These past couple of months, my kiddos have been learning about metamorphosis and the life cycle of a frog. It all started when we found some tadpoles during our family camping trip. We took some home, raised them into frogs, and finally released them.
We as parents and educators can teach and explain the frog life cycles to our little ones, but to actually observe God’s creation going through is even more fascinating…. for adults too! Everyday, Michaela and Madison were excited to see Taddy and Poley. “Lets go see what happen today!” If they see no changes, the girls would say, “oh. Nothing today. They just lazy.” But the day my little ones observed changes…. Oh my! They were so excited! “Look, look! Come see momma! Taddy have something!” “LOOK! What is it? Legs! They have legs!” “They are frogs now!” “I want to hold it now!”
I’ve never raised tadpoles from eggs before, so I can not personally tell you the steps in doing so. However, I have raised many frogs from tadpoles. I am no professional expert, but just a mom with a lot of childhood experience. I can’t say if this is the correct way to create the observation tank/habitat, but this is what I have done as a child, a teenager, and again as a mom. It has always worked for me, so I’m hoping it will work for you too.
It’s simple, costs less than $10, and it works. It’s so simple that my 3 year old twins are responsible for the care and maintenance of their amphibians with minimal help from mommy.
As I put together items for the habitat, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. I remember going into creek beds and catching tadpoles, then taking them home, keeping them in rice bowls, and patiently wait for them to turn into frogs. . I remember the excitement of each change and the responsibility that comes with it. There’s always some kind of fur animal, snakes, frogs, turtles … that ends up living in my room. It drove my parents nuts!
*** Before you start raising tadpoles, please plan ahead. Different states, parks, state parks have different rules and regulations of removing plants or animals. Some places may even prohibit doing so. So please do some research before taking tadpoles home.
What you’ll need:
- First and foremost… get your tadpoles with water from their environment.
Michaela and Madison caught some tadpoles by using an empty water bottle. They caught 3 tadpoles each. The tadpoles were extremely tiny, so I assumed they haven’t been hatched that long ago. Maybe two weeks old.
- A container/tank big enough to house your tadpoles. I purchased my plastic container from the Dollar Tree. I wanted something light and easy for cleaning especially for my 3 year olds. However, you can use a fish tank or purchase a tank kit at your local pet store.
- A bag of river rocks of various sizes. Also purchased mine at Dollar Tree. It’s best to have rocks or pebbles from the same location as the tadpoles, but I didn’t get any because it was prohibited to remove rocks from this location.
- Distilled or tap water. If using tap water, you will need to use a water conditioner.
- Water conditioner – We have goldfishes too, so I just used the same water conditioner that we use for them.
Before putting everything together, first clean your tank with water and paper towels and dry. No soap or chemicals because it could kill your tadpoles.
If you’re using purchased rocks, clean them with distilled water.
Scatter the rocks at the bottom of the tank. Fill the tank with distilled water till it’s 1 inch above the rocks. (The more tadpoles you have, the more water you will need.)
– If you’re using tap water, add a few drops of water conditioner. The amount of drops varies with the size of tank you are using. For my tank, I used 3 drops of conditioner. Then add water.
- Water plant and/or baby spinach. I was able to find some anacharis at the local petstore (PetCo). They love this stuff.
I’m only adding 1 stem of water plant because we only have 6 tadpoles. The bunch I purchased has 4 stems. I wrapped the remaining 3 stems and froze them to feed the tads later.
Add tadpoles and pond water.
That’s it! Very simple and costs less than $10.00. A little more if you’re using water conditioner.
- Water plant
This is optional. You do not need to have the water plant. The tadpoles are okay feeding on spinach only. However, if you do use water plant. Remove and replace the water plant every time you clean the tank. Once/twice per week.
Tadpoles are herbivores. For the first few weeks, I fed the tadpoles anacharis and spinach once a week. With my 6 tadpoles, I fed 3 pieces of baby spinach leaves and it lasts 4 days. Scoop out any uneaten spinach leaves, clean the tank, and repeat. I had made a trip to the local pet store and saw some tadpole food pellets. I didn’t even know such thing existed, so I was excited to try it.
Unfortunately, after feeding the tadpoles food pellets, 4 died the next day. I don’t know if it was the food or coincidence. Michaela and Madison were so sad. I didn’t want to chance this again, so I went back to making and feeding them spinach and anacharis.
To make the spinach:
- Place some baby spinach leaves (no stem) into a microwaveable bowl or cup. Pour some distilled water into the cup. Just enough to cover the spinach.
- Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds
- Drain the water and place the spinach in the fridge. Allow it to cool for 5-10 min. You can also set it on the counter and allow it to cool.
- Do not let the spinach get too cold when adding it into the tank. You do not want to disrupt the temperature of the water the tadpoles are in.
- Another option, you can also freeze some spinach and only take out the amount you need. I personally don’t like this method because it took longer for the spinach to thaw out and reach to room temperature.
