Tiny, slimy and impossibly cute, tadpoles make great pets for kids and kids at heart. Perfect for classrooms or to serve as a summer pet, a tadpole provides education and entertainment both.
A Hop, Skip and a Jump Away
Pet tadpoles can be acquired from a few different places, depending upon your living situation:
- A backyard or local pond.
- A water reservoir.
- A pet shop.
- A pond supply store.
For those with access to a local pond, reservoir or even large ditch, tadpoles can be captured with a net and a bucket. Scoop up the water that they've been living in as well as the tadpoles themselves, so as not to shock their systems with a whole new environment. The best times to go are just after heavy rains, when enough water has collected in these outside habitats.
Some pet shops carry tadpoles, either as feeder food or for pets, and some can order them in special for customers. Another commercial option is to visit a local pond supply, and see if they carry tadpoles. If you do, make sure they only carry tadpoles that turn into species native to your local environment; especially should you choose to release them.
Some regions have certain regulations over the removal of tadpoles from outdoor locations. Check with your local wildlife department before bringing home any baby tads.
The Pond at Home
To raise tadpoles, you'll need a suitable habitat for them. An aquarium, fishbowl, wading pool or plastic bin are all excellent homes for your new amphibian friends. Keep the enclosure in a safe spot, away from direct sunlight -- to prevent the water from becoming too warm -- and away from pine trees; pine needles are toxic to tadpoles.
Set up the tadpole home with fresh, clean water. If you're using tap water, allow it to stand in the sun for up to a week, eliminating collected chlorine and other chemicals. Chlorine is deadly to tadpoles, and even small amounts can kill them quickly.
Despite the iconic image of frogs and toads feasting on flies, tadpoles love lettuce. In small amounts, place either fresh or frozen lettuce in the tadpoles' home, and watch them go nuts as they nibble bits and pieces. For larger habitats, freeze chopped fresh lettuce with dechlorinated water in ice cube trays, and then pop them in the tank.
Don't feed the tadpoles too much as the water will get dirty, but do feed them enough that they don't turn on one another. There is no set amount: Simply keep an eye on their food supply, water quality and behavior, and adapt accordingly.
They Grow Up So Fast
Before long, you'll begin to see front legs appearing on your tadpoles; this is the beginning of their metamorphosis. During this time, tadpoles will trade gills for lungs, their digestive system for one suited more for protein, the absorption of their tail fin and the growth of their skeletal structure.
In anywhere from 40 to 70 days -- depending on the type of frog or toad -- the metamorphosis will be complete and the tadpoles will be adults. You can release your pet tadpoles -- now frogs or toads -- back into the wild, or move them to a new habitat designed for their grown-up bodies.