Raising tadpoles is by far the most fun way to learn about metamorphosis. We were fortunate enough to be able to collect some tadpoles from Sarah’s house (a local fellow unschooling mama – We Live. We Learn) where her frogs from last years cycle have returned to lay eggs again.
We have slowly started to learn about frogs and the frog life cycle with the resources from my previous post.
If you find some frog spawn, you have the difficult part out of the way. Caring for tadpoles and froglets needn’t be difficult. The requirements for raising frogs from spawn depend on the area and species. However, in general most tadpoles need:
Clean, non-fluoridated water free from chemicals (including salts) – i.e. filtered or rain water is needed. Space is best and it varies between species and advice as to how many tadpoles per litre is best. In general, less is better.
If you are using a tank or container indoors, try to choose one that is short and wide (better oxygen surface area). Also, try to use plastic or glass. Avoid any metals, enamel. Ideally, the tank/container should be mostly shaded or with filtered light. Some light is needed but not enough to significantly warm the water.
Lack of oxygen is a common mistake in raising tadpoles. A basic rule of thumb is that – if you collected the tadpoles from a stream, it is best to have an aerator running gently; if they are from stagnant water, aeration might be disruptive so underwater aquatic plants will be needed.
So what do tadpoles eat? Tadpoles do not each much but must be fed daily. Tadpoles have a vegetarian intestinal tract so primarily eat a herbivorous diet. Simply including algae (collect leaves from a clean creek) in the tank will do a lot for taddies. You can make your own tadpole food by freezing lettuce (not cos or iceberg), baby spinach and other green leafy vegetables. Freezing helps to make the lettuce easier to digest for the tadpoles. You can also feed small amounts of crushed brocolli, peas, zucchini, and spiralina flakes.
When you see the front legs form on tadpoles, they will quickly begin the delicate stages of turning into a frog. This is an incredible metamorphosis where in most species:
- Their skin changes from the smooth, slimy skin (required as an underwater dweller) to porous skin which allows air and water through,
- Their tiny mouth parts completely change to adapt to a completely different diet and lifestyle,
- Their gills stop functioning and lungs begin to take over the work,
- Their coiled intestinal track adapts from the long intestine of a plant eater to the short intestine of a protein eater (frogs primarily eat insects),
- Limbs containing a skeleton grow out of a body which initially had no limbs or bones, and
- The tail muscle and fin is absorbed by the body (used as protein in this process) and disappears!
When the new little frogs leave the water (most species) they may still have a tail. However, they can jump and their tail will be gone in a couple of days.
In the meantime, we’re loving our new little residents and learning more about tadpoles and the frog life cycle. It’s pretty incredible. Stay tuned for more updates on my Lovable Learning community on Facebook.