As the tadpoles get bigger, the more they eat. Make and add spinach accordingly.
DO NOT feed your tadpoles fish food/flakes. They are herbivores.
Once the tadpoles become froglets, I stopped feeding them spinach and only the anacharis. The froglets will begin to consume their tail as their main source of food.
When they become frogs, they will become carnivores and rely on live insects. Find out what species your frog is and feed them accordingly. I fed our little frogs black ants and gnats.
Cleaning & Caring
Since the twins are learning about the life cycle of a frog, I wanted them to also learn about the responsibility and caring of a pet. For the most part, Michaela and Madison have cared for Taddy and Poley with very little help from mommy.
For the first 3 weeks, we cleaned the tank once a week or when the water gets cloudy.
As the tadpoles get bigger, the more you feed them, the more they poop. After 3 weeks, we started cleaning the tank 2 times a week.
To clean the tank, you will need:
- A turkey baster
- Paper towels
- Distilled water or Tap water with water conditioner
Try not to disturb the tadpoles. Use a turkey baster and begin sucking the dirty parts (food and poop) from the bottom of the tank. Remove about 30% of the water.
With a clean paper towel, scrub the sides of the tank. Do not clean or scrub the rocks.
Add clean distilled water.
That’s it. If my 3 year old twins can do it, you can too.
The Don’ts of cleaning:
- DON”T clean the with anything other than a clean paper towel and distilled water
- DON’T clean out all the water of the tank
- DON’T use tap water without water conditioner
- DON’T spray or use any chemicals near the tank
After a couple of days, I would take the tank outside and set it on the table on our porch. Leave it there overnight and take it back in the next day. I think it’s better for the tadpoles to get some outside air. Here in Dallas, it’s currently 100+ degrees each day. With shallow water and in a small tank, I didn’t want to risk the water getting too hot and boiling these taddies. So I didn’t leave them outside for long.
Once the tadpoles turn into froglets (have 4 legs), they will need to go above water for oxygen. Add bigger and more rocks. Stack the rocks above water on one side of the tank and gradually have smaller rocks in the middle. Then leave the opposite end of the tank with water only.
Observing and Metamorphisis
All of my photos and videos were taken using my Samsung Galaxy S7.
It’s truly amazing to see God’s creation going through changes. I was lucky enough capture some of the metamorphosis on video. To see Taddy and Poley’s life cycle from tadpoles to frogs, and the day we released them, please click on the video below.
Taddy and Poley’s Life Cycle
The first few weeks, the tadpoles barely moved. Most of the time, they’re hiding or attached alongside the rocks.
As the tadpoles get bigger, they started to swim around more and their body became translucent. Very very fascinating. You will be able to see their coiled intestines. The twins called it cinnamon roll tummy.
Around 5 1/2 weeks, the tadpoles started to grow their hind legs…. out of nowhere! The night before, we noticed the tadpoles becoming more active and swimming around a lot. We didn’t notice anything different with their appearances until the following morning. LEGS! They grew hind legs!
2 days later, their hind legs went from nubbins to full legs. They’re starting to get a little bounce in their swim.
Around 6 weeks, the tadpoles started to grow their front legs. Thankfully, their bodies are still translucent. Take a closer look! can you see the frong legs starting to form?
Once the front leg grew out, I started to rearrange the rocks (daily). The soon-to-be froglet would soon peek it’s head above water more, then jumping on top of the rocks.
In less than 48 hours, we have both front legs! They’re officially froglets! They’re also peeking their heads above water pretty often.
Just hanging out, above water. At this time, the froglet will begin to consume his tail as his main food source.
Soon-to-be frog is loosing his tail and hopping around a lot.
He’s also trying to escape.
I’ve done a lot of research and still don’t know what kind of frogs these were. They were really tiny and no bigger than 1/2 inch. I think they’re cricket frogs, which are also found in Texas.
It’s been a week since Taddy and Poley became frogs. At first, they ate small black ants and some gnats. Towards the end of the week, the frogs didn’t eat at all. We (except Madison) decided that it’s best to let the froggies go and release them.
Look at that face! I think he know’s we’re about to say good bye and he’s sad too.
The perfect place and new habitat for Taddy and Poley. Every frog needs lilly pads!
Michaela and Madison saying farewell. Only if you could hear their good bye’s. It’s sooooo cute and a tear jerker.
Michaela took it better than Madison. Madison was sad and cried on the way home.
Real life activities are the most memorable and fun for your little ones. Watching my girls learn and explore with such enthusiasm was as much fun as watching the tadpoles growing into frogs. I gave in and promised Madison that we will raise tadpoles again.
I believe that we as parents, need to teach and raise children to have the love and respect for the natural environment. One of the ways to do so is to teach them about life cycles and have hands on experience. We have to allow and provide them the opportunity to understand how life works. Once they do, they will have the love and respect for the natural environment.