What makes Tutti Frutti Frogs so special? Learn all about these aquatic amphibian frogs, their features and habitat preferences here.
Tutti Frutti Frogs are African Clawed Frogs that have been artificially dyed. This aquatic species of frog that breathes air and can live up to 25 years in captivity. African Clawed Frogs require a balanced diet of worms/insects. They are often confused with African Dwarf Frogs despite some physical differences.
Tutti Frutti Frogs or African Clawed Frogs are aquatic frogs native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They are abundant in many of the continent’s rivers, ponds, and shallow waterways. These frogs only leave water for brief periods when going from one body of water to another.
What are Tutti Frutti Frogs?
Tutti Frutti Frogs are aquatic amphibians that can be found in some pet stores. They are also known as African Clawed Frogs. In the wild they are brown, grey, and dark green. They often have lighter yellow- or cream-colored bellies and legs. Wild Clawed frogs have speckled patterns on their backs to help them camouflage from predators. When in their natural habitat these frogs spend their lives in the water or buried in mud, and are considered aquatic although they need air to breathe.
“Tutti Frutti” is a term referring to the bright colors of these frogs- often pink, green, or yellow. These Clawed Frogs are not this colorful due to their diet, as some dishonest sellers have suggested to prospective keepers. The bright color is not an indicator of poison either, as is the case with some other frog species. So how are these frogs so colorful?
To achieve the neon glow, their skin is treated by a chemical process. Tutti Frutti frogs are white African Clawed Frogs that have been dipped in an acid solution to break down their slimy protective coating and then put into dye so their skin turns a chosen color. The dye could also be injected into the frog. Some treated frogs will glow under a black light, making them attractive in storefront displays.
These dyed frogs are sold as Tutti Frutti Frogs in pet stores but are no different to care for than other African Clawed frogs. The dyeing process for Tutti Frutti Frogs is considered inhumane and not an ethical practice. Many anecdotes say the practice of dyeing permanently weakens the frog and results in a shorter, sicker life for the animal. It’s recommended to purchase frogs who have not been dyed.
Tutti Frutti/African Clawed Frog Features
These frogs can produce eggs multiple times a year. The life cycle of these creatures begins as a pile of opaque eggs in the water. This species can lay their eggs in a clutch of up to 1000 offspring at a time. The egg itself become translucent after a short period and the embryo inside becomes visible. The eggs hatch into tadpoles 2-7 days after being laid and externally fertilized. Once hatched, the tadpole grows quickly and develops into a froglet. The journey from egg to tadpole, to froglet, to a small frog takes about 6-8 weeks. The lifespan of these frogs is 25 years in captivity and about 15 years in the wild. They can grow up to 12 centimeters long, and are fully grown at about one year old. The females are generally much larger than the males. It’s common for captive Clawed Frogs to have albinism, a genetic factor resulting in white or cream-colored skin.
As namesake indicates, these frogs are equipped with claws. The claws are used for hunting food and as a defense against predators. The claws on the frog’s back legs are sharp. When the frog thrashes its legs, the claws become effective weapons against attackers. The Latin name, Xenopus laevis, means “strange foot, smooth.”
Different from the Tutti Frutti/African Clawed Frog is the African Dwarf Frog. Dwarf Frogs are also a popular choice for keepers and show up alongside Clawed Frogs in stores, contributing to the common species confusion. They closely resemble the aforementioned Clawed Frog but Dwarf Frogs are smaller in size. African Dwarf Frogs also have slightly different features, including side set eyes, a pointed snout, and totally webbed feet.
African Clawed Frogs have top set eyes, rounded snouts, and autonomous digits on their front feet. They also lack eyelids, visible ears, and a tongue. Male clawed frogs do not have a vocal sack, which is uncommon for male frogs, but they can still make vocalizations by rubbing together throat muscles. The males make a trilling sound during mating, which can occur at any time of year. The females respond with an acceptance call or rejection call. Spring is the most common time for wild Clawed Frogs to reproduce.
African Clawed Frogs in Science
African Clawed Frogs have been used in medical research for decades. There are many advantages to having them in a lab as opposed to another vertebrate. They breed quickly, up to 4 times per year. They are easy to breed at any time, as the process can be induced with a hormone injection in the lab setting. The gestation of the embryo is also very visible, with most of it occurring in a translucent egg. Compared to similar species, African Clawed Frogs have an extended lifespan and can be used in long term studies. Although we have few visible similarities with these amphibians, they have enough genetic similarities to humans to be extremely useful in medical applications.
It was discovered in the 1940’s that these frogs could be used in testing to determine whether or not a human woman was pregnant. This method, called the Hogben Test, could detect pregnancy with higher accuracy and much quickly than any others used before. The urine of the woman would be injected into a female frog, and if the frog laid eggs within 12 hours, then the woman is likely pregnant. These animals were also of the first vertebrates ever cloned in a laboratory. The species is considered a “model organism” and has even been flown to space.
