African dwarf frog a good pet choice for kids

  • @SP Caption credit:Photos by Mark Black@SP Caption:Tommy, 9, and Molly Knecht, 6, of Barrington have African dwarf frogs named Stan and Flin. The frogs live in a self-contained ecosystem and need very little food.

    @SP Caption credit:Photos by Mark Black@SP Caption:Tommy, 9, and Molly Knecht, 6, of Barrington have African dwarf frogs named Stan and Flin. The frogs live in a self-contained ecosystem and need very little food.

  • @SP Caption credit: Photos by Mark Black@SP Caption:African dwarf frogs live in a self-contained ecosystem and need very little food.

    @SP Caption credit: Photos by Mark Black@SP Caption:African dwarf frogs live in a self-contained ecosystem and need very little food.

 
By Carol L. MacCabe
Updated 1/28/2011 11:39 AM

@SP Body Copy:Tommy and Molly Knecht's Grandma gave them a unique Easter gift in 2010.

"It was really cool because it was our first pet," said Molly, 6.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Definitely -- I just love frogs," agreed Tommy, 9.

They are talking about Flin and Stan, the two African dwarf frogs that live in an EcoAquarium on the Knecht's kitchen counter in Barrington. If you're looking for a pet that requires minimal care and is fun to watch, African dwarf frogs may be for you.

Native to sub-Saharan Africa, these frogs are very small -- about 1 inches long. They live almost entirely underwater, even though they are air breathers as well and may emerge from water occasionally.

In the wild, they are food for other animals, so they dig in mud to try to hide from predators, according to Jessica Dietzen, sales associate at Learning Express in Barrington.

"They are the best pets ever," said Dietzen, "and they are easy to take care of."

The EcoAquarium has been featured on the Today Show as one of the "Hottest Toys under $50." It includes two African dwarf frogs (two males, so there won't be any "surprises"), a special tank, lucky bamboo plant, decorative rocks, decorative gravel, living gravel and a year's supply of food.

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The living gravel serves as a natural biological filter that converts excess food and waste into soluble nutrients used by the lucky bamboo plant. The bamboo is a natural aerator, providing essential oxygen to the frogs. The living gravel also removes ammonia, preventing the water from becoming toxic. All the parts work together, creating an ecosystem habitat.

The frogs are fed special pelleted food -- two pellets per frog, twice each week.

"Mom has the feeding dates on the calendar," said Colleen Knecht, the siblings' mother, with a smile. "Not that Tommy and Molly can't; it's just easier if I keep track."

Cleaning the small cube-like aquarium is not difficult. Every other month, about three-quarters of the water needs to be replaced.

"I take out the water and replace it with room temperature spring water," Colleen said. "A disposable Dixie cup works well for me. I also wipe the sides of the tank with damp paper towel."

There is no need to take out the gravel to clean it; cleaning it could disrupt the ecosystem that has been established.

The frogs shed their skin, so you may see it floating around in the tank.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's protein for them and they'll eat it or it will be turned into food for them," explained Dietzen.

Water temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees are best for the frogs. They tend to be more active in low light situations and will swim around more. The frogs have a floating habit called the "Zen position." They float with arms and legs outstretched and one foot balancing them.

"It's really fun when they climb on each other," Molly said.

"Well, they don't do too much, but it's fun to watch them," agreed Tommy.

"We all laugh when they are active; they're more entertainment than I thought," Colleen said.

The average life span of an African dwarf frog is two to six years. The frogs do sometimes come out of the water, so the cover should remain on the aquarium. Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the frogs can carry salmonella and should not be handled.

For more information about EcoAquariums, go to WildCreations.com. EcoAquariums are available at Learning Express stores located in Algonquin, Barrington, Geneva, Glen Ellyn, Lake Zurich, Naperville and St. Charles.