How Long Can Frogs Stay Underwater

How Long Can Frogs Stay Underwater

Frogs are aquatic amphibians who spend most of their life in the water. While most creatures have only one way to breathe, frogs have two, which makes them well adapted to life in and around ponds and lakes.

Although they’re known for sitting on lilypads, a frog can sleep underwater like a fish. How long can frogs stay underwater?

The average frog can hold its breath between 4 and 7 hours. Frogs can breathe underwater because they have a unique skin that can push out unwanted carbon dioxide and pull in fresh oxygen. When hibernating, frogs can slow their metabolism down and stay underwater for up to 4 months.

How Long Can An African Dwarf Frog Stay Underwater

African dwarf frogs are tiny, only reaching around two and a half inches at full growth. Being petite has a lot of advantages, like being able to hide easily.

However, with their diminutive size comes smaller than average lungs, which impact how long an African dwarf frog can stay underwater.

Though they spend most of their lives in the water, African dwarf frogs typically only hold their breath or stay under the water for around 15 minutes at a time unless they’re sleeping.

These tiny frogs are often found floating lazily on the surface of the water since it takes minimal effort and lets them stay wet while also breathing through their nostrils.

When they aren’t floating around or swimming, African dwarf frogs like to sleep. These nocturnal pets will drift off to dreamland for twelve hours a day, and when I say drift, I actually mean sink to the bottom of the water.

Sleeping in a muddy lakebed helps these little frogs be safe and camouflaged in nature.

Since their instincts don’t go away in captivity, they still sleep low in the water. During their twelve-hour rest periods, African dwarf frogs use their skin to move oxygen from the water into their bodies without the need to breathe.

Like hibernation, sleep slows the metabolism down, and the frogs use less oxygen up in their dormant state.

How Long Can Tree Frogs Stay Underwater

Tree frogs spend more time away from the water than other frog species, though they still need to keep their skin moist to stay alive.

Unlike other frogs, these colorful and often poisonous frogs don’t spend all day in the water. Moreover, they usually only go swimming to mate and lay eggs.

Tree frogs are the black sheep of the froggy family since they don’t hang out around ponds or other bodies of water.

As a result of this evolutionary divergence, arboreal frogs can’t hold their breath or breathe underwater like their damp counterparts, the pond frogs.

Instead, the eight hundred or so species of tree frogs each have their own adaptations and hibernation methods that keep them mostly out of the water.

As Animals Mom explains, “Because tree frogs don’t swim, they must find other ways to retain water. The waxy monkey tree frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) has special wax-secreting glands. This frog covers its skin with wax, locking in moisture against the arid conditions in which it lives. Frogs living in tropical rain forests absorb the moisture they need through their skin. No additional moisture is needed because their environment is so humid.”

How Long Can Bullfrogs Stay Underwater

A bullfrog can handle being submerged for around 4 to 7 hours. Like most frog species, these giant amphibians have decent lung capacity, nostrils, and the ability to absorb oxygen through their skin.

Notably, like tadpoles, most frogs, including bullfrogs, cannot rely solely on their underwater breathing system. Inevitably, they will need to come up for air.

Can Frogs Breathe Underwater

Frogs can breathe underwater. However, the way they do this isn’t inhaling in the traditional sense.

Most amphibians have a unique skin that allows gasses to be exchanged with their environment. The frogs can push out unwanted carbon dioxide and pull in fresh oxygen.

How Long Can A Frog Hold Its Breath Underwater

The average frog can hold its breath for 4 to 7 hours. However, that statistic doesn’t show the incredible differences between varying species of frogs.

Some frogs would drown very quickly underwater, lasting only moments, and others can nap underwater for half a day without surfacing.

How Long Can Frogs Breathe Underwater

There isn’t enough research to answer the question of how long frogs can breathe underwater.

In theory, some species could stay under their entire lives and breathe without any trouble. Alternately, tree frogs can’t breathe underwater at all.

With over 5,000 known species of frogs and more being discovered regularly, it will be a while before we have all the answers. Even then, it will depend on which frog you’re asking about.

