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FOR AGES 3 YEARS TO 18 YEARS
A tadpole is the larval stage of members of the class Amphibia.
Tadpoles don't remain tadpoles forever, they are frogs in the making. With the apt living environment and hearty diet, these tiny amphibians soon transform into frogs.
Docile, skittish, and endlessly captivating to watch, tadpoles are a healthy and beautiful addition to your pond. These animals are straightforward to take care of and will seldom bring any harm or disturbance to you, your pond, or pond plants. Tadpoles are at the most fragile stage of a frog's life, and so they are pretty silent and keep close to areas offering them shelter.
Tadpoles, although small, play a relatively important role in aquatic food webs. They serve as important prey to many animals and transfer energy and nutrients between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
The best part about them is that these mini amphibians are totally undemanding! They won't take up much of your time or resources. So, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of what to feed tadpoles and much more. In fact, rearing these tadpoles into fully grown frogs can be quite an unforgettable learning experience.
If you like frogs and are curious to know more about them, check out how long do frogs live? And the difference between a frog and a toad.
Generally speaking, tadpoles are omnivorous in nature that feed on mosquito larvae, fish food bugs, frog eggs and eat soft plant matter around ponds and other water bodies such as duckweed moss, and algae. However, diet varies from species to species and changes when these tadpoles mature.
When first hatched from eggs, tadpoles survive by eating the remaining yolk from their eggs, and after about two weeks, start munching on small organic particles naturally occurring in your tank. Once the tadpole develops its hind legs, the tadpoles eat vegetables and blanched food. In fact, it is found that these baby frogs absolutely adore spinach and lettuce! As tadpoles develop into frogs, their diet develops too, so it's essential to understand their diet requirements while raising tadpoles.
Usually, when you have a new pond filled with aquatic plants and algae, you do not need to worry about what to feed tadpoles. Only when the pond is relatively new will you need to feed your tadpoles. Once the pond ages, algae and other plants present in these ponds will provide for all the necessary supplements.
Tadpole food is relatively easy to procure, so feeding these tiny frogs to-be will not be a hassle for you. A tadpole would undoubtedly benefit from a diet that involves a wholesome combination of green supplements and vegetables. Just ensure an alternate feeding schedule of these two items to provide all required nutrients to your tadpoles. Pro tip, you can feed boiled vegetables to the tadpole in the tank to aid in its digestion process.
Apart from store foods, there's plenty in your own kitchen that can provide sustenance to frogs and tadpoles. You can also search for tadpole and frog recipes online. As these froglets get older, the size of their meal gets larger, too, at this point, they start introducing dead insects and larvae into their daily food. There may be times when the tadpoles don't eat larvae and insects; in such cases, start giving them insect larvae after another week or so. It’s recommended to start giving them insects and larvae when the tadpoles are 3-4 weeks along in their life cycle. Again, every frog species has different times to eat different food items, so it's best to use age when changing their diet and switching the tadpole food to keep it interesting for them to eat.
You can also feed your tadpoles various greens such as broccoli, baby spinach, and lettuce. It is advisable to rinse and freeze these green foods before feeding them. Healthy boiled greens, store-bought food rich in calcium and protein, along with egg yolks, aid in transforming a tadpole into a healthy frog. Ensure your tadpoles eat a protein-rich, important diet while growing throughout their life cycle, i.e., from hatching to metamorphosis.
While boiling vegetables, be sure to boil them for 10 to 15 minutes at least before removing them from the pot. Chop these plant matter into tiny pieces and then put them to freeze for the next feeding cycle. The tadpole also loves eating a tasty fruity treat every now and then, so you could also feed them some fruits from your garden. However, fruits are not the primary source of nutrients because of the amount of sugar they contain, so an occasional change in their diet could include you feeding them fruits. Fruits such as apples, bananas, strawberries, and green grapes can supplement their diet with natural vitamins, so it's a good idea to include them in the food you feed your tadpole.
Tadpoles in the wild have a massive range of food that they can eat, depending on the area they are born in. Let's have a glimpse of how things are similar and dissimilar when it comes to tadpoles eating in the wild and as your pet!
No matter where they are, be it in the wild or at your house, tadpoles will always feed on their egg's yolk sack initially. The sack is the ultimate source of protein that gives them enough energy to survive in this earlier stage of life. Post consumption of yolk, the tadpoles become capable of swimming and can forage for their food in the pond. Food indicates algae, small organic material, mosses, protozoa, and decaying matter in the wild. As they grow in size, they search for larger pieces of food such as fish eggs, frog eggs, and eggs of other living organisms in the pond.
