Raising tadpoles

When my kids were little, we enjoyed catching tadpoles from a nearby lake. We scooped up wiggly dots near the shore, and put them in an old fish aquarium. It was so much fun to watch them develop into frogs.

Steve Johnson is an associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida. He says the container you keep tadpoles in can be anything from a plastic shoebox to a child's wading pool. The most important key for tadpole survival is fresh, clean water.

"When they're done feeding, if they haven't eaten all their food and the water starts to look cloudy in the slightest bit, then I would do a complete or at least a good percentage partial water change," says Johnson. "You could dip water out of a local pond or lake, or if you just want to use tap water you could have a couple different containers or buckets – even if it comes from a well you might want to do this – just pour it ahead of time and let it sit a couple days, particularly if it's coming out of a tap."

Feed your tadpoles once a day with algae wafers and flake fish food from a pet store. Some people offer them bits of boiled lettuce and spinach. Container life is stressful on tadpoles, so Johnson also recommends adding cover such as leaves for them to hide under.

As they grow, you'll notice little buds that will become the rear legs. Add a rock or something to the bottom of the container so they can come up out of the water. Once the front legs develop, the tadpoles will stop eating.

"The whole body is going under a complete metamorphosis from an aquatic herbivore, ultimately to a terrestrial carnivore. Their mouth is undergoing extreme morphological changes and they can't feed," he says. "Their metamorphosis will be powered by muscles that they break down in their tail."

The length of time from egg-to-adult depends on the species. Spadefoot toads grow up in 14 days, but the bullfrog can take two years to fully develop.