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FAQs About Anurans/Frogs: Tadpoles of all Kinds

Related Articles: Keeping African Clawed Frogs and African Dwarf Frogs by Neale Monks, Amphibians, Turtles

Related FAQs: Frogs other Than African & Clawed 2,
FAQs on: General Frog Identification, General Frog Behavior, General Frog Compatibility, General Frog Selection, General Frog Systems, General Frog Feeding,
General Frog Health, General Frog Reproduction,
FAQs on: Bullfrogs, Fire Belly Toads,
Leopard Frogs, Surinam Toads/Pipa, Toads/Terrestrial Frogs, White/Tree Frogs, Amphibians 1, African Dwarf Frogs, African Clawed Frogs, Newts & Salamanders, Rubber Eels/CaeciliansTurtlesAmphibian Identification, Amphibian Behavior, Amphibian Compatibility, Amphibian Selection, Amphibian Systems, Amphibian Feeding, Amphibian Disease, Amphibian Reproduction,

Water, Toad tadpole sys.   7/21/10
To Whom It May Concern:
I have Western Toad tadpoles. I have read up on recommendations and I am changing their habitat. However, I have read conflicting information on the type of water I should use when cleaning the tank out. Some sites say
to used distilled water others recommend tap water that has been left out for 5-7 days, while others recommend bottled water. What is your recommendation?
<Distilled water should certainly not be used. As you probably realise, distilled water contains no minerals at all. That means it experiences rapid pH changes and can cause odd osmotic effects on animals kept in it. A few animals like Triops are adapted to living in rainwater pools which would be broadly similar, but most animals are not. Mineral water is safe but expensive. Tap water is good assuming it is not passed through a domestic water softener. If you have a domestic water softener, your kitchen tap is probably not connected to that softener because domestic water softeners add sodium that is not good for drinking. So use the kitchen tap to draw unsoftened water. Add a good water conditioner -- one that neutralises ammonia, Chloramine and copper as well as chlorine. This should ensure optimal water quality. Obviously you also need to filter the water in the aquarium, for which I'd recommend an air-powered box filter or sponge filter. Tadpoles are messy and 25% water changes per week will be essential. Doing complete water changes isn't necessary, and not a substitute for proper filtration. You will need 8-10 gallons of water for the tadpoles, and adult toads will require a vivarium not less than 20 gallons in size and preferably more. Toads are not aquatic, hence their warty skins, so once they've left the water they need a mostly dry land vivarium with just a small pool of water for bathing and drinking. Cheers, Neale.>

Tadpole with air bubble 7/7/10
We received two leopard frog tadpoles about 30 days ago. They have done very well. Yesterday we noticed one was swimming upside down and appeared to have an air bubble in it's belly. Is this normal? Is it dying? What do we need to do. I have a very emotional 6 year old thinking his tadpole is going to die.
<Greetings. Without any information on the environment I cannot say anything at all useful about what precisely might be the problem. So instead, let's recap what you need to maintain Rana pipiens tadpoles.
Anything on the following list you're not doing is likely the cause of the issue you're seeing here. First you need a reasonably big aquarium, 10 gallons upwards. Anything smaller would be a waste of your money and inhumane in terms of living conditions. Obviously, if you want to keep the frogs as pets, you'll need a tank larger than that, 20 gallons or more.
Rana species are rather nervous in captivity, and in too-small quarters tend to bash their heads on the walls trying to get out. What's the point of keeping a pet that's clearly unhappy? Anyway, your 10 gallon tank needs to be partially filled with *dechlorinated tap water*, not mineral or RO water, to a depth of about 15 cm/6 inches or so. Install an air-powered filter of some sort, a bubble-up box filter filled with ceramic noodles would be ideal. You MUST have a filter. It's not an option. Without a filter ammonia builds up in the water and eventually kills the tadpoles.
This may take some weeks, which is why tadpoles can seem "fine" for a long while in an unfiltered tank, and then suddenly die for no apparent reason.
Every couple of weeks gently rinse the biological media -- e.g., the ceramic noodles -- in a bucket of aquarium water to rinse away any solid waste. Don't clean biological media any more aggressively than that or you'll kill the filter bacteria. You don't need a heater, and in fact the aquarium MUST be somewhere relatively cool and out of direct sunlight. By all means use a fluorescent light to illuminate the tank, but don't use a hot incandescent bulb like an angle-poise lamp. If the water gets too warm, above 18C/64F, the tadpoles will become stressed and eventually sick. Stock the tank with some inexpensive floating plants if you have a light to keep those plants alive. Elodea, also known as Pondweed, is ideal. Once or twice a day feed the tadpoles good quality tropical fish food. Feed sparingly, aiming to keep the tadpoles obviously rounded but not swollen-looking. Rana pipiens tadpoles take about three months to grow into froglets, at which point you will need a bigger tank that provides 15 cm/6 inches of water plus lots and lots of bogwood and rocks above the waterline where the frogs can climb about and feed. The frogs eat only live foods, so at that point you'll be providing a mixture of earthworms, small crickets, fruit-flies,
etc. Frogs are VERY POOR choices of pets for 6 years olds since they're almost entirely nocturnal as adults and cannot be handled; children are far too rough and end up damaging the sensitive skins of frogs. Note also that
amphibian vivaria will culture Salmonella bacteria, not because of the frogs as such, but because of the damp and organic material like uneaten food that accumulates around the enclosure. Healthy adults shouldn't be at any risk at all -- I've swallowed gallons of aquarium water over the years while siphoning out tanks -- but very small children as well as adults with immunity problems are at some risk. Consult your healthcare provider for more information. Cheers, Neale.>

