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How to Raise Frogs
Frogs are one of the most diverse type of animals, with several thousand species living everywhere from deserts to underwater. Kids may enjoy catching tadpoles from a nearby creek and raising them until they turn into frogs. Other frog owners enjoy watching an exotic pet develop and live, sometimes for 20 years or more. Because of their incredible variety, and because of national or regional laws limiting frog ownership, research frog species to find out which one is right for you before buying or capturing a pet.
Creating a Home for Tadpoles
Research laws about raising tadpoles in your area.Many countries and regions require people to apply for an amphibian license before they are legally allowed to raise tadpoles or frogs. Some species may be illegal to raise under any circumstances, usually because they are an endangered species. Search online for information about national and regional laws in your area, or contact a local department of wildlife management or department of natural resources.
- Australia has especially strict laws about raising frogs, and these vary from state to state. A summary of each state's laws can be found .
- If you are purchasing tadpoles from a pet store, you could ask the store's employees about laws in your area.
Find a plastic or glass container.Short, wide containers are better than tall, narrow ones, because the larger water surface results in more oxygen from the air entering the water.You can purchase a plastic "critter tank" at a pet store, or use any clean plastic or styrofoam container. Donotuse any container made of metal, or tap water that runs through copper pipes.
- Try to find a large container to avoid overcrowding your tadpoles. Use a plastic kiddie pool if you are raising a large quantity of them.
- Even frog eggs can die if kept in a small container, although the reasons for this are unclear.
Fill the container with pond water, rainwater or dechlorinated tap water.Tadpoles require clean water, and could die if placed in tap water which has not been treated to remove chlorine and other chemicals. Ideally, use water from a pond where tadpoles are swimming, or rainwater. If this is not possible, treat tap water with dechlorination tablets purchased at a pet store, or leave the container of tap water in sunlight for 1–7 days to break down the chlorine.
- Do not use rainwater if you area suffers from acid rain or there are industrial operations nearby.
- If your tap water contains fluoride, you may need additional filters to remove the fluoride before it is safe for tadpoles.
Add sand.Some species of tadpoles forage in the sand for small particles of food, and will thrive in a container with 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) of clean sand at the bottom. You may use small, non-sharp aquarium gravel, or gather sand from a river bank.
- Sand collected from beaches or quarries is not recommended, as it contains harmful levels of salts or other substances. In order to remove these substances, fill small containers (not the tadpole container) halfway with the sand, then to the top with water. Let sit for 24 hours, drain the water away, then repeat with fresh water at least six times.
Add rocks and plants, including a way to climb out of the water.Almost every tadpole species requires a way to leave the water once they have transformed into a frog, as they may no longer be able to remain underwater indefinitely. Rocks that extend above the water surface are a good option. Aquatic plants gathered from a pond or pet store provide more oxygen and a place for tadpoles to hide, but donotcover more than 25% of the water surface, as this prevents oxygen in the air from entering the water.
- Note:Place the rocks near the edge of the tank, as some species of frogs will only look for land at the edge of the water, not the center.
- Do not use plants that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals, as these could kill the tadpoles.
Keep the temperature constant.Tadpoles, just like aquarium fish, are sensitive to changes in water temperature and could die if moved to a container with a much higher or lower water temperature than the water they came from. If you're buying the tadpoles or eggs from a pet store, ask what temperature you should keep the water at. If you're collecting them from a stream or pond, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of that water. Try to get your new water temperature as close to this as possible.
- If you cannot get an expert to identify your species and offer more precise advice, try to keep your water between 59 and 68ºF (15–20ºC).
- Be prepared to move the container indoors before a frost occurs. Keep the water in partial shade if the weather becomes too hot.
Consider an aquarium aerator.If your container is wide and there are aquatic plants in the sand, but not covering the surface, it likely gains enough oxygen from the air, and an additional aerator could cause the tadpoles to bloat.If you are only raising a few tadpoles, they will usually get enough oxygen even if the conditions are not ideal. If you are raising a large number of tadpoles, and the conditions described don't match your tank, you may wish to add an aquarium aerator to keep air moving through the tank.
Acquire frog eggs or tadpoles.Keeping regional and national laws into account, you may collect the tadpoles or frog eggs from a local pond or stream. Purchasing them from a pet store is another option, but donotpurchase exotic or imported species if you intend to release the tadpoles into the wild. Frogs can survive many years and can require a substantial amount of care, so it is recommended that you raise local species only for your first attempt.
