivity by providing a paludarium with a substrate that is 2-3 inches deep so that the frog can exhibit natural behaviors, like burrowing!
Leopard frogs are easygoing critters. A single frog can live happily in a 10-gallon aquarium, and it will enjoy a varied diet of crickets, earthworms, waxworms, and roaches.
3. American Bullfrog
The American bullfrog is native to eastern North America, but its astounding adaptability has enabled it to invade other continents, including South America, Asia, and Europe.
It is found in a variety of habitats, but its favorite is a standard froggy paradise: a warm, shallow body of water with dense aquatic vegetation.
This frog’s wide range has led to it becoming a popular pet – check your local regulations before acquiring a pet bullfrog!
Tremendously hardy and adaptable, the same traits that enabled the American bullfrog to become invasive are the same ones that make it an undemanding pet. This species can live for nearly 20 years in captivity if given adequate care!
American bullfrogs are voracious predators and will eat anything that they can fit into their mouths. In addition to standard feeder insects, including hornworms and superworms, they can also be fed feeder fish and even the occasional pinky mouse!
The most difficult part about caring for an American bullfrog is the amount of space it requires. Due to their large size (up to 6 inches or 15.2 cm), messy nature, and high activity levels, a single frog may need as much as 30 or 40 gallons of space!
A 20-gallon aquarium may be enough for a smaller individual, but some bullfrog keepers suggest a 75-gallon as an ideal living situation.
Like other pet frogs that can swim, the American bullfrog requires a substantial water area in its enclosure that is deep enough for it to swim in. This will encourage your frog to exhibit natural behaviors!
4. Vietnamese Mossy Frog
The only tree frogs on our list, Vietnamese mossy frogs are another example of pet frogs that can swim. These interesting little frogs get their name from the cryptic coloration that enables them to look like clumps of moss!
With bumpy skin that is mottled light and dark green, mossy frogs spend most of their time clinging to the walls of flooded caves, hanging out in tree hollows by mountain streams, or lurking in the water, often hiding amongst the rocks and aquatic foliage.
While the other semi-aquatic frogs we’ve discussed do best in horizontal tanks, as a tree frog, the Vietnamese mossy frog requires a vertical tank of at least 10 gallons, with 5 gallons added for each additional frog.
Some mossy frog owners elect to have the entire floor of the enclosure covered with about 3 inches (7.6 cm) of water, the frog ascending the hardscape or glass walls to take a break from swimming.
No matter how you choose to design your mossy frog’s enclosure, you can be sure that they will take advantage of the water feature!
5. Budgett’s Frog
Last on our list of pet frogs that can swim is the Budgett’s frog – also known as the hippo frog, as its smooth, grey skin and pudgy appearance resemble that of a hippopotamus.
Budgett’s frogs, getting up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) long, do well in a standard 20-gallon aquarium with substrate that gently slopes down into 2-3 inches (5.8-7.6 cm) of water. Budgett’s frogs should be kept on large river pebbles, as sand and small rocks pose an ingestion risk.
What if you want more than one frog? You’ll need a second tank!
In the wilds of Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia where these frogs are found, they frequently eat other frogs. Two Budgett’s frogs in the same enclosure will likely end in one trying to eat the other. This would likely be a noisy occurrence; when these frogs feel threatened, they stand up tall and scream!
Don’t worry about your little friend getting lonely. It will likely appreciate having the space – and food – all to itself!
You can feed your Budgett’s frog crickets, earthworms, dubia roaches, and the occasional feeder fish or pinky mouse.
With proper care, these frogs can live for 5 years or more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering why some frogs aren’t so great at swimming? Check out our frequently asked questions below!
Can Tree Frogs Swim?
While many tree frogs have webbed hind feet, most are not strong swimmers – with the exception of the Vietnamese mossy frog! Some tree frogs use their webbed feet to slow their descent while falling.
Tree frogs are better adapted to climbing trees, walls, and other vertical surfaces than they are to swimming.
Most tree frogs can swim if they must. However, if you decide to keep tree frogs in a paludarium, make sure the water is shallow and they have plenty of opportunities to pull themselves out of the water if needed.
Can Poison Dart Frogs Swim?
Like tree frogs, poison dart frogs can swim in an emergency, but not for very long. Dart frogs lack webbing between their toes and the endurance needed to move through the water.
These brightly colored little frogs are better suited to a terrestrial or semi-arboreal lifestyle. They can be kept in a paludarium, but water should only be a minor part of your vivarium’s scape. Make sure it isn’t too deep and there are plenty of places for your frogs to exit the water if they find themselves taking a dip.
Can Pacman Frogs Swim?
Pacman frogs can swim for short periods. Their hands and feet, like those of poison dart frogs, are unwebbed, designed for digging rather than swimming.
With rotund bodies and short, stubby legs, Pacman frogs are not built for life in the water and can easily drown. They are completely terrestrial.
Your frog’s water should be provided in a large, shallow water dish that the frog can easily climb out of – this is also easy to keep clean!
As you have learned, there are several pet frogs that live in water, and several other pet frogs that can swim!
Different species of frogs have different needs. An aquarium full of water would be a great home for an African dwarf frog, but a nightmare for a fire-bellied toad. A paludarium is an awesome choice for housing an American bullfrog, but it probably wouldn’t be the best choice for a Pacman!
Always understand the preferred environment of the species you intend to keep. With a little love and a lot of research, your amphibious friend will be swimming, climbing, or burrowing for years to come!