Every child loves to watch tadpoles as they swim in schools or alone. It is a fascinating process to watch them turn into frogs as you become an expert of tadpole care. Metamorphosis can be highly educational but does take time and care. When collecting tadpoles, do check with your local wildlife office. Sometimes wildlife or environmental agencies prohibit tadpole collecting.
If it is legal to collect tadpoles in your area, make sure you just take a couple and leave the rest in their natural habitat. This reduces the impact on the environment. Do note that growing tadpoles takes a great deal of space and quite a bit of work. If your local wildlife department won’t allow you to release “home-grown” tadpoles back into the wild, you might need to be prepared to keep the adults or the frogs once you have raised them from tadpoles.
Frog eggs are laid in a gelatinous clumps. The eggs are clear with black dots in the center. You can find these eggs at the edge of ponds just barely under the water and near algae patches. Watch the eggs for about a week to ten days, come back and you will find wiggly tadpoles. Once they hatch, you will need to find out what they eat and become and expert on tadpole care very quickly!
Prepare your container for your tadpoles. You will need a garden pond, child’s swimming pool, or a large aquarium. If possible, keep your tadpoles indoors. Mimic their natural environment and give them the sunlight they need, but also keep their new home partially shaded.
One key to tadpole care is that they love shallow water, so don’t fill up your container to the top. Place rocks or smooth gravel at the bottom of your container. As your tadpole turns into a frog, you will need to give them a way to get out of the water. This bridge can be a partially submerged rock or even a piece of wood.
Add aquatic plants. Plants provide oxygen in the water and a place to hide. If algae grows on the plants, that is all the better. Keep your plants leafy and underwater. Surface plants do not add as much oxygen to the water as tadpoles would like.
Tadpoles also need plants and vegetation to hide in and around. They prefer to hide under plants and rocks instead of swimming freely on the top of the water. This is probably an inbred or instinct activity.
Another tadpole care secret is to use dechlorinated fresh water. Let your water stand in the sun for a few days to allow the chlorine to dissipate. You can also treat your tadpole water with dechlorination drops just like you do for aquariums. Note that tadpoles are very sensitive to the chlorine and other heavy metals in the water. Tap water will not work unless you dechlorinate it.
If you use a small container or aquarium, the water will need to be changed at least once a week. This is to maintain good water quality. Take out about a third of the water and replace it with dechlorinated water. You can leave your tadpoles in the water when you change it.
Your tadpole will turn into a frog much quicker in warmer environments. In other words, just keep your tadpole’s home at room temperature. If you use warmer water, it will become dirty often and will need to be changed on a more frequent basis.
Do not keep fish with tadpoles or have fish in ponds that you are using for growing purposes. Do note that tadpoles eat their own feces, so don’t keep their tanks totally clean. You can change the water on a regular basis, but the feces on the bottom of the tank should remain as a food source. Water changes are also needed since tadpoles can release a chemical to restrict the growth of other tadpoles in the tank. This is probably to give the tadpoles a greater chance of survival.
Most if not all tadpoles are herbivores, which means they eat plants. You can give the frozen and thawed leafy lettuce or spinach as a staple. Once you have frozen lettuce, it becomes mushy enough for tadpoles to eat. You can also use a good quality flake fish food and crushed algae tablets. These are available at most aquarium shops. Check around, you might be able to find tadpole food at pond shops or pet stores.
Freezing tadpole greens is much better than boiling. Frozen veggies break up in your hand and make more surface areas for the tadpole to eat. If you boil the tadpole food, you will lose the nutrients and taste. Make sure you only feed your tadpoles what they will eat, but do give them enough to eat. Excess food in the water will rot, and tadpoles will die from the polluted water, and if they are hungry they will go after their tadpole friends as a food source. If the water in the tadpole container becomes cloudy or milky, change it as soon as you can.
Feed tadpoles small amounts of food two or three times a day. Be careful not to give your tadpoles too much food. Excess feeding can bloat as well as water quality problems. Proper feeding is essential to tadpole care if you want a healthy tadpole.
As your tadpole changes from “fish” to frog and develops front legs, you will need to remove them from the water and place them in a shallow basin. Frogs are amphibians, but young frogs are not able to swim. Half frogs half tadpoles can die of exhaustion when left in the water. Give your new pets a way to get out of the water.
Once your tadpole has metamorphosed into a frog, you can leave them in a dry aquarium and start feeding them small insects.
It might be a bit difficult to tell what type of frog you have from a tadpole. Go to the library and find a local field guide. There are pictures of what frogs look like in the tadpole state; maybe you can determine what you are raising from these pictures.