Can frogs breathe underwater?

You may have heard, seen, or read it somewhere that frogs can breathe underwater. Now, you may be wondering, “Can frogs breathe underwater?”


If that’s true, how long can frogs remain submerged without getting drowned?Frogs are amphibians, and one of their characteristics is the ability to stay and breathe underwater for as long as they want.

In case you are a pet frog owner or just a curious person who wants to learn as much as possible about the subject. You will find the answer(s) to your question(s) shortly, and all you want to know about these beautiful creatures will be discussed. Frogs and toads fall into a category of animals called “Amphibians”.

What are Amphibians?

Amphibians are small vertebrate animals that are capable of living on land and in water. They have some unique features and structures that enable them to live this dual lifestyle successfully.

Some of them can stay and breathe underwater because they have very soft, thin, and porous skin that absorbs dissolved oxygen from the surrounding water. So if your pet frog stays beyond normal time in the water, you shouldn’t be worried cos it’s fine. The different species of animals in this group include toads, frogs, salamanders, news, etc. Some of the animals in this group can breathe and absorb oxygen through their skin.


Many of the amphibian species can breathe comfortably underwater in one way or the other. For instance, adult salamanders like the Mexican Axolotl breathe with gills when submerged. Some salamander species can also breathe through their skin just like toads and frogs.

This group of animals (Amphibians) are cold-blooded animals, just like fishes and reptiles. An amphibian such frog requires water or a moist environment for it to survive because of its special and tender epidermis. Excessive sunlight can destroy frogs’ dermal cells, while excessive dry wind can dehydrate the animals and may ultimately kill the animal after a prolonged period.


As a pet owner, it is advisable to provide a small water bath for your little pet(s) to keep it hydrated and energetic at all times.

How do frogs breathe underwater?

Frogs and toads and other amphibian species require water to reproduce. Mating between frogs usually takes place in water; the female frog lays matured eggs in the water while the male frog sheds sperm on the eggs for fertilization.

The fertilized egg then develops into the larval stage called “tadpoles”. The active life of frogs begins as tadpoles, these little ones live exclusively in water, and they have temporary gills that are used for respiration.

Can frogs breathe underwater?

This gills, like in fishes, is a respiratory organ that is used for breathing in water. It ensures the exchange of air (intake of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide) in the tadpole.

However, after some time, these little aquatic babies metamorphosis into full-grown adults. But something interesting happens during this transition stage. During this transformation stage, the transparent skin of the tadpole is gradually transformed into a soft, permeable skin, which is adapted for breathing. The gills in the tadpoles are also transformed into the lungs.


When the transition stage is completed, the adult frogs, which are terrestrial animals, breathe air through their nostrils in the lungs while they are on land. They then use their highly permeable skin for breathing in water.


Frogs begin to utilize their lungs once they become adults, and the organ is fully developed and functional. They do not use it underwater because it is not designed to be operational there. The lungs become useful and important once they step on land, or when they raise the nostrils on their head out of the water to take in air.

They use it when they are hopping around in search of food, playing around, or escaping from potential threats or predators. During these activities, they require a lot of oxygen to balance their metabolism, so the lung becomes essential and functional. In other words, they only utilize their lungs during moments of actions, when they need more O2 than their skin can provide.

Frogs breathe through their lungs and skin when they are on land. However, the skin can only allow a small exchange of gases per time compared to the amount of air exchanged in the lung.

When frogs hop around for food, they expend a lot of energy, and they require a large amount of O2 in their body. So, they breathe air with their lungs during this period while they use their skin for breathing when they are resting or engaging in other non-energy consuming activities.

There is no specific factor or determinant as to how long a frog can stay underwater. The Tadpoles live exclusively in water till it becomes fully matured. A frog or a toad can remain submerged as long as it wants. The amount of oxygen present in the water could also be a factor. Your frogs will not stay for long if the water is short of oxygen, that is because they need a large amount of O2 to breathe well underwater.

Water temperature can also be a factor for determining how long a frog would remain underwater. Frogs prefer between mild to cold temperatures and wouldn’t hang on for long in water whose temperature is beyond normal. That is because they have soft skin, and the high temperature of the water can easily damage it.

A biological need for food can make it come out of its aquatic environment faster than it normally would. Frogs need food to ensure their survival; all animals, including humans, need food to survive. They would come out of the water if they feel hungry, they feed mostly on insects. So they have to go out in search of food.

The presence of a predator can also make a frog come out of water earlier than expected. Many other factors, such as the species, aquatic activities, and some environmental changes can also affect how long a frog can stay submerged.

However, there is no scientifically proven answer as to how long a frog can stay submerged. As long as the conditions are favorable, a frog can wait indefinitely in water.

The skin of a frog is soft and highly permeable, and it’s similar to the alveoli in the human lungs. The alveoli in the human lungs exchange the air in them (oxygen and carbon dioxide) with the ones in the blood of the surrounding blood vessels. The wall of the blood vessels surrounding the human alveoli are thin and permeable. Likewise, the skin of a frog is also thin and permeable, and it has tiny underlying capillaries that allow for easy exchange of gases.

When frogs are underwater, there is an exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen through their skin. They can do this by absorbing the dissolved oxygen in the surrounding water into their body, while also releasing CO2 into the environment. Skin breathing in a frog that can occur both in and out of water.

Final Note

Frogs are fantastic creatures, and their uniqueness exceeds just being able to live in terrestrial and aquatic habitat. Their physical body configuration is another advantage or feature that makes it possible for them. 

They have long hind limbs which they use for paddling in the water and jumping while on land. The short forelimbs help them to maintain balance on land and when submerged. All amphibians’ larvae can breathe underwater. It is during the process of metamorphosis (i.e. transitioning from larvae to adult) that some of them lose their ability to respire underwater.

Some amphibians can breathe underwater, while some cannot. Most of them who cannot breathe underwater can still stay for a long period by simply holding their breath. Amazingly, these can hold their breath for a very long period. Scientists also discovered some salamanders with neither gills or lungs, who just basically respire through their skin.

They have so many other unique characteristics that make them a wonder to behold and relate with. We have learned that frogs can take in the air comfortably in water using the gills as tadpoles while using their skin as adults. They breathe in gases using their lungs as adults when they are on land. They take in air into the lungs through their mouth or nostrils.

If you’re a pet frog owner or just a curious learner, I believe that this post has been informative and you have learned enough about these beautiful creatures. Now you can take care of your pet with the utmost care. If you don’t have one yet, you should consider getting one for yourself. Their evolutionary uniqueness and adaptive features make them, and other amphibians stand out among other animals.

Rather than looking at the frogs in your environment with disdain, they are a wonder to behold. They should be viewed and treated as such.

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

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