One unfortunate consequence of their widespread use is the impact on the environment when these frogs end up in a non-native ecosystem. There are invasive populations of African Clawed Frogs that have developed from laboratories that have irresponsibly released frogs on four continents. It is illegal to release a non-native species into the wild in most countries. Introducing a new variable into an established ecosystem can disrupt the natural balance and cause a domino effect that is detrimental to the area.
Setting Up a Habitat for Tutti Frutti/Clawed Frogs
These frogs are primarily aquatic and although they still breathe air, they require a distinctly different habitat than a predominately land-dwelling frog. In Africa, they spend their lives in warm stagnant water. Since a habitat should meet all the needs of the animal, there are a variety of factors that go into creating the perfect environment for your Clawed Frog. Considerations when keeping one of these animals include water quality, water flow, tank size, temperature, substrate, lighting, decorations, places to hide, and more.
Since they absorb water through their skin, the water should be conditioned and of the best quality possible. Most tap water contains chlorine and that can cause health issues if not removed from the water. There are many water additives available to condition the water, most often a bottled liquid that removes both chlorine and chloramine. Some keepers leave the water to sit for a day or two to give the chlorine gas time to evaporate instead, but conditioner is recommended to ensure full chlorine removal. These frogs are sensitive to metals ions as well, so special care should be taken to make sure the water is from a clean source.
Water should be kept between 15-27 degrees Celsius (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.) This is considered room temperature in most places, so a heater is not necessarily required equipment. If no filter is being used then the water should be changed frequently to ensure levels of waste do not get out of control. Excessive food matter and frog poop causes nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia levels to rise in the water. These compounds cause toxicity in high levels. Because Clawed Frogs eat so often and are such effective animals, they produce quite a bit of waste for an animal of their size. At high levels these biochemical factors cause the water to become toxic to the frog. Many health issues with aquatic frogs are caused by poor water quality, so making sure that step is completed can save your frog from some potential troubles.
Water flow is just as important as water quality. A water filter helps remove waste and debris from the tank, keeping water cleaner between changes. The flow of the water filter should not be disruptive to the frog as this can stress it out. In the wild, these frogs live in mostly stationary water or in water with very weak current. To ensure the frog is not stressed in captivity, keepers often opt to install a flow bar in the tank. The flow bar is a device that allows for a filter to run and clean the water, but distributes the outgoing water across the tank by diffusing it off the glass.
A single Tutti Frutti frog needs a tank that holds at least 38 liters (10 gallons.) The water’s depth should not exceed 30 centimeters (12 inches), as the frog needs to reach the top of the tank to breathe air. A tank size that exceeds the needs of the frog is a good way to minimize cleaning, as it diffuses the waste into a larger area.
You can house clawed frogs together, but they are cannibalistic by nature and may eat one another if there’s a difference in size. Small frogs should be kept separated from a group until they are big enough not to fit in the largest frog’s mouth. If you do house frogs of the same size together, make sure there is more space than needed and plenty of places for the frogs to hide and take cover from each other. African Clawed Frogs should not be housed in a tank with other species.
Substrate is an important part of the overall tank-scape. In an African Clawed Frog habitat, large gravel or rocks your frog can’t choke on is a safe choice. Small gravel is easily ingested and can cause major issues and even fatality in a frog. Fine sand is also an acceptable choice of substrate but it can be difficult to keep clean and can cloud the water. Some use no substrate at all, just keep in mind that frogs like having some traction on the tank floor so it may not be the best permanent situation. Gravel or rocks with sharp and jagged edges should be avoided as these can injure your frog as well. Mud is the natural substrate they live in when wild, but mud is not practical in a captive setting as it cannot be cleaned well and clogs up most filters.
There are no special lighting requirements for African Clawed Frogs. They don’t require UV lighting or spectrum lighting. Most keepers provide a tank light that stays on in the daytime and off at night to mimic the sun. It’s acceptable to just provide indirect light sources like room lighting. Light and heat can contribute to algae growth and should be considered when choosing your light source. Sunlight can make algae grow faster than a lightbulb.
Decorations and Hiding Places
Frogs need a place to escape to when tired or stressed, so it’s important to keep places for them to completely hide themselves in the habitat. Plants and small driftwood are great additions to the tank and will encourage the frog to explore. A small cave or hide that gives the frog a place to be in total darkness when the light is on is necessary. Make sure the additions you decide on are safe for the frog and will not cause injury, as some plastic plants contain sharp edges and Tutti Frutti Frogs have fragile skin. Silk plants or real plants are safest. Any wood or rocks added should be clean and free of any chemical residue or organic material that may be left over from where it came from.