Help with tadpoles 3/30/08 Dear Crew, I am hoping to find advice! We got our science loving daughter a frog habitat for Christmas from a sciencey type store. <Danger, Will Robinson! Almost everything related to what I know anything about -- astronomy, biology, and fish -- offered for sale in Science stores is overpriced rubbish in my opinion. These stores prey on parents who want to stimulate their children academically. But what they're selling is junk. Others may disagree, but that's my opinion as a PhD and former science teacher.> After spending 7 dollars and waiting 6 weeks, we got a dead tadpole in the mail. I complained, and today we received ANOTHER dead tadpole in the mail. The company- Ribbits Galore - insists that tadpoles are inactive....however, I have seen hundreds of them over the years in my neighbor's pond, and those little suckers are FAST. I had considered one of those tadpoles, but they are gigantic bullfrogs and we just wanted a little frog. What would be the best way to obtain tadpoles to study the life cycle of a frog? What species are best? Should I trash the fifteen dollar habitat in favor of an aquarium? <Ah, have answered this sort of Q a few weeks ago. Go here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/anuranfaqs.htm And read 'Leopard Frog Tadpole 2/29/08'.> We have enjoyed fish and hermit crabs for quite a while, and would really like to add to our family with a nice little frog. <Rana spp. don't really make particularly good pets, and certainly not for children. They are nervous and never really become tame. Much better to go for an aquatic species like Xenopus or Hymenochirus that is basically hardy and much easier to maintain. If you must have a terrestrial frog, then the relatively inactive species like Pac-Man Frogs (Ceratophrys spp.) have much to recommend them.> I am reporting this company to the BBB. They are preying on the emotions of little kids and their well meaning parents who want them to learn something more than video games and Hanna Montana. Thanks, Tonia <Tonia, sadly this sort of thing is very common. These frogs are bred in large numbers for biological supply. Some may be collected from the wild as well. In any case, they aren't "pets" any more than seagulls or red deer. They're basically wild animals that should be enjoyed in the wild. By all means watch them in your pond, or maybe catch a few tadpoles and rear them yourself. But once they metamorphose, let them go. Wild amphibians here in Europe as well as in the US are not having a great time of things, and many species are in severe decline. I'm not a huge fan of buying non-tamable pets for small children. The animals usually get terrified and eventually die. If you want something "instant" to try out at home, then Triops are rather fun; they grow from nothing into armour-plated swimming things an inch or two long in just a few weeks. They die, you dry out the tank, add more water, and with luck get some more. Mine only lasted one generation, but they cost very little and are very funky. But amphibians and reptiles are very dubious pets for small children. They don't do much, they need a lot of care in most cases (including expensive things like UV-B lamps), and if kept properly live for decades, so you're stuck with them even when the novelty wears off. Anyway, I think that's me making my point for the day! Cheers, Neale.>

