Xenopus laevis - African clawed frog

Xenopus laevis – What’s That?

Let me begin by saying a few words about the Milwaukee Aquarium Society. When I was searching for a fish club to join I searched for one that would meet my needs as a hobbyist. As a fish enthusiast I am interested in all species of aquatic life. At the Milwaukee Aquarium Society you will find someone who has, or has had, any type of aquaria you are interested in. Not to take away from the specialty clubs, but Milwaukee has something for everyone. So if you are interested in all aspects of the aquatic hobby check us out in Milwaukee.

Now to Xenopus laevis. I was introduced to this species many years ago but never owned any until early in December 2003. I was at a swap meet and a man asked if I was interested in a pair and, of course, I said yes. He said it was a mated pair, so I gave him the exorbitant amount of $2.00 for the pair and headed home. On the way home my thoughts were “Where do I put them?” As with most hobbyists I never have an empty tank. Well upon arrival at home they were placed in a 2½ gallon tank half full of water with an air stone, I figured this would keep them until the next day.

Well day 2 comes around and the pair are definitely showing spawning behavior (males have black stripes on their front legs and the females have a short tail). I decide not to move them but I added a heater and a ¼” grid for the bottom of the tank because from my research I found that they will eat all of the eggs as soon a spawning is complete. The temperature was set at 78F and a partial water change was done since I had no filter in the tank. Well this is a good time to tell you what the common name for this aquatic animal is. It is the “African Clawed Frog”.

The spawning behavior is simply the male wraps his arms around the female at what would be her waist. He will hold on for days until she releases her eggs. For my frogs this happened on day 3.

Xenopus laevis - African clawed frog
Xenopus laevis – African clawed frog

I now have 500 or so frog eggs which stick to anything they come in contact with. The frogs seem to be a scatter spawner since the eggs are all over the tank. The parents are removed and placed in a 10 gallon tank. Time for more research, where I discovered that I should just leave the eggs alone and they would hatch in 2 or 3 days. The eggs hatched and I now had 500 tadpoles which stick to the sides of the tank and are about 1/8 inch long. I discovered that they were filter feeders and ate spinach that had to be ground up. You just put it in the water and they will eat. This proved messy and time consuming so I tried crushing spirulina flake. This worked and the tadpoles grew. They grew at different rates, some seemed to double daily and yet others seemed to barely increase in size at all. The tadpoles were left in the 2 ½ gallon tank for a week doing 50% water changes every day and being sure to remove any dead tadpoles and any uneaten food. During week 2 they were moved to a 20 High tank. I now had around 300 of the little tadpoles left. They did real well and the larger ones grew even faster in their new home. Water changes of 25% were done every other day and a sponge filter was added. Less tadpoles died and there was no food left over as they ate everything. The water could be green from the crushed spirulina and in less than an hour the water was clear. The tadpoles were growing but there was a slime building up on the glass so I added 5 one-inch plecos and they cleaned the glass well. Things continued good for a couple weeks and the largest tadpoles developed rear legs. When I say larger I mean maybe 5 or 6 times larger than the next size group.

Week 4 things are going fine I am down to about 150 tadpoles but no longer see any dead ones in the tank. I assume that the larger tadpoles would eat the smaller or dead tadpoles (adults will eat anything including feeder fish).

The tadpoles also have barbels (they probably had them all along but now you can see them) like catfish and look a lot like young catfish.

Most of the tadpoles are close to the same size at week 5 the only thing I see that is different is some have rear legs and some don’t. They are fed spirulina and now I have added some baby brine shrimp. Front legs are showing up on some. Week 6 and it’s time to bring some young to a MAS meeting for my BAP points.I didn’t put the common name on the bag and anyone who looked at the tadpoles wasn’t sure what they were taking home and I got rid of all but 6 of them. At this time they are 1½ inches long.

It’s week 7 and the six I kept are now frogs and readily eat just about anything that is put in their tank. It was a very interesting spawn and very enjoyable. If you have a couple of empty tanks anytime soon give them a try. If you have any questions email me. I will be happy to share information with you.

First publication: Splash,  Milwaukee Aquarium Society
Source: Aquarticles (no longer available)

Copyright images

Ben Rschr – CC BY-SA 3.0
Ashley Tubbs – CC BY-ND 2.0

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