Can Frogs Breathe Underwater And On Land

Frogs can breathe underwater and on land, or at least most species can. As tadpoles, all frogs have gills, and they participate in bubble sucking to supplement their oxygen levels.

However, as they mature, frogs lose the gills and tails in favor of legs for moving on land and their unique oxygen-permeable skin.

Most frogs can choose to surface, or go onto land and use their nostrils, or submerge and breathe through their skin. However, they ultimately need both to survive.

A dry frog can’t pull air through its skin and will die the same as a frog that can’t use its nostrils.

Can Frogs Drown In A Pond

Frogs can drown in a pond. Since these amphibians have lungs, their lungs require gasses inside to function. If a frog got water in its lungs instead of air, it would kill them from drowning. Fortunately, frog drownings are extremely rare.

A tree frog trapped in the water will drown faster than any other type due to its unique divergent biology. However, any frog could end up with lungs filled with water.

For example, a frog who woke from hibernation early due to a warm current might find itself trapped under a layer of ice with nowhere to breathe.

Can Tadpoles Breathe Underwater

Like their adult counterparts, tadpoles have two ways to breathe. First, these tiny immature frogs have gills that breathe like fish by moving water in and out and extracting the ‘O’ or oxygen from their H2O-filled surroundings.

Regrettably, tadpole gills help the tadpoles breathe when they are underwater, but they aren’t sufficient by themselves to give a growing baby frog the air it needs to thrive.

The way tadpoles breathe underwater was only recently discovered by accident while scientists were observing salamanders that eat tadpoles with high-speed cameras.

By using a unique method known as “bubble sucking.” The problem with being a tiny tadpole is that, when they are first hatched, these future frogs are so minuscule they can’t break the surface tension of the water to get above for a breath.

Instead of reaching above the water, tadpoles rush the surface, pressing upward as hard as they can. They point their mouths up toward the underside of the top surface of the water and suck a bubble of air down into their mouths.

Tadpoles can’t reach the air, so they bring it down to their level instead.

Helpful Tips To Know About How Long Frogs Can Stay Underwater

Pond frogs can stay underwater for an incredibly long time to hunt, swim, relax and hide. However, arboreal or tree frogs don’t share their cousin’s affinity for diving and can’t stay under very long at all.

Here are more helpful tips to know about how long frogs can stay underwater.

  • Since frogs can absorb oxygen through their skin, they can also bury themselves underground. For many creatures, the press of soil all around would make it very hard to breathe, but amphibians are well adapted for underground hibernation.
  • Frogs need water to survive and breathe. Because these amphibians breathe through their damp skin, they need to stay hydrated all the time for the process to work correctly. If a frog dries out, it can’t absorb oxygen through its skin anymore. Unfortunately, this usually leads to death for the frog.
  • Zombie Wood frogs can do a lot more than hold their breath. These bizarre frogs can freeze up to 70 percent solid, with their heart and body functions completely stopped and no breathing for months to survive the cold. As Wild Canadian Year explains, “As winter comes, they hunker down just under the leaf litter. They begin to produce a special antifreeze in their blood, made out of glucose and glycogen. As the temperature continues to drop, this antifreeze is taken up into their cells. Inside each cell, the sugary syrup keeps the cells plump and strong and prevents ice crystals from forming which would kill them.”

Final Thoughts

Frog respiration is incredible. Very few creatures on earth can choose between different methods of breathing based on their environment.

Frogs typically breathe as mammals and reptiles do on land through their noses.

However, once they dive into the water, a frog uses its skin to exchange gasses with its environment in an incredibly sophisticated alternate breathing system designed to allow them to swim or even sleep in water for hours.

While all frogs spend the majority of their time in the water, different species can stay under for varying amounts of time, and many even choose to hibernate in water during the cold season.

With their metabolisms slowed, frogs can spend months in the water without coming up to breathe.

Ted Smith

My name is Ted Smith and I’m the creator of I have a passion for educating people about animals and wildlife. I have been working with the National Wildlife Federation for the past 10 years and I became a wildlife blogger to help people become excited about animals and encouraged to care for these wonderful creatures.

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