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Tadpole Care: Tank, Water and Food Requirements

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Witnessing the growth of a tadpole to a frog can be an exciting and educational process.

Keeping your tadpoles in a healthy environment that matches their natural habitat will reduce stress and keep them comfortable as they grow into frogs.

This guide will lay out the basics of tadpole care and give plenty of tips to ensure they live a happy and healthy life.

Are Tadpoles Easy to Care For?

If cared for appropriately, tadpoles are among some of the easiest creatures to care for, with a simplistic setup and minimal food requirements.

It takes roughly 14 weeks for a tadpole to complete its transition into a young frog.

Once the completely formed frog leaves the water, it lives anywhere from 2 to 10 years, depending on its species.

However, frogs kept in captivity have been documented living up to 20 years.

Tadpoles Tank and Requirements and Basics

Not only is the tank size essential for the well-being of your tadpoles, but so is the water quality, the tank’s habitat, and the utilization of lighting and filtration.

What Size Tank Does a Tadpole Need?

The tank size depends on the number you intend on keeping.

On average, a container with 4 gallons of water (20 liters) is enough for about 20-30 tadpoles.

When the tadpoles are very young, you can fit more of them in the same amount of water.

Be sure to adequately split them up as they increase in size.

What Do Tadpoles Need In Their Tank?

Substrate for your tank should include sand pulled from the same water source where your tadpoles were collected or bagged sand ideal for fish aquariums.

You can add other items to your tank for utilization and decoration.

Do Tadpoles Need a Filter?

While not necessary, filters can reduce the number of water changes required to keep the tank at proper parameters for your tadpoles.

Tadpoles prefer gently moving or stagnant water, as they are not strong swimmers.

Avoid filters designed for tanks larger than the one used to house your tadpoles.

The suction on these filters can easily trap and kill your tadpoles before they develop their legs.

Do Tadpoles Need an Air Pump?

Air pumps provide additional oxygen supply when paired with an air stone.

Tadpoles breathe through their gills, so having adequate oxygen in your water will minimize stress and promote good health.

Do Tadpoles Need a Heater?

Tadpoles prefer warm water, so it may be beneficial to provide a small tank heater to keep the tank around 75-80 degrees.

You can also expose the tank to sunlight during the day, but keep a thermometer in the tank to monitor the water’s temperature.

Do Tadpoles Need a Light?

Vitamin D is essential for your tadpoles to process calcium.

Natural sunlight is best, but reptile bulbs also work.

Be sure to watch the temperature of your water so that it does not become too warm.

A couple of hours of exposure to sunlight per day is very beneficial to your tadpoles.

Do Tadpoles Need Live Plants?

Live plants provide oxygen to your tank’s water and can provide a nutritional snack.

Leafy plants offer plenty of hiding places and can be easily rooted into the sand at the bottom of the tank.

Tadpoles Water Basics

When keeping any aquatic, the health of the water will always reflect the health of the fish.

It is vital to keep tabs on the perimeter of your tadpoles’ water, especially if using tap water or pulling water from a source outside, such as a stream or pond.

Can Tadpoles Live in Tap Water?

If using tap water, you must make sure the water is properly filtered and fluoride free.

Aquarium water filters can assist in cycling and make your water safe for your tadpoles.

How Long Should Water Sit Before Adding Tadpoles?

Pre-filtered water purchased in bottles is safe for your tadpoles but still needs treatment to ensure your tadpoles receive the proper minerals.

Spring water is also safe for your tadpoles.

Tap water and water pulled from outside will need to be filtered, treated, and tested before use.

What Temperature Should a Tadpole Tank Be?

The tank should remain around 27 degrees Celsius for the happiness of your tadpoles.

Remember not to let your tank get too hot, as this can kill your tadpoles quickly.

How Often Do You Change a Tadpole’s Water?

A typical rule for fish keepers is a 10 percent water change per week to help maintain the integrity of the tank environment.

The PH Test kit can be easily purchased and used to check the perimeters of your tank.

Depending on these conditions, you may need to change 50-90 percent of your water.

Tadpoles’ Diet and Feeding

Thankfully tadpoles require a very simplistic diet, but calcium and protein are essential to their diet.

There are several ways to meet a tadpole’s basic needs regarding their nutrition.

What Do Tadpoles Eat?

Tadpoles eat plant matter until they complete their transition into frogs.

Plants suitable for their diet include lettuce (not iceberg), baby spinach, broccoli, zucchini, and crushed peas.

Introducing bloodworms and daphnia is also acceptable, but do not use fish flakes, pellets of any kind, granules, or bread.

How Often Do You Feed a Tadpole?

