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Tadpoles: Types, Behaviors, Lifespan, Costs & More

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Raising tadpoles is an excellent experience as you witness these marvelous creatures’ amazing transformation.

This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about tadpoles, their life span, tank and water requirements, and care tips.

So, let’s dive in.

Tadpoles: The Basics

Metamorphosis is a fascinating process that occurs when an animal’s shape changes drastically as it develops into an adult form.

One clear example is the frog that develops from an egg to a tadpole and then to an adult frog.

What is a Tadpole?

Tadpoles represent the larval stage of amphibians as they develop from eggs. After that, they change into adult amphibians, going through what scientists identify as metamorphosis.

They have short oval bodies with broad tails and small mouths. They also have internal concealed gills that later diminish.

Depending on its type, a tadpole might develop into an adult frog, toad, salamander, or newt.

The tadpole has a lateral line, gills, and tails, but they all disappear as it grows into an adult frog. It develops lungs and legs, so it looks nothing like its old self.

What is the Purpose of a Tadpole?

The tadpole is an essential developmental stage in an amphibian’s life.

After the egg hatches, the embryo develops into a tadpole that leaves the egg and starts swimming in the water, looking for food.

In their natural habitat, tadpoles play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystems.

Some tadpoles are carnivores, so they can feed on aquatic larvae, while others are herbivores, feeding on plants. Tadpoles also represent a food source for various living organisms like birds and fish.

What is the Origin of Tadpoles?

Tadpoles and frogs live in swampy areas in various habitats.

The word tadpole comes from a Middle English word called taddepol. This meant toad head.

They were also called pollywog, which is another word that meant head and wiggle, so it was probably called wiggle head.

Similar Alternatives to Tadpoles

Frog tadpoles are the most common ones, but other similar alternatives look a lot like them.

  • Toad Tadpoles: They’re usually brown or black, and they’re thicker around the belly. Their bellies become rounder when the rear legs start growing.
  • Salamander Tadpoles: They have smaller heads than frog tadpoles, and they don’t get thicker around the belly. Instead, they grow longer and don’t lose their tail after growing their back and front legs.
  • Tadpole Snailfish: This small fish looks very much like a tadpole with its big head and thin tail. It’s soft and flappy, living in deep waters and growing to a maximum length of 2.4 inches.

How Much Do Tadpoles Cost?

There are several ways you could get tadpoles.

  • For Free: The first one is to get a tadpole from a pond for free. Nevertheless, this can be extremely shocking for the animal.
  • Adoption: If someone has abandoned their tadpole, you can take care of it. However, you want to ask the previous owner about its origin.
  • From the Pet Store: Pet shops sell frogs for prices between $10 and $50, so you can get several tadpoles within this range.

Tadpole Behavior & Life Span

Tadpoles’ primary concerns are feeding and avoiding predators. They’ll display this behavior in their natural habitat or in a water tank.

Tadpole Behavior

Tadpoles are peaceful creatures that avoid other bigger animals to survive.

What Do Tadpoles Do For Your Tank?

If you keep tadpoles in a fish tank, you’ll be providing fish with a tasty treat.

Pet fish like goldfish will gladly feed on tadpoles. So, you should keep them in a separate tank.

Is a Tadpole Dangerous?

Some tadpoles will carry pathogens that they can pass on to other amphibians.

Toad tadpoles produce poisonous chemicals to prevent fish from eating them. They can also be poisonous to dogs.

Tadpole Lifespan

Some animals will spend more time in their tadpole stage.

How Long Do Tadpoles Live?

After hatching from the egg, a frog tadpole will spend about 14 weeks before it turns into a tiny frog.

However, some types, like the bullfrog tadpole, will take between one and three years before developing legs.

Salamander tadpoles usually reach their full size between two and four months.

How Fast Do Tadpoles Grow?

This differs according to the species, but most frog tadpoles grow fast.

Within eight to nine weeks, the tadpoles will increase in size. During this time, tiny legs will start to sprout.

Between nine and 12 weeks, they will turn into tiny froglets. They will become mature after 14 to 16 weeks.

How Big Can a Tadpole Get?

Tadpoles vary in size, depending on the species.

In general, tadpoles can be between 1.3 inches and 6 inches long. However, the American bullfrog tadpole can grow to be 8 inches long.

Tadpoles Tank & Water Requirements

Understanding these animals’ tank and water requirements will help keep them in good shape so they can safely mature.

Best Tank Size for Tadpoles

Tadpoles don’t require much space, so you can raise them in a small 2 to 5-gallon tank.

Ideally, you should keep between 15 and 35 tadpoles per gallon of water to keep these animals healthy.