Leopard Frog Tadpole 2/29/08 Hello, My son waited two months for the tadpole that finally arrived via the mail today. It was shipped in a plastic tube that was inside a 3x5 inch padded envelope. I happened to hear the postal delivery person so I was able to immediately bring it indoors. However, I cannot tell, nor can I find any information online, to help me determine whether it is alive or dead. It is not moving by the Ribbits Galore (vendor) website said the tadpole would be inactive. Do live tadpoles sink to the bottom or float on the top of the water like dead goldfish? "Fire" is sitting on the bottom of the glass jar. Thank you! You have the best Web site of any that I have spent the past three hours reading. <I'm assuming this is Rana pipiens, which is very similar to the Rana temporaria I'm familiar with here in Europe. Generally these tadpoles are easy to rear in clean water, though they are VERY intolerant of dirty water, so make 100% sure you have a filtered aquarium and perform 25-50% water changes (with dechlorinator) weekly. Don't ever use water from a domestic water softener! Tadpoles should be very active, and scooting about looking for food from the moment they hatch. I don't really understand your comment about them arriving inactive, and couldn't find that information on their web site. Actually amazed anyone can sell one tadpole for $10 a pop! That's a nice little earner! You do realise this thing will be a froglet in a couple months? Rana temporaria at least don't adapt terribly well to captive life and never really become tame. Cheers, Neale>

Re: Leopard Frog Tadpole 2/29/08 Hello, Neale, <Kate,> Thank you very much for your very prompt and informative reply. About one week ago, I received a "your tadpole will be shipped this week e-mail," from Ribbits Galore, that read: "Your Ribbits Galore order will ship this week, via first class mail. Please remember that we do guarantee live arrival but after that your tadpole's care is up to you. Allow your tadpole adequate time to warm up to room temperature. Cooler weather can put your tadpole in a sedentary state. Young tadpoles do not move much so do not worry if your tadpole is not very active." <Hmm... certainly tadpoles are "cold blooded" animals and will be less active when body temperature drops. And I'd agree that suddenly taking it from cold water and placing it into warm water would be a bad idea. But once added to a suitable aquarium with water around room temperature, you should see the thing at least wriggling it tail periodically and moving from place to place.> With regard to the price, we had a coupon for a "free" tadpole that came with the Planet Frog Habitat (name of brand) http://www.livesciencestore.com/56796.html but we did have to pay $6 for shipping. <Honestly, GARBAGE! Almost anything sold at 'Science'- or 'Nature'-type stores is utter rubbish. Overpriced plastic gimmickry that parasitically feeds on anxious parents who want to buy educational products for their offspring. Great for the Chinese economy, less great for someone hoping to start a new hobby. I have yet to see a single product sold in these stores that represents even adequate value, let alone a sensible purchase. Pet frogs can be fun, and there are indeed lots of ways to rear tadpoles at home. Far better value would be a basic 10-gallon glass aquarium with a simple air-powered sponge filter and a bit of silver (smooth silica) sand at the bottom. Maybe some plastic plants. Rana pipiens isn't really suitable for captive life as an adult, but if you wanted to do so, a 20-gallon tank divided into a "water" and a "land" area using a pile of granite or some other non-calcareous rocks would be a good start.> I am attaching a picture of the habitat that I copied from the Planet Frog Web site that I referenced above. <Couldn't open artwork; in an AOL-only format.> Based on the information available on your outstanding WWM Website, it seems like we should toss the aquarium and the poor tadpole I unwittingly participated in abusing and start over with a proper aquarium. <If the tadpole is dead (in which case it would have rotted by now) then yes, start over. I'd recommend going with Dwarf African Frogs, Hymenochirus spp.; they're small, permanently aquatic, and relatively easy to keep when fed properly and kept away from fish.> Thank you, again, for your kind assistance. Kate <Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Mixing Frogs with Turtles   1/9/08 I have a red eared slider turtle and I also have bull frog tadpoles an they are now turning into frogs, can I put the frogs in the same aquarium the turtle is in? Thank You Brenda < Not recommended. Turtles eat frogs as part of there natural diet.-Chuck>

