Kid's Activity: From Tadpole to Frog

by Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder

In April, we first hear the rigget, rigget of the frogs down by the river -- a chorus of croaks, twitters, chirps, and trills! How timely that April is National Frog Month!

Below are instruction for making a frog-friendly garden and for watching your own tadpoles turn into frogs. We've also described a few unusual frogs and added little-known frog fact. Enjoy!

A Frog-friendly Garden

Make your garden attractive to frogs because they are wonderful natural pest eliminators. There are a number of factors that will help:

  • Insects to eat. You can attract insects that won't harm the plants to your garden by keeping a compost heap, mulching garden beds and planting a variety of local native plants.
  • Humidity and shade. Your garden should be well vegetated if it is to retain moisture and provide shade for frogs. It should contain ground cover, small plants and bushes and small to large trees.
  • Sheltered areas. Vegetation, rocks, logs or artificial garden ornaments provide frogs with a place to hide.
  • Places to breed. Ideally, this should be a shady pond with underwater aquatic plants. However, even a temporary pond that fills after rain will be enough for some species.
  • Keep your garden free of chemicals (e.g. insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers). Frogs succumb to environmental poisons because they have very thin skin that absorbs chemicals. They also become sick and die by eating insects that have been poisoned.
  • Frog ponds. Frog ponds are an ideal way to encourage frogs to breed in your garden.

From Tadpole to Frog

Tadpoles are popular pets! They're easy to care for, quick to develop, offer an opportunity for learning and fun to watch. Here are some tips to make your tadpole adventure a success:

  1. Unpolluted pond water or rain water are ideal for frog spawn (eggs) or tadpoles. Don't put them into tap water unless it has been allowed to stand for at least three days to allow the chlorine to evaporate. The water should be changed at least twice a week to avoid contamination.
  2. Water temperature is very important, between 59°F and 68°F (15°C and 20°C) is the best temperature for tadpole development. Pollution can be a problem if the temperature rises above 68°F (20°C).
  3. Don't put frog spawn or tadpoles from water at one temperature straight into water at a different temperature. Death is likely to result! If you want to move frog spawn from a small container into a larger container, an aquarium for example, then stand the small container complete with frog spawn inside the large container, When both water temperatures are the same, which may take a few hours, then at last you can release the frog spawn into the aquarium. It is most important that the frog spawn or tadpoles do not over-crowd the containers at any stage.
  4. When the tadpoles first hatch they can be given lettuce leaves to eat. A quantity of fresh pond weed in the aquarium at this stage is very important; partly as food and partly as support for young tadpoles. Nettle powder, made from dried stinging nettle leaves, can also be fed to the young tadpoles.
  5. Feed lettuce leaves, etc. until the tadpoles reach the leg stage of their lives. Supply fresh pond weed if necessary when the water is changed.
  6. When tadpoles reach the leg stage they become carnivorous (meat eaters). They will eat each other unless you provide meat for them. Small pieces of liver should be carefully suspended on a piece of string into the water. The meat should be changed every day to avoid polluting the water. Fish fry food for livebearers, available from aquarium and pet shops, can also be fed sparingly to the tadpoles at this stage.
  7. When tadpoles reach the leg stage, make sure that stones or floating sticks are placed in the aquarium in such a way that the young frogs can climb clear if the water to breathe.
  8. The whole process of change -- from tadpole to young frog -- takes about 12 weeks for most varieties. Some types of frogs remain tadpoles for as long as 8 months!
  9. When the time comes to release the young frogs into the countryside, put them in as safe a place as you can. Don't put them in a place where they will come into contact with poisonous agricultural sprays or poisonous plants (leaves and needles from oleander plants and pine trees are toxic to frogs). Also make sure that the pond or stream where you release the young frogs is not polluted. Try to find a place with places for them to hide from predators. Or better yet, turn them lose in the frog-friendly garden you prepared!

