An African clawed frog's body is flattened with a smaller, wedge-shaped head. The positioning of the eyes and nostrils on the top of the head, along with camouflaged skin, help this species hide from predators, such as herons. The smooth skin is often multicolored with blotches of greenish-gray or brown on its back. The underside is off-white with a yellow hue. African clawed frogs have the ability to change their appearance to match their background, becoming darker, lighter or mottled.
The frogs' front limbs are small with non-webbed fingers used to push food into the mouth. Their hind legs are large and webbed, and the three inside toes on either foot have "claws," which are not true claws but cornified tips. Although an adept swimmer, the African clawed frog is clumsy on land and crawls rather than hops.
African clawed frogs also have a lateral line system that is very sensitive to vibrations, enabling them to detect predators and prey in murky water. The lateral line is visible as a series of white stitch marks along each side of the frog.
The Pipidae family of frogs is unique in that members lack a tongue and a visible ear. The males also lack vocal cords. Instead of moveable eyelids, a horny, transparent covering protects their eyes.