How to raise frogs from tadpoles

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tadpoles

When schools were closed over a month ago, my daughter had a stockpile of science experiments and kits saved up for just an occasion. Five weeks later, supplies are thinning out as we’ve enjoyed making slime, growing crystals, exploding a volcano and so much more. If we want to keep learning, experimenting and enjoying science, we’re going to have to shift gears.

Fortunately, while Vayda and I were experimenting indoors, nature began to wake up. Over the next couple of months, many baby animals will be reared, making it the perfect time to study biology.

One project to try, if you have a natural water source nearby, is raising tadpoles. Vayda brought a batch in for her classmates in first grade and they raised them in a tank in their classroom. In more recent years, we’ve watched them mature in a vernal pool, we refer to as the loll, in my parents’ backyard. Whether we attempt to raise them in a tank to see all of the stages of development or we simply observe and document their changes in the vernal pool, I think it will be a good opportunity for Vayda to experience the science that surrounds us every day.

Setting up your tadpole tank

Before you decide to raise tadpoles you’ll want to ensure you have adequate housing. For most tadpole species, you’ll need a 2-5-gallon tank to raise them to a frog stage. However, keep in mind the smaller the tank, the fewer tadpoles you’ll be able to raise. You should only keep 15-35 tadpoles per gallon of water in your tank. So if you’re using a 5-gallon tank but only fill it with 3 gallons of water, then you should only house a maximum of 105 tadpoles. If you choose to keep more tadpoles per gallon, they may die faster or become carnivorous. Also, note that larger tadpole species, such as the American Bull Frog, should be kept in larger tanks with fewer tadpoles per gallon.

Once you’ve chosen tank or container with adequate space, you should collect gravel, a few larger rocks, small weeds and grass with the roots still attached to line the bottom of your tank. First, cover the bottom of your tank with gravel. Next, add the larger rocks to provide shelter and, eventually, land when your tadpoles start to transform. Then, put the small weeds and grass with roots on top of the gravel. The tadpoles will hang on to them and eat the roots.

After you’ve got your tank set up, collect water from the same water source you’ll be gathering the tadpoles from to fill your tank. Don’t use tap water because it contains chemicals that can harm tadpoles. Additionally, water from a natural water source generally contains mosquito larva which can serve as another food source for tadpoles.

The final step before adding tadpoles is checking the water temperature. You want to make sure the water temperature is similar to the water source you’ll be getting the tadpoles from. Because tadpoles are cold-blooded water temperature is important for their survival and development. You may consider leaving your tadpole tank outdoors to help regulate water temperature. Regardless of where you place your tank, make sure it’s out of direct sunlight with about 3/4 of it shaded.

Gathering and caring for tadpoles

When your tank is set up and ready gather your tadpoles and introduce them to their new habitat.

During the first couple of weeks, the tadpoles will eat the algae on the gravel and rocks and on the plants, you placed in the tank during set up. After that, you’ll have to boil romaine lettuce to feed them in tiny pieces or order algae wafers or aquatic frog and tadpole food to feed them. They should be fed every three to four days. If they’re not eating all of the food between feedings reduce the amount you’re feeding them to keep the water from getting cloudy.

Cleaning your tadpole habitat

The tadpole bait should be changed once a week. Follow the steps below:

  1. Collect enough water to replace 1/2 to 3/4 of the water in your tank and set it out near your tank for 2-3 hours before cleaning your tank, so that the temperature of the water is similar.
  2. Remove 1/2 to 3/4 of the water in the tank with a jug. Be careful to fish out any tadpoles that may have been scooped up in the jug, while removing the old water.
  3. Slowly add the fresh water to the tank.

Watching your tadpoles grow

It will take your tadpoles between 6 and 12 weeks to reach full maturity.

About midway through their cycle, you’ll notice their back legs forming. At this stage, tadpoles become carnivorous and will need to be fed fish food or live water fleas. You’ll also need a small area for them to crawl out of the water onto.

As their front legs start to appear and they transform into tiny frogs, you’ll need to lower the water level and provide stones for them to sit on because they will need air to breathe. Additionally, you won’t have to feed tadpoles with front legs that still have tails because they use their tail as a food source.

When your froglets are ready to be released, let them go in damp grass near their native water source.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s digital editor. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I came home to tadpoles.
    I have been trying hard to research and nurture.
    Doing my best.
    I have some that have front and back legs.
    And several still swimming. How do I manage?

