African Clawed Frogs from the Old Frog Farm

By C. Moormann

Hymenochirus species

In the USA African dwarf frogs are often sold as Hymenochirus curtipes, but in most cases they are actually Hymenochirus boettgeri. All of the frogs currently available from are Hymenochirus boettgeri. Some of the frogs we have were purchased from a frog farm in Lehi, Utah that recently went out of business. Because I was running an internet ad, the realtor selling the property called me to see if I would buy the frogs as they were just left there by the owner. I bought them and later was able to buy a lot of the tanks and equipment left there. There were over 1000 aquariums on the property with about 600 of the breeder flats and over 700 6-quart Anchor-Hocking bowls set up in the main building with the rest in the old storage sheds. Almost no one had heard of the place as the owner was apparently secretive and reclusive. Most of the tanks were of the old metal-framed variety made over 30 years ago before the use of silicone was common or available. The metal frames are welded and a thick bead of black putty is laid on the inside of the frames. The glass is then laid on the putty and pressed into it to squeeze the putty and make a seal. A silicone like bead of black gel is usually applied inside the tank in the corners and edges but it does not have the firmness or strength of silicone.

Here are a couple of pictures of the little frogs:
African Clawed frog
A frog over a 1 inch grid. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 (compass frog pointing east) Click to Enlarge
African Clawed frog
Frogs over a 1 inch grid. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 (cheerleader types making a 'V' for Victory) Click to Enlarge

The frog farm was an interesting experience with no guide or information to answer questions. This created a situation which was like some kind of a forensic investigation with my friends and I as investigators. The property was 3/4 of an acre near the center of Lehi, just east of the rodeo arena. The property was a corner lot surrounded by a six-foot chain-link fence with concertina wire at the top with the two sides bordering the two streets having an 8-ft hedge of piracantha. There were three old sheds appearing to date from the 1930's which were filled with aquarium stuff. Most of the set up tanks were in a large metal building about 40 x 70 feet in size.

Here are two of my fellow fish friends/investigators:

the con man
Conrad. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
Porter Rockwell re-incarnated
Larry. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

Here are some pictures from the inside of the main building:

Breeder tanks
A view down one aisle. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
Breeder tanks
A view down another aisle. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

milk bottles
Brine shrimp hatching bottles. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
milk bottles
Brine shrimp hatching bottles. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

The red flags and clothes-pins are part of a marking system used by the frog farmer. The light was not bright enough for some of the detail to show but most of the metal racks the tanks were on were somewhat rusted. Most of the tanks were filled with water which was another unexplained mystery until we worked to empty the tanks. Some started leaking when the water level was lowered and on tanks that were empty to start with, the racks were rusted clear through. This indicated that the seal to the black putty was poor and needed the weight of the water to complete the seal -- mystery solved. I found only one electric heater in the entire place and it was unused. The large building had two large gas heaters in the back corners and in the center of the building was a huge iron fireplace with a forced-air system that moved the heat from the stove.
The breeder frogs were in rows of 6-qt bowls in 3 double rows of about 65 bowls back to back (about 380 bowls set up). There was water in each with frogs in only 100 or so bowls. The system used was not clear but the back to back bowls had the breeders in only one and there were some tadpoles in the adjascent bowl. There were no plants, filter, or heater in the bowls -- just a half-filled bowl with a pair of frogs. There were over 20 5-liter jugs of Tetra Black Water Tonic which I will be selling for years. The bowls had just tap water I believe as the bowls all had a thick layer of calcium deposits in a ring inside. Larry thought the tonic was for hatching the eggs or preventing fungus. Who knows how these frogs are bred, hatched, and raised? There were about 120 new in-the-box bowls in one of the sheds. The cardboard of the boxes was rotted away on the bottom on most boxes. I will be selling them on the internet as vintage bowls or set up with a fish, plants, and gravel like the AquaBabies set-ups are done.

Here are some pictures of the 6-qt bowls inside of the main building:

rows of bowls
A view down one row of bowls. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
new 6-quart bowl
A brand new 30-yr old bowl. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

Tetra Black Water Tonic
5-liter jugs of Tonic. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
Doug studying the treasures. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

Here are some pictures of the buildings on the property:

main building
A view of the main building. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
small shed
A view of the small shed. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

shed row
Sheds from the 1930's. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge
The office building and citadel. Photo, C. Moormann, 2008 Click to Enlarge

The office building was the original house converted to office and storage. The desk area had copies of tax information prepared by accountants for the frog farm just lying on the desk. I looked at them and they showed about 70-grand each year in fish sales for the years around 1999 thru 2001. That seemed kind of low for an operation this large and why were they just left there? Down one hallway was an awe-inspiring sight. It was a 7-foot by 3-foot bank vault door that could have been 100 years old. It was a beautiful black with brass trim and possibly gold-leaf on the outside with a glass-covered inside panel showing all of the gears and shafts of the locking mechanism. It was open half-way and opened into a concrete room to the left. The combination was on a small piece of paper taped to the glass. The door opened into the lower half of the building shown to the left of the house/office in the picture. It had one door opening into the alley leading to the sheds and it was a solid steel door with no door handles on the outside. It had a double set of tube-steel bolts on the inside. The lower floor no windows and had only this one door to the street and the vault door to the house. With the vault door closed, a concrete stairway went straight up into the upper floor of the concrete building. This opened up into an open loft-type living area with one end partitioned into a huge bedroom and bath. It was carpeted in green shag rug and the bathroom was purely functional (no jetted tubs or any luxury). There were two windows over the alley to the sheds and two in the bedroom area. These last two would have had a view of the rodeo arena but were covered by steel plate placed about one inch out from the windows allowing some air and light to come in around the edges but would apparently prevent non-armour piercing bullets from entering.

Here is an unrelated test of You-tube on the internet: This is a car of my youth a 1955 Ford.