Raising tadpoles at home

In the past, it has been common for people to sell or distribute tadpoles to others in an effort to help ‘restock the suburbs’ with frogs. Responsible scientists strongly oppose this practice. The reasons are outlined on the disappearing frogs and frogs in captivity pages. Instead, it is best to collect a few tadpoles from your local area. The purpose for keeping tadpoles should be to learn a little more about the life history and biology of frogs. If you wish to encourage frogs into your area, you need to create a frog-friendly garden.

How do I raise tadpoles?

To raise tadpoles you will need a large container of fresh water, such as an aquarium or pond. Dechlorinated water is very important. The chlorine normally present in tap water may kill your tadpoles. If you use tap water, leave it in an open container in direct sunlight for about 5 to 7 days prior to using with your tadpoles. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate. Keep some spare dechlorinated water handy in case you need to top up the tadpoles’ container. It is best to position your container in about 3/4 shade.

What do I feed them?

If you don’t have a pond with plenty of algae, feed your tadpoles on lettuce that has been boiled for about 15 minutes. Do not leave the lettuce in the container for long enough to foul the water.

Make sure that your tadpoles get enough to eat or they will start to eat each other. Tadpoles can also be fed on commercially available fish foods. These are a very rich source of food and should be used sparingly. Tadpoles grow extremely fast when fed in this way and there is always the danger of fouling the water. Be careful not to overfeed them and make sure the water is changed regularly.

When will the tadpoles start to look like frogs?

The time taken from when a tadpole hatches from its egg, to when it begins metamorphosis usually takes from two to twelve weeks. Speed of development is determined by species, water temperature, food availability, tadpole density within the water and possibly other factors such as day length. During cool periods development may slow or stop. If the eggs hatch just before winter, development may be arrested until spring. The tadpoles essentially just ‘tick over’ until it gets warmer when development continues.

It is important to ensure that a timber or rock ledge is available to newly metamorphosed frogs, so they can easily emerge from the water. At all times, shade is also important.

What do I do when the tadpoles turn into frogs?

The best thing to do with the young frogs is to release them at the place where the eggs or tadpoles were collected. This way, you can be sure you are not introducing new species to an area, causing overcrowding, or helping spread frog diseases from one area to another.

If you have a frog-friendly garden with a pond that has attracted frogs, and you have raised some tadpoles from the pond, you can simply release them in the garden. The best is at night, preferably when it is raining. If it is not raining, water the area around the pond and release the young frogs soon after dark.