It is best to put small amounts of food into the tank at a time rather than to feed them one large meal a day or every other day.

Tadpoles spend most of their time eating, so be sure to toss in more once what you have placed is gone.

Tadpoles Tank Mates

You can safely house a few small creatures with your tadpoles.

However, nothing larger than your tadpoles should be kept in the tank with them.

Can a Tadpole Live Alone?

Tadpoles can live alone, especially in a tank environment.

However, with less competition for food, you may find that your tadpole thrives better when it has the tank all to itself.

Can a Tadpole Live With Other Tadpoles?

Tadpoles can and often do live together.

Frogs can lay between 2000-3000 eggs per clutch.

Tadpoles do fine in groups carrying in size depending on their tank size.

How Many Tadpoles Can You Keep Together?

The number of tadpoles kept together varies on the size of the tank in which they are held.

However, the general rule of thumb is five tadpoles per 1 liter of water.

Can a Tadpole Live With Other Types of Fish?

You should not keep tadpoles with larger fish as they can get eaten.

They should not be kept with fish or other creatures that prey on smaller animals, such as crabs, lobsters, or fully aquatic frogs.

Recommended Tank Mates for Tadpoles

The following are some tankmates that would be safe to have around your tadpoles.

  • Nerite and Mystery Snails: These snails not only assist in keeping your tank clean, but they will leave your tadpoles in peace. In addition, a snail can pick up leftover food and algae around the tank.
  • Ghost Shrimp: Another feeder that will help in removing leftover debris is ghost shrimp. They are easy to keep and will work well with tadpoles. Just be cautious since once your tadpoles complete their metamorphosis, they may view the ghost shrimp as a tasty snack.

How to Care For a Tadpole

While there is plenty of information to keep handy to ensure your tadpoles make it to their final stage, here are some quick and easy basic instructions on keeping them.

How to Feed a Tadpole

  • Purchase fresh vegetables or gather foliage in the water where you collected your tadpoles.
  • Place small amounts of food in the tank every 8 hours or after they’ve eaten the previous food.
  • Remove any remnants, so your tank water doesn’t spoil.

How to Clean a Tadpole Tank

  • Use a pH kit to check your water. Depending on the results, change a standard 10 percent of your tank water or 50 percent if the values are unsafe for your tadpoles.
  • Add water. Be sure to use a tank conditioner if using tap water. Pre-bottled filtered water is best.
  • Gently wipe away algae growing on the tank walls. Be sure to follow the recommended cartridge replacement if using a filtration system.

How Can I Play With My Tadpoles?

In general, tadpoles should be left alone in their tank.

Handling tadpoles outside of moving them from your tank for cleaning purposes could expose them to bacteria and increase their chances of injury.

Can a Tadpole See Me?

During the metamorphosis process, the eyes of a tadpole are constantly changing, so it is hard to say if they can make out your face through the glass in the tank.

Does a Tadpole Recognize Me?

Tadpoles may get used to your movements in front of the tank, but they likely will not be able to differentiate one face from another.

Tadpoles Behavior Basics

Tadpoles will reflect how they feel in how they swim and how much food they consume when offered.

How Do You Know if a Tadpole is Happy?

A happy tadpole is an active tadpole.

Tadpoles should constantly be swimming and showing interest in the food placed in the tank.

If your tadpoles stay towards the bottom, that is a sign that something could be wrong.

What Does a Stressed Tadpole Look Like?

A stressed or sick tadpole will show discoloration and lethargy.

They won’t show interest in food and may remain unmoving at the bottom of the tank.

How Do I Know If My Tadpole is Healthy?

Healthy tadpoles are active swimmers and have a good appetite.

Use the pH kit to keep track of your water quality, and be sure to observe all of your tadpoles during each feeding period.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few commonly asked questions regarding how to care for your tadpoles.

How deep should tadpole water be?

Following the guidelines of tank requirements per amount of tadpoles housing will ensure that you have enough water in your tank.

For example, if you keep only one or two tadpoles, one gallon of water should suffice.

Just be sure to give your tadpoles plenty of wiggle room and adequate space to swim and hide.

Why do my tadpoles keep dying?

Poor water quality, diet, lack of space, or diseased tadpoles can cause multiple deaths in your tadpole community.

However, following the steps above to properly prepare for caring for your tadpoles can set you up for success.

Wrapping Up

If tadpole care is up your alley, starting with these simple and educational creatures is highly recommended, especially if you plan to move up to more advanced fish care.

Once your tadpoles have begun to come up to the surface for air, you can plan to release them back to the area you collected them.

Ultimately these small animals are a joy to keep for caretakers of any level of experience.

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