Filtration For Tadpoles  10/06/06 Hi WWM, I am much relieved to have found your website. However I have not found much information relating to the types of filters to be used with frogs and tadpoles. I will be breeding and raising Xenopus as well as breeding wild caught Rana pipens (via in vitro fertilization) and housing these tadpoles. I have done this with well water and no filtration, just regular water changes and aeration, and all tadpoles did very well.  I no longer have access to well water. My understanding is that RO water is not good for them (they need the minerals etc naturally occurring in well water) although that is what is now available. I have consulted with a local lab which houses quite a few more frogs than I will, and they have tap water coming through their US filter carbon tanks (large compressed gas-tank size cylinders), a biological filter and a cation exchanger. I would like to copy this setup in a bench top format. I have been looking at petstore-variety filters such as the EHEIM Prof. II. I would like to use it to prepare the city tap water for the aquarium, then to use that water to put in my tadpoles' tanks. I am not sure yet whether I will invest in a unit to filter each tank continuously, as the tadpoles seem to do fine without that. Is the Professionel II the best model for my needs? < Using this filter to filter city tap water is a waste of money unless it is used solely to remove Chloramine or chlorine. You would be better off with a commercial drinking water system with a carbon cartridge. There are chlorine test kits available to check the system. Once you determine how much water you need then you can add or subtract cartridges based on the water quality required.> Also I have read that carbon block is better than crushed carbon. Do any of these bench top filters use that? <The quality of the carbon is the critical factor here. Not all carbon is alike. Go to Marineland.com and visit Dr. Tim's Library. he has done lots of research on carbon and I think you will find this very helpful.> All I can find reference to is "carbon filter pad". I want to make sure that these filters are ok to use; especially since I do not know the differences between keeping fish and amphibians, and every single filter available is marketed for fish. Also, what does a unit such as the Professional II leave in the water that an RO unit does not? < An R/O unit removes everything and leaves only pure water. The Eheim Pro II just recirculates the water until you place something in there to remove something out of the water. Check your tap water and determine what you want to remove. If you want to remove chlorine/Chloramine then add carbon. It will remove organics and a few other things that are mentioned in Dr. Tim's articles. If you want to remove other ions then add resins to remove what ever you want. Generally fish filtration is usually more critical than for amphibians. It just depends on the species and what they require.-Chuck.> Thank you so much for any help! Deanne

Food For Tadpoles  5/31/06 Can you tell me how long it takes for a tadpole to become a frog and what I would feed the little fellows?  I tried fish food...they all died but one.  How about Hermit Crab food?  Any other tips?  I think this would be a great learning experience for my little girl. PS...thanks for your advice on the Hermits and Turtles....all are alive and well! God Bless You! <Tadpoles eat algae. The higher the water temp. the quicker they transform. Feed them Spirulina flakes and keep them at room temperature and they should transform into little frogs/toads in 4 to 6 weeks. Frog tadpoles are green, toad tadpoles are black, at least around here in CA.-Chuck>

Frog May Not Be A Prince  - 03/09/2006 Hey, First off I would like to thank you for your time and website.  I learned how to take care of my problem with Planaria/copepod/white worm or whatever with ease. I have a 55 gallon tank filled about 1 inch from the black top on the outside.  It contains a gar, 2 cichlids (yellow with black lines on top), 2 cichlids (grey with neon blue stripes/spots), 1 fiddler crab, 1 other crab, 3 algae eaters, and a paco. However, I had one question regarding a tadpole we purchased from PetCo.  It is now in it's final stage of becoming a frog or toad (it was about 2-3 inches long as a tadpole).  It's tail is almost gone and has grown all it's legs.  As a tadpole I watched it feed on algae wafers and such.  But now I see it just floating at the top ready to transform fully. I have 2 questions...how do I feed it now and what? And do I have to get a new tank for the frog?? < Tadpoles are algae eaters. Adult frogs eat insects and whatever else will fit in their mouth. More than likely you now have a young bullfrog that is waiting for some insects to fall in the water to eat. They get big and you probably need to get another tank if intend on keeping him. Read up on bullfrogs and see if you really want to spend the time and effort to keep one. They can be very expensive to feed.-Chuck>

