Raising Tadpoles

{The Life Cycle of Toads} {Georgia} {Project-based Homeschooling}

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on July 11, 2012.  Scroll down to view a slideshow of all the photos I took during this fun project!

On the afternoon of June 15th, my husband and two-year-old had a surprise for my five-year-old and me.  We had spent the morning apart.  My five-year-old was in a camp, I had a couple hours to myself (yay), and my husband took the two-year-old to a park.

Guess what they found at the park?  You guessed it – hundreds of tiny black tadpoles in a pool of water by a stream.  My husband said that by scooping a cup in the water, he easily got three of the tadpoles.  He also said the two-year-old carefully and proudly carried his cup to the car.

The five-year-old was delighted too, and together the “boys” set about to create a small habitat for the tadpoles. I gave them an old storage container, and my husband found some rocks in the garden.  He used the same water conditioner that we use for our fish aquarium, which takes chlorine out of the water.

That night they took a trip to the pet store and bought an inexpensive filter (less than $15), although we ended up not using the filter and instead let it just circulate the water in the container. This provided oxygen. They also found some frog/tadpole food at the pet store.

We fed the tadpoles the frog food, but we also added some frozen spinach because my husband read online that they like that.  They ate it up!  The boys also visited the stream again and brought home water from it.  We were told that there might be tiny microorganisms that the tadpoles would feed on in that water.

We kept the container on our porch and covered it with some old window screen to keep the mosquitoes out, and over the next two and a half weeks, we watched them grow.  It was exciting for the whole family.  Every morning my two boys got up and went out to check the tadpoles, and they also checked on them in the evenings.

Let me pause here and commend my husband for taking care of the tadpoles and the habitat during this entire project!

Part of the fun was trying to figure out what kind of frogs they were, yet as they grew so quickly, we noticed that they looked very similar to the Fowler toads who inhabit our yard.  In the end, we realized that’s exactly what they were.

Fowler toads breed in this area in May and June, and my herpetologist friend told me that if the tadpoles were very black when they were tiny, then they were definitely toads.  Tree or chorus frog tadpoles are clear, and if viewed from the bottom, you can see an orange-colored circle, which are their intestines.

This made sense because as I mentioned we had recently found baby Fowler toads in our yard, and on our trip to Watson’s Mill Bridge State Park last month, we saw hundreds, if not thousands of tiny black tadpoles in the shallow water near that bridge.

In regards to Fowler toads, the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s (SREL) website states: “Females lay eggs in strings with clutches of up to 25,000 eggs in spring or summer after a heavy rain.  Tadpoles go through metamorphosis within 2 months. Sexual maturity is reached in 1-3 years, differing among sex and locality.”

On July 4th – a very fitting day – we released two baby toads and one toadlet back into the wild where we found them.  Since two of them had already lost their tails – literally within one day! – and they were sitting up on the rocks, we feared their diet had changed, and we wouldn’t be able to provide them with the tiny bugs they needed to eat.  The toads were so small they could fit on my fingertip.

One of the tadpoles was always smaller and developed a day or two behind the others.  This one, which was a “toadlet” with four legs, but it was still in the water and had a tail, we placed in a shallow part of the water with leaf cover so it could hide.  I’m sure within a day, it would be hopping into the forest with the other toads.

Most tadpoles and baby frogs become food for larger animals, but we were happy to at least give three little guys a head start.  The pool where we took them from was drying up and in the full sun when we returned to it.  A few surviving tadpoles in it were not as well developed as ours.

For me, it was a wonderful experience – something I had never done before – but watching the delight on my boy’s faces is something I’ll never forget.  And who knows?  Maybe this will become a yearly ritual that will foster even more good memories.

Below is a slideshow of all the photos I took during this fun project so that you can see the metamorphosis.  I’ve put dates on the photos for your reference.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 Responses to “Raising Tadpoles”

  1. Love this story and your photos! Your little toads are SO small compared to my frogs (who won’t get on my hand…)

  2. What a great project! Will definitely look into this with my son next year. Thanks for sharing! : )

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