Thursday, May 6
It is rather easy to care for tadpoles, as long as you remember just a few minor things.
First, no chlorine!
If you are using city water, you'll need to set out a big bowl of water for 3 days before using it in order for the chlorine to evaporate. Keep another large bowl (or cooler) full of water out to have on hand when it's time to replace their water again. The water doesn't need replaced more than once every two weeks. When cooking their food, be sure you are again using chlorine-free water. You can use water from your bowl or just boil some water on the stove for 10 minutes to be sure it's safe.
Second, feed them.
Tadpoles love leafy lettuce that has been boiled. Spinach works in a pinch, but not for long. Get them back to lettuce as soon as you're able. Iceberg does not work at all. Since you need to boil the chlorine out of the water and boil the lettuce, we've just boiled the lettuce in chlorinated water for 10 minutes. This has worked fine and the tadpoles haven't complained or bellied-up. Go ahead and boil an entire head of leaf lettuce. Chop it up and store in the fridge or freezer.
For whatever reason, ours seem to like it out of the freezer better. In this photo, we fed them far too much. This was intentional because we were leaving for the weekend. Usually, just a teaspoon at a time is needed. Once or twice a day, depending on how many tadpoles you are feeding. We had about 15 to start with. I was lazy, ran out of lettuce, and fed them spinach for an entire week. 5 died this weekend. We're back to lettuce now.
If you only have a few tadpoles, a large glass bowl on the table is perfect. Everyone can enjoy watching them during mealtime. You'll want to fit some sort of screen over the bowl. We stapled screening fabric to thin boards to rest on top of our bowl last year. Once they have legs, you'll want the screen to keep them in the bowl. Until then, it isn't necessary. Find a large rock or stick to place in the bowl. Be sure to rinse it and let it rest with the water for a few days before introducing your tadpoles to their new home. They will need a landing place once they have legs. Until then, they will appreciate the hiding place.
Tadpoles don't appreciate direct sunlight. It is recommended that their home be 3/4 shaded.
Ours are very large this year and we have quite a few, so we opted for a large cooler and about 3 inches of water.
From what we have read and observed, this tadpole stage can last up to two months. A long time when you're anxious to see frogs, but it doesn't get boring. They are fun creatures to watch. After a while, they somehow know when I'm about to feed them. As I walk up to their cooler, they all start crowding together in one corner and wiggling excitedly. They almost look like eager puppies. Once they begin to grow back legs, the cycle speeds by, taking only two weeks to develop into frogs. They will absorb their tales and stop eating during this stage. This will give you time to figure out what to feed them next. They will be wanting protein during this next stage.
I cannot remember what we fed ours once they became frogs. I think I remember us hunting houseflies, but I don't remember how well-received they were. I think we also tried fish-food flakes as well. We kept ours for about a week before introducing them to our garden. After this, we never saw them again.
Be sure their new home has plenty of shade and water. Gardens need a small pool, overturned clay pots, and dank corners for hiding. Keep in mind, snakes like this as well. They also like to eat frogs.
I do not know what causes it, but sometimes they go belly-up. Sometimes belly-up means dead and you don't need me to explain what dead looks like. Sometimes, they just go belly-up and seem to enjoy it that way. We have had a floater go weeks belly-up before growing legs and flipping over to hop around as a perfectly healthy frog. It survived all the way to the garden. So don't give up hope if you see a white belly swimming around your bowl; your frog might just like it that way.