Raising Tadpoles Kind Sirs, <Hi! Ananda here tonight...Bob must've guessed I tried raising tadpoles when I was a kid in northern Minnesota!> Over the Easter break, the children and myself came across some frog eggs in the mountain run-off in the in-laws back yard. We decided to bring some eggs home to hatch them. I did this as a child and had much success with it, but I had the availability to change the water daily from the creek by the house.   <I never had luck with tadpoles when I was a kid...then again, we didn't have a creek by the house, either.> I set up a 10 gal tank, bare bottom, (for easy maintenance), some rocks and fired up an old whisper filter and added charcoal. The eggs have been developing into small tadpoles and they have begun twitching inside the egg occasionally. We've read that the next stage the tadpoles will emerge from the egg and stick to the jelly enclosing the egg sack. <So far so good...maybe....> Then comes feeding time. First question, some recommend gold fish flakes, can marine flakes be substituted? Would vita-chem, Selcon and or DT's be worth adding? <Maybe some vita-chem, but I'd skip the expensive Selcon and DT's phytoplankton.> I've read that you can boil lettuce and then freeze, better way to go? Romaine? The article did mention something about tadpole food, I was going to check the LFS. Or if you know of anything better? <I did a Google search on "tadpole food" and found all sorts of stuff.> The article also recommended feeding only twice a week and performing water changes about 2 hours after feeding to reduce waste. <Sounds like a good idea.> Any other recommendations? <In all honesty, I would not recommend this project unless you plan to keep the frogs long-term, in a pond at your house. You have not indicated that you know what species of frog your tadpoles will develop into. Some species take two years to go from egg to frog. Without the benefits of growing up in their native habitat, with all the assorted bugs and critters in the water there, the frogs will likely not have the same immunities that their wild cousins will, and are more likely to succumb to disease once they are released. You will also have taught the frogs that they will be fed; in the wild, they will not know how to hunt...or, for that matter, how to escape from the creatures that hunt them. There is also the fact that they may introduce some disease that is accidentally transferred from one of your other tanks. We keep telling people that they should never release a fish that has been in an aquarium into the wild. I believe the same holds true of frogs.> and/or articles to research? As the tadpoles progress into froglets the plan is to reduce the water, remove the whisper, only use a air filter (?) And provide rocks so they can get out of the water. The long term goal is to release the frogs back at the mountain where they came from when ready and do it again next year. Thanks for your help...looking forward to Reef Inverts at the end of the month. <As are we all... heads up, though -- the book has acquired even more pages than planned, so the schedule is not carved in stone.  --Ananda> As you can tell, I found something to busy myself with. DaveK
Raising Tadpoles Revisited
Thanks Ananda, <Hi again, and you're welcome...> Happy to say I've found a pond interested in the tadpoles once they are further along. <Yay!! Local species may well do better in ponds than some of the commercially-available ones.> They hatched over the weekend (around 15 tadpoles) and seem to be doing well. There's a local creek nearby and I decided to go with changing 1 gallon of water every two days with creek water, and a 1 gallon RO water change (aerated) the alternating days. <Sounds good. Do check the pH of the creek and adjust the RO water to the same pH!> From what I can find the young tadpoles need to filter the water and since the 10 gal wasn't a established tank figured I'd better go to a source. <Plus it should have stuff in the water that should be beneficial for the tadpoles...> Can understand not releasing tank animals into the wild just wasn't thinking ahead at the time. <That's always a danger in this hobby...glad it worked out this time.> Thanks for your help, DaveK <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Can a tadpole frog live with tropical freshwater fish?  07/02/05 Today, my sons came home with a tadpole frog they found.   I agreed they can keep it and watch it grow, but it needs somewhere safe to live where our cats won't bother it.  Our choices are: (1) he can join a 10-gal freshwater aquarium with a tiger barb, a Plecostomus, and a couple of plants.   Can the tadpole live in the aquarium with the fish? <Mmm, maybe... but I'd just keep this amphibian in a large jar of its own... with a sprig of truly aquatic plant and sponge filter if you can> The temp is around 78 degrees, which I think is OK according to my internet reading.  I'm more worried if the barb will bother the tadpole or vice versa. <Me too> The tadpole is much bigger than the barb. (2) he can join a 20 gal aquarium with two red-ear slider turtles, but they are much bigger than the tadpole, and I would be afraid they would eat him. <I also> Do either of these situations sound like they might work for the tadpole? <Not really... but if you were really short of space, another possibility is to float a plastic jar with holes in it, or a colander in the turtle tank (if it lacks much in the way of nitrogenous waste like ammonia...)> I don't want my sons' learning experience to be that animals eat each other, and I really don't feel like buying more aquariums.  Besides the 2 mentioned, we have another 3 tanks that are full of gerbils.   We have a plastic "planet frog" that worked for a tadpole in the past, until the cats found they could push the darn thing around and they broke the plastic lid. Thanks for your help! <I'd go with a one gallon jar... and change the water out from the tropical tank... every day or two... big enough that the cats shouldn't be able to knock it about. Bob Fenner>
Re: can a tadpole frog live with tropical freshwater fish? 7/4/05
Thanks so much for your reply.  The tadpole is currently in it's own glass bowl with a lid so the cats can't get him & I think the boys have decided they will return him to the lake. <Ah, good> If we keep him longer, I'm wondering about your suggestion to change the water out from the tropical tank every day or two.  Does this mean the tadpole's water should come from the tropical tank?   Thanks! <Yes... this water is far more safe for use than treated tapwater. Bob Fenner>

Rana pipiens-Leopard frog We have an aquarium/Planet frog habitat with 2 tadpoles. One is growing normally but the other seems to have stopped and became pale. It also lies on its side. I thought it was dead but it swam a little. Sometimes it chases its tail. I'm not sure what to do if anything. It has been about 2 weeks since it  looked healthy. The other continues to grow normally. Lauren banks        Lauren >> This is common in many frogs. Tadpoles of some species release growth inhibiting hormones to stop other tadpoles from growing. Try separating the weaker one to see if he will pick up growing again. Good Luck, Oliver

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