Dwarf Pixie/Pyxie Frog
Dwarf African Bullfrog
Pixie frogs (the name derived from a corruption of its Latin binomial name) are Africa’s version of our North American bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. Pixie frogs are gargantuan and aggressive frogs, with males obtaining lengths of nearly 10 inches/25 centimeters (and widths of almost the same) and weighing as much as 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms). Females are about half this size. Dwarf pixie frogs look very similar but have a narrower head and are about half the size, with males grown to about 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) long, and females a little less (3.5-4 inches/9-10 centimeters). The dorsum coloration of both frogs is mostly brown or dark green with lighter green interspersed. The side of the body is often bright yellow fading to pale yellow or cream on the underside. They have strong, pronounced digging spurs on their hind feet, which they use to dig themselves into the substrate. They can live up to 16 years.
Pixie frogs are found in the southern part of Africa: Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia. Dwarf pixie frogs have a slightly wider range and are found in western Africa as well, inhabiting: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Within this range they are found in lowland wet and dry savanna, grasslands, steppes, dry shrubland, ditches and intermittent freshwater marshes and meadows. They have a preference for clay or sandy substrates and will often bury themselves partially with only their head protruding, waiting in ambush for prey. They may spend as many as 10 months underground in their aestivation cocoons, waiting for enough rainfall to awaken them.
Pixie frogs are fossorial, and as such, should be provided with substrate that allows this behavior. A mixture of soil, peat, mulch, bark, sand, and loam should be used to provide a substrate that is 4-5 inches (10-13 centimeters deep (deeper for full grown adults). Pixie frogs are ambush predators and subsequently do not require large enclosures in which to move about. That being said, the sheer size of a pixie frog necessitates enclosures of at least the equivalent of a 10-gallon tank (but full grown adult frogs will definitely require larger accommodations). Although pixie frogs are more adept at hopping than jumping, smaller enclosures should have a screen top to avoid possible escape and also to prevent other curious animals from getting too near. A large water bowl should be provided for soaking, with its size proportional to the size of the frog. The frog should be able to submerge itself, but not be able to float. Since pixie frogs will foul their water almost every time they use it, the smaller water bowl you can get away using the better (since it will need to be changed at least daily). With adequate substrate, temperatures are not too important, but ambient indoor temperatures in the 70-75 degree Fahrenheit range are optimal.
Pixie frogs have been referred to as “walking stomachs” and will eat anything that moves (including non-food items like leaves, sticks, gravel, fingers, etc. so be careful!) They will eat: earthworms, mealworms, superworms, wax worms, insects, spiders, crustaceans, mice, rats, birds, frogs, lizards, and snakes (they have even been known to eat baby cobras). They are also cannibalistic.
Pixie frogs are incredibly voracious eaters and will consume anything that moves. Subsequently, they are best housed singly. Also, because they do have teeth, they can inflict a nasty bite (see above about eating anything that moves). If you need to handle your frog do so from the sides and avoid approaching it from the front.
It is critical that these frogs are allowed to aestivate when they want to. Your frog will know when it wants to do this. You will notice that it will burrow below the surface and begin to form a dry cocoon around itself. This is the key to stop feeding the frog and leave it alone. Naturally, these frogs may remain under the ground for 10 months out of the year waiting for rain. In some instances they have been known to aestivate for as long as several years. In captivity pixies should be allowed to aestivate for at least a few months (longer in less temperate climates). Leave your frog in a dark area with mild temperature fluctuations (a closet perhaps). Check on it periodically to make sure it has not awakened on its own and that the cocoon has not cracked. The cocoon retains moisture so that the frog will not dry out. The best time to awaken your frog is in the spring. Do so by increasing the amount of moisture in the substrate around the frog gradually (e.g. add a cup or two of water each day) until the frog breaks out of its cocoon (usually when the water level reaches about ¼ of the way up the side of the cocoon it becomes soft enough for the frog to break through).