- Use a soft net or small bucket to scoop up the tadpoles and place them in a transportable container filled with the water they are swimming in. Tadpoles can be damaged if bumped or scratched, and cannot breathe in air.
- As a rough guideline, each 1 inch (2.5 cm) long tadpole requires 1 gallon (3.8 L) of water.Keep in mind that most tadpoles will grow much larger before they become frogs. Overcrowding the tank can lead to disease or insufficient oxygen.
Add the eggs or tadpoles to the new container, but only once the water temperatures are equal.If your water temperature is different than the temperature of the water they came from, place the container of tadpoles in their old water inside the new container, but keep the container opening above the surface so the two bodies of water don't mix. Leave it there until the temperatures of the two bodies of water have equalized, then release the tadpoles into the larger container.
Caring for Tadpoles
Feed tadpoles small amounts of certain soft, leafy greens.Tadpoles thrive best on a diet of soft plant matter, which should be given to them in small quantities whenever they run out of food. Leaves with algae growing on them can be collected from stream or pond bottoms and fed to the tadpoles. Alternatively, rinse baby spinach (never adult spinach), dark green lettuce, or papaya leaves thoroughly, chop them into small pieces, and freeze them before feeding. You can also feed them very small pieces of peas that have been soaked in luke-warm water and placed on the surface of the water.Check with a pet store employee or online before you feed the tadpoles any other type of plant.
- Fish food flakes are not typically as high quality as straight vegetables, but can be used if they contain mostly spirulina or other vegetable matter, not animal protein.Crush large flakes into tiny pieces and feed a pinch a day.
Feed the tadpoles the occasional insect.While tadpoles should be given a little animal protein occasionally, their digestive systems cannot handle large amounts of it. To keep these protein supplements to safe levels, and ensure that the tadpoles are able to eat them, use frozen food intended for fish fry, such as frozen bloodworms or daphnia.Give these to the tadpoles in small quantities once a week. You may feed them larger quantities of insects once they become frogs, although they may not eat for a short time following the change.
- Fish fry food is available wherever live fish are sold.
Clean the water regularly.Whenever the water becomes cloudy or smelly, or when the tadpoles stay clustered near the top of the tank, it is time to change the water. Make sure to use the same type of water the tadpoles are swimming in, treated with dechlorination tablets if necessary. Leave the new water out until it is the same temperature as the existing water, or the temperature change could kill the tadpoles. Replace 30–50% of the old water with the new water at a time.
- The water will stay cleaner for longer if you don't feed the tadpoles large amounts of food at once. Each serving of food should be gone within 12 hours at most, and then immediately replaced.
- Avoid using aquarium water filters to keep the tank clean, unless you are sure they are too weak to drag the tadpoles in or force them to swim against the current.Sponge filters can be used safely.
Provide calcium.Tadpoles need calcium to grow their skeletons, and may not be able to acquire enough from their regular diet. Pet stores sometimes sell cuttlebone for this purpose, which should be rinsed thoroughly before placing in the container, then left there permanently. Alternatively, use a liquid calcium supplement intended for aquariums, adding one or drops for every quart (liter) of water whenever you change the water.
- Once cuttlebone piece about 2 inches (10 cm) long should be enough for a small tank.
Prepare for metamorphosis.Depending on the species and age, the tadpoles may become frogs within a couple weeks or take several months. Once they develop legs and begin to lose their tail, the froglets should try to exit the water. Have a plan prepared as soon as you start to see changes in your tadpoles:
- Most frogs cannot breathe underwater indefinitely, so be sure they have a rock or other non-metal platform at the edge of the tank to climb onto and reach the air. A few species will fail to climb out on their own, so you may need to lift them out with a soft net once their tails are half gone.
- Attach a secure lid to your tank, with plenty of air holes. Weigh it down with heavy objects if it does not latch shut to prevent the frogs leaping out.
Know how to release the frogs.If you caught your tadpoles locally, you may release the frogs in an area of damp vegetation near the same water source you caught them in. If you cannot release them immediately, keep them in a plastic tank with a cover of leaf litter, and bark pieces large enough to hide under. Do not fill the tank with water, but provide a shallow water dish for the frogs to sit in, and spray the tank's sides with water once a day.
