5 Tips for Growing Tadpoles from a Kit

Fribbit the Tadpole  Photo: Angela Thompson
Growing tadpoles from a kit is a fun way to let the kids watch the “magical” metamorphosis of a fish like tadpole into an adult frog. While this change may seem “simple” enough—after all, it happens constantly in the environment, it is not so easy to recreate the perfect tadpole habitat in your living room. (No matter what the commercial tadpole habitat kits lead you to believe!) There are a few tips to help you help your precious little tadpoles grow and prosper in your artificial environment—and prevent the inevitable tear shedding of the little ones when a little tadpole visits the great lily pad in the sky.

Conduct tadpole research outside the kit/box. Tadpole kit instructions offer a lot of information on one or two package inserts pages—but, they are not a substitute for extra research. While kits acknowledge that tadpoles are slow growing—most claim that transformation to an adult frog may take up to 16 weeks. Depending on the environment, though, this may require a lot more time, even 8-12 months or longer, and commitment on your part—and there are no guarantees with tadpoles unlike other “science experiment” kits. They are living, breathing animals—and are very susceptible to environmental issues such as water quality, food quantities, etc. Remember also that “home grown”, commercially purchased tadpoles should not be released into the local environment—they may not have the skills to survive and would disrupt the natural ecosystem—they should be either kept as pets or given to a nature center or science classroom willing to accept them

Tadpoles need space—and sometimes a little plastic, two gallon habitat is not enough. Most of the home tadpole kits warn that only two tadpoles should be kept in the small two gallon tanks. Long time tadpole “growers” and pet frog owners claim that this is simply not enough space as the critters grow—so rather than being sucked into the ease of a “kit purchase”—many recommend buying the tadpoles seperately along with at least a 5 to 10 gallon tank at the onset if you plan to keep the developed frogs once they have grown.

Tadpole water should not be TOO clean. No, tadpoles and frogs do not like chlorinated, pure water—which is why city dwellers, yours truly included, often have early spring frogs move into pools or garden fountains before they are sanitized. They also cannot survive in overly polluted water. Make sure to use proper tadpole water treatment as recommended—and do clean the tank regularly—but, try removing only ½ of the “dirty” water at a time and filling in with “clean” tadpole-friendly, treated water. The tadpoles will actually be healthier with less than crystal clear water as they actually need the organic material in the “dirty” water.

Did you know that tadpoles eat mostly dead organic matter? Tadpoles consume decaying organic matter (i.e. tadpole poop, waste, and yuck—even other tadpoles should they die unnoticed and not be immediately removed from tank!) This can certainly be a gross science lesson for the kids—and is one that many “kits” do not let you in on!

Tadpoles and frogs aren’t pet-able pets. While it’s obvious that tadpoles and frogs are not cute and snuggly in most respects—kids are often disappointed to learn that tadpole and frog skin is too fragile to allow them to be held or handled—even as adult frogs. After devoting months to the tadpole’s care—this may be a little tough for the kids to accept!

Our tadpole, Fribbit, is almost 6 months old--and barely sprouting back legs. We hope to have a healthy, little bullfrog by spring!

Resources for tadpole growing information:

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