Best Substrate For African Dwarf Frog Tanks

African dwarf frogs first became popular pets in the 1970s and since then have continued to be a popular amphibian pet choice.

That’s due to their low maintenance compared to other amphibians, their singing/humming, and highly energetic activity, all of which are very appealing to any pet owner.

TLDR – Top Picks For African Dwarf Frog Substrate

Carib Sea Super Naturals Crystal River Sand is the best of sands. It looks like natural sand you’d find in a river.

For a planted tank, Seachem Flourite is definitely the best. It won’t change the pH and doesn’t need to be replaced every few years.

If you want gravel in your tank, the CaribSea Sri Lanka Gravel is the best choice because it has no coatings; it’s completely natural.

Preview Product
Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb
CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb

Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How To Pick African Dwarf Frog Substrate

African dwarf frog

The African dwarf frog (ADF) originated in the countries of western Africa, near the equator. It’s found starting from the north in Nigeria, followed by Cameron and Gabon all the way to the Republic of the Congo in the south.

ADFs spend their whole lives in the water of these areas, only coming up occasionally for a breath. Since they are not great swimmers, they usually reside in constant or very slow-moving aquatic sources such as freshwater bogs, ponds, streams, and shallow rivers. During the wet season, they also live in the flooded areas of lowland forests, near a steady water source.

They usually remain near the river bed, camouflaging themselves with the mud and fallen leaves to hide from bigger predators. Tanks/aquariums should mimic and maintain the ADFs’ natural environment to promote their health and longevity.

Inert Substrate Is the Best Choice 

Substrates are essential when it comes to raising any creature in an aquarium. A substrate is a material that lines the aquarium floor and in which plants take root and grow underwater. 

However, substrates can change the parameters of the water, making it unsuitable for your tank resident. They can change the water’s pH, KH, and precipitation, among other things.

Inert substrates are considered the best option because they’re neutral, almost undegradable, and chemically inert; thus, they don’t change any water parameters. They include either sand, gravel, or baked clay, all of which come in numerous sizes and colors.

Sand or Gravel 

When it comes to raising an ADF, sand, and gravel are both considered appropriate tank substrates. Many owners fear that the frog may end up swallowing sand or gravel when scavenging for its food. Subsequently, the sand or gravel particles will get impacted in the frog’s digestive tract, harming your pet frog and damaging its health.

Some people prefer sand as they think the frog will just pass it after its ingestion due to its small size. Others prefer gravel as its larger size and weight prevent the frog from accidentally swallowing it, with the added benefit of its smoothness that’s quite gentle on the frog’s fragile skin.

However, plenty of ADF owners have raised them on either or both and have encountered no such problems. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal choice and what you find accessible, easier to manage, and more esthetically pleasing. If sand is what you like, then go for it, and if gravel is more to your liking, knock yourself and have no worries about your little amphibian.

Best African Dwarf Frog Substrates Reviewed

1. Carib Sea Super Naturals Crystal River Sand

This sand substrate is a good pick. It resembles natural sand in color and texture. It’s also neither dyed nor coated and has a neutral pH making it a good fit as an ADF substrate. 

It’s light in weight with a good particle size, which minimizes detritus buildup and allows proper vacuuming where negligible amounts of sand get sucked out. 

As with all inert substrates, the innate nutrients are locked in the sand’s crystal lattice, so no sufficient nutrients are available for plant growth. Therefore, artificial plants are better used with this sand. If you’re bent on having a planted tank with natural plants, consider using water column dosing or buying a root tab fertilizer, although it might discolor the sand. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Natural look
  • Neutral pH
  • Minimizes detritus

Cons

  • Insufficient plant fertilization
Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound

    Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    2. Carib Sea Super Natural Moonlight Sand

    The CaribSea Super Natural Moonlight Sand is an almost pure white, shiny sand that gives a beautiful contrast with your tank’s inhabitants, from frogs to plants.

    It has a neutral pH and is very easily cleaned and maintained. It has extremely fine and smooth particles, making it a good choice for an ADF’s sensitive skin. 

    Some people have complained about the cloudiness it causes when placed in a tank with strong currents as the extremely fine particles don’t settle down. However, since ADFs need slow to no currents, it works out just fine. The only time you might see a little haze is when the frogs are scavenging for food near the bottom. 

    Just bear in mind that it’s better to use a Hydro Sponge filter with this type of sand. That’s because a regular Hang-on-Back filter would need constant replacing once the fine sand grains abrade the filter’s motor or impeller.

    Pros

    • Good contrast
    • Smooth texture 
    • Simply cleaned 
    • Neutral pH

    Cons

    • Needs a specific filter 
    • Doesn’t settle quickly
    Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
    Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound

      Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      3. Carib Sea Super Natural Peace River Sand

      This Carib Sea Super Natural Peace River Sand is perfect for freshwater aquaria as it mimics natural river environments. While it’s called sand, it looks more like fine gravel or tiny pebbles. 