- If you wish to keep raising your frogs, or if you need to care for the frogs for more than a day before releasing them, continue on to the next section.
Caring for Adult Frogs
Find out the needs of your frog species before you acquire the animal.Some species of frogs require extensive care, so make sure you know the needs of your frog species before you acquire a new pet. If you are a beginner, you may wish to start with a non-poisonous species that do not grow to a large adult size.Many frog species don't like to be handled or remain still for large periods of time, which may make them less interesting for children.
- You may wish to choose a local species which you can legally release back into the wild if you change your mind about raising it.
- Be aware that some national or regional governments require an amphibian license or forbid the raising of frogs entirely. Search online for laws which apply to your region.
Learn whether your frog live on land, in water, or both.Many frog species need access to both land and water in order to thrive, which may require a special two-part aquarium tank that allows it to move between the two. Others only require a shallow water dish to sit in, while still others are entirely aquatic and can breathe underwater even in adult form. Make sure you know your frog's needs before setting up a tank.
- If you collected your frogs from the wild, get a biologist or someone from the nearest department of natural resources to identify the species.
Find a glass or clear plastic pet tank.Glass aquarium tanks or terrarium tanks are best suited for most frog species. Clear plastic tanks will work as well, but be aware that some frog species require an ultraviolet light which could damage the plastic over a long period of time.Make sure the tank is waterproof and escape-proof, but also contains plenty of air holes or mesh for ventilation.
- Do not use metal mesh, as the frogs could injure themselves on it.
- For tree frogs and other climbing frogs, pick a large, tall tank with room for place branches and climbing structures.
Maintain the tank's temperature and humidity.Whether or not you need a heater and/or humidifier for your tank depends greatly on your frog species and local climate, so seek expert advice or search online for more information about your species' temperature requirements. If you need to keep the tank to a certain humidity, consider purchasing a hygrometer to measure this number so you can spray the sides with water if it drops too low.
- In a two-part tank setup (air and water), heating the water with an aquarium heater may be the most effective way to keep the tank warm.
Cover the bottom of the tank with natural material.Whether in air or water, the frog needs a natural base to walk on. Once again, the exact way you should accomplish this depends on species. A pet store employee or experienced frog owner who knows your species may recommend sand, gravel, peat, moss, or a mixture of these.
- Burrowing species require a thicker layer to dig into.
Provide an ultraviolet light if necessary.Some frogs require an ultraviolet light for 6–8 hours a day.Research your species to find out if this is necessary, and ask a pet shop employee about which UV light to use. There are many types, some of which may overheat your tank or provide them with the wrong wavelengths of light.
- As for regular artificial lighting, fluorescent lights produce less heat and therefore dry out the frog's skin less quickly than incandescent bulbs.
Provide clean water and change regularly.For land-dwelling species, provide a dish of rainwater or other frog-safe water large enough that the frogs can sit in it up to their shoulders. If the frog species requires a two-part tank or a fully aquatic tank, treat it as you would an aquarium tank. This means using rainwater or other frog-safe water, installing an aquarium aerator and a water filter, and replacing 30–50% of the water with clean water at the same temperature whenever it gets cloudy or bad-smelling. Change once every 1–3 weeks for best results, depending on how crowded the tank is.
- Tap water can be treated with dechlorination tablets and, if necessary, a fluoride filter to make it safe for use by frogs. Donotuse tap water if your plumbing has copper pipes, as the trace amounts of copper can be toxic to frogs.
- If your tank is kept warm, as it should be for some species, warm the new cold water to the correct temperature in a stainless steel saucepan. Do not use hot tap water.
Add plants or branches if necessary.Underwater aquarium plants in underwater portions of the tank may help clean and oxygenate the water, and provide hiding places which frogs enjoy. Climbing frogs need natural or artificial climbing branches, while most frog species enjoy hiding spots such as large, upside down bark segments.
Choose a selection of appropriate, live food.Almost all frog species eat live insects in the wild, and sticking to a diet of varied insects is usually a good choice.Worms, crickets, moths, and insect larvae are usually appropriate foods, and many frogs are not picky about what they eat if they are not used to a particular diet already.However, it is always a good idea to check what your species requires, and to provide it with food appropriate to the size of its mouth. Mice or other non-insect meat can strain the frogs' organs unless they belong to a large species that had adapted to live on this type of protein.
