I ate my wafer...


What goes "ribbet...slide...ribbet...thump" at 4am?

So, yesterday, I was in the car with James and Chris when somehow it came out in conversation that I once owned some albino dwarf African clawed frogs, aka "Grow-A-Frogs".

My grandparents bought me one for my birthday, I believe in 1987, and after we sent in the little postcard that came in the Stage One habitat box, a couple weeks later a tadpole showed up in the mail, which looked pretty sickly. As I recall, my parents must have been concerned that the tadpole would quickly croak, leaving me upset, so they immediately ordered another one, as a backup tadpole. (They did let me know they were ordering a second one, contrary to tradition, since my mom's mother tried to swap out surreptiously swap parakeets when one died).

Anyway, so, at this point there's two tadpoles kicking around in their own little stage one habitats. They're albino, and transparent, so you can see all the bits a pieces that make up their innards, and they are sort of cool. However, relatively soon they start metamorphsizing in to adults, if I had to guess this started nearly immediately, and possibly one of mine even came out of his shipping box starting to change. Watching the change is interesting, though even as albinos, they get darker skin, so the internal organs get hard to see.

What's worse is that after the tadpoles have completely morphed into frogs, they just sit there suspended in their tanks, occasionally making noises, basically doing nothing other than eating and pooping. Then, they live for close to ten years in this nursing home state (some live to be 20+), which makes the Grow-A-Frog a highly evil gift to give to children whose PARENTS you dislike.

There were two exceptions to the otherwise horribly boring nature of my Grow-A-Frogs: the fighting and the escape:

After both of my frogs were completely transformed, my parents tried putting them both in the same aquarium for logistical reasons, and the frogs immediately started fighting. More than any thing else, it resembled underwater WFF "wrassling", with the frogs pushing off the opposite sides of the tank, then trying to choke each other, and kick each other, with a bit of biting. Although my parents quickly separated the frogs, and bought a pair of 3 gallon-ish tanks, it was repeatable on demand if one frog was dropped in with the other.

The other exception is the night of Willy's great escape. To cut to the interesting part, Willy's tank lid must have been left loose, and he bailed out of the tank, and to the floor, unfortunately falling immediately through a heat duct. Unlike the average heat vent of modern proportions, my parents had the kind with 1"x1" holes that a grow a frog could easily plummet through. Also, unlike modern 4" ducts, the giant gravity furnace in the basement had 12" diameter ducts, and no filters, so Willy was lost in giant tunnels of dust. Fortunately for Willy, my dad was woken up by feeble ribbeting and sliding noises, and eventually tracked the noise down at 4am and found the frog. (This process had started some 45 minutes earlier, and the odd noises had moved locations through the house as the frog shifted in the heat ducting while my dad tried to figure where and what was causing the noises.) Despite spending some hours loose in the heat vents, returning caked in dust, Willy survived and managed to outlive his less adventurous cousin in the other tank by a year or so.

Looking around the internet, it looks like you can buy similar African Clawed frogs, including non-dwarf models from people other than the "Grow-A-Frog" folks. But the Grow-A-Frog people have some nice syrupy literature that they throw in and a frog is only $20 from them including all of its Stage One equipment. Apparently some people really like them as pets, but frankly, they must have way more attention span than I do to find watching the frogs lethargically eat and poop interesting after the 8th year or so.

However, as more of my friends have children, they should be warned that if I'm sufficiently irritated, or simply amused at the concept, I'll buy their kids a frog that will live practically forever, while doing nothing interesting after the first 3 months. Oh, and did I mention that the frogs have a lifetime guarantee, so even if you kill one off, you're kid can get it replaced for $3 in shipping fees? Oh, and if you accidentally let it "escape" into the wild, you'll cause an ecological disaster, and possibly face legal problems? Not only will African Clawed Frogs outcompete native species, they'll kill off other amphibiious by means of a toxic fungus (biological warfare).

On the upside, if you get a female grow-a-frog, you can always use it as a reusable home pregnancy test. Sort of like a free giant box of EPTs with every frog. Though you probably want to make sure that the kids are VERY soundly asleep when you inject the frog with urine, and safely off to school the next day when you check for eggs. Actually, a Grow-A-Frog isn't much more expensive than a name brand pregnancy test, so maybe Grow-A-Frog should change their marketing scheme.


  • you are one odd duck (er, frog) my friend...


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:48 PM  

  • It's nice to see bob is back to telling us weird bob stories. I really miss weird bob stories.

    my brother had a grow-a-frog. actually he had two grow-a-frogs, skippy and hoppy. skippy turned up under the couch one day, all dried out, hence the need for hoppy. hoppy tried to off himself by jumping into the garbage disposal, but being the humanitarians we are, we refused to turn it on. hoppy lived for about 10 years until we gave him away and legend has it he was put in an extremely large aquarium, after which he grew to monstrous proportions. God knows where he is now, probably eating small children, or just wedging them under couches until they dry out.

    Eh, maybe I should go back to writing on my own blog.

    By Anonymous Krupa, at 2:38 PM  

  • There's nothing as truly great as a weird Bob story followed by a weird Krupa story which will weirdly be on the same topic.

    By Blogger Daniel Silliman, at 10:58 PM  

  • Bob did you rad the FAQs section about the grow a frogs? There is a section dedicated to the fact that the frogs are social animals and they will get along if you introduce them to each other properly so while you wre throwing them in the same tank and taking bets with your dad and shouting, "fight fight" maybe you should have thrown them a little frog coctail party with the blood worm meal crap they liked som much and poured a little of daves Bud Light into the tank for them to enjoy.

    By Blogger Christopher A. Lee, at 5:44 PM  

  • Dwarf Frogs can be very silly if placed in a decent sized container. When a scientist once had a male one in a small cube all alone for two years and then moved it into a bowl with a female dwarf frog, it was mating in less time it takes to say "hey baby, what's your sign."

    The larger Clawed Frogs, also known as lab frogs, are even more fun to watch. However they require much more space. They also attempt to escape more often unless secured and have access to a mate. Oddly, if in too small an area, the frogs will only go through the initial phase of mating. They seem to sense that attempting to raise hundreds of offspring in the small area is foolish.
    Please treat all pet frogs with kindness.

    By Blogger Lab_FROG, at 3:03 PM  

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