      It’s easy to clean beforehand and can be easily vacuumed without being siphoned off. You also don’t need to keep replacing your filter like with other sands since the grains are too big to impede it.

      Its weight holds plants in their place but still allows the roots to grow and expand when properly paired with an external source of nutrition.

      Pros

      • Easily cleaned and vacuumed
      • Good for plant growth

      Cons

      •  Needs a combined form of plant fertilization
      Carib Sea ACS05832 Super Natural Peace River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
      Carib Sea ACS05832 Super Natural Peace River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound

        Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        4. Seachem Flourite Black Sand Substrate

        The Seachem Flourite Black Sand Substrate is a natural, inert, black/charcoal grey sand, which isn’t coated nor dyed like other black sands. It has a good texture and weight that allow for plant growth, making it ideal for planted tanks. That’s especially because it doesn’t change the water’s pH the way some other planted substrates do.

        Another perk is that it doesn’t need to be replaced every few years like aquasoil or other substrates since it’s completely inert.

        Just make sure to thoroughly rinse it before placement in the tank to avoid any turbidity in the water. Throw out the wash water while it’s agitated so that the sediment on top -responsible for the tank cloudiness- is eliminated. 

        Pros

        • Ideal for planted tanks
        • No artificial dyes
        • Maintains neutral pH
        • Long-lasting

        Cons

        • Needs multiple cleanings before placement in tanks
        Sale
        Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb
        Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb

          Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          5. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Gravel

          The Spectrastone Shallow Creek Gravel substrate consists of multicolored, natural-looking pebbles with a slight variance in grain size, ranging from 2 to 4 mm. The grains are smooth and rounded, with no sharp edges; thus, they don’t readily accumulate detritus and wastes, making them easy to keep clean with a gravel vacuum

          The gravel is covered with a non-toxic coating and appears to have a light tan or gold color when placed underwater. It’s inert, so it won’t alter the pH, allowing for a suitable aquatic environment for your plants, fish, and frogs.

          Pros

          • Natural look
          • Smooth
          • Easy to clean

          Cons

          • Color might not appeal to all
          Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums, 5-Pound Bag
          Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular for Freshwater Aquariums, 5-Pound Bag

            Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            6. Spectrastone Special White Aquarium Gravel

            If you’re looking for a gravel substrate to make a good contrast in your tank to showcase its dwellers better, then the Spectrastone Special White Aquarium Gravel is the one for you. The grains are 3 to 8 mm in size and coated with a non-toxic white polymer, which showcases your tank to its fullest potential and gives it a sophisticated, elegant look.

            It doesn’t alter the pH, so it’s appropriate for freshwater creatures and plants. Its only disadvantage is that algae growth is very apparent on the white gravel, and over time, the pebbles get discolored easily.

            Pros

            • Nice contrast
            • Modern look
            • Maintains neutral pH

            Cons

            • Algae ruin its appearance
            • Discoloration
            Sale
            Spectrastone Special White Aquarium Gravel for Freshwater Aquariums, 5-Pound Bag
            Spectrastone Special White Aquarium Gravel for Freshwater Aquariums, 5-Pound Bag

              Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

              7. CaribSea Sri Lanka Gravel

              For completely natural gravel, the Carib Sea Sri Lanka Gravel is a top pick. It has no artificial dyes or paints that flake off and damage the filter or cause cloudiness. It has bright natural-colored stones, which vary in size from 3 to 5 mm.

              Its grains resist the accumulation of detritus from food and frog/fish waste and prevent it from sinking to the very bottom, making it much easier to clean than other substrates.

              It’s pH neutral and won’t increase carbonate hardness, aka the water’s KH, making it an ideal substrate for freshwater tanks. It also reduces nitrates better than other aquarium gravel, making water changes less frequent.

              Pros

              • All-natural
              • No artificial colors or coats
              • Maintains KH
              • Minimizes detritus

              Cons

              • The variance in size and color may bother some people
              CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb
              CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb

                Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                Which Is Best For African Dwarf Frogs?

                Depending on your preferences and what kind of tank you want to keep, the best substrate varies among people. If you prefer sand, the Carib Sea Super Naturals Crystal River Sand is the best of sands. It looks like natural sand you’d find in a river.

                For a planted tank, Seachem Flourite is definitely the best. This substrate won’t change the pH of your tank and doesn’t need to be replaced every few years like some other planted tank substrates.

                If you want gravel in your tank, the CaribSea Sri Lanka Gravel is the best choice because it has no coatings; it’s completely natural.

                Preview Product
                Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound Carib Sea ACS05840 Super Naturals Crystal River Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
                Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb Seachem Fluorite Black Sand Substrate, 7.7lb
                CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb CaribSea Aquatics 36889 Super Naturals Sri Lanka Gravel, 5 lb

                Last update on 2021-10-01 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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                Christopher Adams
                Hey there, my name is Christopher and I'm the creator and editor of this site. I've owned successful aquariums for the past 23 years. My mission is to educate, inform, and entertain on everything that's fish.

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