African Clawed Frog Bloat, Why It Happens And How To Treat It

Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by cmoarz

You might have recently noticed your African clawed frog has started to look a little plump, Or perhaps it’s swollen up to the size of a small balloon. Could it be African clawed frog bloat?

African Clawed Frog Bloat is a common problem among these frogs, but with the right treatment, it can be cleared up relatively quickly.

If left untreated, African Clawed Frog Bloat can quickly lead to death, so it’s important to understand what’s causing it and how to treat it.

african clawed frog bloat Divider

What is African clawed frog bloat?

When an African clawed frog, African dwarf clawed frog or albino clawed frog bloats, They begin to fill with fluids in their subdermal layers.

This fluid is predominantly water, however, it can also contain cell-rich and protein-filled fluids if there is also a secondary infection or obstruction.

The proper term used is dropsy by most aquatic frog keepers, however, it can also be referred to as bloat, hydropsy, and edema.

Dropsy isn’t considered a disease on its own, but rather a symptom of another underlying condition, such as infection or blockage, a parasitic infection, or liver dysfunction.

Anything that can cause issues with the lymphatic system.

However, dropsy itself is often bad enough to be considered the bigger issue to the frog’s health than the underlying condition that causes it (at least until the symptom is treated).

It makes it difficult for the frog to move around and may float to the surface or cause drowning. It makes eating difficult or impossible and the swelling condition itself is quite painful for the frog.

 What causes African clawed frog bloat, Aka dropsy

 There are a large variety of things that can cause edema (dropsy).

The most common causes are bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections, but there are many other potential causes including:

  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or renal failure
  • Toxicity from medications, environmental pollutants, or lead
  • Inflammatory diseases such as pancreatitis, cholecystitis
  • Impactions from sandy substrates or other easily swallowed foreign objects
  • Intestinal blockages from eating indigestible items such as stones
  • Parasitic infestations
  • Congenital heart defects

and sometimes there is simply no obvious underlying condition, although one is almost certainly present even if we can’t see it.

Bacterial infections are the most common underlying cause of African clawed frog bloat, accounting for more than 50% of cases, followed by impaction.

Different levels of African clawed frog bloat

It’s never good to see a bloated African-clawed frog, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s actually bloated. There are different levels of African clawed frog bloat. Minor bloating and major bloating and a mix of individual limbs in between.

Minor bloat (as pictured in this bloated albino clawed frog)

Albino african clawed frog bloat
Photo Taken and Owned by forum user Pleco1415

Minor bloating consists of your frog puffing up a small amount, Looking thicker than usual, but still being able to move around easily and feed.

There is generally no pain or very little pain associated with this type of African clawed frog bloat.

Sometimes it will only be noticed in certain limbs and not the entire frog.

However, Minor bloating can quickly transition into major bloating if left untreated.

Major bloating (as pictured in this unfortunate AC frog)


Major bloating is the most serious type of African clawed frog bloat.

The frog will be completely swollen up to the size of a balloon and be unable to move.

They will often float to the surface of their water container and may even drown if they are unable to take a breath.

This level of African clawed frog bloat is very painful and can quickly lead to death if not treated.

Diagnosing your frog; fat, bloated, or constipated?

Diagnosing your frog for dropsy (bloat) is relatively straightforward, especially when it’s a case of major bloating.

Normally these frogs have relatively tight skin, but with African clawed frog bloat, their skin will be loose and puffy.

The abdomen will be swollen and the limbs may be bloated as well.

If your frog is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s almost certainly a case of African clawed frog bloat.

On the other hand, A constipated frog may only show signs of slight bloating in the belly region and have normal-looking limbs.

Their feces may be dry and small, or they may release very little feces at all.

Bloating also comes on quickly, almost overnight. A fat frog will gradually become bigger instead and you will easily be able to tell the difference in size between a healthy frog and an unhealthy frog.

However, the bottom line for diagnosing exactly what’s wrong with your frog is to bring it to your exotic pet veterinarian.

The vets will perform X-rays and be able to tell if it’s a true case of dropsy, or rather an impaction of some sort.

African clawed frog bloat treatment regime and medications

If you’ve brought the frog to the vet, the vet will usually use a needle to drain the excess fluids from the frog’s body.

This will be an instant relief to your poor frog who has most likely been in tremendous pain up until that point.

After that, they will likely put the frog on a course of antibiotics to treat any underlying bacterial infection and may also prescribe Metronidazole to treat any parasitic infections.

It is crucial to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible if you think your African clawed frog may be suffering from bloat, as this condition can quickly lead to death if left untreated.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do at home to treat dropsy in your ACF/ADF/Albino.

Draining the frog yourself is risky and could end up doing more damage than good, and really should only be attempted by a veterinarian or someone who knows exactly what they are doing.

Salt in the tank

A lot of websites will tell you that salt is a risky business, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it’s true frogs are salt sensitive, If you use the correct amount of salt for the gallonage of your aquarium, it’s only beneficial to the drop and may help lessen the impact of dropsy.

Frogs are sensitive to salt, but not so sensitive that you can’t use it at all. Salt is a powerful way to help treat dropsy and bacterial infections.

In cases of African clawed frog bloat, it’s not uncommon for vets to prescribe a course of salt in the frog’s water.

Aquarium salt can be bought at any pet store and is very cheap.

It’s very important you get the salt dosage correct, however. Too much could end up harming your frog, and too little will not be effective in treating African clawed frog bloat.

A vet will be able to help you with the correct dosage for your specific aquarium gallonage.

Extra Tip: Dissolve the salt in some aquarium water in a separate container before adding it to the tank. Add it slowly and swish it around so there are no strong salt spots that could injure the frog. You want it to be diluted as quickly as possible.


Owner of and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!