As pets, these tadpoles are essentially not in their natural habitat, and so you compensate their dietary needs with similar green vegetation and small insects depending on which stage of the lifecycle they are. Since you will be raising these little frogs, you should note the stage where they grow their legs and is ready to start a terrestrial life. You can begin feeding them a largely carnivorous diet to suffice for their nutritional requirements.
Tadpoles eat quite a few items, but few food products are a strict no while raising tadpoles. The list is non-exhaustive, but let's look at some of the everyday items that the tadpoles can't eat.
Tadpoles should avoid eating bread, bread crumbs, apples, iceberg lettuce, processed food, canned vegetables, and tomatoes. These items lack the essential nutrients which are needed by tadpoles and eventually when they transform into a full-grown frog as well. Their inability to digest these items due to high concentrations of sugar and salt also forbids the tadpoles to eat such products.
Items such as beef, pork, chickens, and sweets should again be avoided due to the tadpole's inability to digest and the high content of seasonings and chemicals that can also kill tadpoles at times!
Tadpoles exist as various species and all of them being amphibians, always tend to have one similarity- the gills, but when it comes to what these different tadpoles eat, the list is diverse. Here's an overview of a few of them.
Frog tadpoles are known to feed on various stream substrates and algae. One of its species, the American Bullfrog tadpole, enjoys meat and insect larvae.
Toad tadpoles feed on algae and plants. They also have meat to add to their plant diet, especially when they start growing their legs. Fun fact, these frog species are also known to be cannibalistic!
Salamander and Newt tadpoles tend to consume microorganisms in the water column, and as their age increases, they even consume several mosquito larvae and smaller worms.
If you are a new tadpole pet owner and are confused about how to begin feeding and raising a tadpole in an aquarium, then stay right here as we guide you through the dos and don'ts of tadpole food, pond water requirements.
Firstly, for a healthy pet tadpole, the aquarium you keep should resemble their natural habitat as closely as possible, i.e., the pond. Tadpoles usually live in a small pond with other aquatic animals like fish, so the key to keep your pet happy is to imitate this pond environment. Luckily, tadpoles or frogs survive in various water conditions but keeping a pH of six to eight and having hard water inside the aquarium is ideal. The pond water can be still because ponds they live in are also still in nature, and also the development of algae is easier when there is no movement in the water. Remember, the most crucial aspect for the tadpole in the water tank is to clean it regularly and do weekly water changes to remove any nitrates present.
Adding aquatic plants to the aquarium has a multipurpose role. They are not only a source of food for the tadpoles but can also be kept to keep the water clean. In fact, these aquatic plants also act as tadpole's safe house as they give a tadpole a safe area to hide. It is observed that the tadpoles are less likely to refuse the food you feed them if they have a comfortable place to hide in the tank. Although be prepared for some minor damages as they feed on the plant you keep inside the tank, which is why it is good to keep some portion of the tank unfilled with water so that these baby frogs get some space to climb out of the water when their back legs start showing. This is a sign of them showing their semiterrestrial behaviors.
Coming to the food the tadpoles eat in an aquarium, you can feed them a range of soft plant matter and even meat. Animal matter is a good food source for protein. For instance, tadpoles eat aphids, bloodworms, and just any other dead insects; remember not to feed them meat that will be hard to digest, such as meat from farm animals. Insect larvae or even mosquito larvae are other food items tadpoles eat in an aquarium. Keep track of the age of tadpoles; once they are five to nine weeks old, gradually start adding more meat to help them accustom to the carnivorous lifestyle a frog usually has. An hour after feeding them meat or any other plant from your garden, check the tank for any leftovers. If all the food is not eaten, the leftovers can pollute the water inside the tank, so scoop out those remaining foods.
If you already have a fish at your house, then feeding tadpoles fish food can also be an option, although it should be used as a last resort. You can even get small fish from the market and feed them to resemble their original home, the pond. Fish flakes and fish food could also be used to feed the tadpoles in the tank.
To beautify the artificial pond of your miniature frogs, you could also use large rocks reaching above the water's surface, something like a shoreline. If you do use rocks, make sure they are secure enough, and the water level is also low as frogs tend to jump. Be careful of foul water that can be caused due to overfeeding, so it's prudent to add food only once the previous foods have been eaten by the tadpoles. If you got the frog eggs from a local waterway, then gathering algae from that area and placing it in the tank for the tadpoles to eat would be a good fit.
Though being small and tiny in their size, a tadpole is quite essential to the food chain. Their small size makes them prey for several animals such as shrimps, predatory birds, water snakes, and other smaller reptiles. They provide food to these animals who eat them.
The fact that tadpoles eat smaller animals like insects actually helps prevent the overpopulation of these animals.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do tadpoles eat then why not take a look at how to raise tadpoles?, or Tadpole Facts.
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