- Do not feed your frog large ants, which are capable of killing frogs.
- Many frogs will not recognize non-moving objects as food, but you could try to feed a frog individual dead insects by holding them near its mouth with a pair of tweezers.
Coat the food in calcium and vitamin supplements for amphibians.Frogs require a source of calcium, vitamins, or both, since they cannot get enough of these nutrients from insects alone. Amphibian vitamin and calcium supplements are available in powdered form for sprinkling on the insects before feeding. There are many brands of supplements available, and the best one to use depends on the frog's diet and characteristics. As a general rule, use separate calcium supplement and vitamin supplement, not past the expiration date, and avoid high-phosphorus supplements if crickets are the frog's main food.
- It may be easiest to place the insects and a small amount of the powder in a container and shake the container around to coat the insects.
Choose feeding times according to age and climate.The exact needs of your frog depends on species, but you may follow these guidelines if you have no specific instructions that match your species. Young frogs may not eat at all immediately after emerging from the water, but will soon begin to eat rapidly, and have food always available to them. Adult frogs are usually fine being fed once every three or four days, eating 4–7 insects appropriate for their size. During cooler weather, frogs do not require as much food.
- Remove dead insects floating in the water whenever you see them.
Know how to handle your frog.Many frogs do not enjoy being touched, or can even irritate your hands or be damaged by contact with your skin.However, if your frog belongs to a species that is safe to handle and does not squirm or urinate when you pick it up, you may handle it carefully. Research your species to learn whether it is safe to handle. Even if gloves are not required, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling, rinsing two or more times to remove all traces of soap or lotion.
QuestionIs it safe for tadpoles to live with snails?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. They should coexist nicely.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I know if there is sufficient water in my tadpole pond?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAs long as the pond isn't too crowded and the tadpoles have ample space, they have enough water.Thanks!
QuestionCan I put a plastic log in the tank for my frogs to climb on?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. As long as you rinse it well and it has no sharp edges or rough surfaces, it's fine.Thanks!
QuestionDo frogs need direct sunlight?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, frogs actually prefer to be kept in dark, damp areas. Exposing them to direct sunlight may damage their skin.Thanks!
QuestionWhere can I catch blood worms?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey probably sell them at your local pet store. I found mine at Petco for my pet fish and used them for my tadpoles, too.Thanks!
QuestionIs it unfair to keep wild frogs and toads in a plastic container with lid for a while?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWithout proper care, yes. It depends on what is in your container and what type of frog it is. Most wild animals should be left in the wild, they're not our playthings.Thanks!
QuestionCan I feed my frogs cheeseburgers?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo: frogs aren't meant to eat human food, and this could easily make them ill and may possibly even kill them.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use regular dirt instead of river sand?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDirt will cloud and pollute the water. The easiest method is to have no substrate. Then you can keep the tank cleaner with less work.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I figure out what species my frog is?MarlsbadCommunity AnswerIf you got it from a breeder, you should ask him/her (you should have been informed about it before purchasing the frog). If you caught it in the wild, look online for species that are found in your area. Make sure it is legal to keep that species of frog, as it is illegal to keep certain species - especially if they have a declining population.Thanks!
QuestionCan you teach a frog tricks?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot really; frogs do not possess a high level of intelligence.Thanks!
- If the tadpoles have trouble eating the lettuce, boil it for 10–15 minutes to make it softer before you chop it up and freeze it.
- Use anti-fungal spray diluted to 1/3 the recommended strength if a hairy or powdery mold grows on your frog eggs.
- Do not handle your frog/toad for more than 5 minutes. The oils and salt on your skin can damage his/her skin.
- Remove mosquito larvae living on the surface of the water immediately if you are living in an area with mosquito-transmitted disease.
- Some trees, such as oleander or pine, can drop leaves that harm tadpoles. Keeping your container away from trees will minimize this risk and reduce the amount of cleanup necessary.
- If you see snails in your tadpole tank, remove them immediately and do a full water change immediately. Snails in some areas contain parasites that can cause the tadpoles to grow into deformed frogs.
Things You'll Need
Small container for transport
Container for longterm tadpole raising (see instructions)
Rainwater, pond water, or dechlorinated non-fluoride tap water
Fish food flakes
Pond weed (opt)
Sand or smooth gravel
Sources and Citations
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