Question: Where can I get tadpoles?
Answer: There are four good sources:

  1. If you live near an old pond with a frog population, hike on down there with a dip net and bucket, slosh through the water and you'll be sure to net quite a few! And you'll probably have a pretty fun time doing it, too!
  2. Your local pet store may have tadpoles or access to them.
  3. Often you will find that pond suppliers carry or can order tadpoles for you.
  4. Try an online reptile and amphibian suppliers

Unusual Frogs

Alexteroon obstetricans -- Midwife Frog (It is often called Midwife Toad, but isn't a toad at all)
Unlike most frogs, the female midwife frog lays her eggs on land close to water. The male midwife frog takes the eggs as they are being laid by the female and twines the strings of eggs about its hind legs. He subsequently carries these around with him, checking them for correct moisture levels and moistening them in dew or shallow water or during the day sheltering with them in a hole. After about a month he finds a body of still water where the tadpoles can hatch. Then, at a certain time, he knows to suddenly climb out of the hole and jump into the water and begins swimming energetically. This breaks the egg membranes, and tiny tadpoles scatter in all directions.

Phyllobates terribilis -- Golden Poison Dart Frog
The skin secretion of the golden poison dart frog of western Colombia (reputedly the deadliest creature in the world with enough poison in it to kill 10 humans) is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. The alkaloid poisons in the skins of poison dart frogs -- called batrachotoxins -- are not made by the frogs themselves but by their prey. Some frogs simply store their prey toxins in their skins, but others, like the golden poison dart frog, may metabolize them to produce even more toxic forms. Poison dart frogs tend to become specialists in the specific insects -- mostly ants-- that make the toxins they store. When fed fruit flies they tend to lose their toxicity and are popular pets.

To some South American Indian tribes these little frogs are most useful. They catch a number and put them close to a fire. As soon as the frogs start to become hot they exude a kind of slime from their bodies, which the Indians scrape off and collect. This slime prepared in special way, is a most potent poison, and the Indians use it to dip the tips of their arrows in. Thus, when the arrow strikes an animal - even a quite powerful one, like a wild pig - the poison works very rapidly and kills the beast.

Conraua goliath -- African Goliath Frog
The world's largest frog is the African goliath frog, which is about the size of a rabbit. It reaches a body length of 12 inches and overall length from nose to toe of about 3 feet; specimens in excess of 3.2 kg (7 lb) have been collected. lives exclusively along isolated rivers in the rain forests of Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, where it's embedded in local folklore (Mbo tribesmen believe the frogs are wizards of sacred waterfalls)

Osteocephalus oophagus -- Female Tree Frog
Instead of in a pond, the female tree frog of Brazil lays her eggs in a bromeliad plant which has become filled with water. It's in the rainforest, so the leaves don't dry off. As the tadpoles grow and develop, she returns every 5 to 7 days to lay more eggs for them to eat! The larvae feed on eggs provided by their parents; larvae not provided with eggs die. The first eggs develop into tadpoles and later clutches of fertilized eggs serve as food.

Trichobatrachus robustus -- African Hairy Frog
The male hairy frog of west Africa is covered in dermal (hair-like) extensions. This frog has small lungs and during breeding seasons the males get hair like projections on their back legs. This is because of the high oxygen needs at this time. While frogs have lungs, they can also breath through their skin, with tiny blood vessels, capillaries, under the outer skin layers.

Neat frog facts

We've all heard of it "raining cats and dogs" and simply think it's a figure of speech. From Biblical times to recent days, accounts of raining frogs have amazed and confuzzled listeners. Did you know the stories of raining frogs are actually true? Such events are caused when a wind storm passes over a pond or lake teaming with frogs, scooping them up and dropping them elsewhere.

Frogs live near water. Right? Well, most of the time...but frogs also live in deserts. The Australian water-holding frog is a desert dweller that can wait up to seven years for rain. It burrows underground and surrounds itself in a transparent cocoon made of its own shed skin.

Medicine from frogs? Perhaps! Scientists have recently discovered that the poisons secreted by the poison-arrow frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) of South America can also be used to block pain in humans.

If you are afraid of frogs, you suffer from ranidaphobia.

Further Resources
• Planet Frog
• "Surf Frogs" Live Frog Habitat
• National Geographic's GeoKids: Tadpoles, Dragonflies, and the Caterpillar's Big Change
• The Mysterious Tadpole
• From Tadpole to Frog (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1)
• From Tadpole to Frog (Lifecycles)
• Tadpoles (Nature Close-Up)

Julie Snyder is a mom of six, interested in kids, pregnancy, birth, people and lives in the outlying Seattle area. Melissa Jaramillo is mom to many. She's passionate about building, encouraging, and strengthening families on this adventure known as parenthood!

Copyright © Melissa Jaramillo and Julie Snyder. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.