Feeding Tutti Frutti Frogs
Clawed Frogs are carnivorous and will eat living or nonliving food. They will try to consume almost any food that can fit in their mouth. It’s best to offer a variety of food, including worms or tiny feeder fish/shrimp. To avoid choking and digestive issues, food should be smaller than the frog’s head. An adult Clawed Frog should be fed 5-7 times per week, or about once a day.
These frogs do not have long tongues like some other frogs do. As tadpoles they filter feed vegetative matter. Once they are developed, Clawed Frogs rely on eating other animals as their main food source. They use their claws to tear up and push food into their mouths as they do not have sharp teeth.
These frogs are naturally cannibalistic and have been known to eat their own eggs, tadpoles, and also other small frogs. They are voracious eaters and will eat most anything you offer them, so make sure you’re offering size appropriate food. The item does not even have to be moving to attract the frog’s attention. Clawed Frogs should not be given fruits or vegetables as they are meat eaters. Amphibians are very sensitive to poison and chemicals. All precautions should be taken to ensure nothing toxic is ingested accidentally in their food sources. For this reason, wild caught worms and insects are not recommended. Pesticides passed on to your frog through unreliable insect sources can cause serious health complications or even death. Outdoor prey could be ill or carry parasites that can pass on to your pet. Feeder fish and shrimp can also pose an issue if it’s not of the appropriate size. Uneaten food should not be left in the habitat after feeding time.
There are dry foods/ pellets crafted for aquatic frogs and sold in stores or online. These pellets are formulated with the frog’s nutritional requirements in mind, are easy to obtain, and do not require special storage like live or frozen food. Variety is important in a balanced diet, so pellets should not be the only source of nutrients for the frog.
There is no such thing as an organically hot pink or neon green frog. Tutti Frutti Frogs are African Clawed Frogs that have been put through a chemical process to alter their skin to be bright colors instead of white. It’s used to make the frogs attractive under black lights and is not a humane process. In the wild, these frogs are mostly olive green or grey with lighter yellow legs and bellies. The species is native to Africa and are fully aquatic. These frogs rarely, if ever, leave the water. They can live up to 25 years in captivity and around 15 in the wild. The physical features of African Clawed Frogs include their renowned claws, sharp enough to scratch prey and defend from attacking predators. They have flat bodies that can get up to 12 centimeters, webbed back feet, and autonomous digits on the front feet to shove food into their mouths. They are often confused for African Dwarf Frogs. Clawed frogs have been widely used in research due to their ease of cultivation, care, and genetic similarity to humans. There are invasive populations of African Clawed Frogs on four different continents due to the irresponsible release of laboratory specimens and pets. These invasive populations have a negative effect on the surrounding area’s ecosystem, disrupting the food chain.
The fully aquatic habitat for a Tutti Frutti should be spacious and clean. The water temperature can be kept at room temperature and does not usually require a heater. The water quality and condition are extremely important to a frog’s health. Keepers should take care to make sure the water is safe and free of any agents than can harm the frog’s sensitive skin, like chlorine. Waste levels should be kept in check to avoid health issues caused by water quality. Water filters should be low flow to avoid stressing out the frog, in the wild they spend most of their lives in stationary water sources. It’s not recommended to house these frogs together unless they are the same size and there is more than enough tank space, around 38 liters per frog. They are cannibalistic by nature and will eat any food that fits in their mouth, including their eggs, other frogs, and tankmates such as fish. It’s important to give Clawed Frogs places to find cover in the habitat as it’s a natual instinct for them to hide. Plants and hides give them comfort and protection as well as enriching the tank-scape. Make sure any additions to the habitat are not dangerous, African Clawed Frogs have thin skin that is easily injured on sharp rocks or plastic plants. The substrate should also be smooth, but not small enough to be a choking or digestive hazard to the frog. Large gravel, stones, or fine sand mixed into smooth river rock are popular choices as they are easily cleaned with a gravel vac.
Feeding an African Clawed Frog in captivity is relatively simple. As tadpoles they filter feed vegetative matter. Once grown into a frog, they become carnivores that use their claws to shove food into their mouths. They do not have tongues like other frogs do. They don’t require live food and will eat dead or frozen, but it’s important that captive kept African Clawed Frogs are offered a variety of different foods. All food should be smaller than their mouth, as they can easily choke or become impacted if they ingest something they are not supposed to. You should not give them fruits or vegetables. Wild caught food poses risks of poisoning or sickening the frog. Worms, feeder fish, and pellets are widely available acceptable offerings for your frog.
Hi! I’m Katie, an animal keeper from the United States. I have been caring for turtles, tortoises, amphibians, and other species for over 15 years. This is my rescued Sulcatta Tortoise, named Reggie.