Best Water Parameters & Conditions for Tadpoles

Tadpoles thrive in fresh, clean water. They have permeable skin, so you need to make sure that the water is not polluted, or they’ll die.

Bottled water and rainwater will work for tadpoles. If you want to use tap water, it has to be dechlorinated, or you can let it sit between five and seven days to ensure it’s clean.

Untreated tap water and distilled water can harm tadpoles.

If you’re planning to collect pond water, you need to ensure it’s not polluted.

Do Tadpoles Need an Air Pump?

No, they don’t. However, installing one can let you get away with fewer water changes if you’re keeping them in a tank.

Nevertheless, if you’re planning to install an air pump, you must ensure that the tadpoles won’t be sucked in because they’re poor swimmers.

Best Habitat for Tadpoles

Simplicity is the key when you’re creating a habitat for your tadpoles.

They can live in a fish bowl or a small tank. Make sure that it’s placed in at least a 95% shaded area because these animals can’t tolerate the heat.

Do Tadpoles Need Live Plants?

Adding live plants isn’t necessary for tadpoles. They also don’t need a substrate or decorations.

Once their legs start developing, you can add a few rocks to help them get out of the water when ready.

Tadpoles Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for your tadpoles guarantees that they’ll live long enough to reach maturity.

How Many Tadpoles Should be Kept Together?

Ideally, you should have between 15 and 35 tadpoles per gallon of water in your tank.

However, as the number increases, the survival chance of tadpoles decreases. As a result, they become more aggressive and can start attacking and eating one another.

What Fish Make Good Tank Mates for Tadpoles?

Unfortunately, most fish, even the small ones, can eat tadpoles.

However, if the tadpoles are big enough, they can live in harmony with peaceful fish like koi, guppies, and neon tetras. Therefore, it’s important to add plants and provide some kind of barrier to keep the small tadpoles safe.

Which Fish Should Tadpoles Avoid?

If they’re too small, tadpoles will be devoured by most pet fish, even the most peaceful ones.

This usually happens when there are too many tadpoles in your tank.

Goldfish, mosquitofish, betta, pumpkinseed sunfish, and minnows will consume tadpoles, so they shouldn’t be added to the same tank.

Tadpoles Breeding & Reproduction

Tadpoles have to reach sexual maturity and become adult frogs before they can breed.

Do Tadpoles Breed Easily?

After becoming adults, frogs will be able to breed by the time they’re two to three years old.

The males attract the females with their famous croaking and the breeding process is easy.

How Long Does it Take for a Tadpole to Have Babies?

The female frog lays the unfertilized eggs, and the male sprays the sperm over them.

The clusters of spawn or eggs mature and float on the surface of the water, surrounded by a jelly-like film.

After two to three weeks, the eggs hatch, and the tadpoles appear. This can take more time, depending on the temperature.

How Long is a Tadpole Pregnant?

Frogs lay their eggs, and they’re fertilized externally, unlike most animals. On average, frogs lay hundreds to thousands of eggs because only one out of 50 eggs will survive to reach maturity.

How to Care for Tadpoles

Tadpoles are generally easy to care for.

You need to keep tadpoles in a shaded area, away from air and heat vents, as they thrive at room temperature.

They don’t require much care, but you can remove all the tank accessories and wash them once a week in hot water without any detergents. We also recommend weekly water changes.

Providing an hour of filtered sunlight is essential for their development.

Tadpole Diet and Feeding

Tadpoles eat lettuce, baby spinach, and broccoli, and you can freeze them before adding them to the tank.

We recommend that you feed them twice a day. Keep an eye on the tank, and don’t add new food unless you can’t see the old.

Common Problems With Tadpoles

Tadpoles can suffer from several problems before and after they hatch.

  • Lack of light or too much cold in their natural habitat or tank prevents the eggs from developing and hatching. It could also kill the tadpoles.
  • Predators like fish and adult frogs can also kill tadpoles.
  • An algal bloom in the tank will decrease the amount of oxygen in the water. This will also kill tadpoles.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have more questions about tadpoles, you can check out our frequently asked questions section.

Do tadpoles turn into frogs?

Tadpoles turn into frogs, toads, or salamanders, depending on their species. However, some frogs don’t start out as tadpoles but hatch as miniature frogs.

Is a tadpole a frog or a toad?

A tadpole is the larval stage of a frog or a toad. So, it can develop into either animal depending on its original species.

Wrapping Up

Tadpoles can live in a simple tank and are quite easy to care for.

However, you shouldn’t overcrowd the tank, keep it in the sun, or overfeed them as they’re quite delicate.

We recommend that you provide some kind of barrier between them and other fish in your aquarium, even the peaceful ones.

If this isn’t possible, then it would be best to keep them in a separate tank until they fully develop.

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