  2. We were opening our pool and came across tadpoles in the water left from last year. We fished out as many as we could before adding water to the pool. We ran up to the pet store and bought a small tank and other items….me and my grandson are going to try this…wish us luck…..if nothing 5, we made a great memory.

    • My coworker last spring found tadpoles in her swimming pool, her & her grandchildren gather at least 100 of them. She gave me most of them. I have a small hand dug pond in our yard .I put most of them in there & to better there chances I put some in a kiddie pool. I found out later they were tree frogs. Best of my knowledge they all grew up. I currently have FBT tadpoles. This will be my third time raising them. I love frogs

  3. My tadpoles have transformed into frogs now. What do I feed them? What do they need? How do I feed them alive. They are SO TINY!! I can’t buy crickets small enough for them

    • When tadpoles are making the transition to become frogs and still have their tail or part of their tail they get most of their nourishment from absorbing their tail. When they are frogs (with no tail) they’ll need to start feeding on a diet of insects. However, you should never feed them insects that are larger than their mouth is wide. Some good options for small frogs include bloodworms, redworms, brine shrimp, pinhead crickets, wingless fruit flies, ants, mosquitos and gnats. You should try to feed them multiple times a day and remove the uneaten food after 15 minutes.

    • Buy fruit fly cultures from joshes frogs. It will be enough to feed them until they are big enough for pin head crickets

    • It’s probably way too late now, but if you ever want to try again.. you can buy flightless fruit flies at most pet supply stores (that’s what they feed poison dart frogs, so they should be small enough) OR if you’re avoidant of the fruit flies, most stores will sell pinhead crickets (ones that have just hatched) and they should be small enough for most species of frog. It’s a good idea to “gut load” crickets as well, that just means you feed them really nutritious stuff before you give them to your frogs. Once they get bigger, you can also feed them mealworms of appropriate size and some species of frog get big enough to eat entire mice!

  4. I don’t have a natural water source in the downtown area where I live. I set aside buckets of city water for about four days to let the chlorine evaporate before using it in the two rain barrels containing tons of tadpoles. How long does it take for the chlorine and chemicals actually to go away? What else can I use to clean the water? I cannot scoop out the uneaten food in the rain barrels. Eventually, the water gets cloudy. I do have a solar fountain in each barrel to help move and circulate the water. My tadpoles will transition into Copes Gray treefrogs. This is my third year to help these little guys. Also, several years ago, I dug a small pond (40-gallon plastic water-feature container) for them, and they keep coming back after a good rain. It is so dang hot too where I live! The barrels are mostly in the shade with a little sun. I put a large UV umbrella over the barrels to protect them from direct sun in the afternoon when it’s really hot.

  5. I’m in 3 grade and I’m doing a tadpole project and I have to raise tadpoles without a kit and I thought this is a Simple way of raising tadpoles thank you so much love you
    seriously you look cute!!!!!!

  6. I have a large fish pond with two large koa, a heaps of gold fish, I also have tadpoles, in the later stage four legs and a tail, a few floating potted plants, and a closed of area for my lilies, when these tadpoles become frogs will they be able to live in the pot plants, or shall I make a smaller pond for them

  7. My coworker last spring found tadpoles in her swimming pool. Her & her grandchildren gathered over 100 tadpoles. She knows I have the experience in raising them. I had dug a small pond in my yard so I put some tads in there & I put some in a kiddie pool.They we’re tree frogs.
    I also have FBT tadpoles as we speak. It is really fun watching them grow

  8. Sounds like finding tadpoles in the pool is pretty common! I found strings of toad eggs in my parents’ pool and am bringing my daughters over today to rescue a bunch before they open the pool for the summer (and killing all the little tadpoles in the process). I picked up a 10-gallon tank because I am probably only putting 5 gallons of water in it to give them space to get out of the water when they start growing. My thoughts were to bring home only 5, but I’m reading that I can accommodate many more. Is this a good idea or will they become too crowded?

  9. Anyone know where I can find some tadpoles? I usually have found them in creek and pond nearby but no luck, don’t want bullfrogs, want to raise with my four year old and in 2 years he might loss interest. I have done it many times before and this year I can’t seem
    to find them… not sure if too late or what. Located in Pataskala area, Licking County, used to find in Ricky Fork Creek in Gahanna, OH.

  10. Have had great success raising tadpoles but now how do I protect the evolving frogs from being eaten by
    birds and lizards?

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